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Our House is now
carbon neutral

Here's what it means & how we
made a modern wonder sustainable

Sydney Opera House

Watch an animation about the changes we made to go carbon neutral

The Opera House is now certified carbon neutral, and five years ahead of our goal. With more performances and visitors every year, it took a lot of changes. We reduced our energy use by 14% by implementing a number of energy efficiency projects over the last few years.

But what does ‘carbon neutral’ really mean and how did we get there?

Here’s a quick guide on how we did it:

What does 'carbon neutral' really mean?

Carbon dioxide (‘CO2’) is the gas released when we drive our cars, or burn fossil fuels like coal to provide the electricity that powers our lives.

Carbon neutral certification is achieved when an organisation or building reduces its emissions as much as possible by creating efficiencies or generating renewable energy, then offsets the remaining emissions.

Carbon offsetting involves investing in projects that offset’s an organisations remaining carbon emissions. For example, building solar or wind farms or planting trees.

By the National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS), the Sydney Opera House is now certified carbon neutral.

From the start, sustainability has been in our DNA

As he was designing the Opera House, architect Jørn Utzon always kept the natural environment in mind – from the building’s pioneering seawater cooling system (using seawater to efficiently cool the building), self-cleaning tiles (rainwater washes them off), and green cleaning methods (the age-old technique of olive oil to polish brass).

We're five years early

In our Environmental Sustainability Plan (2017-19), we set out to become carbon neutral by our 50th anniversary in 2023. We’re five years ahead of schedule.

We switched out the lights

In 2014 we replaced the light bulbs in the Concert Hall with custom-made LEDs. It makes for a great light show, too.

By the numbers: reduced the Concert Hall’s energy consumption by 75%.

Keeping it cool 

In 2017, we replaced the old chiller units connected to our pioneering original seawater cooling system in order to improve the way we heat and cool the building.

By the numbers: reduced energy consumption by 9%.

We're keeping an eye on what we use

Our new Building Management Control System introduced in 2017 helps us keep track of our energy and water use and climate control more effectively.

By the numbers: reduced energy consumption by 9%.

We're turning food into energy

We’re putting on more shows each year and hosting more visitors than ever. There are millions of food and drink orders each year, which always comes with leftovers.

In 2016, we introduced a new waste management program and started recycling even more types of materials: from the usual papers and plastics to mobile phones, fluoro tubes, toner cartridges and batteries.

In 2017, we started moving our food waste – from staff and performers in the Green Room, concerts, visiting artists, catering – to Earth Power, an organics facility where we convert it into energy.

We’ve also rolled out an educational program on waste management for people that work with us, such as: our events companies, food operators, Resident Companies like Opera Australia and The Australian Ballet.

By the numbers: 5000 cubic metres of waste produced each year, we increased our waste recycling wait from 25% to 60%.

We're replanting trees

This September, staff from across the Opera House and Energy Australia travelled out to Mount Carmel in Campbelltown to plant a variety of plant species in collaboration with Greenfleet. These trees will help absorb and store carbon over their lifetime, regenerate land, and when they’re grown, will provide wildlife habitats essential for native species.

By the numbers: 20 staff planted 300 native species of trees.

Our global goals

The Opera House’s commitment to carbon neutrality aligns with the NSW Climate Change Policy Framework to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Energy Australia helped us crunch the numbers...

In 2017, we collaborated with our Major Partner EnergyAustralia and CSIRO to create a think tank to support the Opera House’s Sustainability objectives including achieving Carbon Neutral certification.

These strategies, currently being scoped, include CSIRO fault-detection diagnostic technology and peer-to-peer energy sharing.

EnergyAustralia enabled us to engage a carbon and renewables expert to map out the building’s pathway to carbon neutrality, instrumental to achieving the certification.

...and offset the rest of it

EnergyAustralia helped us invest in NCOS-certified projects with Greenfleet and SouthPole. This includes supporting SouthPole’s project EcoAustralia which combines biodiversity conservation in the Annya State Forest (VIC) with international emissions reduction projects.

“At EnergyAustralia, it’s our job to create change in Australia’s energy system and pioneer the transition to cleaner energy reliant on renewables with low or zero emissions. We’ve shown it’s possible for Australia’s most famous house to offset all its carbon emissions, and we’re making it simple for millions of households around the country to do the same."

Energy Australia Managing Director Catherine Tanna

“As the icon of Australia, the Opera House is setting a powerful example for organisations, venues and households across the country to contribute to our goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 and ensure a more sustainable future for Australia.”

NSW Minister for Energy and Utilities & Minister for the Arts Don Harwin


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