In Part One of our Green Music series, we examined various recording labels’ environmental initiatives. The bottom line was clear: The four major music labels’ green advances could be described as paltry at best. But while the biz lags behind, a lot of individual bands and musicians are taking eco matters into their own guitar-strumming hands. Check out which artists are making a difference:


The band’s blog, “The Gigantic Flying Mouth For Sometime,” chronicles the group’s experimentations with solar-powered amps, biofuel-powered buses, LED stage-lighting rigs, and battery-and wind-powered performances. The blog is a green diary that charts the band’s research on how things like off-site power grids and efficient truck-packing all factor into leaving a smaller carbon footprint while on tour.

Pearl Jam

Through its Carbon Portfolio Strategy, the band donated $100,000 to groups in the Pacific Northwest like the Cascade Land Conservancy and the Washington Clean Energy Initiative. In 2004, guitarist Stone Gossard helped raise $77,000 to fund small-scale renewable energy projects in states the band toured through that year. In 2006, the band started switching to biodiesel-powered tour buses.

Jack Johnson

The shoe-less, worm-composting, 2008-Coachella headliner records in a solar-powered studio and requests that venues he performs in use CFLs and recycling bins. Johnson also sells organic cotton T-shirts and organic foods at shows, and started a social action network called All At Once that links fans to environmental nonprofits and volunteer opportunities at green events.

The Beastie Boys

The band tours in biodiesel buses and offers incentives like autographed records to fans that turn in empty water bottles at concerts.

John Mayer, Serj Tankian, Dave Matthews Band, Maroon 5, Blue Man Group

These artists work with the Maine-based nonprofit organization, Reverb, to reduce the carbon footprint of their tours. To date, Reverb has reduced 42,000 tons of CO2 emissions, greened 52 tours, and burned through 317,000 gallons of biodiesel.

Adam Gardner, Phil Lesh

Gardner, husband of Reverb founder Lauren Sullivan and guitarist and vocalist for the band Guster, helps make customized guitars from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified woods. Lesh, of The Grateful Dead, plays Dave Maize acoustic guitars, which are made of reclaimed wood.

Willie Nelson

The country singer tours the nation in a bus powered by his own BioWillie brand biodiesel. "We don't have to send our money over to the Middle East to fill up our cars and trucks,” Nelson said in a CNN interview. “We can send it to the farmer over here." BioWillie diesel powers the artist’s Mercedes, too.

Michael Franti & Spearhead

The band tours in biodiesel-powered buses, and the crew eats organic, Fair Trade grub using silverware and real plates, not traditional disposables. The band asks that food vendors at their shows compost, and they make their "Spear Gear" T-shirts with sweatshop-free, organic cotton. Even the group’s promotional materials are printed on recycled paper using soy-based ink.

The Fray, Bon Jovi, Incubus

The three groups all work with environmental organizations like Heal the Bay, the Sustainable Minded Artists Recording and Touring program, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to green their concerts by serving organic food backstage, selling organic cotton T-shirts, printing posters and flyers on 100-percent post-consumer recycled paper with soy ink, and asking venues to increase recycling. The bands also fuel their tour buses with biodiesel.

Sheryl Crow

Crow did a 2007 biodiesel bus tour of college campuses with environmentalist Laurie David (estranged wife of comedian Larry David). "I try to wash my clothes in cold water as much as I can,” the singer told People Magazine. “I turn off lights in rooms that I'm not using. I drive a hybrid. I'm getting solar panels for my house."

Story by Gary Moskowitz. This article originally appeared in Plenty in November 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

Musicians make green efforts
While major labels are slow to go green, bands and artists take on environmental initiatives.