Greener Pastures Ahead?

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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

Last week, I explored the damaging impact that CD's have on our environment. CD's must be recycled separately. Tossing them into the garbage creates toxic landfills.

No one in the music industry understands the environmental impact of their work better than touring musicians. Most musicians head out on tour for months at a time, criss-crossing the country. Many tour six to eight months a year, burning fossil fuels in every mile.

So it should come as no surprise that it was a group of musicians, who showed the industry just how easy it is to tour the country, leaving the smallest environmental footprint. Bonnie Raitt was the first musician to use alternative energy on the road, beginning back in 2002. She powers her national tours with two large buses and a couple of semis, all without burning petroleum. Bonnie Raitt uses soybean-based biodiesel. Biodiesel is a domestically produced fuel often made from fat or vegetable oil. It runs on any diesel engine with few or no modifications.

Bonnie Raitt doesn't just walk the walk, she talks the talk as well. Her concerts often include exhibitions showcasing the benefits of biodiesel, solar energy, wind and hybrid technology. She's definitely made an impact. Many other musicians have chosen to hit the road using biodiesel, including Neil Young, Willie Nelson, Jack Johnson and Barenaked Ladies.

The list of artists taking a proactive stance to educate their fans about the importance of environmental awareness has grown exponentially in the last few years. From Keb Mo to Ozomatli, and Ozzy Osborne to Icubus, musicians are asking their fans to make changes in their lives for the good of the planet.

Several organizations affiliated with the music industry have sprung up, to help musicians, and their fans advocate for environmental causes. Rock the Earth is a not-for-profit environmental organization dedicated to protecting natural resources through partnerships with the music industry and the environmental community. The scope of the organization is broad, from creating eco-villages at music festivals to organizing position papers to fuel environmental change.

And borne from Bonnie Raitt's first eco tour in 2002, another organization, Reverb, was founded. Reverb is an Austin-based consulting company, started by environmentalist Lauren Sullivan and her musician husband, Guster guitarist/vocalist Adam Gardner. Reverb is actively involved in a diverse roster of musicians' events, from land tours, sea cruises and festivals. Each event has an environmental agenda of sustainability for the musicians, their crew and the fans.

Last year Reverb worked with the Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, Beastie Boys, Norah Jones, Linkin Park and another dozen or so more national tours to provide carbon neutral concerts, biodiesel transportation, recycling centers, eco villages, fan-based carbon-offset programs and other green initiatives.

It's exciting. I'm beginning to feel like we're moving full circle. The 60's and 70s were our undeniable musical Age of Aquarius. The music fostered hope for change, a hope that we almost forgot. A hope that we so desperately need now. There's something very special about having musicians guide us once again.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.