Environmental Sustainability at the NAC

Former Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna and Christopher Deacon, President and CEO of the National Arts Centre, unveiling the NAC’s compost program on May 9, 2019. © Fred Cattroll
Former Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna and Christopher Deacon, President and CEO of the National Arts Centre, unveiling the NAC’s compost program on May 9, 2019. © Fred Cattroll

The NAC is one of North America’s largest multidisciplinary performing arts centres with more than a million visitors and 1,400 events and performances every year. We are committed to minimizing our environmental footprint and to playing a positive role in our community.

Here are some of the things the NAC is doing to contribute to a greener planet:

  • Thanks to energy management efficiencies, the NAC reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5% between 2017-2018 and 2018-2019. The goal is to further reduce emissions by over 1,200 tons of CO2 in 2019-2020, which represents a 17% reduction from the previous year. 
  • Using plant-based compostable cups and cutlery to divert 500,000 food and drink containers from the landfill annually. The containers (e.g. wine and beer glasses, coffee cups, plates, utensils, straws, and take-out boxes) are transformed – thanks to a process developed with the help of public and private partners – into rich compost that is being put back into the NAC rooftop herb gardens.
  • Using honey from beehives located in the rooftop herb garden to provide fresh ingredients to the NAC’s culinary team.
  • Using a light bulb recycling program. In 2018, 1,645 lamps were recycled, resulting in the following materials being diverted from the landfill: 224.6 kg of glass, 27 kg of plastics, 9.72 kg of metals, and smaller amounts of phosphor, porcelain and mercury.
  • Upgrading 75% of lighting at the Centre to state-of-the-art technologies such as LEDs.
  • Using outside air to cool the facility instead of continuously running the ventilation systems, ensuring maximum seasonal efficiencies.
  • Replacing exterior doors with more energy-efficient doors, reducing the heating and cooling needs and eliminating the buildup of ice on the doors in the winter.
  • Installing variable frequency drives to ensure the ventilation fan motors throughout the building operate at their most efficient setting and meet the changing demand for air circulation. For example, the exhaust fans in the garage only need to be at their high setting when there are many vehicles waiting to exit after a performance. The fans will default to off, or the lowest required setting, in other situations.
  • NAC English Theatre’s two-year research initiative The Cycle: Reimagining the Footprint of Canadian Theatre engages deeply with the facts of the climate crisis, and grapples with how the performing arts can respond. The project launched in April 2019 in Banff, and will culminate over two weeks in June 2020. In a grand adventure of emissions reduction and new practice, up to eight locations (six Canadian and two international) will host creative gatherings of artists, scientists, organizational leaders and students. The NAC’s goal with The Cycle is to examine how artists and arts institutions can rethink their practice and programming to develop work that promotes sustainable values and invests in the future of our planet. 
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