While I've so far struck out in my quest to get artists from Langerado to talk to me about their green actions, I did was lucky enough to spend some time on the phone the other day with Brian Allenby of Reverb, an tour greening consultancy. Founded in 2004 by Adam Gardner of Guster and his Lauren Sullivan, Reverb is a literal marriage of their joint passions for music and the environment. Before starting Reverb, Lauren worked for environmental organizations including the Rainforest Action Network, and Adam, is, well, in Guster, so this was a pretty natural extension of their twin passions. But this is way more than a pet project for a rock star's wife--Reverb has a large client list including luminaries like Dave Matthews and is growing by leaps and bounds.
Brian met Adam and Lauren when he was working for Native Energy, an outfit I profiled in my first interview for GreenBase. Before his work with Native Energy, Brian managed Star Hill, a 500 seat club in Charlottesville, VA and did other concert promotion in the area, so this position is obviously a perfect fit for him. Brian handles day-to-day management of operations for Reverb out of the company's Portland, Maine, offices. The shop has 4-5 people in the office all year, and as many as 6-8 people on the road during the summer season.
Jason Turgeon: What other acts besides Guster are you working with?
Brian Allenby: We're working with artists like John Mayer, the Fray, the Dave Matthew band, and this year, Jose Gonzalez, and Serj Tankian, the lead singer from System of a Down. We're working with a group called Sixth Man. They put out a lot of the rock cruises that go out. They do Rock Boat and Simple Man, which is a Lynard Skynard cruise. They actually book a ship back-to-back, so they end up with six weeks of cruises. The two we worked on were the Mayercraft Carrier, which is John Mayer's cruise, and Ships and Dip 3, which is Bare Naked Ladies and Guster.
JT: I hadn't realized there was such a demand for rock cruises.
BA: Yeah, they're pretty big. The boats we were on hold between 2500 and 2700 people. Cruise ships are tough. Inherently, they're not very environmentally friendly. So we did the carbon offset program, because there's no way to do biodiesel or anything like that. Last year, we were able to offset over 3000 tons of CO2 on the BNL cruise, which is the equivalent of taking over 500 cars off the road for a year. We also worked with the cruise line to do things like corn plastic straws, recycled toilet paper in the cabins, we had stony field organic yoghurt, and green mountain organic fair trade coffee.
JT: Has the cruise line been receptive?
BA: They've been very receptive. They're in a place where they can't continue to go on this way. There aren't going to be wonderful, beautiful places for them to visit if they don't help take care of it. They have an environmental officer on board each cruise and they take this seriously.
JT: So what does someone who works for you on one of the tours do in their day to day that makes the tour greener?
BA: We kind of call them our eco swat team. They're basically integrated right into the artist's crew. One of the first things they do when an artist rolls into the venue is coordinate biodiesel fuelings. They'll actually have a tanker truck come out to the venue and fuel all of the buses and trucks . It actually makes it easier for the band, because they don't have to stop through a truck stop later on when they're driving that night. They'll head on over to the catering area. A lot of the larger artists will actually have a caterer traveling with them. [A caterer we often use] already use[s] a lot of the biodegradable and compostable products like corn starch cups and potato starch bowls, that sort of thing.
JT: When you're using these products, do you actually sort them out so they don't end up back in the landfill?
BA: We try to as much as possible. A lot of venues are starting to compost, which is great. The Tweeter Center near you in Boston was one of the first. They compost everything. We walk outside the catering area and can just throw everything right in the compost. But one of the best things to do is not to use disposable products at all. That's really one thing we try to encourage. The best thing is to use china and silverware, but where we do have to use disposable stuff, we try to compost as much as possible.
[getting back to the job description] So then they'll put out the recycling bins, backstage, at the catering area, in the production offices. Then they'll work with either the promoter or a local recycling company to either drop off the recycling at the end of the show or have them come pick it up. Then during the day, it's setting up the eco-village, which is the fan interaction area. There are a number of tents we send out on the road. We'll have local and national environmental groups come out to promote, do fan carbon offsets. We try to make it as fun for people as we can, we'll have artists sign a guitar and do raffles, that sort of thing.
