How were you planning to spend summer this year? Seeing your favourite band under a moonlit sky? Dancing at your beloved bar? Going to a festival with friends? Unfortunately, COVID-19 has made all those impossible. Like with other industries, the live music sector has been hard hit, as concerts and festivals are postponed because of social distancing measures and artists forced to take their gigs online.
But it’s not all bad. Virtual concerts can be a more sustainable way of enjoying music as the entertainment industry consumes an enormous amount of energy and concert-goers produce tons of waste. As shows leave the arena and enter the livestream, the music world is transforming the industry. In a post-pandemic world, this raises questions about what entertainment itself could be as we work to build back better.
The music industry began addressing its environmental footprint even before Covid-19. UNEP partner REVERB – a nonprofit organization that unites with musicians, festivals, and venues to green the concert industry – was founded on the belief that music has the ability to make people feel, care, and act. From eliminating single-use water bottles at live music events to sourcing local food and sustainable biodiesel, they take practical and impactful steps to green the industry.
To reduce their environmental footprint, REVERB has launched initiatives like #RockNRefill, a partnership with reusable water bottle maker Nalgene. The initiative has eliminated the use of more than 2.4 million single-use bottles at concerts throughout North America since 2013.
They have also started a campaign to address greenhouse gas emissions related to the music industry. Known as unCHANGEit, the program empowers all members of the music community to reduce their carbon footprint and then neutralize whatever they can’t reduce by funding greenhouse gas-fighting projects around the world. The campaign looks at all aspects of live music’s carbon footprint including artist and fan travel, venue energy use, and much more.
“REVERB has been working with music-makers and music-lovers for over 15 years to make concerts and touring more sustainable, reduce their environmental footprint, and rally millions of fans to take action for the planet” said Lauren Sullivan, REVERB Co-Founder and Co-Director. “We know that climate change is the most pressing issue of our time and we believe the music community can be – and through REVERB’s unCHANGEit campaign, will be – a leading force in addressing these problems and creating real, positive change for the future.”
The nonprofit also works with musicians to educate and engage their fans on environmental issues. Through Action Villages at concerts, festivals, and venues, REVERB provides a platform for fans to connect with environmental partners like UNEP. In these spaces, individuals can learn more about helping the planet and take actions such as UNEP’s #CleanSeas pledge, which was promoted at UNEP’s kickoff REVERB partnership concert tour with Fleetwood Mac in 2019.
“Our health and that of planet is intrinsically connected with how we choose to live, work and even enjoy ourselves,” said Elisa Tonda, Head, Consumption and Production Unit, UNEP. “Music, which is deeply part of our culture, our individual and collective identity, can inspire a shift to living more sustainably and the industry itself can play a part by reducing its footprint though minimizing waste, lowering CO2 emissions, increasing awareness and motivating action.”
UNEP’s North American Goodwill Ambassadors, including Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews Band, are also in on the action. With the support of REVERB, Dave Matthews Band eliminated over 121 million pounds of CO2 and 478,000 single-use plastic water bottles from their tours.
Now, the nonprofit is facilitating events online, including Après Ski music performances supporting frontline healthcare workers; a sustainable cooking series called Quarantine Kitchen; and virtual roundtable discussions on issues such as illegal logging with Goodwill Ambassador Stefan Lessard from Dave Matthews Band.
As we work to build back better post-pandemic, industries everywhere should be looking to green their practices. REVERB and the surge of virtual concerts show us that sustainable change in the entertainment industry is not only possible, but already happening.