Have you been to a concert lately? Anyone with eco-friendly sensibilities will no doubt note the complete lack of regard most rock bands show for the environment, what with their flashy light shows, pyrotechnics, stacks of amplifiers, and gas-guzzling tour buses. And considering the rampant waste and pollution that most bands produce along the way, you might be wondering how you can possibly support your favorite musicians without feeling guilty throughout the set. But there are plenty of independent recording artists and bands out there looking to green up their act along the way, and they’ve found some truly incredible ways to cut waste, conserve, and do their bit for a brighter tomorrow. Here are just a few of the bands that are making a change and some of the many ways they’ve found to reduce their carbon footprint.
For starters, there seems to be a revolution surrounding the use of biodiesel buses. Apparently, “An Inconvenient Truth” conveniently turned heads in the music industry, prompting some to switch from the heavy-polluters of old to transportation worthy of a new era. Sheryl Crow, Barenaked Ladies, Guster, Maroon 5, The Roots, Radiohead, and Willie Nelson are just a few of the big names to stop their gas-guzzling ways while on tour and make the switch to alternative-fuel vehicles. But some take it a step further. Thom Yorke of Radiohead has gone out of his way to conserve fuel when the band tours, even going so far as to purchase equipment in other countries rather than having it flown overseas. And Willie Nelson actually developed his own brand of biofuel, dubbed BioWillie, that is primarily made of soybeans (take that, Monsanto!). Of course, Nelson also counts himself amongst the many musicians that have taken steps to spread the word about environmental concerns by founding eco-friendly organizations.
Big Willie, for his part, was one of the brains behind Farm Aid, a concert series started with the goal of helping small, local farming operations to stay in business (Willie Nelson: 2, Monsanto: zero). And he’s not alone in sharing his love for the environment. Dreamy surfer-turned-singer/songwriter Jack Johnson co-founded the Kokua Hawai’i Foundation to take environmental education to schools; the Dave Matthews Band started the Bama Green Project, which encourages volunteer to set up green booths around event venues in exchange for free passes to his concerts; Phish started the WaterWheel Foundation with proceeds from their concerts (as well as donations) in order to pursue an agenda of conservation, clean water, and urban gardening; and Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction started Global Cool (with actor Josh Hartnett and Doors drummer John Densmore) with the goal of reducing carbon emissions.
In short, a lot of musicians are going a long way to green up their act. Many team up with the non-profit sustainability group Reverb to make their tours more eco-friendly and educate fans along the way. And some find incredible and innovative ways to go green. For example, Radiohead has a plastic-free policy (only biodegradable items are allowed on tour) and the Barenaked Ladies recycle their guitar strings so that they can be made into jewelry. The only things these bands have yet to get rid of are their electrical instruments, amps, and Numark NS6 controllers. But some, like The Roots and Maroon 5 (amongst others), donate to renewable energy providers to offset their carbon footprint, so even when they can’t conserve they can still do their part for the environment.