Look! See those green lights on the Opera House? It means it’s being environmentally responsible. For 10 days.

The Opera House today announced it would be carbon neutral for a whopping 10 nights for the upcoming Vivid LIVE, as part of the Vivid festival.

In a statement, the Opera House said it would:

  • purchase 100 per cent GreenPower for all electricity used for Vivid LIVE 2015 events – including the lighting of the sails
  • use fuel-efficient transport for artist transfers (as available)
  • donate all surplus food from events and artist catering to the food-rescue charity OzHarvest
  • provide 200 artists and crew with reusable water bottles rather than bottled water – saving an estimated 6000 plastic water bottles across the event
  • switch to electronic marketing where possible to reduce printed materials

Okay, so buying 100 per cent GreenPower is something most businesses are not going to be interested in at the best of times – so congrats – but the other initiatives look like things that really should be business as usual, not just done for 10 days.

Implementing sustainability initiatives for a fixed period always throws up the question, “Why aren’t you always doing it?”, and combined with the rather unfortunate imagery of the Opera House bathed in green light in the Opera House’s PR material, it really does give the appearance of greenwashing. Which is unfortunate because the Opera House has been doing some great things in the sustainability space recently.

For example, it won last year’s Built Environment Heritage Award at the NSW Government’s prestigious Green Globes, for a lighting retrofit of the Concert Hall. The retrofit featured bespoke design long-life LED lamps and high-tech control systems to reduce energy use by 75 per cent.

Now that’s something to celebrate.