Published Feb 21, 2008Lauren Sullivan, who has 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, worked as a campaigner with the Rainforest Action Network in San Francisco and later in Brooklyn, New York with Partnerships for Parks helping communities to advocate for and reclaim their parks, gardens and green spaces. She founded the Portland, Maine-based non-profit Reverb with her husband (and Guster guitarist) Adam Gardner in 2004. Theyve since worked on events with an array of artists including Fall Out Boy, Jack Johnson, Linkin Park and Canadians Avril Lavigne, Barenaked Ladies, and Stars.
Reverb brings music and environmental communities together to promote environmental sustainability. What makes these two a good marriage?
I come from the environmental non-profit world and Adam comes from the music world. We were talking about the frustration that non-profits have, getting to lots of folks in their community. And so this was a no-brainer. "Okay, we can bring all these local and national non-profits and they all of a sudden have access to 25,000 people in their communities that they wouldnt otherwise be in touch with. It just seemed like a great mechanism to share an important message. Its also a great way for the artist to share part of their personality and their interest. I think it was Steven Page from BNL who said, "Its not just beers and smokes when you walk into the venue, its all these organizations that the band cares about. So it was a great synergy of worlds.
Bands can generate a lot of waste, especially on tour. Whats the Reverb strategy for minimizing this?
Rock shows arent ever going to stop happening thats just a fact of the matter. When you think about music and community and the fact that music brings people together around this really beautiful thing, well, we dont want to get rid of that, culturally speaking. But with that in mind, 85 percent of the carbon footprint of any event is created by the fans driving to and from the shows. So thats something that were focusing on, this year especially. We are working with artists, many of whom are activists, looking for ways to cut down their carbon footprint, and to fuel their trucks and buses on biodiesel. We look at the energy use of the venues, using compostable items, greening up their contract riders so that they are clear about communicating their desires about being environmentally sustainable to the venue, in terms of what they request from them, like having recycling programs backstage. Were working on car-pooling programs, where fans can connect with each other to figure out how to all get in a car together. Some venues are talking about making priority parking for folks that carpool or drive hybrids, so that theres a bonus if youre doing that stuff. I think programs like that are going to be really effective. And its also a community builder its a fun thing to connect with other fans of your favourite artist and its a way to decrease costs of fans travel. Its really win-win.
[Another] thing and this is an incremental step in the right direction is we encourage fans to offset their drive to and from the show. We create a program with the artist to have a cool little sticker thats branded with the artists name. Folks can donate a few bucks, and theyll be entered into a contest to win an autographed poster from the tour. We take the sticker money and donate it to our renewable energy partner, Native Energy, and on [the fans] behalf offset their drive to and from the show and beyond. Usually its about 300 miles of driving thats offset per each sticker donation. This past year we worked with the Dave Matthews Band and we had an incredible sticker participation rate; Dave Matthews fans actually offset 1.2 million miles of driving through the program. So it really can have an impact.
Whats the future for the environmental movement?
Right now the biofuels industry is a great stepping-stone to decreasing our environmental footprint. But [we should be asking], is the soy and corn industry turning into the equivalent of big oil? Are we just replicating a model that does not work? I think the answer is yes. We need to put an eye on that pretty quickly and shift the direction that were going in so that were not just replicating the same models that are not effective and that got us to where we are now. I also think that we need to show the next generations that were willing to vote with our dollars and support the corporations that are leading the way in terms of being viable economic entities and also sustainable. Theres a great organization called Climate Counts that evaluates companies and gives them different ratings for transparency, their environmental work, and outlines what theyre doing. You could look at supporting companies that are doing well on that list its a way to vote with your dollars, which as consumers is one of the most powerful things we can do.