21 July 2021

Théâtre Petit Champlain | Profile of a theater that has sustainability at heart

By Chloé Gagnon-Champigny
Par Conseil québécois des événements écoresponsables

Billet de blogue commun entre le CQEER et Écoscéno

The Theatre Petit Champlain has been a part of Quebec’s cultural landscape for many years. Since it’s opening in the XIX century, the Theatre Petit Champlain hosts mostly theater productions. Later on, in 1994, the Theater became the first Maison de la Chanson and started to welcome a lot of local musical artists. Lately, more diversity has been added to its calendar with international and local artists performing music, theater, humour and more.

Sustainability at the core of its priorities

Petit Champlain

The Theatre Petit Champlain, in Old Québec © Théâtre Petit Champlain

Following the announcement of the renewal of its Scène écoresponsable accreditation – gold level! – I have decided to have a chat with the team of Théâtre Petit Champlain. I wanted to know more about their approach to sustainability and hear about some challenges that they may have encountered in the last years. Also, this will be a good opportunity to tell you a little bit more about the Scène écoresponsable accreditation, a Sustainable Event Council initiative.

I have thus decided to sit down – virtually – with David Jolin, operation coordinator at the Théâtre Petit Champlain. When he arrived at the theater in 2017, the words sustainability and sustainable development weren’t as often heard as they are now. The starting point of their sustainability approach can be placed in 2018, when some employees expressed their willingness to improve practices to the direction team. Slowly, some issues have been identified and solutions have been suggested. The approach as a whole became much more structured when the director of the Théâtre Petit Champlain heard about the Salle Pauline-Julien receiving the Scène écoresponsable accreditation. According to David, ”this is when things began moving. From this point on, there was a snowball effect and the whole process started to be more organised.” The Scène écoresponsable accreditation and the ICI on recycle + certificate both contributed to a more structured approach to sustainability within the Théâtre Petit Champlain.

Accreditations and certifications such as Scène écoresponsable and ICI on recycle + have both contributed to the Théâtre Petit Champlain’s sustainability approach. With the help of both organizations – Sustainable Events Council and RECYC-QUÉBEC – we found our way towards more sustainable practices

David Jolin operation coordinator at Théâtre Petit Champlain

Scène écoresponsable accreditation

This accreditation is meant for people in the arts sector willing to have a more sustainable approach to their work – on an environmental, social and economic standpoint. The process is easy and adapted to the turmoil of the arts and culture sector. The accreditation helps integrate sustainability to the organisation’s practices. It allows organisations to mobilize and share the best practices in order to reduce the industry’s footprint.

ICI on recycle + certification

The ICI on recycle + certification is a recognition programme created by RECYC-QUÉBEC. It is used all across Québec. Its main goal is to honour organisations that are proactive and are looking to improve their performance regarding waste production and management.


David Jolin (on the right) at the event RIDEAU in 2020
© Marie-Michèle Bouchard

The importance of communication as a way to mobilize others

The Théâtre Petit Champlain often shares its engagement towards sustainability with Quebec’s cultural sector. David has indeed been a speaker at RIDEAU’s annual event in 2020. As soon as they obtained their first Scène écoresponsable accreditation in 2019, the whole team has tried to inspire others to walk the path towards sustainability alongside them.

I have learned a lot with our sustainability approach, and it was important to me to show people that it was possible to go green by giving them tangible examples of things that can be put into place in a theater.

David Jolin

Speaking of tangible, real-life, examples, here are some of the things that the Théâtre Petit Champlain has done in the last years and that allowed them to reach the highest level of the Scène écoresponsable accreditation:

  • Introducing reusable glassware
  • Handing out food surplus to a neighbouring organization
  • Creating a sustainability message thread within the team to make sure everyone is aware of the sustainability efforts put into place and knows where to suggest new ideas
  • Becoming an ACT-recognized dressing room
  • Allowing spectators to fill their water bottles with designated water jugs
  • Compiling their greenhouse gas emissions
  • Encouraging employee’s artistic projects
  • Offering grants to emerging artists
  • Keeping posters aside so they can be reused in daycare centers
  • Giving some older electronic equipment to partners
  • Obtaining an ICI on recycle + certificate

Challenges to overcome

Going sustainable is not an easy task and often comes with challenges along the road. According to David, one of the main challenges is to convince every department to get onboard – especially the finance department.

You have to find a way to convince the finance department that going sustainable is also sustainable on a financial standpoint and that new initiatives won’t cause a loss of income or large expenses.

David Jolin

For instance, starting to use 3-way sorting equipment for waste management has shown to be a challenge since it does not bring any direct profits. However, it is highly profitable given the extra visibility and customer satisfaction. It is important to communicate with the finance department constantly to discuss cost and initiatives feasibility. Obviously, the fact that the Théâtre Petit Champlain is a non-profit organization compels the whole team to think ahead before spending parts of the budget. It also makes it important to keep track of financing opportunities which could help fund some new sustainable changes within the organization.

The best tip David can give you? “Start by structuring your approach to sustainability and avoid trying to do everything your first year. Choose a couple new initiatives to implement on your first year as to not suffocate the whole project. Sustainability might seem like a huge monster, but if you go step by step, it’s absolutely doable! ”

Petit Champlain été

Le Théâtre Petit Champlain

It is true that it is never simple to jump into sustainability. There is lots to consider, but as the Théâtre Petit Champlain has proven: you can start gradually and always aim at getting better to achieve your goals in the end. The Scène écoresponsable accreditation is a good way to structure your approach to sustainability. The first steps to get the accreditation is to sign the Charte des artisans de la scene écoresponsable, to share your commitment, to name a person or a committee in charge of sustainable initiatives and to prepare an action plan for the coming years. The most important thing to remember, however, is to never hesitate to reach out to organizations around you that might have gone through the same processes. You can get inspired by each other’s achievements!