San Diego Symphony's Commitment to the Environment

In the summer of 2021, The San Diego Symphony produced “To the Earth,” a free virtual festival inspired by our beautiful planet. The festival included three separate, well-received performances curated by Steven Schick and conducted by Rafael Payare, that in turn explored light, water, and life beautifully showcasing the influence of our planet on artistic expression and bringing focus to our collective responsibility to protect and preserve our shared habitat.

This project was conceived before the pandemic and included plans for live performances and community engagement components exploring environmental issues. These plans had to be modified due to COVID-era staffing levels, budget, and public safety challenges. However, it is fitting that the rescheduled performance components of “To the Earth” were finally presented as virtual concerts in late June 2021 – heralding the opening of The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park just weeks later.

The Symphony’s new outdoor venue, built in partnership with the Port of San Diego and California Coastal Commission, resides amidst the natural beauty of the San Diego Bay and sits at the intersection between urban existence and the natural environment of the sea. Cognizant of inhabiting a location that is simultaneously stunningly beautiful and ecologically fragile, the Symphony developed  and continues to operate  this world-class concert venue in a way that respects the earth and works to minimize environmental impact as part of an institution-wide approach.

What follows is a detailed outline of current and future initiatives the San Diego Symphony has committed to in line with reducing our operational impacts on the environment around San Diego Bay and beyond.


  • Electric car recharging stations are installed in Jacobs Park’s parking lot.
  • Electric, rather than fossil fuel, powered flatbed and passenger carts are used at The Shell.
  • The Symphony has developed a program where patrons who ride their bikes or take public transport to The Shell can get a discount on a future concert ticket.
  • Carpooling to concerts is encouraged, including a program that transports concertgoers from Rancho Santa Fe by bus.
  • Adoption of a blended work-from-home / in-office schedule for many administrative staff reduces energy consumption at Jacobs Music Center and reduces automobile emissions.
  • The construction of The Rady Shell and development of Jacobs Park incorporated sustainable methods and materials, including the following design features:
    • Modular wetland/storm water treatment and drainage system throughout the Park and EMPS parking lot;
    • Lawn areas composed of commercial-grade sand-based synthetic turf to reduce water consumption, heat transfer, and maintenance requirements;
    • Ornamental landscaping with a majority of “very low” water use plant species;
    • Energy efficient LED lighting that is directed to avoid light bleed into surrounding areas, minimizing light pollution;
    • Sensored, low-flow water use fixtures consistent with the District’s standards;
    • Passive cooling techniques to control acoustic shell and enclosed structure temperatures and minimize energy consumption by utilizing natural ventilation and wind patterns through the structures, strategically placed shading, and use of dual glazing, green roofing, light colors and reflective coatings; and
    • Use of sustainable interior and exterior building materials that count toward Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design Silver eligibility.
  • The construction work and remodeling of Jacobs Music Center includes the following design specifications:
    • Installation of new HVAC units at Jacobs Music Center that are much more energy efficient;
    • A shift from incandescent to LED stage and architectural lighting; and
    • Backstage bicycle parking

Participation in Wildlife Habitat Preservation

  • Nighttime non-event display lighting at The Shell is limited to short wavelength (580 nanometers or shorter) during bird migration periods (September 1 – November 7, and March 24 – May 31).
  • Program inserts have been drastically reduced with messaging and information shifted to the Shell’s LED screens, thus eliminating the possibility that loose sheets of paper end up as pollution in the bay. Likewise, vendors at Symphony sponsored events are discouraged from using leaflets and brochures and encouraged instead to convey information via QR codes.
  • Participation in the California Coastal Commission’s annual public cleanup day
  • Careful removal of fireworks debris from the bay is conducted by staff after pyrotechnic displays

Note: We received a perfect score on our first (and to date, only) annual storm water inspection.

Commitment to the “Three Rs” (Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.)


  • There is an institution-wide commitment to keep paper consumption to a minimum, including a shift to digital proofing procedures and internal information sharing, an ongoing shift to digital tickets for concerts and events, and print settings that default to black & white and two-sided printing.
  • The Finance department has switched its internal procedures to a paperless workflow and encourages all the Symphony’s vendors to submit invoices and documentation digitally.
  • Shifting to electronic communication has reduced paper consumption for the Artistic department. Music library uploads scans of practice parts, thus reducing requests for printed practice parts. Print materials for auditions are repurposed as scratch paper.
  • Program books at all venues are now published in a smaller format that uses 30% less paper, and 40% fewer copies are printed than in past years. A gradual transition to digital format is planned and encouraged through QR code exposure in printed materials.
  • Chamber Series concerts have shifted from using an independent handout to the inclusion of program information in the digital and print program books.


  • Marina section food service at The Shell uses non-disposable plates, glassware and cutlery.
  • Plumbed water bottle refilling stations are installed at The Shell for the public and inside The Shell’s facilities and at Jacobs Music Center for staff and musicians.


  • Recyclable paper cups, rather than foam, are used for backstage coffee.
  • Donor lounges at The Shell provide food service using compostable cutlery, plates and packaging/to-go containers.
  • The Shell’s recycling program includes dedicating two of the eight dumpsters as recycling units.
  • All public trash receptacles at The Shell are paired with recycling receptacles.
  • Recycling at Jacobs Music Center includes partnering with Irvine Towers and shared use of their bins.

The San Diego Symphony is deeply honored to have been entrusted with stewardship of an exquisite place on San Diego’s Bayfront and feels a sense of obligation to inspire its audiences toward collective eco-conscientiousness. In keeping with The Symphony’s mission of Changing Lives Through Music, environmental awareness and responsibility are incorporated into learning, community engagement and artistic programming.

2022/2023 Environmental Initiatives

The Symphony has established an Environmental Response Committee charged with helping the organization work toward reducing its carbon footprint in support of the San Diego City Council’s landmark 2022 Climate Action Plan which sets a goal of NetZero carbon emissions by 2035.

The committee will focus on the following priorities in 2022/2023:


The committee will enjoin the help of The Symphony’s musicians, staff and audiences in efforts to reduce the institution’s environmental impact; ensure that suppliers and contractors understand and endeavor to align with The Symphony’s environmental commitments; and seek out organizations engaged in environmental work to form partnerships that support positive ecological change through the arts.


Partnering with an environmental organization that specializes in carbon footprint measurement, the committee will facilitate an institution-wide survey that measures how much carbon and waste The Symphony’s operation produces.


The committee will help create an environmental policy that sets out The Symphony’s commitment to becoming more sustainable and identifies the methods and practical areas where impact can be reduced.


The committee will regularly share progress and help move The Symphony toward public disclosure of carbon emissions, beginning with internal communications through to incorporating progress reports into The Symphony’s marketing.

The committee will solicit the help of ad hoc subcommittees created from across the institution for idea formation, information resource development and task accomplishment as The Symphony works toward sustainability.