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You decide – is Coldplay’s ‘sustainable tour’ eco-friendly or greenwashing?

Coldplay once vowed to only return to touring once it became a carbon neutral practice. Though it has been unable to stay true to this goal, the band says its latest tour will be significantly more eco-friendly than past efforts. Should others take note?

As the world slowly recovers from the pandemic, bands both large and small are finally able to start touring again. This is obviously great news for the industry and artists alike, but what will it mean for the environment?

The music business has been reluctant to fully commit to environmentally friendly practices thus far, particularly with regard to huge festivals and week-long events.

New guidelines were published in September to help get the ball rolling, though we’ve still to hear much news on whether or not festival organisers and artists plan on sticking to them.

Coldplay has been one of the most vocal big-name bands on climate change, adamant that it would not return to the stage until it was environmentally beneficial to do so.

Its newly announced 2022 tour doesn’t stick to this pledge – it isn’t carbon neutral or a net positive for the planet – but it does take hefty strides in reducing the emissions expected from a worldwide tour.

Coldplay has received both criticism and praise for its efforts, with some commentators celebrating this as a positive move forward.

Others, however, have argued the band is greenwashing its audience and tactically using climate consciousness to boost sales and its image. Let’s take a closer look.

What are the details of Coldplay’s tour?

Let’s get the bare bones logistics out the way first.

To make this touring endeavour as clean and green as possible, each show will be run using renewable, ‘super-slow’ emission energy. Solar installations, waste cooking oil, a kinetic stadium floor, and kinetic bikes will all be used to power each gig. Fans will jump on a specially made dancefloor area to create energy.

One tree will also be planted for every ticket sold. Judging by Coldplay’s previous commercial successes, this should mean that tens of thousands of trees will be introduced to forests and wildlife areas around the world.

An official tour app will give fans discounts if they use low carbon transport (think cycling, public transport, etc.) and will be built by tech company SAP.

All merchandise will be sustainably made and ethically sourced and free drinking water will be available to all. Coldplay also want to ensure that plastic bottles are eliminated from every venue.

10% of all earnings will be given to environmental causes. These include ClientEarth, One Tree Planted, and The Ocean Cleanup. More funding is always appreciated and hefty profits mean a sizeable donation.

The benefits of these initiatives should be obvious, given the size and scope of a Coldplay tour.

Having such huge audiences (the band’s last tour saw 5.4 million tickets old) be confronted with eco-conscious initiatives and strategies will help boost the industry’s urgency to make greener gigs and concerts.

We could see standalone apps and fan discounts become the norm, and if these new innovations like sustainable dancefloors prove to be successful there’s a probably chance they’ll eventually become a standard. You may end up moshing for the greater good before too long.

Why is the band facing criticism?

All this sounds great on paper, but Coldplay hasn’t been without its detractors.

For one, the band made such a big deal of not touring until it was ‘beneficial for the environment’, yet this was not stuck to. Coldplay’s 2022 tour will be better than the average run-of-the-mill effort made by most bands, but it still isn’t carbon neutral.

It would be better to not tour at all, if we’re really talking about massively reducing emissions.

In addition, the band will be travelling exclusively by private jet all around the world. Small, exclusive planes are a huge environmental problem, and have risen in use by 31% in Europe since 2005. It feels a bit hypocritical for fans to be incentivised to use low-carbon transport when the band themselves will be using one of the worst methods available to get to each location.

Some Twitter users have also pointed how effective a kinetic dancefloor will really be. Can bicycles and pressure plates really generate enough power to keep a massive, stadium-filled show running? Many are doubtful.

Frontman Chris Martin responded to some of these outcries by admitting he has no suitable comeback.

‘There’s always the question of why tour at all? We don’t really have [anything to say] except we would really like to. We could stay at home and that may be better. But we want to connect with people and do it in the cleanest way possible.’

While greenwashing accusations may seem cynical and paranoid, it’s important to remain vigilant in the face of constant claims of sustainability.

We’ve written a ton before about how companies mislead audiences in order to present themselves as ‘clean’ when often their practices don’t follow through.

Approaching any company, artist, or act with suspicion is important to ensure that you’re not being taken for a ride and duped out of your cash.

Coldplay’s tour begins in March next year. Regardless of which side you stand on, there’s no doubt that millions of tickets will be sold and many music fans will give the band’s standalone app a try.

Let’s see if the carbon emission numbers afterwards stack up – hopefully we’ll be pleasantly surprised.