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2023 Annual Conference of the FACP in Kaohsiung – You’re Not Alone on the Path to Sustainability

By LIU Chun-liang


From November 23 to 26, 2023, Weiwuying and the Federation for Asian Cultural Promotion (FACP) put on the 2023 Annual Conference of the FACP in Kaohsiung, whose theme was “Next Stage, Green Generation – Sustainability in Culture and Performing Arts,” discussing how to make the performing arts sustainable. Alison TICKELL, who is full of experience in related advocacy and practice as founder and CEO of the British organization Julie’s Bicycle, kicked things off during an online discussion with views of the globe from a distance to remind us what a beautiful place this world is.


Climate crisis is a culture crisis


TICKELL believes that the climate crisis is a culture crisis and, accordingly, that “culture-led-solutions are climate solutions.” We need to view mutual care and collaboration between different cultures and different social groups with importance from the very root. The culture system cannot just be for transmitting information; it needs to be applied in developing feasible methods of sustainability.


She emphasized the importance of data and knowledge, people and action, and governance. Data and knowledge is not just about the climate but also about the influence of culture. People and action is about creating new relationships, sharing stories, changing, and celebrating each other’s paths of diligence, because the power required for change will only come by working together. Governance refers to changing government organizations, policies, laws, and modes of thought – true reform will only take place when grassroots workers are affirmed, understood, accepted, and supported with funding.


Julie’s Bicycle has custom-made creative green tools for culture, which can be used to calculate the carbon footprint of such activities as art venue operations, tours, production, and art festivals, helping people understand the influence of carbon at varying levels and learn how to do better. 40% of users of these tools are from outside of her home base of the UK. Contributions of data by the public really can influence government decisions!


Alison TICKELL introducing the Creative Green Tools

In the UK, over 800 companies must report on their carbon footprints and propose plans of action annually, behind which the Arts Council England is a major driver. Between 2018 and 2019, culture centers there reduced carbon emissions by 35%, and between 2021 and 2022, over a thousand organizations included carbon emissions and carbon footprints in their operational agendas.


Achieving climate justice and supporting those taking action


Julie’s Bicycle continues to learn with various organizations and alliances, emphasizing climate justice, which includes a look at colonialism. In 2023, The Colour Green Lab program was relaunched to amplify the voices of people of color, Indigenous people, migrants, the disabled, and LGBTQ+ people regarding the issue of climate change.


TICKELL believes that art gives people emotional experiences. Besides being concerned with the climate, art needs to engage in environmental advocacy and activism. Organizations and their leaders working hard on these issues should be extolled. Design innovation must also be focused on, such as in the aspects of integrating art into social and technological creation and the use of renewable energy. New paths need to be found, varying social groups need to have their opinions heard, and governments need to be urged to make climate action a priority.


She also shared about her experience with the UN COP. In the past, it seriously lacked participation by culture sector workers, but this year’s event, the COP28, was better, and it was the first time the discussion touched upon the inclusion of cultural heritage. She invites everyone to take part in advocacy (see https://www.climateheritage.org/jwd) and lobby for useful government policies. 


Sustainability in slash careers: Broadway Green Alliance


The Broadway Green Alliance (BGA) is an American NGO that is funded completely by donations. Director Molly BRAVERMAN, Program Manager and Green Captain for The Phantom of the Opera Austin SORA, and Communications Associate Lauren MANDRAS shared about their experiences as ecofriendly-minded slash workers in the theater sector.


The BGA holds to four major principles: “It is impossible to be 100% ‘green’ - we can only be greener,” “the climate crisis … demands action - big and small - from each of us. Change results from the cumulative effect of our actions,” “climate neutrality is insufficient,” and “there is no climate justice without racial justice.”


The BGA encourages those who wish to make sustainable productions to:

  1. Practice sustainability in at least one aspect of production.

  2. Communicate to the public how you have worked toward sustainability.

  3. Share what you’ve done with the BGA through images and links to add to the public conversation.


Sustainability adventures of Green Captains


The BGA has over a thousand volunteer Green Captains, most of whom are part of educational organizations or arts centers. The BGA provides them with toolboxes, and the captains develop their strategies as they see fit. The BGA also provides networking connections, information, and emotional support as these captains go on their adventures.


