I just got back from a great weekend relaxing with my family in Montreal and catching shows at the city's most famous event. Although the festival's almost as old as I am, this was the first time I've been and once I found my way around I was quite impressed.
As I wrote last week, the festival's green focus seems to be limited to transit and recycling/waste reduction. The labeling of the recycling bins was about the best I've seen. These bins really catch the eye, unlike the more common plank with a hole over a 55-gallon drum that I've seen at other festivals. There was no shortage of either trash bins or recycling bins, and I saw very little litter, although that probably has as much to do with the culture of the city and the demographic that attends a free jazz fest as the number of trash bins. Let's just say that while there was Heineken (and nothing but Heineken) everywhere, this wasn't a hard-partying crowd.
While I was in the gift shop waiting out one of several thunderstorms that plagued the weekend, I spotted some interesting but expensive vinyl messenger bags and vinyl-backed notebooks. It took me a while to figure it out, but these items are made from old vinyl banners. I'm not sure if the banners were actually used in previous Jazz Fests or not, but it's one way to mitigate the nastiness of vinyl. Oddly, there was no real info about the products touting green features or telling the story of their reuse. I also spotted some interesting handbags made from old 45s and LPs, another creative reuse of vinyl.
The festival grounds are amazingly well served by public transit, which almost everyone uses. I don't know if it was a conscious choice by the organizers to locate the festival here 29 years ago, but if so, they were very forward thinking. As gas prices continue to rise, hopefully we'll see festivals and concerts relocating to areas that are better served by mass transit.
Montreal is also a very bike-friendly city, and festival organizers provided the most bike-friendly accommodations that I've seen anywhere, with large, well-lit fenced-in bike storage areas set up around the perimeter of the festival zone. It would be absolutely fantastic to see this kind of attention paid to bikers at other city festivals and concerts (see my post about a bike friendly State Radio event here.). Lollapalooza, Bumbershoot, and Austin City Limits, I'm talking to you!
Other than the waste-reduction (not elimination) efforts, offsets provided by sponsor Rio Tinto Alcan, and the tranportation goodness, though, there was none of the other green stuff festival fans have rapidly come to expect. No composting, no rideshare board, no green pavilion or notably green parterships, no biodegradable cups and plates, no free water or promotion of reusable water bottles, and perhaps most shockingly for an area surrounded by farms, no local or organic food.
But while we're speaking about food, it's important to note that Montreal takes its French heritage seriously and the festival food was something of a marvel for those of us who are used to fried dough and six dollar hot dogs. So I'm going to take this opportunity to plead--no, I'm going to get down on my knees and beg--that U.S. festival organizers take a trip to Montreal next year to examine the food. Crepes, fresh fruit, decent sandwiches, $4 hamburgers that taste like real burgers...It's going to be hard to go back to burned chicken kebobs and $5 pizza slices at future festivals.
The long and short of it is that this is a festival that is somewhat green without even trying, which is great. But with a little more effort, organizers could do something really special. It would be great to see them come out swinging for the green fences when they celebrate their 30th anniversary next year. One final note of kudos--for whatever reason, these were among the cleanest festival toilets I've ever seen. Nicely done, Montreal!
As for the music, it was decent, but the free sets didn't feature the stunning performances I've come to expect from musical showcases like Bonnaroo and Langerado. Of course, with the exception of the $50 I dropped on a Hank Jones/Brad Mehldau show, it was entirely free, so I won't complain. I saw perfectly adequate sets by a handful of acts and was pleasantly surprised to see two great soul acts. On Friday, we were able to get within spitting distance of Martha High and the Shaolin Temple Defenders and on Saturday night after Jones/Mehldau, we caught most of the Charlie Walker and the Dynamites set. Walker is one of my favorites and I'm glad I caught him in Montreal since it looks like I'll miss him at Rothbury later this week. If you're going to Rothbury, don't make the same mistake! Sadly, the rest of the audience seemed unmoved by the soul awesomeness coming from the stage, something I thought would be impossible. These acts really need a more intimate venue to really shine, I guess. But the "never-heard-of-'em" highlight of the weekend definitely goes to the French (from France) Kaly Live Dub, who make fantastic electronica sounding dub with real instruments. We walked right up to the front row as they were announcing the band and were treated to a great set. Unfortunately for you, it looks like they're headed back across the pond this week, but mark them in your myspace calendars and keep an eye out for next time.