One of the other responsibiliites is training volunteers. On a larger tour we'll have 8-15 volunteers come out to a show, so we have to educate the volunteers.
JT: It sounds like these venues are pretty big places, like Tweeter. Do you do smaller clubs?
BA: We do some, like Jose Gonzalez this summer will be playing a lot of smaller venues. In those cases, it's hard for us to set up as much stuff just because there's not as much space, so we can't do an eco-village. We'll try to integrate our presence with their existing merchandise tables. But even though it's scaled back a bit, we're still there working on the same stuff.
JT: Do you find that venues are receptive?
BA: They're all very receptive. You'll find that venues, as we hit them two, three, four times over the course of a summer, they've started doing some of these things themselves. Live Nation's bulk paper purchases, their office paper, it's all 100% post-consumer recycled now. As they see how easy it is, they start making it part of their day-to-day operations, making it business as usual. We really haven't found anybody who is resistant to it at all.
JT: Do you find anyone that is so good that your work is done for you?
BA: We haven't found any places where there is no work to be done, but it's certainly become a lot easier. With the composting, we'll still have to provide the biodegradable products, but now there will at least be a compost bin for us to put them in. Everybody's taking steps. There's always a lot of work to do, and every time we clear one of those hurdles, we look forward and say, well what's the next thing? One thing we're really focusing on this summer is how do we encouraging carpooling and ride-sharing to a lot of these shows. Most of the shows are 20 to 30 miles outside of the population center, and there's very rarely any public transportation to these events. People don't want to have to drive 45 minutes home. It's a pain. Maybe there's an average of 2 people in a car, but that's still 10,000 cars. So we're really trying to figure out a way where we can work with the artist, with the venues, with some of the ride sharing groups. Looking at the environmental footprint of a show, probably 80% of the CO2 that's released is from fan transportation. You're looking at 10,000 cars traveling 60 miles roundtrip, that's 600,000 miles of driving. For one show.
JT: So are the fans receptive to this? Are they driving the bands to this? Or are the bands saying to the fans, "we want to be greener and so should you?"
BA: I think it's a combination of both. There are some artists who really, altruistically, feel that this is what they want to do. It's important to them, so they make that commitment to the environment, working with groups like us. It certainly doesn't hurt when there is a warm response from the fans. I think that most of the bands we work with, there is an artist, someone in the band, who goes to their management and says "we've got to do something about how we're touring." We are seeing great reactions from the fans. Just one artist on stage saying, "we're trying to take some steps to reduce our footprint on tour, go check out the eco-village," will drive huge traffic through the tents. We try to tie it in and incentivize the fans to do it as well, whether it's signed merch or some sort of thing like that to help further that connection between the artist and the fan. In the environmental action, everybody needs to be doing this together.
JT: Do you worry that people will feel like they're being preached to?
BA: We make a real effort to not preach at all. We have two sayings here. Thou shalt not be a buzzkill and thou shalt not preach. It's all about enhancing the experience, making it more fun for people. The last thing we want is an artist getting on stage and casting doom and gloom. People are there for a concert, first and foremost.
JT: What's the one challenge you keep running into over and over again?
BA: The carpooling. So many of these tours are based in these amphitheaters. What do you do about the traffic? That and keeping enough staff on board--we have so many artists coming to us, especially smaller artists, that we need to be better at educating people through our website. We're past the point now where we have to convince people to do this. Bands are coming to us now saying that they want to do this.
JT: That's a good problem to have.
JT: How would you qualify success? What's the perfectly green tour look like to you?
BA: I want to see as many fans as I can walking away, taking at least one action in their daily lives. That's success for us. The real end goal is to educate the fans, using the artists and the media pull they have. Someone like Dave Matthews reaches three quarters of a million people on tour. Even if all of those people just change one light bulb or switch to reusable water bottles, that's a big difference. And we want to have a friendly competition between John Mayer and Dave Matthews, to see which tour can be greener.
JT: So what's in heavy rotation on your ipod?
