How Can I Become an Eco-Friendly Musician?
The eco-friendly movement is taking over. People are looking for things they can do to save the earth and they are supporting brands that are doing their part.
If you are a musician who is trying to be successful, you should always be trying to sell yourself, or your brand. Getting onboard with the eco-friendly movement is one way to do it. Don’t believe me?
Gojira is a metal band that often includes environmental topics in their songs and partners with eco-based charities. They recently landed the number one slot on the hard rock albums and top rock albums charts. This is the first time a band that heavy has charted so high.
Is it purely due to their talent, or is it because of their strong environmental message? Maybe it’s both?
That’s something I couldn’t tell you, but their environmentalism certainly couldn’t be hurting them.
Additionally, research shows that millennials are more likely to buy from a brand that aligns with their values. And with so many people wanting to save the environment, Gojira’s earth friendly message gives them a leg up.
Now, I’m not telling you to jump on the environmental bandwagon if that’s not what you’re about. If you aren’t passionate about the environment and fake your way through, people will sniff out your lack of authenticity a mile away and it can end up doing more harm than good.
But if you genuinely want to help the environment, it could serve as a vehicle that helps your career in a positive way.
Now, without further ado, let’s look at what you can be doing to become an eco-friendly musician.
No More Hard Copies
Paper sheet music has been used by musicians for centuries. However, sheet music often spans many sheets of paper, and it is not uncommon for one piece to be edited and reprinted several times before it is finalized.
By converting your sheet music into a PDF, you can display your compositions on a tablet and minimize your paper waste. PDFs are accessible and easy to share and update, so you and your fellow musicians will always have quick access to the most recent version of your piece.
If you can’t afford a tablet to display sheet music, you can still reduce your footprint by reusing old sheet music. It can be used as wrapping paper, a doodle pad, packing material, and more. Get creative, just don’t let it go to waste!
Use Public Transportation/Carpool
Transport is one of the main sources of pollution created by musicians. If you don’t have a massive load of equipment, public transport is one the most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
If you do require a significant haul of gear, carpooling with your bandmates can also help reduce your impact. Better yet, carpool to shows with your friends! Not only is it eco-friendly, your friends will have no choice but to stay and watch your set!
Take Care of Your Gear
The most sustainable equipment is the equipment that you already own. Taking care of your gear doesn’t just save you time and money, it also reduces the amount of waste produced in manufacturing and discarding gear and backups. Here are a few effective ways make your gear more sustainable:
- Safe Storage
Make sure you keep all your gear in a safe place where it is unlikely to get knocked over or stepped on, especially if you have children or pets. Keep wooden and metal items away from any wet or humid areas to avoid warping and rusting. Any gear that comes with a case should stay in its case when it's not in use. This will protect it from dirt and physical damage.
- Learn the Proper Way to Wrap Cables
Did you know there’s a right way to wrap a cable? Cables are one of the most frequently replaced pieces of gear, but a single cable can last for years as long as it is properly handled.
The correct method for wrapping involves following the natural flow of the cable and twisting it in alternating directions until it is fully coiled. If that sounds confusing, watch one of the many video tutorials available on YouTube. You’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly, and once you do, you’ll find your cables last much longer
- Clean Gear Frequently
Cleaning your gear prevents dust from gathering, which can erode your instrument’s finish and interfere with electronics. Cleaning gear is as simple as applying disinfectant to a cloth and wiping it down. Make sure you never apply disinfectant directly to your instrument, as this can damage the internal electronics.
- Repair, Don’t Replace
No matter how well you take care of your gear, it is bound to break down eventually. Whenever possible, you should always opt for repairing your gear rather than buying a replacement. Gear repairs may take a few weeks, but they are usually cheaper and always more eco-friendly than just buying a replacement.
- Sell or Recycle Used Strings
If you play a string instrument, make sure that all of your broken strings are properly recycled. For guitarists and bassists, certain manufacturers will even pay you a small sum to receive your broken strings so that they can be recycled into new strings.
- Use Rechargeable Batteries
Various pieces of musical equipment require battery power, such as pedals and certain in-ear monitors. If possible, you should use rechargeable batteries in your equipment. Not only does it reduce waste from toxic batteries that leak inside of landfills, but it will save you money in the long run.
For extra sustainability, connect all of your pedals to AC power. That way, the battery will only be used as a backup if the AC power is disconnected.
However, even rechargeables die eventually. When a battery dies, make sure to find the nearest E-waste site and bring it in so that it can be properly handled and disposed of.
Buy Second-Hand Gear
Another effective way to reduce the resources expended by your gear is to buy used equipment. 2nd hand gear is usually cheaper than new gear and it effectively reuses resources. If you get lucky, you might find some rare, vintage, or even discontinued gear while shopping for 2nd hand items.
If you are planning on getting rid of your own gear, you can sell it secondhand on Ebay, Craigslist, or even to your local pawn shop. Even if the gear is totally broken, you can usually get a small sum for selling the parts.
Alternatively, you can donate your gear to one of the many charities which bring musical equipment to the underprivileged. Whatever you do, make sure your gear doesn’t end up in a landfill.
Buy Eco-Friendly Instruments
An increasing number of music companies are creating eco-friendly products. Brands are using alternative materials to increase the product’s sustainability and limit damage done to the environment. Some of the current trends in alternative materials include:
Bamboo grows quickly and it doesn’t require pesticides, making it a highly sustainable material. It has also proven to be a stronger and more effective alternative to traditional woods.
Recently, Boso Drumsticks released a pair of bamboo drumsticks. Not only are these sticks highly sustainable, they are also more durable than traditional drumsticks and completely splinter free.