The Jones/Mehldau set was phenomenal, made even more so by the excellence of the venue, Theatre Jean-Duceppe, a comfortable and intimate gem with absolutely stunning acoustics. From our seats at the centre of Row P, I was getting seriously annoyed by a constant humming sound that seemed to accompany Jones. During the applause, I mentioned it to my girlfriend, who clued me in to the fact that it was actually Jones himself humming along to the tunes. I could hear him clear as day, just as I could hear his foot tapping and almost make out their off-mic whispers when they were deciding which songs to play next. It was a stunning show, one we can only hope sees the light of day as a CD in the future.
I left you with video of Mehldau last time, so here's some Kaly Live Dub to take it away. Enjoy!
So. We all get it: emissions from air travel make a huge impact on an individual's carbon footprint. You can Skype or make more phone calls or in some cases, stream a concert online from the comfort of your desk chair, but sometimes travel over long distances is unavoidable.
Many travel websites and air carriers make it easy to offset the carbon associated with your travel through carbon offsets, but they should be implementing energy efficiency measures in the first place to make the emissions you're generating not so fierce. Some are doing just that.
JetBlue has reported that they are reducing the speed with which a plane flies in order to save fuel--potentially saving you money and saving the amount of fuel burned to get you from point A to point B. This is great--but I have a feeling it's motivated more for reducing the cost of their flights than care for global warming--despite any spin that initiative is getting. Virgin, on the other hand, is taking an even more aggressive stance by saying that they are willing to pay a carbon tax on their air business. Yes. You read this correctly: they are willing to pay a tax voluntarily because they recognize the impact their business offering has on the environment. Pretty rad, if you ask me. Virgin wins again.
I'm leaving tonight for a long weekend in Montreal for Jazz Fest. Luckily for me, I have family living right in the city, so I have a place to stay and people who can show me around. Since this is a family trip, I won't do any live-blogging or interviewing at the festival, but I will have my camera and I'll be taking lots of notes for a review of all things musically green when I return.
Poking around the website, I couldn't find much info on the green-ness of the festival, but thanks to Google I found out a bit more. It looks like the festival, now in its 29th year, has been recycling for 21 of those years. This year's event should have over 150 recycling bins, and they claim that they average about 20 metric tonnes per year of diverted waste. What they don't say is what that is as a percent of the total waste generated. About the only other thing I could find was this PDF press release from the 2007 event providing more detail about the waste reduction part of their greening campaign.
On the transportation side, the festival's location downtown near several major transit options with extremely tight parking virtually forces everyone to use public transit, at least for the last few miles. That's a very good thing. The festival's sponsor, Rio Tinto Alcan, in what some will undoubtedly argue is a bit of greenwashing, is offsetting all of the festival's emissions through 2010.
Other than the recylcing and offsetting, it doesn't look like the greenest of events. I couldn't easily find any info about composting, the extent of the offsets, local or organic food from the region's many farms, green hotels in Montreal, free public water, reusable or compostable food ware, or any of the other items that are quickly becoming de rigeur for a green festival. On the other hand, the location alone gives it green credibility, and it looks like they have a pretty good handle on their recycling program, so that puts it head and shoulders above many other festivals, especially city-run festivals, that I can think of.
But enough green talk--I'm mostly excited about the lineup. I'm going to miss McCoy Tyner and Dave Brubeck, sadly, but if I'm lucky I'll catch one of three Brad Mehldau performances, one of two Charlie Walker sets, and any number of lesser-known bands. And the best part is, almost all of them are free!
When I saw this picture--I salivated--may have been because I missed breakfast, or I was thinking about some grilled hallumi, or I was excited that my BBQ guilt will soon go down a notch. Check this out--a BBQ pack that 's better for the environment AND easier for you to clean up--who says caring is hard?!
Check it out, lighter fluid (crazy chemicals--holla!) is gross-and you injest it every time you eat BBQ. And, no, the ighter fluid isn't what makes it taste so good. In this design, the coals are housed compactly in the Firepack, the device uses them more efficiently and regulates the amount you need--so you don't overpour. Apparently, you just light the bottom of the pack made from 100% recycled paper and presto--in 15 minutes you have a roaring bbq.
By now, I bet you want one, so here, dear readers, is where you get one.
Here's some great news! State Radio, a fantastic Sherborn, Mass., based band with a strong political bent that's been making it big on the festival circuit and opening up for Dave Matthews, is partnering up with fantastic Boston, Mass., based Bikes Not Bombs to get fans to ride their bikes to their upcoming Boston Show.
