You are here

Sustainable Austin Blog

Photo of a woman leaning on a wooden chest. She is wearing jeans and a blue and white shirt. A graphic next to her reads "Caroline Reck Net-Zero Hero"

I’m helping to make Austin Net-Zero by: using repurposed materials to tell stories with purpose.

 

Headshot of Caroline ReckMeet Caroline Reck, Founder and Producing Artistic Director of Glass Half Full Theatre. Caroline is a puppeteer, and her theatre company creates original works about global issues using puppets and performers. To be clear, when we say “puppeteer,” we aren’t talking about cute furry animals that teach children their manners and ABCs (although those do have a place). Caroline is the kind of puppeteer who focuses on telling original stories and highlighting world dilemmas. To do this, Caroline and her team of performers use puppets made from materials like wood, paper, Styrofoam, discarded plastics, bamboo skewers, and clothesline.

This month, Glass Half Full Theatre will perform “Once There Were Six Seasons – Interactive,” an original work about humankind’s impact on climate change. We spoke with Caroline while touring her workshop to see where the magic happens, and talk with her about what motivates her to live Net-Zero. Read more below.

What inspired you to take action?

The durability of single-use objects distresses me deeply. As a puppeteer, my work depends on getting an audience to invest in an inanimate object, so the fairly common practice of drinking one time from a plastic cup and then discarding it is baffling to me. Consider for a moment the journey of that cup — from creation, to packaging and shipping, to purchasing, until someone finally drinks from it and throws it away minutes later. That’s a lot of build-up in terms of money, time, and energy for one person to use it for just a few minutes, only to throw it away to decompose over seven or eight hundred years. That cup is going to be here way longer than the person who drank from it. There’s no respect in that system for all of the people and resources used (and misused) along the way, let alone any respect for the object itself. I think we should show greater respect for the people, objects and resources around us, and we should start by reducing those single-use items like plastic cups.

Tiny city made of styrofoam.  Caroline placing a rug in a tiny city made of styrofoam.

Caroline with a puppet in the window of a tiny styrofoam building.

How did you do it?

I started making shows about environmental justice issues and building with repurposed materials years ago, and I’ve been lucky to gather a community who cares about similar issues through my theatre company. It’s hard work, and I find that only the socially and politically motivated artists stick around. I met one of my closest collaborators because she saw a show and we bonded over similar work she’d been exploring, and over time she’s become a really important part of the company. 

Whats's been the toughest part?

It’s time consuming to source repurposed items. Storage can be a problem, as I’ll often find interesting objects or materials and need to hoard them for a while until their next purpose is revealed. It’s also really difficult to talk about complex subjects like climate change in a way that is entertaining and enlightening. We try to stick to the optimistic message behind the company name (Glass Half Full) and look for humorous and inspiring ways to address these momentous issues, but the reality of our climate situation can be hard to face.

Have there been any unexpected benefits?

It’s my job to look through trash and junk bins, get inspired by real world events, and make up stories. I wear overalls to work and use glue and paint. I get to write Facebook posts asking friends to save their Styrofoam packing peanuts for my next play. If you could have told my third grade self that this would be (part of) how I make my living, I would not have believed you.

Caroline in her workshop demonstrating how to manipulate the puppets.  Tiny ladder made of twine.

A puppet on a stick bridge over a plastic ocean.  Caroline manipulating tiny props.

 

What advice do you have for others?

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, put a gentle focus on an area you think you can improve. Going vegan was easy for me, but giving up airplane travel would break my heart. If steak is your favorite thing ever, then maybe don’t start there.

Also, maybe this is obvious for some, but it was hard for me: you don’t have to hide how you live your life because you’re worried that others will be offended. If you want to bring your reusable cutlery to a picnic, do it. Pull it out. Bust out your compostable garbage bag and offer to bag the “would-be trash” and take it home to your garden. If someone asks, explain. Maybe a few more people will see it’s no big deal to buck the system. More than anything: VOTE — with your ballot and with your wallet.

Go see the show!

We hope you’ll check out Glass Half Full Theatre’s upcoming production, Once There Were Six Seasons – Interactive. The show runs April 19-May 4. More information and tickets available here.

Caroline in her workshop holding a tiny puppet.

To learn more about Austin's Net-Zero Goal, view the Community Climate Plan.

Share your Net-Zero contributions with us on Twitter or Facebook and use #NetZeroHero. If you know a Net-Zero Hero (or heroes!) who should be recognized for their efforts, send your nomination to sustainability@austintexas.gov.

Tagged: Office of Sustainability, reuse, theater, Art, artist, net zero hero, zero waste

More Blog Posts

Ideas for a greener Valentine's Day

Holidays often create a lot of waste...

Tagged: valentine's day, valentine, green, Nature, diy, Office of Sustainability

About this blog

News, ideas, and inspiration from the Office of Sustainability, to help advance a Bright Green future for Austin.

