Shen Yun Performing Arts is a group based in New York, set up by elite Chinese artists, who travel worldwide with a goal to revive traditional Chinese culture.
They do some wonderful things in their home and when on tour to minimize their impact on the environment.
Greenhouse gas emissions from freight are what touring groups’ main source of environmental damage stem from.
Shen Yun Performing Arts has four groups with around 90 performers per group, and they travel to up to 20 countries and over 100 cities, but they limit their carbon footprint to just one truckful of freight per group.
So how do they fit this all in just one truckful of freight when most touring groups come in at around 10 trucks?
Before the tour starts, many months of planning and design go into working out ways to travel and perform green.
This planning happens through all the departments and in every aspect. Designers set out to make everything as light and portable as possible within props, 400+ costumes, accessories, production equipment, and containers to transport instruments for the live orchestras.
Being environmentally conscientious is not just for when they tour; their planning extends to the times when they get back home. So these early meetings to plan put into place water and energy turn-off policies and zero-waste policies at home and abroad.
Shen Yun’s backdrops do not use traditional sets that take up the space of many trucks; instead, they use digitized green-screen projections as a backdrop, allowing them to travel light.
Earlier in the year, the prop department will design and create props that are lightweight and deconstructable.
Consumption of materials to build sets is made redundant by using the digital backdrops. Shen Yun’s set-up time is minimized to only having to set up a green screen. So they save energy that would be consumed using lights, heating, or air conditioning during the time it would have taken if they were to build or set up a more traditional set.
The quality is not at all compromised by using a backdrop opposed to constructing a set.
Robert Stromberg, the production designer from Avatar, has researched China and its landscapes. After seeing Shen Yun’s show, he spoke highly of the traditional performance with its authentic backgrounds.
“The interesting thing for me that I take home is the, it’s a little bit like taking the old and the new and putting them together. It’s interesting to see the culture advancing and using some of the media in a new way. So I’m excited to see, years from now, how that cross-blending will come, and I’m looking forward to seeing that next year.”
Before setting out, all is weighed, measured, and fitted into customized containers and luggage for efficient freighting.
To cut down the GHG emitted by traveling on a plane, Shen Yun Performing Arts sends each of the four companies to cover a section of the globe. They will fly for transoceanic voyages, but all intracontinental travel is by road (or sometimes ferry) which has a much lower emission rate.
Shen Yun Performing Arts keeps the number of people who travel down to a bare minimum by sourcing local staff to fill roles involved in setting up the show and catering.
When the show comes to an end, all props, costumes, and equipment are systematized and stored on-site for reuse and to be repurposed. Nothing is sent to landfills, meaning no methane emissions either.
If it becomes necessary for a costume on tour to be cleaned, it is steam cleaned; otherwise, the first wash it gets is when they return home.
Just think of all the energy, water, and detergent that has been conserved from machine washing or dry cleaning when there are thousands of costumes and over 400 shows each season?
Shen Yun costumes are repurposed instead of being thrown into landfills at the end of a tour, which could result in the harmful release of methane emissions.
As the performers return home, their costumes are hand washed and line-dried before being put into storage and re-purposed for the next year.
At the heart of traditional Chinese culture is an ancient belief: Heaven is connected with the Earth, and humanity is intertwined with the universe.
Shen Yun honors the harmony between Heaven, Earth, and humankind.
Enjoy a trailer for the 2017 show here:
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