How green is the music industry?

Sony BMG: The label distributes music from 50 of its US artists in renewable and recyclable paperboard cases, and offers similar packaging for 40 Canadian artists and 22 UK artists. The company has also reduced the carbon footprint of its New York City offices by 31 percent through a “reducing, reusing and recycling” program.

Warner Music Group: CDs and DVD liner notes contain 30 percent post-consumer paper made from wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC); however, the inserts are packaged inside jewel cases. The label offset its 2008 Grammy after party, an event that included CFLs, biodiesel generators, recycled paper products, locally grown food, and organic soaps. This year, WMG offset CO2 emissions from its New York City offices and started WMGreen, its ongoing green initiative with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and renewable energy company NativeEnergy. “For us, [environmentally responsible behavior] has proven to lower the cost of paper and waste as well as strengthen employee morale,” says John Esposito, WMG’s US sales and retail marketing president.

 

Smaller labels:

While the major labels efforts may seem paltry at best, these smaller labels are beefing up their eco-conscious efforts.

Parks and Records: The Bay Area-based label packages CDs in recycled office paper and donates 5 percent of each $8 CD to groups like Friends of the Urban Forest, the National Forest Foundation, and the National Arbor Day Foundation. The company also makes its own mail-order envelopes using catalog and magazine covers, bags, and other reclaimed paper. Parks and Records is “making the planet greener one song at a time,” says founder John Fee.

Brushfire Records: The label, founded by singer Jack Johnson, powers its office and recording studio with solar panels, insulates its walls with 100 percent post-consumer waste (like blue jean scraps), and uses recycled shingles on the roof. Brushfire CDs, which are manufactured and distributed by Universal, come in recycled plastic trays.

Sub Pop Records: The Seattle indie stalwart has purchased renewable energy credits from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation since 2006. The label also ships advance copies of new releases in plastic-free, recyclable paperboard.

Earthology Recordings: A Minnesota organic farm powered by geothermal and wind power houses this not-for-profit label. CDs are packaged in a combination of recycled, soy-ink paper and 100 percent recycled/reclaimed jewel cases. The recording studio itself is crafted from reused materials like chicken coop wire and “other odds and ends,” founder Craig Minowa recently told MTV. In addition to being a member of the indie band Cloud Cult, Minowa is an environmental scientist with the Organic Consumer’s Association.

Green Owl Records: This Manhattan-based label packages all CDs in 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper, and is donating 100 percent of profits raised from a compilation released this April to the Energy Action Coalition. The label recently took three of its bands to Austin’s South by Southwest in a tour bus powered by vegetable oil, and another band, The So So Glos, is touring this fall in a veggie oil-powered bus. Green Owl purchases carbon offsets from NativeEnergy, and offers customers the chance to recycle their used CDs for free. “We’re doing the best we possibly can right now,” says president Stephen Glicken. “We spend more money doing things this way, but it’s better to act as an example now because there could be a sea change some day.”

 

 

But while the biz lags behind, a lot of individual bands and musicians are taking eco matters into their own guitar-strumming hands. Check out which artists are making a difference:

Artists:

Radiohead

The band’s blog, “The Gigantic Flying Mouth For Sometime,” chronicles the group’s experimentations with solar-powered amps, biofuel-powered buses, LED stage-lighting rigs, and battery-and wind-powered performances. The blog is a green diary that charts the band’s research on how things like off-site power grids and efficient truck-packing all factor into leaving a smaller carbon footprint while on tour.

Pearl Jam

Through its Carbon Portfolio Strategy, the band donated $100,000 to groups in the Pacific Northwest like the Cascade Land Conservancy and the Washington Clean Energy Initiative. In 2004, guitarist Stone Gossard helped raise $77,000 to fund small-scale renewable energy projects in states the band toured through that year. In 2006, the band started switching to biodiesel-powered tour buses.

Jack Johnson

The shoe-less, worm-composting, 2008-Coachella headliner records in a solar-powered studio and requests that venues he performs in use CFLs and recycling bins. Johnson also sells organic cotton T-shirts and organic foods at shows, and started a social action network called All At Once that links fans to environmental nonprofits and volunteer opportunities at green events.

Willie Nelson

The country singer tours the nation in a bus powered by his own BioWillie brand biodiesel. “We don’t have to send our money over to the Middle East to fill up our cars and trucks,” Nelson said in a CNN interview. “We can send it to the farmer over here.” BioWillie diesel powers the artist’s Mercedes, too.

The Fray, Bon Jovi, Incubus

The three groups all work with environmental organizations like Heal the Bay, the Sustainable Minded Artists Recording and Touring program, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to green their concerts by serving organic food backstage, selling organic cotton T-shirts, printing posters and flyers on 100-percent post-consumer recycled paper with soy ink, and asking venues to increase recycling. The bands also fuel their tour buses with biodiesel.

 

  

Copyright Environ Press 2008

 

 

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