Concerts can be terrible for the environment, but this singer-songwriter/conservationist (with the help of his committed crew) is on a mission to fix them.

By Lauren Phillips
September 27, 2017
Photo: C Flanigan/Contributor/Getty Images

Everyone loves a good concert, but did you know they can create a ton (literally) of waste? Think about it: plastic water bottles, straws, single-use plastic cups, carbon emissions from transportation to the venue … all these are part of the concert experience, and while they may contribute to an unforgettable night, they also contribute to a majorly negative environmental impact.

That’s why singer-songwriter and conservationist Jack Johnson, the voice behind hits such as “Upside Down” and “Better Together,” is working to change the way he tours. He and his touring crew are making significant efforts to reduce the environmental impact of each concert and tour by partnering with venues and local organizations to give fans alternatives to single-use plastics and other objects that often end up in landfills or even the ocean.

Johnson and his crew have been working on this ongoing greening effort since 2008’s Sleep Through the Static tour—you can see more information on that effort, and other aspects of tour greening, on Jack Johnson’s website.

“It’s been a long journey,” Johnson says. “You have to accept that it’s going to be an ongoing conversation—you can’t just expect to eliminate plastic on your first tour, so we’ve been doing it for years.”

And the work he and his team have done has a significant impact already: In 2014's All at Once tour alone, Jack Johnson fans offset more than 1 million pounds of carbon dioxide—the equivalent of taking 172 cars off the road for one year—and more than 18,000 single-use plastic bottles went unused, thanks to fans refilling their own reusable bottles at water stations.

Watch: What Are You Fighing For?

This year, Johnson’s tour—which began in the summer and has been extended through the fall—continues greening efforts as Johnson promotes his latest album, All The Light Above It Too. Actions to reduce the environmental impact of the tour include:

  • Partnering with non-profits through the All At Once campaign, which works with community groups to support sustainable local food systems and plastic-free initiatives (plus other local causes)
  • Eliminating the use of single-use plastic water bottles by offering water stations for refilling reusable containers at each venue and by selling reusable bottles, mugs, and pint cups at each show
  • Offering an alternative to disposable plastic cups with a reusable pint program
  • Working with venues to eliminate plastic straws from each show by encouraging a “straws by request” policy
  • Working toward a zero waste tour through recycling, composting, and other efforts to reduce the amount of waste going into landfills
  • Reducing the carbon footprint produced by the tour by using sustainable biodiesel and encouraging concert attendees to carpool, use public transportation, or bike to get to shows
  • Ordering locally grown, organic foods for backstage catering and donating leftovers to community hunger relief organizations
  • Selling tour merchandise made from sustainable materials, focusing on reusable and renewable materials
  • Allowing concert attendees to opt-in to a carbon emissions offset program, either when purchasing tickets or at shows, which contributes funds to projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions (such as methane gas capture initiatives)

By encouraging his fans to get involved in conservation efforts, even with actions as simple as using reusable water bottles rather than single-use ones, Johnson helps demonstrate that saving the planet in small ways can be easy—and that small actions quickly add up to a much larger one.

Additional reporting by Lauren Paige Kennedy