Tags

family events

animals

food policy

net zero hero

donations

michael harris

Healthy Austin

green roof

Austin's food system

green spaces

gardening

rethink challenge

lucia athens

tips

animal

dashboard

green schools showcase

Food Waste

profile

green business

featured member

healthy

artist

chickens

farmers market

bright green future grant

eastside memorial

gift ideas

Prosperous. Sustainable. Austin.

roots and wings

outdoors

good food purchasing

Sustainability

thor harris

local food

environment

Net-Zero Hero 2018

water quality

rethink app

green operations and maintenance

earth month

food

neighborhood

city sustainability

aisd

austinites

community and outreach

applied materials

green

Art

local produce

SXSW Eco

student showcase

urban forestry

food for all

Austin

reclaimed wood

eNewsletter

conservation

Bright Green Future

rethink

green building

sustainable business

green cup challenge

Mueller

sustainability education

fitness

austin green business leader

grant

theater

net-zero heroes

local farms

sxsw

presentation

how-to

butterfly

high school

texas

local

Austin Mobility

greenbelt

Education

sealab

Prosperous. Sustainable. Austin. sustainability

utilities

electricity

keynote

Water conservation

austin public library

reuse

Net-Zero

farms

key performance indicators

climate change

city hall

monarch butterfly

net zero

recycling

weather

Music

21st century America

solar

green business leaders

foundation communities

2016

agbl

design

data

renewable energy

reagan high school

water

Office of Sustainability

farming

nominations

rain gardens

trees

sustainability tips

stay cool

musican

school

complete communities

Mendez Middle School

go green

non-profit

soofa

climate

eastside memorial high school

resource management

Plug in partners

Wildlife Austin

agriculture

kpi

nominate net-zero hero

ecorise

valentine

landscape

activities

Austin Energy

giving back

the science guy

zero waste

electric vehicle

wildlife

texas women in agriculture

nominate

bgfg

valentines day

garden

food trucks

Sameer Pusapaty

energy

mall

McKinney/York

water efficiency

new year

volunteer

bill nye

Grow Green

Texas women

eco-audit

net-zero hero 2016

party tips

solar panels

bicycling

green operations

safety

suburb

pet waste

energy efficiency

creek protection

zero emissions

infrastructure

amy stansbury

carbon footprint

city of austin employee

bicycle

sustainable

Watershed

library

emissions reduction

staff engagement

grow zone

2018

new central library

solar energy

co2

mobility

super bowl 50

bike commute

City of Austin

st. andrew’s episcopal school

ronda rutledge

watershed protection

redevelopment

scoop the poop

Central library

health

make austin greener

seed bank

sustainability accomplishments

yellow bike project

seaholm power plant

vegetable garden

charging

walking

HNTB

transportation

super bowl

bike

green challenge

st. andrew’s

beat the heat

recycle

leadership

greenhouse gas emissions

healthy corner stores

waste diversion

flooding

herb garden

smart bench

water preservation

family

green schools

alternative transportation

2015

heat

litter control

business

mobile markets

Composting

healthy living

erosion

seaholm ecodistrict

led

environmentaustin

bus rider

grant recipients

summer

leaf

farm stands

Green is the New Black

earth month tips

community gardens

christmas tree recycling

Seaholm

compost

soofa bench

Net Zero Carbon emissions

architecture

august martin jr

Melissa Rothrock

recycled reads

family friendly

food planning

redevelopment; code

e-waste

urban farms

green habits

huston tillotson university

community

upcycle

capital metro

austin parks

food insecurity

connected

Farmshare

carshandra hollins

save

springtime

sharon mays

pilot

driving efficiently

bus

Waste not challenge

tree farm

lighting

north central austin

compact

dell

GAVA

earth day

reclaimed water

ecodistrict

save money

restaurant

generation net-zero

rundberg

batteries

purple pipe

open data

Eco-Friendly Tips

bailey middle school

public affairs

crockett

urban trails

fresh for less

University of Texas

Baldwin Elementary

austin interfaith network

holiday

4th of July

george cofer

small business

lanier

diy

austin resource recovery

congregation beth israel

goals

Austin Energy Regional Science Fest

heidi tse

transporation

biking

lbj

events

shop zero waste

Calder Kamin

challenge

conferences

uro

austin fire department. climate resilience

electric drive

reduce carbon footprint

seniors

festivals

greenchoice

wildfire

austinties

mopac mobility bridges

bike month

children

Award

halloween

austin city limits

Prosperous. Sustainable. Austin. green

resilience

pedestrian

local business

breathing

pumpkin

rebate

formula 1

biophillic cities

bryony gomez-palacio

learning

fashion

austin business

air

Zero Waste Block Leader

seton

food recovery

restoration

Dustin Fedako

green choice

holidays

hiking

how to ride the bus

ozone

year in review

Goodwill

catalina berry

electric

visiting austin

recycling tips

kids

pat bulla

air quality

lisa apfelberg

chief sustainability officer

tour

tourism

food bank

Nature

whole life learning center

dale bulla

shoal creek trail

golden-cheeked warbler

joseph de leon

gallons saved

upcycled

capmetro

Prosperous. Sustainable. Austin. earth day

recipes

violet crown trail

low flow

gift bows

metrorapid

science

green visitor

volunteer opportunities

autumn

birds

wrapping paper

back to school

reagan high

local food system

fall

trails

gus garcia

castle hill

Prosperous. Sustainable. Austin. sustainable

cool pavement

Austin Animal Center

valentine's day

wellness

2018

December

November

October

September

August

July

May

April

March

February

January