COLUMBIA — Not all epiphanies are inspired by beauty. Adam Gardner, the vocalist and guitarist of the band Guster, was inspired by trash.
"After a show, you'd look around at the end of the night and notice you were basically standing in a landfill of garbage," Gardner said.
Millions of people traveling to music concerts every year generate a lot of waste, Gardner said. But they also present an opportunity to educate a large portion of the public.
Gardner founded a nonprofit organization called Reverb with his wife in 2004 to help music tours around the country reduce their environmental impact and waste.
"That's why we call it Reverb," he said. "The message starts on stage and reverberates out to fans."
Running on only four hours of sleep, Gardner perched on a table Wednesday in Neff Hall at MU and answered questions from about 50 students, staff and members of the public. He talked about how Guster puts into practice what Reverb preaches: by eating local, avoiding plastic water bottles, offering carpool services for concertgoers and using only rechargeable batteries.
Hunter Maret, an MU junior majoring in environmental and soil science, asked how the group planned its routes, given its reliance on a vegetable-based biodiesel not available at most gas stations.
Gardner explained that the tour's buses can haul up to 250 gallons, and the band makes plans for the fuel to be delivered to the venues they visit, so they can fuel up before heading to the next stop.
Jordan Sexton, a senior majoring in sociology, asked if the band does any acoustic-only shows to promote the goals of Reverb.
Gardner said the band has plans to do this.
"An acoustic tour would be a smaller (environmental) footprint because we won't have to carry a truck full of stuff," he said. "It would be just us, the bus and a trailer."
Gardner explained how Reverb works with other bands to promote less waste and less carbon emissions. The organization assigns a staff member to a band's tour crew who is in charge of ensuring that certain "green" requirements are met at the venue.
He says the organization is also creating a set of guidelines that will require cooperating bands to meet a minimum level of requirements before they can promote themselves as "green."
Other questions prompted Gardner to elaborate on his philosophy of environmental activism.
"I appreciate the entire spectrum of the environmental movement, but I come from the positive side — the solutions side," he said.
He hopes other musicians will use this optimistic energy to reach their fans, instead of just preaching about the details of environmental concerns.
"You don't have to be an expert just to be excited, just let your enthusiasm spread to your fans," he said.
Guster will be performing at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Jesse Auditorium, sponsored by the MU Office of Sustainability and the MU College Music Committee.