Working remotely with Opera North

Clare Sach (BA Geography) tells us about her experience of a remote work-based sustainability placement at Opera North during national lockdown.

The University of Leeds offers its final year Geography students the opportunity to enrol in a Professional Development Project. The module allows students to work in collaboration with academic staff or an outside organisation, offering their knowledge and skills to tackle current and important issues across a multitude of placements in data analysis, property, consultancy, sustainability and more.

As a returning fourth year student, I was instantly drawn to the project, recognising the value of accumulating real-world work experiences and how they reinforce what you learn at university. Sustainability is something I’ve been inspired by since my A level studies and continued to study throughout my Geography degree, discerning it is more than an academic discipline, it is a lifestyle.

The university helped assist my application for the role of sustainability intern at Leeds – based company, Opera North. Holding a strong passion for the creative industries I was really excited to apply my knowledge and skills to an industry that had been so drastically impacted on by the pandemic.

During my placement I was assigned the task of helping Opera North overcome sustainability issues brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Challenges for Opera North are twofold;

  • Reducing their carbon footprint when government guidelines advise to travel alone and privately and,
  • Limiting excess waste from all the necessary PPE.

So far, whilst collaborating with Opera North, we have created plans to launch a ‘Plant a Tree’ initiative, sourced plastic free sanitiser alternatives, biodegradable PPE and are currently considering a rental electric car fleet for when touring events can resume.

Like all things, lockdown restrictions have brought about some positives. Opera North has reduced its office energy usage by approximately 54% between 2019 and 2020 as all staff continue to work from home. By April 2021 we will have also have much clearer picture of how much Opera North’s carbon footprint has reduced between 2019 and 2020, however estimations suggest it has more than halved. Moreover, lockdown has allowed myself and companies such as Opera North, more time to research sustainable business alternatives whilst reflecting upon new habits (e.g home and office shifts) that we may continue practising in 2021.

I am thoroughly enjoying my sustainability placement with Opera North, finding the rewards of helping a creative business through such trying times, deeply gratifying. I would encourage any final year students to seriously consider work based placements. They are great way to put your knowledge to the test and see an organisation, business or project really benefit from doing so. It’s also an amazing way to build upon your CV and prepare you for entering the world of work!

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United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

We use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to guide our activity. Clare’s work with Opera North is linked to all of the SDGs.

Find out more about our impact on the SDGs.