A single tree with green leaves in a field, behind it is a white canvas. It therefore looks like a large picture of a tree standing in the landscape.

Tree #14, 2007

© Myoung Ho Lee, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

Steps Towards Greater Sustainability

Insights into the CO2 audit for the 2019 Theatertreffen and the festival centre for the 2022 Theatertreffen built with recycled materials

The journey to achieve greater sustainability in the festival’s organisation and décor is a marathon, not a sprint. And, just like in sport, the initial steps are crucial. The Theatertreffen has been concerned with ecological sustainability for several years now and has chosen to present two projects at the 2022 festival: an analysis of the carbon footprint of Theatertreffen 2019 and the design project “Theatre / Material / Circulation”.


The report 2019

Theatertreffen Goes Klimabilanz – a Closer View

In 2021 the Theatertreffen-team raised the question: what is the ecological footprint of planning and staging the festival? This initiated a complex process of learning how to source and evaluate data because the German cultural sector is only just starting to analyse its CO2 emissions. The COVID-19 pandemic meant that purely digital editions had to be developed for the Theatertreffen-festivals in 2020 and 2021. Without a live audience in situ and with 10 selected productions that in many cases were streamed directly from the theatres that produced them, a survey of the last two years seemed unrepresentative. For this reason, the Theatertreffen-team decided to start by looking at the year 2019.

What this analysis aims to do is to identify the environmental impact of the festival’s activities, but also to create a scale by which the own ecological efforts can be measured, in order to make a sustainable theatre and festival operation possible.

“Sustainable theatre also means theatre with a future. The desire for a more beautiful world that is more aware of the climate can be readdressed both on and off stage in this country’s theatres. To do this, we need radically honesty about the situation we are in. And enough courage and imagination for us always to be able to envisage the chance of a better future for us all.”

Jacob Sylvester Bilabel (Head of Aktionsnetzwerk Nachhaltigkeit für Kultur und Medien)

Sustainable Ecological Management at the Berliner Festspiele

The Berliner Festspiele and their umbrella organisation, Kulturveranstaltungen des Bundes in Berlin GmbH, have been committed to sustainable ecological management for several years. Measures that have been taken on an institutional level include optimising energy consumption at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele and the Gropius Bau. On an artistic level, projects and artists reflecting on sustainability have been included in the programme.


Sustainable Ecological Management

The Starting Point

Since the Kulturveranstaltungen des Bundes in Berlin GmbH achieved EMAS certification in 2013, the Theatertreffen-team led by Yvonne Büdenhölzer and Katharina Fritzsche has been considering how the festival can be organised in a more ecologically sustainable manner in the long term. For several years now, the catering has been predominantly vegetarian, filtered water is provided in own glass bottles and reduced quantities of merchandise have been produced using sustainable sources. In addition to this, in 2021 the Theatertreffen organised the “Forum Ecological Sustainability in the Theatre / Green Ambassadors” in close collaboration with the AktionsnetzwerkNachhaltigkeit in Kultur und Medien (Network for Action on Sustainability in Culture and the Media), as a place to learn from and with each other.

Forum Ecological Sustainability in the Theatre

As part of the Forum Ecological Sustainability in the Theatre, the theatres and production houses responsible for the 10 selected productions each nominated two members of staff to become “Green Ambassadors” who would learn more about sustainable methods of production and compare their experiences in a series of workshops. In addition to creating a network, the forum is also intended to enable the Green Ambassadors to share their knowledge within their own theatres so that this can be applied and institutionalised there.

Participants in the 2021 Forum Ecological Sustainability in Theatre gather for a group photo.

Green Ambassadors 2021

© Piero Chiussi

The need to calculate a CO² footprint for the festival’s activities follows as the next step in the Theatertreffen’s ecological development – one that the team has worked on internally for almost two years.

The Path to Analysis

The Aktionsnetzwerk Nachhaltigkeit in Kultur und Medien not only introduced the Theatertreffen-team to the world of CO² analysis, it also supplied them with its own CO² calculator. To provide a basis for the calculations, the festival’s structure and processes were mapped out in detail.

The diagram shows the festival areas of the Theatertreffen in circular fields.