The show is at Boston's B of A Pavilion, perhaps our finest venue with its open air but under cover location on Boston's waterfront. The one problem with the Pavilion has always been that it is kind of hard to get to for us car-free types. It's about a 15 minute walk from the nearest subway stop, and although access has been improved recently by a new Bus Rapid Transit route that come closer it's a 2-3 seat ride for most attendees. But the location is a perfect spot for biking, with wide, low-traffic streets and plenty of open asphalt nearby to erect bike racks--in fact, I used to work just around the corner and rode to work every day. Until now, though, the Pavilion hasn't ever explicitly welcomed bikes.
From the announcement about the event, it looks like folks who bike to the show get to ride along with the band, which is about as awesome as anything I could dream up. Bike riders will also get entered into a drawing for some kickin' prizes, including a 4-pack of front-row seat upgrades, a new bike, and entrance to a private party with the band after the show. My only complaint is that I won't be able to make it to the show--I'll be in Chicago that day, covering Lollapalooza for this here web-publication. But I'll get a chance to see them at Rothbury, and perhaps I'll be able to snag an interview then.
Bikes Not Bombs, by the way, is my local bike shop, located just a short walk from my apartment in Jamaica Plain. They're an outstanding nonprofit that's about as green as can be. They take old bikes, train local youngsters to refurbish them, and resell them. They also ship old bikes to places like Ghana and El Salvador, where locals are trained to repair and sell them and they provide sustainable transit to local folks. Let's hope this new venture of theirs catches on and we see more bike-friendly music events in Boston next year!
Incidentally, I fell in love with State Radio after I heard their rollicking "The Story of Benjamin Darling, Part 1" on a Paste sampler a while back. While this song doesn't sound much like the rest of their stuff, it was enough to get me interested in the rest of their catalog. I'm looking forward to a great set at Rothbury and to hearing more parts in the story of Benjamin Darling. Enjoy it below in this live acoustic version from Oregon State U recorded last year. The lyrics can be tough to follow, so here's a cheat sheet.
Hat tip to Noah G. for letting me know about this!
Closed systems kinda do it for me. I was pretty stoked to see that across the pond, sustainability within closed systems is hitting the dance floor---literally. Club4Climate, a party promotion company based in London is pioneering a new way for parties to generate their own energy--through dance.
The Huffington Post posted this diagram that shows how a new dance floor is powering the party and provided added incentive to get out on the floor and shake your money maker. Here's how it works:According to the Huffington Post, the dancing is capable of powering up to 60 percent of the energy needed to have a rager. Rad. Club4Climate also works with clubbers to encourage sustainable behaviors through asking for sustainability pledges and offering discounts to those who demonstrate that they took public transport to get to the party.
Rumor has it that sustainability improvements like this one will hit US clubs soon. See you on the floor.
Better late than never, as they say. While the major news outlets devoted the bulk of their coverage to the Kanye West debacle and epic performances by Pearl Jam and My Morning Jacket, I spent some time scouring the internets for news of a greener sort. And while the focus of the media attention is still very much on the music, where it ought to be, it seems that the festival's longstanding green commitment is starting to garner some attention. Since I didn't get to go this year, I can't comment on whether or not they improved over an already impressive green performance last year. I do know that they are rumored to have finally hired a full-time green coordinator, which will definitely help them as they go forward with building the site into a more permanent, multi-use festival grounds.
Since I don't have any actual reporting of my own to do, here's what I was able to dredge up via Google.
The Tennessean snagged an interview with Superfly head honcho Rick Farman, but didn't go into much detail about the two topics I wanted to see improvement in over last year, composting and fan transportation. Speaking of fan transit, the NY Times ArtBeat blog took issue with the green rhetoric given the huge distances fans and artists came from, saying that "The footprint here may be wrapped in a Birkenstock, but it’s a pretty big one."
Chattanooga's Channel 9 TV took a look at Bonnaroo's waste-reduction program and were duly impressed. Then they did what good journalists should do, and asked the organizers of the local Riverbend festival (held the same weekend) why they weren't recycling. Chattanooga's mayor replied, doing what good politicians do: blaming the bottling industry and promising vague improvements in the future.
The Daily Green took a dig at Kanye, then used a comparison to Bonnaroo to launch into what they felt was a greener festival, the Clearwater festival on the Hudson. While Clearwater may or may not be greener, Bonnaroo definitely wins out on the lineup front. Let's see...My Morning Jacket, Pearl Jam, and Sharon Jones, or Pete Seeger, Gandalf Murphy & The Slambovian Circus of Dreams, and Native American flutist R. Carlos Nakai?
Wrapping up, Plenty rehashed the Bonnaroo green press release, offering no new info. And that was about all I could find of substance on Bonnaroo's greening this year.
So what about it, GreenBase readers? Did you go to 'roo this year? Was it green? Greener than last year? Did the message finally seem to be getting through to the fans? Or was everyone too busy abusing Mr. West? Let us know what you thought in the comments.
