Green Music Interview wtih CloudCult

Eva Hernandez of Dogwood Alliance speaks with CloudCult's frontman and
head of the non-profit label group, Earthology about how to balance
business with activism.


Eva Hernandez of Dogwood Alliance speaks with
CloudCult's frontman and head of the non-profit label group, Earthology
about how to balance business with activism.

What happens when your subculture becomes mainstream?
If the trend is environmentalism Craig Minowa, long-time
environmentalists and singer/songwriter with the Indie-Rock band
CloudCult, says the more the merrier.

In 1991, before green became hip, CloudCult front man Craig Minowa
started Earthology records, a not-for-profit environmental record label.
Today Earthology is a national network of over a thousand
environmentally conscious musicians, writers, visual and performance
artists, dedicated to using their art to inspire and motivate citizens to
become involved in the environmental movement.

I caught up with Craig last week during a leg of their southern US tour
to talk about the band's environmentalism, how they balance their
values with their business, and how you can get started…

Dogwood Alliance: How did you first get started with Eartholgy?
CloudCult: I founded Eartholgy in the 90's because the music industry
was switching from cassettes to CDs and we were looking for CDs that
were eco-friendly. There was no way to manufacture CDs that I felt
comfortable with that was in line with my environmental ethics. So we
decided to re-use old jewel cases. For the liners there was no
replicator that used 100% post-consumer recycled content so at the
time we had to order it separately and hand cut every unit. Of course,
we also used soy ink.

Dogwood Alliance: So, packaging was the first step?
CloudCult: Yes, If it's not post-consumer recycled then it might as well
be virgin tree paper, that's an important thing to make sure of.

After that, every step of the process for the business required analysis.
When we finished the CDs and sent them off to press we would use
envelopes made from old recycled maps and padding made of dried
leaves inside. Initially worked well because it's very eye catchy, later
we stopped that because people were getting upset because they
equated leaves with dirt.

Dogwood Alliance: So, what's a good way to get started as a

CloudCult: Manufacturing is huge—we're all able to scapegoat the big
businesses out there that are doing the manufacturing but we are
running our own little business and our own little machines, and it's
our choice what to produce. We look at everything from the posters,
to the t-shirts to the CDs to the stickers. In fact, we don't do stickers
because we can't find the materials we like but that's just a choice
we've made. It's easy to point fingers, but we also have to point at

Dogwood Alliance: What's your motivation?
CloudCult: Environmentalism is just inherently in me. It is just the
obvious thing to do. If you think about our place on this planet we
have a choice to live in a way that will bring the whole system down or
make a choice to live so generations to come can enjoy what's here.
The first element in our genes is the need to survive so if you pay
attention to that deep down you'll feel it. It also about the love.

Dogwood Alliance: Are your band mates on board with your values?
CloudCult: Over the last 10 years we have had a lot of different
musicians for live versions and a lot are on board. My wife who works
in the environmental field, also paints live on stage.

Dogwood Alliance: How do you balance the money making side of it—
we know a lot of musicians do care about these issues but how do you
care about it and also not go bankrupt?

CloudCult: The environmental arena is interesting in that there are
elements that seem more expensive and elements that are less
. For example we have used jewel cases shipped by the
1,000s. We clean them by hand but it's free to us, it's a creative idea
for conserving resources that is less expensive.

As for Post-Consumer Recycled paper (PCR)—depends on where you're
going to buy your packaging but PCR is getting more and more
competitive and more conventional.

We also look at Green energy—we calculate all the energy we use on
hotels, on stage, travel, then buy wind power to pump into the power
grid through Native Energy. We also buy trees to offset our carbon
emissions. It's pretty affordable to be able to do that, and it works for
bands and individuals. For the average person living alone in a big
city, it costs about a beer per week at a bar. So it's really a matter of

Dogwood Alliance: What's the easiest thing you can do?
CloudCult: Green Energy credits are really easy. If everyone offset
their carbon emissions we wouldn't be looking at more nuclear power
plants, more fossil fuels, and we would be cutting our dependence on
foreign oil.
It's important for people to wrap their minds around the
concept of carbon offsets because it can seem foreign for you to be
paying a company to generate wind power 5 states away. If you look
at it on a mass scale you see that individually we are each drawing
from the grid and we can pay to have wind power charge that.

