Green day

The local musician’s guide to touring with an eco-conscience
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY  |  November 7, 2007

Local musicians looking to green up your next tour, we have good news and bad news. The bad news: green transportation is expensive. The good news: you can blame most of your tour’s environmental damage on the fans.

More than 85 percent of a concert’s damage to the environment comes from fans: their travel to and from the venue and on-site wastefulness are much more harmful than the musicians’ energy use and transport, says Brian Allenby, manager of the Maine-based non-profit Reverb, which teaches bands and fans about how to enjoy music and be eco-conscious at the same time.

The company has joined forces with major acts like Barenaked Ladies, Dave Matthews Band, and Guster (whose frontman, Adam Gardner, founded Reverb with his wife, Lauren Sullivan) to bring green touring to the masses. Their concerts have reached more than 4.4 million spectators, reduced almost 27,000 tons of carbon dioxide, and involved nearly 1500 other environmental groups. (The average American emits 7.5 tons of CO2 each year.)

Reverb events feature “eco-villages” of tents and information tables full of literature and games to show spectators how to green their travel (best bets: carpooling and public transportation) and consumer habits. They also offer carbon-offset programs (funding eco-friendly projects like wind turbines and methane-reducing farms) to get fans on their new, green feet.

These large-scale events try to reduce emissions and inform fans en masse, but what can the broke, unsponsored local songwriter do to help? Touring is not a moneymaking enterprise, and while offset programs make it possible to go green, it’s too expensive for anyone without a war chest. The best plan of attack: do what you can, and make sure others do too. Here’s how to get started.

For travel
Consult Bandago (see “Natural Resources”) for biodiesel van-rental options, but it’s a wiser investment to buy your own diesel car. Portland singer-songwriter Emilia Dahlin bought a diesel-powered VW Jetta which she plans to “outfit for grease consumption;” veggie-oil-only kits cost around $600, but pay themselves off quickly. For the less-intense, most diesel vehicles need no modifications to run on a mixture of vegetable oil and petro-diesel. Craigslist and eBay are increasingly popular hubs for eco-friendly car sales. A gallon of biodiesel fuel usually costs a dollar more than regular diesel or unleaded, but your engine (and your gas mileage, often improved by 30 percent) will thank you for it.

At the venue
If you’re feeding yourself, buy local. Try farmers’ markets or organic grocery stores; if the club will feed you, ask them to do the same. Making a large stew or salad is good for the Earth and for the venue’s wallet. (Donate those leftovers, too.) Encourage bars to sell local microbrews and use post-consumer or compostable materials to serve beverages in; ask fans to keep up the demands after you leave town. Allenby notes that these sorts of requests are a true “supply and demand” situation: the more musicians and fans request these eco-friendly measures, the more likely a venue will incorporate them into their business practices. Also, kill those energy-draining light shows; they’re cheesy anyway.

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