We are creating a green year of culture
Leeds City Council declared a climate emergency in 2019 and committed the city to being carbon neutral by 2030. LEEDS 2023 is a vital step on that journey, and we are embedding sustainability across everything we are doing.
Our work ranges from commissioning new work with the theme of sustainability, such as This is a FOREST, Making A Stand and NEST, to working closely with our sustainability partners SAIL; From understanding and mitigating our carbon impact across all of our signature projects, to training volunteers in sustainability.
We're not taking sustainability lightly. To create a green year of culture, we have focussed our efforts in the following key areas.
We are facing unprecedented biodiversity loss, and we are mindful to support biodiversity and nature wherever we can. Where possible, we have hosted events outdoors for people to experience the nature that Leeds has to offer, and we’re always mindful of leaving no trace.
We hosted Nest at RSPB St Aidans, where as well as an immersive theatre show, attendees get a chance to see bitterns, short eared owls and harriers.
In staging this production, we were especially mindful of our impact and took every step necessary to mitigate disturbing the local wildlife, including containing the production in the recreation area of the reserve and avoided pointing lights or speakers at treelines, hedgerows or marshland where there may have been nesting birds.
Through our public programme work, we’re directly engaging with the public on the theme of sustainability.
For Making A Stand, we’re hoping to start an honest conversation around the impact of supply chains, and for Nest we are exploring the themes of climate migration and our connection to nature.
Through this is a FOREST, we explore what might be possible if we work with - rather than against - nature, exposing systems and structures that prevent ecosystems from thriving.
Many of our events require temporary power, traditionally provided by diesel generators. We have worked to reduce the impact of this by utilising Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil, solar hybrid generators and battery generators. This reduces our direct carbon impact.
For The Awakening, all our generators used Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil, an alternative to regular diesel which has a carbon reduction of approximately 90%.
For the WOW Barn, we went one step further and used a solar hybrid system, with 20 solar panels linked to 2 batteries. When the sun wasn’t shining or demand was higher, 2 synchronised generators kicked in, also running on hydrotreated vegetable oil.
For Children’s Day: Reimagined and Nest, we went one step further still, using a state of the art solar and battery system for our backstage areas.
Food has a big environmental impact. We select local suppliers, offer a plant-based offering and ensure vendors are utilising compostable materials.
We also ensure that there is a place to fill up your water bottle, wherever possible.
Each potential funder of LEEDS 2023 undergoes a rigorous vetting process, allowing us to thoroughly scrutinise their commitment to ethical practices and environmental sustainability. We pursue complete transparency with our funders, ensuring they align with our vision for a sustainable year of culture.
All of our suppliers have been vetted to ensure they are prioritising environmental best practice.
We prioritise local suppliers wherever we can. For example, all of our print has been sourced from Yorkshire based companies.
Across LEEDS 2023 we’re engaging with local communities. With the My Leeds Summer events, we have been engaging with all wards of the city to bring culture to your doorstep.
For our first event, The Awakening, to get a ticket we created a ballot for people to submit a piece of art. We saw 1000s of your artworks from all across the city. These artworks formed a part of our Waking the Artist exhibition in Wade house.
Since 2021, we’ve supported Mafwa to run their Lincoln Greeners projects as part of My World, My City, My Neighbourhood. Lincoln Greeners is a community gardening group for female sanctuary seekers. More recently, the group has co-created the opening and closing of Mafwa’s Family Flourish Festival at Roxby Close.
We are committed to reducing single use plastic as much as we can. Wherever possible, we’ve removed plastic bottles from our sites and provided metal can alternatives or refillable water points.
For our WOW Barn, we provided plastic free sanitary products courtesy of Freedom 4 Girls.
If we do have to buy anything plastic, we always make sure that it’s either the most sustainable thing possible, or it’s going to be used multiple times -ideally both. An example of that is that our event signage gets reused again and again, and will be continue to be used throughout the year of culture. It’s also made of correx, a recyclable material.
We are seeking to minimise the impact of travel and transport wherever we can, by prioritising local suppliers so that the things we purchase don’t have far to come to us. Plus we’re working on ways for you to get to our events in more sustainable ways, whether that is promoting active travel, our culture map or our shuttle bus service for some of our signature events.
Where possible, we have been encouraging our artists and participants to car share, and where possible we have been providing things such as cycle storage on sites and encouraging audiences to either utilise active travel or wheeling to enjoy our events.
In fact, for the WOW Barn Festival and barn raising, about 40% of people came on foot!
We are conscious that events create waste, and we are constantly trying to keep waste to a minimum and reuse, repurpose and recycle wherever possible.
Originally constructed as a symbol of empowerment by 300 women and non-binary individuals, the WOW barn was repurposed rather than discarded, ensuring its continued utility. Kirkstall Valley Development Trust, a staunch advocate for community betterment and an anchor organisation for LEEDS 2023, saw potential in the barn as a means to foster education, combat isolation, and promote community engagement. This move not only prolongs the barn's lifespan but also aligns with the ethos of LEEDS 2023, which emphasises sustainability and leaving lasting cultural legacies.
Where possible, we always rent equipment rather than buy, and we have always been conscious of what happens to materials we do have to buy, and what happens to these materials afterwards to ensure that nothing we buy is single use. For example, we always buy generic or brand colour materials, and marketing materials that can be easily reused for other projects.
Where possible, choose low-carbon transport options to get to and from events. This could involve walking, cycling, carpooling, using public transport or using our shuttle bus where available.
Follow the '3 R's' principle at events. This could involve minimising waste by using an e-ticket instead of printing off your ticket at home, using refillable water bottles, and ensuring any waste is properly sorted for recycling.
Choose to buy from local traders and food vendors at events, as these often have a lower carbon footprint than imported goods and foods.
When attending events in natural or outdoor settings, be mindful to stay on marked paths, not to litter, and not to disturb local wildlife.
Choose more sustainable food options where available, such as vegetarian or vegan dishes, and avoid food waste by only taking what you can eat.
Take part in any sustainability-focused workshops or educational activities, and use the opportunity to learn more about environmental issues and what you can do to help.
Spread the word about the importance of sustainability and the efforts being made at LEEDS 2023. This could be through word of mouth or by sharing on social media.
If you see opportunities for improvement in the environmental sustainability of LEEDS 2023 events, don't hesitate to provide constructive feedback. Your insights could help improve future efforts.