Musicians at the Cutting Edge of Eco-Awareness

by Amy Curtis

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Concerts are wonderful venues for promoting community. But despite the joy produced by live performances, it’s hard to deny that these events can have heavy environmental footprints as well.

When reveling in the music, it’s easy to overlook the carbon dioxide emitted by the band’s tour bus, the electricity used to power the theatrics, the volumes of waste underfoot, or how legions of adoring fans traveled for miles. The ephemeral nature of shows makes sustainability difficult to address, but for some artists, attempts to offset their environmental impacts prove essential.

Dave Matthews Band’s 2011 summer tour Caravan uses carbon offsetting to minimize its carbon footprint. The band purchases carbon dioxide offsets to rectify the energy cost of touring, the energy used during the show itself, and the waste generated afterward. Other eco-conscious steps include using renewable energy to power equipment, using biodiesel to fuel the tour bus, selling merchandise aimed at boosting energy awareness, and insisting that every venue has proper recycling.

Dave Matthews has also teamed up with FilterForGood, a company that promotes sustainable water practices. During each concert, hydro stations are available to refill bottles with Brita-filtered water, and promotions to take the FilterForGood pledge are readily available. Band spokesperson Patrick Jordan recently voiced that the group has, “worked so hard to reduce our carbon footprint over the last two decades. Every year our mission is to figure out how to make our touring even more sustainable.” Hear Dave Matthews discuss his belief in sustainable touring in this video:

Other artists have similarly sought to contribute. The British rock group Radiohead promotes sustainability by consciously choosing venues that can be reached by mass transit and by rewarding concertgoers who use public transportation by giving them exclusive passes and privileges.

The Boston-based alternative rock band Guster has been a leading voice for environmental change on the road. In 2004, band member Adam Gardner started the nonprofit organization Reverb, dedicated to greening the touring of musicians. Guster has since helped improve the practices of more than 100 artists—the Dave Matthews Band included. 

Listen to Guster (below) discuss their 2010 Campus Consciousnesses Tour, which promoted a holistic approach to sustainable music touring and incorporated fans in the efforts to be greener. And check out Guster’s lastest project, Green Music Group, a coalition that brings together musical acts as diverse as Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, and Maroon 5 under the common purpose of being more eco-conscious.

And we can all do our part as well. The next time you’re at a concert, take a second before the encore starts to think a little about the impact you’re making and how you can be more eco-aware while still succumbing to the beauty of the sounds.

Amy Curtis is a student at the University of Virginia and an intern at New Dream.