Under its high-profile leadership team, the Sydney Theatre Company has introduced a string of green initiatives. Those efforts have now been officially recognised.Actress Cate Blanchett has picked up another high-profile award, but this time it’s not an Oscar or a BAFTA.
The actress and her husband, Andrew Upton, have been recognised for their contribution to the environmental cause at the 2010 Green Globe Awards, a NSW government initiative recognising sustainable businesses.
The pair, who were appointed artistic directors at the Sydney Theatre Company in 2008, have introduced a range of measures aimed at reducing the theatre’s environmental footprint.
Last night their Greening the Wharf program – which introduces rainwater harvesting and solar power to the theatre – took out the prestigious Premier’s Award, the event’s top prize. The award is judged independently and cannot be nominated.
“Designing a sustainable performing arts centre on a Greenfield site is one thing but doing so with a heritage building in a prime position on Sydney Harbour presents a considerably greater set of challenges,” Green Globes judging panel chair Ronnie Harding said of the decision to recognise the theatre.
“With 200,00 attendances at the Wharf each year the STC has an excellent starting point to promote its Greening project, including through hosting lectures, discussion forums and art exhibitions,” she said. At the launch of the program in June, Blanchett said she felt environmental issues were simply too big to ignore.
“As a cultural institution we want to be engaged in what is the most important issue that is facing us as a species, that is, climate change.
“We all know theatre happens under electric lights. We’re a huge consumer of energy, so this is a really positive thing.”
When Blanchett and playwright/director Upton took over directorship of the STC they began a process to turn the early 20th century industrial building into an example of 21st century industrial building into an example of 21st century best environmental practice.
In June, after two years of research, they lifted the lid on Greening the Wharf, which they hope will set the standard for performing arts companies around the world.
The scheme included plans to become fully carbon neutral by 2011, to harvest water for use around the premises and generate electricity through a 381kWh photovoltaic array on the roof. Best practice waste handling and recycling techniques were introduced to minimise waste going to landfill.
“It’s our hope that Greening the Wharf increases awareness of climate change and demonstrates there is a wide range of measures that can be taken to reduce our carbon footprint,” Blanchett said.
Greening the Wharf has also won accolades for its comprehensive education program, which is vital to its success. The theatre’s approach to the project has been systematic and strategic.
Working with energy consultants Big Switch Projects, STC began by measuring and documenting its base-line performance, so any improvements can be empirically verified.
The theatre enlisted the University of NSW to create its solar array. Rooftop panels will generate enough power to meet about 70 per cent of STC’s needs.
Blanchett and Upton are playing a key role in promoting the Greening the Wharf program to the STC’s annual audience of more than 300,000 school children who attend performances each year.
Ronnie Harding said the STC’s communications strategy looks to inspire others.
“[It seeks] to become the catalyst for the creation of a unique Green Precinct in the Hungry Mile/Barangaroo/Walsh Bay/Rocks area and to provide an international example of 21st century best environmental practice,” she said, adding that this is “a very worthy winner of the Premier’s Award for Sustainability”. The Green Globes began in 1999.
WEDNESDAY JULY 28, 2010
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD