Green successes in 2013

In January 2013, a few staff sat down to create a list of 100 actions we could take to improve our sustainability.  How did we do?

As promised in a blog post earlier in the year, this seems an appropriate time to reflect on how successful Batersea Arts Centre has been in making physical, operational and cultural changes to become more sustainable and make more effort to reduce our environmental footprint.

Initially Tref Davies, Capital Project Administrator and Green Champion, and Sarah O’Connor, Production Manager, sat down together in January, and with input from Julie’s Bicycle and their Industry Green report on BAC, listed a number of actions we could take over the short-, medium- and long-term.  With further discussion within the 21st Century Organisation and Infrastructure & Technical projects, we arrived at 100 actions.

This blog post lists those that have been carried out, and assesses how successful they have been.  The next posts will look at incomplete and ongoing actions, and then on those which we have still to tackle.

Completed actions 2013

Category Action Assessment
Audience Travel Communicate how to travel to BAC, and explain impacts of each. We updated our webpage to show the choices of travel to reach the venue, including links to carsharing and green taxis.  Surveys of our audiences through the year showed the majority used public transport, but when private cars or taxis were the only option, they were fully occupied in most cases.  Ultimately, travel accounted for less than 1% of our carbon emissions.

Luckily for us, we’re well-served by local transport, and close to links to national transport, and with limited local parking, this is consistently the best way to reach us.

We looked at adding this information to our online ticket sales system, or in confirmation emails.  It wasn’t possible to include it as a message within ticketing, and we didn’t want to lengthen emails any further, so we’ve chosen to keep this as an informative link and webpage.

Business Travel Attend local meetings by foot/bicycle Over the last year, a number of members of staff have taken advantage of the Cycle Scheme to purchase tax-free bicycles at reduced cost.  We now have more staff cycling to work than ever before, and unless there is a need to transport baggage, everyone walks or cycles locally.
Business Travel No air travel unless absolutely necessary, and always economy On the rare occasions when it is unavoidable, members of staff will use national or international rail services across the UK and Europe.  Air travel is reserved for long-haul or reasons of timing, when there wouldn’t be time to make the journey by rail.  We set up a commercial account with which offers a discount on all business travel, whilst also keeping an accurate record of our journies for monitoring, making it easier to complete our annual impact assessment.
Business Travel Record all business travel Historically, it has been difficult for us to capture all the information relating to staff travel, mainly due to the variety of projects and number of staff involved.  By collaborating with our Finance Team, we set up a system which records the information of distance and method of transport on our expenses and booking forms.  Alongside the reports from, this has made it so much easier to be confident in our reporting.
Business Travel Use virtual methods for contact whenever practical Skype has become the most obvious tool in use here, for both audio or video contact with others.  With the additional advantage of saving on telephone or mobile calls, it enabled contact across the globe, such as for The Agency, who were able to talk to
Communication Start to use the website and publications to explain what we’re doing to improve our environmental sustainability In 2013, we started to update our website blog with green actions, and created a page on the subject of Sustainability. We can still learn better methods to communicate, and would like to find ways to make this a two-way dialogue, where staff, artists and audiences can comment and join our journey.  Using Julie’s Bicycle’s #greenarts hashtag, we included these blog items on our Twitter feed.
Computing & IT Saving energy We ensured all our laptops and desktops went into energy-saving mode rather than using screensavers, and purchased a projector for use in meetings, rather than printing reams of minutes and reports every time.

Our brilliant IT support partners, ICT Partnerships, ensure that we purchase the most energy-efficient equipment as one of the procurement criteria, and all old equipment is fully recycled through the charity Computer Aid International. They refurbish and distribute in hospitals, universities, schools and not-for-profit organisations in over 100 countries.

We replace old desktops with more efficient laptops, unless a desktop is specifically required.  This has allowed us to be far more flexible in working practices as well.

We tested free software designed to switch the monitor/screen off when a user leaves their computer, using their webcam to look for movement.  Unfortunately we have very active staff and offices, so it wasn’t effective, and we continue to rely on the standard energy-saving timers to do this.

All office-based workers are connected to the ethernet rather than WiFi, reducing power consumption.  However, due to the age of the building, and its very thick stone walls, all the public and artistic spaces which are covered by wireless signal require a router in every space. Artist bedrooms and performance spaces have been supplied with ethernet connections so they can be used reliably when desired.

Don’t Pollute Consider use of eco-friendly chemicals and products when appropriate With our Capital Project ongoing, there is plenty of opportunity to consider the types of products we use when carrying out parts of the project we are managing ourselves, such as in the procurement of paint, varnish, cleaning chemicals, etc… Except when the eco-products will not meet quality standards in a high-traffic environment, we have been able to do this.  Since we also store all part-used paints etc for touching up, there is no waste to landfill.  We have identified recycling partners if needed.

We use a fair amount of wood in construction and it is all from renewable resources, or recycled from our limited storage. We commit to avoid tropical hardwoods.

Equipment Choose equipment with an A efficiency rating or better, and use energy-efficient settings or timers. This has been a criteria of all our purchasing throughout the Capital Project.  It has influenced our choices for kitchen and bar equipment, electric heating, LED and low-energy lighting, and hand-dryers, as a few examples.  Motion sensors have been fitted in some areas, so lighting is automatically switched off in empty spaces, and this will be extended across the building during future works.  External lighting has daylight sensors fitted so it is only active at night.