BA: Let me tell you exactly, in itunes, I'll see what my play count is. Number one is a song "Start Anew," the artist is Watercolor off an album called Beautiful Mistakes. The artist, Joe, is in Guster as well.
The hunt starts today at 4:30pm down at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco where treasure hunters receive a series of clues that take them all over North Beach, Chinatown, Russian Hill and the Financial District. The clues lead hunters to a specific intersection, storefront, fire station, or statue where a riddle must be decoded. The clues are written in a film noir sensibility, and the hunt takes place amidst the cacophony of colors, firecrackers, and Chinese beauty queens that is the Chinese New Year parade--so it's extra fun.
Even if you're not into treasure hunts, and furthermore, treasure hunts that take place during rainstorms with expected 50 mile per hour winds (ugg), this experience provides an amazing opportunity to see a city in a new way. The treasure hunt requires that hunters do not use cars, public transit, or bicycles while they solve the clues, so hunters are forced to experience San Francisco by foot. Last year's hunt taught me tons of new reasons to love San Francisco--reasons I missed whizzing by street corners in cars, buses, or on my bike.
Regardless of whether you live in San Francisco, care about treasure hunts, or minimize your environmental impact through public transportation, there are major benefits to taking your time and exploring the place you live on foot. Sustainability, yes, is about conserving resources, but on a broader scale, it's about behavioral changes and deepened relationships. Slowing down and looking at a city you may have lived in for a long time reinvigorates your relationship with the place you live and you're more apt to care about how you treat it and how it treats you.
Grist posted a very interesting article on Fidel Castro's resignation and the implications it may have on biofuel production.
Reposted from Grist: Maybe They Can Use Cigars as Fuel Fidel Castro's resignation may boost biofuels in Cuba
Fidel Castro's step down after 49 years as Cuba's leader may have implications for biofuels in the country. Castro was outspokenly critical of U.S. biofuel policy, and blocked a proposed expansion by ag giant Archer Daniels Midland into Cuba in the 1990s. But Fidel's brother Raul, who will assume leadership of Cuba, is a biofuels supporter. Industry analysts have projected that Cuba has the potential to produce up to 3.2 billion gallons of sugar-cane ethanol per year, and the country recently began overhauling its 17 ethanol refineries. Some see a Brazil -- with less internal demand for biofuels, and thus more export capacity -- in the making.
Seems my passion for all things green and musical is rubbing off on Grist editor Sarah van Schagen, who has reported on the greening of Bonnaroo, given us a good comparison chart of the greenest music festivals, and now has posted an interview with Aussie artist Xavier Rudd, following up on last year's heart-to-heart with fellow down-under heartthrob John Butler. What is it about the Aussies that they keep popping up on the green-music radar?
But Sarah's got more than just a passing fancy for musical men at work--she's got a long and growing list of green music stories, as well as a smattering of Hollywood (ick) coverage and an oh-so-cute affection for alliteration.
How do we compare as green-music bloggers? Like me, Sarah was disappointed in Sasquatch for its halfhearted greening efforts at last year's festival, but unlike me, Sarah was actually there. And while Sarah posted way, way more about Bonnaroo than I did, and got to have interviews with musicians thanks to her all-access press pass, I still think my post on the big bash was pretty good. More recently, we'veboth commented in passing on surfer-boy Jack Johnson. And while we have also both covered BioWillie, she picked up on his book while I picked on him (but just a little) for the questionably sustainable concept of BioDiesel. And neither ofus could make heads or tails of the Virgin Music Festival's decision to use Darryl Hannah as an official spokesflack. But while she gets interviews with fun musicians like Michael Franti and covers important, erm, news like the greening of Maroon 5 (only comment to that story: "such a shame they're terrible"), I dig out the real movers and shakers behind the green music scene with interviews likethese. But I totally whiffed it on the Grammys. Sorry, kids!
Bottom line? It's not a competition, obviously, although I bet I could drink her under the table (a table at Bonnaroo covered in organic beer served in compostable cups, natch). Instead, I'll just continue to clue you folks in whenever she posts another exceptional article, and be glad that someone else out there cares about getting to listen to music without having to feel all guilty about it. And Sarah, I expect to see you at a music festival or 10 this summer. Until then, I'll be watching you!
Environmental Leader reported the news that fighting climate change has now found its way into video games:
IBM Launches PowerUp - Online Climate Change Game
A new IBM promotion comes in the form of a free multiplayer online game, PowerUp, that challenges players to help save the planet “Helios” from ecological disaster.
The game is part of IBM’s TryScience initiative and was launched at Engineer’s Week 2008. The game features a planet in near ecological ruin where three exciting missions for solar, wind and water power must be solved before sandstorms, floods or SmogGobs thwart the rescue. IBM says that it devised the 3D virtual game to engage kids and educators in engineering, energy, and diversity awareness.
Along with the game, there will be classroom lesson plans associated with the energy transformation topics and an interactive module where kids can learn about 3D technologies to build virtual worlds.
Last year, Chevron and The Economist Group launched an online game, Energyville, that looks at the economic, environmental and security opportunities and trade-offs associated with different energy sources. And Electronic Arts and BP collaborated to include climate change scenarios within SimCity Societies.
Lest you think that all I care about is Langerado, here is a roundup of newsworthy events that have crossed my desk recently.
The Hillside Festival in Guelph, Ontario, (that's the great white north for all you geographically impaired Americans) goes where other festivals dare not tread: free drinking water, reusable beer mugs, and, no foolin', they will even wash your dishes for you to keep you from using paper plates.
Scotland's T in the Park festival makes an unsubstantiated claim to be the world's largest carbon neutral event. The festival will also be selling combined bus/festival tickets, something I'd like to see more of at US festivals.
Australia's festivals join up for a "summer of sustainability." Details, announced only through a myspace blog, are limited, but so far Falls Festival, Big Day Out, St Jeromes Laneway and Golden Plains have all joined on to the effort. Since the festival season has just wrapped up down under, I presume that this is an effort for summer 08-09 (sounds kinda strange, doesn't it?).
Also on the down-under tip, some old news that I'd meant to report on long ago, but never got around to. The Peats Ridge Festival, widely regarded as the most eco-friendly festival in the world, was unfortunately cancelled this time around due to massive floods. Enthusiastic Al Glore fans point fingers.
(update: the amazing venues and December Sunshine have now officially put Golden Plains and Peats Ridge as the two festivals I most want to attend but will never be able to afford airfare for. Check out the setup for the lucky 7500 festival-goers at GP. Woodstock, it ain't!)
Speaking of enthusiastic fans, the NY Times gets all fan-boy about Jack Johnson, waxing poetic about both his lyrics and his green creds. To his credit, Johnson has the decency to note that his music is "mellow to the point of annoying."
Speaking of eco-stoners, green-leaning festival Bonnaroo announced their lineup not long ago. Johnson will be headlining this year, with fellow green scenester Willie Nelson also on the bill. Hot tip if you're headed to Bonnaroo this year: do not miss Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. I don't know how green she is, but her voice is pure gold and her moves are red-hot. Run don't walk, kiddies, because between her set and My Morning Jacket, the tickets have already paid for themselves.
Yesterday my friend opened the new issue of Vanity Fair and screamed, "YES! Bikes are the new must-have fashion accessory of the season!" Sure enough, he showed me the new DKNY ad on the second page that showed a well-dressed buxom blond cycling across the Brooklyn Bridge. In fact, DKNY, has parked orange bicycles all over NYC to show their solidarity for the green movement (and, probably, do a little advertising for fashion week).
Here in my little corner of the world, almost every day I see a cyclist pedaling against another oil war--yes, I live in San Francisco, but I imagine wherever you are, there's someone in your community who's doing their part to combat climate change through their transportation choices. Besides that, bikes are a great way to get yourself from place to place and not worry about parking your car or the bus showing up on time. They provide great exercise, and they're a lot less expensive than cars.
