Coldplay frontman Chris Martin told the BBC on Thursday that the band will take a year or two off from touring their new album to figure out how they can make their tours environmentally sustainable.
Martin, who is also a Global Citizen Festival curator, said the band wants to perform at venues that eliminate single-use plastics, and hopes to find a way to power their shows with solar energy. Ideally, the band will find a way to not only be carbon neutral while touring, but also improve the environment, he said.
"We're taking time over the next year or two, to work out how our tour can not only be sustainable [but] how can it be actively beneficial,” he said.
"All of us have to work out the best way of doing our job," he added.
International music tours affect the environment in myriad ways, from the electricity used to power stadiums to the waste generated by fans. Martin pointed in particular to the ecological footprint of flying. In fact, the biggest source of greenhouse emissions for the average person is flying, with the environmental impact exponentially rising for frequent flyers. A round-trip flight from New York to Los Angeles releases enough greenhouse gas emissions to melt 32 square feet of ice in Antarctica.
In the UK alone, live music accounts for 405,000 tons of greenhouse emissions. (Global Citizen, for its part, strives for zero-waste festivals, and is working with partners to reduce and offset carbon emissions from 2020's Global Goal Live: The Possible Dream campaign and events.)
Environmental advocates like Greta Thunberg have eschewed flying on principle, instead taking mass transit options and sailing between continents. While that may not be feasible for a band with a massive entourage of support staff, it’s difficult to see an alternative to flying on an international tour.
Coldplay could potentially limit tours to one continent at a time and space out shows to make flying unnecessary.
Or they could follow the example of other bands that have embraced sustainability. Pearl Jam, for instance, offsets the carbon emissions of their tours by investing in reforestation efforts. Across two tours in 2018, the band offset 6,000 tons of carbon.
Other bands such as U2 have sought to make their tours more environmentally friendly following intense criticism. The band now offsets its carbon emissions and encourages fans to carpool to shows and avoid single-use plastic.
Martin said that he hopes Coldplay’s actions spur other people and organizations to consider their ecological footprints.
“How can we harness the resources our tour creates and make it have a positive impact?” he said. “Everyone will catch up if you prove that it’s easy to do it the right way.”