Trailblazing sustainability projects as part of our core business, Arcola Theatre aims to be the world’s first carbon neutral theatre. Initiated in 2007 as the Arcola Energy Project, Arcola’s vision for a sustainable, equitable and creative future is at the heart of all we do.
In 2010 we set up Arcola Energy Ltd to take forwards technology development and commercial elements. Arcola Energy specialises in the integration of hydrogen and fuel cells, with a reputation for capturing end-user needs, strong industry partnerships and low-cost UK manufacturing. Arcola Theatre works closely with Arcola Energy, particularly on renewable energy projects.
Since 2012, all organisations that receive regular funding from Arts Council England have to report on their environmental performance. We’ve reduced our carbon footprint by 25.4% (from 110.1 tonnes in 2011-12 to 83.1 tonnes in 2013-14).
We’ve installed 24 square meters of solar panels to generate electricity. At their peak these panels produce up to 6 kilowatts of green electricity, most of which is used by the theatre. Any electricity that is not used is fed into the national grid providing additional income through the feed-in-tarrif. Since they were installed in February 2012, our panels have generated over 10,300kWh of electricity, avoiding more than 8 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
Our waste wood fired heating system provides carbon-neutral heating. Since it was commissioned in December 2012, it has generated over 67,000kWh of heat, mostly through burning waste and scrap wood. If this heat had been generated through the gas grid, it would be responsible for 67.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
East London brews
90% of the beer sold at Arcola Bar comes from within 4 miles, reducing our carbon footprint from deliveries.
Travel surveys have shown that over 90% of our audience travel is completed by public transport, cycling or walking. A switch to public transport is one of the single most effective things you could do to reduce your carbon footprint.
Many modern appliances run on DC power from batteries. Charging them from AC mains power wastes energy in the conversion. Our DC microgrids are connected (by orange wiring) to our solar PV panels on the roof. They allow for smarter energy management from hybrid sources, powering our LED lights and our laptops from DC-integrated desks.
Solar thermal panels
We fitted solar thermal panels to heat the water in our taps. The 5 panels can heat water up to 60 degrees on sunny days. Solar Thermal can also be combined with photovoltaics to further increase efficiency. The waste heat from photovoltaics electricity production is used to heat water.
When we renovated the Colourworks building to create Arcola on Ashwin Street we, reused well over 10,000 bricks, saving waste emissions and more than £13,000. We reused the factory’s original timber joints; now they hold up our stairs and frame our doors.
We use LED lights in our office, foyer, bar and dressing rooms. The 83 lights we’ve installed use a whopping 89% less electricity than conventional fluorescent lighting.
The Arcola Energy project launched, with the aim of:
- Making Arcola the world’s first Carbon Neutral theatre.
- Using theatre to educate and inspire the local community to live sustainably.
- Creating the world’s first Clean Energy Technology Incubator in an arts setting. A knowledge incubator and demonstration site with dedicated workspace where engineers can develop initiatives to tackle climate change.
- Leading a paradigm shift in how sustainability is integrated in to the core ethos of arts and community venues.
We became one of the first arts organisations to commission a feasibility study on how to become carbon neutral. Development and implementation of measures to ensure the theatre takes appropriate steps to fulfil this ambition.
In conjunction with the London Mayors office in 2008, Arcola was primary organiser of developing the Mayors of London Green Theatre Plan.
Worked with theatre company Simple8 on The Living Unknown Soldier, to create London’s first hydrogen powered production using a five kilowatt fuel cell.
Provided low energy lighting and fuel cell power for theatre stage at Latitude. Arcola worked with White Light, Selecon, ETC and Pixel Range to provide a mixture of LED and low power tungsten technologies; cutting power consumption in the Theatre Arena by over 70%
Created a feasibility study for Future Arcola – Arcola Theatre’s long-term ambition to build completely new zero carbon theatre in Dalston.