SORA took the baton of Green Captain from one of her coworkers. For instance, during The Phantom of the Opera tour, she made sure there were food-waste bins and ecofriendly tableware. While touring with Hamilton, BRAVERMAN had the paper sheet music replaced with e-files, turned a shoe rack into a place to hold reusable water bottles, used rechargeable neck lights, came up with indexes of reusability, and gathered donated reusable water bottles for members of the audience to use.


The sustainable movements done by the Green Captains.

Education is the strongest tool. Each year, the BGA selects winners for the Green Captain Award. An organization may have multiple captains to advance sustainability even further. The speakers said they hoped schools would also have Green Captains, and as people spanning a wider range of ages become captains, a mentor system could be established. The BGA stresses that there are a lot of organizations working hard toward sustainability, so we’re not alone. 


Sustainability in performing arts design and production


Artistic Director LEE Yoori of the Seoul Performing Arts Company shared the findings from a survey of a thousand people conducted by the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute in 2021. 80.4% said they were willing to view environmental policies and ecofriendly service with importance while watching/taking part in culture events, and 80.1% agreed that art and culture can foster an atmosphere of environmental friendliness in society. In 2022, a sustainable development guide was launched in Korea. There are currently five platforms (three of which are private) through which people may exchange such resources as stages, props, and costumes. Local governments put on musicals for children and teens about environmental issues.


LEE Yoori, the Artistic Director of Seoul Performing Arts Company shared the Korea experience.

In Korea, musicals are hugely popular; many have reached over a million views. LEE shared about how to make repertory theater sustainable. The longstanding musical Hero has been using the same stage design since 2009. The stage design for Death Note (2015), consisting of basic steel supports and an LED screen, has also never changed. With video imagery, the production saves both money and energy!


In addition to what she’s doing in Korea, LEE hopes to develop the One-Asia Green Alliance, creating an online exchange platform to develop works for theater that are environmentally friendly.


Executive Director YUAN Hao-cheng of Ridge Studio talked about how to create a sustainable supply chain. Ridge Studio has a complete resource documentation system including production, warehousing, transportation, recycling, and reusing to provide all that is needed for productions and be able to accurately calculate the carbon footprint of each. The studio has a 600-square-meter warehouse to not only store its own materials but also to rent storage space out to performing groups. The studio makes and rents out props, has opened a bar with existing set design materials, and reduced waste at the Beitou Art Festival by adding more showings of the same performances (which means the same props, etc. were used a greater number of times).


Ridge Studio in Taiwan works hard to recycle or re-design what it has. YUAN stressed that clients need to have concepts of sustainability to ensure his studio can ensure the production will be sustainable. For example, after Taipei Fashion Week, a lot of designers borrowed things from the event decor. 


YUAN Hao-cheng, the Co-founder of Ridge Studio Production and Design Company, talked about how to create a sustainable supply chain.

Carbon rights system encourages carbon reduction and a future of high-quality production with low resource input 


Assistance Vice President Grace WU of Taiwan’s recently established Taiwan Carbon Solution Exchange stated that over US$1 billion in damage was done this year by climate disasters, and according to a report by the UN, if the average global temperature rises another 0.5 degrees, extreme-weather disasters will increase by between two- and four-fold, so achieving net zero is urgent.


How do we get to net zero? Gathering data is the first step. You need data to reduce carbon, which is required to achieve carbon neutrality. There are three scopes for carbon emissions that deal with both direct and indirect emissions (see https://www.bnext.com.tw/article/68882/carbon-trans-data-corp-april?). Besides that, carbon rights transactions conducted through a payment system encourage companies to actively reduce emissions. Carbon rights can be categorized as mandatory or voluntary: mandatory ones include total carbon emission management, carbon taxes, and carbon fees, while voluntary ones include carbon credit/offset systems. In Taiwan, companies only have to pay fees if their emissions reach 25,000 metric tons; those below that level can opt for voluntary carbon-reduction mechanisms and then apply for carbon rights based on what they achieve. As there are not many carbon rights cases in Taiwan, the transaction amounts are quite high. If a metric ton of carbon sells for NT$10 abroad, it will sell for NT$80 in Taiwan. Carbon rights are only given after one or two years and an audit by an accredited organization.


Grace WU, Assistant Vice President of Taiwan Carbon Solution Exchange (TCX)

Through low-carbon construction and materials, art and culture centers can reduce energy consumption and boost energy efficiency. Reducing the carbon emissions from daily operations, which accounts for 80% of the total, is difficult, but the transportation, materials, and manufacturing involved in productions, such as the use of e-tickets, environmentally friendly ink, the circular economy, the repeated use of props, and the downsizing/digitalization of set design, have great carbon-reduction potential.


