Coldplay powers green tour with kinetic dance floors, stationary bikes
Band reflects overall push in the entertainment sphere to reduce carbon footprints
It's often said that fans at live concerts give the band a jolt of electricity. Coldplay wants to literally harness that.
The pop superstars have added kinetic dance floors and energy-storing stationary bikes to their latest world tour, encouraging fans to help power the show as they dance or spin.
It's part of a larger push to make the Music of the Spheres tour more environmentally friendly. The band — whose songs include the appropriately titled Higher Power — has pledged to be as sustainable and low-carbon as possible, hoping to cut their CO2 emissions by 50 per cent.
"You don't want to come across as being overly earnest. This stuff is really good fun as well," said bassist Guy Berryman. "That's the way it will bed in, if people see it less as a sort of onerous responsibility and more as a kind of opportunity to do something fun and it's a benefit to the environment and to the whole concert experience."
Each kinetic dance floor can hold dozens of people, with electricity created when movement is made on them. The band has pre-show contests to see which group of fans can generate the most power, fueled by Jump Around by House of Pain.
And each of the bikes — a minimum of 15 but can be scaled up depending on the venue size — can generate an average of 200 watts of energy, captured in batteries that run elements of the show.
Coldplay is just one music act working to reduce effects of the climate footprints of their tours, a list that includes Billie Eilish, Harry Styles, The Lumineers, Dave Matthews Band, Shawn Mendes, Maroon 5, John Mayer, Lorde, The Chicks, Jason Isbell and The 1975.
"The relationship that musicians have with millions of their fans is unlike any other relationship of any other public figure. It can be a walking, talking example," said Adam Gardner, founder and co-executive director of Reverb, a nonprofit that helps bands make their concerts greener. It is not helping Coldplay's tour.
'A good business model'
The artists are reflecting an overall push in the entertainment sphere — from sports teams to toy manufacturers — to reduce their carbon footprints. A study by Live Nation found 82 per cent of live musicgoers said they strive to maintain an environmentally sustainable lifestyle.
"Being green is not a charitable sort of self-flagellating, holier-than-thou exercise. It's a good business model. That's what we'd like to show," said Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin. Added guitarist Jonny Buckland: "It has to work."
The efforts involve everything from providing more plant-based food options at concessions and eliminating single-use plastic to rethinking transportation — the most environmentally taxing aspect of tours — for both musicians and fans.
Artists pledge to reduce environmental impact
Eilish has pledged to eliminate an estimated 35,000 single-use water bottles from her tour and only serves vegetarian food backstage. The band Massive Attack is traveling by train, and Olivia Rodrigo's Sour merchandise is sustainably dyed and 100 per cent organic cotton.
Mendes has pledged to reduce his tour's environmental impact and emissions by 50 per cent per show, employing sustainable fabrics in tour hoodies and T-shirts, staying at hotels that commit to net zero emissions, eliminating plastic and using sustainable aviation fuel. Styles' recent tour had battery recycling centres, and it donated unused hotel toiletries to shelters.
Coldplay plans to minimize air travel — but when flights are necessary, the band will opt for commercial over charter — and will use trains and electric vehicles whenever possible. Trucks will use alternative fuels like hydrotreated vegetable oil.
Bumps in the road to change
But change hasn't always gone smoothly. Coldplay has been accused of greenwashing because it has partnered with Neste, which bills itself as the world's largest producer of sustainable biofuels.
Transport and Environment, a Brussels-based environmental organization, said Neste has "documented links to deforestation and dubious biofuels," like palm oil or its byproducts. But Neste responded that "conventional palm oil" was not used as a "raw material" in the Coldplay collaboration and it hopes to end use of conventional palm oil by 2023.
"They're trying their best," said Transport and Environment senior director Carlos Calvo Ambel about Coldplay, "but maybe they picked the wrong consultant."
Reverb, which has helped other bands navigate the complexities of being green since 2004, offers everything from free water stations to sourcing of local organic and family farm food near the venue. The nonprofit has helped avoid the use of four million single-use water bottles since its start, it says.
"Our philosophy is that it's not all or nothing. I think if we force people to do everything all at once, most of them will choose nothing," said Gardner, who is also a touring musician with his band Guster.
"Some artists that we work with are ready to jump in full-on and others are looking at the things that they're able to change right away. And I think the most important thing is to start."