Emissions are inevitable when a band tours, but there is a lot you can do as a touring band to reduce the ecological footprint you leave on this earth.
We are Hanne Kah, a band from Germany, and we asked ourselves: how is it possible to tour abroad as green as possible, using measures every band can implement in their touring life, without a large financial support system?
This blog was guest written by Hanne Kah, a band who used their eco Australian tour as a case study and wrote about it for Green Music Australia.
First up: those long-distance flights.
We knew there was no way of getting around flying, we compensated our flights via organizations such as the German-based carbon offsetter Atmosfair. Of course, it doesn’t grant you the freedom to fly as often as you wish, but it is a way to compensate for emissions when flying is unavoidable.
If you do fly, it’s easy to bring your own reusable coffee cups and water bottles to the plane. We used ours right from the start of our flight by refusing to be handed a new plastic cup with every drink - don’t be afraid of stepping on someone’s toes by doing this! On the contrary, in our experience the flight attendants appreciated this method (and would even give us some extra orange juice).
Go reusable while flying, and remember to offset when you have to fly.
Once we made it to Australia, we continued our green journey by shopping locally, buying organic and picking in-season foods whenever we could. It was amazing to us how much the local produce differs from what grows in Germany. The choice of tropical fruits is just awesome and it allowed us to try many different fruits and vegetables we are not used to eating in Germany. So as a side effect, you can even learn about local habits and culture, which we really enjoyed.
About three years ago, we also decided to become vegetarians and slowly reduce our consumption of animal products - like buying plant-based milk. By doing this together as a band, it became much easier to handle when touring. We immediately had the feeling that our decision had a great impact, because it was a big group. There are lots of people who quite helplessly say or think ‘what can I do as an individual..?’ The answer: influence those around you.
Furthermore, we carefully planned our route, so that all our destinations could be reached by car - a rental van that fit all our instruments and luggage. We also constantly used the van’s fuel-saving eco mode, and arranged the journeys with enough time so we could drive instead of fly.
Driving reduced our emissions - but the effects of climate change are already apparent.
Another big thing for us is the choice of clothes and instruments - these are things we use on stage and therefore have to reflect our values. Our clothes are often second-hand, either from shops or actually old stuff our parents used to wear. We also focus on fair-trade fashion, which is a little more expensive, but that’s what fair-trade is all about! Our instruments are also vintage - when we’re not playing instruments or amps from the 70s, we play acoustic guitars from the Melbourne-based manufacturer Cole Clark, built with 100% sustainable woods from local fallen trees.
We also try to pull sustainability from the front stage to the backstage area. We use Green Music Australia’s plastic-free Green Rider - apart from reducing plastic, it also spreads awareness. As more and more venues read riders asking for plastic-free and vegetarian backstage provisions, it can make a huge difference.
It was evidently a crazy time to go to Australia, and we arrived with mixed feelings. The country is on fire and feels the effects of climate change in the rawest possible way, while we were travelling by air and coming to entertain.
However, we are still a band with a message. We wrote a song for the Fridays For Future movement and we are great supporters of the demonstrations whenever we can over here in Europe. We try to use our voices on stage to tell the stories of our songs and to make the world a better place. Our gig at the Bundy was changed to a fire relief concert - we are so thankful for a chance to help in this situation and to give something back to the country we are travelling in. We played in front of a 170 strong crowd and helped raise over $10,000 which was all donated to the local fire relief of Gippsland! We immediately felt and loved the strong bond between people and the will to help in Australia.
Live at the Bundy, raising over $10,000 for fire relief.
We were also thrilled when we arrived at the Illawarra Folk Festival to see how they implemented a no-plastic policy through the whole festival - they were one of GMA’s first-ever #BYOBottle festivals. It was amazing to tell the story of our song ‘Greta’ to such a climate-aware audience and to receive so much love.
Performing at a Fridays for Future march in Germany
We believe that awareness is a key point when you are on tour with a band. It is not so much about perfectionism - it is more to be aware of all the small things that sum up to an overall greener lifestyle and help to reduce emissions when touring.
For us, it is a fun challenge to think about what we can do for a better climate, while discussing and implementing our ideas in our touring life. We are happy to keep the dialogue going and appreciate more great suggestions!
Hanne Kah, Australia 2019.