This is the first in a series of interviews with several of the expert table facilitators at EcoLogic’s 2014 fall benefit, Turning the Tables: Living Within Natural Limits. This dinner party with a twist will take place on October 23. To learn more and purchase your seat at the table, check out our event page here!
Lauren Sullivan and her husband, Adam Gardner of the alternative rock band Guster, are the co-founders of REVERB, a non-profit organization that makes artists’ tours and concerts more environmentally sustainable while also conducting grassroots outreach and education with music fans around the country. Lauren’s discussion topic at Turning the Tables will be “Greening Rock and Roll.”
How did you start your life path towards a collaboration between music and the environment?
I was born and raised in Maine and grew up in a rural setting which helped me to develop a deep appreciation for the natural world.
After my undergraduate studies at Tufts University, I received an M.S. in Environmental Education from the Audubon Expedition Institute at Lesley University (AEI). During my time at AEI, I camped outside for a year and a half straight, which solidified my commitment to and love for the natural world! After I finished grad school, I moved to California, where I dove straight into working as a campaigner with the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) in San Francisco. I was an anti-oil campaigner working on behalf of the U’wa people of Colombia.
I have always considered myself to be a “hippie at heart,” but at the same time, I have always been very interested in pop culture. RAN had some very strong partnerships with artists like Bonnie Raitt and Dave Matthews Band, and I took note of what a powerful role music could play as a catalyst to open people up to new ideas and issues. I often felt like I was in a room full of environmentalists nodding at each other in agreement. So it seemed to me that by connecting with more diverse groups of people at music shows, we could avoid preaching to the choir. This concept and practice really cracked things open for me.
How exactly did you start “greening” rock and roll?
Whenever my husband—Adam Gardner, the lead singer in the alternative rock band Guster—came home from a tour, he felt the dissonance between his life on the road and our life at home—the plastic water bottles, diesel fuel, and waste, compared to our sustainable lifestyle. I had been thinking a great deal about my environmental non-profit work and how to educate and engage people about the incredible issues that so many organizations were working on. Through my desire to help nonprofits and Adam’s acknowledgement of the need to curb the intense environmental footprint of the touring industry, we began to work on honing the concept of REVERB. Bonnie Raitt, and especially her manager, Kathy Kane, helped us to launch our organization. Kathy was a phenomenal mentor to me during REVERB’s fledgling stages.
In essence, REVERB helps musicians to “green” their tours while educating and activating their fans around environmental issues. We’ll find out if an artist has an issue that is near and dear to their heart, and create an outreach program around that passion. We also “green” the tour behind the scenes. We use trucks and vans that are powered by locally- and sustainably-produced biodiesel; recycle everything that can be recycled and try to minimize waste; cater with food from local family farms; use reusable bottles and mugs; and compost for example. Then, we also create an “Eco-Village” at every concert, which feature local and national non-profits and showcase sustainable technologies, for example. We engage an artist’s fans about a cause that interests the artist, and give that cause and organization a voice they wouldn’t otherwise have—sometimes in front of an audience of 25,000 people!
Who is involved with your current projects?
Right now REVERB is working on environmental programming with Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews Band, Linkin Park, and Phish. We will be working this fall with Icona Pop on our Campus Consciousness Tour (CCT)—which is a concert series we bring to college campuses across the country.
You certainly are changing the world! How do you think EcoLogic is changing the world?
It is so important that rural communities are given the power to create long-lasting and meaningful mechanisms to sustain their land. The process that EcoLogic uses is about collaboration to recognize the intrinsic value of the natural world.
What will the guests at your table take away from the discussion?
The number one thing I want my guests to be thinking about is incremental change—getting on the path to a more sustainable life.
My husband and I often speak of one’s “sphere of influence” and how if we all look around us, and think about what we know, who we know, where we may be able to have an impact, we can all be changemakers in our own lives and in the world. Whether you are a stay-at-home parent choosing to teach sustainable practices to your children, a student looking to make change on your campus, or a worker in a larger corporation wishing you could alter your office’s sustainability practices—who you are, who you know, and your daily interactions are all important and can have a major impact and reverberation that will allow us to live within our natural limits.