Our cafe has a full complement of overhead LED lighting running on less than 28W, and the espresso machine we purchased monitors its own use to establish the less busy periods, conserving up to two-thirds of its peak-time power consumption throughout the day.

We’ve also increased our stock of LED theatre lighting which is not only more energy efficient, but far more flexible and easily deployed for small-scale events and productions, as well as used for decorative lighting in the Grand Hall or Council Chamber for weddings and conferences.

We are encouraging artists, technicians and space users to use natural lighting whenever possible, so daytime rehersals are carried out with window shutters open and no need for additional lighting.

Heating Identify operational changes and equipment settings to use the heating most efficiently We try to identify where we can operationally cut down on use, ensuring electric heating is turned off in unused rooms, and set thermostats and timers on heating in public areas.  There is still a lot of learning for us in this area, as we constantly monitor the effect of changes to the settings in order to find the most efficient use of the systems which provide an acceptable level of comfort.

We have removed most of the large water boilers from the building, replacing all showers and sink heating with local water heaters and power showers, so we only use what we need.  Of the 3 large hot water tanks remaining, they are set to the minimum heating level that meets important environmental health standards.

Insulation will be a huge difference to the building coming as part of the major building works in 2015, but we have made some quick-win changes by sealing unused vents and adding low-cost insulating film to windows in the coldest office, which has made quite a large difference.

Procurement Purchase recycled office supplies We have identified a number of suppliers committed to sustainability, from where we source supplies produced from recycled/sustainable resources.

Overall, we have also cut our costs in this area, paying less for these materials than we did from more traditional commercial sources.

Procurement Engage with suppliers who can report on their own impacts or demonstrate their green credentials and commitment We have contracted a new waste collection service with Grundon who provide us with a quarterly report on the quantity of waste we produce, and guarantee nothing to landfill.

Our cafe suppliers are all local, cutting down on food miles.  This criteria is important in our relationship with all services and suppliers, many of whom are local to us, or have a strong environmental commitment.

We consider this area in any tendering for new contracts, for example in utilities, or our Capital building project contractors.  In 2013 we were able to contract for a green energy tariff, meaning a greater proportion of our electricity is generated by renewable sources.

Recycling Waste All our general waste is dealt with by a provider who guarantees zero to landfill, and provides a quarterly report.  We also separate out dry recyclables and glass on site.

For production or construction waste, when we need to use skips, we use Brewsters Waste Management who ensure at least 90% is recycled, with the rest being used to provide renewable energy at their recycling centres. We also use specialist wood recycling or scrap metal services if the quantity merits it.

All electrical items are disposed of via the 123 Recycle For Free service, ensuring everything is reused or recycled.

We joined the Julie’s Bicycle Better Batteries Campaign, switching all our battery powered equipment over to rechargeables.

Reduction Heating & power In an old Victorian Town Hall building, it’s unsurprising that we can be drafty at times.  In our continuing aim to reduce the energy needed to heat such a large building, we use wood burners in the public spaces like the cafe, and installed new glass doors inside the main entrance to create a draft lobby and keep out the winter winds.

We set up a blanket box, which a neighbouring company also donated to, so that audience members can borrow some additional insulation if they need it.

Our Duty Managers sweep the building first and last thing, and during the day, to ensure unnecessary light and heating is switched off.  We also communicate with resident artists and companies so that they can help us reduce wasted energy.  Artists living in our bedroom accomodation are encouraged to washup or do laundry together, and switch off all items in their bedrooms when they are out.

Appliances are regularly serviced to ensure their efficiency.

Reduction Offices We implemented PaperCut MF, a software programme designed to reduce printing and paper use, which has proved successful.  You can read about this in a previous blog post here.  We default all settings to B/W and double-sided.

Printer toner is recycled, as is all office waste.  We have just begun a focus on power consumption in the offices, switching off PC monitors and unplugging chargers overnight.  A Green Champ in each office has taken on the task of encouraging all of us to think more about waste.

Reduction Other We produce less paper marketing and posters than in the past, and focus on clear, targeted electronic mailing as much as possible.

In 2013, we joined in with Climate Week activities, holding a Swap Day, and will be doing more for this event in 2014.

In our cafe, we no longer sell bottled water, cutting down on wasted plastic bottles.  Instead, we added a tap and sink to the bar where customers are also welcome to use it to refill their own carriers.

Reuse Materials We have some storage on site, and for regularly used furniture or theatre items such as ‘set’ or equipment, we keep as much as possible that can be re-used.  Since replacing the furniture in the public spaces, we have a small stock for artists to use in productions.

However, space is still limited, so if we have to make the choice to dispose of anything, we will always try to pass it on to other venues or charities first, or somewhere where it is needed and will be useful.  Failing that, staff, volunteers or the public will be offered the items to take away.

We’re working with the London Theatre Consortium on their project to find a way to create shared storage for the theatres involved, saving money and resources across the network.

Water Reduce consumption and waste We have replaced all the old sanitaryware in the front half of the building, all with low-flush toilets, and our water use has reduced, although we have a very low use profile for such a large building as it is.

Sadly this has caused some problems with the ancient Victorian drainage, but this is being addressed through further building works.

Taps and showers in bathrooms are all low-flow or aerating, reducing the amount of water used.

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