Go Green – Musicians can do their part to maintain a healthy planet

Published in the October 2008 issue of the Overture, official publication of Professional Musicians, Local 47.

Go Green

Musicians can do their part to maintain a healthy planet

by Linda Rapka, Overture Managing Editor

Environmental awareness is no longer reserved for those with an affinity for hemp clothing, Birkenstocks and granola. Participation in recycling programs, usage of reusable bags at grocery stores, conversions to renewable energy options in households, and the number of energy-efficient cars on the road have spiked in recent years, signaling that “going green” isn’t just for neo-hippies.

Conservation efforts aren’t limited to individuals, either. Many companies and organizations are doing their part to go green, and Local 47 is no exception. Starting Oct. 27, members will be able to view and download paperless monthly dues statements online. Very soon, members will also be able to access new statements and pay dues online – all without producing one scrap of paper waste. (See sidebar on page 7 for more information).

If you’re looking to jump on the enviro-friendly bandwagon, there are many ways by which musicians can conserve energy and reduce waste.

Out of Town Gig? Travel Smart

According to a 2007 Gallup poll, Americans spend an average of 46 minutes commuting to and from work each day. This equates to about 200 hours – almost eight full days– spent in traffic every year. A whopping 85 percent burn all this gas sitting by their lonesome in their car or SUV; only 6 percent carpool, and a scant 4 percent take mass transit.

For the traveling musician, these figures can be much higher. It is not uncommon for the typical freelancer to drive up to 100 miles to a single gig. Some musicians have reported driving up to 50,000 miles per year to and from gigs alone. Today, this would cost about $27,000 for a small car and $45,000 for a mid-size SUV annually in fuel costs.

To ease up on CO2 emissions (and on your wallet), take public transportation or buddy up with a musician headed to the same gig whenever possible. If driving your own auto is your only option, consider upgrading to an energy efficient vehicle such as an electric or biodiesel hybrid model. Additionally, simple things as avoiding sudden starts and stops, keeping your tires properly inflated and going easy on the A/C will increase fuel efficiency and lower the CO2 emissions of your vehicle.

Turn Your Studio Eco-Friendly

As musicians know, it takes a lot of energy to maintain a recording studio. Electricity is needed to power computers, equipment and instruments, for lighting, and for maintaining a nice, cool work space with air conditioning.

Energy-efficient lighting is good for the environment and for your electricity bill. CFL bulbs use 30 percent less energy as incandescent bulbs and last around 10,000 hours, saving you about $30 in electricity costs over the bulb’s lifetime. LED bulbs can reduce energy consumption by up to 90 percent and last around 100,000 hours. Using ecofriendly lamps and light fixtures can also help reduce greenhouse waste.

Eco-friendly air conditioning is another great way to “greenify” your studio. A single air conditioning unit can omit 1.34 pounds of carbon dioxide every kilowatt hour. By replacing older air conditioning units, you could save several hundreds of pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.

Another way to save energy is to add the green power option onto your electric utility bill, which utilizes renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. And, of course the simplest way to save energy is to turn off lights and equipment when not in use. Even electronics that sleep on a standby setting continue to pull a current, so be sure to completely shut down any equipment that won’t be used for an extended period of time.

Don’t Dump That E-Waste!

Has that old amp or keyboard finally gone kaput? Make sure electronic waste doesn’t end up in the landfill; this socalled “e-waste” can contain hazardous components and non-recyclable material that is environmentally unsafe. The City of Los Angeles operates a number of facilities called “S.A.F.E.” centers where the public can deposit their unwanted electronics free of charge every weekend. To find one near you visit the City of Los Angeles website at http://www.lacity.org and enter search keyword “e-waste.”

Alternatively, if you have electronics that are still usable that you simply no longer want, post a free listing at LACoMAX, a countywide online materials exchange website, or donate them to charity – many will accept broken, but repairable, electronics as donations.

Green Tours

According to National Geographic’s Green Guide, a typical stadium concert releases 500 to 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide – about 50 times more than the average American produces in an entire year. That number does not even take into account fans’ transport, which amounts to over 80 percent of a concert’s CO2 footprint – nor does it account for the immense amount of garbage produced at each show.

Some bands and concert organizers have taken strides to minimize touring’s environmental impact. Festivals such as Lollapalooza and Britain’s Glastonbury Festival have switched to biofuel-powered generators. The organizers of last summer’s Osheaga Festival in Montreal hired Hydro Quebec to supply their main stage with emission-free geothermal energy.

Advocacy groups such as Reverb engage musicians and fans to promote environmentally responsible music tours. Reverb encourages organizers to offer reusable aluminum canteens rather than plastic water bottles, and to set up “Eco-Villages” with information on how fans can minimize their carbon footprints outside the concert venue. The group also advocates on-site recycling, waste reduction, green bus supplies and cleaners, biodegradable catering products, energy efficiency, a green contract rider, eco-friendly merchandise and green sponsorship. Local 47 musicians who have “greened” their tours with Reverb include Red Hot Chili Peppers, Maroon 5 and Sheryl Crow.

To go green on your next tour, visit http://www.ReverbRock.org.

Eco-Smart Fashion

When looking for that perfect outfit for that all-important performance, opt for eco-friendly clothing. Organic, sustainable clothing made of bamboo, recycled fabrics and biopolymers do little to no harm to the environment and are becoming more than just a fad, but a mainstay among designers. Veteran chic designers like Givenchy, Rogan, Bottega and Marc Jacobs all offer ecofriendly styles that make not just a fashion statement, but an environmental one as well.

Make Your Own Instrument

Using readily available materials to make music is commonplace around the world. In tropical climates people play music with gourds, coconuts and bamboo; in other parts of the world, washboards, jugs, spoons and bones are used as musical instruments. Here in the States, AFM percussionist and composer Donald Knaack, known as “the Junkman,” exclusively composes for and performs on “junk” and recycled materials, having been introduced to the concept by renowned composer John Cage. New York-based Bash the Trash Environmental Arts raises environmental awareness through art by teaching people to create such homemade instruments as cardboard tube horns and trombones, percussive instruments made from cans, bobby pin finger pianos, and even “Styrocellos.”

Recycle Used Guitar Strings

One musician’s trash can be another’s treasure. The Second String Project based in Connecticut sends minimally used guitar strings to musicians in third world countries who can’t afford new ones. Canadian rockers Barenaked Ladies donate their used strings to jewelry company Dream World Designs, where they are recycled into trendy necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Try reusing them yourself in creative ways, such as to hang picture frames, plants or lights – even as a cheese slicer.

As an individual you can make a positive difference for the environment. If every person chooses to make changes in their lives that will benefit the earth, all those small changes will end up having a huge impact on preserving our planet.


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