Decoropbouw van The Sleeping Beauty
Set building for The Sleeping Beauty | Photo: Liza Kollau

Green Deal

1 May 2023

Creating art is the raison d’être of Dutch National Opera & Ballet (DNO&B). To make sure that its stunning operas and ballets are sustainably produced, DNO&B has introduced the Green Deal, a guideline for reducing the environmental impact of its productions. Bob Brandsen, Director of Technology & Production: ‘We don’t dictate anything. All we’re after at this point, is raising awareness.’

The Green Deal asks that creative teams incorporate as many ‘green’ materials in their designs as possible and that they use these materials as efficiently as they can. Issues such as set recycling, costume recycling and ways to reduce travel movements are also covered in the Green Deal.

‘The materials and textiles pyramids are an eye-opener for many’

Bob Brandsen, Director of Technology & Production at DNO&B: ‘We enclose the Green Deal with every contract we sign, but we don’t dictate anything to creative teams. It’s more like extending an invitation for co-creation. The Green Deal offers a lot of hands-on information for teams to use, including a materials pyramid and a textiles pyramid that show their hierarchy from the most sustainable to the least sustainable. Those pyramids are an eye-opener for many because the graphical representation hits home that we’re exhausting the earth’s resources without replenishing them.’

Enriching experience

Brandsen had expected a certain level of resistance among designers and stage directors, but did not see much of it. ‘There are some knowledge gaps of course and there’s a little bit of awkwardness. A number of creators feel restricted in what they can do. But making sustainable choices can also be an enriching experience because it forces a person to rethink the creative process. And that can open up entirely new perspectives. The younger generation is usually very much aware of sustainability issues already, but the same can’t be said for older creators. That’s why our campaign is mostly educational at this point: we show creators what choices have the largest environmental footprint and we offer input on alternatives.’


Best effort

DNO&B has developed a screening tool for measuring the environmental footprint of its productions. Brandsen: ‘We use a carbon footprint calculator to monitor the carbon emissions caused by our productions. The tool compares the impact of different materials, but also makes allowance for transport movements and travel by creative teams and musicians.’

‘We’re not just about creating beautiful art, we also want to contribute to a more sustainable planet’

Brandsen is keen to stress that the Green Deal is about encouraging artistic teams to put forth their best effort rather than forcing them to do something. ‘We don’t demand that they stick to a carbon budget, nor do we tell set designers never to use plastic again. What we try to do is raise awareness about sustainable choices. We, for our part, use the new productions to collect data and information that will keep us moving forward in our sustainability drive.’


Learning curve

So far, Brandsen has noticed that working with the Green Deal is more time-consuming than following the standard procedure. ‘Not just because we have to open a dialogue before the creative team gets to work, but also because we need time to look for alternatives. Quick decisions will almost inevitably lead to less sustainable options. That can get pretty complicated.’

The Green Deal is a learning curve for Brandsen and his team as well. ‘We love engaging with creative teams to hear their thoughts. It’s not like we have a monopoly on knowledge. Our organisation is in development and we want to use our position in society to bring about positive change. We’re not just about creating awe-inspiring and beautiful art, we also want to contribute to a more sustainable planet.’

Text: Anne Havelaar

How do we create art in a sustainable way?

Green Deal video