Theatre Green Book PRODUCTIONS Toolkit – Designing and Making


Sustainable Sourcing

Avoid Virgin Materials

• There are few completely sustainable new materials. Most materials have an environmental impact through manufacture and transport, quite apart from their impact on scarce mineral or natural resources.

• Avoid specifying virgin materials, identifying instead materials that are reused, repurposed, rented, recycled or zero carbon. In particular, virgin steel has a very high carbon footprint and recycled equivalents will greatly reduce emissions. 

• Only once sources of reused and recycled materials have been explored, should theatres use virgin materials in their productions. If they do, it is important to make sure they are sourced as sustainably as possible.

Specifying Materials

• If raw (virgin) materials are required, specify based on lowest possible carbon option. This can be checked using free online Environmental Product Declaration databases or in manufacturer information. Natural materials typically perform better than man-made or synthetic – such as timber in preference to metals and plastics. Plastics can be reusable, recyclable or compostable

• Use natural materials as alternatives: for example, varnishes, dyes and lacquers, raw oils, petroleum free wax, PVA adhesives, bio paints with low VOC content, biodegradable or paper-based tapes and chalk.

Specifying Timber

• Timber has a substantially lower carbon footprint than steel and other structural materials typically used on shows. However, it is important to specify and source it as sustainably as possible. 

• Timber is more likely to be sustainably forested and sourced if it has FSC or PEFC certification. Record the procurement route and certification and consult the UK Government Timber Procurement policy for more information on certification. 

• The following is an example of an inclusive specification clause: 

All timber and wood based products must be from legal and sustainable sources, as defined by the UK Government Central Point of Expertise on Timber (CPET), be sourced from European forests, and be delivered to the workshop with full chain of custody. 

Chain of custody schemes recognised as meeting the above include: 

• Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)

• Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) 

• Grown in Britain (GiB)




What is Chain of Custody ?

• Chain of Custody certification is a way of tracking certified material from the forest to the final product to ensure that the material contained in raw timber or timber-based products  can be traced back to certified forests.

Timber Origin

• UK and European timber:

– has had to travel less far

– is more likely to have been forested sustainably

– is easier to validate through full chain of custody

Specifying PEFC, FSC or GiB-certified timber from European sources is most likely to produce wood that’s been grown and forested sustainably.

Timber Products and Sheet Materials

• Request Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) from timber suppliers to compare carbon footprints (‘the equivalent CO2 value’) of different options. You can quickly check and compare EPDs for many timber products using the ICE Inventory of Carbon and Energy database. Typically, Particle Board, Glulam, Laminate timber, and Fibreboard have lower carbon footprints than plywood, chipboard or OSB, but this varies depending on the product.

• Confirm with suppliers or in manufacturer specifications that all structural timber meets, as a minimum, Formaldehyde release class E1 to BS EN 14080:2005 and has a confirmed absence of prohibited wood preservatives/biocides to BS EN 13986:2004. 

• 64% of particleboard and OSB is UK-produced, with the remainder mostly coming from mainland Europe. No plywood is produced in the UK, with only 20% coming from mainland Europe.

Specifying Metal

• The manufacture of metal involves intensive use of energy. It is therefore essential to avoid the use of virgin metal products as much as possible. Reusable scaffold-type products for framing sets are available, such as Layher.

• When metal products are needed, make sure you use only recycled steel or aluminium. Work and coat it as little as possible so as to facilitate reuse afterwards.

• Where there is a functional requirement for fabrication in new metals, steel should be preferred to aluminium, which has particularly high embodied energy. Fabrication in aluminium also consumes more energy than steel.


• Adhesives make it much harder to salvage and reuse materials after each production. Removeable fixings should be used whenever possible. If use of adhesives cannot be avoided, use traditional adhesives, for example, naturally-based adhesives such as Lignin, Soya Protein, Brettstapel, dowellamination etc. 

• Supplier/manufacturer information should be recorded to facilitate these materials being reused or recycled later. This should include data sheets, or any restrictions noted in product specifications that might be imposed by adhesives, treatments and finishes that would affect particular methods of recycling or use as a fuel in gasification, biochar, anaerobic storage or other process. 


• For battery use and disposal click here.

Gaffer Tape and Sundries

Le Mark Gaffer Tape

Stage Set


See Costumes, Props and Lighting for other sustainable alternatives.

Advice on waste and materials can also be found here: Ki Culture