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Sustainability Tips: SolarSoundSystem

We discuss how to make events greener with a company that uses solar energy to power speakers and sound systems.
SolarSoundSystem Paris

Music journalism has an obligation to look around the music space and push for change in meaningful ways. That can feel impossible in a business so wedded to deception, person relationships and stagnant ideas, but there are a few areas that we are seeing a little movement. Being more in tune environment is just that. More and more artists are waking up to their own environmental impact and how they should fight climate change. Whether it is fundraisers, going plastic-free or activating fans to vote for political candidates who will fight climate change, there are artists who are looking to actually be about that life. With this new section, Sustainability Tips, we will talk to DJs, events and other music companies to see how they are fighting for a greener future.

For the first feature, we chat with SolarSoundSystem, a company that sells and manages sound-systems powered solely by renewable energies (sun & bicycle generators), and founder of Radio3S, "the first 100% solar powered web-radio.” They are launching their own label with new project Solar Tracks 01 that features music by the likes of Coldcut and Jay Ka. A tree will be planted in the Peruvian Amazon for each copy sold, thanks to a partnership with One Tree Planted. This will be released this Friday, February 14 on digital and vinyl. The Coldcut remix will be released exclusively on vinyl.

Stream the full project now and pick up your copy here.

01 - Coldcut and Hexstatic - Timber (Coldcut Plant a Treemix)
02 - Ovhal44 - Rapport #37 : Le micro Big bang (Solar edit)
03 - Jay Ka - Easy Girl
04 - Naduve x Tai Rona - Interstellar appropriation
05 - Harrison y El Mundo - Ironie du Présent
06 - Gregorythme - The party is over (Solar edit)

Read on for their sustainability tips to see how they are pressing to vinyl sustainably and how others can also change their business.

1. How do you manage your carbon footprint as a company?

This is the core of our activity and this is why we exist! Our systems reduce carbon footprints for events since 1999. Furthermore, our machines are eco-conceived, which mean that we use as much local material as possible and work with local craftsmen. That's important for us because activating the local economy is something we value a lot. All of our websites are also hosted on solar energy via Horus, based in Switzerland. By the way, you should listen to our 100% solar powered web-radio with musical selections by our community.

Since 2018, we also have a physical space in Paris, Station-E (supported by Schneider Electric Foundation). We want to make this cultural place, also our headquarters, a reference in the field, with electricity solely coming from renewable energies (via Enercoop, a green electric utility cooperative company), a bar with eco-cups and organic fruits and vegetables, a phyto-purification system for grey waters; composting toilets, solar cooking workshops, experimentation, exhibitions and education about renewable energies, a seed bar, and by the way events with our solar and bike powered sound-systems!

We are aware we can't be perfect, but we do the maximum within the spectrum of possibilities.

SolarSoundSystem Bikes Paris

2. What do you do or are doing to be greener when you use your speakers?

All of our sound-systems are off-grid, meaning they don't need any source of electricity as they function solely on renewable energies (thanks to the sun and bikes). In addition to helping the planet, there is an additional educational value when consumers pedal on the bikes or see our systems. Participants understand how renewable energies work and can actively participate in their production!

Our systems also use much less electricity than regular PA, as we do optimizations from A to Z. We are now upgrading them with our own speakers, which mean that we will be able to cover very soon bigger areas/stages. Regarding the amplifiers, we use Class-D types.

3. What can you do to make your vinyl pressing more sustainable?

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That's a great question and it's something that we were very concerned about. This is why we have decided to work with M Com’ Musique, a vinyl manufacturer based in Brittany (France) and that is taking concrete actions to reduce their carbon footprint without sacrificing any acoustics: use of recycled plastic, water consumption reduced by 80% thanks to an automatic press, boiler that operates in a closed circuit, cooling technologies to save energy, reduction of "the falls" (5% vs 10-15% in the industry).

They are also researching and experimenting about how they can replace the petrochemical material of the vinyl by vegetable matters, successfully creating algae based prototypes for example.

To add another environmental value to Solar Tracks 01, for each vinyl sold, a tree will be planted thanks to a partnership with One Tree Planted, an environmental NGO that is rebuilding forests and restoring land.


4. Outside of work, how are you looking to make your life more sustainable?

As a community with common values, we do our best and recycle as much as possible in our daily lives. We also use regular bikes as a mean of transportation within our cities. When it's not about electricity with our sound-systems, we are fighting against waste in general and try to implement circular economy in our every-day's life.

This "up-cycled" culture is really in our DNA. For example, when we see something abandoned in the street, we always think, "how this can be used again?” This is especially true with the founder of the project, the eco-designer Cédric Carles, who is a true artist in this sense. A short walk with him in Paris and you will find many wonders that you would never imagine digging yourself.

Another example is with one of the co-founder of the SolarSoundSystem, Yannick (based in Lausanne). He has a bicycle workshop where he builds new bikes composed of abandoned parts found in the city that people are throwing away.

I also advise you to have a look at the other projects of Atelier21, the structure managing SolarSoundSystem, as there is a lot about the history of energy and planned obsolescence for example. We also believe that a big part of this responsibility should be put more on governments and companies, as the system we are living in today was mainly created by them, but we believe things are moving in the good direction!

5. What are the brands of products you look to as being sustainable and useful for your work?

We don't want to give any names here, but any brand that is making real efforts to reduce their carbon footprint is already doing good, solutions are appearing at every-level today. Also, we believe it's important to be careful and study well each brand as a lot of green washing is going on.

6. How can fans be greener when attending music events?

Attending events where our sound-systems are present is already a big step, as the public participation in a unique energetic experience, completely disconnected from the grid. There is also something very special regarding the social energy emanating from our events. The enthusiasm and smiles of the dancers and participants is really what drives us! We also advocate the use of reusable cups and ask the participants to keep the dance floor clean.

7. What do you want from events, venues and music companies to become more sustainable?

At the events/venues/festivals organizer's level, we believe that measures should be taken to go toward more environmentally friendly solutions. A lot is happening right now and working with green agencies such as MAINOI is already a big step.

These types of agencies, like us, help events or venue to reduce their greenhouse gases and raise awareness of the public. They are mainly working on the environmental impact linked to visitor transportation and electricity use, which are the two main sources of pollution in events. We also can tell organizers how much electricity has been saved by using our systems. At the end of the day, the energy we save is the energy we don't use!

On the artists' level, it's warming our hearts to see well-recognized bands such as Coldplay or Massive Attack taking initiatives going toward more Eco-friendly tours.

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