One last thing: Be sure to read JamBase's excellent coverage of Bonnaroo here.
And the more I hear about it, the more it sounds like that MMJ set was the musical event of the year. I'm busy downloading it now. Fire up your bittorrent trackers and head on over to etree.
The Bonneville Environmental Foundation, one of my very favorite nonprofits, made an exciting announcement today about one Jack Johnson....they're partnered to green his tour and they want you to get involved! So watch a video and do a good deed for a very worthy cause.
From them: We are excited to announce that Jack Johnson has chosen BEF as a partner for his 2008 World Tour! Here are a few of the benefits:
• Every time you watch our new BEF video on his Web site, the Jack Johnson All At Once charitable foundation will donate $1 to BEF. To watch the video, click here, scroll down, and watch it all the way through. Help us spread the word!
• Any BEF Green Tag orders placed online by September 14 -- and reference Jack Johnson -- will be matched by his foundation. In other words, your purchases will have double the benefit to our environment!
• For those of you who live in the Pacific Northwest, visit our BEF Blog ( blog.b-e-f.org) to learn more about how you can win a free pair of Jack Johnson tickets for the August 20 show in St. Helens, Ore.!
If you've been living under a rock and don't know who Jack Johnson is, check him out on our GreenBase Earth Day mix:
I'm lucky enough to be covering Rothbury for GreenBase over the 4th of July weekend. I'm going solo, and unfortunately wasn't able to line up my flight schedule with the shuttle buses they're running, so I will have a rental car. It's hardly the most environmentally-friendly way to cover this festival, but I'm trying to make it a little better (and a little less lonely) by picking up some passengers.
I'm flying in to Grand Rapids on Thursday the 3rd about 6pm and hope to be on the road by 7 or so. If you are flying in around the same time or live in the general vicinity and want to ride in with me, drop me a line at jason DOT turgeon AT gmail . com and we'll try to make it work out. I'll be leaving early Monday morning.
Look for coverage of the event in the coming weeks right here.
Update 7/17: Thanks to an out-of-the-blue call from the good folks at Mr. Busdriver, it looks like I might be able to catch the shuttle bus after all. Seems they're willing to accommodate some vagaries in the flight schedule. This is obviously the greener choice, so if it works out I'll report back on the experience.
One of our favorite music festivals, Bonnaroo, is making some pretty impressive strides past their already impressive sustainability goals. The festival issued a statement this week that claimed they are stepping it up a notch this year....which is nothing to scoff at, given their extremely proactive stance at last year's festival.
Here is the good stuff the festival did last year:
Over 50% of waste diverted from land fills
60% of festival waste recycled or composted:
Total waste recycled: 94,340lbs / 47.17 tons
Total food waste and biodegradable products composted: 20,600lbs / 10.3 tons
Total waste sent to WasteAway: 600,400lbs / 300.2 tons
Implemented paperless ticket request system
67% of the festival's diesel consumption was locally sourced bio-diesel.
Offset festival emissions through Bonneville Environmental Foundation
Attendees encouraged to purchase energy credits to offset their emissions for travel to the festival
90 security horses used on site, replacing 12 security vehicles
Incorporated alternative fuel vehicles into the festival rental transportation fleet
and THIS is the good stuff they plan to do this year!
Concession food served with biodegradable wraps, plates, cups and cutlery manufactured from renewable resources
Using tree-free posters
Using 100% recycled paper (30% post-consumer) for all of the program and administrative needs
All wood stakes and lumber used on-site are logged and milled locally
Whenever possible, recycled lumber, FSC lumber, and CF light bulbs are used on site
Encouraging food vendors to source their produce and meat from local farmers
Reducing the use of Velon, a petroleum-based material used to decorate the tents, from 100% to 30%
Festival golf cart pool reducing number of golf carts by 25%
Hired year-round greening and sustainability coordinator
Planet Roo Ambassadors share the festival's greening mission with attendees and assist with general information and support. Ambassadors help Bonnarao attendees learn more about what we each can do in our lives and businesses to reduce pollution and become more efficient in our daily practices.
Waste-free café in Planet Roo
Social change documentary tent showing features and shorts about sustainable living
Solar Stage powered entirely by solar panels
Social Change Through Music panels at the Solar Stage
The festival will continue to offset all emissions associated with running the festival. In addition, this year, they partnered with Clif Bar to encourage attendees to purchase "Clif Cool Tags" wind energy credits to make up for emissions produced by their individual travel. Similar to Coachella, the festival is also running a carpooling contest offering a chance to win VIP camping upgrades to vehicles with four or more people.
