Sydney Opera House: more than just an icon

When you think of Sydney, you think of two things in particular; the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. The Sydney Opera House is one of the most iconic buildings in the world and is the platform for entertainers and artists alike to share their stories. However, what you might not know about this Australian icon is the push to become more sustainable.

How the Sydney Opera House came to be

When you first walk up to the Opera House you are captured by the stunning sail-like architecture, created by Danish architect Jørn Utzon. However, what will truly blow you away is what you will find inside. Throughout the year you will find the Opera House home to the amazing artists who perform a vast array of entertainment such as classical music, ballet, musical theatre, comedy, and of course opera.

But where did it start? Since 1973, when the Sydney Opera House first opened its doors, it has been a place where artists gather to share their narrative. However, the tradition of storytelling at this iconic location extends much latter back than 1973 to the time when the local Indigenous community, the Gadigal people, gathered at Bennelong Point to share their stories and songs.

Credit: Hamilton Lund

The Gadigal people not only congregated here but hunted and foraged, using sustainable land management techniques to ensure food sustainability. Jørn Utzon, took these sustainable ideas into his planning and incorporated a seawater cooling system into the building and self-cleaning tiles. To this day, the Opera House not only provides entertainment but focuses on sustainability trying to improve the environment and society of its surrounding community.

Tours and sustainable actions

If you missed out on a ticket to one of the many performances or want to learn a little more about this beautiful building, the Sydney Opera House runs a variety of tours. If you don’t have much time it will be worth your while to jump into the Sydney Opera House Tour. This tour will walk you through every aspect of the building and enable you to visit areas off-limit to the public. Early risers will want to sign up for the Backstage Tour. Here will you get to enjoy breakfast in the Green Room – but make sure you’re wearing comfy shoes – as during the tour you will climb over 300 steps, meandering your way around a variety of foyers and hidden spaces. Whilst you’re being guided through the colossal Concert Hall, keep a look out for the custom-made LED lights which have resulted in a 75% reducing in energy use.

Credit: Tim da Rin

If you have a bit more time and consider yourself a foodie, the Taste of the Opera House is for you. Once a month the Opera House guides visitors through the exquisite restaurants and bars. This four- hour food journey will start at Opera Bar where you attend a cocktail making class. You will then be whisked away to Opera Kitchen to create your own delectable poke bowl. Lunch will then be served at Portside Sydney, yet you will also be taken to Bennelong to devour Peter Gilmore’s signature dessert.

While visiting the Opera House, you will leave more than just your footprints behind; you will most likely leave some type of garbage. However, you need not worry the Sydney Opera House now has an extensive waste management system. Food waste from staff, performers and green rooms are now being sent to Earth Power which transforms the waste into energy. Besides the food, paper, cardboard, plastics, mobile phones, fluoro tubes, toner cartridges and batteries are also being recycled. This stringent waste management system allows 60% of the Opera House’s waste to be recycled.

Credit: Alex Goad

There are also a variety of other sustainable actions the Opera House is taking which you might not get to see. The sustainability team have implemented a Management Control System which allows tracking of energy and water usage. They are also currently working with university and government partners to plant artificial reefs along the Opera House sea wall to support biodiversity and encourage local species to return and prosper.

Educational programs are being sent to suppliers and partners in order to share the knowledge of recycling and sustainability. The Sydney Opera House has also undertaken a project in carbon offsetting, where 300 native trees have been planted absorb carbon in atmosphere and restore native wildlife habitats.

Credit: Filippo Dall’Osso

Due to a combination of these impressive environmental actions, the Opera House achieved carbon neutral status in 2018 from the National Carbon Offset Standard and received a 5-star Green Star rating from Green Building Council Australia; one of world’s first heritage listed buildings to achieve this. Even with all these achievements, the Sydney Opera House is still aiming to accomplish more.

The Opera House aims to achieve a 6-star Green Star rating, be single plastic free in all venues and restaurants as well as achieve Sustainable Events Management Certification for their events, performances and festivals. In the years to come, the Opera House will provide a completely sustainable setting for world class entertainment.



Address: Bennelong Point, Sydney NSW 2000

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