How Loud Should We Green?

Guster will be wrapping up its Campus Consciousness tour this weekend, but don’t rush to Middlebury College for the next show if you’re looking for a 40-minute Powerpoint presentation on global warming (didn’t someone else do that recently?). True, you’ll be welcomed by eco-greeter volunteers in the venue lobby, where you’ll find eco-brochures available at various eco-booths (all arranged by REVERB, a non-profit that tours with bands including Dave Matthews Band and Jack Johnson in an effort to simultaneously green them and educate their fans). You’ll even, at one magical moment, suddenly notice that a generous cupful of Ben & Jerry’s Cinnabon ice cream has been snuck into your hand. Don’t be fooled. The concert you are about to see is about the tunes first, and the green second.

Curious about Guster going green, I recently checked out the Campus Consciousness Tour in Manhattan. As Newsweek’s Anna Kuchment has noted, Guster has no interest in sermonizing or bashing you over the head with their green message. The night I attended, lead singer Ryan Miller conveyed the band’s environmental message in about 40 seconds. It went something like this: “Hey guys, this is Adam” (indicating guitarist and vocalist Adam Gardner) – “he and his wife started REVERB because they wanted to save the planet earth, where we live. There’s information outside on global warming and all that nonsense, so go ahead and pick some up if you’re so inclined.”

Bam. Next song. After the show, I asked some of the students what they thought of Guster’s green message. One of them was a 14-year-old kid who’d won the “kiss me, I’m carbon neutral,” raffle, but had no idea what carbon offsetting was, though most of his friends did. Another, though, was an event volunteer highly informed on all things green, who just that morning had been rallying classmates at her college for a Step It Up event. She guessed that a third of the kids at this particular Guster concert would actually read the green literature provided in the lobby, and that the rest were milling about for the free ice cream and chapstick, but said the effort was still “absolutely” worth it. A longtime Guster fan, she understood why they’d taken a quiet, almost self-effacing tack. Maybe the beauty of REVERB is that it trusts bands to know how to best reach their fans, and how to choose their own best shade of green.