When Guster’s Adam Gardner takes the stage these days, it’s with even more of a purpose than just creating music: He’s sharing his passion for saving the environment and providing the tools to do it.
Gardner and his wife, Lauren Sullivan, co-founded Maine-based environmental organization Reverb three years ago with a mission inspired by artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Dave Matthews Band, Willie Nelson and others who promote the use of biodiesel and cutting down on carbon emissions in the environment.
Sullivan said she and Gardner had tossed around ideas for combining her experience as an environmentalist with his ties to the music industry to promote a "green" way to live, but it was Raitt’s Green Highway project that was the catalyst for Reverb.
"In the mail comes this flyer from Bonnie Raitt on her Green Highway. It had a lot of ideas that we had talked about and then some, so we reached out to Raitt’s manager, Kathy Kane," Sullivan told Pollstar. "She said, ‘We have this foundation, Artist Resources In Action. Why don’t you be a project of our foundation?’
"We have non-profit status through them and we work closely with Kathy and Bonnie’s camp. [Kane] said, ‘Take this whole model and go nuts!’ so that’s what we did."
Reverb offers extensive environmental information through its on-site interactive eco-villages and the Web but takes it far beyond recycling tips and carpooling. The organization does green entertainment consulting for artists who want to clean their tours through the use of biodiesel for transports, biodegradable plates and utensils backstage, and many other options to cut down on carbon emissions.
"We sort of create < la carte environmental programs for the artist. We’ll map out the tour, do all their fueling, negotiate all payments – we’ll take that off their plate," Sullivan explained. "We do the greening behind the scenes, such as coordinating biodiesel fueling for their truck fleets and mapping those all across the country.
"It’s all about meeting them wherever they are in terms of what they’re doing and helping to make their efforts come to life."
Reverb launched with the 2004 "Au Natural Tour" featuring Barenaked Ladies and Alanis Morissette, and has since consulted with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sheryl Crow, Avril Lavigne, Jack Johnson, and The String Cheese Incident, to name a few. Stonyfield Farms in New Hampshire is a main sponsor for this year’s Campus Consciousness Tour, which kicks off March 28th with Guster and The Format.
Gardner said Reverb also promotes renewable energy credits by putting a sticker on merch or tickets with an "eco tax" of 25 cents to 50 cents. A portion of sales goes toward making new renewable energy alternatives more widely available.
"We attached it to a merch item like a bumper sticker. For Guster, for example, we have a bumper sticker that says, ‘Kiss Me, I’m Carbon Neutral,’" Gardner told Pollstar. "The biggest impact of a show from a global warming standpoint is actually the power. Every show since last year on the first Campus Consciousness Tour has been carbon neutral. We figured out how much carbon gets into the air as a result of putting on a concert.
"With the offset sticker program, the fans have offset 8.5 million miles of driving so it’s been a super-effective tool for us on tour."
Sullivan said that some of the proceeds go to Native Energy in Vermont to help build new wind farms and to build up renewable energy credits for the future.
Gardner said Reverb is also working with Warner Music Group on becoming a carbon neutral company. Guster’s upcoming EP Satellite will be the label’s first carbon neutral release.
"We figured out what it costs to manufacture, ship and produce a CD and offset it. They actually said, ‘Let’s do more than that. Let’s offset your entire back catalog,’" Gardner explained. "That’s more than 1 million copies that they’re making carbon neutral."
Reverb’s success on the road is certainly growing and Gardner said he’s getting the chance to combine two of his passions.
"At the end of the day, I’m a musician – we’ve been a band for 15 years – but for me, it’s really great showing our fans the other side of the band and that is important to us," he explained. "These aren’t alternatives; these are true, viable options we can all partake in today.
"For me personally, it just adds a little more purpose as to why I’m up there on that stage."