Commissioned by CREATE to help make a greener festival; our document “Let’s Create a Low Carbon Arts Festival” provided recommendations for CREATE09 to reduce carbon footprint in 5 key areas – buildings: energy, buildings: resources, productions, staff and audience.
Participated in 10:10 -the national campaign to reduce carbon footprints in 2010 by 10% – and achieved a 34% reduction in our former premises in Arcola Street.
Conversion of the Colourworks Building, our current home – from a disused factory building to a fully functioning two-studio theatre – by sourcing recycled building materials.
Story of London – Open Day at Arcola’s new venue in the Colourworks. An exclusive look at the building in its raw state, exploring emerging plans with the Future Arcola Project Team. An invitation to get involved in the radical DIY approach to creating a new cultural landmark. Website from 2010 with materials from the event
Led the establishment of Dalston Eastern Curve Garden and managed it until 2012.
Won two Sustainable City awards for Greening the Third Sector and Resource Conservation.
Invited to lecture on greening Canadian theatres at York University, Toronto.
First sustainability themed schools’ workshops, which would develop into the Arcola Energy for Schools programme.
Following the development of first energy incubator based in an arts setting, Arcola Energy Ltd becomes a separate development and retail company specialising in fuel cells.
Shortlisted in the European Business Awards for the Environment for the Green Arcola Action Plan, alongside Marks and Spencer Plan and the Olympic Delivery Agency.
Workshop with Arcola Energy offered as a national schools’ prize during Climate Week – the national event raising awareness of climate change
Begin participating in Open House London (and every year since) with tours of the building. Since 2011, over 500 people have participated in tours.
Sustainable Solutions for an Equitable Future organised with Hackney and Tower Hamlets Friends of the Earth. A series of monthly talks with experts discussing exciting and challenging aspects of sustainability.
After monitoring energy consumption in the Colourworks building for a year, generated a baseline so we can accurately measure our carbon reduction achievements.
Arcola has participated in a number of external accreditation schemes, which provided us with frameworks for our monitoring and awards for achieving new levels each year. We are now using the ISO14001 framework to manage our environmental processes.
Our building became a Cleantech showcase for spearheading new energy solutions, through work carried out in our wholesale refurbishment of the buidling
The Dalston Energy Angels project delivered a Local Energy Assessment Fund supported project the local area. The Dalston Energy Angels, a group of volunteers and some paid staff, carried out 70 home energy assessment reports for a broad range of Hackney residents.
The start of environmental reporting to Arts Council England. From 2011-12 to 2015-16, Arcola’s carbon footprint has reduced from 110 tonnes to 71 tonnes
Climate Week – 24hr play challenge brought together the finest British theatrical talent to put on five original fifteen minute performances in just 24 hours.
Reuse and Skills project on the nearby Rhodes Estate to enable local people to benefit from collaborating and sharing skills, goods and time. The project culminated in an event focused on skills, with furniture making, clothing alteration, seed planting and paint give away.
Green Arcola Gallery – a series of bi-monthly exhibitions in the theatre foyer, offering young and emerging artists the opportunity to show work and specially created commissions
Voices from the Future – six emerging playwrights explored play form, function, style, had access to leading sustainability thinkers, as well as working with local school children students to consider how we write plays about the effect we are having on the planet. The result was six new short plays exploring the real world impacts of Climate Change.
Resilience – a project with Newlon Fusion at Buxhall Cresent; working with residents to develop a community garden, developing residents’ capacity for self-sufficiency and building community cohesion
Skills for Sustainable Living – local council funded project to empower local communities; included working with residents at two local estates to develop practical sustainability skills such as repairing furniture, fixing clothes and draught-proofing homes
The Carbon Neutral Arcola project, funded by the M&S Community Energy Fund, installed radiators and completed the renewable heating system. All of Arcola’s heating is provided by a biomass boiler, mostly fuelled with waste wood
With support from the Zero Emissions Network, we installed a shower to enable staff to cycle to work.
Public talk and one-day workshop “Sustainability in the arts: the ideas and the practice” at Institute for Cultural Management and Cultural Studies, part of the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna