Rock's green days
It's the hottest day Massachusetts has had in four years – 100 degrees F. and humid – and global warming has to be on the minds of more than a few of the 15,000 people here. It's the site of the nine-hour, 110-band, Vans Warped Tour '06. Joan Jett is on stage belting out an anthemic song from her new album, singing "Gotta change the world!"Skip to next paragraph
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The bands on this tour may not be changing the entire world, but they are trying to improve their little corner of it. The airport grounds where this rock 'n' roll marathon takes place are strewn with trash and plastic bottles, but a team of recyclers is constantly making the rounds, filling big plastic bags. (They filled 65.) One small stage is powered by solar energy. The caravan of tour buses runs on biodiesel fuel.
In a summer beset by bubbling thermometers and soaring gas prices, dozens of rock bands are doing more than just singing about environmental causes. Touring acts such as The Dave Matthews Band, Guster, and Pearl Jam are trying to minimize their carbon footprints as they traverse America. Their goal? Encourage concertgoers to adopt a green lifestyle.
"This tour serves as a microcosm of society," says Justin Sane, singer for punk band Anti-Flag, taking shelter in an air-conditioned bus at this Warped Tour stop. "We can set an example of how the world can be."
Musicians have long had ties to the environmental movement. There's Sting, who has been trying to save the rain forest for decades. There's Willie Nelson and his biodiesel- powered tour bus – heck, he founded the Willie Nelson Biodiesel company. There's Don Henley, relentlessly pushing to save Henry Thoreau's beloved Walden Woods from development. Earth Day concerts have been a staple of the rock world for years, with dozens of performers bonding together to promote the green way of life.
This summer the rock community is revving up its engines – powered by energy-efficient fuel, of course – with activism that's focused on changing its own lifestyle in order to lead by example.
These days, the Dave Matthews Band earns the most environmental gold stars. Over the past few years, the easygoing jam band has been working with a privately held native American energy company called NativeEnergy to offset the climate impact of emissions from touring – that includes energy-related emissions from amps on stage to accommodations associated with trucking, travel, and hotel stays.
"They purchase renewable energy credits through Clean Air–Cool Planet, a science-based nonprofit," says Billy Connelly, marketing director for the Vermont-based NativeEnergy. "They're helping build a new renewable-energy project. They're putting clean energy onto the grid and pushing dirty energy off. It's the same impact as if they were hard-wired to a wind turbine."
The Dave Matthews Band is even going so far as compensating for emissions from its tours over the past 15 years. "They've set the bar the highest," says Mr. Connelly. "It's a very big carbon footprint."
Also involved in NativeEnergy's offsetting system are artists Guster, Ray LaMontagne, Barenaked Ladies, R.E.M., the Indigo Girls, Jack Johnson, and Bon Jovi. Tennessee's multiband Bonnaroo festival has also participated during the past two years.