Though music feeds our soul, the industry that surrounds it isn't always the most environmentally friendly. Vinyl uses a lot of plastic, inorganic cotton used in band shirts uses a shocking amount of water and chemicals and touring (a major revenue stream that generated 9.4 billion dollars by the end of 2019) has a large carbon footprint.
But the musicians we listen to care about the environment just like we do, and that's why so many of them are "going green" to limit their environmental impact and give back to communities that need it most. Here are just a few of our favorite sustainability stories in music.
Radiohead Outsmarted Hackers and Cut Tour Emissions
Radiohead is known for its strong support of environmental causes, but instead of simply encouraging fans to do their part, they’ve come up with effective ways to make a difference on their own.
One example was back in 2019, when Radiohead lead vocalist Thom Yorke took a nightmare situation and turned it into something wonderful for the environment. He’d compiled a mini-disc collection that contained 18 hours of unreleased music, which was never meant to be commercially released. When it was stolen by a hacker and ransomed for $150,000, they rebuked the hacker and instead released the entire collection on Bandcamp for fans to buy, donating the earnings to Extinction Rebellion, a global movement that fights climate change.
But that wasn’t the only time Radiohead did something good for the planet. They also partnered with Best Foot Forward to measure carbon emissions from their tours. Results from the study inspired them and other bands to tour with more sustainable equipment and resources, such as LED lighting, biofuel and reusable water canteens.
SZA Designed an Eco-Friendly Merch Line
SZA is a trailblazer in the music fashion industries, but instead of selling merch with a big footprint, it's threaded with sustainable materials.
As an artist with a soft spot for Earth, SZA voices her opinions without blinking, and in her eyes, environmental responsibility begins with flipping the fashion industry on its head. She previously tweeted, “To protect our planet and ourselves, lowkey we have to rewire our fashion mindset entirely.”
And considering the huge footprint of making clothing, we think the R&B queen is on to something. Part of the problem comes from the massive amounts of resources and space required to farm in organic cotton, not to mention the chemical pesticides that produce harmful greenhouse gasses.
In 2018, SZA partnered with Slow Factory, an environmentally savvy organization that leads with education and innovation. Through their collaboration, they’ve designed a trendy collection of sustainable streetwear covered with phrases like “Sustainability Gang” “Punk Flastic.”
Pete Seeger Cleaned the Hudson River
Pete Seeger’s legacy as an environmental activist is legendary. Looking back at his 94 years on this planet, he did some pretty amazing things, including his work in the Civil Rights movement. But if you ask anyone in the environmental industry, his impact on the Hudson River has no equal.
Pete Seeger lived with his family along the edge of the Hudson River in a cabin he built by hand in the 1940s. But the river had a bad reputation for toxic water that could clean the crustaceans off a boat, so they say. Recognizing a need for change, Seeger decided to clean it up.
In the 1960s, he and his wife Toshi proposed the idea of building an 18th-century ship with the hope that people would be inspired by the river’s beauty—and it worked. In 1969, Clearwater set sail and set the stage for multiple environmental clean-up projects and education programs.
Jaden Smith Launched Just Water
Actor, fashion guru and musician Jaden Smith has accomplished a lot in his young career, including the development of eco-driven projects to quench the world’s thirst.
The next time you’re thirsty, you can grab “Just Water,” the fruit of Jaden’s effort to change the world. Just Water was inspired by his ambition to help the Pacific ocean stay clean. 88% of the carton is made from plants, resulting in a 74% reduction in carbon emissions compared to plastic bottles.
Jaden also provides water to lower-income communities. In 2019, he introduced The Water Box to Flint, Michigan to provide fresh water to the whole city. Water Boxes are mobile stations that filter out lead and provide 10 gallons of free purified water in under a minute.
And all of Jaden’s hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Jaden spoke about the ongoing climate crisis at the TED Countdown Global Launch 2020 and has been honored by UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.
REVERB Provides Water Refill Stations at Festivals
REVERB is the leading non-profit environmental organization that focuses on working with musicians, venues and festivals. To reduce the carbon footprint of the touring industry, REVERB launches special programs like RocknRefill, a project that gives music fans a sustainable alternative to using single-use plastic water bottles.
Plastic water bottles contribute to a large portion of the world’s landfills and litter the oceans at an alarming rate. And at festivals and concerts, plastic bottles are the biggest source of water. REVERB’s RocknRefill initiative gives music lovers access to free water refill stations and reusable Nalgene bottles to stay hydrated instead.
According to REVERB, RocknRefill has eliminated the use of 3 million single-use plastic bottles and raised over 2 million dollars for over 100 partnering nonprofit organizations since 2013.
The Roots Encourage Other Musicians to Go Green
The Roots, legendary hip-hop group and house band for Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show on NBC, do their part by working with environmental organizations and inspiring change within the music industry.
As proud social activists, The Roots don’t keep their thoughts about the state of the world quiet, and they’re also vocal about the looming threat of climate change. To raise awareness about the environment, The Roots host special concerts and events, like their 2007 Green Carpet Jam, and invite other musicians to grab the mic and join them in their mission.
The House of Marley, a Leader in Sustainably Active Audio
The House of Marley ethos is rooted in the same Earthly beliefs that made the world fall in love with Bob Marley—universal love for people and the planet. To shrink our carbon footprint, we give music lovers premium audio products built with sustainable materials.
From our Stir It Up Turntables to our Smile Jamaica Earbuds, all our products are made with environmental sustainability in mind. We use resources like organic cotton and recycled PET as alternatives to traditional materials that are known for huge carbon footprints.
Additionally, House of Marley is a proud partner of organizations that share the same goals. Alongside One Tree Planted and the Surfrider Foundation, House of Marley has successfully cultivated a small community of partners that contributes to Project Marley Global Living, an initiative to support global reforestation, ocean conservation and more.
Inspired? As a music lover, you can help your favorite musicians save the planet too. Check out House of Marley’s lineup of turntables, headphones and speakers to choose a sustainable way to listen to the music you love.