A West Australian band will be performing virtual shows as a result of a decision to stop flying to concerts in order to reduce its carbon footprint.
- A WA band has altered the way it tours in a bid to reduce carbon emissions, including performing virtual gigs
- Formidable Vegetable uses a vegetable oil-fuelled truck to hit the road domestically
- Many bands have taken stands against climate change, limiting or cancelling tours, and starting up green initiatives
Formidable Vegetable, from WA’s South West region, has turned down shows at Glastonbury Festival and a last-minute invite to the Sydney Opera House due to their no-fly commitment.
Founder Charlie Mgee said he became worried about the carbon emissions of touring after reading a United Nations report about the impacts of climate change.
“I just thought singing about what we sing about — about sustainability and about ecological restoration — I can’t justify flying and burning all those fossil fuels,” he said.
“Back when I started the band, I had a big sense of urgency to get out the message of climate action and regenerative culture.
“Now I think the world has that urgency and there’s not so much the need for me to go whizzing around the planet anymore.”
The self-described “permaculture funk” band sings songs about sustainability and has played international music festivals such as Glastonbury Festival in the past.
But Mgee said turning down big international gigs is a sacrifice he is willing to make.
“It’s a bit sad missing out on the big festivals and the big fun gigs,” he said.
“But it would be a lot sadder to miss the window of time that we have to take action on climate change.”
Charlie Mgee lives, breathes and sings about permaculture. (ABC Great Southern: Aaron Fernandes)
‘The power of waste’
Despite staying grounded, the band has still featured at international festivals — last year Mgee played a virtual show for a festival in Wales.
“I just set up a camera at home … and they set up a projector at the festival and they got the crowd to come and watch,” he said.
“I just played to nobody and they were on the other end dancing and singing and having a great time.”
Virtual shows are not Formidable Vegetable’s only option — the band also has Big Red Bev, the biosphere emergency vehicle.
Big Red Bev, the ‘biosphere emergency vehicle’ is powered by waste vegetable oil. (ABC South West: Kate Stephens)
“[It] is a converted fire truck that runs on waste vegetable oil so the exhaust smells like fish and chips and is 100 per cent waste powered,” Mgee said.
“Touring with the power of waste is pretty awesome.”
Charlie Mgee fills up his truck with vegetable oil before hitting the road for this next live show. (ABC South West: Kate Stephens)
Coldplay staying put
Formidable Vegetable is not the only band concerned about the environmental footprint of touring.
Singer Chris Martin told BBC News he also wanted to remove single-use plastics from Coldplay shows and for performances to be solar-powered.
Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin (centre) has said the band will not tour due to the environmental impact. (Reuters: Steve Marcus)
But not all bands have the luxury of turning down gigs.
Instead, some are using touring to help create a more positive impact on the environment.
Heidi Lenffer, from the band Cloud Control, founded the company FEAT. which connects musicians with a “tangible solution to the climate crisis”.
Musicians can either add a few dollars on their ticket prices or contribute a lump sum to FEAT. with all money raised going towards renewable energy projects.
FEAT. is helping to create renewable energy projects, like this solar farm in Queensland. (Supplied: Patrick Wood)
FEAT.’s first project nearing completion is a solar farm near Pittsworth in Queensland.
“It’s an 80-hectare solar farm which will produce enough energy, when it is turned on, to power about 11,500 homes,” Lenffer said.
FEAT. is just one option for musicians worried about carbon emissions, but Lenffer said it is time for other industries to find their own solutions.
“What we’re trying to do with FEAT. is make an industry response using the mechanisms and using our strengths, i.e. we are live touring musicians who spread music around the world,” she said.
“We are using those tours to help accelerate the rollout of renewables in Australia.
“So this is a time where every industry needs to evolve and every industry needs to come up with as many brilliant ideas as possible.”