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Environmental Sustainability

Environmental Sustainability

We're committed to reducing the carbon impact of the National Theatre at this time of climate crisis.  

Like any business, our operation has an environmental cost: we create work that is inherently temporary; we make use of raw materials; we ask people to travel to a particular location at a particular time.

Our Environmental Policy recognises our responsibility to take action, and our belief that theatre can also lead positive change. We are committed to leading by improving our practice, shaping public conversation through storytelling, and galvanizing industry action to combat the climate crisis.  

We've been working for a while on shifting the sustainability of our building and wider operation, including energy efficiency to biodiversity. 

  • 67% of non-production waste is now recycled, a big step towards our target of 75% by 2022.
  • From 2016-2019, we reduced the energy carbon impact of our building by 25%.
  • Our building now has a B rated Display Energy Certificate – improved from a G a decade ago.  
     

We’re now also working to the baseline standard of the Theatre Green Book for our productions.

Sustainable Production

In May 2021, we started working to the baseline standard of the Theatre Green Book - a new guideline for making sustainable theatre. 

Reusing and recycling are at the heart of this commitment, with 50% of materials needing to have had a previous life, and 65% needing to be repurposed or recycled at the end. We’re calculating the carbon footprint of every new item or material, including deliveries, and reducing the use of harmful chemicals.  

This new approach means making sustainable decisions part of the creative choices on our shows. It’s an enormous team effort, which needs every single person working on a show to rethink what they do. Every decision counts.  

We aren’t experts yet, but we will be. Everything we learn along the way will help us change the way we make theatre for good. 

Green planting on the Bank of America Merrill Lynch terrace at the National Theatre

Energy

All of the electricity that powers the NT from the national grid is generated by wind and solar. We also generate some of our electricity on site through our combined heat and power plant.

In the last few years we’ve significantly updated our 1970s building to make it more energy efficient. This includes new LED lighting in our auditoriums and foyers and improved monitoring systems which reduce energy use. Our Display Energy Certificate is now a B rating (up from a G rating a decade ago).

National Thetare building with green exterior lighting

Heating and cooling

As part of the NT Future redevelopment project in 2013 we constructed a new production building, the Max Rayne Centre, which is heated and cooled by a ground source heat pump.

The pump uses the ambient, below-ground temperature, transferring heat from the ground in winter and back into the ground in summer, via a network of pipes running through twelve 120m deep boreholes.

 

National Theatre Max Rayne Centre, from the south east side of the building

Water

Our water extraction plant draws water from the London chalk aquifer, reducing our reliance on mains water supplies. We can extract up to 120 cubic-metres of water each day - enough to fully meet our demand for non-drinking water.

The Max Rayne Centre also has a rainwater collection tank which supplies water to all toilets in the building, the Dorfman Theatre, and the Clore Learning Centre. 

National Theatre from the South, with fly towers lit blue

Waste

We currently recycle 67% of our commercial waste. We want to reach 75% by 2022 and reduce non-recyclable waste.

The new reusable cups in our bars saved over 200,000 single-use plastic cups in the first three months. Coffee grounds are collected and turned into eco-heating briquettes. Every 6 months we collect around 5 tonnes of coffee grounds, which makes 4200 briquettes.
 

National Theatre re-usable cup, filled with beer being held

Biodiversity

We have several hives and a sedum roof on our workshops, from which bees forage and pollinate for up to 3 miles around the concrete jungle of the South Bank. The honey they produce is available in small quantities in our shop.

The beds on our terraces and outside the NT are planted with flowers and greenery that bees will enjoy.

National Theatre rooftop hives and honey jar

Food and drink

Working with the Sustainable Restaurant Association in 2018, we reviewed and refreshed our food and drink policy, taking into account ethics and carbon footprint. The policy means that all fresh meat and at least 60% of fruit and veg must be from the UK. Any produce from outside the UK must be Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance. Our menus also now have a greater number of vegetarian and vegan options.

National Theatre kitchen with staff

Working with industry

The National Theatre is member of Arts Council England and Julie’s Bicycle's Spotlight scheme. We’ve been awarded a 4 star ‘Creative Green’ rating by Julie’s Bicycle, with high score ratings for our commitment and understanding of environmental issues.

Creative Green 4 star logo