Green Living as an Indie Musician

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While the music industry isn’t typically singled out as a major environmental offender, gas, plane rides, electricity for amps and mixing boards, and trash from food packaging are just a few ways we indie musicians carve out our dreaded carbon footprint. And as folks with some prominence and the capacity to play to crowds, we have the ability to make others (our audience) more conscious of ways to go green by speaking up and setting an example.

Start simple and choose a few small changes you can make – the best way I found to stick to these green changes is to make a promise to my fans. On Earth Day this year, I happened to have a performance and I promised my audience that for the next year I would never drink from bottled water (I only use a reusable water bottle like a BPA-free Nalgene) and I would always bring my own bags when grocery shopping. Making a public promise adds accountability, even if no one finds out if you cheated. (Two months after my promise, I arrived at the grocery store without my bags, and while I was tempted to cheat, I swore like a pirate and bought only what I could fit in my purse. Ten points for me.)

Check out these easy ways to go from oblivious enviro-slobs to responsible musical green kings. My challenge to you: Pick two of these items and let your fans know that you are taking on a green initiative. Tell them what you’re doing, for how long, and why you would like them to join you. By the way – most of these green tips have additional benefits, such as saving you money or beautifying your space.

On the road

  1. Use reusable water bottles and fill ’em up at water fountains, coffee shops, and bathrooms en route. You’ll save a lot of plastic from landfills and a lot of money on bottled water.
  2. Use cruise control and turn the AC down to reduce gas guzzling. If your budget allows for it, go for a hybrid vehicle or one that can ingest BioDiesel or vegetable oil. Read more about alternative fuels.
  3. When grocery shopping, reuse your old bags or ask for paper. Use for collecting garbage in the car (see #4).
  4. Turn the van off when loading in, as idling increases harmful carbon emissions and wastes gas. Idling for 10 minutes uses as much fuel as it takes to drive approximately 5 miles. Read more about idling myths and facts.
  5. Skip the fast food and go local. Food typically travels an average 1,500 miles before being eaten. This requires 1.4 times more energy than the food provides, according to David Pimentel, professor at Cornell University. Check out eating locally grown food and at green restaurants. Visit for some help finding ones in your area.

In the studio, home, or work

  1. Add plants to the room. They’ll beautify your space while increasing oxygen flow and absorbing nasty toxins that studio and office spaces often emit from carpets, furniture, and recycled air systems.
  2. Bring your own water bottle to refill and save money on those plastic bottles.
  3. Bring your own lunch. Packing your lunch saves packaging, reducing trash and saving you money.
  4. Instead of printing out lyrics, sets and sheet music, type it up on your computer and email it to yourself and bandmates and have them check it out on their smartphones, iPads or laptops to save bunches of trees while you save your files for later.
  5. When you take off for the night, unplug big stuff like air conditioners, printers, computers. Even when on standby or powered down, they are sucking unnecessary energy. And of course, turn off all the lights.

For extra inspiration, check out these labels, musicians, and studios who have green on their mind and in their daily habits.

  • Chris Merkley is transforming an old school bus into a eco-minded touring machine for the American roots musicians of Old Boy Record label for 2013. Check out the Kickstarter campaign here.
  • Guster’s Adam Gardner and his wife run Reverb, a non profit that helps musicians go green while on tour and works with concert venues and promoters to have more eco-friendly, low-impact concert experiences. Other artists who’ve worked with Reverb include Maroon 5, Dave Matthews Band, Sara Bareilles, Sheryl Crow, Train, Brett Dennen, Bonnie Raitt, Phish, Coldplay, and dozens more.
  • London’s well-loved rehearsal and recording studio, The Premises, is environmentally conscious with solar panels powering the entire studio, energy efficient design and beehives to boot.
  • Stay up-to-date with environmental conscious initiatives, musicians going green, and other info in the eco-friendly twittersphere by following @GreenMusicians, @ecomagination, @grist, and @nytimesgreen.

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Cheryl B. Engelhardt is an established pianist/singer/songwriter who has toured the US and Europe, licensed songs to over a dozen TV shows, and who composes music for films, national ads, and Cheryl is the author of “In The Key Of Success: The 5 Week Jump-Start Strategy,” an incredibly effective, results-oriented eCourse for independent musicians who are serious about breaking through plateaus in their careers. Because you are a loyal Echoes reader, you get a ridiculous 70% discount off the regular price by typing in IHEARTDM in the “discount code” field. Cheryl’s next workshop will be held in NYC in August 2012. For more info, visit her website and follow her on Twitter @CBE.

5 thoughts on “Green Living as an Indie Musician

  1. Great post! I’m not a musician, but I always admire when my favorite bands make a conscious effort to reduce their carbon footprint. And of course a lot of these can apply to anyone, not just musicians.

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