Recycled Recordings The Music Business' Higher Bar

“Independent labels are about more than just records,” says Stephen Glicken, musician, producer and co-founder of New York-based Green Owl Records. His company is committed to releasing records with as little impact on the Earth as possible. Green Owl’s CDs are packaged in 100 percent post-consumer paper, and last year Green Owl won accolades for its Sundance Festival film entry, Everything’s Cool: A Toxic Comedy about Global Warming.

Money raised from a Green Owl compilation featuring indie artists like Feist and Of Montreal released on April 8 will go to fund the Energy Action Coalition.

“Environmentally responsible be-havior is how we live and how we think our business should run,” says Glicken. Green Owl encourages its artists to run their tour buses on biofuels, and it supports a mapping website that allows visitors to find biodiesel, ethanol, hydrogen, electric and natural gas suppliers across the country.

And major labels are stepping up, too. John Esposito, president and CEO of WEA Corp., Warner Music Group’s U.S. sales and marketing arm, switched the company to 30 percent post-recycled consumer paper in 2005 and says, “it actually saved close to a million dollars.” Now all its CD and DVD packaging is post-consumer recycled.

On another side of the business is Paul Diaz, who has owned Tree Sounds Studios in Atlanta for more than 18 years. Half the energy consumed by Tree Sound’s six studios is generated by methane from a local landfill. The other half, plus all the employee vehicles and home energy use, is offset by the purchase of wind and solar carbon reduction offset energy credits from Green Mountain Energy. Clients at Tree Sounds are offered a pick-up and drop-off service in the studio’s biodiesel car. Fuel is purchased locally in bulk and stored on the premises.

This year, Diaz will augment the studio’s existing rainwater catchment system with dual 3,000-gallon holding tanks. “In addition to watering our gardens, we’re going to find other uses for it,” he says.

Tree Sounds’ sister label and production company, Tree Leaf Music, last year put out Perpetual Groove’s LiveLoveDie, one of the first CDs to be released and recorded with techniques that Diaz says had absolutely zero impact on the environment. The album was packaged using 100 percent recycled materials and recorded solely with renewable energy sources.

“If we make environmental consciousness cool, then we all win,” Diaz says.