What I've Learnt: How to be Plastic Free

What I've Learnt: How to be Plastic Free

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Chrissy Angus - Lyric Hammersmith

by Chrissy Angus. Head of Administration at the Lyric Hammersmith

Date Published: 26 February 2018

At the Lyric Hammersmith, we recently finished our four week staff and audience campaign #PlasticFreeLyric where over the course of a month we undertook a series of actions based around our aim to give up as much single-use plastic as possible. In December, we audited our staff to see where most of their plastic use comes from and, across January and February 2018, we hoped to make significant changes to our habits, both as individuals and as an organisation.

In week one, we gave up single use plastic bottles and our Bar & Grill removed from sale single-use plastic water bottles and stopped offering plastic straws. Instead, we promoted tap water and reusable bottles to all our audiences. All staff, as well as the cast and creative team on Frantic Assembly’s Things I Know To Be True and Jubilee, were also given a reusable Lyric water bottle, something we’ve been doing for a number of years now. We also swapped all the plastic glasses that audiences take in to the show for biodegradable corn starch alternatives. 

Across week two, we focussed on giving up single-use plastic lunch containers. We asked our all our staff to bring lunches in reusable boxes and to refrain from using plastic, disposable cutlery. This was one of the hardest weeks, but staff found innovative ways to avoid plastic waste, with our Development team taking plates to the Lyric Square food market to get lunch, and staff requesting no plastic lids from local shops. We celebrated the end of week two with a Lyric lunch of veggie burgers (week four celebrations were a lot of pancakes… yes, there is a pattern here!). 

Week three focussed on giving up disposable coffee and tea cups as well as plastic bags. We started selling stylish eco-coffee cups in our Bar & Grill which came with your first coffee free, and then offering a 20% discount for our audiences who purchased hot drinks in reusable cups. Our staff were incentivised even further as they couldn’t get their tea or coffee hit at the staff discount rate without bringing a mug or reusable cup to the bar. We gave all staff a branded ‘Lyric Loves Green’ cotton tote bag, so there was no excuse to use a plastic one, and we could also carry our message with us while out and about. 

In week four we invited the brilliant Harriet Lily from Plastic Free Me to talk to staff about their work, and how staff might want to look at longer term, personal changes. On the final day of our #PlasticFreeLyric campaign we welcomed the University of Exeter to the Lyric’s studio for an inspirational evening to discuss the research behind Blue Planet 2. Here two Exeter academics, Dr Steve Simpson from the Bio-Sciences department who provided the research to Blue Planet, and Dr Evelyn O’Malley from the Drama department whose research looks at the role humanities play in the face of climate change, led a wonderful conversation on plastic pollution and our role within that. Blue Planet 2 inspired our campaign, so it was wonderful to end our campaign on this note!  

Throughout the campaign we had competitions and prizes to encourage staff to join in and help spread the word on social media and many staff are now the proud owners of eco-coffee cups, water bottles, bamboo toothbrushes and amazing lunchboxes, many of which were donated by generous suppliers.

Though this campaign focused on instilling positive habits for a month, we’ve used it to implement longer term changes, such as:

  • Completely removing all single-use plastic bottles from sale in our Bar & Grill - sometimes using glass alternatives but mainly encouraging audiences to help themselves to free tap water!

  • Removing all plastic straws, and replacing them with paper alternatives - but only available on request to reduce volume

  • Replacing all single-use plastic cups and tubs at our Bar & Grill with corn starch alternatives

  • We now sell reusable water bottles and eco-coffee cups to our audiences, offering discounts on hot drinks to those who use them

We are also looking at longer-term investments in our building such as upgrading and increasing the number of water fountains around the building, so topping up reusable water bottles is easier for all our visitors and providing filter water taps on our bars for audience use.

Excitingly, we’ve also been able to share our work with others, hopefully igniting conversations in other theatres and organisations. Our Lyric partners, many of whom share our building, adapted their habits and made positive changes too. We have forged new connections with other organisations through this campaign, and we’re excited about how we can continue the work we’ve started, because this feels like just the beginning.


People, places and things we like:

Dr Steve Simpson, The University of Exeter  

Dr Evelyn O’Malley, The University of Exeter

Blue Planet 2

Plastic Free Me

Ecoffee cups

One Green Bottle

Zero Waste Market, for bamboo toothbrushes

Lyric Staff photo
Lyric Hammersmith staff giving up plastic straws

Tweet @LyricHammer what you're giving up using the hashtag #PlasticFreeLyric and follow their green initiatives on the Lyric website's green page.

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