For Earth Day, we take a look at two companies in the music industry that have made environmentally-friendly practices a priority.
When it comes to being eco-friendly, Earthology is one of the friendliest labels in the business. From production to final product, concern for the environment drives Minnesota-based label Earthology Records through the whole process.
When Craig Minowa, singer/sonwriter of the band Cloud Cult, and wife Connie co-founded the non-profit label in 1997 it was because they saw a need in the record business. The goals of most record labels — promoting and selling bands – were less important to them than creating a new paradigm.
“The plan wasn’t ever to be too involved in the actual music promotional aspects of the industry, but more in the sense of developing models of recycled and organic merchandise and reducing the environmental impacts from touring,” says Minowa.
Listen to an interview with Earthology’s Craig Minowa:
Earthology started small with a plan for those plastic CD jewel cases that can’t be recycled along with most everyday items. They set out collecting cases in college bookstores, and before long were receiving thousands of them in the mail. After picking out the best and washing them, they repurposed the cases for some of the similarly eco-friendly musicians in the area. Liner notes were printed with soy ink on 100 percent post-recycled paper. The packaging was a biodegradable shrink wrap.
Now, Earthology Records has a climate-conscious recording studio on an organic farm in Northern Minnesota and is building a second in Southern Wisconsin. When the Minowas built the first studio in 2004, they tried to leave as small a carbon footprint as they could. Heated and cooled with geothermal energy, most of the building is made from reclaimed wood and other materials found on the farm. Even the soundproof paneling is made from recycled material. Today, they have the benefit of six years of innovation and new technological developments such as sound insulating panels produced from clothing that’s been discarded, cleaned and shredded.
The trend toward eco-conscious design in recent years has also helped Earthology’s bottom line.
“I think it’s really important for the industry to understand how affordable this is starting to get and that it’s actually economically feasible now,” says Minowa.
Most music tours are anything but environmentally benign. Driving cross-country in a bus (or two), performing several shows a week under bright lights, plugging into a sound system, and only eating meals on the go on disposable plates can’t be good for your carbon footprint.
That’s why, in 2004, Guster frontman Adam Gardner and his wife, Lauren Sullivan, decided to figure out how to green a tour.
They founded Reverb,, a non-profit organization with two main goals: Help musicians tour in an environmentally sustainable way and educate fans through outreach while doing it.
In the past six years, Reverb has helped more than 80 tours “go green,” working with notable musicians like Bonnie Raitt, Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews Band and Aimee Mann. Reverb helps musicians fuel buses with bio-diesel, ensure ample recycling stations throughout venues, and develop their ideal green rider. This encompasses anything from insisting on recyclable cups to only serving local food in the dressing room.
Reverb is eager to mix in with the fans. They set up an “Eco-Village” outside most concert venues where they can engage and interact with concert goers.
“We make every effort to really make it fun and enhance the music experience as opposed to preaching gloom and doom,” claims Reverb General Manager Brian Allenby. In fact, it generally can only take on 10 percent of the volunteers who are interested in manning the “Eco-Village” booths.
Listen to an interview with Reverb’s Brian Allenby:
But for Reverb, that’s a good problem. Demand for the environmentally-minded service is growing at an incredibly quick rate. “One of the biggest problems is just growing sustainably,” says Allenby. “We want to make sure that we can maintain the same level of quality of our services and attention to detail with each artist that we have since the beginning.”
Reverb’s also witnessed an environmental change at many of the venues they travel to as well. When they first got started, Allenby recalls it was hard to find recycling bins on the grounds. Now, many bands expect to find 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper towels backstage. It seems to be proof that a little coalition can go a long way.