Festivals and gigs, regardless of how big or small they are, are loads of fun – we go to meet up with friends and family, escape the humdrum of daily life, and to be exposed to new music and culture or simply to be entertained.
But we rarely consider the demands our events make of our environment. All events require resources, and of course people! But is there a way for us to maximise our resources and minimise our environmental impact? Kermit the Frog (a wise and well-known environmental advocate) once said “It’s not easy being green”. He certainly isn’t wrong, but can we change that?
Tim Hollo, Director of Green Music Australia (and also accomplished player of the viola and member of acclaimed band Fourplay, past board member for Greenpeace and past communication/media advisor at various environmentally-focused endeavours) took some time out to talk us through some ways that we can make sustainable choices as event organisers, musicians and punters.
FOR EVENT ORGANISERS
You as an organiser, can incorporate a variety of sustainable practices within events of all shapes and sizes. What can you do if you have a more intimate gig or if you’re the point-person for a huge festival? Well regardless of your attendance numbers; Tim explains how your approach to taking on sustainable practices can be the same.
“Look at your waste: It’s front and centre to all involved” shares Tim. “If you have an event where you implement reusable resources and have good recycling, staffing or volunteers to help people know what to do; it changes the feeling of the event and the feeling people go away with, they go away with a positive image of the event and it can often encourage people to implement those practices in their own lives as well. It’s also just a sensible thing to do. It’s so much easier than having lots of rubbish to clean up afterward.”
If you’re putting on an event you can also look at transport and the way people get around. Enable carpooling and other group travel options to discourage driving. Or you can also encourage people to ride by providing safe facilities to look after bikes, more than just a tree and a lock but rather a safe locked up space.
On large scale transport solutions, Tim says “There have been a few really good instances of festivals encouraging public transport, one of my favourites being Illawarra Folk Festival. What they’ve done is encouraged people to take the train down from Sydney, by booking with city rail a carriage on the train (there and back) at certain times and putting live music in the carriage! So the festival starts on the train, it’s so exciting and made a huge difference. Not viable for everyone but novel approaches can come in all shapes and sizes”.
What about on a personal level? As a musician, you have the opportunity to act as an advocate for change and to facilitate acceptance and the normalising of environmentally-sustainable practices within the industry.
“As a musician, you can do a few things. Think about approaching the venues you’re playing at and asking them to not use single-use cups or containers; or picking venues based on their environmental practices” says Tim.
“Organising touring to be as time and travel economical as possible, minimal hops skips and jumps from place to place can help reduce your carbon footprint and is generally just a nicer way to get around”.
“Merchandise can be a great avenue, like – for example – having reusable water bottles” says Tim. This one is definitely changing because people like it and the artists want to do it. There are plenty of options for fair-trade organic cotton shirts, bags and all sorts.”
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
But the big question surrounds how you can get people to actively participate in environmentally-sustainable practices both as punters and event organisers. Sure, you can show them what to do, and how to do it, but how can you make people REALLY care? Our industry pro’s advice? Lead by example, and create a culture that leaves the only option the sustainable one. If you work in event management, you can participate through the logistical decisions you make; and if you’re a musician, through demonstrating your personal choices to your fans. If you associate environmentally-positive choices with something or someone people love and respect (music/musicians), you can instigate social change for the benefit of the environment. Tim explains it best:
“I’m a firm believer in the idea that behaviour change leads social change, leads changing minds. As a festival or event, you’re leading by example, if you keep the space clean and you encourage that with the way you operate your festival you create a culture where that behaviour is what is expected of people. And when you have that culture, that expectation, in the context of people having a fantastic time; that has a huge psychological impact on people. It’s been demonstrated time and time again. The behaviour that you model, and that you lead in the context of people having their hearts and minds opened by music really has an impact on how you can help to change those current mindsets and behaviours. Positive association as a behaviour model has deep impacts on people.”
A man full of wisdom, we thank Tim for both his time and helpful tips towards sustainable practices that you can tie into your musical career, either as an organiser or a musician. But you’d be entitled to wonder, what’s this guy doing to make a change himself?
So glad that you asked (even if you didn’t, you’re welcome because it is some pretty cool stuff). The three words that Green Music Australia use to describe what they do are FACILITATE, ORGANISE and INSPIRE. They facilitate the connections between events and musicians and the resources they need to enable sustainable practices, organise them to make the pipedream a tangible outcome, and inspire them and those around them to continue using sustainable tools and practices within their creative endeavours.
The most notable campaigns already in motion for the team at Green Music Australia include working with 22 festivals across the country to phase out single-use plastics. A project that is “small enough to be achievable (when considering the scale/volume of waste impacts), but big enough to make a difference” says Tim. They also equip musicians to become advocates for different causes that they align with, giving a respected voice to the serious and sometimes underrepresented environmental issues within the industry.
What else is in the works? A project called Rubbish to Resource. Some of you may not know that lots of touring musicians will replace their guitar strings, drum skins and other instrument tools for every single show. Understandable from a risk and quality control point of view, but not a super sustainable way to operate as it creates a spectacular waste stream. What this project will do is gather up all these barely-used musical materials and ship them off to disadvantaged musicians who may not be able to afford those kinds of resources. A lift for the recipients as they have access to gear they may not be able to afford, plus the added thrill of potentially using gear that came from a personal musical icon. Tim and the team have piloted the project already, having gathered resources from recent shows and shipped them off to MusicNT for indigenous bands to use. This is one project that requires industry support and involvement to make the best impact it can. Sustainable choices that help the next generation of creatives make music? Definitely a cause worth getting behind.
So back to our original question, can we change the idea that “it’s not easy being green” particularly in the music industry? “When I speak to event organisers and musicians, people want to make the change, they just may not always know how to facilitate the idea into a real practice” says Tim. If the recent media landscape is anything to go by; this desire to provide more sustainable events also stems from the growing attendee expectation that sustainable practices should become “business as usual” . Pair this willingness from industry professionals to learn and change with impressive industry advocates and resource avenues like Green Music Australia, and we’re certainly seeing some change on the horizon.
If you want to get in touch, get involved, or get your hands on some of the fantastic resources Green Music Australia have on offer you can head to their website.