Eco-friendly jammin’: Musicians who care about the planet

Ethan Epstein/Senior Staff

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When environmentalist celebrities come into the conversation, it’s tempting to bring up Leonardo Dicaprio and leave it at that. Who doesn’t love “Before the Flood”?

Beyond just the Hollywood scene, however, is a range of different musicians who continue to be outspoken about environmental issues. Celebrities can sometimes be all talk, but there are many who have produced concrete results with their environmental activism. This Earth Day, let’s take a look at a few of them and what they have done to help save the planet.

Malik Yusef

Yusef, who is known for collaborating and producing with prolific artists such as Kanye West, Beyoncé and Vic Mensa, is also an outspoken social activist. In 2014, his activism took on a different tone when he executive-produced the Hip Hop Caucus compilation album Home, which talks about air pollution and deforestation, among other environmental issues, without being preachy. Yusef comments that he hopes listeners will be inspired to make small changes in the interest of our planet. The album’s fresh angle allows it to stand out among benefit albums, and its commitment to humble but effective activism shines through in each song.


Frontman Thom Yorke has been outspoken about the environmental impact of touring since 2003, when he became aware of UK-based group Friends of the Earth, with which he then joined forces. Over the years, Yorke implemented several changes to the way that Radiohead performs, such as prioritizing performing at venues that can be reached with public transportation and using a lighting rig powered by efficient generators. Yorke’s self-awareness about his band’s inevitable carbon footprint, coupled with his advocacy of the importance of these issues, makes his activism more than a mere idea. He keeps it real while still making a difference.

Jack Johnson

Johnson is the quintessential surfer dude, but his passion for nature extends beyond catching waves. His activism includes reducing the environmental impact of touring. In 2008, he created All At Once, a social action network focusing on a variety of different initiatives, including going plastic-free. That’s not all: The Hawaii-born musician also started the nonprofit Kokua Hawaii Foundation, which brings environmental education to children in Hawaii in order to encourage eco-friendly habits in the next generation. Plus, he sings with school kids about recycling during his free time.

Sheryl Crow

The infamous toilet paper comment clings to Crow’s environmentalist legacy. While that probably won’t change any time soon, she has also made a serious effort to advocate for environmentalist issues beyond toilet paper usage. Her “Stop Global Warming” college tour in 2007 was her first major project in this field, and in 2010, she took the touring world by storm with an ambitious, eco-friendly plan to reduce her carbon footprint as much as possible.

Her eco-conscious measures included only using biodegradable catering products and fueling her touring fleet with sustainably sourced biodiesel blends. At the end of the 2010 tour, Crow released a report in which she claimed to have neutralized over 737 tons of carbon as a result of her efforts.

KT Tunstall

“Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” made Tunstall famous in 2005. In return, she decided to make up for her album’s environmental impact by planting more than 5,000 trees in her native Scotland. Her eco-friendly efforts did not end there — like many other musicians, she works to make sure that her performances do not have a huge environmental impact. Most significantly, her London residence is an “eco-home,” which has many notable eco-friendly facets, including that it’s powered only by renewable energy.

Pearl Jam

The “Can’t Deny Me” singers can’t deny that they’ve been environmental activists for more than a decade now. The band’s efforts started with philanthropy in 2006, donating more than $100,000 to groups that advocate for environmental issues. Since then, this activism extended to their entire brand: Ten Club, the band’s official fan community, is dedicated to sustainable shipping and merchandise. For their efforts, Pearl Jam was given the Planet Defender Award by Colorado-based environmental group Rock the Earth in 2011.  

This Earth Day, reduce your footprint and stream jams by these environmentally friendly artists (instead of buying an actual CD). Whether you’re listening to Johnson’s folksy “Banana Pancakes” or Pearl Jam’s grungy “Better Man,” you’ll feel better about yourself for being kind to the planet and for supporting artists who are, too.

Contact Alex Jiménez at [email protected].

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