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Big green success encourages us to do more

12th November 2017

Picture:  Play+Invent at Discovery Museum

NGCV’s first ever Green Week was a great success and is encouraging all of us to do more together and individually to build momentum and involve the staff, public and our artists and cultural practitioners in thinking and behaving more sustainably, as well as promoting green ideas, activities and engagement.

The idea for Green Week was developed and implemented by our 10 NGCV Green Leads and Green Teams across the venues and some dedicated communications staff. It turned out to be a great way to go public with our Green Campaign and reinvigorate activities around environmental sustainability.  We encouraged people to get involved in a wide range of activities running from 9th to 17th September and we had some wonderful feedback from both staff and the public. Here is a flavour of what we happened:

  • Sage Gateshead’s great big recycled paper aeroplane throw and origami creations was fun, with a recycling message
  • Life Science Centre’s Making Space involved children and families getting involved and creating ‘scribblebots’, robots made from junk that run on batteries and draw pictures as they buzz around a sheet of paper and flat pack recycled cardboard dinosaurs encouraging people to think about what they can reuse and repurpose
  • Tyneside Cinema’s screening of An Inconvenient Sequel encouraged people to think about the bigger picture and its sustainable travel day, offering discounts for cyclists, promoted sustainable travel
  • Northern Stage’s Pedometre Challenge encouraged staff to walk more and they saved water by adapting their public and staff flushing toilets to be more efficient
  • Green themed Story Times with story catchers at Seven Stories engaged children in thinking about the environment and green issues
  • Live Theatre staff’s green pledges promoted commitment to recycling and reusing across the organisation and their theatre productions
  • Discovery Museum’s promotion of recycling and energy saving with the staff encouraged greener behaviours and families were encouraged to think about building a better world in the Play + Invent maker space for budding inventors, designers and makers building their own inventions from recycled materials
  • Dance City’s staff were all given green tasks and got stuck in from walking more to recycling more.  They had a ‘big clear out’, which saw 700kg of metal, plastic and electric products related waste being recycled, as well as a full review of the organisations paper use and recycling and the popular clothes swap which encouraged people to bring in and swap clothes to promote reuse.

Paul Marshall, Green Lead at Sage Gateshead said, “The week produced a lot of good conversations within the building about different sustainable ventures and how different departments could contribute to getting the message out to our public, but also building into daily working activity.  I personally feel this was a great start to an annual venture which can only get bigger and better as we develop it.”

Frances Easter, Green Lead at Northern Stage said that it can be challenging to maintain momentum and enthusiasm, especially when there are staff changes and work pressures, “ The idea of a green week to reinvigorate staff interest was a fabulous idea. Trying to do things that help or improve our working days are more successful than thinking about this as ‘extra work’.”

James Froment, Green Lead at Dance City said, “NGCV Green Week is about promoting and encouraging sustainable change from within that is sustainable itself and from this week we have have learned a lot. The interest is most certainly there. Doing it with your friends and colleagues and sister venues is more fun. Picking a goal and the right time of year is very important.”

Good Green Ideas

During Green Week, we also ran our first ever Green Ideas competition for staff and the public.  We received 125 suggestions for ways to make getting to, being at and participating in activities at our venues more environmentally sustainable.  A panel picked the best 10 ideas and those who suggested these chose a prize – from tickets to the Panto at Theatre Royal or The Snowman at Sage Gateshead, to vouchers for BALTIC Shop and family passes at Centre For Life and Seven Stories. 

Our Green Teams are thinking about how we may be able to put these ideas into action individually or collectively before and are having a Green Campaign Get Together in December.  We may be able to do some things quickly and introduce others over time to add value to what we already do and challenge us to do more, in terms of:

  • cultural activities, e.g. showing documentaries about green issues/sustainability and inviting guest speakers; linking up with Festival of Thrift to explore ideas
  • greener behaviours, e.g. using technology to reduce staff waste – more skype meetings, using tablets for meetings to reduce print and use online document sharing tools;  for venues - to reduce or elimate the use of plastic in cafes and bars and think about introducing Meat Free Mondays; for visitors – promote walking and cycling with maps encouraging people to move round venues and offer discounts on hot drinks for those using reusable travel mugs
  • better communications, e.g. using attractive adverts/displays to inform visitors the difference their recycling has made financially/environmentally, as many people think their gesture will not make any difference and telling people what the venues do now in terms of energy efficiency and reducing waste, promoting green behaviours, have info displayed publicly on a poster or display screen, replicated online. Make a public statement about the partnership's commitment to the city, the environment and the world...we're all in it together

Promoting sustainable audience travel

We also ran our 5th Audience Travel Survey in September to October and had 11,265 responses.  The results are analysed overall, as well as relating to individual venues to identify how their audiences travel, whether sustainable travel is an option and what issues they may have. 

Philip Bernays, Chief Executive of Theatre Royal Trust and our lead Chief Executive for the NGCV Green Campaign, said," This survey and the comments from audience members and visitors help all our venues think about how they communicate and promote sustainable travel messages, but also understand what the issues and challenges may be for people visiting and whether there is any action that can be taken to address these. We can always learn more and do more to encourage people to walk, cycle, get buses, trains and the metro to our venues, where that is possible and convenient for them to do so."

Looking at how we can do more together

To follow up on Green Week and keep the momentum going, Dance City are hosting a Green Campaign Get Together in December for our Green Teams to get to know each other and reflect on what worked in Green Week and what we could do better. They will also talk about the 10 winning Green Ideas and how we might take these forward. 

Declan Baharini, NGCV Partnership Co-ordinator, said, "The effort that the venues put into Green Week and the response from the staff and public was amazing.  Although each organisation does already do a lot around sustainability as part of their everyday operation, what we know is that by working together and continuing to challenge ourselves as part of our NGCV Green Campaign, we can inspire and energise each other, learn from good practice across and outside our partnership and do more and have a bigger impact on our organisations, the visiting public and the environment."