The day the music went green

The Campus Consciousness Tour, with Guster, is coming to campus.

by Holly Lahd

Next Wednesday, April 11, the Minnesota Student Association’s “Lend a Hand, Hear the Band” volunteer drive will culminate when the band Guster performs on campus. This isn’t a copycat of spring jam, though. Guster brings a musical green message to campus. Living green isn’t a mission statement for this band and others; it’s a way to tour.

Guster has partnered with the nonprofit organization Reverb, founded in 2004 by Guster guitarist/vocalist Adam Gardner and his wife Lauren Sullivan, to make this tour green. This includes powering tour buses with U.S.-grown biodiesel and using renewable energy credits from Native Energy’s wind program. Its 2006 campus tour neutralized 175 tons of carbon dioxide through its carbon neutral initiatives. Through Reverb, musical acts like Barenaked Ladies, Alanis Morissette, Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson, Avril Lavigne, Andrew Bird and more are making their tours green.

These guys aren’t just doing this for fun. They have a message to bring to college students: green touring isn’t abstract – it’s a reality that we’re doing right now. Guster is unique among eco-bands in that it is focusing its tour message on college students, visiting campuses throughout April during their Campus Consciousness Tour.

And students across the country and here at the University are responding. Nicholas Rudolf, resident of the student organization Concerts for the Environment, told me that green bands are a great way to reach out to students who wouldn’t otherwise be interested in issues like global warming. To that end, Concerts for the Environment is planning numerous events like free-food giveaways and an environmental fair to get people pumped for the arrival of the Campus Consciousness Tour.

Guster has a lot of reasons for making their tour green, but it also makes marketing and financial sense. When Guster started their eco-friendly initiatives, global warming was a buzz word. Now it’s an electorate issue. And unlike the Dixie Chick’s political message fallout, eco-tour bands seem to be experiencing nothing but success. With green tours comes a unique set of sponsorship opportunities with organic and sustainable companies such as Ben & Jerry’s and Cliff Bar.

Reverb isn’t the only organization that works to make tours green. Closer to home, the organization MusicMatters is helping more bands make their music green. MusicMatters is locally based in Minneapolis, but that doesn’t mean its reach in the music industry is small.

Artists like Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews Band, O.A.R., Gomez, Martin Sexton, Taking Back Sunday, Tea Leaf Green, Cloud Cult and Incubus are just a few of MusicMatters’ clients over the years. MusicMatters helps bands in many ways that are similar to Reverb, including helping find local and organic foods on the road and finding green hotels to stay at around the country.

I talked with Chris Baumgartner of MusicMatters who explained, “It is a time-honored role for artists to speak out on concerns of the general population, and fans will follow artists’ leads. The music industry has been at the forefront of many challenge and awareness campaigns: Bob Dylan and the Vietnam War; Bob Geldof and LiveAid; Bono’s ONE campaign for AIDS awareness in Africa; Dave Matthews Band and global warming; and Bruce Springsteen and the Vote for Change tour.”

What these bands do perhaps more effectively than all the public service messages about the environment is that they combine great music with the message. It’s not so hip when Wal-Mart announces they’re now green, but when the Dave Matthews Band does, students get it.

But while the musicians have always been at the forefront on emerging issues, global warming is unique. “I think the music industry speaks to all of us,” says Baumgartner. “This is one of the first movements that they can’t just talk about (like) saving Darfur or stopping AIDS. This issue is one that they are contributing to by the very nature of their business: selling CDs, merchandise, touring, etc. That is why this issue is so important to them.”

Global warming is an issue you can’t distance yourself from because we are all contributing to it. Recognizing this and making changes is what living green is all about, changing life style practices to make whatever you do less impacting. Bands can make their tours green; cities can adopt emissions standards; and individuals can change their light bulbs, driving habits and start composting. Sounds easy, right? Looking at the eco-bands in the music industry as an example, it is easy to see that going green can work and make financial sense with planning.

Next Wednesday night Guster will perform at Northrop Auditorium. Enjoy the performance and the free events, but also think about why bands like Guster are going green. If they can go green, can you?

Holly Lahd welcomes comments at [email protected]