Originally published in The Aquarian Weekly
August 29, 2006

REVERB:
A Green Rock Revolution
 
by Ken Shane
 
reverb
 
“A lot of us are activists in rock star clothing,”
Alanis Morissette opined a few years back, and
the founders of an organization called Reverb
have set out to prove her right. The organization
was co-founded by Guster guitarist Adam
Gardner (a Jersey native) and his wife Lauren
Sullivan in 2004. Their purpose was to do as
much as possible to remediate the impact that
rock and roll tours have on the environment,
and to educate the public and the music
community on green issues.
 
To date, Reverb has formed alliances with
artists such as John Mayer, Beastie Boys,
Guster, Barenaked Ladies, Dave Matthews,
The Fray, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Norah Jones,
Crowded House and others. Their efforts have
ranged from providing logistics for biodiesel
fuel delivery to tour buses and trucks, to actually
embedding Reverb staffers within tours to
oversee the construction of an eco-village at
each tour stop. The village provides space
for local non-profit green organizations, as well
as environmentally concerned national retailers,
like Ben & Jerry’s and Stonyfield Farms, to
dispense information to the audience.
 
Reverb has also worked with venue owners
such as Live Nation to assist them in efforts to
green concert facilities, including making
backstage areas as close to carbon neutral as
possible by the use of biodegradable materials
in food service, as well as doing the actual
recycling. They also review concert riders in
artist contracts to be sure that they address
environmental concerns. Volunteers fan out at
each show to provide information about the
organization and to request a $5 donation from
concertgoers as a carbon offset fee to help
reduce the environmental impact of their journey
to the show.
 
When Lauren and Adam recognized the
need to reduce the environmental impact of
touring, they identified Kathy Kane, who is
Bonnie Raitt’s manager, as a kindred spirit.
Kane had founded the non-profit ARIA
Foundation to service the music industry, and
Raitt’s 2002 “Green Highway” tour served as
an inspiration to the fledgling Reverb. They
sought counsel from Kane and became one
of the Foundation’s projects. The Foundation
initially acted as Reverb’s non-profit umbrella,
but Reverb has recently gained its own tax
exempt status.
 
Guster had done quite a bit of touring with
Canada’s Barenaked Ladies and there was
a close bond between the bands. It seemed
natural for Reverb to approach BNL’s Steven
Page with their proposal to work on the band’s
next tour. Page, who is an ardent environmental
activist, readily accepted the idea, and Reverb
was on its way.
 
Now that the organization is well established,
they continue to approach artists to offer their
services, but now artists and venues approach
them as well. Reverb has an entire menu of
services to offer, depending on the client’s
interests and requirements.
 
Reverb, which is based in Portland, ME, is
able to continue its work as a result of an “ecofund.”
Artists who work with the organization
will typically include a small fee for Reverb in
their ticket price. Additional funds are raised
by auctioning off guitars that are contributed
by Alvarez and First Act and by contributions
from green businesses. The group hopes to
expand their fundraising in the future by receiving
grant money.
 
While it is admittedly impossible to determine
with any certainty how much good these and
similar efforts are doing for the planet, what is
important is that rock fans are being provided
with a real connection to the environmental
community. With the dawning realization that
the earth is in crisis, and that our own
government is unwilling to do much about it,
people will know where to turn if they want to
be a part of the solution. As Bonnie Raitt told
the New York Times, “A change is coming.
Green Power is the way out of this mess.”
 
The challenge now is to spread this message
beyond the fan base of the Reverb-affiliated
bands who are a natural audience for the
organization’s message to other segments of
the music community, such as fans of hip hop
and heavy metal.
 
To find out more about Reverb and how
to help spread their message, visit
reverbrock.org
buzz
REVERB:
A Green Rock Revolution