The Vote the Environment (VTE) was on the road with JackJohnson and his “All at OnceTour” this summer. Two Patagonia employees had theopportunity to travel with the tour to man the VTE booth and talk toconcert-goers about the importance of registering to vote, getting informed andvoting the environment on November 4th.
Since my return I have been asked countless times about the tour and the VTE campaign. To be honest, I have yet to come up with an answer that doesjustice to the experience. What I can say is that during those days on tour,two things stood out.
[The ladies "man" the the Vote the Enviroment booth to much success during Jack Johnson’s All At Once tour this summer. Photo: Elissa Loughman]
One. Jack Johnson has created a community of people madeup of friends and family that work with him, for him and around him. From whatI learned talking with the crew, most of the people on the tour have been partof Jack Johnson’s music for a long time. He and his wife are truly good peopleand they surround themselves with good people. They are donating all theprofits from the 2008 tour to the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, which in turn supports the work of an array of outstanding non-profits.
Two. Patagonia has created quite a community as well.This became very apparentto me early on in the tour. It was the last day ofthe three-day All Points West Festival and there was an eclectic group ofpeople running the VTE booth and educating concert goers about Patagonia’s VTEcampaign. In addition to our group though, several people came by the booth whoeither were currently working for Patagonia or had worked for Patagonia in the past. The feeling I had that day,surrounded by complete strangers all connected to Patagonia, confirmed the factthat the Patagonia tribe spans the US. This feeling remained with me throughoutthe tour in the form of help from Patagonia employees at every show. It onlysolidified my feeling that the Patagonia community is a fantastic one.
These two communities were brought together because of alarger vision and a larger purpose. The Jack Johnson community and thePatagonia community have one very important thing in common: environmentalresponsibility is core to who we are and what we do. Both groups see everythingthrough an environmental lens. We examine our environmental impacts and our options for for making improvements.
For this tour, the two communities teamed upwith the hopes of creating positive change in this year’s elections. Bothcommunities feel awareness of the state of our environment needs to spreadand that this issue needs to be at the top of individuals’ lists ofconsiderations when they go to the polls on November 4th.
Jack Johnson provided a venue for the three non-profit groups on the tour in an area called the “Village Green,” a gathering area for these groups, and a host of local non-profit organizations, all focused on bettering their communities and local environments. Needless to say, this made the Jack Johnson tour verydifferent than other concert tours. In addition to providing a venue for thesenational and local environmental non-profit groups at every show, Jack and crewdemonstrated their awareness of the tour’s impact. A concert tour can have ahuge environmental footprint; Jack’s was mitigated by encouraging recycling,using bio diesel, and sourcing local and organic food, etc. The focus wasalways to bring a positive impact to each town visited.
In a short video created to highlight the tour,Jack was asked how important hosting theconcert’s “Village Green” and the All At Once Community was to him. He replied“Music is a funny thing, you go out, bring all these people together, playmusic and after a while it just sort of feels like, ‘What is everyone reallygetting together for?’ You might as well be trying to focus that spotlight onsomething else.”
He continued, stating that including the Village Green in the tour iswhat makes it all make sense to him. It is a similar situation for Patagonia.Patagonia is a successful outdoor apparel company, it does not have to runcampaigns, give grant money away to environmental non-profit groups, send twoemployees on a music tour, or care if people vote. We could just make clothes.
Both Jack and Patagonia have a unique platform and have chosen to use those platforms for what they believe to be a good purpose.
Perhaps you’re wondering if these efforts weresuccessful. I think they were. There is no replacement for meaningfulone-on-one conversations with people, and as just one person from among the host nationalnon-profit employees involved in the tour, I know we had many.
Reactions from the public were definitely mixed, bothpositive and negative. Over half the people I spoke with automaticallyresponded to my question of “Are you registered to vote?” with a quick “Ofcourse.” This made me feel good; the sense was that most of the people I spokewith thought registering to vote was an automatic thing all people did. Mostpeople really supported the work of non-profits, and I received plenty of"thank you for doing this" comments from concert-goers. I definitelyappreciated those thank yous, they gave me the feeling that people truly care.Jack Johnson attracts a fairly young crowd, and most of the future voters whoapproached our booth said they planned to register once they were old enough.
On the other hand, there were people who told us theyweren’t registered to vote and had no intention to register. These people trulybummed me out. Reasons for not registering typically included some combinationof the following: they just didn’t care, they didn’t want to spend the time toregister, didn’t want to learn about the issues, or to vote. Though these folkswere in the minority, such attitudes have a powerful impact.
Some numbers to help give an idea what we accomplished onthe All At Once Tour this summer:
– Our VTE message reached over 4700 people directly.
– Climate Counts collected 5895 signatures on theirpledge to encourage Burger King and the Yum brands (KFC, Pizza Hut, and TacoBell) to make an effort to reduce their environmental impacts and put moreeffort into being an environmentally responsible company.
– Lastly, and most impressively, the HeadCountrepresentatives and volunteers registered 7411 voters and collected 2546 pledges to vote.
Have there been other musicians or companies who’ve madesimilar efforts for causes important to them? No doubt. Will this idea of usingunconventional platforms to educate the public on important issues spread? Ihope so.
[Bottom photos: Before and after – Concert-goers make their environmental concerns known to the VTE crew!]