Sustainable Clubbing Around the U.S., Dance Clubs Are Making Green Moves

The average dance club uses 150,000 watts of electricity. And while we can’t place the blame for global warming on the shoulders of their sweaty, dancing masses, these clubs could be doing more—reducing bottle and cup waste, conserving energy used for lights and sound and putting all that people power to good use. Clubs across America are responding to the call and stepping up their environmental commitment—some with technological innovations to rival the DJ’s complex beat-mixing.

Temple Nightclub in San Francisco, California, opened in 2004 and boasts an 89% diversion rate of landfill waste. The nightclub, which is housed in a 100-year-old building, uses corn-based, biodegradable cups to combat generated waste. “We’re also thinking about giving a discount on drinks, maybe $1 or so, for reusing the same cup,” says Mike Zuckerman, Temple’s director of sustainability. To conserve water resources, Temple uses a rainwater collection system for toilet plumbing. The club also boasts a vertical garden that landscapes the exterior of the club. This provides thermal and noise insulation, as well as counteracting carbon dioxide emissions.

But it’s the soon-to-be-installed energy-generating dance floor that’s getting all the attention. Through piezoelectric technology, crystals in the dance floor will be activated and generate electricity when stepped on. “This is just one small part of our commitment to the environment,” Zuckerman says. “We want to be stewards in the community.”

The Butterfly Social Club in Chicago uses kinetic energy from a bike in the front of the venue to generate some of its energy. Employees pedal the bicycle, thus powering the DJ booth and the drink machines. The sound system from the DJ booth has speakers made from recycled wood that resemble tree trunks. The bar, deemed the “eco-friendliest” by the Chicago Tribune, was built of recycled waste products like clay and straw. The club’s 30-something owner Mike Klemen told the Associated Press that the key to sustainability “is not to recycle more, but to use less.” All drinks and mixers are organic, and the venue’s website boasts that organic alcohol does not contain the impurities (like nitrates in wine) that are the real culprits behind hangovers.

In Denver, Colorado, the 16,000-square-foot Beta Nightclub is in the process of instituting a widespread recycling program to counteract its waste, separating glass, plastic, aluminum and paper products. Spokesperson Catherine Nguyen says, “We use tons of Red Bull cans and vodka bottles here, so it’s really silly not to recycle.”

The club recently opened its 5,000-square-foot outdoor patio, complete with tall hedges, comfortable cabanas and green grass. Like Temple Nightclub, its goal is to offset carbon dioxide emissions, as well as provide a botanical experience within a secluded lounge area.

San Francisco’s Temple Nightclub © Temple Nightclub

Thanks to Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth, New York now offers its own sustainable night club. Jon B., renowned owner of New York’s GuestHouse and Home, had a private screening of the film in his apartment, and felt moved to act. Greenhouse mixes eco-friendly features with upscale ambience. Slated to open in November, the club was constructed with recycled eco-resin materials, and uses a rainwater collection system for toilets. Furnishings come from recycled products, and the club features all-LED lighting.

Greenhouse spokesperson Adam Starkman says that the new venue “cost quite a bit more than our other clubs to make,” but that “Prices for Greenhouse will be the same as any regular New York club.”

The management debated whether or not to implement an energy-generating dance floor into the venue, but because of the makeup of a Manhattan nightspot, it may not contribute to Jon B.’s environmental mission. “Typical New York nightclubs are banquet-style—serve alcohol, have patron tables and play music,” Starkman says. “They don’t really have a dance floor. People just kind of dance where they can.” Because a human-powered dance floor would have to be installed throughout the entire venue, nightclub officials didn’t find it practical.

Still, the club has received significant corporate attention, generating buzz from the Hollywood fashion circuit to Mercedes Benz and the United Nations. “We’re really proud of this idea,” Starkman says.

American venues are following the example of Sustainable Dance Club in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The company was the first to devise the energy-generating dance floor. The technology is not identical to the piezoelectricity used to craft the floor at Temple; rather, Sustainable’s floor uses energy-generating coils beneath the surface of the floor that, when stepped on, send electricity to the lights and sound system of the club.

Vera Verkooijen, the consulting firm’s director of communications, points out that the energy generated from the dance floor will not power a nightclub on its own. “Every tile of the dance floor produces five to 10 watts [of energy] per person,” she says, “de-pending on someone’s weight and the intensity of dancing.” This voltage, Verkooijen says, is not high enough to accommodate the en-ergy needs of a traditional dance venue. But it’s pretty cool nonetheless.