If you're going to Bonnaroo, check back with us afterwards to tell us how you think the festival stood up to its plans. We're excited to hear from you!
Summer Rayne Oaks posted her picks for the most buzz-worthy green music acts of the moment. The repost is here: by Summer Rayne Oakes on Treehugger.com 06. 4.08
The hottest bands, freshest sounds, and fiercest messaging of the month—from my ears to yours.
5. Ben Jelen I saw Ben play live for the first time at the Replay store during their Earth Day party. His dreamy piano-playing and sweet nature somehow makes his call-to-action on environmental issues an easy pill to swallow. Easy on the eyes as much as on the ears, the young musician’s songs often share a central theme: Our world is in flux and we need to wake up and do something—as individuals, as communities, and as a united planet.
His latest album “Ex-Sensitive” include great songs like, “Wreckage,” “Pulse,” and “Where Do We Go”—all are head-bobbing, danceable tunes that are easy to jam out to while giving your State Representative a piece of your mind about the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act and Green Jobs bills. Wreckage, a deeply penetrating song with a dark-but-uplifting melody, is actually an achy love song to the earth, written in response to our warming globe:
“I can feel the sunrise
Barely breaking through the trees
I don’t want to miss you
I don’t want you missing me,”
According to Jelen’s Myspace page, “The time Jelen spent working on humanitarian causes profoundly influenced Ex-Sensitive. “I am incapable of ignoring what’s going on around me,” he admits. “World events often affect me as much as personal ones.” In recent years, he found time to work with the Natural Resources Defense Council, tour extensively for Rock the Vote and Live for Darfur, donate charity tracks to WasteNotMusic.com, Amnesty International, and Tori Amos’ RAINN, march against global warming, share the stage with Wyclef Jean, Marc Anthony, Moby, Maroon 5, and Rufus Wainwright at benefit concerts across the US, establish the Ben Jelen Foundation for the Environment, protest the war, and do work with the United Nations.”
4. The Eagles The iconic rock band of the 70s is now on their Long Road Out of Eden Tour which I recently saw in New York this week. If you’ve been a devout fan and haven’t sampled the album, I suggest picking it up because it’s vintage Eagles. Of course you won’t be able to find it in regular music outlets: The crew decided to give a big F*ck you to the music industry, (which has notoriously been taking advantage of artists from its inception), and distributed their music directly through Wal-Mart and SAMS Club. This has allowed them to sell the CD cheaper and pass the savings onto their valued listeners while having the comfort of knowing they (The Eagles) weren’t being taken advantage of. It served them well I suppose because their album debuted at No. 1 in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands, and Norway.
Rolling Stones recently put the foursome on their cover—with Henley (http://www.donhenley.com) out in front. The fearless frontman, who counts Wendell Berry and Thoreau as some of his favorite writers, practices a little civil disobedience himself—both lyrically and in life. Henley has helped set up the Walden Woods Project and Institute as well as the preservation of Caddo Lake, a rich wetland between the Texas and Louisiana border. He is almost always responsible for the songs with political, social, and environmental themes. “Long Road out of Eden,” the song for which the album is named for, may not be the most striking song on the album, but is a strong commentary to our times. “It’s about the war and it’s also about the human condition,” Henley tells Billboard. “The point of the song is [that] we may think we are civilized, but we have a ways to go yet.”
Other songs on the album include my favorite, “Waiting in the Weeds” and others like “Frail Grasp of the Big Picture,” “Do Something,” “Busy Being Fabulous,” and the opening ballad, “No More Walks in the Woods,” the latter which reminds me of a follow-up track to Henley’s, “Goodbye to a River” on his Inside Job CD, which came out in 2000.
If you have some time and can pony up some dough, head over to one of the many venues that The Eagles will be playing at. Though the tickets may be a little on the expensive side for some, it’s well worth it. The show lasts for at least 3 hours, is equipped with a synchronized video and lights show, and a fine mix of new and old Eagles.
3. WyClef Jean From Haiti and back again, WyClef shows that you should never forget where we come from. His new charity, “Together for Haiti,” (Kombit Pou Ayiti)—a collaboration of his Yéle Haiti Foundation and the World Food Program and Pan American Development Foundation--will help provide relief effort and skills to aid the most marginalized peoples on the planet. Skyrocketing food prices have resulted in riots throughout Haiti. “Haitian people aren't a group of people who want handouts," Jean said to The Daily News, stressing the importance of teaching better farming techniques to increase crop yield. According to recent reports, “Together for Haiti” has raised $3 million to cover the first six months of operation. The goal is to raise $10 million by the end of 2008 and an additional $48 million over two years.
