Inspired by the recent “green” shift of several festivals and events in Québec, Laurence Lafond-Beaulne, half of duo Milk and Bone, is ready to take things to the next level. With the help of the organization Scène écoresponsable, she’s created a guide for artists who want to reduce their environmental footprint while on tour.
Between all the discarded water bottles backstage, the coffee cups bought on the road, the greenhouse gas emissions from their long and winding road trips, life on the road involves a considerable mobilization of resources that have a harmful environmental impact.
Aware of this, Laurence Lafond-Beaulne looked to get involved and change things. She started by writing to a few of her peers in the music industry.: “It became quickly apparent that I wasn’t the only one who noticed there was a problem with how we do things,” she says.
Motivated, she searched for further documentation on the subject. “I’m telling you, I couldn’t find anything interesting!” says Lafond-Beaulne. “In Québec, we have initiatives implemented by festivals and individual artists, but there’s no artist-based collective awareness movement. You have bands like the Cowboys Fringants, who take concerted action for the environment through their foundation, but there’s nothing at large.”
During her research, the Montréal musician eventually found the work of Scène écoresponsable, an organization whose goal is to integrate the notion of sustainable development to performing arts practices. Intrigued, the organization’s general manager, Caroline Voyer, introduced Lafond-Beaulne to Aurore Courtieux-Boinot, who was studying for a Master’s degree in environmental sciences, and was interested in the same issues.
Thus was born the Artistes citoyens en tournée (ACT) movement. “All three of us got to work with the idea in mind to produce a guide for artists who want to commit to reducing their environmental footprint,” says Lafond-Beaulne. “At the time, I was on tour with Alex Nevsky, and I suggested doing that tour without water bottles. Initially, everyone was stoked to bring their reusable bottles, but after a little while, I heard comments from a few people who said they felt like they were drinking less water in a day because of this. That’s when I understood there needs to be an adaptation period. Changing their habits sometimes scares people.”
“The goal is to implement what you can. Everybody has their own pace.”
It’s precisely to facilitate this transition period that the project’s three creators developed their three-step guide, each step being a higher level of eco-responsibility. The goal of the first step is to integrate regular but simple actions, such as bringing one’s re-usable drinking vessel and utensils, bringing one’s personal soap and shampoo to hotels, and turning off all unused electrical equipment between the sound-check and the performance. Through their riders, artists also have the ability to effect changes in the habits of venues, by requesting, for example, to have a water fountain in the dressing room, and to request actual towels instead of paper towels.
The second step concerns the production of more eco-friendly merchandise. Artists are invited to opt for locally designed apparel made from organic and fair-trade cotton and natural inks. “They’re suggestions, not rules,” says Lafond-Beaulne. “We know it’s not easy for some artists to do all this with their limited financial means. The goal is to implement what you can. Everybody has their own pace.”
Finally, the third step is a full commitment, and mainly concerns reducing pollution from road transportation. Artists are invited to use a GHG calculator to evaluate their environmental footprint according to the model of their vehicle, and the number of kilometres they travel. “Not everyone can afford to rent an electric vehicle, so this tool allows you to calculate how much money you need to give to environmental organizations in order to compensate for the amount of emissions you produce,” says Lafond-Beaulne.
Up to now, Lafond-Beaulne has received the support of many of her peers, notably Groenland, Koriass, Les soeurs Boulay, Philippe Brach and, obviously, Alex Nevsky. “As a matter of fact, no one is against the idea,” she says, “but these artists were particularly enthusiastic about it. Now that our initiative is in place and the research complete, all that’s left to do is implement it. I’d also like it if artists would talk about it, and proudly show their support as ACT members.”
We’re just a few days away from the official launch of the movement, and Lafond-Beaulne is already looking to the future, and actively seeking financial partners. So far, the organization has managed to survive with grants totalling $3,000, but it won’t be able to sustain itself in the long run, especially with its growing ambitions. “Once the project is securely implemented here, we’d love to export it to the rest of Canada, and even internationally,” says Lafond-Beaulne. “Might as well have maximum impact for all the work we put into this.”