UN International Resource Panel member Anthony SF CHIU discussed the UN’s 17 SDGs. The most pressing matter is to develop solutions that produce high quality through low resource input, create a life-cycle inventory of resources, and develop environmental and health impact data models. Infrastructure will decide the amount of carbon emissions over the next two decades. For instance, ceasing to mine aluminum and using substitute materials instead can reduce carbon emissions.


Anthony SF CHIU, Member of United Nations International Resource Panel

CHIU spoke of the Sydney Opera House’s 2020-23 environmental action plan and emphasized how certification and awards can encourage people to take action. He believes that as the performing arts can create empathy and tell stories, audiences can be influenced and become a force for change.


Off-peak AC use and the power of gentle pressure


Deputy General Director Raymond WONG at Weiwuying said that sustainability comes by changing organizational behavior and initiating strategies. By changing its lighting to LED, Weiwuying has reduced 62,264 kilograms of carbon emissions. Along with off-peak air conditioning and other related measures, Weiwuying saved 7% year-on-year on electricity used this year. Weiwuying has also extended sustainability to its audiences by allowing them to obtain a NT$10 discount in advance for their MRT trip home after a program. One day, over a thousand people used it!


Raymond WONG, Deputy General Director of Weiwuying

Japanese PIA Corporation Corporate Officer and PIA Research Institute Director SASAI Yuko shared about sustainability at art festivals. The AP Bank Festival used biofuel and solar power, and Fuji Rock provided trash bags made from rice in 2023. SASAI believes that indicators outside of SDGs are also important and posed this question: How can we create a society that is happy, in harmony, and full of life?


SASAI Yuko, Corporate Officer of PIA Corporation & Director of Pia Research Institute, Inc.

Stanisław SUCHORA, Chief Executive Officer of SONORA Music

CEO Stanisław SUCHORA of Sonora Music talked about what happens in Europe. Artists are given “gentle pressure” to travel on tour via train instead of plane, reducing emissions while being able to enjoy the scenery. Though ecofriendly ink and paper are expensive, he insists on using them. Rachael CHAN, who is working on a PhD in geography at Oxford and is a member of the Orchestra of the Music Makers, said the Singaporean culture sector hasn’t discussed sustainability much. She also shared how the creative design of a small organization inspires the administrative bodies of orchestras to think about economic and environmental vulnerability and understand feelings about climate change.


Rachael CHAN, PhD Student in Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford and Musician, Orchestra of the Music Makers

Watch out for temptation as we advance toward a future of boundless creativity


Someone in the audience asked how to respond to greenwashing. CHIU stated that for every mechanism, there is a counter-mechanism, and being unable to resist that temptation is a big problem. When asked about government subsidies for reducing carbon, WU stated that Taiwan’s mechanism is voluntary, so there are no subsidies. Moderator WEI Wan-jung added that performance groups (not just venues) should also take part in sustainability.


How can you ensure production quality while reducing carbon? Ridge Studio’s case is a great example of how sustainability does not necessitate compromise in that aspect, and CHAN informed us that the Royal Shakespeare Company used objects found at the beach for its stage design – so sustainability can be beautiful too.


So what’s the next step in sustainability? WU stressed good platforms and mechanisms and creating a carbon market to boost motivation. CHIU emphasized transparency in data. SASAI said public and private organizations need to work together. CHAN stated that we have to start with the details and regularly assess how well we have been progressing. Do any members of the FACP have practical plans of action for sustainability? The Chairperson of FACP Joyce CHIOU, also the General and Artistic Director of the National Taichung Theater, gave us some good news: the theater plans to be carbon neutral in three years.


For its part, Weiwuying provided reusable cups, recyclable tableware, and cards for public transportation with a 72-hour validity. Public transportation and walking were the modes of choice for getting around during the event, which are easy, effective measures of sustainability. The climate crisis and related natural disasters may make us feel helpless, but more and more people are working toward sustainability, and the power of unity should not be underestimated. During the 2023 FACP Annual Conference, we learned about a variety of modes of sustainability and hope to encourage each other and our readers with this sentiment: You’re not alone on the path to sustainability. 


The participants of the FACP Conference enjoyed the panel.


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