Shifting to Green: Being an Environmentally Conscious Musician

September 22, 2019, 2:17 AM · The new academic year is set to begin very soon here in Eugene, and one of my goals for the year ahead is to be more environmentally conscious. As musicians, especially string players, it’s hard to ignore the environmental impacts of our instruments. I’m not saying that we should be exceedingly guilty or completely stop playing the violin or anything, but I think it’s worth considering ways that we can alter our habits in order to better the condition of the earth (in addition to creating beautiful music).

1) Take good care of your instrument and replace/rehair only when necessary.
This is fairly obvious. However, this is effective especially from an environmentally friendly perspective, not to mention a financial standpoint. Of course, you need everything working in the best condition possible, but if you can get another few weeks out of your strings or can wait an extra couple of months to get your bow rehaired, why not wait a little longer? As a grad student on a tight budget, I am a master of this philosophy. It will save you money and will also help to reduce waste. When it is necessary to change out your strings, look into options to recycle your strings in order to avoid throwing the old ones into the trash; TerraCycle and D'Addario recently partnered up to create their own free and easy string recycling program.

2) Consider electronic over paper sheet music.
Before I elaborate on this point, I should tell you that I definitely prefer pencil and paper over an electronic medium for sheet music. But, I find my iPad super convenient when traveling, and it’s great to store all of my big technique books (you never know when you might need to refer to Sevcik Op. 8 #24 when you’re teaching a lesson!) An iPad can be great for new music purposes as well; I did a piece a couple of years ago in San Francisco for violin and prepared piano that required an iPad/foot pedal combination because I had to play off of a score. I definitely do not use an iPad for everything, but if you’re open to trying an electronic version for some things that you practice, it’s a great way to save a few trees. If you do use paper copies, assuming you don’t need the music again (I don’t mean your heavily annotated book of the Bach sonatas and partitas!) recycle them when you’re finished.

3) Keep track of your instrument accessories.
It’s really hard to keep track of every pencil you’ve ever brought into a rehearsal or practice room (believe me, I understand). But, try your best to hang onto everything; it eliminates waste, and again, helps you financially. Be mindful of where you keep your mute, rosin, shoulder rest, peg goop, pencils, tuner, metronome, cleaning cloth, and/or whatever else you keep in your case. When my cleaning cloth gets dirty, I just throw it in the wash with my other towels. I find this method of using a reusable cloth to clean my instrument more effective and environmentally sound than using a disposable towel or cloth every time I want to clean my violin.

4) Think about the products you use.
There are some environmentally friendly products, like all natural rosin, that string players can use if they are interested in going green. There are several options online if you hunt a little bit; it’s a subtle but effective way to make a difference.

5) Donate > throw away
As with anything, donating to someone in need rather than throwing away is a much better option all around if you decide you can't use something anymore. Is your shoulder rest just not right for your set-up anymore? Ask someone if they want to try it out, or donate it to Goodwill. Finding an alternative to the trash whenever possible is good for everyone, not to mention the environment.

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