From energy guzzling lights to car travel and flights, from plastic waste to throwing out almost new strings and batteries, the music scene has an outsized environmental footprint.
Just as we have a responsibility to protect musicians, staff, crew and punters from injury, we have to play our part in protecting the environment. After all, there’s no music on a dead planet. What’s more, we should recognise the important role the music scene plays in shaping our culture, influencing behaviours and opinions.
With a few simple changes, we can make a big difference, reducing our footprint and showing others what can and must be done.
Climate Change Advocacy
The biggest environmental issue facing the planet is global warming, caused primarily by burning coal, oil and gas for energy, but also by logging and agriculture. Leading to potentially catastrophic increases in drought, fire, flood, sea level rise and storms, it is no exaggeration that climate change threatens all of our lives in one way or another and absolutely must be addressed urgently. Every industry has its role to play and music is no exception.
Our cultural influence as musical institutions is our most powerful force. We need to green our own venue or event, of course. But our politicians hold the economic levers, and can affect large scale change more rapidly than any of us can individually.
CLIMATE CHANGE DECLARATION
The first and most important step you can take right now is to sign our Climate Change Declaration and encourage all artists performing at your event/venue to also sign on.
FIRST NATIONS FIRST
Another crucial step is to put our First Nations people first. That means going beyond just Acknowledgement of Country, and striving for deeper inclusion, both within your organisational structure and in curation, setting minimum standards for First Nations content. When you step forward to care for the environment, you’re following the footprints of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have cared for Country for tens of thousands of years.
MUSIC AS ACTIVISM
Music has always been an art that has attracted, supported and nurtured activism, from civil rights and indigenous self-determination to feminism and nuclear disarmament, musicians have been at the forefront. A powerful contribution to protecting the environment can be as simple as supporting events and bands to raise awareness about issues and raise funds for campaigns. Alternatively, ask a local environmental activist group, like Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network, Stop Adani, Friends of the Earth, or Lock the Gate, to set up a stall.
Because the vast majority of Australia’s energy comes from highly polluting brown coal, the best steps music venues and festivals can take are shifting to more energy efficient lighting, heating and air-conditioning, and refrigeration, and moving to energy generated by clean, renewable sources like solar and wind.
By far the simplest thing to do is to contact your current electricity retailer and ask to be put onto their Green Power scheme. These schemes ensure that clean, renewable energy is generated to cover all of your electricity usage, replacing coal and helping the clean energy industry grow.
While all Green Power schemes are credible, some are better than others. Green Music Australia and many energy consultants can help find the best possible supplier and negotiate a good deal for high energy users.
For venues, temperature control is usually your biggest creation of emissions. Avoid turning on heating unless it is forecasted to be well below 19 degrees, and invest in a heating/cooling timing system so the system isn't in use when the venue is unoccupied. Switch to LED lighting, with light sensors if possible, and check the insulation around the building and the seals around fridges and cool rooms. Consider investing in an energy smart meter (with real time measurements) so you can accurately personalise your venue's energy reduction strategy.
For festivals, work with production to incorporate energy efficient stage lighting set ups (for example by using ultra energy efficient LED lighting where possible). For sites that are grid connected, arrange to purchase up to 100% Australian accredited GreenPower (sourced from approved wind, solar and hydro energy generators); if your site requires mobile generators, investigate if it can be run on biodiesel. Encourage and actively seek suppliers who can provide services to the festival using renewable energy, and work with all food vendors, markets and caterers to minimise the energy requirements for their services.
MEASURE YOUR IMPACT
Julies Bicycle provides a free set of online carbon calculators – Creative Industry Green (IG) Tools – to help those in the creative industries to easily measure environmental impacts over time.
Food & Vendors
After energy, the biggest driver of climate change is raising livestock for meat. That means that, if your venue or vendor serves food, one effective way to reduce our impact on the climate is to include more vegetarian options on the menu and limiting the highest carbon options like beef and lamb. By encouraging punters to choose delicious “climate-friendly eating”, you can have a big impact beyond your own space. Check out The Climatarian Challenge for more info.
