News

Jack Johnson names Merriweather as elite sustainability venue

December 30, 2014
BY: JOHN FRENAYE
 
 
Jack Johnson has established the All At Once Sustainability Award and announced that Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md., has received the 2014 outstanding music venue award. It honors elite venues that excelled in waste reduction and sustainability measures and made every effort to meet Jack Johnson’s Environmental Rider during his 2014 From Here To Now To You Tour across North and South America.
 
“As an artist that is lucky enough to play at these beautiful venues, I want to send out a big thank you to these venues and promoters, including Merriweather Post Pavilion and its promoter I.M.P., for leading the music industry in being more environmentally responsible. Music venues are gathering places that have a huge influence on people, young and old. These venues are raising the bar on waste management, plastic free initiatives, healthy and local food options, alternative transportation systems and much more. The concert experience is improved exponentially for fans and musicians when venues care enough to make these important changes. I came away from my experience at these venues inspired,” said Jack Johnson.
 
Merriweather’s environmental leadership includes investing in a solar array that powers house and backstage lighting, installing composting facilities and an onsite bio-diesel fueling station for tour vehicles, building a new concession stand and restrooms to LEED standards, and encouraging patrons to bring empty water bottles for refilling. Additionally, the concessions sell farm-to-table meats, and the venue is moving away from petroleum-based products, among other improvements. Soon, Merriweather will go even further, capturing all storm water run-off for use as property irrigation, expanding solar capacity by 12 times, replacing all lighting with LEDs, and replacing all restroom and concession buildings to meet high efficiency standards.
 
 
Seth Hurwitz, chairman of I.M.P., operator and promoter of Merriweather Post Pavilion and co-owner of the 9:30 Club said, “Jack is one of those artists that makes you feel really good about being in this business. He’s a real guy, with a real conscience that is not guided by career strategy. One didn’t have to second-guess about why he cared about this…you know he simply did. And that inspires all of us to think about what we can do today for the good of everyone.”
 
Johnson’s 2014 From Here To Now To You Tour brought 263,713 fans to 35 shows across North and South America. Through Johnson’s All At Once campaign, the tour collaborated with over 150 community groups focusing on plastic-free initiatives, sustainable local food systems, and other hands-on environmental projects. All At Once promoted and supported 50 pre-show community events hosted by non-profit partners, involving more than 10,800 volunteers. The Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation donated over $400,000 to these partners and an additional $650,000 was raised by these non-profits through the All At Once matching donation program.
 
Johnson’s 2014 tour eliminated over 18,392 single-use 16 oz. plastic bottles with water refill stations and reusable containers, supported 35 local farms with the purchase of locally grown and organic produce for band and crew catering, sourced over 10,054 gallons of sustainable biodiesel to fuel tour trucks, buses, and on site generators, and offset an estimated 2,462,600 pounds of CO2 through green touring efforts and fan participation.

Honolulu Theatre’s ‘Grinds’: A Teaching Show You Can Eat

October 28, 2014
BY DIEP TRAN
 
 
HONOLULU: What tastes better, an organic banana or one imported from Ecuador? “Oh my God, a local banana!” answers Eric Johnson, artistic director of Honolulu Theatre for Youth, without pause. In particular, he has in mind the candy-apple banana,  a natural variety of the fruit which, he assures us, tastes as delicious as it sounds. These bananas, grown predominantly in Hawaii, might be seen as a microcosm of the state’s diverse food cultures.
 
“There’s no ethnic majority here,” Johnson explains, “so you get these really strange combinations and these wild potlucks that mix, sushi and Thanksgiving turkey.”
 
Johnson’s resident ensemble recently mined this rich subject by devising Grinds, The Story of Food in Hawaii, an interactive production incorporating live cooking, songs, audience participation and storytelling to teach young Hawaiians about where their food comes from. “We took the idea of being closer to the source culturally, nutritionally and agriculturally, and we asked a bunch of questions,” says Johnson.
 
The issue of food and sustainability is potent in a state comprised of islands where, if import ships were to stop running, there would only be seven days worth of food for 1.3 million residents. Among its plentiful exports, Hawaii doesn’t just grow bananas: 100 percent of U.S.-produced ginger root, macadamia nuts, taro, coffee and guavas are grown there too.
 
