The world is our home. We need to take care of it accordingly.
My current tour is taking steps to tread lightly and minimize our ecological footprint. We have taken off the jackboots of Rock ‘n’ Roll-Past and replaced them with the ecological TOMS of today. We have realized that touring needs to be just as sustainable as any other long-term industry. We can no longer shrug off the mountains of plastic left behind after concerts. We can’t ignore the piles of wasted materials that accumulate over the duration of a world tour. We can all do something. We can all chip in to help reduce the devastating effect that a touring can have on the environment. In this article, I’d like to point out five things that roadies could do to help minimize the wasteful effects of the touring industry.
The first three suggestions are kindly provided by Paige Roth at REVERB (reverb.org). REVERB is a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to empowering millions of individuals to take action toward a better future for people and the planet. REVERB is tackling the environmental and social issues we face, while uniting around the music we love. REVERB’s early artist partners were Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson, Maroon 5, John Mayer and Barenaked Ladies. They continue to work with all of them to this day.
REVERB has been so kind as to send out one of their Project Managers, Kris Lamb to implement backstage greening and activating REVERB’s education/outreach front of house programs. I showed Kris how I had previously chosen to save the planet. I showed him my technique of pouring the rum straight into the Coke can without having to use a separate cup or wasting ice. He was impressed. However, we both agreed that Paige’s suggestions would have much more long-lasting effects.
1. Provide water and reusable water bottles to reduce the amount of plastic wasted by the crew and by the audience.
REVERB, through their #RocknRefill campaign and partnership with Nalgene, have targeted single use plastic containers. Single-use plastic water bottles are one of the largest sources of waste at live music events and an unmitigated environmental disaster. From water rights issues, to the production of the bottles, to improper disposal, single-use water bottles, and the industry that supports them, represent an ongoing danger to the health of our planet.
2. Educate artists, promoters and management about simple ways they can reduce the environmental impact of their tours, festivals and venues in order to support important causes.
REVERB has been working with their artists to support a number of causes that will lead to a greener future. They have been working with Dave Matthews band to support wildlife conservation in Africa since 2016. Since 2012, REVERB and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) have also teamed up to engage musicians, fans, lawmakers, and businesses to end the environmental destruction and social justice violations of illegal logging around the world. REVERB has also partnered with HeadCount (headcount.org). HeadCount is a non-partisan organization that works with musicians to promote participation in democracy.
3. Provide opportunities at shows for fan volunteers to engage other fans to take action for people and the planet.
Artists and crewmembers can’t do it alone. No one can make global changes without the support of many. All of us can be active participants in protecting the environment and creating real, large-scale, and measurable change. We believe that making change is not all-or-nothing — many people doing a few things will have more impact than a few people doing everything. If you would like to help REVERB make a difference, volunteer opportunities can be found at reverb.org/volunteer. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org. REVERB has ways for you to get involved. They always need volunteers — if you help them promote positive environmental and social issues, you can get a t-shirt and a pass to watch the show! Win-win!
4. Send the leftover catering to the local community.
Maria Brunner’s husband was a Vietnam vet and he has since passed away. His war experiences had an influence on his passing. She decided to find a way to help the vets in her city of Phoenix as a way to honor him. Four years ago, Maria reached out to her local venue to see if she could obtain their leftover catering to feed the homeless vets in her community of Arizona. She obtained a food handler’s permit, researched many places that needed food and chose The Mana House (manahouseaz.org) to be her recipient for the food. Eighty-four men live in the house if they stay drug and alcohol free. Via that one concert, she was able to feed 68 men the next day. She then approached Kenny Chesney’s team to see if they would be willing to do the same at their stadium show in Phoenix. Via his rehearsal and the show, she fed more than 300 vets. She was asked to do this for the entirety of his stadium shows
nationwide. Maria has fed over 3,000 hungry individuals.
Maria and Insight Management now work with five tours nationwide, Fleetwood Mac being one of them, and hope to continue to feed and educate through the generosity of bands, promoters and venues. This is a labor of love for Maria; she does not get paid to do this. She does it out of caring and knowing there is a real need. If you would like to help Maria in her cause, you can email her at email@example.com. She is willing and able to train anyone who is interested how to help his or her community. She can teach you how to apply for a food handler’s permit and start feeding your local charity. She can also present contacts for local agencies in your marketplace. You can also help by asking your production manager if they are interested in becoming sustainable in the food area by working with their local caterer. You can also speak to a rep at the venue and see if they have interest in learning how to do this. Maria and her team can provide the training so that the love continues to happen long after the show.
5. Recycle unused toiletries from the hotels you stay at.
Recent reports have revealed that each day, hotel guests leave behind millions of half-used soaps and shampoo bottles, which are sent to landfill and are contributing to a growing environmental problem. But there’s more. Hotel toiletries like these are going to landfill while millions of the world’s poorest people who lack access to proper sanitation could really use them. Our production coordinator, Ali Vatter, had already started a hotel toiletry donation system on previous tours so it was easy for the crew to follow suit as REVERB began taking over this responsibility. There is a box in catering where we can all dump our stash of goodies and they will be donated at whichever local shelter we are nearest when the box is full. This costs me nothing, takes no time out of my schedule and benefits someone that I will never know.
These are all examples of tiny steps that we can all take together to make a huge impact.
I hope that you are willing to choose one or more of these suggestions and implement them on your current or upcoming tour.