As a fan, the responsibility is to show up. Musicians, however, have a lot to consider when planning a tour. Lauren Sullivan, founder and co-director of Reverb, decided to utilize the potentially eco-unfriendly gatherings found at concerts to inform and inspire music fans. Her organization is changing the music industry by teaching fans and artists to make sustainable choices while planning and attending concerts, and in their everyday lives.
“We’ll connect with an artist and offer a menu of options. One artist might be really into sustainable fuel and ask ‘can you help me find the most sustainable biofuel for my tour bus?’“ Sullivan said.
“We might offer other options and say ‘hey, well, if you’re interested in sustainable fuels and you want to promote farmers maybe we can do a local farm program for your catering setup backstage?’”
Other behind the scene aspects of “greening” a tour may include setting up recycling bins, catering with local produce, serving on real china and using cloth napkins. Reverb also reevaluates venue contracts to request more sustainable policies, like permitting aluminum water bottles. For the fans, Reverb creates an eco-village at each show to initiate outreach and encourage lifestyle choices conducive to sustainability.
In addition to the Reverb staff, volunteers and organization representatives participate at every event.
“We couldn’t do the programming we do without the involvement of the fans who are committed to being involved in the cause of their favorite artists,” Sullivan said. “It’s really great to meet everyone out there across the country, so many amazing activists representing these really amazing organizations. It’s an honor to get to connect with so many people who are doing this great work.”
Sullivan says growing up in Maine, she has always had a connection with the natural world. She earned a B.A. in Social Psychology and Spanish from Tufts University and an M.S. in Environmental Education from the Audubon Expedition Institute at Lesley University. While studying at Tufts, she met her husband Adam Gardner, a musician in the band Guster.
“We were living in N.Y. for a while and I was chomping at the bit to do something that was a little more, you know, large scope and national scope,” she said. “Then we started talking about how these musicians are driving around in these tour buses. His band Guster originally called their van the earth-eater.”
Sullivan’s connection with Guster played a role in starting Reverb. Gardner’s connections with other bands led to Reverb’s involvement in a 2004 tour with Alanis Morisette and Barenaked Ladies.
“[Adam] knew folks that were having similar problems with the kind of disposable nature of the tour industry,” Sullivan said. “The Guster guys and Barenaked Ladies had toured really extensively and were really good friends. Adam knew they purchased the first Prius in Canada. Guster’s been really instrumental in getting a lot of our programming off the ground.”
Since 2006, college students have had the opportunity to become environmental activists through Reverb’s Campus Consciousness Tour.
“It’s a tour that brings together kids on college campuses with artists. Reverb helps create an [environmental program] on campus and also brings in nonprofits that do different programs,” Sullivan said. “All that culminates with a rock show at night. It’s a really great mix of both green and activism right in that campus community.”
Sullivan believes Reverb is a way to engage the music community and include fans in an important conversation.
“I think a lot of times environmentalists end up talking a lot to each other and agreeing as opposed to connecting with new folks, educating, and having a new dialogue,” she said. “That’s what was really exciting to me about it.”
For a full list of participating artists and more, visit Reverb’s website.