In other corners of the world I rarely see, people's use of bikes is less a solution that favors conveiniance, exercise, making an environmental statement, or selling clothes ---it's a way of life. A team of designers from Menlo Park recently won the "Innovate Or Die" design competition with their Aquaduct, Mobile Filtration Unit. The Aquaduct serves communities who travel to natural fresh water sources to get the water their families need for cooking, drinking, and bathing. The Aquaduct team's solution is elegant, simple, practical, and downright cool. I have a feeling I'll read about this in next year's NYT awards for the best ideas of the year. This idea certainly tops my list!
Here's the Aquaduct (makes those orange bikes look pretty shabby, eh?:
Ripped straight out of Reuters for your reading pleasure, here's some news that should make Earth Day a little more fun this year.
NEW YORK (Billboard) - The 2008 Green Apple Festival won't "change the world," Green Apple founder/executive producer Peter Shapiro says, but this year's third installment of the event will expand from three locations to eight U.S. city parks for simultaneous outdoor festivals on April 20.
In an effort to raise the profile of Earth Day (April 22), producers of the Green Apple Festival, in collaboration with the Earth Day Network and presenting sponsor Chase, will set up free concerts in New York (Central Park), Washington, D.C. (the National Mall), Chicago (Lincoln Park Zoo), Miami (Bicentennial Park), Denver (City Park), Dallas (Fair Park), San Francisco (Golden Gate Park) and Los Angeles (Santa Monica Pier).
No artists have yet been confirmed, but "we're looking to have as an eclectic lineup as we can," Shapiro says, adding that about four "big acts" will perform in each city.
During the two days before the festival, approximately 150 music clubs across the country will be enlisted to help spread the message of environmental awareness. Each venue will be encouraged to use environmentally friendly supplies, such as biodegradable cleaning materials and recycled napkins and paper towels. In addition, "We're going to encourage the talent at all of these shows to acknowledge from the stage that it's Earth Day," says Shapiro, who owned the now-closed environmentally focused New York venue Wetlands Preserve. "We'll also ask the bands to make a contribution to an environmentally oriented charity of their choice."
With such acts as Bob Weir & Ratdog, the Decemberists, Taylor Hicks, Stephen Marley and Kaiser Chiefs, last year's festival, billed as the largest carbon-neutral event of its kind, took place in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Shapiro says the shows drew 15,000, 40,000 and 25,000 people, respectively. He hopes the 2008 fest will draw 500,000 concertgoers across the board.
"What's exciting is that Green Apple will be the biggest Earth Day event in the country," he says.
Temple nightclub in San Francisco is joining the ranks of a handful of clubs around the world who are going green. In 2004, owner Paul Hemming set his sights on creating the greenest nightclub in the world - since then, every facet of the business “adheres to the triple bottom line of People, Profit and Planet.”
According to Mike Zuckerman, Director of Sustainability for the club:
We started with consumables, the no brainers. Compostable cups, straws, all corn starch based. We recycle our bottles and we compost our food. The easiest things to implement are the ones with immediate financial returns. We get rebates and receive credits on our waste bills by keeping up good recycling and composting practices. We try to take the decision making out of the partiers hands when they get to the venue so all they need to think about is having a good time.
Additionally, Temple is equipped with energy efficient light bulbs, only uses non-toxic cleaning products, and organic food is served whenever possible.
The club has a laundry list of progressive plans for the future that include a vertical garden, a piezoelectric dance floor that harnesses dancers’ energy and converts it into electricity, a solar panel system actually built into the building facade, and an urban windmill.
So thanks to my recent interview with Kelly Viau, I was able to score myself a press pass to Langerado, on the condition that I do a little pre-show publicity. I'm so OK with quid pro quo (outside of my government day job, natch), it's not even funny. But my interview recently pretty much exhausted the green agenda at Langerado, so I think I'll put up a couple of posts between now and March 6 investigating whichofthemanybandsperforming are so green it hurts and which ones just want your money. And when I get back, after I take a shower and detox my liver, I'll report on just how successful the greening effort really was.
Is there a band in the lineup you want me to dig up some dirt on? Hit me up in the comments. Now, here's a little (video) story about three young brothers you know so well:
If you're a regular reader, you know I love me some Kelley Stoltz. His newest album has been on almost constant rotation since I got my paws on it a few weeks ago.
