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Columns > John Whitler

Published: 2007/05/23
by John Whitler

A Bands Actions Can Be As Loud as Their Music

The jamband community has been making a lot of strides in their efforts to reduce their footprint. From the days of Phish having a green crew, and playing a show powered by solar power (7/15/94), more bands are implementing initiatives that are making a huge impact. So lets just take this moment to recap all of the great environmental happenings that have been making noise recently.
The Green Apple Music Festival is truly an example to highlight the growing awareness among fans and musicians. What better way to raise awareness than to host an earth friendly festival on Earth Day at multiple locations across the country. The huge number of bands and fans is an indicator that the jamband community is conscious of the environmental problems we are facing. Green Apple had a zero waste goal, offset all of their emissions, and raised awareness by providing education and outreach. Hopefully many fans that traveled to the event also offset their own emissions. I can only hope that this type of effort to make a festival more green is an everyday occurrence rather than a once of year special occasion.
As evil as most people think oil companies are, Shell Oil stepped up after Hurricane Katrina to ensure funding for Jazz Fest and has recently committed their support until 2010. At this years Jazz Fest, Shell sponsored a tent, sans music, to allow fans to conserve their energy. Inside the tent were exhibits and staff providing information and outreach on energy conservation. Although you could probably say they are talking out of both ends, this is just an example of the environmental movement becoming a part of our music experience.
Not only did this years Langerado festival use Clean Vibes for their trash and more importantly recycling services, but you could also ride your bike to the festival. The festival took advantage of existing trails and provided bike racks for fans. I could not think of a better way to get to a festival. Langerado also provided education and outreach opportunities and has a five year plan to make the event one of the greenest in the country.
Jack Johnson sponsored his own green festival this spring, the Kokua Festival in Hawaii. The festival had a zero waste goal, had water stations to encourage fans to use refillable water bottles, had eco-friendly merchandise, used bio-diesel for vehicles and generators, provided locally grown and organic concessions, encouraged bicycling, provided an outreach and activities tent, off set their emissions, and contributed to the 1% for the Planet effort.
On an international level Al Gores Live Earth event should have a huge impact. This event spans all seven continents and features some of the biggest names in the music industry. Unfortunately, some members of Congress still dont think global warming is a problem and Gores bid to have one of the events on the lawn of Congress was turned down. Regardless of the ignorance of our politicians and the people that vote for them, as music fans and individuals we can take actions into our own hands.
Besides whole festivals taking todays environmental problems some bands are taking their own initiatives as well. Umphrey’s Mcgee recently initiated a program that allows fans who use their online ticketing system to add a nominal fee on to their ticket price to offset their emissions when traveling to the show. In addition for every ticket purchased through their ticketing system a tree will be planted. I can only hope that is a matter of time when other ticketing outlets offer this type of service.
Willie Nelson is probably the most famous musician that powers his tour bus with bio-diesel. Other bands have started to adopt this practice as well. So I ask the same question, when will this become the standard and not the exception?
Groups like Reverb and Rock the Earth are helping musicians and fans become greener. Reverb consults with musicians to help them make greener choices while touring and has done some extensive outreach. Rock the Earth has partnered with many musicians and festivals to provide outreach and has taken direct action on other environmental issues. Check out their sites to see all the green they are spreading and to see what you can do to help.
As music fans we can support our favorite bands in greener ways as well. Support your favorite bands when they are closer to home so you are not driving as much. If you drive or go on tour this summer, make sure you carpool and pack light. Extra weight in your car/van/bus will bring down your gas mileage. Pick up your butts and recycle when you can. Although there is some debate over the impact of off-setting your emissions that is certainly an option to consider.
I always find it refreshing to take a moment to reflect and what I found reflecting on music and the environment in the last six months or so is very refreshing. This is just a sample of everything being done by the music industry to become greener. At some point I hope that this type of activity wont need special attention because it will become everyday news. As a cautious optimist I know that even when the environment is a common part of our day, we all will need to continue to spread the word and do our part.

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