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Music festivals, rock concerts and other events have the power to inspire huge audiences towards taking positive action in the fight against climate change. At the same time, those events themselves can clock up a considerable footprint if they involve jetting artists to the venue, powering high-voltage lighting and visual effects, and dealing with the food, drink and waste needs of thousands of fans.

So a growing number of cultural events are embracing the climate neutral concept. It may be an easy slogan to describe your event as climate neutral, but it presents tough choices about where to “draw the line” around your own impacts— and how far to go with really greening the event itself, rather than relying on offsets to compensate for an energy-intensive spectacular.

Live Earth, perhaps the mother of all green music events, is a member of the Climate Neutral Network. The organization has continued to stage events and advise others, following on from the worldwide series of synchronized concerts in July 2007. That event, inspired by former US Vice-President Al Gore and music producer Kevin Wall, involved concerts in seven continents and was broadcast in 132 countries—making it the most watched online entertainment event ever.

Since action against climate change was the reason for the event itself, clearly the exercise of climate neutrality has been an important priority for Live Earth. It has produced a set of Green Event Guidelines that will provide a practical guide to minimizing and offsetting climate impacts for other organizers, and these are now being updated to include athletic events as well as concerts.

Live Earth’s general manager Catherine Geanuracos says a key challenge is to work out where you draw the boundaries around the impact of the event itself, to avoid making claims you can’t really substantiate.

“Carbon neutrality can only be implemented in those areas where the event has direct impact, such as audience and

artist transportation, energy use, waste creation, and water usage,” says Geanuracos. “Full carbon neutrality is a difficult concept to achieve, as the purchasing impacts of events are profound, and until every product used comes with its own impact assessment, it will still be difficult to understand and account for the full carbon impact of purchased goods.”

But Geanuracos says the real impact of events like Live Earth must be measured also in the positive effect they can have on the subsequent behaviour of their audiences. “We've seen repeatedly that participating in Live Earth events has inspired people to change their lives at home, work and school to be more sustainable. In particular, we've heard from our audience that they've made changes in their transportation habits, buying habits, and recycling behaviour after participating in our events.”

“We’ve heard from our audience that they’ve made changes in their trans- portation habits, buying habits, and recycling behaviour after participat- ing in our events.”

—Catherine Geanuracos, General Manager, Live Earth

The ability to inspire audiences to make long-term changes is at the heart of the rapidly growing Greenfest event in Brisbane, Australia. Originally inspired by the Live Earth concerts of 2007, it is a three-day festival of music and a showcase for practical measures for greater sustainability— in the latest event in June 2009 it attracted 60,000 people.

According to Greenfest’s founder Colman Ridge, “The purpose of Greenfest is to promote a ‘Cooler Planet Culture’. Carbon neutrality is expected of us. Our ability to network our 200 plus exhibitors and a broader network to help each other and others reduce their footprint has become a year-round opportunity for us to assist acceleration of the lower carbon economy.”


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