Circular Sounds finds Stoltz still alone in his home recording studio, but this time hanging out with his Gretchs, Gibsons, and Ricki Ram more than the piano pictured on the cover of his critically acclaimed album, Below the Branches.
Stoltz furthered his commitment to the environment with his new album and again offset the electricity used to record it with help from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation and Green-e. He was the first to use that cute 'lil e to signify the fact that he bought certified renewable energy certificates to green the recording back in 2006. Music often tells the story you don't have the guts to tell. On "Put My Troubles to Sleep", Circular Sounds tells the story of breaking up with your lover and rolling over to their side of the bed and finding them not there. "Morning Sun" revels in the moments early in the morning when the city around you is just waking up. "To Speak to the Girl" rounds off the batch by simply describing that "it's hard.....to speak to the girl."
So if you find it hard to speak to the girl, let Circular Sounds speak for you. The jams will speak to you here.
In "businessy" circles, the "Google caveat" often comes into play. Basic business strategy suggests that you do what you love, do what you love well, and stick to what you love doing and don't try and do too many other things---except of course if you're Google, maybe because they seem to do EVERYTHING well. Like if you're a band, you play and record songs that resonate with your audience and evoke emotions that positively impact their lives--you wouldn't start manufacturing micro-processors and selling them at your gigs--it would take away from the time you should be spending writing killer jams. Although the Jack White USB drive is topping my coveted items list right now.....
Being a Google user (like most of the free world), I enjoy a lovely user experience. I can email, share documents, pictures, blog posts, maps, and on and on and on. I have some gripes about their privacy policies and their entrance into the Chinese market several years ago, but for the most part, I'm OK with the free service I use, I'm pretty good at tuning out advertising.
So, it was with some delight and confusion that I read the announcement last year that Google was broadening their core products to solve not only the problem of organizing the world's information, but also solving another pressing problem in our society: energy resources. Unless the Google homepage could turn any computer screen to become a solar panel, I must admit, I was a bit confused at their new endeavor being consistent with the other products they offer.
I was lucky enough to spend an hour with Kelly Viau, Bryan Birch, John Long, and Lucas Erickson for an interview earlier today. Kelly works for two separate companies that share several employees. Not only does she handle sponsorships for Cloud 9 Adventures, the production company behind JamCruise and Caribbean Holidaze, but she also works for Langerado, the rapidly growing music festival coming up next month at Big Cypress Seminole Reservation outside of Fort Lauderdale.
John, Bryan, and Lucas are the three founders of ZeroHero Events, an event greening service based in Fort Collins, CO, that is helping to green both Jam Cruise and Langerado. When they're not greening other people's festivals, they're dreaming up ways to make their own festival greener. Now in its 9th year, the Rocky Mountain Sustainable Living Fair is expected to draw 10,000 people and 150 vendors this summer, and the ZeroHero crew is working hard to draw a few big-name bands to the event this September. Bryan handles the education component of ZeroHero's events, John is the renewable energy guru and founder of Blue Sun Biodiesel, and Lucas works to make sure mountains of waste aren't left behind.
An hour wasn't nearly enough time for me to ask all the pressing questions I had about how the team has tackled the big job of greening these festivals, but we gave it our best shot. Our conversation ranged from the best species of mustard to use for sustainable biodiesel production to the pressing need for condoms on a tiny tropical island off the coast of Honduras. Enjoy!
Jason Turgeon:Tell me about the relationship between ZeroHero and Kelly's work.
Bryan Birch: We came on almost a year ago to help reach new heights by improving to improve the practices of the cruise ship, which was a really interesting venture. We further developed a recycling program and focused on using more sustainable products. The Jam Cruise “Leaving a Positive Legacy Program” was a huge success this year. We offloaded three pallets of school supplies for school kids in Roatan and condoms for an AIDS clinic there working with Trojan as a sponsor. Kelly helped out with pulling sponsors like Trojan in. We're trying to develop a positive legacy with JamCruise. That's also an important part of the process for us in all our work. In festivals, there's an incredible wealth of talent and resources both from artists and passengers. There's a very conscious crowd in the scene, and everyone is always willing to help out.
