Pearl Jam Plant Trees to Offset Tour Pollution

Rock Bands Team With Environmental Groups

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted April 4, 2010 at 8:00PM

Globetrotting rock stars have carbon footprints bigger than Bono's ego.

(Just consider the emissions from several 50-city tour buses... water used during hotel penthouse stays and king-sized Egyptian cotton sheets washed... food imported for backstage dressing rooms that often goes to waste...and we haven't even delved into the tracks the show-going faithful leave in following these bands on tour... ) 

So when haughty artists start huffing and puffing against climate change, it can come off as simply blowing smoke.

But Pearl Jam is putting their money where their mouth is. In an attempt to atone for the almost 6,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide released during their tour last year, the Seattle grunge band is planting thousands of trees in their native Washington State.

"Pearl Jam is a band but we are also a business," guitarist Stone Gossard told Reuters. "We're seeing ourselves as a Washington business, a regional business that is acknowledging its carbon footprint and hoping to inspire other businesses."

While bands rack up some extreme emissions with their own travel, the real issue is the amount of transportation required to get over 10,000 fans a night to a venue. Pearl Jam's 2009 tour attracted 480,000 fans — most of whom were not biking, carpooling, or riding public transit.

That's why Pearl Jam teamed with the Cascade Land Conservancy (CLC) to plant a total of 33 acres in communities around the Puget Sound.

"Trees are incredible at absorbing carbon," said Gene Duvernoy, president of the CLC.

"Pearl Jam's contribution will enable us to plant urban forests throughout the Puget Sound and restore native trees and understory to ecosystems that have faced intense human pressures. This sort of approach has an enormous impact on improving forest health, connecting people to nature, and activating communities to engage in the restoration and stewardship of natural open spaces," said Duvernoy.

The band is gearing up for their 2010 Tour now, and this time they will be actively tracking and calculating the carbon use as they go.

"We view this as the cost of doing business," Gossard said.

Pearl Jam isn't the only band that has taken steps to mitigate their environmental damage. Last year, Radiohead teamed up with Best Foot Forward, an Oxford-based carbon footprint analysis company, to minimize their U.S. tour's overall impact on the environment.

For example, instead of flying all of their guitars, drums, and amps to the U.S., they sent them across the Atlantic via freight ship. That one move saved 47 tons of CO2.

But the band can only manage their own actions; there's still the matter of tens of thousands of fans traveling to the show.

"Some of our best ever shows have been in the U.S., but there's 80,000 people there and they've all been sitting in traffic jams for five or six hours with their engines running to get there, which is bollocks," noted Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke.

That's why when Radiohead scheduled their U.S. tour, they booked shows in city centers with greater access to public transit and were able to conserve a great deal of emissions.

Best Foot Forward also found that if concert-goers upped their average car occupancy from 2.2 to 3 people, it would reduce the tour's impact by 22%.

In order to blunt the environmental impact of touring, it will not only take bands like Pearl Jam and Radiohead who are serious about their actions — but all of their fans as well. So next time you head to a show, think about packing your car with as many friends as possible. Or better yet, take public transit to avoid the inevitable parking lot paralysis at the end of the show (which I experienced firsthand when Radiohead came to Washington D.C. last year).

"[Pearl Jam] have an opportunity to lead the way in becoming a more conscious economy, one that views the health of our environment as inseparable from our personal and economic well being," said Gossard.

"We can encourage businesses and people to innovate and dream of products, ideas and modern approaches to doing business that not only benefit us financially in the short term, but benefit our earth and humanity in the long term."

We here at Green Chip Living couldn't agree more.

Be Well,

Jimmy Mengel