Broadway is Taking Leaps Towards a Sustainable Future

By Jan Hagiwara

Did you know that the Broadway theater industry recycles or reuses tons of sets, costumes and construction materials every year?  Neither do most of the twelve million theatre lovers who attend shows or plays on Broadway annually.  Yet since 2008, when a group of theater owners and producers sat down with the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability and the Natural Resources Defense Council to talk about how to “green up” the industry, the Great White Way has adopted practices and policies resulting in energy conservation and materials management that would make an environmentalist proud. 

Since that time, Broadway theater owners have converted over 97% of marquee lighting to LEDs (light-emitting diodes) or CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs).  Set designers and construction crews have been recycling or reusing scenery from closing productions, reusing 88% of the scenery in one month alone (January 2009).  Broadway touring companies, which rely heavily on trucks to move equipment, have offset over 4000 tons of carbon emissions through investments in wind power and methane digesters.  Sound crews have replaced disposable batteries with rechargeable ones – in the case of the musical Billy Elliot, preventing the disposal of nearly 40,000 batteries per year.  Set and costume shops have been urged to use non-toxic, biodegradable materials and to develop environmentally friendly special effects.  And theatergoers have been recycling their programs as they leave the theater – unless they want to save them as souvenirs, of course.

Henry Miller Theater: New York City’s first LEED-rated performance space

All of this has come about due to the efforts of the Broadway Green Alliance (BGA), a network of volunteer producers, actors, stage managers, stagehands, designers and others in the business who are committed to minimizing the industry’s environmental footprint.  An actor or crew member at each show helps coordinate BGA activities such as E-Waste drives and fabric drives.  Backstage, BGA bulletin boards display news on upcoming recycling events and fact sheets to inform and encourage cast and crew on ways to minimize waste and energy use.

So when you see a Broadway show, you’re helping support a behind-the-scenes effort to minimize the environmental impact of the theater industry.  Sit back and enjoy the show! 

For more information, see Broadway Green Alliance’s website at

The author has been a Broadway musician for 25 years but has no affiliation with Broadway Green Alliance.