Dogwood Alliance: Let's talk about your fans, how do your fans
respond to your environmental activism?

CloudCult: They really don't. We're pretty quiet about it and don't
really tout it as being what we're all about. We do it as a good
business practice and hope people see it as a working model that can
be followed. We aren't a preachy band. Even at the merch table we
mention that our t-shirts are organic cotton, and some people think
that's cool, others just say they want a cool design. But in the
industry as a whole environmentalism is starting to be more trendy,
that's a great trend!

Dogwood Alliance: What are some of the things you do at your shows
to promote environmentalism?

CloudCult: We put out reading materials at the merch table–most
materials are about buying local and reducing your carbon footprint by
consumer. We've put out recycling bins that clubs will use to recycle
bottles and cans.

Dogwood Alliance: What are some of the other companies or
organizations you work with that you've found to be a good resource?

CloudCult: The American Forests website a good carbon calculator
where you can input miles and it will calculate how many trees you
need to plant to offset your emissions. We know that the website is a
bit on conservative side so we take their number and multiply it a few
times over.

Your local power company has some sort of green energy choice too
that costs a bit extra per month to have your power greened.

For T-shirts we switch around—we've used Patagonia, American
apparel, really whatever is the best price for organic cotton and the
prices are dropping pretty fast. We used to pay $7 /shirt and a
conventional t-shirt is only $2/shirt. Now organic cotton shirts are
down to $5
each which makes a big difference.

For packaging we still pop around. We still do a lot of packaging
through Earthology Records but we've also used Groove House Records
and Copycats Media.

The important thing is to always ask for 100% Post-Consumer
Recycled (PCR) paper packaging.

Dogwood Alliance: What are you listening to right now?
CloudCult: I'm actually listening to a CD of Native American music I
bought when we were going through Canada. When on tour we don't
listen to much in the Indie Rock realm because every night we're
listening to 2-3 bands. It's usually something jazzy or something

Thanks CloudCult!

To contact CloudCult and Eartholgy records, email
[email protected], or call 1-320-237-0432.

To Sign up to help Green the Music Industry with Dogwood Alliance click here.

Today, consumers are demanding environmentally friendly products; we have better touring options, enviro-friendly merch, and even ways to easily offset our carbon footprints when on tour. To get involved with Earthology, Send your info to [email protected]

About Earthology Records

-Earthology has become the only nonprofit Record Company in
existence to offer environmentally and socially friendly CD replication
services at reduced rates for struggling artists. Get your CD replicated
professionally and with the most stringent earth-friendly standards in
the industry!

-Earthology uses 100% recycled/reclaimed jewel cases.

-Earthology uses the highest recycled content papers on the market,
with nontoxic soy inks.

-Earthology uses a CD replication process that involves recycling of CD
cut scraps into milk cartons.

-Earthology provides the most environmentally and socially responsible
CD replication on the market.

-Earthology studios have an environmentally friendly design, with
100% recycled plastic lumber, soundboards made of Homasote (100%
recycled newspaper), and reclaimed lumber. The flooring & decks are
made from 100% postconsumer recycled plastic (PET). The studio is
located on 11 acres of prairie, wetlands, woods, and an organic
herb/vegetable farm. All heat and cooling is provided sustainably via a
geothermal system. Electricity is provided by wind power (via Allete's
Wind Sense Program).

-Earthology shrink wrap is made of nontoxic low density polyethylene,
instead of toxic poly-vinyl chloride. Earthology's shrink wrap will soon
be made of 100% biodegradable corn cellulose.

-Earthology is a record company and an activist organization, working
to revolutionize the music industry into operating in an ecologically
sustainable manner.

-Earthology coordinates a monthly Eco-Action Group, which discusses
important current environmental issues and offers ways of becoming
active in these issues. If you'd like to be a part of this listserv, please
email us at [email protected].


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