Kelly Viau: The greening program on JamCruise has been part of the event since the first year, and is led by the vision of Ann Kenworthy. [note: the most recent event was JamCruise 6]. For a number of years we worked with Rock the Earth. This past year we made the move to bring in ZeroHero to bring some of these programs to the next level. It's something that's sort of developed over the last six years.
Lucas Erickson: It's an evolution, it's a process, where every year we try to continue to improve what's taken place next year.
JT: How does your choice of a particular ship or cruise line impact your ability to green the JamCruise event each year?
BB: This year with MSC, they valued us a customer so much that they opened up support for us for the 5 day cruise. They gave us a great deal of access, and we had a lot of support from the cruise staff.
JT: Do you think what you're doing is carrying over to other cruises after your event is done?
KV: I think it absolutely impacts the way they approach other cruises. This will be our fourth year with MSC. We're starting to see littlle changes throughout their other cruises. They're not huge steps for people like us that think about this every day, but they're big steps for an organization that doesn't. A little bit really goes a long way. We're now starting to see at least an open conversation on using biodiesel on cruise ships.
JT: Moving on to Langerado, now that you're in Big Cypress, what do you have planned from a green perspective?
BB: We have a set of messages to help improve the event. With each message there will be a program associated with it. The ZeroHero philosophy is to help create an event that becomes green by having aware attendees. Different programs that we're working with specifically are the Leave no Trace program working with Clean Vibes, and Sustainable Product Sourcing, or SPS. Every year it gets easier. One of the biggest challenges to event greening is to get everyone on the same page.
Renewable energy is a huge program aspect this year. Every light tower, every stage, and all the generators will be powered by biodiesel. It's available to artists as well. We're also involved in fueling at Lollapalooza.
JT: Do you see artists asking for access to biodiesel?
John Long: Definitely. For some artists its pretty important, but access has always been an issue. Each year access grows for artists to be able to fill up on biodiesel. It's a real challenge to find, but pump growth and retail locations are expanding. It's becoming a lot more viable for artists and attendees to expect biodiesel at the festivals.
JT: Will you use biodiesel blends or B100?
JL: Basically we've gotten b20 approved for everything--forklifts, light towers, generators. Some of the artists are very interested in running b100 or something in between for their tour buses.
LE: We'll also be offsetting all the carbon emissions from production as well as all the trucks and buses that artists are bringing. We're partnering with an organization called Trees, Water, & People to help with offsetting. And Langerado already has an ongoing partnership with Native Energy for ticket buyers to offset part of their emissions for travel to the festival.
JT: how does Trees, Water, & People work?
LE: They support self-sustaining tree nurseries in Central America. They employ local people to keep those going, and do a good job of making sure that all the trees that they plant are going to grow up to be a mature tree. They also have a another program that's really good called the stoves program. They go into these very low income communities in Honduras and Nicaragua. They've developed these stoves that take the place of the sort of open campfires that people were cooking over in their houses. A leading cause of death in women and children in these countries is respiratory health. They also offset carbon because they use so little wood to keep these going with little pieces of biomass like twigs and pine cones instead of going out and cutting down trees.
BB: One thing that Trees, Water, & People does is hook up their tree nurseries with their stove program. They have hardwoods and fruit trees which they count towards carbon offsetting, and they also have fast growing fuel wood softwoods that they do not. They won the Ashton Award for Climate Change. One thing that's important to us when we choose an offset program is that there is a lot of transparency. This improves social health as well as the environment.
LE: A very important part of that is the economic sustainability that they offer. We're very proud to be working with them.
JT: Do you tie each of these programs into the education component?
BB: That's right. We combine each one with the idea that simple is good. We'll do a series of simple messages that relate to the attendees that will tie into one of the programs at the event. It's a way that we can tie this into things that attendees can do.
LE: It all ties together into the ecovillage that we're setting up. We're bringing a lot of non-profits and for-profits that all have an ecological goal, plus some cool artwork and really interesting workshops.
