Guster"s Adam Gardner (at left, in left photo) is greening rock, one concert at a time.© C. Taylor Crothers, Simply green © Reverb
Reverb has toured with artists ranging from college-rock bands Guster and Dave Matthews Band to classic blues artist Bonnie Raitt, pop-punk princess Avril Lavigne and folk-rock jamband String Cheese Incident. They’ve played cruise ships, ski slopes, clubs and amphitheaters from Milwaukee to Manitoba. So why haven’t you heard of them?For starters, Reverb isn’t a band—it’s a nonprofit organization with a commitment to rocking responsibly. The Portland, Maine-based group, founded by Guster singer and guitarist Adam Gardner and his wife, environmental activist Lauren Sullivan, raises awareness about environmental issues at rock concerts and helps musicians run greener tours.
When Reverb launched in 2004, its first gig was a joint tour with Barenaked Ladies and Alanis Morissette. Since then, "The word spread, and now we’ve greened more than 25 major tours and 500 events," says Gardner.
Reverb offers each artist a menu of options for promoting environmental awareness and sustainability while on tour. "If artists want their buses to run on biodiesel, we"ll coordinate biodiesel fueling," says Sullivan. "We can also provide green cleaning kits for the tour buses and look at the contract rider to find ways to make the event greener."
One of Reverb’s newest clients is musician Andrew Bird, who "wanted to make life on the road less wasteful," says his manager, Andrea Troolin. "All of the cars, vans, airplanes, empty water bottles, Styrofoam meal containers and gas station fumes are one of the bummers of being a touring musician."
Reverb helped Bird source biodiesel to fuel his tour bus and modified his rider with suggestions like "using reusable, large containers for water backstage instead of a few dozen individual water bottles every night," says Troolin. For each tour, Reverb also helps artists offset the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated by their buses.
Biofuel buses are part of the Reverb plan.© C. Taylor Crothers, Simply green © Reverb
A separate carbon offset program is available for fans at each show: concertgoers can make donations to offset the fuel emissions of their trips to and from the concert venue. "From just the two Barenaked Ladies tours and one Guster tour, concertgoers have neutralized the emissions from more than nine million miles of driving," says Gardner.
Conscientious music fans all over the country have also helped Reverb sell carbon offset stickers and pass out flyers at shows in exchange for free concert tickets and T-shirts. Melissa Ecker, an engineer in Houston, Texas, volunteered with Reverb at a Barenaked Ladies show in 2004. "I work in an industry that gets a fairly bad rap with the environment, so it’s nice to do something on the opposite end," she says.
Reverb has also established partnerships with such environmental groups as the Clean Air Council and For-estEthics, which set up information booths at each concert venue so that fans can learn about environmental ethics, recycling and renewable energy. The group has even helped Warner Music Group replace its plastic CD covers and shrink wrap with post-consumer recycled content. On Guster’s recent college tour, Reverb led a full day of activities for students, including a Town Hall Forum on campus sustainability and a tour of the band’s bio-diesel-powered bus.
With thousands of fans attending each show, rock concerts are a natural venue to promote Reverb’s environmental message. Preaching is not part of the platform, but Gardner says, "It feels good to say from the stage in between songs: "We got here in a biodiesel-fueled bus, and this show is powered by wind."" By supporting environmental causes, he adds, "rock bands truly can "walk the walk" and put it on display at their concerts."