Mapping Theatertreffen 2019

© Berliner Festspiele

This defined the numerous sections of the Theatertreffen and represented the connections between them in visual form. The next step was to agree a framework for the aims and investigation of the analysis of 2019. Then the data was collected.

This time-consuming but important exploration of the processes will enable the Theatertreffen to calculate CO² footprints more effectively in future.

Theatertreffen 2019 in Numbers

  • 18 days
  • 96 performances at 10 venues in Berlin
  • 75.5 hours of live theatre
  • 19,661 audience

To the complete festival programme in 2019

Theatertreffen 2019 in Numbers

The Data

The analysis of the 2019 festival edition looks primarily at travel by the jury and the visiting productions plus the smaller impact made by travel by interpreters. These areas were examined as they are directly linked to the selection of the 10 remarkable productions, a section of the programme that occupies a central role in the festival and is also the focus on intense public attention.

The figures include travel by all the members of the jury, the teams for the visiting productions and interpreters (including journeys within the city) by car, plane, train and bus, together with their overnight stays in Berlin. Details of travel by the jury include travel by the seven jurors to view productions throughout the year, and to attend the five jury meetings in Berlin, press conferences and the festival itself in May. The visiting production teams travelled to the festival and for preparatory site visits. The stage sets for the invited productions also had to be transported to Berlin. This footprint, which relates explicitly to the visiting productions, is shown in the figures separately under the heading “freight transport” while the data related to persons is shown under the headings “transport of persons” and “accommodation”. The interpreters only travelled to attend the festival.

The analysis does not include activities related to the Stückemarkt, the International Forum or the entire supplementary programme. Emissions caused by electricity and water usage, waste disposal, audience travel and equipping the festival centre were also not yet included in the analysis for 2019.

Sources of the Data

Gathering data for a period that has already elapsed brings with it many challenges. By using the claims for travel expenses from the jurors and interpreters, it was possible to track travel in this section of the footprint in some detail. This was not the case for travel by the visiting production teams. The climate analysis only includes those visiting performances whose travel costs were borne by the Theatertreffen. Two of the visiting performances were productions that came from Berlin and as a result no travel costs were incurred by the Theatertreffen. In the cases of two other visiting productions, the data was incomplete because the travel costs were partially borne by external theatres or foundations. Full data was available for the remaining visiting productions. From the data that has been gathered it is nevertheless possible to identify approaches and options which might continue to improve the environmental impact of the festival’s activities in future.

The Results

A circular diagram graphically shows the carbon footprint of the Theatertreffen 2019.

CO² footprint Theatertreffen 2019

© Berliner Festspiele

The total CO² footprint of the 2019 festival was 117 tonnes. Freight transport over 11,418 kilometres amounted to 23 tonnes, transporting persons over 463,886 kilometres (including flights) accounted for 64 tonnes. The total of 1,444 overnight stays under the heading “accommodation” resulted in emissions of 30 tonnes.

Making up 47 percent of total emissions (56 tonnes of CO²), travel by the jury had a substantial impact on the overall footprint for 2019 and from now on, particular attention will be paid to the means of transport used.

Travel by the Jury

In order to name the 10 remarkable productions for the 2019 Theatertreffen, the seven jurors viewed 418 productions in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, for which they covered just under 293,000 km. 6 percent of the journeys were by car, 39 percent by plane and 55 percent by train, which resulted in a total of 45 tonnes of CO² being emitted. The following diagrams show the percentage share of the distance travelled by each means of transport that was made up by travel by the jury and how many tonnes of CO² emissions were caused.

A bar chart graphically shows the CO2 emissions caused by staff transport at the Theatertreffen 2019.

CO² Emissions staff transport Theatertreffen 2019
© Berliner Festspiele

A bar chart graphically shows the kilometres travelled by staff per means of transport for the Theatertreffen 2019.

Staff transport Theatertreffen 2019 in kilometres
© Berliner Festspiele

Although air travel was clearly used much less than travel by train, 76 percent (34 tonnes) of the CO² emissions can be attributed to flights, whereas train journeys made up a much smaller proportion of 15 percent (7 tonnes).

