October 17, 2009

Concerts are Bad for the Environment. ~ via Abbie Mood

Plastic cups are all over the ground and the smell of beer lingers in the air. No, I’m not at a frat party, but leaving a concert.

I went to a concert last night at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine, California.  The concert itself was amazing, but was the environmental cost worth the price? Big venues can hold 16,000-18,000 people, and considering that most people buy at least one drink (not to mention the plenty of people who buy enough drinks to make up for those who don’t), that makes 16,000+ plastic cups that need to be disposed. Saturday night it appeared as if most of those cups landed on the ground or were chucked over the fence.

Besides the plastic cups, there’s also the impact of 16,000-18,000 paper tickets.  There’s currently no environmentally-friendly alternative. Concert venues could take an idea from Continental Airlines, which plans to allow passengers to show a two dimensional barcode on their cell phones instead of printing out a paper boarding pass.

Watching the artists perform on stage, I’m beginning to notice that they are all sweating profusely. Could it possibly be from the hundreds of glaring lights blazing down on them? Besides the stage lights, vendor stands, bathrooms, walkways, and the parking lot all use energy for lighting. Considering the actual concert performance length is around 2 hours, plus pre-show and post-show activities, that’s anywhere from 4-6 hours of wasteful energy being expended.

One of the worst parts about the concert is the smoking. Besides having to inhale the second-hand smoke, the butts end up everywhere. In dry, arid Southern California, this is particularly dangerous due to the fire hazard. The Verizon Wireless Amphitheater backs up to hills covered in dry grass and brush. Perhaps the amphitheater could have containers specifically for the disposal of cigarette butts.

The unfortunate part of it all is that most of the environmental damage is done by the tour buses traveling to and from the concerts. Some artists are trying to do their part and make their concerts more “green”. Jack Johnson offers concert-goers the option of buying carbon offsets, and has certain standards for the venues he plays at.

A Google search showed that in a world of information at your fingertips there is surprisingly little information about concerts’ environmental impact. Perhaps it’s time for concertgoers themselves to step up and demand more from concert venues.

Abbie Mood is a preschool special ed. teacher and freelance writer.  For more of her writing, check out her website.

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