Making an eco set

Recently you might have seen someone wandering London rescuing broken brolleys; that would be me. From the off I knew I would have to approach this design with a strict set of rules, the two mantras defined early on for this project were ‘beg, borrow, steal’ (a theatre staple) and ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ .

Set in a forest the design possibilities were endless, however given the script it would undermine the message by not making our best effort to be as eco-conscious as possible. If not us then who?

The set is intended to reflect the fact that plastics have now permeated all our natural world. On first look the set is intended to be an attractive forest glade but as you explore it further you will begin to notice the litter and items left behind by people. The design had to be flexible depending on what we were able to source, so we all kept our eyes open for opportunities.

Donations, second hand or old stock were key and everything new I had to buy was carefully considered for its environmental impact. For example we couldn’t use real leaves because they would crumble on tour, however silk leaves are biodegradable, hardy and can also be reused. Other than the moss (which is real) there is some plastic foliage on stage but that again is something I reused from an older show and will probably reuse again in the future.

As it’s a winter show and we needed some magic and snow so I was able to source bio-degradable glitter and eco snow which dissolves in water, so no spilling! Puppets feature heavily in the show and we decided these needed to be a long-term investment for the company. This meant we would need to spend a larger portion of the budget on high quality products to ensure they were a smart sustainable investment. For our three spirit animals I tried to reuse and recycle as much as I could. The interiors are made from cardboard packaging and polystyrene much of which was left over from a previous show and some of which was purchased specifically to make them. The covering fabrics I used are old clothes and scrap found in the bins at my local fabric shops.

For the costumes we reused anything we already had that would fit the piece. Second hand items, including a real Pussyhat from the Trump protest and clothes from eco fashion companies like Yorkshire based Lucy and Yak. Planning our purchases was the final element, as much as possible I avoided expedited/next day deliveries and grouped purchases and deliveries, I also exclusively used UK based stockists to avoid international shipping and keep our carbon footprint down.

So did we reduce reuse and recycle? We reduced new purchases from paint to costumes. We reused as much second hand and existing stock as we could and will continue to reuse it in future shows. We recycled old into new: check out the Ecobricks and Sol’s blazer made from recycled bottles and also featuring a biodegradable poop bag.

Are we perfect? No, absolutely not, but we are trying to be better.