Clef’s songs including, “Fast Car,” “Riot,” “Sweetest Girl,” “Heavens in New York,” and “Slow Down” are all peppered with Clef’s rich social commentary. In “Slow Down,” Clef and chorus sing a hand-waving, car-pumping melody:
“But we live for war
(You know I got that shot in the Chevy what it is?)
We ain’t start the wire taps down in Baltimore
(But I still slangin’ bricks where I live)…
Evil lurks in the heavenly disguise
(Tryin’ to get the ruler all I need is about a mil)
I seen two bird crash into two New York Giants
(Bush still lyin,’ he don’ never keep it real)…
Where’d the hope go, Where’d the hope
(I don’t know)
I see the whole world turn into a warzone
Ain’t no love in the city keep your vest on
(G’ that right)
Guns ‘n roses welcome to the jungle…”
You can almost see Clef’s faithful music-heads jamming to his tunes on their iPods and his people in the dusty roads of Haiti blasting his tunes in a boom-box escape, hanging on to his every word like a new street religion. With Clef, a powerhouse in the music industry, he is no doubt set to move his followers into grassroots action. After all, it’s clear that his music is and always will be—music of the people.
2. Hindu Kush Lead singer and guitarist, Elijah Behar, 18, belts out a politically-charged garage rock sound in “Blood for Oil”—a poignant call for action…Behar’s voice as well as his lyrical insights into the Iraq War are hauntingly mature. That combined with the band’s rich, earthy old school rock vibe gives Hindu Kush a tone reminiscent of The Doors. Logan Huguency’s, 21, rat-tat-tat drums mirror vintage army beats, while Nathaniel Harnett, 20, on bass and Pablo Esquer, 20, on violin serve up a moving performance beneath Behar’s words:
“All our lives –
Too many lies,
Too many have died –
For one man’s pride.
But hope lies still
Inside our minds.
We have to try
To change our ways
But it’d hard
When we are spoiled.
Blood for oil,
Spilled on desert soil.
I am not proud to live free.”
“Blood for Oil’s” graphic, gut-wrenching video would move anyone, especially those of us who have lost loved ones to the war. It’s not only saturated with images of our troops, but the inhuman torture of Iraqis—something that would be considered too fuc*ing real for the daily news, but all too real for those of us who carry the burden of our nation’s actions.
* Related Notes: The Real Teenage Angst Hindu Kush’s“Blood for Oil” is a deep and impassioned representation of the impatience and fervent action of my generation. In November 2007, Energy Action (http://www.energyaction.net)—the largest youth movement united to solve climate change—organized Power Shift on Capitol Hill. There 6,000 young citizens were educated and trained to lobby their governments to enact strong climate change legislation. Nancy Pelosi commended the “relentless advocacy, leadership, and the impatience of youth,” which has helped aid 600 universities to go carbon neutral, a little known fact to mainstream press. Pelosi went onto say that, “Young people are intensely engaged in dialogue in real time in ways technologically unthought-of previously…It is words not weaponry [that] are the tools of the next generation.”… OUR generation.
1. Green Owl Records Fresh artists with a fresh perspective—that is exactly what Green Owl Records, an independent New York-based label is all about. Top-notch artists with a fresh music perspective and environmental responsible behavior are at the core of the label’s business practice. The operation is run by musicians Ben Brewer (The Appletrees, The Exit (former band), and Bermuda), Elenike Abreu (The Appletrees), and Stephen Glicken. They help all their artists create their paper and CD packaging with 100% post-consumer paper; convert their tour buses to biodiesel; and help them make better choices when it comes to tee-shirt printing and carbon offsetting. Green Owl recently partnered with Warner Brothers on the release of the Live Earth DVD/CD, as well as the theatrical release of the feature film Everything’s Cool: A Toxic Comedy About Global Warming. Their latest venture, however, is perhaps the most exciting: the launch of The Green Owl Comp: A Benefit for the Energy Action Coalition, available on Amazon.com and Whole Foods outlets. Disc 1 features 16 songs, including a live version of Muse’s epic “Knight of Cydonia,” Feist’s “Honey Honey,” The Apple Tree’s folksy and melodic tune, “Look Up to the Sky,” and Of Montreal’s lullaby-sweet song “Feminine Effects.” Disc 2 features some bonus tracks, music videos, and an interview/feature with Energy Action Co-founder, Billy Parish, with highlights from the Power Shift Climate Conference.
