Opera North is a national opera company based in Leeds, and a leading UK arts organisation. As a touring organisation, Opera North transports its scenery, technical equipment and costumes to many venues around the country, alongside around 150 artists, musicians and crew.

 As well as touring, Opera North has around 100 full time administrative staff, a music venue in the centre of Leeds and an active education department.

In 2018/19, Opera North calculated its Carbon Footprint to 448 tonnes CO2E and to set about reducing this, the Company created its “Green Team”. Chaired by Jamie Saye and supported by Opera North’s senior management team, the Green Team meets once a month and devises strategies to make the Company more sustainable.

 Some of the actions it has achieved so far:

  • Swapped all of Opera North’s energy contracts to 100% renewable tariffs
  • Introduced tracking of all energy and water consumption across all sites, including usage and spend metrics
  • Devised a switch off campaign to reduce energy usage, leading to a 10% reduction in electricity usage
  • Fitted water saving devices to all taps and toilets across the estate
  • Switched consumables over to environmentally friendly alternatives, such as vegware hot drinks cups, replacing PVC tape with Velcro and recycled paper
  • Devised and implemented a staff engagement campaign to coincide with the COP24 conference in Katowice
  • Ensured that all brochures will be printed on recycled paper, and that the impact of the brochure printing and shipping process will be carbon balanced

 Opera North’s senior management team has also identified environmental sustainability as a key area for growth. In December 2018, it pledged that all sets no longer required will be sent to a specialist contractor for recycling from now on, that sustainability will be integrated into a mainstage production in Autumn 2021, and that they will produce a climate change-themed opera within the next three years.

 The Company has also become the world’s first opera organisation to begin training its staff in Carbon Literacy, with the Opera North senior management team setting a key performance indicator that 50% of the company will be carbon literate by April 2020.

 Sustainability has been a major factor in the current £18 million redevelopment of the Opera North estate, Music Works. Part of this large redevelopment will be the introduction of LED lighting and PIR sensors across the estate, more efficient plant equipment and solar PV generation on the roof of the Opera North administrative offices.

 Opera North has been assisted in their efforts by Julie’s Bicycle, the charity that supports the creative and cultural sector to take action on climate change, and in  recognition of Opera North’s achievement, in July 2019 it received the “Best Newcomer” Award in the 2019 Creative Green Awards, hosted by Julie’s Bicycle. 

Main image: Opera North's production of Not Such Quiet Girls, which used recycled sets (credit: Justin Slee)