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As the first arts venue to be awarded a 3* Industry Green rating, the Lyric Hammersmith is a model of best practice. Kim M Grant describes the work of its green team.

Image of atrium staircase at Lyric Hammersmith
Building work on the atrium staircase at the Lyric Hammersmith

Nina Sologubenko

The Lyric is fully committed to reducing its impact on the environment. We include ‘environmentally friendly’ within our mission and one of our key business aims is “to reduce the theatre’s long-term impact on the environment and become a model of best practice for other cultural organisations”.

Our journey began back in October 2010 with the establishment of the Lyric green team, made up of a cross-section of staff, all passionate about reducing emissions and making us more sustainable. We meet monthly and review our action plan at each monthly meeting. The team also works on individual and group projects, as well as discussing ways to raise awareness and change behaviour across the building and the sector.

Our green progress has been a combination of short, medium and long-term goals. ‘Going green’ takes time and commitment throughout the company. You can’t completely change the way your organisation behaves overnight but you can start immediately by encouraging little changes. We started by implementing some simple green plans that involved little or no cost, but yielded great results.

You can’t completely change the way your organisation behaves overnight but you can start immediately by encouraging little changes

First of all, we provide all actors and staff with a re-usable Lyric water bottle and encourage them to use these as an eco-friendly alternative to buying water. Did you know it takes seven litres of water to produce a one litre bottle? Our ‘Turn off’ campaign has been another successful venture. It is as simple as communicating with everyone to remind them to shut down and turn off all unnecessary electronics at night and especially before bank holiday weekends. This links to another important element which is communicating about our green campaign. We send monthly updates on things like our paper usage, energy consumption and recycled waste. It is important to keep these considerations at the forefront of everone’s thoughts to get everyone to think green and change their habits. We also tweet about green issues regularly, with lots of pictures, so our audiences know how committed we are.

With the success of these initial activities, we set out to tackle larger environmental issues and achieve even greater results. We changed our waste company to First Mile and now recycle everything, including food waste. We also embarked on a mission to refit our entire building with LED lights, using electricity savings from emission reduction for some of the bigger projects, and are now very close to achieving this goal. We recently joined the Arts Basket, a consortium of arts venues purchasing energy together, and buy renewable energy so the majority of what we use is wind-generated.

Recently, we brought the catering service for our cafe in-house and we have been careful to maintain our green ethos throughout this venture. Almost all of our suppliers are local and the produce is organic, while the whole cafe is fitted with LED lights and the takeaway containers are recyclable.

As the theatre is undergoing substantial refurbishment this year we have been careful to keep our green priorities in mind. Our unused office furniture was recycled via a charitable organisation. We have also partnered with our construction company which reports monthly on its recycling – and manages to recycle close to 100% of its waste.

Our capital project has provided the opportunity for us to implement some of the long-term plans that will yield positive results for years to come. We are aiming to achieve a BREEAM rating of Excellent for the building following completion (BREEAM is a design and assessment method for sustainable buildings). The new wing of our building will have a green sedum roof which will increase biodiversity, reduce storm water run-off and contribute to the London Plan’s aim of increasing green cover in central London by 5% by 2030.

We measure our environmental performance by using the Industry Green tool on Julie’s Bicycle’s website. Our carbon footprint was 567 tonnes in 2012/13, reduced from 756 tonnes in 2009/10, a 25% reduction. For the last two years we have been awarded 3* Industry Green rating and were the first arts venue to achieve this highest level.

Plans for the coming year include our finance and administration departments going paperless and working with the Mayor’s Office RE:FIT programme to change our main auditorium lighting to LED and install solar PV panels on our main theatre roof.

There is always more that everyone can do, but any change will help save the planet and will probably save some money as well.

Kim M Grant is Green Champion at the Lyric Hammersmith.

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