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Coldplay Are Leading The Way In Sustainable Touring

COP26 has been all over the news lately, with governments and groups from across the globe coming together and talking about how to combat climate change. But it’s not just politicians trying to prevent a climate catastrophe; the music industry has been doing its part behind the scenes for a while now.

Figures from 2019 show that live music in the UK alone generates 405,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year. The amount of energy consumption involved in a tour is enormous, but some artists are approaching new ways to cut down on carbon emissions whilst on the road.

A recent example of this is the upcoming tour of world-famous stadium fillers Coldplay, which could become one of the most carbon-neutral tours ever. The British rock band are touring their newest album ‘Music of the Spheres’ in 2022 and have announced that carbon emissions will be cut significantly by powering shows with bicycles, electricity-producing dancefloors, and other such innovative methods.

Credit: SiriusXM Getty

Back in a 2019 interview, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin told the BBC that the band were thinking of ways to make a tour as sustainable as possible.

He said: “We’re taking time to see how our tour can be actively beneficial…All of us have to work out the best way of doing our job. Our next tour will be the best possible version of a tour, environmentally. We would be disappointed if it’s not carbon neutral.”

Martin’s comments came just before the release of the band’s eighth studio album ‘Everyday Life’, however, Coldplay decided not to tour the album due to environmental concerns.

Fast-forward to 2021 and a new project, ‘Music of the Spheres’, which will be the focus of their 2022 tour beginning in Costa Rica, a country with some of the highest rates of renewable energy in the world.

Speaking again to the BBC in October, Chris Martin said that each show will be completely powered by renewable energy. This will be achieved by “kinetic flooring” which creates energy the more people jump up and down. Bicycles will also be used to do the same thing.

“The more people move, the more they’re helping,” Martin said. “You know when the frontman says, ‘We need you to jump up and down’?

“When I say that, I literally really need you to jump up and down. Because if you don’t, then the lights go out.”

Coldplay performing in Seattle – Credit: Danny Clinch

Coldplay will also plant a tree for every ticket sold. 5.4 million people paid to see them during their 2016 world tour earning a staggering $500m, making it one of the biggest tours in history. That’s a lot of new trees if the band come anywhere near close to replicating that number.

Other measures in their plan include encouraging venues to install aerated taps and low-flushing toilets, and a tour app that will let fans plan their journeys to and from the show with the lowest possible emissions.

As well as their eco-friendly tour, Coldplay became the first act to play at the newly renamed Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle in October 2021, which is said to be the first zero-carbon arena in the world. According to the arena’s website, no fossil fuels are used in the daily powering of the building; all mechanical systems, gas combustion engines, and heating and cooking appliances have all been converted to electric. Furthermore, the arena harvests rainwater from the roof and has committed to zero single-use plastics by 2024.

Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle – Credit: Danny Clinch

Coldplay are establishing themselves as a world-leading voice on this issue and their stance on carbon neutrality will hopefully encourage other artists to follow, but they are not the first to try something like this.

In 2008, another British rock band Radiohead aimed to make their “In Rainbows” tour as eco-friendly as possible by ensuring all tour buses and trucks run on biofuel, and by using tour water flasks to cut down on single-use plastics.

Electronic group Massive Attack were also working with city authorities and transport providers in the UK to ensure super-low carbon emissions live shows in 2020, while Billie Eilish collaborated with Chris Martin himself and climate activist Greta Thunberg to explore ways of reducing the carbon footprint of her live shows last year, before the global pandemic disrupted her plans.

One of the biggest issues artists will have to deal with is air miles. Flying around the world makes up a big percentage of the carbon output, especially a tour as encompassing as the one Coldplay have planned for next year.

Coldplay’s 2022 tour – Credit: Coldplay

International DJs, for example, often rack up a huge carbon footprint from flying all over the globe playing sets. According to Stamp the Wax, one DJ who regularly features in the top ten of Resident Advisor’s annual DJ polls generated 550% more CO2 in March 2018 than the average UK citizen would in the equivalent time, largely due to the number of air miles they had accumulated.

Coldplay have said they plan to minimise air travel and use “sustainable aviation fuel” when flying, but this is an issue that will be unavoidable for most international artists during their tours. What is encouraging though, is that the conversation has been started and with more awareness comes more like-minded artists finding new ways of tackling the problem. Coldplay are taking big steps in a movement that will hopefully sweep through the industry in the years to come, making carbon neutrality just another part of touring.