Jack Keelan explains how the music industry can move to carbon neutrality.
The intangibility of music can somewhat disguise the negative environmental impacts of the industry, nevertheless, there are ground-breaking technologies and emergent studies shaping an ecologically sustainable future.
Naturally, clubs demand a lot of energy, contributing to the 540,000 tonnes of carbon emitted by the UK music industry per year.
BODYHEAT is a state-of-the-art renewable heating and cooling technology installed in Glasgow’s esteemed SWG3 club. The system converts the body heat generated by clubbers and funnels it underground, storing it for future use in a battery-like fashion.
This technology is allowing SWG3 to “utilise that warmth, consuming minimal electricity and gas on site, and in turn minimizing our carbon emissions”. BODYHEAT means the club can completely remove gas boilers and slash carbon emissions by 70 tonnes per year, aiding in their target of carbon neutrality by 2025.
But CO2 emissions are just one component of the music industry’s environmental footprint – plastic discs are pumped out of production plants every day. Vinyl is non-recyclable due to the use of PVC; with the astronomic rise in the consumption of this material, some institutions have begun to rethink production processes.
IMAGE CREDIT: GREEN VINYL RECORDS
Green Vinyl Records in Holland have patented a revolutionary production system that utilises injection moulding rather than steam energy. This production method produces records that are fully recyclable, whilst consuming 60% less energy than traditional vinyl production. Benefits are not restricted to the environment, with plates having a longer play life, no warping and a richer sound.
Needs (not for profit) used the plant for a stellar 2021 release, featuring the likes of Saoirse, Pugilist and LUXE. Head honcho Bobby Connolly asserts, “It sounds better, the turnaround is quicker and you’re making the world a better place by doing so.” Hopeful the process will become commonplace in the future, his talk with The Face reminds us of the forward-thinking nature of the industry: “It’s a fertile ground for new ideas and technologies. I think it just takes a few people to lead the way – hopefully, that can inspire others to do the same. The time for change is now.”
Another huge contributor to the music industry’s output is air travel, where touring DJs rack up a considerable carbon footprint. A report by Clean Scene, dubbed ‘Last night a DJ Took a Flight’, tracked the carbon emissions of Resident Advisor’s top 1000 DJs of 2019.
The findings estimated 51,000 flights were taken, resulting in 35 million kg of CO2 being released into the atmosphere. This output could press 25 million records, facilitate 8000 festivals for three days, or power 20,000 households for one year.
The report offers a number of behaviour-based actions to curb this output, including public accountability in setting carbon neutral targets, booking local artists to reduce air miles and making travel routes more efficient for touring artists.
Last but not least, single-use plastics remain a troubling aspect of UK nightclubs and festivals. In 2019, London hotspots Oval Space and Pickle Factory admirably replaced all plastic water bottles with Life Water, a zero plastic and locally sourced alternative that is fully recyclable, with plastic cups traded for a compostable corn starch alternative.
IMAGE CREDIT: ECODISCO
London’s first plastic-free party illustrates how this drive has been replicated by promoters. Ecodisco hosted their first event in 2019, since evolving from club night to consultancy, designing affordable systems to remove plastic and greenhouse gas emissions across the live music industry.
Changes in production and perception are necessary to divert our current course, but with shrewd investment and widespread education, a greener future can be forged for the music industry.