In 2011, Maria Matos Teatro Municipal organised the international conference Two Degrees – Art, Climate Change and Sustainable Development. The lectures given on the subject by Portuguese and international specialists considerably raised the awareness of those present in the audience and of the theatre’s collaborators about the role of the cultural sector in the process of transition to sustainability, while also providing the general guidelines for implementing a plan of sustainable practices in the theatre’s everyday life and business.
There are no data available for Portugal, but, taking the London theatres as a reference, we know that these currently emit 50,000 tons of CO2 each year, equivalent to the yearly emissions of roughly nine thousand homes. Lisbon is not London, yet these numbers give an idea of the importance of the problem. The statistical data of London’s theatres also provide relevant information about the origins of the emissions, because the first step towards reducing them is knowing where to intervene:
Targets for reducing energy consumption at London’s theatres:
- Air conditioning and heating of auditoria – 35%
- Air conditioning and heating of rehearsal rooms – 28%
- Operation of offices (including air conditioning and heating) – 9%
- Electricity – stage area – 9%
- Night lighting systems – 6%
- Pre-production – 5%
- Materials (sets, costumes,…) – 5%
- External lighting – 2%
Based on these numbers and the experiences shared during the conference with such organisations as ArtsAdmin and Julie’s Bicycle, we have drawn up a list of the priority areas for intervention at Maria Matos Teatro Municipal between 2011 and 2018.
We have established a partnership with Lisboa E-Nova, Agência Municipal de Energia e Ambiente, in order to be able to organise data and monitor the theatre’s energy consumptions, through remote management. The agency provided a precise diagnosis of the theatre’s consumption in a first phase, and made it possible to subsequently monitor the effects of some measures. Under the scope of this diagnosis, we decided to implement the following measures in order to optimise energy efficiency:
- Limiting the use of the air conditioning system in public areas and in offices to temperatures no lower than 16º and no higher than 26º;
- Progressive replacement of light bulbs with low consumption bulbs and placement of movement sensors for lighting some public areas;
- Limiting the temperature and heating times of the hot water tank, only heating the water at off-peak times;
- Placement of an interface in the technical area that has made it possible for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system of the Main Hall to be activated only when required and deactivated when the teams leave the room.
As far as the theatre’s waste is concerned, in the aforementioned period, we have intensified our consumption reduction and recycling practices:
- Drinking tap water instead of bottled water;
- Eliminating plastic bottles and cups, not only among the theatre team, but also, whenever possible, with visiting artistic teams and in all public activities where dishes are needed (we have completely stopped using disposable crockery and all plates, cutlery and glasses are either organic or reusable);
- Recycling paper, packaging, printer cartridges, electronic equipment, wood, etc. with a review of the type of waste bins available – the installation of recycling points in all public areas, backstage and offices and the relocation of bins for general rubbish on each office floor;
- Using paper originating from certified forests and nationally-produced recycled plastic in all graphic supports and stationery. Beginning in the 2017-2018 season, we will make a transition to digital records that will significantly reduce the use of paper in the planning of resources;
- Using biodegradable detergents;
- Configuring computers to print by default in draft quality and in black and white;
- Reducing the flow of water from all taps.
Limiting emissions from travel and transport is one of the most difficult measures to implement in the context of the work undertaken by Teatro Maria Matos, since it not only included the travel of the theatre’s collaborators, but also the travel and transport of foreign artists and their audiences. Even so, there were some concrete measures that we have adopted:
- Using public transport for local and national travel, whenever possible;
- Optimising the travel of foreign artists through network programming;
- Buying products of Portuguese origin, involving shorter distances in terms of supply, whenever possible;
- Placement of a bicycle park close to the theatre, in conjunction with the Lisbon Council services.
Besides these efforts taking place behind the scenes, ever since the initiative mentioned earlier (the international conference Two Degrees – Art, Climate Change and Sustainable Development), the theatre has made a concerted effort to integrate this theme into its programming, considering this to be a privileged means of talking to and relating with its audiences. We have presented the following initiatives related with sustainability, reinforced from 2015 onwards when the theatre joined the IMAGINE 2020 – Art and Climate Change network, co-funded by the European Union’s Creative Europe Programme:
- Transition – a cycle of conferences and events (2013);
- Mais Pra Menos Que Pra Mais (More Less Than More) – debates, performances, tours, urban allotments and shows, a project developed by Vera Mantero and held in partnership with Culturgest (2014);
- As 3 Ecologias (The Three Ecologies) – cycle of conferences, workshops, performances and shows (2016);
- Utopia – Arquipélago Verde (Utopia – Green Archipelago) – cycle of conferences, workshops, performances and shows (2017).
An essential part of the transition of Maria Matos Teatro Municipal to sustainability has involved raising awareness and introducing a consequent change in habits. Visiting artists and companies were welcomed with a green rider (there is also a green rider model for the theatre team itself), which comprised simple, but essential, practices for changing the way in which we work, all across the board.
Changing habits is as important as implementing technological solutions, but it takes time and can only be achieved through a continuous and concerted effort. We have tried to follow this path for 7 years.