Musicians have sung about environmental stewardship and preservation forever. Think about Woodstock back in the 70’s and now the more recent Bonnaroo festival held in Tennessee every summer. Amount of garbage at music festivals aside, which happens any time you get a lot of people together so don’t harp on that, musicians are some of the most influential people when it comes to getting people to care about protecting the earth. Here are several musicians who are demonstrating how much they care.
1. Willie Nelson
We all know he’s someone who’s been singing about peace and love and all that hippie stuff since the 1960’s, but Willie also has his own brand of biofuel (BioWillie) that he uses in all his tour buses and cars (and talks about frequently on Satellite Radio) and he created Farm Aid; a nonprofit organization that helps farmers in need. Willie’s interest in biofuel comes from the idea that in addition to growing the nation’s food, farmers will be able to power their own machines with their own products, which will make us less reliant on foreign oil and stimulate the economy.
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Getting their start at the University of Vermont in Burlington, it’s no surprise that Phish is comprised of a group of avid environmentalists. With the help of REVERB, an environmental nonprofit seeking to “green” the efforts of touring musicians, they employ a Green Crew for clean up after shows, use biofuel in all their tour buses, and source food from local farms, provide compostable containers at their shows, purchase carbon offsets to compensate from the greenhouse gas emissions of touring, flying, etc. They also founded the Waterwheel Foundation and the Mockingbird Foundation, which raise money for social services/environmental conservation and music education for children, respectively.
3. Sheryl Crow
During her 2010 tour, Sheryl Crow and her crew used biodegradable and compostable catering, biodiesel fuel, and reusable water bottles. These efforts saved the equivalent of 81 homes’ annual electricity usage with the help of REVERB. She also created eco-villages at concerts with info booths from more the 50 environmental organizations and groups. Lastly, she partnered with StopGlobalWarming.org on a college tour and teamed with ZimRide to encourage her fans to carpool to her concerts. Her farming community in Tennessee is working with the Natural Resources Defense Council to be completely off the grid.
4. John Legend
Focusing on renewable energy and disaster relief, John Legend has done a lot to promote sustainability. In 2008, he performed at the Green Inaugural Ball; an event that sought to promote and celebrate President Obama’s promise to focus on sustainable energy and environmentally friendly policy. While Obama’s commitment to that fight has been questionable, Legend’s is true. On his 50-city Evolver tour in 2009, he partnered with REVERB to ensure his touring carbon footprint was offset by wind farm investments and other environmental projects. These efforts in part, landed him on Billboard’s Green 10 list. Perhaps his biggest achievement, though, has been the Show Me Campaign, launched in 2007, whose mission is to “support community-led development initiatives aimed at providing sustainable, scalable solutions that help the communities lift themselves out of extreme poverty.” Because of this, Legend was able to promote development in Mbola, Tanzania, and other impoverished areas. He was awarded a BET Humanitarian award for his work on the campaign, which is currently teaming up with the International Rescue Committee to raise awareness for children in crisis zones.
5. Jack Johnson
As a native of Hawaii and a former pro surfer, Jack Johnson’s commitment to the earth is clear. For example, he founded the Kokua Hawai’i Foundation with his wife in his native Hawaii to support environmental education in schools. In addition, as the owner of Brushfire Records, he requires all his distributers to participate in eco-friendly practices—the label only produces records on recycled paper. Further, the label’s building itself was constructed out of eco-friendly materials, is powered by solar panels, and is insulated with cotton scraps from old blue jeans.
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6. Neil Young
It would be impossible to write this article without including Neil Young. The Country star pretty much pioneered the promotion of biofuel and recently wrote a song about banning fracking called “Who’s Gonna Stand Up? (and Save the Earth)”. His music has inspired people to stand up and fight corporate greed and big business for decades, and his tour efforts and environmental endeavors are too numerous to name.
Other musicians who’ve been instrumental (pun definitely intended) in changing the course of our planet include: Lincoln Park, Alanis Morrisette, Coldplay, Moby, Thom Yorke, Justin Timberlake, Michael Franti, Arcade Fire, Norah Jones, Dave Matthews Band, Bonnie Raite, KT Tunstall, Pearl Jam, The Roots, Green Day, Barenaked Ladies, Guster, Don Henley, Adele, Radiohead, U2, Maroon 5, and Will.I.Am.
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