An eco-friendly Edinburgh Fringe: What needs to be done?

Jonny Paton from Pleasance reflects on eco-friendly initiatives in Edinburgh

The Greenhouse
The Greenhouse
© Barth Tillotson

The Fringe has always been a place to examine the big issues of the day, capturing the zeitgeist and frenziedly churning out material on the challenges we are facing. Therefore, it's only natural that in a year where we've seen an outcry from young people worldwide seeking meaningful action on climate change and Extinction Rebellion occupying public spaces across the world, that the conversation about sustainability and the future of our planet sits steadfastly at the heart of the festival – permeating every aspect from how we operate as venues through to the work itself.

The Pleasance has been a leading member of the Green Arts Initiative since 2013, and constantly looks at how our impact on the environment can be reduced. As we embark on our 35th year we've significantly reduced skipped waste with the help of Move On Wood Recycling, 70 per cent of the lights used in our venues are now LED and our paper consumption has been slashed. As we look to the future, in 2020 we will be banning LX tape in our rigs, opting for reusable bungees instead – for perspective we currently use 7 kilometres annually.

Our programme has seen a spike in work unpacking environmental issues. Amongst these is a collection of shows by BoxedIn Theatre who are forging the way for sustainable theatre-making (literally) through their carbon neutral pop-up venue at Dynamic Earth. As Oli Savage of BoxedIn Theatre describes:

"The Greenhouse is the first-ever zero-waste performance venue at the Edinburgh Fringe. Playing host to a daily programme of 7 shows, the space is designed to spark debate and discussion about how we as artists and audience members alike can develop a better relationship with our environment. The space itself is created entirely out of found and recycled materials and everything else about the project is zero-waste too, from each of our individual shows, to our entire marketing campaign. There seems to be this dichotomy emerging between Scotland's natural heritage, and its cultural heritage. This project will showcase that it is easy to make top-quality work at the Edinburgh Fringe in a way that protects the environment!".

Around shows, the conversation about how we produce work more sustainably has moved centre stage. We are incredibly proud to support Staging Change, encouraging artists to put the environment at the centre of the creative process and promoting practical ways that we can navigate the fringe more sustainably – like the #TakeAPhoto campaign urging audiences to take photos of flyers as opposed to the flyer itself. Alice Boyd, the director of Staging Change says:

"Staging Change leads a network of over 180 shows, venues and companies, all of which have pledged to improve the environmental sustainability of their practice, declaring the importance of urgent and collaborative action on climate change. We are thrilled to have Pleasance as part of our network, alongside other Fringe venues and shows. As the biggest arts festival in the world, it is key that Fringe venues, participants and organisations all work together to create a festival with a small footprint, but a big impact."

There's a lot more work to be done, but there's momentum gathering for a new vision of the festival and we look forward to playing our part in it.