Happy Earth Day! Pollstar Sustainability Special

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The festival grounds at Worthy Farm in Somerset, England, are strewn with trash before Glastonbury Festival’s expansive cleanup operations begin in 2014. The concert industry is uniquely positioned to contribute to the global discourse on the environment and climate change.
As we approach the 49th celebration of Earth Day, the issue of sustainability/climate change/environmentalism is in the public consciousness in a way that it’s never before been. 
Individuals and organizations around the world engage in activism and advocacy from the international to local levels; various forms of “green” technology and business are being pioneered and expanded to varying degrees of success; and discussions about the impact of humanity’s actions on the environment are taking place with unflagging vigor.
The latest print edition of Pollstar features numerous articles that address the ways the concert industry is taking it upon itself to care for the planet, as well as some of the challenges that lie ahead. Below are a number of articles published in Pollstar on the topic of sustainability in honor of Earth Day.
Greening The Machine: Sustainability And Best Practices For The Live Business
Many of these articles indirectly or directly advocate or celebrate action from promoters, venue owners/operators, agents, managers and artists. This is not intended to further any partisan political agenda or policy but, rather, in the spirit of Earth Day, to try to promote a consciousness of the relationship between our environment and our species, and a sense of responsibility for our actions.
The live music industry, estimated to be worth $31 billion by 2022 (according to a 2018 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers) has grown immensely from the humble beginnings of which Pollstar has been a part. Though only a small fragment of the larger global economic systems increasingly drawing cries of consternation, the live business is still in the midst of analyzing its role in and contributions to these systems.
A key issue which the live industry can have an impact on and which it is currently grappling with is the use of disposable plastics, of which Dianna Cohen of Plastic Pollution Coalition told Pollstar: “Less than 4% of plastic is actually recycled worldwide, which is why landfills are overflowing with plastic and millions of tons of plastic pollution enter our oceans every year. It’s time to stop polluting the planet with single-use plastic and shift from ‘disposable’ products to reusable alternatives.” 
Inefficiencies within existing systems of recycling are leading to the plastic bottles and particles swirling into the ever-growing oceanic garbage patches, including the Pacific trash vortex, which researchers from The Ocean Cleanup project claim covers some 618,000 square miles. Cohen says that in three years of the “Refill Revolution” initiative to reduce disposable plastic bottles at Bonnaroo, approximately 2 million plastic cups and bottles were diverted from landfills. 
Another key issue is fan transportation, which is the main source of carbon emissions for events like Sea.Hear.Now festival in New Jersey, according to its website. Orchestrating ridesharing solutions, public transportation options, and choosing accessible sites can all help, but transportation remains an area with room for improvement.
Promotions giants like AEG Presents and Live Nation, as well as major booking agencies, have undertaken initiatives to pursue goals of sustainability, from the elimination of plastic straws, employee rideshare programs, and offsetting carbon footprints with fees. These commitments are not without challenges, but such is the nature of developing alternative systems: It takes time, commitment and resources to work out the kinks.
Yet, even if the live music industry were to universally commit to environmentally conscious systems, it would be making only a small dent in the global issues of emissions and waste reduction associated with climate change. But, as was a frequent theme at Pollstar Live! 2019, the live industry is very much in a position to lead on key social issues – not just with the actions taken on site, but in the minds and hearts of audiences everywhere. 
Alissa Pollack, EVP of Global Music Marketing at iHeartMedia, said at the conference that voicing commitment to social issues and following up with action is one of the best branding actions any company can take. 
“Millennials and Gen Z are into causes,” she said. “People don’t know how to give back, but want to. By aligning with a cause or platform, you are one of those authentically showing your dedication and passion for your causes to a new audience that cares about it, too.”
Moments at concerts can be some of the most cherished in a person’s life, and some artists have brought the issue of sustainability so close to their heart, audiences can’t help but be touched by it. 

Artists like Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews Band have trailblazed different ways to incorporate sustainability into touring, while other artists are now able to get their feet wet with increasingly mature initiatives, nonprofits and programs. A growing number of events, like the Green Man festival in Wales, are finding their identities in being zero-waste and environmentally conscious.
As more conversations about caring for the planet and the future of our species unfold among artists and fans, the live music industry may yet have a critical role to play in creating spaces for people to develop a commitment to action. 
It is with this consciousness, that the live music industry might be able to help in this process, that we share this Earth Day issue, because, as Woody Guthrie put it some 75 years ago, “This land was made for you and me.” 
Kyle Gustafson / The Washington Post / Getty Images

Train brought environmental issues to center stage at The National Mall in Washington, D.C. for the Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day concert April 18, 2015.