By the time you read this, the Hawaii-born troubadour Jack Johnson will be touring in support of his new album Sleep Through the Static, spanning tens of thousands of miles and at least four continents. So what is pop music’s greenest artist to do about all that environmental damage? Change the nature of large-scale touring by introducing EnviroRiders, a set of stipulations requiring venues to: purchase renewable energy for 100 percent of the amount used at his show; recycle at least 50 percent of the total waste the show generates; and change all lights to those ever-efficient-but-not-always-flattering compact fluorescents.
Johnson, who checked in with Plenty before starting his tour, is also pretty green when he’s not on the road. He recorded Sleep Through the Static at his new Solar Powered Plastic Plant studios in Los Angeles; and his EPA award-winning Kokua Hawaii Foundation and its star-studded Kokua Festival have helped lead local recycling initiatives, environmental field trips and farm-to-school food programs since 2004. Johnson also updated the environmental anthem “3 Rs” (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) — a message he’d been spreading well before the song’s release in 2006.
1) Title of his memoir-to-date:
What On Earth Are You Trying to Prove? Whenever I end up stepping into a limousine or some crazy hotel room, I always think of that Elvis Presley lyric, “If my friends could see me now/In this fancy hotel room/They’d ask me, ‘What on earth are you trying to prove?’”
2) Environmental pet peeve:
The [idea] that for something to be green or eco, it has to be a sacrifice. Finding ways to live lower impact—to me, that’s just fun. It’s not a sacrifice; it’s an upgrade.
3) Favorite place on earth:
I’d say about 50 yards off the coast of [Oahu’s] North Shore.
4) Topic that occupies way too much of his brain:
If you asked my wife [Kim, who cofounded Kokua Hawaii Foundation], she would say surfing.
5) Green car of choice:
Volkswagen Passat powered by biodiesel.
6) Unheralded skill:
I’m really good at paper airplane making. My dad showed me a couple of good ones when I was kid.
7) Superhero skill most desired:
I’d go with the Wonder Twins’ ability to change into any animal. My son and I do that around the house a lot right now. “Wonder Twins activate! In the form of...!”
8) Ideal carpool partners:
Dead: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Alive: Bob Dylan.
9) DIY pastime:
I make water catchment tanks out of oil drums.
10) Favorite animal:
I had a pet mongoose for a while when I was a kid. The coolest pet ever because it was really sly. It was like having a cat, but it was twice as fast.
This article originally appeared in Plenty in April 2008.
Copyright Environ Press 2008