• Posted on February 5th, 2018

Getting Started: Tips for New NPOs

Midlands Arts Centre exterior

Guest post written by Lizzie Moran, Head of Technical Resources at MAC Birmingham

As Head of Technical Resources at Midlands Arts Centre (MAC), a venue with a varied programme of theatre and cinema, a large course programme and several free galleries, we are keen to act in a sustainable way and I’ve been an active member of the Green Group for several years. Julie’s Bicycle asked me to share my advice for new NPOs regarding the environmental successes and challenges MAC has encountered. We are by no means experts on sustainability! But we recognise its importance and so do our customers.

Where can you start?

The first piece of advice I would give is to form a green group. We are lucky to have staff from across the organisation who are interested in the environment, and we meet regularly to go through the environmental action plan and discuss ideas. Many of our environmental initiatives come directly from the ideas of this group, and it’s important that staff from all levels of the organisation feel empowered to make changes.

Improvements to our building have helped to make it more sustainable. MAC has made small changes as well as significant investments over the last few years, reducing our energy consumption as a result. Making sure our building management system is working as efficiently as possible has made a large saving on our gas consumption, and we are changing as much lighting as possible to LED in order to make savings there. Taking sub meter readings as well as the main meter readings has helped us to pinpoint where in the building we use the most energy. MAC has had solar panels installed on the roof since 2012, and we earn a small income from this, although these may be more useful in terms of publicity than in energy reduction. Last year MAC installed a voltage optimisation unit which lowers the amount of voltage that comes into the whole building. After almost a year we are in a position to analyse how much energy we have saved.

Networks and partnerships interested in sustainability

Another successful strategy we have found is in forming partnerships with other organisations. Birmingham Cycle Revolution has helped us to encourage staff cycling with regular Dr Bike workshops and a cycle maintenance course. We have a good relationship with Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust who are helping us to redevelop MAC’s outside areas, and they are also supporting our course programme. We have been able to reflect environmental themes in our artistic programming through collaborations with companies such as The Bone Ensemble (Where’s My Igloo Gone) ampersand projects (Green Lungs) and Pins and Needles (The Bear). Publicising the environmental work that we do has sometimes proved challenging, so for the last 2 years MAC’s green group have organised a day called Ecofest. We invite green organisations from across the region to showcase their eco-friendly work in MAC’s foyers, as well as highlighting the good work that MAC does. Lastly, following a Julie’s Bicycle event at MAC in early 2017, I have become part of a group of Midlands organisations (Sustainable Arts West Midlands) who meet quarterly to discuss environmental issues, and both the problem sharing and knowledge sharing has been very beneficial.

In conclusion, although it’s sometimes easy to feel overwhelmed by the environmental challenges we face, small changes do make a difference. A small dedicated team can achieve a lot, and from voltage optimisation to biodegradable drinking straws when looking back and reviewing our progress we have found that we have had more successes than we first thought!

Photo credit: Ben Fearnhead/ MAC Birmingham