At GöteborgsOperan (the Gothenburg Opera), sustainability is not just a fancy green backdrop, but the recurrent leitmotif – from the solar panels and beehives on the roof, to life cycle assessments of entire productions.

Environmentally speaking, GöteborgsOperan is not a common opera house. Environmental concern has shaped long-term strategy and public relations since the 1994 opening. The efforts run both wide and deep, and in some aspects, they are likely world-leading – such as the environmental certification according to ISO 14001. Many of the changes have sprung from the staff’s initiatives.

A systematic and goal-oriented approach

GöteborgsOperan is a pioneer in sustainability. Currently, the opera is preparing to stage a green production of The Ring of the Nibelung, Wagner’s monumental opera. Photo: Ingemar Jernberg.

GöteborgsOperan is taking a structured approach to its environmental work. Here are some of the measures that have been taken:

  • The premises have been environmentally certified since 2004.
  • Since 2004, the opera implements the ISO 14001 environmental management system. In 2012, GöteborgsOperan received certification, which is something unique in the opera business.
  • The restaurant carries the Nordic Ecolabel since 2011. This applies to all operations managed by the restaurant and takes its entire life cycle into account, from the purchase of raw goods to waste management. This means, for instance, that the food is organic and Fair Trade certified as far as possible, while GM foods are banned. The menus always have at least one vegetarian option, and once a week a ‘meat-free’ lunch is provided.
  • As a symbol for the environmental work, beehives are kept on the roof of the opera house; the honey is sold in the OperaShop. Some bees fly to Trädgårdsföreningen (the botanical gardens) to collect their nectar, but they also are busy with the flower plantations that are kept on the roof.
  • Energy is an important issue. The ventilation system is the most energy-consuming, but stage lighting consumes a fair amount of electricity as well. Electricity consumption is taken 100 percent from renewable sources, and many parts of the building has LED lamps controlled by presence detectors. The property is connected to district heating and cooling networks, and the elevators are fitted with energy recovery systems.
  • Most of the cleaning products are eco-labeled, food waste becomes biogas, and other used products are sorted for recycling.  The laundries and printers employed are Nordic Ecolabel certified.
  • The opera tries to re-use scenery whenever possible, and have modular systems where everything can be taken down and built back up again. There are carcasses for the scenery, such as walls, coaches, steps and structures that can be used multiple times.

The opera is currently looking at ways to reduce environmental impact from textiles and costumes. Just over 600 square metres of the roof has been covered with solar cells that supply the building with energy.

A green performance

One goal for the opera is to have an entire production eco-labelled. A lifecycle analysis of the opera Thaïs has been carried out, and the findings are brought along to the new production of Richard Wagner’s epic The Ring of the Nibelung, considered the Everest of the opera world. The story spans three generations and four operas, with a total running time of more than 15 hours.

The Ring is a very demanding project, which few opera houses have the resources to attempt. GöteborgsOperan is planning to stage one part of the cycle every year between 2018 and 2021, and the concluding opera will form an active element in Gothenburg’s 400th anniversary celebrations in 2021. The story deals with the dire consequences of human exploitation of natural resources, making it altogether fitting and proper to stage it with the environmental impact in mind. With the project, GöteborgsOperan takes its sustainability work to the next level, by actively including sustainability among the artistic choices. The production promises to express the environmental message with the highest possible artistical standard.

Read more about GöteborgsOperan’s sustainability efforts.

A solar-powered hitmaker

Hitmaker Anderz Wrethov’s recording studio is powered by solar panels. Photo: Jarno Lee Vincensius.

Outside Vellinge, on the plains of Skåne, the Wrethov family residence and eco-hotel is located. It houses what might be the only solar-powered recording studio in Sweden; the entire roof of the building is covered by solar panels.

Anderz Wrethov runs the studio. Environmental awareness is something of a family trait: his grandfather, Anders Ohlsson, was an early advocate of biodiversity, and his father, Linus Wrethov, built his own solar panels, started organic farming and represented the Swedish Green Party in the local council.

The solar-powered studio was opened in spring 2017, with solar panels generating a surplus of electricity. The house is facing south, with an excellent angle to the sun. According to Anderz, both visitors and artists appreciate the environmentally adapted studio, as well as the rural setting. Anderz Wrethov has participated in the music competition Melodifestivalen (Sweden’s representative for the Eurovision Song Contest) every year since 2013; perhaps one of his contributions – Hasse Andersson’s hit ”Guld och gröna skogar” – is the contest’s most environment-friendly contribution to date?

Read more about the solar-powered studio.

The article was published in April 2018.