For many musicians, our home offices and studios are where we spend most of our time, making music and taking care of business. So it makes sense to put some effort into greening those spaces. Here’s a list of actions you can take today to make your workspaces lovely, clean and green.
Whichever supplier you are currently with, immediately switch to 100% renewable electricity by buying GreenPower™ – it may cost a touch more each month, but it won’t cost the Earth. And that’s the point.
The electricity sector is the largest source of greenhouse emissions in Australia, with about 80% still coming from coal and gas. That’s slowly changing, with more rooftop solar coming online. But we need to use our influence as consumers and apply pressure as citizens if we want a renewable future faster.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t make sense for us to be dreaming and working towards a greener future if the money in our bank accounts and super funds is simultaneously propping up the kinds of projects we don’t want. If we want to stop mines like Adani, we have to cut off their supply of cash. And that’s an area where we all have influence.
Market Forces believes that the institutions looking after our money should use it to protect, not damage, our environment. They expose the institutions that are financing environmentally destructive projects and help Australians hold these institutions accountable. You can use the guides on their website to help you make the switch.
Directing a small portion of your ticketing revenue to environmental action is one of the most powerful ways you can green your arts practice. Here are three great options:
Over time, we’ve seen a general shift away from physical music formats in favour of digital download and streaming services. On the surface, this shift feels clean, efficient and waste free. But is it the best option?
The Short Version:
All forms of music listening have environmental impacts. But digital downloads are basically the greenest way to share and enjoy music. So we suggest you preference online formats, and encourage fans to download rather than stream. Physical formats are better for people who will listen to your music a lot. Then use your influence to push our culture and decisionmakers towards renewable sources of power as fast as possible. That’ll make streaming and downloading greener in the future.
The Longer Version:
The reality is that there’s no such thing as ‘perfect’. All forms of music listening have environmental impacts. But a little knowledge can help you make better decisions.
Pysical products: You can’t make a CD or press vinyl without exploiting the land and creating toxic byproducts that affect waterways and those who depend on them. Vinyl is made from PVC (a nasty plastic) and CDs are made from plastics and metal. Both use energy and materials in their production, packaging and distribution, are hard to recycle and won’t biodegrade. If you’re going to use vinyl, find a supplier who’ll make the whole process as green as possible (like these folks).
Streamed music: Streaming requires energy production for data storage and transmission as described in the ‘internet’ section above. To compare, it’s estimated the energy associated with one CD is equivalent to about 27 streams of an album. That means, if you’re going to listen to something fewer times, streaming is a better option than physical, but for really big listeners (more than 27 times through an album) physical copies are better. But downloading is even better still.
Downloaded music: Digital downloads are the greenest way to share and enjoy music - especially for those albums or songs you’ll listen to on repeat. It reduces the need for sending information back and forth online, with data and transmission impacts happening just once. Thankfully, you can download music onto your device from most streaming platforms. Fans should get in the habit of downloading albums and songs, especially those they listen to multiple times. You can help encourage them to do that.
Do these four things and you’re helping us all get on the road to greener listening:
The internet has an enormous environmental footprint. There, we said it. While it’s invisible to us as we surf, meet or share, the reality is that all that data needs to be processed and stored somewhere. That’s why the world has millions of data centres – picture enormous banks of powerful computers in climate-controlled rooms that draw immense amounts of power – reportedly responsible for about 2% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, nearly equal to the airline industry.
And our online lives are becoming ever more data hungry. Think about the ways your internet experience has changed in the last few years: more images and video, more music and tv streaming, faster speeds, larger files, more impressive experiences. All of this takes data, which requires energy. While some of the energy demand of increasing internet traffic is offset by improvements in efficiency, the upshot is that it’s an epic, and growing, area of climate concern.
So what do we do? Most modern music careers wouldn’t be viable without the internet – it’s how we connect, share and sell our craft. We’re not suggesting you go offline. Instead, we recommend the same basic approach as in every section of this guide:
The legends over at Julie’s Bicyle (a UK-based sustainable arts advocate) have put together this great briefing that aims to help the cultural community (that’s you!) to make sense of environmental sustainability in the digital sphere. It’s a good starting point.
You’ll want to use the internet to share your music and communicate with your fans, including about your greening efforts. To make that greener, ideally we’ll all find creative ways to share smaller files, less frequently. Low-Tech Magazine’s blog offers us one radical example of what that could look like. Through a kind of online minimalism, they simplify fonts, avoid video, reduce the range of colours and the size of images used to bring the size of the site and the amount it needs to communicate with other sites and servers down. And it’s even hosted on their own solar-powered server, which goes offline if there’s too much cloudy weather! Even if you don’t want to go that far, you can learn a lot by reading what they’ve done and how. Reducing our energy demands like this, though, is actually just one side of the ‘greener choices’ coin. The other side is making the energy we do use as green as possible.
If you're arranging hosting for your own website, get one hosted on a server powered with renewable energy. And if you're storing things online, look for cloud service providers who have committed to 100% renewable energy targets, such as: Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Apple iCloud and Microsoft Azure - though these are often achieved with offsets, so reducing your demand on them is the best first step. Store things locally on your device where you can. If you’re storing things on a server
or online, go through periodically and delete files you no longer need.
