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A New York nonprofit theater company has made sustainability its mission


(NEW YORK) — Artists and environmentalists are one and the same at a New York theater company, that has made it its mission to put sustainability at the forefront of its operations.

The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, a nonprofit theater company nestled in the sprawling hills just north of Manhattan, has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2040, meaning its performances will carry no net release of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, Sandra Goldmark, director for campus sustainability and climate action at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, told ABC News.

The primary way the theater company plans on achieving this feat is by altering how the building is powered — employing solar panels, natural convection heating, stormwater reuse, as well as providing EV charging stations, Davis McCallum, artistic director of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, told ABC News.

Deep thought has also been given to the way the theater company will reuse garbage and food scraps around its 98-acre campus, McCallum said.

The site of the festival itself was once a golf course that was then donated to the nonprofit by a local philanthropist. The theater company is now allowing the land to rewild and “heal,” Goldmark said, describing the process as a “beautiful mini play” about what needs to happen elsewhere in the country.

“We’ve really abused the land in ways, much like we do on golf courses,” she said. “And so it’s exciting to watch a group of artists and storytellers reclaim a very small piece of it.”

Sustainability goes beyond the infrastructure of the festival, though. The theater company is adamant on implementing the idea of a circular economy, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible.

Designing wardrobes that are made to last and pass onto new actors in the future is one of the basic ways the nonprofit is applying circularity to its operations.

The idea of sustainability is rooted in the arts — an industry that is constantly recycling, repurposing and reusing old ideas for a modern audience. A sustainable venue is the natural progression of the sustainability already rooted in theater culture and allows the participants to come together as a community to build a greener culture, Goldmark said.

“I mean, we’ve been producing Shakespeare’s plays for hundreds of years, and every time, or hopefully every time, they feel new,” Goldmark said. “And I think that idea is really important as we think about sustainability going forward.”

The theater is embarking on its lofty sustainability goal due to the looming threat of climate change, McCallum said.

“None of us are going to be spared the impacts,” he said. “If we want to make a difference in this shared future, then we all have to come together to embrace the call to climate action.”

The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival will run through Sept. 17.

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