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Rave the planet: How dance music can limit its environmental impact

It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of climate change and clogged oceans, but there are ways to make a difference

  • Words: Chandler Shortlidge | Illustration: Tiago Majuelos
  • 11 July 2019

In the face of widespread political denial concerning the oncoming environmental catastrophe, it’s easy to get downhearted. Especially when you read that just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global CO2 emissions (according to 2017’s Carbon Majors Report). But there’s no reason dance music can’t do its bit – after all, we’ve helped change the world in the past, revolutionising technology, pioneering social inclusion, and even bringing back the bumbag. We can’t rely on governments and corporations to make the changes that will save the planet. So here are five ways the dance industry can help turn the tide – and some examples of events and people doing just that.

SET AN EXAMPLE

In the modern age, there’s no greater lift for a cause or brand than the right celebrity endorsement. Just look how the sales rise whenever David Beckham or Kylie Jenner wear a particular clothing brand. But celeb endorsement can be put to more worthwhile use than shifting garms, and DJs can use their considerable star power to raise awareness of climate change. Maybe it’s time some of the big names switched their private jet photos on Instagram for posts encouraging fans to carbon offset, which is surprisingly easy to do through websites like Carbon Footprint (I recently offset a recent flight from Berlin to the UK for £3) and Atmosfair, a German non-profit which Richie Hawtin has been using to offset flights for the entire Minus staff since 2007. DJs can also openly prioritise festivals and parties that are environmentally friendly – DJs for Climate Action (www.djs4ca.com) counts Jamie Jones, Anna Lunoe, Bruce and Claude VonStroke among its number and uses its members’ influence to promote carbon offsetting and other climate crisis initatives.

THINK LOCAL

The global nature of electronic music is one of the best things about it. If you’re a DJ blowing up in your local scene who’s then offered gigs everywhere from Berlin to Buenos Aires, you’re going to want to take them. But – and hopefully without getting into Farage territory here – maybe it’s time for festivals and clubs to examine the number of foreign DJs they book. There’ll almost certainly be someone local who plays similar music and you’ll be nurturing your homegrown scene. ‘Top-down’ festivals that just drop a big name into a random part of the world are honestly pretty samey anyway. If you’re a big-name DJ, maybe balance overseas gigs with periods of less travel and take a local residency. Think about it as less time spent in airport lounges being miserable, if that helps?

DITCH PLASTICS

In the UK, members of the Association of Independent Festivals are committed to banning plastic bottles and straws by 2021. And events from Barcelona’s Brunch In The Park to ADE to Cosmic Pineapple in Ibiza have made sustainability part of the central mission. BITP, for example, is committed to achieving zero waste by choosing plastic-free food suppliers. It also has a scheme that allows a 50c reimbursement each time you return a bottle of water, and uses cups made of polypropylene: like a well constructed Gerd Janson remix they’re reusable for years, not just a few short minutes on the dancefloor.

​GO MEAT-FREE

Amsterdam’s DGTL Festival leads the pack when it comes to putting on a sustainable event, with a variety of measures including reducing C02 emissions, using electric cars to pick up artists and, like an increasing number of festivals, being meat-free. NB: going without a burger for a couple of days’ raving is categorically proven not to be fatal.

TEAM UP

Working with experts is the best way to make sure sustainability efforts aren’t just so much, well, hot air. DGTL works with A Greener Festival (AGF), a non-profit organisation that helps festivals reduce their environmental impact. “We first assessed DGTL Amsterdam in 2014, and since then they have gone from commended to outstanding in 2018, which is an incredible achievement,” says AGF co-founder and director Clare O’Neill. In Berlin, the body that represents many of the city’s clubs, Clubliebe e.V, teamed up with Friends Of The Earth Germany with the aim of making the city carbon neutral by 2050. “I think Berlin clubs are trendsetters, not just in terms of music, but also in terms of lifestyle,” says Green Party representative for climate protection and club culture, Georg Kössler. “That’s why we as politicians focus on clubs now because they have such an impact. Thousands of people in Berlin go to clubs, thousands of people are coming to Berlin for the clubs, so we can really reach a lot of people by working with the clubs and making the clubs greener.”

We individual clubbers can make a difference too. Make capitalism work for you by voting with your feet and supporting events, brands and companies that are trying their best not to turn the earth into a charred cinder or the oceans into landfill. If your favourite festival or club isn’t bothering, then let them know you’ll be back when they do. In the meantime, it might not help with coal-fired power stations in China or industrial run-off in Pennsylvania, but little things like offsetting your own flight, using a refillable bottle at festivals and taking your tent home afterwards, to use again next year, at least means you’re taking care of (your own) business.

Chandler Shortlidge is a freelance writer, follow him on Twitter

Tiago Majuelos is an illustrator and animator, follow him on Instagram

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