From Yellow to green: Is Coldplay’s commitment to sustainable touring a bold move or greenwashing?

Environmentally conscious band have ended a self-imposed ban on international shows but promised gigs will be powered by ‘renewable, super-low emission energy’

Samuel Webb
Friday 15 October 2021 17:26
Empire State Building lights up for Coldplay's Music Of The Spheres World Tour
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Coldplay’s announcement that the band’s upcoming world tour will be as sustainable as possible was met with the usual withering derision from social media commenters.

“The absolute hypocrisy of Coldplay saying they’ll plant trees for every ticket sold for their World tour but also saying they will still use private jets is palpable and shameful,” sniffed one Twitter user.

Another posted: “Still taking private jets. Eco-friendly my arse.”

This week Coldplay announced an end to their self-imposed ban on touring, with their first tour – Music of the Spheres – in four and a half years.

But is criticising the band’s pledge – to power their shows entirely with “renewable, super-low emission energy”– really fair?

The environmentally conscious band have pledged that the shows will be entirely powered by “renewable, super-low emission energy”.

Dr Laura Wilcox, associate professor of meteorology at the University of Reading, says Coldplay’s efforts are “huge”.

“It’s a nice way of taking a high-profile position and show what changes can be made,” she said.

“It’s important because it shows there is only so much an individual can do, but it encourages people to take their own actions such as recycling.

“There is no alternative to flying for a band like Coldplay, that is a level of change above the individual, and somewhere where we hope international efforts, such as Cop26, will make a difference.”

The band pledged not to tour until they could do so sustainably

Coldplay said in a statement that the planet was facing a climate crisis and members have spent the last two years consulting with environmental experts to make the tour as sustainable as possible.

Each performance will partly be powered by a dancefloor that generates electricity when fans jump up and down.

It’s part of a 12-point plan to cut their carbon footprint, two years after the band pledged not to tour until they could do so in a more eco-friendly way.

Singer Chris Martin told the BBC: "When (fans in the crowd) move, they power the concert," he said.

"And we have bicycles too that do the same thing.

"The more people move, the more they’re helping. You know when the frontman says, ‘We need you to jump up and down’?

"When I say that, I literally really need you to jump up and down. Because if you don’t, then the lights go out."

Coldplay will also plant a tree for every ticket sold.

The singer accepted there would be backlash about some aspects of their tour, such as flying between venues on private jets.

"I don’t mind any backlash at all," he said. "We’re trying our best, and we haven’t got it perfect. Absolutely. We always have backlash for everything.

"And the people that give us backlash for that kind of thing, for flying, they’re right. So we don’t have any argument against that."

Dr Laura Wilcox

He admitted there was always the question of "why tour at all?", saying: "And that’s where we don’t really have any comeback except, we would really like to.

"We could stay at home and that may be better. But we want to tour and we want to meet people and connect with people - so try and do it in the cleanest way possible."

Martin said they hope to have "slightly shifted the status quo of how a tour works" in a few years’ time.

Coldplay’s pledges:

• The tour itinerary will minimise air travel, with sustainable aviation fuel used where flying is unavoidable

• Venues will be asked to use best environmental practices like installing aerated taps and low-flushing toilets to prevent water wastage

• The set will be built with materials picked for their environmental credentials, like bamboo

• Effects like lasers and lighting have been modified to be more energy-efficient

• The LED wristbands worn by audience members will be made from 100% compostable, plant-based materials and will be reused every night

• An app will let fans plan their journeys to and from the show with lowest possible emissions, and they'll get a discount code to use at the venue if they commit to low-carbon travel

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