Green orchestras? Ecological responsibility of classical ensembles

Ecological issues have entered the public mainstream, yet tangible measures often remain piecemeal, and this applies to cultural organisations as well. Many theatres and orchestras do “their bit”, yet a systematic tackling of environmental questions, from building insulation to concert tourism, is missing. Topic examples in Germany from Freiburg, Stuttgart and Munich show how orchestras integrate ecological approaches; yet they also clearly illustrate that economic principles retain priority and that measures to save energy or paper, for example, are more often due to communal directives.
Still, there are initiatives coming from within the ensembles, too: NaturTon (“NatureSound”) is a foundation set up by members of the Staatskapelle Berlin whose aim it is to raise ecological awareness within the orchestra and to communicate their green message to audiences. Ensembles in the USA and the UK are already a step ahead with initiatives being pushed by orchestra associations such as the League of American Orchestras or industry-sponsored foundations (Julie’s Bicycle, UK). While some suggestions appear more like marketing ploys, others may well worth be emulating.
The rock and pop industry could be another model, following examples such as the Life Earth concerts of 2007 or festivals like “Melt!” near Dessau (Germany) and Roskilde (Denmark) that explicitly aim to transport ecological messages or promote environmentally friendly schemes for travel and accommodation. Two other examples show how institutions can doubly benefit through energy savings by reducing their carbon footprint and lowering running costs: the municipal theatre in Heidelberg has thus begun using geothermal energy, while the Laeiszhalle in Hamburg replaced its lighting system and ran a general efficiency check. Closeness to nature is a selling proposition for many music festivals. A closer look at the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival and the Summer Festival at Grafenegg shows that even festivals address environmental issues: from reusable dinnerware and recycled paper to bus shuttles. It’s time to act!

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