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Green Guardians: Decor & set design

The Green Guardians Guide, spearheaded by the Green Events and Innovations Conference and IQ Magazine, is a new yearly initiative highlighting some of the work being done around the world to reduce the carbon footprint of the live entertainment business.

The inaugural list, which originally ran in IQ 90, features 60 entries across ten categories, selected by the Green Guardians committee, which includes representatives from some of the sector’s most respected bodies, such as A Greener FestivalGo GroupGreen Music InitiativeJulie’s Bicycle and Vision:2025.

Following on from last week’s feature on the companies providing resource management, this edition of Green Guardians looks at salvaging strategies and sustainable solutions for artists.


Green Guardians: Decor & set design

No Time To Waste Arts
No Time to Waste Arts was created in 2018 by a trio of artists with the aim of transforming waste tyres and scrap metal into visually stunning public sculptures and installations. Their pieces address environmental issues both in the materials they are made of and their themes. These issues have included ocean plastic, global tyre waste, deforestation and pollution.

The artists also have a charitable project, waste not want not charitable salvage, which collects waste materials from event sites, such as wood, tents, bedding, tools and materials, and redistributes them to community projects, adventure playgrounds and for charitable purposes.

It has collected large quantities of bedding and tents from UK festivals and redistributed them to homeless projects throughout the UK and Calais refugee camps, as well as collecting wood from corporate events and re-distributing it to adventure playgrounds in the UK, and playground building project Team Playground in The Gambia and Senegal.

The artists provide a clearance service and can help with waste management and recycling strategies. They advocate that event organisers source recycled material and support local salvage of materials.

Their pieces address environmental issues both in the materials they are made of and their themes

Ruth Herbert
As an art director and set designer, Ruth Herbert has been engaged in sustainable design since her training as a technical artist for film and TV, when she admits to being hugely shocked by the waste and toxic materials used within these industries.

Through experience and autonomy, however, she has managed to find more sustainable solutions without impacting the final product.

For the last five years, Herbert has been art director for the UK’s Noisily Festival of Music and Arts, where she ensures all artwork and set design follows the sustainability ethos at the core of the festival planning.

She works with companies and institutions such as the V&A Museum to reuse components from their previous exhibitions, adapting each donated item to fit the unique aesthetic of the event.

“Making the right sustainable choices in design is an obligation as well as a way to educate the audience, incorporating the narrative either through leadership, the installations commissioned, or simply through the materials used,” she says.

“Making the right sustainable choices in design is an obligation as well as a way to educate the audience”

Ian Garrett
Ian Garrett can point to 2005 as the beginning of his fusion of design for performance and sustainability in art making. “I started to question the impact of my practice,” he recalls. “Some quick calculations in my notebook, about the environmental impact of a project I was designing, spun off to a career dedicated to environmental issues in art making.”

He is working with the National Arts Centre in Canada to calculate the carbon footprint of their events, having completed similar projects with the Fuse- box Festival in Austin, Texas and the Hillside Festival in Guelph, Ontario – Hillside was certified carbon neutral as part of that research.

“I’ve contributed to smaller projects too, and we often found that the environmental impact of a performance was less than what an audience would have if they stayed home,” he reveals. “So a lot of our work has shifted to audience behaviours since their transportation is consistently the biggest source of emissions for cultural events.”

“I started to question the environmental impact of my practice”

Daniel Popper
Rather than fixating on issues relating to the environment, Daniel Popper says he is more influenced by relationships with nature and the wonders of the natural world. “The wonderful by-product is that my work then begins to raise awareness around the issues threatening this very experience,” he says.

Early in his career, Popper was involved with projects such as building a giant baobab tree as a symbol of sustainability for the COP17 eco-summit. That led to him creating other large-scale structures to which he added reclaimed materials and natural fibres, allowing the organic textures to resonate with the message of the work, which is to strengthen our relationship with nature.

“Develop your relationship with nature; spend time with nature; fall in love with nature. Once you recognise how connected you are, protecting it will be second nature,” says Popper.

“The wonderful by-product is that my work then begins to raise awareness around the issues threatening this very experience”

Écoscéno was created by four women working in the Montreal cultural scene with a shared concern for the amount of waste produced by the art sector.

Écoscéno’s mission is a process: firstly, to educate people on the challenges and opportunities the industry faces regarding sustainability; then to instil reflexes and habits in producers and creators so that they really think about what the future of the materials they are using could be; and finally to help productions find ways to repurpose, re-use or donate their materials in order to save them from going to landfill, thereby creating a circular economy in the industry.

Key impact indicators are essential to the organisation’s work, as they quantify the value of what Écoscéno does. The amount of production waste that is saved from landfill by being reused or repurposed is tracked, and the organisation also looks at the savings made by the adoption of sustainable practices, in order to debunk the myth that being greener is more expensive.


Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 90, or subscribe to the magazine here.


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