The Findings

Even before the analysis was conducted, the Theatertreffen-​team was quite sure that travel by the jury was responsible for most of the emissions and therefore represented the first area to address in order to achieve improvement. The findings confirmed and reinforced the principle of questioning travel behaviour and adopting a more rigorous approach in future. A change of thinking has already taken place since the last analogue edition of the festival in 2019. Since 2020, the Theatertreffen has made consistent efforts to regulate and adapt the rules for travel. The COVID-​19 pandemic also made it possible to view productions digitally as well as live in situ and to manage personal resources and climate concerns more carefully. The edition of the festival in 2022 has reinforced the stricter travel regulations that have been in force since 2020, under which flights are to be avoided if at all possible.

While digital viewings of productions increased, the digital route is not the only solution because the emissions caused by digital streaming, video conferencing, etc. remain unclear. The pandemic also made clear that physical proximity cannot be easily replaced. For this reason, travelling will continue. How that travel is done is the key question, and it has an enormous impact on the festival’s CO² footprint.

The situation is similar with respect to travel by the audience, which will be questioned and recorded along with ticket sales for the 2022 edition of the festival. For the first time, a ticket for the local public transport network is included as part of every theatre ticket, so that the audience can travel to the performance free of charge. By doing this, the Theatertreffen wishes to create an incentive for the public to visit the festival in a way which protects the environment and is stress-​free.

„A sustainable theatre is a theatre in which it is accepted that ecologically orientated behaviour and sustainable decisions are not sacrifices but gains on every level.“

Yvonne Büdenhölzer (Director of Theatertreffen)

Looking Forward

With this first climate audit of the 2019 edition of the festival, the Theatertreffen-​team has begun a complex process that is far from complete. It has focussed on a section of the festival’s activities that has a considerable impact: travel by the jury, interpreters and the visiting productions. It is primarily the visiting productions, together with the freight transport they require, that will make up the majority of the festival’s overall footprint when all the data is gathered in future. By working together with the institutions and ensembles that produce the 10 selected productions, the Theatertreffen hopes to go beyond its own learning process to provide additional motivation for other theatres and institutions and to expedite the search for a theatre and festival system that is more economical in its use of resources.

Effective measures to reduce the own footprint can only be defined once a data-​based assessment of the sources of the own emissions is available. Gathering a complete set of data, including emissions from the other areas of the festival and its streaming activities from 2020, 2021 and beyond, is the next objective the Theatertreffen has set itself.


Data gathering: Susanne Albrecht (Administration, Controlling), Lina Erlenmaier (Organisational Assistant), Katharina Fritzsche (Head of Organisation), Laura Hänel (Administrative Assistant), Marie Speckmann (Student Assistant)

Text: Diana Palm (A member of the Berliner Festspiele team, cultural manager, author and since 2021 Transformation Manager for Sustainable Culture. She produces the blog  eARTh– How arts & culture work for our planet.)


The festival centre 2022

Theatre / Material / Circulation

A close-up of pink granules

Pink granules

© Eva Veronica Born

How can theatre sets continue to be used after the last night of the performance they were designed for? Limited storage capacity and, to a certain extent, a lack of systems to re-​assign them lead to most theatrical materials landing in compacters without being reused.

The architect and stage designer  EvaVeronica Born has been actively engaged with the theme of sustainability in theatres and cultural institutions for some time now. Amongst other projects, she has consistently designed the Theatertreffen’s festival centre at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele to be as sustainable as possible since 2015. For the festival’s 2022 edition, she has devised the project “Theatre / Material / Circulation”: Following the Covid-​years 2020 and 2021, the festival centre of the Theatertreffen will be made entirely out of “played out” stage sets and recycled elements from elsewhere which can be passed on after the festival has ended and enter other, new cycles of use.

Material cycle “Forecast House”

Volksbühne Berlin / Production “Forecast” 2020 & 2021 → Theatertreffen 2022 → haubrok foundation

Material cycle “Forecast House”

The “Forecast House”

One of the project’s starting points was director and composer Ari Benjamin Meyers’s theatre production “Forecast” at the VolksbühneBerlin. Meyers and his creative team had been working on this project since 2017. However, as a result of Covid lockdowns and several changes in the management of the theatre, it could never be performed in public. The lavishly produced set designed by Eva Veronica Born was scheduled for disposal in January 2022.

