From energy guzzling lights to car travel and flights, from plastic waste to throwing out almost new strings and batteries – the music scene has an outsized environmental footprint that needs to change.
Just as we have a responsibility to protect musicians, staff, crew and punters from injury, we have to play our part in protecting the environment (after all, there’s no music on a dead planet). With a few simple changes we can make a big difference by reducing our footprint and showing others what can be done.
Environmental challenges can often feel overwhelming but it’s remarkable how much of a difference we can make with just a few well thought- out actions. By looking at the way we use energy, deal with waste and manage transport, we can reduce our impact substantially.
It’s also worth remembering that the cliché that sustainability is a path, not a destination, is true. Instead of trying to be perfect straight away it’s actually better to take smaller steps and bring everybody along with us on the journey.
Energy and climate change
The biggest environmental issue facing the planet is global warming caused primarily by burning coal, oil and gas for energy but also brought on by logging and agriculture. Leading to potentially catastrophic increases in drought, fire, flood, sea level rise and storms, climate change is no exaggeration and threatens all of our lives. We need to address climate change urgently and every industry has its role to play with the music industry being no exception.
The vast majority of Victoria’s energy comes from highly-polluting brown coal and the first step music venues and studios can take is to shift away from this sort of energy use. Using more energy efficient lighting, heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration while also moving over to energy generated by clean, renewable sources like solar and wind is a great first step.
By far the simplest thing to do is to contact your current electricity retailer and ask to be put onto their green power scheme. These schemes ensure that clean, renewable energy is generated to cover all of your electricity usage, replacing coal and helping the clean energy industry grow.
While all green power schemes are credible, some are better than others. Green Music Australia and many energy consultants can help find the best possible supplier and negotiate a good deal for high energy users.
When you’re ready to take bigger steps, the Amped Up program – run by Green Music Australia and Energy For The People – can help you save energy, money and the environment. This program is an end-to-end energy service including planning and feasibility to implementation and monitoring and even crowd-funding. Experts from Energy For The People will look at your energy usage, the equipment you currently have and your location and will work with you to upgrade it. From LED lights to efficient fridges to rooftop solar – there’s so much that can be done to make sure you’re never out of pocket!
After energy, the biggest driver of climate change is raising livestock for meat. If your venue serves food, one effective way to reduce your impact on our climate is to include more vegetarian options on the menu and limit the highest carbon options like beef and lamb. By encouraging punters to choose delicious, climate friendly eating, you can have a big impact beyond your own space.
Rubbish is ugly; it fills up landfill, hurts and kills wildlife and contributes to global warming. It’s important to make sure that you have separated recycling bins (or comingled if your local council supports it) for glass, plastic, paper and aluminium. Have these recycling bins available behind bars, backstage and in public areas. Recycling bins should be well-marked (fun and creative signage options can help increase usage) and staff should be trained and required to use them properly.
Strings and batteries
Many artists, tech crews and venues now replace guitar strings and batteries before every show as a basic part of their risk management. While this is unnecessary, and can and should be reduced, venues can ensure that the near-new strings and batteries don’t go to waste. Green Music Australia has relationships with remote Indigenous music communities and schools in lower socioeconomic areas who are delighted to make use of near-new strings and batteries. By providing wellmarked collection containers for musicians and crew, used batteries and strings can be collected and distributed to people in need thus supporting communities while protecting the environment.
While recycling is great, not using disposable items in the first place is better and with a product like plastic water bottles, avoiding them altogether is best. Venues should provide accessible and clean taps, jugs of water or refilling stations at bars and backstage. Use fun and creative signage to encourage punters and artists to use them. It’s also possible to recoup costs by charging for premium products such as filtered or flavoured water.
Provide reusable, hard plastic cups instead of single-use, throw away cups. For venues with existing dishwashing capacity this is simple; for others, solutions can be found. Having venue-branded reusable bottles to provide to artists for use on-stage is another great option.
When we think of transport emissions in the music scene, most people focus on artists flying around on tour when in fact the biggest environmental impact is from audience travel, going to and from gigs by car.
One easy and important step is to make sure you have up-to-date public transport information on your website and social media and also provide this information to punters at point of ticket sale.
An important option, particularly for inner city venues, is making safe cycling infrastructure such as enclosed bicycle racks. Again, it’s vital to make sure punters know about this by promoting it on your website, via social media channels and by providing it at point of ticket sale.
Finally, promoting ride-share options through your website and at point of ticket sale is an idea which in this Uberised world is catching on. Web-based services such as Ridevu allow people to register where they are going and offer or ask for a lift.
In each case, providing incentives to punters to make use of these alternatives is a great idea to encourage use. You could offer a small discount on the next ticket or a free merch item to people who come by bike or public transport.
Music as activism
Music has always been an art form that has attracted, supported and nurtured activism – from civil rights and indigenous self-determination to feminism and nuclear disarmament – and musicians have always been at the forefront. A powerful contribution to protecting the environment can be as simple as supporting events and bands who raise awareness about issues and also raise funds for campaigns.
Single use, disposable plastic water bottles are one of the most visible environmental impacts of the music scene – hugely wasteful, toxic to us and our land and water, and completely unnecessary.
The Climatarian Challenge
Less Meat Less Heat (LMLH) is a grassroots, nonprofit organisation dedicated to reducing the consumption of the kinds of meat products that are most damaging to the climate.
Rubbish to Resource
Green Music Australia is working with Music NT to send almost new strings and batteries to be used by Indigenous bands in remote Australia instead of to rubbish tips.
RickyRides helps event participants share rides. You can increase the attendance in your event by allowing participants to arrive and return easily.
Green Music Australia
Green Music Australia is harnessing the cultural power of music and musicians to lead the way to a greener world.