Here’s Why Jack Johnson’s Concert Riders Matter, Even if You’re Not a Fan

Jack Johnson is greening the live music experience.

If you’ve ever been to a festival, or even a concert, you have an idea how much waste these events can generate.

The top 100 tours in 2015 sold an estimated 60 million plastic water bottles (the equivalent of 48,000 barrels of oil) while 130 million paper goods (about 160,000 trees) were used,” Huffington Post reports.

“[And] 80 to 90 percent of concerts’ carbon emissions come from fans driving en masse to get there.”

Well, musician Jack Johnson has had enough of all the waste; and he is working to make his shows as sustainable as possible. So, before the singer-songwriter agrees to play a show at a venue, he now has to be assured that all his “environmental demands” are met in his concert riders.

Johnson’s riders request that recycling not be thrown away with trash and that energy-efficient lightbulbs be installed throughout a venue before he takes the stage. He also asks “the venue to purchase carbon dioxide offsets to cover all the energy used during the show,” Huffington Post reports.

“You hear all these horror stories of people’s riders requesting one color of M&Ms or super fancy champagne,” Johnson says. “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.”

In 2008, before Johnson overhauled his touring habits, he almost decided to never go on the road again. “I didn’t know if I needed to keep touring, especially when I considered the environmental impact of what I was doing,” he says.

So, Johnson and his wife decided he’d continue to tour if they could turn his tours into fundraisers and make the shows as sustainable as possible. “For the next five years, they used environmentally focused riders to force venues into greening up their spaces with reusable beer pints, water refill stations and energy-saving equipment,” the Post adds. “They traveled on tour buses and used generators that were powered by biodiesel fuel. He insisted on using caterers who use locally sourced, organic foods and encouraged fans to take alternative transportation to the shows by setting up bike valets or promoting mobile carpool apps.”

After all his work, Johnson managed to make his tours incredibly green, and also influenced a few venues to change their un-sustainable ways.

“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 says. “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].”

So, how much of an impact is Johnson making with these changes? Quite a big one.

During Johnson’s last tour, he was able to:

  • Offset 2.3 million pounds of CO2 emissions.
  • Divert 489 pounds of waste from landfills.
  • Prevent 18,392 single-use plastic bottles from being used.

Now, that’s something to sing about.

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Image of Jack Johnson via Shutterstock, Daniel DeSlover

Abbie Stutzer

Writer, editor, and owner of Ginchy!, a freelance writing and editing company, and home funeral hub. Adores smart sex ed, sustainable ag, spooky history, women's health, feminism, horror, wine, and sci-fi.