As well as reducing meat, make sure to preference fresh, local, seasonal produce. Not only is food sourced locally healthier, but it tends to use less energy in its production. Food miles, the distance from producer to end user, are also reduced thus minimising air pollution and carbon emissions associated with its transport whilst supporting the local economy.
Rubbish is ugly, fills up landfill, hurts and kills wildlife, and contributes to global warming.
PARTY WITH THE PLANET
Over 50% of waste from multi-day events comes from audience campsites. An alliance of major festivals, artists, NFPs and social enterprises have come together, under the leadership of Green Music Australia, to tackle this enormous problem. To find out more, visit www.partywiththeplanet.org
REDUCE, THEN REUSE
The best way to deal with waste is to avoid it in the first place by switching to reusables. In almost all cases, reusable products outperform throwaway plastic AND compostable items. While reusable products have a larger upfront carbon footprint – due to being more robust – they only need to be used a few times before reaching a ‘break-even’ point, beyond which they are carbon positive. For this reason we encourage using generic products that can be readily shared. The key to running a successful reusable program is to work alongside an experienced supplier who can help with planning and wash and redistribution logistics. Our favourite providers are Bettercup, Reuse Revolution, and Be-Alternative.
The BYOBottle Campaign engages artists, venues, festivals and fans to reduce plastic waste in the music industry by promoting reusable water bottles and water refill stations at music events. Make the commitment to BYOBottle and join the campaign. Together we can show that the music industry is committed to reducing plastic pollution! For more information, visit https://byobottle.org/
What you can do:
Provide accessible and clean taps, or jugs or refilling stations, at bars and backstage, and use fun and creative signage to encourage punters and artists to use them.
Recoup costs by charging for premium products, such as filtered, chilled or flavoured water.
Use reusable hard plastic cups instead of single-use, throw away cups. For venues Provide venue-branded reusable bottles for use on stage, or even better, hire our Green Music bottles
Since China stopped taking our commingled waste in 2018, much of Australia’s recycling has gone directly to landfill. To address these new challenges, speak with your local council or waste management contractor about what they’re able to recycle. Decreasing contamination is critical, and best results are typically achieved by separating glass, plastic, paper and aluminium. Ensure bins are consistently provided across the venue or site. Recycling bins should be well marked (fun and creative signage options can help increase usage), and staff trained and required to use them properly.
Want to dig deeper? Check out:
- Julies Bicycles Waste Management for Outdoor events
- How to plan and deliver environmentally sustainable events
- RAW foundation’s Making Waves - Plastic Free Event
When we think of transport emissions in the music scene, most people focus on artists flying around on tour. But in fact the biggest environmental impact is from audience travel, going to and from gigs by car. UK charity Julies Bicycles estimates that fan travel emissions can outweigh festival emissions (lighting, freight, generators, etc) by more than 10:1. Here’s what to do:
- Make sure you have up to date public transport information on your website and social media, and provided to punters at point of ticket sale.
- Promote ride-share options through the website and ticket sale. Web-based services such as Ridevu allow people to register where they are going to and from and when and offer or ask for a lift.
- If public transport isn’t an option, make sure to provide a shuttle bus, or a similar service, for artists and crew to get to and from the event.
- Where possible, limit car parking spaces and price them high enough to encourage people to carpool or take alternatives.
- Provide incentives to punters to travel by bike or public transport encourage use, eg. offer a small discount on the next ticket or a free merch item, or combine event and public transport tickets.
- An important option, particularly for inner city venues, is making safe cycling infrastructure, such as enclosed bicycle racks, available. Make sure to promote it on your website and social media, and at point of ticket sale.
We’d love to create free resources more specific to our industry - for example, one specifically for venues, one specifically for festivals. Would you like to help us make this happen? Donate here.