Tim Watts talks low impact touring
With the Global Climate Strike scheduled for later this week (20 Sept) we took a moment to talk with Tim Watts, co-writer and performer in The Irresistible, about how he responds to the climate crisis in his day to day work.
How do you feel about the performing arts industries current response to climate change?
Like the majority of people, we agree that action needs to be taken but it still feels like a faraway, distant problem that our individual actions don’t affect and that our efforts are futile in the context of the problem. As a result, I don’t see the performing arts industry taking the kind of initiative that I would like to see and that we need to take. I think we all need to implement whatever changes we can, re-educate ourselves and our industry to work differently. There are lots of easy things we can do, but there are also some really big and difficult challenges to tackle as well.
Often we are in the position where we are busting our guts trying to make the impossible happen. Our art comes first and of course I respect and admire the sense of sacrifice that comes with the reaching for the divine. Unfortunately pursuing more environmentally friendly solutions often takes more time and effort – both in short supply at crunch time – which sadly leads to waste. It can be way harder to find that perfect costume or set piece second hand as opposed to brand new. This is an ongoing process to improve on for me and my colleagues. Where possible we try to source everything second hand, avoid tape, use rechargeable batteries and sort what waste we do make into their proper streams. Of course considering what happens to it all once you are done with it.
As a performer what do you do to reduce your impact on the road?
This is an ongoing education/investigation/experiment for me. Minimising your impact on the road takes way more effort than being at home, but I believe it’s possible.
There are lots of things I do that are easy, some take effort and some things that I just can’t do yet; so I donate money to places that offset those things. Here are afew easy steps Ive taken.
My partner and i have been living zero waste (or minimal waste) for a couple of years now (read Zero Waste Home or just google Zero Waste, there is loads of info). The process of retraining and recalibrating habits happened gradually and rejigging tactics for life on the road. Here are some tips/things i do to reduce waste –
BYO everywhere! – Pack a container, cutlery, water bottle, keepcup (or thermos), napkin, produce bags and canvas bags and bring them EVERYWHERE! This is the easiest way to never miss out and not make waste. It doesn’t take up much space and you probably carry a backpack anyway.
Eat in – If you don’t finish your meal and you have your container then you can carry the leftovers home. I often over order so I will have a meal for later in my container.
Choose low waste – look at how others are eating (plates, cutlery etc) when choosing where to eat. Some restaurants (especially expensive burger joints (Grilld, Huxtaburger, Varsity Burger) have embraced the take-away aesthetic, so even if you eat in you end up with single use garbage for your chips, burger and dipping sauce. Ask staff to put it all on a plate and explain you don’t want to make any waste. If you don’t need a straw remember to ask for no straw.
Food courts, food trucks, hawkers markets or festival gardens often use mostly disposable packaging. So, if you’re considering eating at the festival garden after the show, remember to bring your BYO gear.
Skip Uber Eats – Don’t order Uber eats, at home or on tour. Go eat at the restaurant, or collect the food yourself with your own containers if you want to take away. I know it sounds like effort but it’s an indulgence the planet shouldn’t have to support.
Flying and food – Food on aeroplanes is really, really tough. There is so much waste, and most airlines don’t recycle. Where possible I refuse any inflight service. I now treat flights like long train journeys. I pack a meal, a snack and a drink. Just keep in mind the biosecurity of where you’re landing and make sure you have eaten any raw foods before arriving. Cooked food is usually totally fine to take with you to your destination. If I have multiple flights, I wash out the container while in transit and fill it up with another meal or 2 at the airport food court.
Eat in an environmentally friendly way – This one is weird and tricky and changes depending on what is available. It is so hard to know what your food has been through before it’s on your plate. Generally speaking, a vegan diet has a WAY lower carbon footprint and environmental impact than a carnivorous diet. So it’s my default if I don’t know anything about where my food is from. However, it really depends! Some local beef farming practices are more sustainable than monocrop soy farming. I’m still learning about that stuff, so unless I feel confident in the ethical origins of meat, I tend to just embrace the veggies. Also, if you find a cafe or restaurant that is all about sustainability then GREAT as you can probably feel confident that they are treading lightly. Also, beer on tap is better than beer in a bottle or can. Especially if its brewed around the corner.
Avoid Packaging – I don’t buy anything with packaging (apart from a few exceptions like medical stuff, which I don’t need to buy often and carry with me). It’s rare for me to need to buy anything with packaging. It can hurt to begin with but I just don’t need crisps and if I do need to buy something with packaging I lean away from plastic.
Recycle – If you do make waste, sort it and recycle it well. There is actually not much you have to send to landfill if you separate, clean and sort it right. Look up what the local recycling rules are as they can change suburb to suburb, let alone country to country. If you are unsure, put it in landfill to avoid contamination. If your accomodation doesn’t recycle some or all of your sorted rubbish, take it with you as your venue will HOPEFULLY have recycling. You can recycle soft plastics at Coles or Woolworths.
Accommodation – I recently decided to book my own accom (for many reasons) but especially from an environmental point of view. I got really sick of hotels and serviced apartments that DIDNT HAVE RECYCLING! and have single use everything to cut costs and improve the illusion of sterile hygiene. AirBnBs are morally murky, but I opted for accom that is not stand alone but somewhat shared with the owner. By sharing facilities with the home owner there is less waste. For example, I access dishwashing liquid in a bottle instead of those ridiculous single use sachets and the dishcloth will not be thrown out after my stay, but after it is no longer useful. You might even get to stay in a place with a garden, or even better – COMPOST!
Organic Waste – Organic waste in landfill is a HUGE problem for so many reasons and is SO VERY EASY to solve pretty much no matter your situation. Really it doesn’t get much trickier than when you are travelling, however here are some solutions… Does your accom have compost? Does your venue/festival have compost? (in Adelaide, Sydney, Darwin, and Hobart the venue/festival had compost) Is there a cafe or restaurant near you that has compost? Does a local friend have a compost? Failing all that there is ShareWaste. Look it up its amazing!
Touring is a carbon intensive activity. How do you deal with the carbon footprint of your travel?
This is the biggest and hardest challenge, which is also the most significant in stopping climate change. While I wait for emission free travel, I stare down the immense amount of carbon my travel puts into the atmosphere, especially being from Perth, where some tours in my own state aren’t really feasible to undertake by anything but a plane. My ‘solution’ here is carbon offsetting.
There are many opinions on this and after reading loads of articles, it seems to me it does actually boil down to a matter of personal ethics/philosophy. I personally borrow (perhaps bastardise) the philosophy/ethics of effective altruists (which I read about in Peter Singers “The most good you can do“) where is all about maximising the effect of what you can do to get the most good done. I could go on an on here, but basically it seems to me carbon offsetting is a tool I have now, that I can use, so that I can continue to do my job, earn money, have a fulfilled life. It allows me to give back to humanity and the planet both through my job and through all the other actions I can take as a global citizen to make the world better. There are loads and loads of charities and things you can use here, a lot of them end up doing more than just offsetting carbon emissions