Co-founder of Green Owl Records, Stephen Glicken, says they’ll be signing four fresh new artists this year. “Our artists aren’t all singing about the environment,” he says. “Their images are a bit divested but the practices are sustainable. I think music can be used for helping change people’s perceptions. People listen to their favorite artists more than they listen to anyone else,” he tells me over a local, organic meal at Urban Rustic in Greenpoint (Brooklyn).
“It really helps put it [the environment] in a more digestible place. It’s not some fringe, unsettled idea any longer. Debate is over. This is what is going down. People have to change.”
* Related Notes:
On the Road Even though American’s drove an estimated 4.3 percent less (that’s 11 billion fewer miles) this March 2008 compared to March 2007, we are still very mobile. Tune into “Zip Code Engine” on the Green Owl Records website, where you can find all the bio-diesel fill-up stations around the U.S., and calculate your carbon footprint in their “Carbon Calculator.”
“We’ll be launching a web-based living and traveling tool,” says Stephen. “It’s hard to travel and live sustainably. We want to make it easy for everyone, including our bands. Later this year, we’ll be launching a more robust zip code engine where you can find biofuel fill-up stations, grassroots efforts in your area, green utilities where you can sign up for green energy, and vegan, vegetarian, and organic restaurants. So if you know you’re going to Point A to Point B and you’re vegan and drive a biodiesel car, the tool will map out the best route for you to fill up—both on food and fuel.” Pretty sweet, right?
Last week, I was lucky enough to spend an hour on the phone with Steve Szymanski of Telluride's Bluegrass Festival. When Steve's not busy booking artists for Telluride, he's preparing for the smaller events he holds in Lyons, CO, including Rocky Grass, the Folks Festival, and and the Wildflower concert series.
With only about 10,000 fans at Telluride and 3500 at the smaller events, the Colorado Bluegrass shows are smaller than the new breed of Bonnaroo and Rothbury megafestivals, but they're also older. This year marks Telluride's 35th anniversary, and the 20th year that Steve has been running things with a small year-round crew of about 6 staff. For the fans, being smaller means that everyone can get closer to the stage. For the promoters, being older means more room to experiment with things like greening.
Steve and the gang at Telluride like to think of themselves as trailblazers in the field of festival greening, and they've got a solid history to back them up. Beyond greening Telluride, they've also moved into greening their everyday operations, including their offices, housed in a former blacksmith's shop that dates back to the 1860's.
The story of Telluride's greening began in 2002, when the festival started a partnership with the legendary New Belgium brewing company, home of Fat Tire Ale. It seems odd now, but in 2002 almost nobody was thinking about sustainability, especially at the corporate level. New Belgium had recently hired Hillary Mizia, a "sustainability goddess" whose unflagging enthusiasm for all things green soon spread to the Bluegrass crew. "She was really pushing us, saying 'you guys can do this, you guys can do that,'" Szymanski recalls. With Mizia's help, the festival underwent its first sustainability audit that year, and in 2003 it started down the green path with a waste reduction program and the purchase of renewable energy credits to offset electric use at the festival.
Five years later, the sustainability field is rapidly maturing and things like recycling, composting, and offsets are now commonplace. So what is Telluride doing to stay ahead of the curve? Lots, as we'll soon see. Perhaps the most important thing is that the promoters have realized that creating a green festival has certain intangible benefits that can help the bottom line, even if quantifying those benefits isn't always easy. As Steve told me, "It's too early to say if this is paying for itself, but we're hoping to get a handle on that this year. It's really hard to pick out what's happening when you have a sold-out festival. What we've realized is that we've created a brand that is a boutique festival."
With everyone in the organization on board with the new green mission and a sustainability budget in the "tens of thousands of dollars," there's plenty of room to experiment and learn. Take offsets, which regular readers know I'm not a big fan of. Telluride's tackled the issues that worry me head-on, as Szymanski excitedly details: "The biggest thing that we've seen is the travel to the event....We look at our ticket sales and do surveys to find out how people are coming and from how far...over 90% of our carbon is coming from travel of people getting to our event....We're working with carbon offsets, which has its issues, but there are ways around that. There are big questions with offsets: is it additional, is it transparent, is it certifiable, is it local? Because of the Colorado Carbon Fund [we can work] with [offsetting] projects in Telluride and Boulder county. That's really exciting, because now we can say 'your money is staying in the community.'" That kind of focus on the quality of the greening program is refreshing, especially when it comes from the head of a festival, not an outside consultant who lives and breathes green but might not necessarily get the chance to put ideals into practice. "We don't have the luxury of having a full-time person," says Szymanski, "but this makes it fun for us. It would be a great luxury to hire somebody, but the benefit is that we're educating ourselves and we're not just out there booking bands. The whole group is invested." Szymanski is passionate enough to know that the average car coming in to Telluride averages just under three passengers, and he says that the best incentive for carpooling is the price of gas.
