How to reduce your climate impact as a musician Jump to main content

How to reduce your climate impact as a musician

‘We must go into emergency mode against the climate crisis. We need an avalanche of action,’ said UN Secretary-General António Guterres to the General Assembly, while laying out his priorities for 2022.

The fight against climate change is growing ever more urgent. The music industry has a role to play, and many music organisations and individuals are looking at how they can reduce carbon emissions and have a more positive impact on the planet.

ISM Head of Charity Development Ruth McPherson offers ten tips for making more environmentally friendly choices in your work as a musician:

  1. Join an environmental community: The ISM is a signatory of Music Declares Emergency, a group of hundreds of artists, music industry professionals and organisations. They have declared a climate emergency, and are working towards making the cultural and operational changes necessary to contribute towards a carbon neutral future. MDE run campaigns, suggest individual and collective action, and sell 'No Music on a Dead Planet' merchandise to raise awareness of their cause. Joining a climate campaign is a great way to connect and show solidarity with others who care about the crisis.
  2. Become a green member: If you're an ISM member, you can reduce your impact on the environment by choosing to receive our bimonthly members' magazine, Music Journal, and annual members' Handbook in digital format, as well as opting out of our annual printed Diary. Email [email protected] to update your preferences.
  3. Use the power of your art to incite change: Whether you're a performer, a composer/songwriter or a music teacher, all musicians have a platform that can be used to inspire others and instil a love of the planet. Music with an ecological message can have a huge impact on society.
  4. Opt for sustainable products: When you're buying musical instruments, equipment or accessories, consider choosing plastic-free or carbon-neutral options. Think about whether you can reduce your impact by switching from printed to digital formats, and reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible. If you offer merchandise, use a sustainable platform like Teemill (ISM members can access a three-month free pro Teemill account).
  5. Make green travel choices: Transport is the largest greenhouse emitting sector in the UK, responsible for 24% of all emissions. If you have to travel for your work, consider opting for more environmentally friendly modes of transport. Can you carpool, cycle or walk to rehearsals or gigs? Take the train instead of flying? If you're a touring musician and want to deliver a low carbon tour, build environmental planning in from the inception.
  6. Consider digital performance and teaching: Livestreaming or recording performances and offering online music lessons can sometimes be effective ways to reduce your carbon emissions, whilst also helping you to reach new audiences. The ISM offers a range of advice on working digitally as a musician, from transitioning to online teaching and delivering music lessons via Zoom, to livestreaming, home recording and making music online in real time.
  7. Consume music consciously: It's important to consider the environmental impact of the music you listen to. Surprisingly, digital is not always the most sustainable answer. Streaming an album 27 times can use more energy than the manufacturing and production of a single CD, so buying your favourite record in physical format may in fact be a better option. Many manufacturers, such as Green Vinyl, are developing more environmentally-friendly pressing and packaging methods for physical formats.
  8. Reduce data waste: In the digital age, we have all become increasingly reliant on data. However, what many people don't realise is that the data we consume comes with a hidden cost. The carbon footprint of our gadgets, the internet and the essential systems supporting them account for 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions - on par with the airline industry. We can improve our data carbon footprint by deleting duplicate photos or unwanted recordings, cleaning out our cloud storage and old messages, unsubscribing from unnecessary emails, and cutting back on the time we spend on our devices.
  9. Offset ethically: It's always best to prioritise reducing your carbon footprint, but if you decide to offset your emissions, make sure that you choose an ethical programme which offers long-term benefits. ISM corporate member Encore has become the world's first carbon negative music agency by offsetting more carbon than is emitted by the musicians they book, and starting a tree planting initiative through climate partner Ecologi.
  10. Don't get overwhelmed! We live in a carbon economy and it is very difficult to go fully carbon-free overnight. Living sustainably is a journey, and we are all learning together. Talk to others about changes you're making, and start with small steps.

Sustainability resources

  • Music Declares Emergency: A group of hundreds of artists, music industry professionals and organisations who have declared a climate emergency
  • Julie's Bicycle: A pioneering not-for-profit mobilising the arts and culture sector to take action on the climate and ecological crisis
  • The Scottish Classical Green Guide: A free guide written collaboratively by over 30 orchestras, ensembles, festivals and musicians, it contains advice on how to reduce carbon emissions in all aspects of your work
  • Artists Going Green: Rolling Stone's index of artists tackling climate change
  • Music Climate Revolution: A group of musicians, fans and industry leaders uniting the music community in the fight against the climate crisis
  • Playlists for Earth: Using song titles to create powerful messages about the climate crisis, #PlaylistsForEarth harnesses music’s global reach to spark vital conversations with new audiences
  • D'Addario Playback: The world's leading string recycling programme


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