This is a tricky space, so don't aim for perfection. Also, sometimes doing things online is the greenest option. COVID-19 has shown us all what’s possible on the web; from online gigs, to interviews and music collabs with other artists. If you can use the internet to avoid a flight or minimise significant other emissions, go for it. It’s quite possible the ideal model in future will be a hybrid of online and in-person gatherings to help us reduce emissions while still reaching remote communities and fans in all corners of the globe.
There’s loads of hype about NFTs. In 2021, musical artist Grimes sold several videos for $6 million. She did it using NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), which are basically a way of proving unique ownership of digital content so it can be bought and sold. Will they have a big impact on our lives? Time will tell. But for now, there’s enough interest – and confusion – for us to share some advice here about their (notable) environmental impacts.
Environmentally, right now, most NFTs look pretty bad. Just like cryptocurrencies (such as Bitcoin) NFTs verify transactions on the blockchain (like an electronic record book) with the use of massive networks of computers, solving a cryptographic puzzle via a process called ‘Proof of Work’. As the name suggests, it requires extreme amounts of computer processing work which chews up loads and loads of energy.
Given the state of our planet, Proof of Work should probably be illegal. Indeed, some artists are refusing to engage on that basis. Even if you green a process like this with renewable energy (or offsets), you’re still massively ramping up the amount of energy our society needs, making the transition to a greener future much harder for all of us. Not good.
Thankfully, there’s some hope. Some NFT platforms are switching to a greener method: ‘Proof of Stake’. And there’s even an Aussie music start up using that method to produce NFTs with, it claims, 1/44,000th of the energy use. If you make one decision in this space, make sure the blockchain your trades are registered on uses Proof of Stake.
And if you do monetise your work with NFTs, think carefully about what you offer along with the digital ‘product’. For now, artists often share a bundle attached to an NFT, which might be made up of a unique image, for instance, plus a collection of stuff. Some tech experts suggest the power of NFTs is not so much about the digital asset itself, but about the connections and relationships you're building via this bundle. The greenest way to do that is to focus on bundling experiences (a ticket to every future show in their hometown, a personal video call, a house concert when you’re in their region, an invite to join you at a political rally, or some other form of access to you and your broader community) rather than a bunch of unethical or impractical physical products.
We shape the world with the choices we make. And artists shape people’s sense of what is normal by what we put out there. Consider the necessity of involving yourself with energy-intensive NFTs at all. And if you do decide to engage, go as green as you can and avoid materialism at all costs.
We recommend following quality independent news sources, always. Choose articles and information published by credible and independent organisations, such as Bureau of Meteorology (AUS), NASA (US), The Royal Society (UK), ABC, Climate Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists and The Potsdam Institute. These are better than opinion pieces, blogs, forums, and websites like Wikipedia (which are a starting point, but should not be relied on). And definitely don’t form your opinion based on what you read on social media.
If you’re unsure about something, don’t be afraid to contact us. We’re here to support you. It’s literally our job!
Remember to always put your mental health first and take breaks when you need them. Nobody is a perfect advocate for the living planet, and the music industry can be a challenging place to work at the best of times. We need you healthy, connected and strong. So go easy on yourself, take it step by step, and reach out for help when you need it.
Health is about so much more than simply not being sick. It’s about getting a balance between physical, mental, emotional, cultural and spiritual health.
– Dr Tamara Mackean (Waljen woman, Public Health Medicine Physician and Fellow of the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine)
Connecting with the wider living world
The benefits of connecting to Country can be profound. Spending time with Mother Earth and caring for her are both healing acts. From Common Ground: “The warmth of the sun kissing your skin. The feeling of salt in your eyebrows after a swim in the ocean. The support of soil beneath your feet – grounding you with every step. The sound of rain after dry season – nature’s music. These are feelings felt by us all. We can all find beauty and inspiration in the natural world.”
Connecting with and care for self
Through regular meditation, we can learn that acceptance, gratitude and compassion are antidotes to denial, anger and fear. And that these things aren’t just ideas, but states of being that we can experience, strengthen, and draw on when we need them. Yoga and exercise help, too. As does time off technology, consistent routines, listening to relaxing music, and good sleep. Find a class or a teacher or an amazing free app and dive in.
Connecting with community and taking action
None of us needs to do this work alone. It’s harder and less fun that way. And sometimes it’s good to switch off and just enjoy each other’s company.
If you feel overwhelmed, reach out for professional psychological support. This great article by Australian Music Manager Charlotte Abroms is a good place to start for thinking about general music industry self-care. The Australian Psychological Society offers detailed guidance on coping with ecological distress, building on many of the points above. And there are many caring people and organisations you can call if you (or anyone you know) needs urgent support. In fact, Support Act delivers crisis relief and mental health and wellbeing services especially for Australian artists like you (plus crew and music workers, too). They offer a First Nations Dedicated Support Line that facilitates a culturally safe experience for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, crew and music workers. And they also develop and implement mental health prevention, education and training programs.
Contact Support Act
These are all good actions that align our lives better with the needs of Country. But as environmental activist Bill McKibben says, “the most important thing an individual can do, is be less of an individual”. Systemic and collective change is what’s needed if we’re to avert climate catastrophe. So while we’re improving our personal footprint, we also need to push for collective, political change. That’s why your voice is the most powerful tool you’ve got. See Speaking Up for our suggestions on how to use it well. Or get in touch if you want to get more involved in the Green Music movement.