Good Vibrations: Musicians Go the Extra Mile to Support Green Causes

Article excerpt

Although we like to think that the music we consume is planet-friendly (don't groups do global warming benefits.) the truth is that CDs and big-ticket tours create carbon emissions and hefty material waste streams. The good news is that an industry vanguard is recognizing that impact and taking steps to neutralize it. Some performers even try to reduce carbon emissions above and beyond their own impact.

Such popular performers as Gomez, Guster, Barenaked Ladies, Hot Buttered Rum String Band, Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews Band, The String Cheese Incident, Neil Young and Willie Nelson have all used biodiesel to fuel their tour buses. Willie Nelson has gone further than most and helped found The Willie Nelson Biodiesel Company, which retails the cleaner-burning, renewable fuel.

Other bands, including Tea Leaf Green, Pearl Jam, the Dixie Chicks and Sound Tribe Sector 9 are offsetting the carbon emissions of their internal-combustion tour buses. Most do this by purchasing Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) from such companies as Green Mountain Energy Company and Native-Energy. These entrepreneurs in turn sell the carbon credits and use the proceeds to finance and buy renewable energy, including wind, solar and biomass, to help "green the grid."

The Dixie Chicks are working with the Makira Forest Project and Conservation International to protect 850,000 acres of rainforest--the destruction of which contributes greatly to global carbon emissions. Dixie Chicks fiddler Emily Robinson encourages the group's fans and other bands to join the fight against global warming, saying, "Together, we can make a difference in the fight against climate change, protecting our environment and helping local communities."

Many bands have also come to recognize the impact that running stage equipment can have on the environment. Last year, the annual music festival known as Bonnaroo consumed 25,000 gallons of biodiesel in its stage generators, and also recycled or reused 60 percent of its waste stream. And one stage was entirely solar powered. Barenaked Ladies, Tea Leaf Green, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, and Sound Tribe Sector 9 have all committed to purchasing RECs to offset the carbon emissions generated by their stage equipment.

In making an environmental commitment, many of the groups point to a strong connection between green issues and combating poverty. They argue that the poor are unlikely to help preserve natural resources for future generations if their basic needs are unmet. Further, they point out that environmental racism leaves the burden of planetary degradation to fall inequitably on the poor.

Two bands, Sound Tribe Sector 9 and the String Cheese Incident (which recently announced plans to disband), have been leaders in combining ecological and social initiatives. Both bands work to reduce their carbon footprints, and are also partnering with Conscious Alliance, a nonprofit group dedicated to reducing world hunger.

Founded by a small group of University of Colorado students in 2002, Conscious Alliance offers fans an official event poster in exchange for 10 or more non-perishable food items. Their efforts have distributed 350,000 pounds of food to impoverished Native American reservations and to survivors of Hurricane Katrina. …