Keep on Rockin' in the Green World
"Turn out the light, turn out the light!"WhenNelly Furtado sings these words at tonight's free Earth Hour concert atNathan Phillips Square, it will be a clarion call, imploring musiclovers across the GTA to do their bit to fight climate change. Organizershave planned a show designed to make a smaller environmental impact âusing minimal lighting, encouraging the audience to lug-a-mug andbuying carbon offsets, for starters. Still these effortsrepresent just a fraction of the initiatives available to Torontoconcert organizers, says Lee Schnaiberg, an environmental consultantwho has co-ordinated greening efforts at several festivals, includingTennessee's Bonnaroo, considered one of the greenest in the world.Toronto, with its big-name concerts and thriving summer outdoor festival scene, still has a ways to go, he says. Comparedto U.S. cities of the same size, we lag behind in earth- friendly gigs,Schnaiberg says. While the holy grail â an event that leaves absolutelyno carbon footprint behind â is elusive, it's far from impossible,Schnaiberg insists. "You just have to plan it out," he says.It may seem like a small thing compared to the amount of waste that a large-scale festival can produce, but it is the first point of contact for any concertgoer. Recycled paper is obviously a place to start but there are other options. Lee Schnaiberg, an environmental consultant who works with the Green Living Show, (which takes place next month) says that last year show organizers used recycled paper tickets embedded with wildflower seeds. "The idea is that when you go home you can just soak it, plant it and then eventually have flowers growing," he says. This approach works for smaller events that don't need tickets with security features such as holograms or watermarking. Another option for a promoter is to use a company like California-based In Ticketing, which plants a tree for every ticket bought through the broker. On a technological front, just this week, Rogers announced a program with concert promoter Live Nation called the Wireless Box Office, which eliminates paper tickets and instead sends concert tickets to your cell phone via a text message with a barcode that can be scanned at the gates.TRANSPORTATION/TOURINGReverb is a Portland, Me., organization that has been working with bands to boost their green efforts. Since starting in 2004, the organization has greened 50 tours and reduced more than 28,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. Pollution from the travel involved in a tour is one of the major contributors to concert pollution. "We like to use biodiesel fuel; typically we use B-20, although on some we're up to B-100, which is great," says Brian Allenby, Reverb's executive director. "After we've taken all the steps we can, then we start looking at carbon offsets to fill in the remaining pieces, like flights that happen on tour, because there's no real way around that in most cases."Another option with road travel is good old-fashioned carpooling. For instance, since Montreal's Osheaga Music and Arts Festival has been held right after Toronto's Virgin Festival, many artists with gigs at both festivals could have shared travel resources.Reverb also works with artists on greening their rider â the list of things they want at the venue. This goes beyond what the band is drinking and eating backstage. It's a matter of working with venues to evaluate their supplies. One perfect example is making sure the venue's cups are biodegradable or re-useable in some way. "Just think about how much beer is drunk at a concert, or at a festival," says Allenby. "We use corn cups and sugar- cane plates, so within four to six weeks they will be gone, as opposed to plastic that will take years, or in some cases, never."In terms of festival food, the key is to attempt to use local providers and organic food. The same goes for merchandise sold on-site. A little effort will help ensure T-shirts are made from organic cotton and souvenirs are sourced from environmentally conscious providers.Outside of air travel, energy is one of the largest environmental issues at a festival. Most outdoor concerts and festivals run on generators, so using B-20 (fuel made from 80 per cent diesel and 20 per cent biodiesel) or even B-100 is one of the first steps.But the cleaner-burning alternative to regular diesel isn't a perfect fuel, warns Schnaiberg.A higher concentration of biodiesel cleans out the generator when it first runs through the machinery, he explains. "If you're using B-99, for the first week or so, your generator's going to be sputtering. It's getting the gunk out, but that's not great because you have to run it for a week for it to work smoothly. So usually, you can only use B-20 on the stages."Of course, it all depends on the level of commitment. Schnaiberg says at last year's Osheaga festival, organizers brought in Hydro Quebec to dig lines to the main stages and provide to hydro-electricity.The result: "We got rid of five stage generators, which were about 150 to 200 kilowatts," he says. It also reduced the festival's carbon footprint by up to 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, Schnaiberg says. In terms of non-stage lighting, such as on walkways, one alternative is to use fluorescent paint. Companies such as U.S.-based Sustainable Waves and British Columbia's Carmanah offer solar-powered outbuildings and solar-powered light poles, respectively. WASTE MANAGEMENTIf you go to the Nelly Furtado show, be sure to tip a hat to the Green Angels. They're the volunteers that will be by the recycling and garbage bins politely pointing out where things have to go. Even if a facility has garbage, recycling and waste receptacles, they are only as good as the people who use them."We're expecting 5,000 to 10,000 people, so our Green Angels will be telling people which bin to use. But don't worry, they'll do it in a friendly, loving way," says Nathan Rosenberg from Virgin Mobile Canada, which is helping to put on the show. When recycling on such a huge scale, improper sorting can mean a huge mess for organizers, Schnaiberg says. "If you take some shortcuts, you'll find yourself with much larger problems. It costs to get rid of waste, so in many cases, it's in the organizers' (best interests) to reduce or finds ways to divert it from going into landfills."He proudly says that about 70 per cent of the waste at the Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee is diverted from landfills, and they sort recyclables on-site. One of the companies they use is Waste-a-way, which turns solid waste into picnic tables and parking guideposts.THE AUDIENCEDespite everything an artist does to minimize their carbon footprint for a show, the majority of the environmental impact at a concert or festival comes from the audience. Reverb estimates 80 per cent of a concert's carbon footprint comes from the fans' commute. A perfect example is Guelph's Hillside Festival, which is well known for its green practices, but considering its location, most people drive to get there. There are obvious ways to cut down on this. Crooner Jack Johnson has had a fan-carpooling initiative on his website for years and bands such as Barenaked Ladies have neutralized millions of kilometres of driving through fan carbon offset programs. As many planet-saving programs like to say, we are all in this together, and fans need to think about doing their bit, by bringing reuseable containers to a venue, or making sure that they throw that can in the right recycling bin. "Really, the fans are the biggest part, and really what we're trying to do is make them think about their impact," says Reverb's Allenby. "If we can just get them to do one thing, hopefully that will lead to another thing, and another."