Though the members of Pearl Jam are best known for their music, with roots extending back into the early days of Seattle's grunge scene, the band also has a deep commitment to environmental conservation. It stems from a recognition of their own impact through touring and a desire to find balance through offsets and other means.
For their latest initiative, Pearl Jam has announced a donation of $210,000 to the Cascade Land Conservancy, a Seattle-based organization that works to conserve natural areas and restore neighborhood trails and parks. The donation will offset the carbon emissions from the band's 2009 tour and lead to the planting of 33-acres of native trees and plants around Puget Sound.
"Pearl Jam is a band, but we're also a business," said guitarist Stone Gossard in a phone interview with MNN. "Since 2003, we've been identifying our carbon footprint and calculating how much carbon we put out into the atmosphere as part of our business. When we tour we have freight, we have a lot of trucks, shipping, there's chartered flights, fans going to and from the venue, etc. It's a very energy-intensive process for us to tour."
Gossard said Pearl Jam’s investments aim to offset carbon from the band’s use of fossil fuels linked to trucks, ships, planes, hotels as well as estimated emissions by 480,000 fans traveling to and from concerts in 2009. Pearl Jam is one of America's top-selling bands. The band's awards include a 1996 Grammy for Spin the Black Circle.
According to calculations from the Cascade Land Conservancy (CLC), the band's 32-date tour produced 5,474 metric tons of CO2."There's been a lot of effort put into making sure this is a clear and verifiable project," Gossard said. "And we hope that everybody scrutinizes it closely so that you can help us show that we really put the work into it; identifying why it has so many multiple benefits to our business, the band, and the local community."
With Pearl Jam's donation, plantings and restoration of the native natural beauty around Puget Sound will being immediately. The project is expected to be completed by 2013. "This sort of approach has an enormous impact on improving forest health, connecting people to nature, and activating communities to engage in the restoration and stewardship of natural open spaces,” said Gene Duvernoy, CLC president.
When discussing what Pearl Jam is doing to reduce emissions while on tour, Gossard said the group doesn't tour much or with a big production like so many other big name groups. "We tour with about five or six semi trucks compared to, say, the Rolling Stones that might have 100 semis. Our particular focus is on analyzing our fuel and energy and acknowledging that."
I asked Gossard about the group's Climate Portfolio Strategy, which was created to benefit environmental organizations. He says this latest initiative is simple a continuation of that effort.
"The goal of the carbon portfolio strategy is that every time we do a carbon offset, we're going to try to make it more efficient and verifiable. We want to try and lead and say 'This is how you can do this'. I think we're going to continue giving to a lot of environmental organizations —including the CLC and Conservation International."
“Businesses have an opportunity to lead the way in becoming a more conscious economy, one that views the health of our environment as inseparable from our personal and economic well being,” he said. “Tracking and mitigating the band’s carbon footprint is a big first step that our business is taking in that direction, and we hope other businesses will join us in this effort."