Sex, drugs, and carbon emissions: Pearl Jam to offset '09 tour

Is there such thing as a green rock star? I know my colleague Chris Baskind of More Minimal doesn’t think so: adding up the environmental impact just from touring makes the concept difficult to swallow.

While I agree with Chris in principle, I’ve got to admit that I like any genuine effort that a band makes to lighten its environmental footprint… and Pearl Jam’s announcement of its carbon mitigation strategy for last year’s world tour (as well as upcoming time on the road) has a lot to recommend it.

The band is partnering with the Cascade Land Conservancy “to plant approximately 33 acres of native trees and plants in communities around the Puget Sound.” The projects will generally involve urban forest areas, and will also include the removal of invasive species that may pose a threat to indigenous plants (and, perhaps, make this more successful than other tree-planting programs… they’re not always the most reliable form of offsetting emissions).

What I particularly like about Pearl Jam’s effort is its accounting for emissions. Calculations of the ’09 world tour include not only the footprint of biodiesel-run buses (because, yep, even biofuels create emissions), but also the footprint of fans attending shows (which accounts for nearly half of the total carbon emissions of the tour).There’s clearly a sense of the bigger picture in terms of the climate effects of touring.

I also like the band’s broader thinking on “greening” its tours. Guitarist Stone Gossard notes that “A band on tour generates a lot of carbon… We are constantly moving, using carbon-dependent forms of transportation and a great deal of energy. Since 2003, we have elected to mitigate our carbon output by tracking and calculating our emissions and contributing money to projects that strategically work to improve the environment. We view this as a cost of doing business.” (my emphasis)

Rock ‘n’ roll ain’t noise pollution, but tours create a lot of other kinds of pollution. It’s easy for celebrities to discuss green efforts at home and such, but Pearl Jam strikes me as the kind of group that has a deeper handle on the costs created by its activities. A perfect solution? No. But numerous steps in the right direction here… and there’s also the potential for broader education of the band’s fans on carbon mitigation.

Praiseworthy efforts? Kinda cool but nothing to shout about? Let us know what you think…


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