The biggest impact that many choirs make climate-wise is by flying on tour to distant countries – travelling by train or bus where possible, and staying local, will make a huge difference. For background, read Nina Vinther’s article at FlightFreeUK on the music industry’s flying problem, and George Herbert’s Varsity article on environmentally friendly travel for choirs. People don’t join your choir to fly, they join it to sing!
Now that we’re all used to learning choral pieces over the internet, why not reduce your carbon footprint by having some rehearsals online so people don’t need to travel? Particularly useful for choirs who only come together once or twice a year. You can use Zoom with participants muting their mics to avoid lag, or if you have a more computer-literate group, consider Jamulus (requires external mics and wired internet connections, but it really will sound as if you’re rehearsing together) or Jacktrip.
Choose venues that are accessible by public transport for rehearsals and concerts. As well as letting your choir members travel in more climate-friendly ways, this also makes it easier for people to come to your concerts!
If some of your choir members still drive to rehearsals, encourage car-sharing or ask them to pick up other members on the way (particularly useful for accessibility).
For community choir leading, if you have the resources, using a projector for words is much better than loads of printed paper (also stops the fumbling and rustling and gets them to sing while looking up)!
If you work off copy for performances, make your learning resources (lyrics, guide tracks etc) available for download using Dropbox/Google Drive – you can use digital devices in rehearsal (read Dan Cooper’s post about how he’s created a paperless choir), or you could have copies of music to lend which is returned at the end for repeated use, saving on copying.
If you’re using lots of printed paper, choose an eco-friendly and/or recycled brand.
If you have a large audience, how about putting your programme online instead of printing hundreds of copies? People can access it on their phone or other device, and you can then link videos or recordings of each piece in the online program after the concert.
Instead of disposable cups at rehearsal, use regular tea and coffee cups which are washed up and dried. Also encourage your singers to bring reusable water bottles. Maybe you could get some made with your choir logo?
If your venue is cold, don’t ask them to turn up the heating – get everyone to bring extra layers instead.
Choose an ethical bank for your choir account, one that doesn’t invest in fossil fuels (e.g. the Co-op Bank). And look at other partnerships that your choir’s involved in – could you encourage your rehearsal venue to become more eco-friendly? If you’re lucky enough to have advertisers or sponsors for your choir, can your work together benefit the planet?
Individual choir members can also make a difference, especially when the choir supports each other’s activities – cutting down on plastic, changing to a green energy supplier, switching to a less meat-intensive diet, and making other changes in your personal carbon footprint, are all easier with the support of a choir community.
And publicising these changes is also great activism. If your audiences see that you can practice what you preach, they’re much more likely to make changes in their own lives or help to push for them elsewhere. You could also make them the basis of new musical activity – look at the Nevis Ensemble’s 100 Days of Green Nevis for some inspiration.
For groups in Scotland, Creative Carbon Scotland have a wide variety of resources available to help work out and reduce your carbon footprint, and provide a lot of other helpful ideas.
Thank you to the members of the Choirs For Climate facebook group for your suggestions here – Nina, Steph, Katy, Jack, Caroline, Emily, Jane, Helen, and Aimee! If you have suggestions to add here, please email Chris.