Earth Day 2024: What Does a Green NAC Look Like, Anyway?

Nac-ext2024-09-print credit jvlphotography inc
© JVLphotography Inc
Amazing planet earth april 21, 2024  event 1440
Amazing Planet Earth
Rd soh photo web
Symphony of hearts, Rhodnie Désir © Kevin Calixte
The NAC's rooftop herb garden.
The NAC's rooftop herb garden.

This year marks the first Earth Day since the National Arts Centre launched Walking Gently on the Land, its first-ever Environmental Sustainability Action Plan, released on September 7, 2023.

There are several ways that the NAC has been working to address climate change. On the energy management front, we’ve reduced our Scope 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions* by 33.7% since our 2017 baseline year. This represents about 1,410 tons of CO2, or the equivalent of 432 passenger vehicles off the road for one year. And more GHG reductions are on the way.

We’ve also introduced an innovative compost program that is now diverting more than a million plastic food containers from the landfill annually. And by switching to digital house programs, the NAC has printed 4.8 million fewer pages annually during the 2022-2023 season compared to 2019-2020.

But you might ask, what does environmental sustainability specifically look like in the performing arts?

“The NAC wants to work with the artistic community to find more sustainable ways of creating shows,” says Christopher Deacon, NAC President and CEO. “We’re now thinking about how we should make art differently so that it’s not having a negative impact on the environment.”

Fighting climate change through the performing arts

Over the last few months, the NAC has been working with Canadian artists – choreographers, playwrights and composers – to find more environmentally sustainable ways of creating shows as well as considering how their artistic content might contribute to shifting values towards more sustainable ways of being. For example:

National Creation Fund’s Sustainable Creation initiative

The NAC’s National Creation Fund, led by Artistic Producer Sarah Conn, supported Symphony of hearts, which premiered in early April in Montreal and will be presented at the NAC in May. This ambitious work is the first ever participant in the National Creation Fund’s new Sustainable Creation initiative. Designed to develop productions that are not only artistically ambitious, but also ambitious in how they support the wellbeing of our planet, this pilot project is a collaboration with Écoscéno, Centre for Sustainable Practice in the Arts, and the Conseil québécois des événements écoresponsables. 

Changing perceptions of the climate emergency

Earlier this season, NAC English Theatre created a newly expanded role for Judi Pearl as Associate Producer, Artistic Programming and Environmental Projects, a portfolio which will focus on harnessing the power of artistic practice to change public perception and responses to the climate emergency.

English Theatre’s artistic work in this area has already begun with the launch of Irresistible Neighbourhoods: Ottawa 2044. This project, led by Nina Lee Aquino, NAC English Theatre Artistic Director, commissioned four local emerging playwrights to create radio plays envisioning possible futures for their neighbourhoods. Since the fall, the playwrights have been working closely with Climate Dramaturg Vicki Stroich (Artistic and Environmental Programs Manager at Caravan Farm Theatre in Armstrong, BC) to help them bend their stories towards more imaginative ideas of climate justice. This pilot project asks the artists to use the full scope of their imagination to focus on how we change fundamental values to shift to a sustainable future. The radio plays will be released on NAC platforms this summer.

Environmental sustainability for youth and families

During Earth Week 2024, the NAC Orchestra and Arts Alive, the NAC’s learning and engagement department, are focusing on Environmental Sustainability through the presentation of the Amazing Planet Earth concert conducted by Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser, NACO Principal Youth Conductor & Creative Partner, as part of NACO Family Adventures and student matinees (April 21-22 in Southam Hall). The concerts are complemented by Great Canadian Orchestra Field Trip, a video-on-demand learning series focusing on the current climate emergency. 

These are just some of the ways the NAC is championing environmentally sustainable practices tand activating the role of the performing arts to help create a green and just future. 

* NOTE: Scope 2 GHG emissions come from energy purchased by the NAC that is produced by an external organization, such as electricity and district heating and cooling. Scope 3 emissions include business travel, waste, water and the use of sold products such as lightbulbs. The NAC does not produce its own energy and therefore has no Scope 1 emissions.

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