Case Study: Nevis Ensemble and ‘Green Nevis’
In this case study, the street orchestra Nevis Ensemble discuss measures that they took to make their touring practices more environmentally sustainable and, crucially, how musicians in the orchestra were actively involved in this decision-making.
Nevis Ensemble is different. There’s nothing else quite like us in Scotland. Our vision is music for everyone, everywhere. And we mean business.
As a new organisation, established in 2018, we have developed on the premise that we should try and do things in a way that promotes best practice in every aspect of our work, involving the musicians every step of the way. This is equally the case when it comes to sustainability and our impact on the environment. Orchestras tend to be fairly environmentally unfriendly – moving large numbers of people and equipment around the country, and internationally, on a regular basis.
We have had the luxury of developing our practice sustainably from the beginning; we don’t have much to ‘undo’, and as a small, nimble organisation there is much we can do to ensure that our environmental impact is kept to an absolute minimum. It does, however, require buy-in from every musician in the orchestra, as well as partner organisations and our audiences.
A Nevis Ensemble musician, credit: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan
In 2019, Nevis Ensemble embarked on a ‘Green Nevis’ campaign to embed awareness of what we as an arts organisation can do to promote sustainable practice not only to our audiences, but to our musicians as well.
Launched as part of our tour of the Outer Hebrides, we undertook a number of small actions that cumulatively had a substantive impact on our waste and carbon emissions.
Our logo, designed by Helen Wyllie, was given a ‘green’ makeover for the duration of the tour, and our social media posts, which garner a good following during tours, had a theme of sustainability as well as a #GreenNevis hashtag.
Nevis Ensemble has a Player Committee, and one of the representatives was assigned the role of ‘Green Officer’ to ensure that our pledges are being met, and to take management and other musicians to task should they feel we are being complacent.
During the planning and implementation of the tour we decided upon a number of measures:
- the tour route was planned in a circular way to reduce ‘doubling’ roads unnecessarily and reduce the time/miles the coach spent on the road;
- musicians must take the train or bus to Glasgow from their hometowns/cities unless absolutely necessary – we do not cover expenses for flights that could instead be train;
- all musicians travel together on one coach throughout the tour;
- for our residential in Garelochhead, all musicians travelled together by train;
- whilst rehearsing/touring meals are – as far as possible – completely vegetarian;
- single-use coffee cups and water bottles are banned from the bus – we provide all musicians with a keep cup and water bottle;
- we work with host organisations who may be providing meals or refreshments to ensure that they are free of single-use plastics;
- snacks ‘for the bus’ (cakes, savoury pizza rolls, flapjacks etc.), are baked by orchestra members to reduce waste if bought externally, and dried fruit and nuts is bought in bulk rather than individual packets;
- any waste produced is kept and sorted, then recycled at an appropriate point;
- carbon emissions from the coach are calculated and offset by helping restore peatland (seen as more effective than planting trees).
We worked with a number of companies to highlight their own ‘Green’ products via in-kind sponsorship:
- Scottish Water
- Save Some Green
- E-coffee Cups
- Cubby’s Salves
This included tying in with Scottish Water’s #YourWaterYourLife campaign.
We worked with Less Waste Laura to write a blog series, both from her, and our musicians on what we can do to help reduce waste and make the work of the organisation sustainable. You can read the Nevis blog series on our website.
The campaign resulted in a lot of positive comment from our audience members both in person and online. We have definitely seen a greater awareness of environmental issues amongst our musicians, and they continue to carry out some of the measures in their day-to-day lives.
As a result of the campaign, we have been shortlisted for the ‘Environmental Award’ at the 2020 Scottish Awards for New Music.
A Nevis Ensemble concert, credit: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan
About Nevis Ensemble
Since our first performance in July 2018, the orchestra has given 170 performances to around 25,500 people all across Scotland, from the schools, supermarkets and museums of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, to a farm in the Scottish Borders and the summit of Ben Nevis in the Highlands – and everywhere in between, including the biggest ever tour by an orchestra of the Outer Hebrides – all the way out to the remote archipelago of St Kilda. Concerts have taken place in venues as diverse as swimming pools and children’s parks, to homeless centres, museums and train stations. Read more about our previous tours here.
Full-scale, orchestral performances with music of all genres: popping up and surprising commuters first thing in the morning; entertaining residents in oft-forgotten parts of the city; guerrilla-style appearances in swimming pools; generating huge public audiences in public spaces. Removing barriers to accessing orchestral music means bringing it to where people are, and when they are there. Just think; 40 energetic musicians run out of a bus, instruments in hand, and less than five minutes later the intrigued crowd hears something incredible and unexpected. Everyone leaves feeling uplifted and inspired, proud of the place to which they belong.
Featured image: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan
Nevis Ensemble are a member of our Green Arts Initiative: a networked community of practice for Scottish cultural organisations committed to reducing their environmental impact. It is free to become part of the community, and there are lots of resources and case studies (like this one!) to support #GreenArts organisations. Take a look at our Green Arts Initiative page for more information.