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The 7 Greenest Rockstars

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Being a rockstar is not exactly a carbon-neutral activity. From personal excesses such as fast cars, mansions, wardrobes full of fashionable clothes, not to mention all of the…errr…stimulants, shall we say, to fully loaded tour buses, international flights, sellout stadium gigs, and the energy intensive production and distribution of records, being a rockstar results in higher than average carbon emissions per person.

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke said of being a rockstar: “The job I’m in is a job that wastes energy left, right and centre. It’s madness.”

According to the Green Touring Network, a medium sized gig can produce up to 1.5 tons of carbon, so imagine how much carbon a sold-out mega-stadium produces!

Luckily for us, and the survival of our species as we know it, some of the biggest names in rock music are making an effort to go green. Here is a rundown of the top 10 greenest names in rock:

1. Barenaked Ladies

The Canadian rock band, Barenaked Ladies, have been at the forefront of green touring since 2006. Even before their green tour initiative, called Barenaked Planet, the band was promoting environmentalism through eco-villages which were set up during all of their live shows from 2004 onwards.

To create their Barenaked Planet green tours, the band teamed up with Reverb, a non-profit organisation created by Adam Gardner, of the band Guster, and his wife, Lauren Sullivan. Reverb helps musicians and bands to green their tours by assisting with recycling, procuring organic food for backstage, arranging biodiesel powered transport and generators, producing green merch, and procuring green sponsorship for the tour.

Alongside their green tours, Barenaked Ladies frontman (until 2009), Steven Page, is a board member of WWF Canada and an enthusiastic Prius owner. When questioned about his choice of car, Page said: “Choosing to spend a lot of time on the road is not particularly environmentally friendly. However, if I’m going to do that I’m happy to do it in a car that has reduced emissions.” 

2. Bonnie Raitt

She might not be able to make you love her, but Bonnie Raitt is trying hard to make you care about the environment. With a track record for caring about the planet that is perhaps longer than any other musician’s, the blues influenced Bonnie Raitt deserves a mention on this list.

Since the Three Mile Island accident, where a nuclear reactor had a partial meltdown causing a radioactive leak, Raitt has been campaigning against nuclear energy. Along with Jackson Browne and Graham Nash, Raitt created the Musicians United for Safe Energy foundation and performed a series of “No Nukes” gigs at Madison Square Gardens.

She has also supported clean water initiatives and is fighting to protect old-growth forests.

3. Don Henley

Don Henley, drummer and co-lead vocalist of The Eagles, has a passion for the Great Outdoors. As a fan of the work of American philosopher, Henry David Thoreau, he created the Walden Woods Project, which protects the land where Thoreau lived from being developed. He also helped set up the Thoreau Institute which promotes the author’s ideas and works, many of which focused on the importance of nature.

Henley has also preserved a large section of wetlands in Texas. The area encompasses some 26,000 acres and includes the region where Henley grew up. His organisation, The Caddo Lake Institute, protects the region and funds valuable research into the wetlands.

4. Thom Yorke & Radiohead

Having recognised the wasteful nature of his profession, Yorke is doing everything in his power to rectify the situation. Plastic is effectively banned throughout Radiohead’s tours, while all the buses are run on biodiesel and nothing is allowed to be transported by airfreight. To avoid transporting all of their equipment by air, Radiohead simply brought a second set.

The band now uses their tours to promote environmental awareness and promote green NGOs, like Friends of the Earth. When invited to meet with ex-British PM, Tony Blair, Yorke refused, saying he [Blair] lacked “environmental credentials.”

Yet despite his efforts, Yorke still feels that he hasn’t done enough and hopes to do more in the future.

5. Phish

Like our other Eco-rockers, Phish have gone to great lengths to green their tours with the help of Reverb. Before touring, they send out information to fans on how to travel to their shows in the most Eco-friendly way, in particular, they encourage fans to lift-share to the concerts.

Alongside green tours, Phish created the WaterWheel Foundation which donates money to clean water, conservation, and gardening initiatives on behalf of the band. Funds for the foundation have been donated directly by the band members and raised through the sale of signed merchandise. In total, the WaterWheel Foundation has donated over half a million dollars to various environmental groups.

6. Green Day

Green Day’s particular brand of environmentalism has led them to focus more on encouraging political change than sprucing up their own activities with green initiatives. The band teamed up with the National Resource Defense Council to call on the government to develop clean energy and create green jobs.

7. Guster

We’ve mentioned Reverb time and again during this piece, its time to give credit to the organisation’s founders, Adam Gardner, of the band Guster, and his wife, Lauren Sullivan. With Sullivan’s experience of working for non-profits — she previously worked for Rainforest Action Network — and, presumably, Gardner’s money, the couple created Reverb to encourage and assist musicians with a transition towards a greener life and career. Founded in 2004, Reverb has now ‘greened’ over 100 tours, working with a wide range of artists, including most of the artists on this list.

The members of Guster actually met on a Wilderness Orientation programme at University. Their Eco-friendly future was already mapped out…

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