Greener Than Thou: Bands Clean Up Their Acts

The nonprofit organization Reverb, formed in 2006 with help from Bonnie Raitt's ARIA Foundation, has stepped in to coordinate these efforts. Its artist roster includes John Mayer, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Norah Jones, and the list is growing.

Reverb has mapped out a national network of biodiesel suppliers and works with trucking and busing companies to help route the band's tour accordingly, according to founder Lauren Sullivan. As Reverb develops relationships with suppliers, it will become easier and easier to plan each show without reinventing the wheel -- or the engine, so to speak.

Reverb has a small team of full-time employees who coordinate an army of volunteers and work with corporate partners like Ben & Jerry's and the yogurt company Stonyfield. Sullivan founded Reverb with her husband Adam Gardner, a member of the band Guster, who used Reverb to organize its "Campus Consciousness" tour last year.

At one summer radio festival show where Guster played, the band set up an "ecovillage," where, in one demonstration, the vegetable oil used to make a day's worth of French fries was used as fuel for a biodiesel car. Reverb also provides ways for fans to buy carbon offsets for their drive to the show. Fans who attended the Barenaked Ladies concerts last year offset over 8 million miles of driving, according to Sullivan.

ABC News contributor Michael Smith is an internationally recognized DJ who has a music-services business. He works with a variety of corporate clients. or Judy Coleman is a freelance journalist who covers the music industry. Carbon offsets usually involve donations to research and development in clean energy sources, such as wind and solar power. Though the booming carbon-offset industry has come under scrutiny lately for bankrolling higher profit margins or potentially fruitless research, Sullivan uses a company called Native Energy, which directly funds new wind turbine projects on Indian reservations. Gore went through Native Energy to offset the book and movie versions of "An Inconvenient Truth."

Word of mouth is meaningful. No other carbon-offsetting company was mentioned by the bands and labels interviewed for this article.

The popular band Taking Back Sunday, for example, used Native Energy to offset its concerts on its latest tour. As lead guitarist Fred Mascherino said, its offset money went to fund the construction of a new wind farm on a South Dakota Indian reservation. Like Moby and other rock stars before him, Mascherino is a vegan who drives his own biofuel car.

Taking Back Sunday started small with its efforts to get greener. The band would recycle all its own cans and bottles (many, on a rock tour), place recycling bins at its concerts, and sell organic cotton merchandise. Even Gore had heard of the band's efforts, and the members were invited to play Live Earth's New York show. Mascherino noted with a wink that Gore told the band he was not running for president.

Back to Business

For all the publicity of Live Earth and the carnival-slash-science-fair atmosphere of enviro-concerts, the true test of the industry's environmental commitment will be the changes it can make in the less glamorous process of album distribution.

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