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Material World

Have you ever wondered how big a ballet company’s carbon footprint is? We have. We’ve monitored our areas of operation during a busy touring year, and we’ve set targets for every department to make changes in the ways we work that will help us with our net zero ambitions.

Scottish Ballet is preparing for the leap to carbon net zero and we’re refining smaller steps…

Next up in our environmental series, fabric.

Landfills everywhere are full of poorly made and cheap non-biodegradable textiles. We’re conscious of the role we can play in reducing waste to landfill.

Scottish Ballet’s designers and specialist makers source second hand wherever possible. Have you seen Starstruck, or The Snow Queen? Our dancers are adorned in vintage pieces specially selected by our Wardrobe Team. For very special costumes, too ornate to recycle but not strong enough to survive another tour, we either keep the parts we can reuse or auction to collectors – the profits going back to Scottish Ballet.

Pointe shoes have always been high on Scottish Ballet’s agenda. Wrapped in satin, constructed with cotton, glue, hessian, leather soles – with ribbons sewn on by the dancers themselves. Our dancers can dance through 500 pairs per winter tour – a waste item unique to the ballet world. MSc Sustainability & Environmental Studies student, Naomi Poli, carried out a ballet shoes upcycling project with us for this reason.

Scottish Ballet not only goes through hundreds of pairs of pointe shoes, but also hundreds of pairs of ballet tights. We’ve been working with UK-based Imperfect Pointes who have built sustainability into their designs, making dancewear and tights from recycled materials which last longer and retain their colour when washed. Then, when the show is over for a pair, we send them to Swedish Stockings for recycling.

While we continue to test new uses for worn pointe shoes and costumes, we’re recycling as much fabric as possible. Using First Mile for big collections, and local recycling centres for small loads. We’ve also gifted offcuts to community sewing groups.

So, to sum up, here are our eight steps to reuse and recycle fabric:

  • Source local
  • Buy second hand
  • Explore up cycling
  • Give offcuts to community sewing groups
  • Reuse parts for new costumes
  • Auction or sell bespoke costumes
  • Invest in specialist recycling collection, such as First Mile
  • Procure recycled and recyclable tights, such as Imperfect Pointes

We’d love to hear your tips on refashioning and recycling fabrics.