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Concert Tours Are Cutting Carbon Footprints in Creative Ways

From kinetic dance floors to vegan concessions, here’s how artists and bands are producing sustainable shows.

Concert Tours Are Cutting Carbon Footprints in Creative Ways
Photo: Wendy Wei/Pexels.com

During their latest tour, Coldplay blasts House of Pain’s "Jump Around.”

Not as an ode to the ‘90s hip-hop trio, but rather to generate power, asking groups of fans to “jump around” on kinetic dance floors. It’s all part of the band’s efforts to reduce the effects of the environmental footprint of their current tour, “Music of the Spheres.”

And they aren’t the only ones trying to reduce, recycle, and reuse. Billie Eilish has pledged to eliminate an estimated 35,000 single-use water bottles from her tour. Olivia Rodrigo’s tour merch is sustainably dyed and 100% organic cotton. And Shawn Mendes is trying to reduce his tour’s environmental impact by staying at hotels that commit to net-zero emissions and using sustainable aviation fuel.

Reverb, a nonprofit that provides consultation to bands that are looking to make their concerts greener, aims to improve behind-the-scenes efforts as well as fan engagement. This summer, the organization is currently touring with partners that include Eilish, Dave Matthews Band, The Lumineers, Dead & Company, and Lorde.

“A lot of the work we do is fairly similar across tours—things like waste reduction and diversion from landfill or emissions reductions and carbon elimination,” said Chris Spinato, Reverb’s manager of communications. “Those are big overarching categories, and a lot goes into those efforts, but those are standard practices.”

He added that Reverb is also looking at new ways to tackle the environmental impacts of tours.

“For instance, on Billie Eilish’s tour, we’re working with venues to ensure there are vegan options at concession stands—vegan options have much lower environmental and climate impacts than meat options,” he explained. “We’re also seeing more bands adopt a zero single-use plastic policy on tour, so we’re helping by providing more water refill stations backstage and on tour buses and finding lower impact options where reusables won’t work like swapping plastic cups for infinitely recyclable aluminum options.”

Reverb also works with tours to engage and empower fans. At every show, the organization sets up what it calls “action” or “eco” villages where fans can interact with volunteers to learn more about issues and how they can make a positive impact. This includes everything from using the free water refill stations to reducing single-use plastic bottles to connecting with a local nonprofit.

“It’s always a positive experience and focused on empowerment. Who would want to come to a concert and be made to feel bad?” Spinato said.

Based on a global sustainability study in 2021, Live Nation found that 82% of live musicgoers “strive to maintain an environmentally sustainable lifestyle.” So it makes sense that artists and bands would want to cater to the interests of its fans beyond just playing their favorite songs.

Concert Tours Are Cutting Carbon Footprints in Creative Ways“The idea behind it is to make clever use of the sources that are available, like a club full of people dancing. Converting this energy into usable electricity is a fun and sustainable solution that makes the people part of the solution,” said a spokesperson for Energy Floors.Photo: Courtesy of Energy FloorsAs for those kinetic dance floors, Rotterdam-based Energy Floors has partnered with brands such as Adidas, Samsung, and Heineken as well as notable music events including Coachella, Rock in Rio, and Balaton Sound to harness the power of attendees’ footwork.

A spokesperson for the company said that the concept came about in 2008 with the opening of a dance club called Club Watt.

“The idea behind it is to make clever use of the sources that are available, like a club full of people dancing. Converting this energy into usable electricity is a fun and sustainable solution that makes the people part of the solution,” they said, predicting that there will be more demand for the floors from tours and festivals, as well as smart cities and buildings.

Of course, installing high-tech flooring isn’t the only answer. Spinato said that he’s seen an increasing number of venues make real strides when it comes to sustainability. “Waste is a massive issue at venues, but we’re seeing increased amounts of waste elimination or diversion from landfill, including bans on single-use plastic, comprehensive recycling and composting, and water refill stations for fans and tours.”

He added that travel by fans makes up 70-90% or more of a concert’s total carbon footprint, so venues have begun to incentivize less carbon-intensive options by providing bike valets and special carpool lanes or parking. “But the most important thing is this: just do something. You don’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to do everything, but just do something. It adds up, and it matters. The best environmental action is the one that’s taken.”

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