I was a freshman in high school. I was utterly obsessed with U2. I was on the track team and ran with my walkman on every morning. “I can’t believe the news today…” When I hear this I can physically feel the crunchy vibration of frozen blades of grass crackling under foot in the early morning. My breath steaming, lungs aching .
When the tour rolled into Manhattan that year, there was no question but that I’d go. Not once but two out of the three nights U2 was in town. I saved every penny. I stood in long lines. I got great seats. The best. My liberal parents, bless them, thought I was old enough to take the train to the city and see a concert.
I can’t remember who hatched the plan to wave a giant Irish flag that first night, myself or the girl I was going with. My friend was Irish, older than me, intense and political. I was wanting to get on MTV, or better yet, make *eye contact* with Bono, if only for an instant. We both had our reasons.
It was decided. We’d carry a massive king-sized Irish flag on our person and get the crowds to wave it at the concert during “Sunday Bloody Sunday” creating a spectacle that would ensure our five minutes of MTV fame. Foolproof!
Since I was the crafty one, I got to make the flag. Truth be told, I knew a lot more about crafting than Irish politics, but only by a small margin. First thing I had to find out was what colors the Irish flag was. Next thing: secure fabric.
“You want my to buy you fabric to do WHAT? ” My mother’s face said it all, but her words were kinder. “And what exactly are you doing with this flag after the concert?”
My mom is like that. She hates to waste things. Food, fabric, clothing, etc. She grew up during the depression, became a hippie and to this day recycles. She raised me that way too.
But the flag plan was epic. Nothing could stand in our way.
Which is how a somewhat dorky Jewish, non-Irish teenager with really big 80’s hair ended up front row at Madison Square Garden, waving a poorly-constructed and backwards-in-color-placement Irish flag made out of her ratty old bedspread at her first U2 Concert.
Sadly, MTV missed the moment. But it really was epic. I promise you.
I haven’t been to a U2 concert or made such a fool of myself for any band ever since then, but my love of U2 has never waned. I jumped for joy at the chance to go see them here in Anaheim at the Angels stadium.
For the show and my tour I was the guest of Coca Cola and Effect Partners/Music Matters who have done amazing things to help with the overall effort of “greening” the 360 tour – also touted as the biggest concert tour ever. It actually seemed fitting given the recycling of my bedspread into an Irish flag, all those years ago. Reduce, Re-use, Recycle!
It really was inspiring to go behind the scenes and see what U2 and their tour production company, Live Nation have been up to, with the help of Effect Partners & Music Matters, to achieve less of a carbon footprint on this massive tour.
One effort is less than obvious at first glance. Backstage at the show are cooler/refrigerators supplied directly by Coca Cola. High tech smart HFC free beverage coolers that reduce greenhouse gas emissions over 75%. These coolers are not on the market yet but you’ll see more of them in the near future according to Coca Cola reps:
“The largest component of our climate footprint is found in the refrigeration equipment used to keep our beverages cold. Therefore, we are working to improve the efficiency of our refrigeration equipment and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by this equipment.
We have invested more than $60 million over the past decade in research and development to advance the use of climate-friendly, Hydrofluorocarbon-free cooling technique we ae phasing out the use of HFCs in all new cold drink equipment by 2015.”
These high tech coolers travel with the crew, packed up in giant trunks. (Incidentally, this photo…. taken in Bono’s private pull room. My inner flag-waving 14 year old wanted you to know that.)
The greening of the tour (all 22 stops) is no small effort. Months before each show the crew is working directly with each of the venues and their established partners, to make changes both big and small. It’s a mind shift for many, and hopefully one that will make an impact and change how things are handled at future shows.
Some examples of the shift:
- providing all crew members with personalized reusable drinking containers and creating water points for easy refills
- using compost bins and recycling bins in all dressing rooms and dining areas and making arrangements with local farmers to collect compost
- recycling all batteries – but only after they are completely drained. After the show, batteries that still have charge are handed off to crew members on the trucking team for use in other equipment
- recruiting “green team” volunteers at each venue to walk around parking lots and common areas with clearstream recycling bags, collecting recyclable waste
Many thanks to Jim Beek of Effect Partners who showed us around and showed off his folding bicycle that many crew members use to get around. The bikes were a gift from one of the trucking companies the crew worked with in Europe and were a nice way of giving back. One more way that crew members are working to reduce emissions – using their bikes to get from hotel to stadium. Jim’s enthusiasm was contagious and he really made this topic fun and exciting.
The concert… Amazing. I wasn’t thinking about batteries or compost, I confess. I focused on the music and the moment when Bono was standing close enough to me to actually hear his voice, not just through the microphone, just a few feet from me. No eye contact, no MTV cameras, but you know what? Close enough.