Offsets are one thing, but what about the tougher issues, like phasing out bottled water -a hugely profitable item for all outdoor events and a staple of vendors' income - in favor of free water? Bonnaroo supplements its bottles with free water (expect long lines and a funky sulfur smell), while Rothbury was working on a plan which would offer "low-cost" water, sans bottles, when I talked to organizers earlier this year. Telluride's going a step further. This year, it's asking all of its artists to replace their bottles of Evian with stainless steel water bottles. "The message that we give is what's onstage." The festival will have plentiful free water from the town's public supply, filtered to remove any hint of chlorine. And while vendors will still be allowed to sell water this year, they're also being told that "if they want to sell water they can't sell anything smaller than 1 liter and don't expect to sell a lot."
While Szymanski admits that "there has been a lot of pushback" from vendors on the bottled water issues, he's also firm. Changes like the switch away from plastic to 100% compostable plates and cups and the switch from bottled water to free water are phased in over two years to ease the pain, and vendors who can't cope don't get invited back.
But the ride to sustainability hasn't been entirely smooth. Take composting, for instance. "We had a composting area 16 miles outside of Telluride and we were just so excited'" Szymanski recalls about the initial composting area. "We just let people police themselves and at the end of the show the contamination was just awful. That first year was really rough. We spent a lot of hours sifting through and sorting the compost." The following year, lesson learned, the festival trained a staff of volunteers to help patrons get it right. "If you're a fan who's new to this, you would never think 'oh, the cup and the plate can all go?' To see the light bulbs go off has been kind of fun. It's an expense to have 30 extra people, but I....wouldn't even think about doing this without them."
With offsetting, waste reduction, and the bottled water issue all firmly under control, the next step is getting fans more involved. To this end, the organization has dedicated plenty of real estate on the website, including a "sustainable festivation" blog, a ride share board, and a greening section. But to engage those of us who don't spend every waking minute online, organizers are giving campers a cue from the wilderness backpacking set: leave no trace. "A lot of people bring down all kinds of stuff and just leave it at the end of the event," Szymanski reports. As an incentive to reduce campsite waste, organizers are trying out a green campsite contest this year. "People can just take a few pictures and write down a few things about what they're doing and we post it in our Festival Town area and anyone can vote." The winners receive incentives including free camping at future festivals.
Other green moves include the elimination of plastic bags at the souvenir stands, an emphasis on local foods, and a partnership at the Lyons festival grounds with green guru Hunter Lovins. While Szymanski admits that "events took a front seat" at the new festival grounds while they were establishing the smaller events there, they're now working to catch up on the greening. "[Lovins] is five miles away. She prompted us to do two different energy audits on the buildings to catch up on the home turf...she likes bluegrass music, so she's offered her services."
Speaking of bluegrass music, I asked what a first time fan at Telluride might expect. Steve may be passionate about greening, but it pales in comparison to his enthusiasm for the music, even after 20 years. "Along the way we got this amazing family of musicians. The Sam Bushes, Bela Flecks, there's probably about 12 people who come every year and know that we're going to let them go anywhere they want with their art. Ricky Scaggs and Bruce Hornsby for me is what it's all about. When you hear those guys together weaving in and out and singing each other's songs. They go into this really tight bluegrass thing and then Bruce takes it into this amazing improv jam."
So with that in mind, here's a clip of Bruce and Ricky at Kentucky Thunder.
Today, I stopped by my corner store to pick up a monthly mass transit pass to find that they were completely sold out! The guy behind the counter told me this is the first time this has ever happened and many of the people coming in to buy the passes are new customers. Maybe the gas price has finally reached the point that people have decided mass transit is not so bad.
This comes on the heels of a conversation I had over the weekend with a friend who said that George W. Bush may go down as the leader that promoted sustainability more than many other (albeit unintentionally) because his mismanagement has led to huge infringements on the basic freedom to consume to our hearts' content. What do you think?
My favorite wedding occurred a few weeks ago when some friends decided to get hitched on a bus. They met commuting home from work seven years ago and decided to recreate the trip and say their vows on a bus going across the Bay Bridge.
It was perfect...and every single person there took public transportation! See the blushing bride greeting guests as they board to the left.
If you're reading this blog, you're probably a person that tries to encourage sustainable behaviors in your friends and family...and sometimes that's hard.
In those cases: be sneaky....find out what the couple wants and buy them something similar, but something that was created with a smaller footprint. This site has some good alternatives. You'll smirk all the way home.....