Record Store Day is a hard act to follow, but today is actually another national holiday—Earth Day. With news of climate change constantly pervading all kinds of media outlets, many musicians have taken notice and taken action, from donating to environmental charities to changing the way they record and tour. To celebrate Earth Day, we’re highlighting 13 exceptionally green musicians.
In 2004, Guster guitarist Adam Gardner and his wife Lauren Sullivan started Reverb, one of the most influential environmental non-profits working in conjunction with the music industry. According to the organization’s website, Reverb “educates and engages musicians and their fans to take action toward a more sustainable future.” Right now, they’re working with fun. and J. Cole, and some of their most famous partners include other exceptionally green musicians like Dave Matthews Band, Sheryl Crow and Phish.
As a band, Guster has also taken measures to green their own tours, using biodiesel, recycling, composting, ordering local and organic food, and supplying eco-friendly merchandise, among other efforts. Plus, fans who show off their green practices to the band can win tickets to Guster shows and meet-and-greet passes.
We just premiered the surf-rock singer’s most recent video—a locally-inspired cover of “Take It Easy”—but Hawaii’s Kokua Festival is not Jack Johnson’s first foray into environmentalism. He started the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, a conservation education non-profit, in 2003 and the aforementioned fundraising festival has been held annually for the past six years. Additionally, Johnson has worked closely with All At Once, a network he helmed that connects fans with non-profit groups and allows them to share greening tips.
Johnson’s latest album, The Best of Kokua Festival, was mixed in his Los Angeles studio, “The Solar Powered Plastic Plant,” and is now available via Brushfire Records (with proceeds benefiting his organization).
The quintet recently outfitted its Sacramento, Calif.-based recording studio with solar panels. The process took more than five years with the help of Borrego Solar. Cake wrote on its website that the band wanted “to break away from our dependence on the city’s energy grid.” Cake released its sixth album, Showroom of Compassion last year, and all the tracks were recorded and produced using 100% solar energy.
Since 2007, Cake has also embraced another form of replenishing the earth’s resources; they’ve given away trees to lucky audience members at each show. Cake is on tour throughout the summer, so check here for their schedule and a chance to win some oxygen-emitting greenery. Watch some fan-footage of the band giving away a Red Delicious apple tree in Seattle below.
This grunge outfit has a 20-year history of environmentalism. While the band has donated more than $100,000 to organizations that work on climate change and renewable energy in recent years, its members also try to neutralize carbon emissions when touring. Most recently, they’ve worked with the Gulf Restoration Network to help clean the coast after the BP oil spill two years ago.
Individually, guitarist Stone Gossard is on the board of directors for Seattle’s Wild Salmon Center and has spoken at Conservation International meetings. Frontman Eddie Vedder recorded a song and donated to the Aritsts for Peace and Justice’s Haiti relief fund. Plus, the band’s Activism page on its website has a color-coded guide to which members post which links.
Rock the Earth, a leading environmental organization, just honored Willie Nelson with the 2012 Planet Defender Award. The legendary country singer co-founded the Farm Aid festival with Neil Young and John Mellencamp in 1985 to support American family farmers. Over the course of its 25-year history, Farm Aid has raised and donated more than $30 million to promote organic and locally grown food. More recently, he branded his own Willie Nelson Biodiesel in 2005 and he was inducted into the National Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2011.
This new dance-rock band out of Los Angeles is making a name for itself through its game-changing environmentalism. Just recently, they successfully completed a Pledge Music campaign to transform their touring school bus into a “Cool Bus” run on waste vegetable oil.
Hell&Lula also launched a recycled merchandise program, where they take donated clothes, screen-print and decorate them by hand and resell them as band merchandise. This helps them cut costs as an independent band, but also reduces their carbon footprint.
This Michigan-based singer/songwriter also raised enough money through micro-financing on Kickstarter to change his means of touring. Bathgate said in his Kickstarter promo video that in his last year of touring, he and his band went through three vehicles due to various automotive problems. In an effort to green their touring (and avoid previous car problems) Bathgate and the band raised $10,000 to purchase a van run on veggie oil. The project was eventually funded last August, so keep checking Bathgate’s site for more tour updates.
After realizing the financial and environmental costs incurred on their tour in support of Hail to the Thief, Radiohead has taken drastic measures to green their tours and their daily actions. They’ve sent instruments and gear by ship, as to reduce carbon emissions. They’ve planted trees as they tour. Singer Thom Yorke snuck into a United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009. They even partnered with Friends of the Earth in a campaign to convince the European Union to commit to a plan in which greenhouse gas emissions are reduced 30% reduction by 2020. Most recently the band threw its support (and it’s music) behind the Maldivian water documentary entitled The Island President.
In 2008, Radiohead recorded a live version of “House of Cards” for Conan O’Brien’s late night show, instead of taking wasteful, environmentally damaging transatlantic flight to perform the one song.
These California punks cemented their transition to cultural/political ambassadors in 2004 with the release of American Idiot. Around the same time, Green Day partnered with Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the most effective environmental action groups in the country. Together, Green Day and the NRDC are working to bring fans to action, demanding Congress take measures for cleaner energy and more green jobs.
With her 19th album, Slipstream having just been released, blueswoman and slide guitarist Bonnie Raitt’s musical and environmental careers seem virtually unstoppable. Raitt might be the artist with the longest list of green credentials on this list, as she started Musicians United for Safe Energy in 1979. She’s helped host five “No Nukes” concerts, and in 2007, Raitt worked with Jackson Browne, Graham Nash and energy activists Harvey Wasserman and Tom Campbell to set up NukeFree.org. Raitt tours using B99 biofuel and her upcoming tour schedule is now posted on her website.
In 2008, before Blind Pilot became the beloved six-person indie collective it’s now recognized as, co-founders Israel Nebeker and Ryan Dobrowkski began touring the West Coast by bicycle with their instruments in tow. Although they say in the trailer for a documentary about these trips that their inspiration wasn’t entirely green-minded, such alternative means of traveling has garnered the band an environmentally conscious following. Check out the band’s (not bike-based) tour dates over on their website.
Pop-cellist Ben Sollee has embarked on cross-country bike tours since 2009 and has since become one of Oxfam America strongest voices of support from the music industry. Sollee has participated in the organization’s “Unwrapped” campaign and performed at Oxfam events.
Additionally, Sollee was worked with regional non-profits like Appalachian Voices and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. The latter, an organization in his home state, strives to change coal culture, among other noble causes and Sollee even organized an eight-date tour to raise awareness about destruction caused by mountain-top-removal coal mining.
Sollee’s song “The Prettiest Tree on the Mountain” was used in an Oxfam promo video shedding light on their 2010 program to plant trees in rural Ethiopia.
When gas prices crossed the threshold of $3 (ha!) in 2006, Austin’s Peter and the Wolf decided to take to the sea. The band chartered a sailboat up and down the Atlantic Intercostal Waterway in order to tour the east coast from Cape Cod to Miami. While noting the obvious financial benefits, singer Red Hunter also began raising awareness for clean air and alternative touring.