The Sydney Opera House is one of Australia’s most iconic tourist destinations - a world-class performing arts centre that sits on land traditionally known as Tubowgule, named by the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the land. Meaning “where the knowledge waters meet”, the Opera House today remains an important place for the community to come together to celebrate.
In 2021, the Sydney Opera House will be switching off on Saturday 27 March at 8:30pm for the 15th consecutive year. As an important local and international landmark, this symbolic move sends a powerful message that positive action to protect our planet is everyone’s responsibility.
We chatted to Emma Bombonato, Manager of Environmental Sustainability at the Sydney Opera House, to find out why it’s important for organisations to lead by example and demonstrate a greater commitment to sustainability by participating in Earth Hour.
WWF: Emma, tell us why the Opera House is switching off in support of Earth Hour?
Emma: The design of the Opera House was inspired by its location and proximity to nature. From our pioneering sea water cooling system, our Drama Theatre’s chilled ceiling design, to the self-cleaning tiles on our sails, we are proud to say that sustainability is in our DNA and are proud to be making the #switchfornature with Earth Hour again this year.
As the symbol of modern Australia and the first Australian performing arts organisation to commit to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the Sydney Opera House has an important responsibility to lead by example. Environmental and social sustainability is a big priority for us, and switching off for Earth Hour allows us to send a powerful message globally about the need to protect our environment.
WWF: What role do businesses have in protecting the planet?
Emma: A sustainable future is everybody’s responsibility and requires a contribution from everyone in order to become a reality. It’s really important for businesses and organisations like the Opera House to lead the way and demonstrate that we all need to act to ensure a positive future for our environment.
WWF: What has the Opera House achieved in sustainability so far?
Emma: In 2019, the Opera House was awarded a 5 Star Green Star Performance Rating, achieved carbon neutral certification and implemented a renewable power purchase agreement which allows us to source more than 85% of our power from NSW wind and solar energy sources.
In 2019, we installed an artificial reef in partnership with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to increase the diversity of marine life around the Opera House, and to date, we have surveyed at least six more fish species that are now calling the reef pods home.
WWF: What’s next for the Opera House in terms of sustainability?
Emma: The Opera House’s fourth Environmental Action Plan for 2020-22 includes a number of ambitious targets ahead of our 50th anniversary in 2023, such as:
- Achieving a 6 Star Green Star Performance Rating from the Green Building Council of Australia;
- Taking steps to become climate positive;
- Eliminating single-use plastic packaging for all venues and restaurants; and
- Achieving international certification for sustainable events for our festivals and performances.
WWF: What are your tips for businesses new to Earth Hour who are trying to reduce their footprint?
Emma: Earth Hour is a great reminder for each of us to pause and reflect about how we can each play a part in caring for the environment. Raising awareness for Earth Hour within an organisation means communicating that sustainable behaviour is about good leadership. Making the switch for nature can include simple actions like bringing your own reusable mug, shopping bag and drink bottle to reduce single-use plastics and turning out the lights and turning off the computer at the end of the day. There are also additional changes you can make to your lifestyle such as making the switch to renewable and green energy providers, choosing to catch public transport, riding your bike or walking and picking up litter before it enters our waterways. During COVID times, investing in a reusable face mask also has a huge impact.
It’s also important to take the time to enjoy nature by getting out for a beach or bush walk. It’s great for our wellbeing and reminds us why it’s so important to make the switch this year.
These are just some of the many ways in which everybody can contribute and ensure a commitment to sustainability is embedded in an organisation's culture. Every action, big or small, can make a difference.
Join the Sydney Opera House and thousands of organisations globally who want stronger action on climate change. Get your organisation to pledge their support this Earth Hour.