Science and technology are in a place now for the world to go through a major overhaul. What’s lacking is a change of culture… What I think the music community can do more than anybody else is inform people, act as a catalyst. Perry Farrell, Jane’s Addiction.
Our rapid destruction of the environment is not only putting our futures at risk, but also having real consequences right now. Environmental issues affect the whole world, not only the natural but our social and economic environments too. The earth is where we came from and what sustains us. Without it we cease to exist, and so does our ability to create and appreciate the beauty of music.
But there is hope. We now have sustainable technologies and practices ready to be put in place. All we need is a change in culture.
The music industry is in a unique position of power: the power to influence culture and spread information.
If music can get kids to wear their pants around their ankles, it can get them to clean up their lifestyles. Neal Turley, Sustainable Waves.
The Power of Music to Influence Culture
Musicians have great influence over the masses. As trendsetters who influence culture (primarily youth, the decision makers of tomorrow), musicians lead by example.
As a collective, musicians have one of the most powerful voices on earth, and access to the ears of the global public. Music crosses all borders and boundaries.
Music also has the power to shift perceptions from a purely scientific view, to emotional understanding, and thus action. For example, benefit concerts are often held for victims of natural disasters, and countless songs have instilled messages of both urgency and hope in our minds.
A Story of Hope
…but when I hear about the hole in the sky, salt water wells in my eye (Julia Lennon) is the first song lyric I can remember, and I’m continually surprised by how many other people remember it. That song helped raised awareness of the most pressing issue of the time: the ozone layer.
Since then the ozone layer has started to heal. In this instance, we have mended our ways. As a culture we took enough notice and made enough noise that politicians banned the use of CFCs (the biggest contributor to ozone depletion) and various studies show the hole is now closing.
This shows two things. Firstly that there is hope; we do have the power to get together and make positive changes. Secondly, it shows the power music has to spread information and instill a message.
What We Can Do
Unlike any other industry sector in the country, the Australian music community is in an extremely unique and powerful position to engage with and influence a broad cross-section of the Australian public to make the necessary changes to slow the effects of climate change. Mat Morris, Sound Emissions.
So what can we as musicians do? The answer is simple: lead by example. The music industry gets a lot of exposure, and when we make changes, people notice.
Limit Travel Emissions
The biggest contributor to music industry emissions is live music. But that doesn’t mean we have to stop performing. Dating back to the first human cultures, live music has always been a part of us and should be celebrated. Additionally, live music has the power to influence culture through leading by example and raising awareness.
But since we are playing live music and generating emissions, there are certain measures we can take to avoid, reduce, and offset our impact. There is an increasing wealth of information available on the internet for this purpose, including the Australian based “Sound Emissions” website, UK based “Julie’s Bicycle”, and many more.
Most importantly, audience travel is the biggest emitter in the music industry, so car-pooling, using public transport, and maximising the efficiency of travel logistics should be encouraged.
For music business, “low-carbon communications” should also be utilised (e.g. teleconferencing can avoid unnecessary flights).
Switch to Card Cases
The second biggest source of emissions in the music industry comes from CDs, primarily because of our use of oil to make plastic jewel cases.
An individual (plastic) CD album creates at least 1 kg CO2e. — Consumer Research Study into CD Packaging, Catherine Bottrill and Vishnu Ganglani.2
Numerous studies show that using card packaging instead of plastic cases reduces these emissions by 95%. Furthermore, a detailed study carried out by the ERA (Entertainment Retail Association) shows that more than half of music consumers would actually prefer card to “easily-breakable” plastic.
For a range of recycled card packaging solutions, see www.austepmusic.com.au
Minimise Packaging & Marketing Material
Minimise production of packaging and marketing material, and when you do print, print on recycled, biodegradable paper.
A further note: in most cases a finish coat (e.g. “gloss”) means the paper is no longer recyclable as it is coated in a thin layer of plastic.
Reduce Building Emissions
Greening your office, venue or studio primarily means being energy efficient (e.g. use of natural ventilation/lighting), thus using less electricity and saving money.
Simple things like switching off equipment or opening/closing blinds makes a huge impact.
Get involved, spread information, monitor and assess your impact, and communicate what you are doing.
Conclusions on Green Music
The power of change lies in knowledge and collaborative action. — Long Horizons: An Exploration of Art + Climate Change, Julie’s Bicycle.
Our dependence on fossil fuels, and disregard for the earth that sustains us is taking its toll at an accelerating rate.
But there is hope if we act now. And slowly we are starting to take responsibility.
Shell, one of the world’s oil giants recently stated: “Shell shares the widespread concern that the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities is leading to changes in the global climate”.
Last year’s “Earth Hour” was the largest ever global demonstration of collective action against climate change.
These are just a few examples of the real changes taking place.
But we need to move quicker. We need to raise awareness, we need to work together, and we need a shift in culture.
And what better way to do this than through the power of music.
The Australian Green Music Coalition
Following the Green Music Panel held at MCA’s 2010 annual meeting, a plan was set in motion to form the Australian Green Music Coalition.
Harnessing the power of music to influence culture and raise awareness, the Australian Green Music Coalition (AGMC) is a united industry front working together to affect change through the green music movement. The AGMC is a chance to bring together the growing wealth of green music resources, contacts, and information, so that we can make a larger impact on the industry, and thus the world.3
Asher Christophers, December 2010. Published in Music Forum, Vol 17, No. 2, Autumn 2011. Entered on Knowledge Base 13 November 2013.
- http://www.juliesbicycle.com/media/research/LongHorizons.pdf Long Horizons: An Exploration of Art + Climate Change, British Council.↩︎
- http://www.juliesbicycle.com/media/research/CD-eReport-FINAL-feb09.pdf Impacts and Opportunities: Reducing the Carbon Emissions of CD Packaging, Appendix 2).↩︎
- To be involved in the AGMC, please email email@example.com.↩︎
Asher Christophers is a passionate musician & environmentalist, who runs http://www.austepmusic.com (eco CD packaging & printing). Asher is also a LED lighting specialist for http://www.propa.com.au (energy solutions) & co-founder of http://www.greenmusic.org.au - a NPO founded to make the music industry more sustainable.