Jack Johnson's rider is full of demands—but they're for the greater good.
For years, musician Jack Johnson has been helping to green the music industry, specifically through his tours by revolutionizing the venues he performs at. Beginning in 2013 with his From Here To Now To You tour, Johnson decided to tour only if he could make it as sustainable as possible. This decision did not come easily; after much deliberation, he nearly quit touring altogether.
“I didn’t know if I needed to keep touring, especially when I considered the environmental impact of what I was doing,” Johnson told the Huffington Post. “If I’m going to keep doing music, I have to help keep the industry I’m a part of be more responsible.”
It wasn’t easy, but this decision helped him focus on how to make his tours in the future much more “green” in a variety of ways. In what’s called a “rider,” which is the list of demands for a venue that need to be met before an artist is set to perform there, Jack Johnson went above and beyond to make his list environmentally-friendly and forever changed some venues in the process. In the list, venues find that they must agree to 100% recycling for his performances, install all energy-efficient lightbulbs throughout the venue, eliminate single-use plastic bottles during his shows, and cater from companies that serve foods made with locally-sourced, organic ingredients.
“You hear all these horror stories of people’s riders requesting one color of M&Ms or super fancy champagne,” Johnson said. “We just figured, all right, let’s be demanding with these, because we know they’re not going to switch back to those energy-draining bulbs once the show is over.”
For Johnson, his environmental efforts don’t stop with demanding that the venues make all these changes. His tour trucks and coaches use biodiesel fuel whenever it’s available to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, all merchandise items are made from sustainable materials, he sells reusable items, and waste reduction measures like recycling and composting are strictly followed. His shows also feature a Village Green area, hosted by All At Once, the nonprofit he is exclusively working with, which holds set ups for other nonprofits that want to spread information about environmental and sustainable practices. All of the profits from Johnson’s tour were donated to these nonprofits as well.
In that first year of greening, All At Once released information to show the impact they had and the results were nothing short of amazing. According to the infographic, nearly 2.5 million pounds of CO2 were offset through the efforts made to reduce emissions. By not selling plastic bottles, they were able to save over 18,000 single-use bottles from being purchased and discarded, and 2,035 Klean Kanteen bottles were purchased, so if every fan uses them over the next year then it would save over 300,000 bottles. What’s even better is that Johnson’s efforts have pushed venues to be more responsible going forward.
“The thing we keep hearing from venues, which we think is cool, is that they realize [the changes they made] were more cost-effective,” Johnson said. “Or, they just realize they had great feedback from the patrons and they get so much good press that they start doing everything they can [to green up the venue].”
He awarded the Santa Barbara Bowl with the All At Once Sustainability Award in 2015 and presented them with a water refilling station after the Bowl made tons of changes to their stadium. Following Johnson’s lead, they implemented the Bike Valet program that encourages concertgoers to bike to the stadium and have their bikes valeted at the very front of the venue. They now sell reusable beer pints that can be refilled with water at a station for free or, for the life of the pint at every concert going forward, can be refilled with beer for $1 discount.
Johnson himself handed out reusable stainless steel cups to every concertgoer at his last two shows in Santa Barbara, encouraging waste reduction and spreading his message of why it’s important to think before you continue to waste. As other venues slowly start to take on these changes, Johnson hopes that the entire music industry will begin to look introspectively at how their practices are affecting the environment. Find Jack Johnson’s top 10 plastic free tips here.