Mu­sic fans, not just in­dus­try, need to green up their act

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion - Brian Boyd on mu­sic bboyd@irish­times.com

The mu­sic in­dus­try is an en­vi­ron­men­tal tox­i­cant. Ev­ery sin­gle step of the way – from the CD you buy, the stu­dio it was recorded in, the mer­chan­dise T-shirt you wear – there is an ad­verse af­fect on any no­tion of sus­tain­abil­ity. And that’s all be­fore you get to the ever-pop­u­lar mu­sic fes­ti­val. You may think it’s all hippy and nice to loll around a field for a few days, but from how you got there, to the wa­ter you drink, the dam­age to the en­vi­ron­ment just keeps on build­ing up.

The past few years have seen a num­ber of clever ini­tia­tives to try to do some­thing about the colos­sal amount of car­bon emis­sions caused by the in­dus­try, but as strange it may seem, the mu­sic busi­ness is a very con­ser­va­tive body. Just look at all the palaver there was about ac­cept­ing the MP3 down­load as a saleable prod­uct. With any en­vi­ron­men­tal ini­tia­tive, you need a crit­i­cal mass to re­ally ef­fect change. So far there is no real sign of this hap­pen­ing in the mu­sic world, but you can see progress in small lit­tle pock­ets here and there.

Julie’s Bi­cy­cle, a green coali­tion group based in the UK, pub­lishes guides that show how easy, prac­ti­cal and cost-ef­fec­tive it can be to of­fer or­ganic mer­chan­dis­ing T-shirts, how record­ing stu­dios can use re­new­able en­ergy/so­lar power, and how CD packaging can use re­cy­clable pa­per. All of th­ese are doable, but make take some time to fully en­act.

The big­ger prob­lems are the mu­sic fes­ti­vals and, in par­tic­u­lar, the younger de­mo­graphic. You would ex­pect the 18-to 25-yearold de­mo­graphic to be the most en­vi­ron­men­tally aware and the most will­ing to em­brace green mea­sures, but in fact the op­po­site is the case. They’re in it for the ut­ter he­do­nism of it all and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns sim­ply don’t get a look in as the Dutch Gold be­gins to flow.

The seem­ingly in­sa­tiable ap­petite for the rock fes­ti­val is the big bad wolf here. From Elec­tric Pic­nic to Glas­ton­bury to Lat­i­tude, or­gan­is­ers are bend­ing over back­wards to help out. Acts are given their own book­lets ex­plain­ing what sort of car­bon foot­print they are leav­ing and how to re­duce it. Spe­cial waste kits passed out to fes­ti­val­go­ers make it eas­ier for them to break up their rub­bish for re­cy­cling pur­poses. Glas­ton­bury has long been the leader. You can’t move around the fes­ti­val site for all the big “Leave No Trace”

mes­sages that prick your con­science. Glas­ton­bury re­cy­cles about 50 per cent of its waste (a very high fig­ure) and even of­fers biodegrad­able tent pegs. This lat­ter mea­sure may seem in­con­se­quen­tial, but con­sider the amount of old-style tent pegs that 150,000 campers use over the week­end.

Melvyn Benn, manag­ing di­rec­tor of Fes­ti­val Repub­lic, which runs Glas­ton­bury and half-runs Elec­tric Pic­nic along­side Pod Pro­mo­tions, says that the pro­file of the au­di­ence is all-im­por­tant when it comes to green aware­ness is­sues. Elec­tric Pic­nic go­ers, be­ing that bit more grown up, tend to re­spect their sur­round­ings and get into the re­cy­cling spirit. The more “rock­ier” fes­ti­vals that at­tract younger crowds re­port dif­fi­culty in get­ting ine­bri­ated teenagers to con­sider the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of their week­end camp­ing.

What re­ally works, re­gard­less of the age group, is bring­ing in small fi­nan­cial mea­sures. Many fes­ti­vals, for ex­am­ple, now charge a 15 cent-de­posit on a pa­per cup to en­cour­age re­use. But, re­ally, what all fes­ti­vals need to do is to in­stall tem­po­rary wa­ter foun­tains so there isn’t any need for all the pa­per cups and plas­tic wa­ter bot­tles in the first place.

The real is­sue here is try­ing to bal­ance the sex, drugs and rock’n’ roll el­e­ment of a mu­sic fes­ti­val with the amount of lec­tur­ing you can do about the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact. It’s dif­fi­cult enough get­ting fes­ti­val­go­ers to use the ve­gan con­doms on sale. www.

agreen­er­fes­ti­val.com

Fin­barr Cogh­lan from Let­terkenny went a paler shade of green at the 2009 Elec­tric Pic­nic

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