Thanks to the project “Theater / Material / Kreislauf” (Theatre / Material / Circulation) it was possible to buy the set – a construction kit that could be assembled into a house and then dismantled again during the performance – from the Volksbühne Berlin and repurpose it as the Festival Centre for Theatertreffen 2022 in the Haus der Berliner Festspiele garden. The festival will use the “Forecast House” as a visitors’ lounge and also as a venue to present the music from the play in the form of an audio installation. After the Theatertreffen, the “Forecast House” will be hosted by the haubrokfoundation and seen in other contexts. For “Forecast”, which was conceived as a performance about climate change and how resources are wasted, this re-​use gives the project a further life entirely in keeping with its original spirit.

Material cycle “18 Hectares of Pink Granules”

Münchner Kammerspiele / Production “Heart Chamber Fragments” 2021 → Theatertreffen 2022 → Kunst-​Stoffe – Zentralstelle für wiederverwendbare Materialien e.V. → used for construction in the Berlin area, further art installations & documenta fifteen in Kassel & Volkstheater in Vienna

Material cycle “18 Hectares of Pink Granules”

18 Hectares of Pink Granules

Another stage set that is used for the festival centre design originated with the project “HeartChamber Fragments” by the theatre company Papertiger from Beijing/Berlin, which premiered at the MünchnerKammerspiele in autumn 2021. The production was performed for a six-​week run in Munich but, due to the Covid pandemic, the tour of China planned to follow this was cancelled. The stage set, consisting of high-​quality, universally employable and elaborately manufactured granules was assigned for disposal, even though these granules could be sustainably re-​used as fire-​proof insulation on various construction sites.

The Berliner Festspiele, the Münchner Kammerspiele and Kunst-​Stoffe– Zentralstelle für wiederverwendbare Materialien e.V. then initiated a collaboration between several institutions to organise transport to Berlin and to arrange and co-​ordinate the subsequent re-​use of the materials after the 2022 Theatertreffen. As a result, a large part of the pink granulate will be taken to Kassel for the documentafifteen, where it will be used in an art installation. Other parts will be used as bulk insulation in building projects in the Berlin area, thus returning the material to its original use. At the Volkstheater in Vienna, part of the granulate will be used to create another stage set.

Material cycle “Labyrinth to Pool”

Theatertreffen 2017 / A Labyrinth made of benches → Theatertreffen 2022

Material cycle “Labyrinth to Pool”

Labyrinth to Pool

The project “Theatre / Material / Circulation” follows on from Eva Veronica Born’s work in designing the Theatertreffen, which she has conducted on sustainable principles since 2015, incorporating elements from the festival centre for the previous Theatertreffen in her design, changing them and presenting them in a new light. So, for example, the pool of granules in the 2022 festival will be constructed and framed using a labyrinth of wooden planks and brackets designed for Theatertreffen 2017. The enclosed “camp arena” from Theatertreffen 2015 can be found again in 2022 as elongated, brightly-​coloured, stepped seating for the audience in the upper foyer of the festival theatre. The small stackable stools, designed for a series of events at the 2016 Theatertreffen, are scattered all over the campus this year, offering opportunities for spontaneous encounters and exchanges. A wooden footbridge that led into the new main entrance of the Festspielhaus in 2015, which was used for the first time at the time, was transformed into benches for the Theatertreffen 2022, welcoming audience members behind this now established main entrance.

The recycling (pilot) project “Theatre / Material / Circulation” aims to highlight prospects, possibilities, inhibitions and questions about and for treating materials that have served their purpose in theatre and cultural institutions, to challenge these critically and open up new possibilities for the future.

The 2022 Theatertreffen-​Award

The  2022Theatertreffen-​Award is also dedicated to sustainability. For this festival edition, Eva Veronica Born has designed a “cup” made of earth that contains seeds of various plants. The ensembles are called upon to take this award to a place that is special to the production. The “one” will be buried, sown and a new multiplicity will emerge from it. Flowers, shrubs and trees will grow in a common act and in turn give something new and lasting back to the world.

Several light brown cups with colourful bases stand on a light-coloured surface.

Theatertreffen-Awards 2022

© Eva Veronica Born


Eva Veronica Born is an architect and stage designer who has designed the festival spaces for the Theatertreffen at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele since 2015 and the Theatertreffen’s official awards since 2016.