So Grinds became a way to have a conversation with young people about food issues that went beyond “eat your vegetables.”
 
“If we can get them to think of these issues in a substantive manner as young people—where our food comes from and what’s the cultural significance of food in an extremely diverse community—we’re able to prime a conversation that will happen to them for the rest of their lives,” says Johnson.
 
The 60-year-old HTY primarily performs for schoolchildren, with 70,000 students coming to see its shows annually. Grinds originally ran April 5–May 10, 2014, playing to nearly 20,000 students on Honolulu. As is customary for HTY, the show will tour to the other Hawaiian islands Oct. 24, Oct. 28, and Nov. 8. Ten thousand to 15,000 students are expected to see Grinds on its tour.
 
“That is where the majority of the agriculture actually happens here in Hawaii—it’s a delight to be able to take it out to the surrounding islands,” says Johnson. Teachers are also given a study guide and supplementary material in case they’re interested in teaching about food in their classroom.
 
Grinds was a collaboration between HTY and a number of organizations: the National Endowment for the Arts, the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture, the Hawaii State Department of Health, Hawaii Medical Service Association, the Kokua Hawaii Foundation and the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation. The partners funded the show, providing $70,000 (half of its artistic budget). And unlike in many partnerships among theatres and outside organizations, the funders also collaborated on the content of Grinds.
 
Take the banana: The Kokua Hawaii Foundation (founded by folk musician Jack Johnson and his wife Kim) wrote a short story about the banana’s journey to Hawaii; based on that, the HTY ensemble created an interactive segment for Grinds.
 
“We brought two kids up from the audience; one began as an Ecuadorian banana on his journey, and one was a local banana hanging out,” recalls Johnson. “You have to think that if you’re 6, there are probably big battles with your parents about what you’re going to eat and what you’re not going to eat. We’re kind of replacing tension with attention.”
 
"Grinds: The Story of Food in Hawaii" at Honolulu Theatre for Youth.
“Grinds: The Story of Food in Hawaii” at Honolulu Theatre for Youth.
And that’s just the dessert. The entire show is framed around the creation of a meal, cooked live onstage, with lessons on where various ingredients of the meal come from and a short history of food in Hawaii. The Department of Health wanted to incorporate vegetables into the programming, so each student was given a pack of seeds well in advance of attending the show so they could grow a plant and bring it to the theatre to be cooked in the meal.
 
“We ended up with a piece that we would never have done on our own,” says Johnson. “In some ways, it’s a much more holistic piece.”
 
The positive reception of Grinds has inspired Johnson to continue this model, of bringing in outside partners not only for financing, supplementary materials and talkbacks, but also to help in the work’s devising. The next project of this type will be on the subject of water, another obvious topic for an island theatre.
 
Johnson has already collected a number of Hawaiia-centric facts on the subject. One unsettling tidbit: “The [Great Pacific] garbage patch is our neighbor—almost all of the world’s plastic ends up in the ocean here beside us,” he says. The yet-untitled water work will play in 2016.
 
Grinds and the water play marks a new emphasis at HTY on original, ensemble-created, locally focused work; about half of the shows in the recent seasons were created in-house by their ensemble of five actors and three designers (most of the rest of their work is original, too, if not ensemble-devised). Johnson attributes the recent success of HTY’s programming to this factor; the theatre has operated in the black for the past five years and has no debt.
 
“By investing in our ensemble and including partners, we have made not only a financial success but also a very meaningful work for our community.”
 

Stepping Away from our Disposable Culture

June 09, 2014
 
With a global increase in awareness over the past few decades about the health of our fragile planet, people have become more concerned about the harm posed by plastic products on our environment. As a result, consumers, governments, nonprofits, and even businesses have begun taking action against the use of disposable and single-use plastic products. Reducing the use of plastic bags has been an effective strategy, and placing a tax on their use, or banning them altogether, has become commonplace around the globe.
 
Read more here at LoaTree.

Jack Johnson’s Charity To Match Donations To Green Classroom Projects

April 11, 2014

To celebrate Earth Day 2014, Jack Johnson's Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation will match up to $25,000 in donations to “green” classroom projects on DonorsChoose.org, an online charity that makes it easy to support public school students in need. 

Projects qualifying for this offer focus on reducing waste and single-use plastics in schools and communities across the country.

You can read the rest here.

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