Updated: Sep 8, 2020
How can music embrace ecological responsibility? Music and sustainability are two areas that at first glance do not have much in common. But there are many areas where musicians can take ecological responsibility and make a significant contribution to making our world more sustainable.
Meanwhile, there are many good examples of artists using their platform to campaign for environmental and climate protection and to assume ecological responsibility themselves. There are many ways in which musicians can do this - at the forefront of environmental activism, you can find artists like Radiohead, Coldplay, Massive Attack, Grimes, or Peggy Gou. In this article, we give you a brief overview of what artists are doing for our planet and how each and every one of us can help to make the music industry greener.
It's a matter of finding a greener way to perform
Neil Young is a true eco-friendly pioneer, he pioneered the use of biodiesel fuel in the music industry and inspired many more after him to do so. On his tour in 2004, he already used 15 vehicles that ran on fuels made from vegetable and soy oil. In 2007, the British band Radiohead commissioned a comprehensive CO2 measurement of their own tour activities. The measurements of the American band, for example, showed that 9,000 tonnes of CO2 was only caused by their "Amphitheatre Tour" in 2003. Frontman Thom Yorke made it clear that although he finds energy consumption on tour inexpressible, he could not and would not do without live performances. The band took the consequences and went on their Carbon Neutral World Tour in 2008. The tour equipment was sent by ship from England to the USA, the tour bus ran on biofuel and the audience was encouraged to carpool or use public transport on the way to the concert halls. Radiohead has thus inspired many artists to a sustainable rethink.
The British band Coldplay has gone a step further by announcing at the end of 2019 that they will not tour the world again until it is completely climate-friendly. Since then the band has been working on a tour concept completely without disposable plastic, which ideally works with solar energy. "Our next tour will be the best possible version of an eco-friendly tour," announced Chris Martin, singer of the band at the time. But young artists like Billie Eilish also take ecological responsibility on tour, for example by banning plastic straws and encouraging fans to bring refillable water bottles.
The awareness of sustainability in music runs through all genres and all generations.
Artists like Berlin based electronic music artist Peggy Gou have environmental demands built into their contracts when they tour, such as bans on plastic cutlery in backstage catering. Sheryl Crow was using in her 2010 tour only biodegradable and compostable catering, reusable water bottles, biodiesel fuel and neutralized almost 1,5 million pounds of CO2. Catering plays an important role in music in terms of sustainability. At best, it should be regional, seasonal, and plant-based and not just backstage. Even at large music events, we as music fans can consciously opt for vegan, regional cuisine and thus make an important contribution to climate protection.
Another very nice aspect of how musicians can draw attention to the topic of sustainability and environmental protection is the content of their songs. Jack Johnson's songs, for example, are primarily about the beauty of nature, which he fights to preserve at all costs. Jack Johnson and his crew only travel to their concerts and festivals with vehicles that burn biodiesel and drink water from recycled and reusable bottles. In addition, free parking stations are offered for concert-goers who visit the shows by bicycle. And finally, he starts the attempt to change the venues themselves in the long run by having energy-efficient light bulbs installed there.
The concert venues themselves can also play an important role in terms of sustainability. There are several halls around the world that are completely powered by renewable energy sources. Groups such as the German band Seeed attach great importance to this aspect and therefore only play in venues that use renewable energy and we as music consumers can also focus on this when choosing a concert venue. What we as concert-goers can also do is to make our journey as ecological as possible, be it by bicycle, public transport, or in carpools.
In addition, Jack Johnson donates the entire proceeds of his tour to non-profit organizations.
Since the founding of the "All At Once" movement, more than $4 million has been collected and used for beach clean-ups or educational work to educate schools about the effects of plastic pollution in the environment. As a surfer and native Hawaiian, he is concerned about the enormous pollution of the oceans and therefore supports organizations like "Surfrider" or "5Gyres", which take care of cleaning beaches littered with plastic.
How fashion positively influences the environmental awareness of music
An artist from Germany who is very concerned about the well-being of our oceans is the Rostock rapper Marteria, who in February launched Back2Green, a completely climate-neutral fashion collection. Green Berlin has calculated the emissions of its Back2Green collection and then offset them worldwide through climate protection projects. The Berlin label's first slow fashion collection is made of recycled polyester and organic cotton and was produced under fair conditions in Europe. Now it is up to each one of us to promote and support labels and initiatives like these through our consumerism.
A very important aspect that rapper Marteria, like Jack Johnson, takes very much to heart is the use of natural and sustainable themes in the songs themselves. But also female artists such as Grimes are very successful in dealing with this topic. Grimes dedicated an entire album to the "Goddess of Climate Change" with "Miss Anthropocene". But also Foal's current album "Everything not saved will be lost" repeatedly deals with ecological and political topics. And then there are "1975", who start one of their songs on the current album with an essay written by Greta Thunberg. In the essay, which she recites over ambient music from the Manchester band, Thunberg calls for "civil disobedience" and says "it is time to rebel".
The Iceland artist Björk has been involved for a very long time in several campaigns to save her homeland's natural resources. In 2008 she co-founded the Nattura campaign, which is highlighting the threat of the expanding aluminium expanding industry to Iceland's natural beauty. To bring more international attention to this important topic she also released a single with the same title.
So there are many aspects that need to be considered when it comes to green music. These were just a few little foods for thought. The most important thing is that each and every one of us develops an awareness of equality and sustainability and makes decisions that will ultimately lead us to reach our climate goals and make our cultural life more and more sustainable and equal.