British band Coldplay recently announced its 2022 world tour dates, two years after saying it wouldn't tour again until performances could be made more sustainable.
Planning for the 30-date tour has been two years in the making, involving extensive conversations with environmental experts. The result is a series of pledges and resolutions designed to cut carbon emissions by 50% compared to the band's previous tours.
Traditionally, venues use diesel generators for power. For its Music of the Spheres tour, Coldplay has enlisted the help of car manufacturer BMW, who will provide used i3 electric vehicle batteries to store the power generated during each show. It's the first time that i3 batteries have had a second-life application. But the batteries are only half the story.
Coldplay's Clean Energy Generating Concerts
The band will also install a floor that turns movement into kinetic energy. When audience members dance, walk, or jump, that power is captured and stored inside the i3 batteries and used to power the show.
Chris Martin, Coldplay's lead singer, told the BBC: "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."
Of course, the entire show won't only be dependent on kinetic floor technology. Fans are also encouraged to jump onto indoor cycling bikes connected to electrical generators. Using human power to generate clean electricity isn't new (the Energym RE:GEN, launched in June 2021, is an electricity-generating indoor bike), but it's an excellent example of the potential of small-scale energy generation showing how human power is a viable renewable energy source, whether in stadiums, inside people's homes or set-up in gyms.
Coldplay's live performance for the Earthshot Prize – screened Monday night on BBC1 – was powered by 60 riders on static bikes and connected to generators is a taste of what audiences can expect next year. And hopefully, what we can all expect from events in the future.Coldplay's Concerts are More than Just Clean Energy Generating
The band has also outlined a series of pledges relating to different areas of the tour, including logistics, travel, catering, local service providers, and the host venue.
- The stage will be built from low-carbon and recyclable materials. These will be re-used throughout the shows and then recycled once the tour is over.
Solar tiles will be installed at each venue to support clean energy generation. These will start generating power as soon as the band arrives on-site. Hydrotreated vegetable oil (recycled from waste cooking oils) should help reduce generator emissions by up to 90%.
- Planning the band's travel schedule now means that air travel (although unavoidable) is reduced. Members and crew will use commercial flights wherever possible. Charter flights will use sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) made from renewable waste materials.
- The band will also be using local sources and sending venues a sustainability rider ahead of time to 'request best environmental practices'
- Fans that travel using low-carbon options will also get access to discounted accommodation. Incentivising audiences to make more sustainable travel choices is an essential part of encouraging positive behaviour change. Energym’s partnership with Sweatcoin offers a similar use of the incentive.
- Using app data, the band will also calculate the carbon footprint of travel to and from shows. The band's website also says it will 'drawdown' on those emissions using 'nature-based solutions like rewilding and conservation' and will plant at least one new tree for each ticket sold.
Of course, there's going to be criticism. Chris Martin has already prepared for that, saying that '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.' And people are correct to call Coldplay out. After all, the sustainability angle has already generated a significant amount of press and media coverage.
But whilst the band is benefitting from the PR, it shouldn't take away from this ambitious demonstration of how eco-friendlier events can be created, even on a global scale, without compromising showmanship or audience expectations. And it's good to see collaboration between different industries, too. Whether it's Coldplay and BMW, or Energym and Sweatcoin, companies working together to make sustainable solutions not only viable but visible to general audiences, too.
Back in November 2021, Energym took electricity-generating indoor bikes to Bloomberg HQ in London for two days of cycling classes, challenging Bloomberg employees and members of the public to generate as much clean power as they could, so we're really excited to see major events using human power in their sets.