What on Earth is Green Music?
A feature article by guest author, Tim Hollo
I heard one of the best explanations of it, actually, when APRA AMCOS joined our fossil fuel divestment campaign in November. Their CEO Brett Cottle’s explanation for the decision was startlingly clear: “Passive acceptance of inaction on climate change is simply no longer acceptable” he said.
We’re musicians. But we’re also humans, citizens of this planet. And, if we’re to get through the environmental crises we face, we all have to do our bit. We might not be a huge polluter like the coal industry, but we can still contribute a lot by cutting back our energy use and shifting to clean energy, making green transport options available, and reducing the piles of waste that flow from festivals and venues.
More than that, we musicians are in a privileged position. People listen to us and, when they listen, their hearts are opened by our music. That’s why music and musicians have been on the front lines of every major social change battle in history, from civil rights to feminism, fighting back against Nazism, Stalinism and apartheid. Our voices are needed and, as Brett Cottle says, in the face of ever stronger warnings from scientists, we can no longer passively sit back and do nothing.
Luckily, there’s lots we can do, easily and effectively.
As both a gigging musician and environmental activist, I’ve long tried to bring the two together. Ten years ago, when FourPlay was recording our album Now To The Future, I made sure we saved energy in the studio, carpooled there and back, packaged the record in recycled cardboard with plant-based inks, and offset things we couldn’t reduce, like flying around the country on tour. I also talked to thousands of people about what we were doing, including dozens of musicians. And the message I heard back loud and clear was, “This is a great idea, but it’s too hard for us to do it on our own. We need someone to make it happen.”
That’s when the idea of Green Music Australia was born – an organisation to facilitate, organise and inspire the music scene to green up its act.
There are four overall areas where the music industry can get involved to protect the environment: energy, waste, transport and advocacy. Green Music Australia is a very young and small organisation, but we’re trying to cover all four in some way.
We run campaigns on specific issues, and we work in partnership with festivals, venues, studios or individuals to advise them through the process of reducing their environmental impact.
Here are our major programs and how you can get involved.
BYOH2O – our campaign to get the music scene to go plastic water bottle free.
Single-use disposable plastic water bottles are one of the most visible environmental impacts of the music scene – hugely wasteful, toxic to us and our land and water, and completely unnecessary. Green Music Australia is working to phase them out, encouraging punters to bring their own reusable bottles and making sure refilling stations are provided.
Some of the ways you could get involved with our campaign include:
• Adopting a “green drinks rider”, making it clear to venues and festivals that you don’t want disposable plastic water bottles, but do you want drinking water refilling options provided;
• Making reusable water bottles part of your merch (co-branded with us, perhaps);
• Helping us reach out to venues and festivals to get them to phase out plastic bottles.
The Caloundra Music Festival has already gone plastic water bottle free, and we have a case study about them on our site. Now we’re proud to be working with the Illawarra Folk Festival to help them go plastic free for their upcoming festival. We’ve got plenty of advice, alternatives, contacts and support and are happy to work with anyone to make this happen.
AMPED UP: Energy Efficiency in venues and studios
Energy efficiency makes sense in every way – for businesses, for performers and punters, and for the planet! When most of our electricity still comes from polluting coal, using less energy is a crucial way to reduce our impact on the environment. It also keeps running costs down, meaning venues and studios can better support struggling musicians.
It’s been a priority for us since we started to make energy upgrades as easy and affordable as possible for venues and studios, through LED lighting, efficient heating and cooling, rooftop solar and more. And now we can do it. Green Music Australia can help venues and studios across Australia get government-backed financing for energy efficiency upgrades, and we’ve got the perfect partnership to make the whole process sing!
Following negotiations with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, we set up an arrangement with Eureka Energy Upgrade Finance to make offers available. At the same time, we’ve built relationships with several highly respected energy auditors and consultants. With their expert advice, we can offer:
• energy audits to help you work out the best investments to make;
• assistance in developing the business case for the financing, gearing it to ensure you will always save more on your energy bills than you will pay back on the finance, meaning you’ll start saving immediately;
• support through the process, to help you make the most of the investment; and
• promotion through our networks and beyond, to build on your leadership to create a movement for change across the music scene.
We’re in discussions already with the first few venues and studios, and we’re looking for others to take part.
You can help us turn this great idea into tremendous environmental savings by encouraging venues and studios you work at to take part. As with so many things, this project will work best through word of mouth. Your support in helping us reach out to venues and studios will be key.
Amplify Divestment – musicians taking our own funds out of fossil fuels
Divestment is simply the opposite of investment. It involves removing money from financial institutions that invest in goods or activities that you do not support – in this case climate-destroying coal, oil and gas. The global fossil fuel divestment movement is the fastest growing and most effective climate change campaign in the world right now, with tens of thousands of individuals, hundreds of organisations including the British Medical Association, Uniting Church of Australia, Stanford University and the Australian Guild of Screen Composers, and over US$2.6 trillion committed to divesting.
By joining our musicians’ divestment campaign at www.amplifydivestment.org you will help focus the cultural power of musicians on this amazing campaign. We, and our partners at Market Forces and 350.org can advise you and help you with the process.
So far, some of Australia’s best known musicians, including Missy Higgins, Ash Grunwald, Adalita, John Butler, Nattali Rize and David Bridie have joined up. And, in big news, APRA AMCOS announced in November that it was taking part, divesting a portion of the funds they hold in trust for us, their members, and writing to the banks holding the remainder, asking them to stop investing in fossil fuels.
We also currently have active partnerships with the Illawarra Folk Festival, helping them go plastic water bottle free, and the Laneway Festival, advising them through a multi-year process to reduce their environmental impact. So far, they’re reducing their plastic use, increasing availability of public transport and cycling infrastructure, ensuring as many stage lights as possible are LED, increasing recycling options, and more. And we’re advising a number of individual musicians on options for merchandising, touring and more.
The other thing we do is act as a link between the environment movement and the music scene. We try to get music included in plans for events early on and reach out to musicians to find people to perform at things like rallies. If you’d like to be approached for those kinds of events, please let us know.
So that’s green music – doing what we can to lighten our footprints and lift our voices. I hope you’ll join us!
Got other ideas? Keen to partner with us? Just want to chat about it? We’d love it if you’d get in touch!
A feature article by guest author, Tim Hollo