Similarly, DW Drums released the Eco-X Drum Kit, which is made entirely out of bamboo and birch. Bamboo has a different consistency from wood, which gives the drums a unique tone that is much brighter than that of any traditional drum kit.
- Recycled Plastics
More and more companies are dedicating themselves to using recycled plastics to reduce their waste. Earth Picks are a leader in this market selling a variety of eco-friendly guitar accessories, from picks to straps. All their products are made from 100% recycled plastics, and their profits are reinvested into various educational programs.
- Sustainably-Sourced Wood
While many guitar companies source rare woods through illegal foresting, Taylor Guitars has recently dedicated themselves to using sustainably, responsibly sourced wood to minimize their carbon footprint. The Greenpeace Foundation also started an initiative known as MusicWood which is dedicated to partnering with music brands to sustainably source wood and protect forests.
Ekoa is a wood-free composite made using plant resin and linen-fibre. It was developed by Blackbird Guitars with the specific purpose of creating more sustainable instruments. Currently Blackbird is the only company to use this material, but hopefully, other brands will start to use similar wood-free composites.
Raise Funds for Environmental Causes
One of the most effective ways to support environmentalism is to host a fundraiser show for an eco-based charity. Take some time to research non-profits and decide which one you want to support. You also must decide what percentage of the profits you want to give away; you don’t have to give 100%, but you must be transparent about how much you are taking.
Put together a show at a local venue and advertise it as a fundraiser for your charity. Not only are you supporting the planet, but fundraiser shows tend to get a higher turnout than regular shows.
Recently, eco-friendly touring has become a trend amongst artists. The movement is currently led by Reverb, a company totally dedicated to “greening” tours. Green touring has become a major marketing point for artists, so if you can successfully eliminate your emissions, it can be beneficial for your career. Here are some of the most effective tactics for reducing the footprint of your tours:
- Avoid Disposable Water Bottles
The easiest way to reduce your waste is to bring a reusable plastic water bottle on tour. If you have a rider, ask for 2.5 gallon jugs, or even a 5 gallon bubbler. Single use plastics are one of the largest causes of environmental waste, so anything you can do to reduce your usage of them is significant.
- Use Biodiesel
Biodiesel is a gasoline alternative that is made from animal fat, soybean oil, and various other eco-friendly plant products. Biodiesel is mixed with gasoline, but even using 15% biodiesel significantly reduces pollution. Biodiesel isn’t available everywhere, but any time you have the chance you should fill up on it.
- Avoid Meat on your Rider
Research has shown that the consumption of animal products drives a significant portion of global pollution. Include only organic, non-animal based snacks on your rider to cut down on your carbon footprint. You don’t have to go totally vegan; one vegan meal per day, or even per week is better for the environment.
- Sell Eco-Friendly Merch
Your merchandise can also be a significant source of pollution if it is made of non-biodegradable materials. Look into the delivery too: if the merch is shipped overseas or uses excessive packaging, it can have a significant carbon footprint. There are plenty of brands which can make purely organic merch. Don’t source it out overseas either, as the transport creates lots of carbon waste.
Hemp is a popular alternative material for shirts, as it is grown with minimum pesticides or synthetic fertilizer and it is able to grow mostly off of rainwater. Hemp also absorbs pollutants and prevents soil erosion, making it far more sustainable than any other material on the market. Fans are often willing to pay a slightly higher price for hemp merchandise that they know is sustainable.
- Effective Planning
Make sure that your tour is planned out as efficiently as possible. There are several online tour calculators which can map out the quickest, most effective route for your journey to minimize your millage, your expenses, and your carbon waste. Besides, who wants to spend more time on the road than they have to?
- Take the Toiletries
I’m serious. Any hotels you stay at will throw away your toiletries even if they’re unused, so take it with you! If you don’t want them for yourself, donate them to charity.
Just because you want to be eco-friendly as an artist doesn’t mean that it has to be the center of your identity. However, for many artists, environmentalism lies in the core of everything they do. In many cases, this can be an effective marketing tool that garners major attention for the artist. However, it has to be done right, or you will come across as phony. Here are some do’s and don'ts:
- Writing Music about the Earth
Music is one of the most effective forms of communication, and some of the biggest hits of all time are environmental anthems. If you want to encourage your audience to be more environmentally conscious, the best way is through your music. However, you can’t force it. Environmentalism has to be truly important to you, or the song won’t have any impact. Take time to learn about the problems facing our planet and see if they truly inspires you.
- Using Social Media
Another effective way to encourage environmentalism is through your social media presence. You can easily raise awareness for environmental causes that are important to you by sharing them with your fans. You can also share your own personal favorite eco-friendly products with your followers.
If you tag brands in your posts and give them enough exposure, you could even get sponsorship offers. This may involve promoting their brand on social media or even on tour. Sponsorships like these are one of the most effective ways for musicians to make money today, so shout out every eco-friendly brand that you can.
- Promote Environmentalism Live
You can even support environmentalism at your shows. Even if you don’t directly mention it, using eco-friendly products on stage can be enough to encourage your fans. If you do want to directly mention the topic that’s great, but don’t be a doomsday preacher. Focus on the positives of how you’re supporting the environment rather than negative statistics that would just depress your audience.
- Make Eco-Centric Merch
Merch can bring very high visibility to a topic, whether that topic is environmentalism or your music. If you can combine the two in one design, you can effectively promote both at once. Green and brown are two colors commonly associated with Earth and environmentalism, so designs that include these colors are preferable.
There are countless ways for artists to reduce their carbon footprint, and thanks to rapidly developing technologies, there are more methods everyday. The more artists support eco-conscious brands, the more popular and accessible eco-friendly products will become. No matter what level you are at, your art has an influence and you can always make a difference for the planet.