St. Augustine Amphitheatre Goes CARBON Neutral

Venue leads the way for minimizing the ecological impact of electric guitars and airplanes

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There's no better feeling than the one you get when you see your favorite band perform live. The lights, the music and the camaraderie take you to another world. One of Northeast Florida's most popular venues, recently ranked No. 11 among amphitheatres in Pollstar's Mid-year Ticket Sales Top 50 Report, is the St. Augustine Amphitheatre.

Growing in popularity due to its sound experience and open setting, in the weeks and months ahead, the Amphitheatre will feature artists like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Modest Mouse and Jack Johnson, to name just a few. As renowned as these musicians are, the St. Augustine Amphitheatre is doing much more than just hosting some of the biggest names in music this season.

At the beginning of the 2016 concert season, the venue received its carbon footprint report and decided to adopt the conservation program Green Hands Initiative. It all started with a Jack Johnson concert. In May 2014, Johnson requested that the Amphitheatre meet strict requirements regarding the ecological impact of his show; inspired by complying with his request, the venue's administration resolved to reduce any negative impact the Amphitheatre had on the environment. As Megan Murphy of Green Hands explained, "The director of the [St. Augustine] Amphitheatre, Ryan Murphy, decided that if these changes were possible for one show, why shouldn't they be standard protocol for all shows?"

Through a partnership with Gainesville-based carbon offsetting program, We Are Neutral, the Amphitheatre has taken environmental responsibility to the next level. Carbon offsetting refers to replacing carbon that an individual, home or business emits into the atmosphere through carbon-reducing acts such as planting trees or performing energy-efficient upgrades. The Green Hands Initiative is an agreement made by the Amphitheatre's operation program, SJC Cultural Events Division, to maintain practices that align with the mission of conserving valuable resources and reducing unnecessary waste.

The St. Augustine Amphitheatre has already made noticeable strides toward achieving carbon neutrality and lowering its impact on the surrounding environment. It has incorporated six new filtered water stations along with reusable Nalgene bottles to reduce water and wastewater output. The venue also offers onsite recycling and has even created a garden and compost program that turns food waste into something productive. Other works in progress include a transition to entirely LED lighting and biodegradable disposables such as plant-based utensils that can easily degrade over time. "We purchased enough offsets from [We Are Neutral's] offset account to neutralize the minimal footprint that we had for 2016. Offsetting a carbon footprint is an ongoing process, so we are in constant communication with them, to create new ways to continue to lower our footprint," said Ms. Murphy.

In a press release, the Amphitheatre's Marketing & Community Relations Manager Dianya Markovits explained that the carbon footprint of the facility equaled 15,887 tons of CO2e, or carbon dioxide equivalent, annually. To compare, the state of Florida's carbon dioxide emissions in 2014 equaled 228.2 million tons, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The Amphitheatre's carbon output is largely created by airplane and automobile transportation of artists and performers. The Amphitheatre's Green Hands Initiative continues to seek new ways to reduce its carbon footprint. "[We are] drafting multiple ideas to try to help creatively offset [the] footprint of 'show-days,' including patron offset purchasing [which] would come with incentives we're working on, carpool incentives, and pedicab services," said Murphy.

The St. Augustine Amphitheatre is one of the first venues of its size to adopt carbon neutrality and environmentally sound practices. In doing so, the venue hopes to reduce its footprint as much as possible. Murphy said, "It is the goal of Green Hands to continue to offer and implement the most sustainable and ecologically smart practices that we can: to patrons, artists and our community."

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