For Jack Johnson, environmentalism has always been second nature. Born in Hawaii, he followed in his father’s footsteps and took to the waves at an early age, eventually becoming the youngest surfer to ever make the finals at the legendary Pipeline Masters event on Oahu’s North Shore.
And with that involvement in surfing came a keen awareness of not just the ocean, but the land as well. Which is why, when he switched gears and became a musician, he also quickly latched on to environmental groups like the Surfrider Foundation and Heal the Ocean. After all, it just made sense.
“It kind of all started back when I could first fill up a room with people, when it was a couple hundred people, I started getting asked by Surfrider Foundation, Heal the Ocean, Heal the Bay — different groups like that — if I would help doing fundraisers for them,” Johnson said. “And when that started, I realized you could use music to gather people to raise awareness or to raise funds, and we took that little spark and started rolling with it.”
Johnson and his wife would go on to start the Kokua Hawaii foundation, a nonprofit aimed at educating students on the concept of environmentalism. Every year he also organizes the Kokua Festival in Hawaii, a green-friendly event that raises awareness (and funds) for his foundation (Kokua 2010 will be held Friday and Saturday). And from his early days as a touring musician, he’s been determined to make his concerts as environmentally friendly as possible.
“Once we started doing this fest in Hawaii, [we started] learning ways we could lessen the negative impact of a show by using biodiesel, water stations, recycling bins, all the little things you could do to lessen the negative impact,” he explained. “And then started to see how you could expand on the positive impact by having local nonprofit groups at every venue you play, so as the people from that town are coming to the shows, they can get on mailing lists. Money from that show can go to those groups, so after you leave the town, it was actually beneficial you were there because it starts the positive work.”
So truly, for him, every day is Earth Day. And when he hits the road later this summer in support of his To the Sea album , he’ll continue with a trend he started on his last tour: donating 100 percent of all proceeds to local nonprofits with a green bend. Much like everything he does, it just seemed like second nature.
“The venue has to agree to do carbon offsets, there have to be recycling stations there … I never thought of it as trying to save the world so much as trying not to ruin it. Doing what you can to be responsible with the industry you’re in. Trying to better it,” he said. “We take 100 percent of our proceeds from the night and donate that to nonprofit groups that are doing really positive work, because then, it’s much better that we tour, because it’s not just lessening the impact, we try to grow the positive.”
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