What does Coldplay mean by ‘environmentally beneficial’ touring?

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With their new album set to hit this weekend and early reviews looking very positive, Coldplay fans will be likely disappointed to hear that the band will not be hitting the road to support it anytime soon. In fact, they won’t be on tour for a while, at least until they can determine how to make touring as environmentally friendly as possible.

Chris Martin at Global Citizen Festival 2018 / Photo Credit: Anthony Behar / Sipa USA / PA ImagesChris Martin at Global Citizen Festival 2018 / Photo Credit: Anthony Behar / Sipa USA / PA Images

“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”, frontman Chris Martin told BBC News. “How can we harness the resources that our tour creates and make it have a positive impact?”

Unfortunately, the issues largely come down to flying all over the world and transporting equipment. Carbon neutrality is the dream, so this may include using public transport, transatlantic boat travel a la Greta Thunberg, or more likely by using a carbon offset program which involves countering carbon emissions from a flight by investing in the planting of trees or renewable energy sources.

Of course, travel isn’t the only issue facing Coldplay in their new ethos. “Our dream is to have a show with no single use plastic”, Martin explained. 

This could be largely dealt with by removing bottled water from venues. Selling reusable drinking flasks on the premises (for a non-extortionate price, though we all know what merch stands at gigs are like) is the best answer, as long as there are plenty of easily accessible refill stations. As for single use packaging on concert snacks and bar drinks, there are plenty of paper and biodegradeable options out there. Glastonbury are already making strides in reducing single use plastic by encouraging refillable bottles, selling stainless steel pint cups and providing recycling bins on site.

Another Coldplay dream is to have their gigs largely solar-powered. That might sound like wishful thinking, but solar-powered stage shows have been a thing for a while. Outside Lands festival brought on board Alternative Power Productions to power their sets in 2012 and, according to APP’s interview with Mother Jones that same year, they didn’t even need to use the back-up generators in the end. That’s how effective solar panels and batteries are. Of course, when you’re putting on a concert indoors and at night, generators would likely end up being used. Still not too much of a problem if you assume renewable energy is the main source, but it becomes a little more problematic when you assess how much more energy it would take to transport all of this from place to place.

Not only that but ticket prices would soar with all these requirements. Coldplay’s main challenge, therefore, is balancing the environmentally-friendly with the economically-friendly. Only then will green touring become competitive, and something that many other artists will take on board for years to come.