Is the first carbon-free orchestra ready to go?

By Emilia Campagna

September 29, 2015

Is music the only mission of a symphony orchestra? Someone thinks it isn’t, and that something ethical can be made besides performing. Watching us around we came across an orchestra that has given itself a very ambitious goal. We are talking about Lahti Symphony Orchestra and his idea of becoming the first carbon-free orchestra in the world.

As a matter of fact, to mark Sibelius’s 150th anniversary year the Lahti Symphony Orchestra has initiated a project – a contribution to the efforts to reduce the pace of global climate change – by gradually making the orchestra’s activities carbon-neutral. Behind the project is Myrskyvaroitus – Storm Warning ry, and the project is being carried out in collaboration with the Lahti-based Environmental Technology unit of the Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT).

The Lahti Symphony Orchestra is taking the lead as an environmentally responsible artistic organization by adopting carbon neutrality as one of its operational objectives. The orchestra’s general manager Teemu Kirjonen sees the orchestra’s climate project as a natural part of the City of Lahti’s environmental strategy, according to which the city is committed to halving per capita greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, compared to 1990 levels. The Lahti Symphony Orchestra’s musicians and administrative staff have been involved in making the decision to launch the project, and in associated brainstorming activities.

During the first phase of the project, the orchestra’s carbon footprint will be calculated. This calculation is based on a life-cycle assessment, a diploma thesis by the LUT student Pilvi Virolainen. This is undertaken under the guidance of the postdoctoral researcher Ville Uusitalo and supervised by Professor Lassi Linnanen. The work will be completed by the end of November and its primary aims are to identify the orchestra’s principal sources of greenhouse gas emissions, to examine how these could be reduced or compensated for, and to explore the orchestra’s potential to influence its partners to reduce their carbon footprint. In accordance with the results of this research, the orchestra’s activities will be designed to cause minimum damage to the environment.

The body behind the project, Myrskyvaroitus – Storm Warning ry, is an organization established in 2013 that actively seeks partners in the areas of culture and the arts in its work to combat climate change. The Carbon-Free Lahti Symphony Orchestra project is promoted by founder members of Storm Warning ry, the communication and event specialist Hannele Eklund M. Phil. and the energy expert Dr Jouni Keronen.

“The Carbon-Free Lahti Symphony Orchestra is a unique, pioneering undertaking which” they hope “will encourage other artistic institutions to participate in the reduction of greenhouse gases. The goal of the next phase of this ongoing project is the adoption of a climate pledge that establishes greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets on the basis of the above-mentioned thesis.”

A string quartet made up of members of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra has performed a Sibelius jubilee year programme at the Road to Paris seminar in Helsinki on 25th September 2015, an event organized by the Ministry of the Environment, prior to the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

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Emilia Campagna

About Emilia Campagna

Journalist and musician, Emilia is a blogger for Theresia