It might be a generality but, unlike Donald Trump, most theatre folk are caring types and therefore will be deeply concerned about global warming and climate change.

However, being deeply concerned and actually doing something not necessarily identical.

This article was sparked by a press release from Camberley Theatre announcing the following:

“At Camberley Theatre, we encourage customers and staff to minimise car travel to and from the theatre and car share where possible, although we do recognise that this may not be possible for everyone.

From April 2022, Camberley Theatre are partnering with the UK Social Enterprise, Ecologi, to offer audiences the opportunity to offset the carbon impact of their journey to and from the theatre by planting trees. This partnership supports tree planting and carbon offsetting projects around the world. The projects range from building renewable energy plants in countries such as Indonesia and Uganda, to preserving forests in Guatemala and Papua New Guinea. Tree planting is managed by Eden Reforestation Projects who work alongside local communities to plant native trees in countries including Mozambique, Madagascar and Nicaragua. To date, Ecologi have planted over 34 million trees worldwide!

What difference does my £1 make?

By choosing 'offset my journey' for each show purchased, you will offset the equivalent CO2 emissions from your travel to the theatre and plant four trees, which will continue to contribute to a reduction in atmospheric carbon as they grow.

Once customers have added tickets to their basket and you go to checkout, they will be offered the chance to donate £1 to Ecologi by adding the CO2 Offset to their basket. Camberley Theatre will donate 100% of these donations to Ecologi each month on our customers’ behalf. If bookings are made over the phone or in person, just ask and a member of the team to add this to the booking for you.”

That may well and should warm many readers’ hearts. However, without wishing to diminish the wholly commendable efforts of those at Camberley, the topic of carbon offsetting has been an quite probably should be controversial, especially at a national level.

To use an analogy, which of these four choices is best for the planet?

  • I don't make a mess in the first place
  • I make a mess and clear it up
  • I make a mess and get someone else to clear it up
  • I make a mess and get someone else to clear up a different mess on the other side of the world.

It is hard to imagine that anyone reading this article would have picked the last option, which is effectively what carbon offsetting does.

If we set offsetting aside for a moment, what else can theatres and theatregoers do to make their small contribution towards energy efficiency?

Please forgive a London-based writer, but without wishing to diminish levelling up any more than our government does, the examples below are drawn from the capital.

In our region, the Arcola Theatre has long been the champion when it comes to environmental friendliness. It pioneered reusable laminated tickets, pretty much gave up on water in the sanitary facilities, recycled anything and everything and made determined efforts to persuade visitors to support the brand with its “trailblazing sustainability projects”.

Having started the project in 2007, it now proudly utilises solar panels, LED lights, DC microgrids, a therminator boiler and solar thermal panels. It even buys beer from a brewery within 4 miles of the venue and programmes shows outdoors during the summer.

This should make every one of us think about the impact that theatregoing has on the planet and the steps we can take to reduce it.

Ultimately, the only way to eliminate damage to the planet by theatres is to close them down completely. That seems a little drastic.

As Camberley has suggested, avoiding car (and even plane) travel must make a significant contribution. Helpfully, the London Mayor and local councils are doing their bit in this regard. Many will be put off driving into central London by the congestion charge, the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, the cost of petrol and parking, though on the other side of the equation, public transport can seem unsafe late at night or in the rush-hour, particularly in the teeth of a pandemic.

At the other end, it could be argued that flying in overseas stars, directors or even complete casts is highly polluting and undesirable.

Similarly, constructing expensive sets from plastics that are not biodegradable and using inordinate amounts of light and heat (not to mention air-conditioning and ventilation systems) are similarly damaging.

In a dream world, everything would be produced outdoors in sunlight at a location very close to the homes of all involved both on and off the non-stage. Beyond that, cutting down on power used by removing intervals and opening theatres closer to curtain time might help, as would electronic ticketing and virtual programmes.

In reality, much as we would like to do our bit, most of us have other concerns and tend to forget this important aspect of entertaining ourselves.

Acknowledging that we are always going to be too busy, given the parlous state of the planet at the moment, perhaps this is the moment to make a commitment to take a little more trouble to protect the environment when going to the theatre in future.