KV: We call it Greenerado. There's going to be a stage in there, too. Were going to have the Spam Allstars, the School of Rock Allstars, Trevor Hall, Steel Train, Pete Francis of Dispatch, the Wood Brothers, and the Heavy Pets.
LE: The Wood Brothers are going to be there? That's awesome!
BB: We'll be spending a lot of time in that ecovillage. (laughing)
KV: Greenerado is in the heart of the festival, and metaphorically we do consider that to be the heart. What happens there rays out into the rest of the event.
BB: We'll do some positive legacy programs as well. We're still working out some details on what those will be. We'd like to leave a positive legacy with Big Cypress after Langerado is over. Through greening specifically, we'll try to foster that.
JT: Let me ask you to respond to some of the recent criticisms surrounding biodiesel and the use of monocultures and lots of chemical fertilizers to grow crops. Some people question whether or not that's the best way to reduce our use of fossil fuels.
BB: We feel that biofuels are imporant. They're an important transition to a sustainable economy. It's on a spectrum. There are some practices that are already there, and there are some that are along the way. That's where I feel that biofuels, including ethanol, are. There are a lot of biodiesel alternatives that are coming along right now.
JL: Blue sun biodiesel has been working on this for several years to find crops and methods that are fighting monoculture and high use of chemicals in agriculture as well as irrigation, since we're out in CO, essentially in a desert environment. We've been working for six years with canellina and canola, both plants in the mustard family, that are drought tolerant so that we can move away from soy and even worse, palm, where they are basically destroying the rain forest to grow these crops. It's going to take time, it's a transition now, and it's not perfect. We're using a lot of soy in the industry now, but it's better than using corn for ethanol.
The canola is a rotation crop for winter wheat. We're targeting winter wheat farmers in the western states to grow these mustard varieties that will improve the yield and reduce their water use. Some of the varieties will grow without any additional irrigation and with much less chemical input than are needed with corn and soy. Also, they're all non-GMO varieties that we're using.
LE: The future of algae is another feedstock that's very exciting.
JL: Algae is maybe 2-5 years out, but Blue Sun is very involved with several companies that are doing research on it. Jatropha is another very exciting crop, it's a dry land shrub that's native to Central America. You can grow it in Mexico and the oil can be converted to biodiesel and used here. It can't freeze, so we can't grow it in our backyard, but growing it in Mexico, it's closer to us from a transportation standpoint than the midwest. That crop gets 8-10 times more oil/acre than soybeans do. Some of the big oil companies are using it already.
JT: Like who?
JL: BP is growing plantations in Africa and India. There's not a whole lot of production in Central America yet. It takes 2 years for the plantation to mature. That 2 years is the only time that they need any irrigation. After that, the plant needs no water or chemical input, it grows like a weed. Basically it's a living fence, a six-foot high fence.
JT: Considering your new home is in Big Cypress, and the Big Cypress and Everglades areas are really suffering from a history of poor water management, are you going to focus at all on water at Langerado?
LE: As part of the Leaving a Positive Legacy Program, we will be trying to improve the everglades in some way. We're still working out how.
KV: We will do something positive with the greywater from the event. The uncontaminated water will be used for spraying on the roads to cut down on dust.
JT: I guess it's about time to wrap up. Before we finish, do you mind telling me who you're most excited about seeing at Langerado this year?
JL: I'm old school--I'm psyched for the Beastie Boys!
LE: I'm really excited about the Wood Brothers.
JT: I heard you mention them earlier. Who are they?
LE: It's Chris Wood from Martin, Medeski, and Wood, and his brother Oliver. I'm especially excited now that I know they'll be on the green stage. They're amazing, but not very many people know about them, because they're fairly new to the music scene.
KV: I'm most excited about the bands that I've never heard of, the unknowns and the up and comings. That's what I always like best, finding some new bands that I hadn't heard before and getting to know them.
JL: That's very diplomatic of you, Kelly.
LE: Kelly for President! (laughing)
And there you have it. I wish we'd had more time to spend on this interview, as this was a really knowledgeable bunch of people with some great ideas on greening events. Until next time, here's a little video of the soon-to-be-famous Wood Brothers doing their thing.