Music fans, not just industry, need to green up their act
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.
Finbarr Coghlan from Letterkenny went a paler shade of green at the 2009 Electric Picnic