CDs Play a New Tune

It’s a cold and rainy spring day, and Craig Minowa is stomping around in his bare feet. Beside him, his band Cloud Cult roars through some old and new favorites for a small but dedicated crowd of Connecticut college students. This isn’t just your average indie rock buzz band with a Top 10 hit in the college charts.What’s significant about Minowa and Cloud Cult is how they are working to revolutionize the music industry.

Green CD packager Craig Minowa and his band Cloud Cult play Wesleyan University.© Rachel Anderson

After being unable to find an acceptable CD replication service to mass produce his music, Minowa founded Earthology Records in 1997.From the start, Minowa knew that he would build his company with the core value of living lightly on the Earth.The record company boasts a wind-powered recording studio that is also geo-thermally heated, built with recycled materials and set within an organic farm in central Minnesota.

"We just thought there’s no point in doing this if it’s not going to be sustainable," says Minowa. The location was ideal for its placement between Minnesota’s two music meccas, Duluth and Minneapolis, and for its highly fertile soil, which provided opportunities for sustainable development.

What makes Earthology so innovative is its employment of recycled and eco-friendly materials into nearly the entire production process, including reclaimed jewel cases collected from bins in college record stores nationwide, the highest recycled content papers on the market, nontoxic soy inks and a CD replication process that involves recycling of CD cut scraps into milk cartons. Earthology even employs corn-based shrink wrap, instead of the toxic PVC counterpart.

Currently, Minowa and company are also exploring technology to make the disc itself more eco-friendly. "The CD is tricky," says Minowa. "It’s the most toxic part of the process."

And then there’s the music. For now, Cloud Cult is the only band released on Earthology, but that may change as the company grows.

Two wet concertgoers discuss Minowa’s lack of shoes: "He’s a farmer," one explains to the other. Indeed, with the group’s touring van decked out with solar panels and organic cotton t-shirts for sale, this band aims to live lightly on the Earth. But the stereotypes stop there. "People always think we’re some folk or jam band, and we’re not. We’re college indie rock. Our music isn’t preachy," tells Minowa. "Instead, we want to show other bands how things can be."

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