By Ivory King
Written on 5/4/2018
Whether its politics, environmentalism or any number of charitable causes, celebrities often use their audience and funds to spread the word about their passions. Not that these categories aren’t connected - legislation is often a primary concern for eco-activists, and earth-friendly pursuits have profound impacts on human rights, humane treatment of animals and other issues. Musicians have a leg up on some other types of artists by funding and promoting their concerns as well as weaving it into their medium. Many of the larger organizations that bands or certain members have built have succeeded in activism like they do with their own music - by teaming up and collaborating.
Musician-related eco-friendly businesses pop up along the length of the music industry supply chain. Some use their musical profits to focus on education and local sustainability efforts - like Cloud Cult did with Earthology.org in 1999. Some start their own record labels, building recording studios powered by renewable energy and making CD packaging from post-consumer recycled materials - like Cloud Cult also did with Earthology Records, in addition to offering organic apparel as merchandise.
Others tackled the incredibly resource-intensive process of touring - people- and gear-lugging huge busses, planes for international tours, disposable packaging catering, and venues themselves with all their energy needs, trash and water bottles. These efforts got pretty big, with big name bands working together with larger performance venues to overhaul infrastructure and getting fans to volunteer to sort recycling. These are just a few of the larger collectives that have been keeping music green.
Adam Gardner and Reverb
Founded in 2004, by environmentalist Lauren Sullivan and her husband Adam Gardner of the band Fuster, Reverb is a game changing, tour-greening non-profit organization. Taking a multi-level approach, Reverb empowers fans, bands and crew to collaborate to make attending and playing shows a carbon-neutral or even -negative event. Reverb shows perform outreach to encourage music event attendees to volunteer, donate and carpool, as well as collaboratively create the Eco-Village, a pop-up cluster of non-profits, products, games and other activities to form a micro-economy that educates everyone who visits. Tour greening efforts coordinate waste reduction, accessing bio-fuel, and using local farms and products for food and other supplies.
Dave Matthews and Bama Green Project
The Bama Green Project was created by Dave Matthews Band to coordinate environmental efforts and educate their fans. A partner of Reverb, BGP focuses on similar tour greening efforts like waste reduction and on-site recycling, “farm-to-stage” catering, and offsetting carbon and using renewable energy options. The Dave Matthews Band began greening attempts by offering volunteers free admission by collecting recycling from the venue, and furnishes reusable water bottles and water filling stations. This and the other events have added up to, in the organization’s estimate, cancelling out the carbon footprint of the band’s touring practices since their formation.
Jack Johnson and Kokua Hawaii Project
Hawaii-native Jack Johnson has a couple of projects that he supports with his passion for environmentalism. Brushfire Records was launched as Moonshine Conspiracy Records, built as a green studio that uses recycled paper for their CD sleeves and records in a solar powered, textile-waste insulated location. Co-founded with his wife, teacher and tour manager Kim Johnson in 2003, Kokua Hawaii Foundation educates kids about the unique environmental splendor of their local islands. They use a lot of hands on learning activities to help cultivate an appreciation for the earth and a desire to protect it. As in many years preceding, in the summer of 2017 Johnson played a local benefit concert for the KHF on Honolulu. All proceeds from the shows went to the Foundation, and KHF members got first access to buying tickets.
Maroon 5 et al and Green Music Group
Green Music Group is also closely affiliated with Reverb, and their priorities will sound familiar - encouraging and facilitating the sustainability around music venues, touring and connecting with non-profits, and locating accommodations that are in the Green Hotels Association or perform similar practices. Founding member labels are Brushfire Records and Warner Music Group. Founding artists include Linkin Park, Maroon 5, and Sheryl Crow.
While many of these efforts are more in the rock and pop genres, the awareness that organizations like Reverb cultivate is spreading across the industry. We’re looking forward to more artists becoming involved across all genres - possibly more involved than one offs like Björk’s 2008 Nattura project, though fittingly backed by more consistent environmental and other-causes activist Thom Yorke. But all efforts are welcome in this battle!