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Trying to Strike a Chord with Fans, One Recycling Bin at a Time

On Earth Day, Art Beat profiled two companies who are almost as devoted to environmentalism as they are to producing and playing music. Here are two more groups who have changed their operations to be more green while encouraging others to follow suit.
Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts

Bringing the arts into a natural setting is something Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts has been doing for nearly 40 years. It’s only fitting that the nation’s only National Park for the Performing Arts has become the first permanent venue to join in on the official Go Green Initiative.

After announcing in 2007 their plan to reduce their carbon footprint, they approached their goal by enacting some simple, straight-forward measures. They cut their landfill waste in half by providing more recycling bins than trash cans in the offices and on the grounds and they reduced their energy use by 23% by relying more on natural light and relaxing their heating and cooling standards by a couple degrees.

Wolf Trap also works with musicians on tour. They negotiate eco-friendly rider contracts, swapping plastic water bottles with water canteens and recyclable cups backstage. According to Wolf Trap President and CEO Terre Jones, many of the musicians don’t need to be convinced.

“I think when artists now look at who’s a part of the Green Music Group, it does send a signal that this is a place where we’d like to be,” said Terre.

Jones is looking forward to the point when performance technology meets the demand for energy conservation. One big stride could be moving towards using LEDs as stage lights rather than the traditional energy-thirsty incandescent bulbs, an idea, he says, that musicians like Jackson Browne are starting to explore.

As the final part of their initiative, Wolf Trap is using the literal spotlight to spread the sustainability message by featuring works that advocate environmentalism. They’ve commissioned works ranging from a multimedia dance piece about the melting glaciers in Glacier National Park, to a puppet show that teaches children the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle.

“[The arts give people] a deep-seeded emotional feeling,” says Jones. “I think its a real advantage to get this message about sustainability and environmental issues in front of a broader audience.”
State Radio

From Woody Guthrie to Odetta to Rage Against the Machine, American musicians have a tradition of trying to use their art to incite social change.

State Radio is among that long list of bands who take advantage of their stage presence and fan base to inspire listeners. The Boston trio is bringing their message of environmentalism from the stage to the streets and the streams. Calling all Crows, the non-profit service organization founded by State Radio, will be organizing environmental service projects in 15 cities around the country and inviting their fans to help them clean up urban playgrounds, remove invasive species from parks, and pick up trash on beaches and river shores.

State Radio guitarist and song-writer Chad Stokes says service projects make tours more meaningful. “It’s been fulfilling for us to have the touring process be more than just the music, but actually walking the walk during the day as well,” he explained.

State Radio fuels their van with biodiesel and demands that venues provide recycling receptacles. As more well-known bands demand eco-friendly venues, it relieves some of the pressure for other artists to request water canteens over water bottles and on-site recycling receptacles. After seven years on the road, Stokes says being a part of a community of like-minded musicians has some real benefits.

“When you’re touring so much, and you’re not home, and don’t have a neighborhood or community at home, it’s really important for us to feel the community on the road,” says Stokes.

But while bands across America spend the summer traversing well-traveled highways getting from gig to gig, Stokes says they’re also making a new path: “The road is being paved now, it’s not paved yet.”
Editor’s Note: Photos of State Radio are courtesy Lauren Knapp and Jordan Emont.