MMR Special Report: The Greening of an Industry
|About This Special Report
Months of research and scores of interviews went into this feature, and we solicited input from our readership on this in our e-newsletter. If we missed you or you have some related news to share, e-mail Kevin Mitchell at KMitchell@symphonypublishing.com.
The response to this special report has been overwhelming. From the largest companies to the smallest retailer, everyone seems to be running, not walking, toward the renewable and the sustainable. It’s all about the carbon footprint, being more environmentally conscious.
But as energy costs spiral up to record levels, efforts to green aren’t just altruistic. “Let’s not mince words about all this,” says Sam Ash COO Sammy Ash bluntly. “It saves money, too.” While historically this is the third energy crisis causing sharp increases in energy costs the country has experienced since the 1970s, this time around it seems to having a much sharper impact.
“In the early 1990s there was a green movement, but now people are more concerned about it because politicians are talking about it more,” says Jim D’Addario. “Back then we were coming off the ‘depleting ozone’ era, and we overcame the use of hair spray cans for example. But to really conserve, it does require us to pay attention to it, and requires extra work for management to figure it out.”
Yet it’s one thing for a manufacturer to want to adhere to pure ecological concerns, but will the customers come? Musicians seem likely to already be environmentally aware, but as Bob Taylor likes to point out, if someone wants a rare Brazilian rosewood guitar he or she wants the guitar, period. Doesn’t matter the price, doesn’t matter how rare it is.
No one has accused the current hoopla for the need to conserve as a mere trend. It’s an issue that’s not going away, and as MI manufacturers and retailers alike turn their creative energies to the problem, no doubt progress will continue.
“Quite a while ago we had the realization that the traditional woods we know and love were getting rarer and more expensive,” says Chris Martin of Martin Guitars. Years ago Martin had the luxury of selecting wood not just for structure, but for asthetic, rejecting good wood just because of the way it looked. “Back in the 1990s, we saw prices going up, and we thought it was silly to reject wood with blemishes.” But Martin says they got push back from dealers and players about guitars with slight blemishes. This is despite that they were still making guitars available made from the best of the best wood.
“I don’t mean to be factious, but if someone says ‘I want the guitar made of the best wood,’ then I say he or she should buy a Martin D 45, because that’s still made from the best wood on the planet. Unfortunately, these people cutting down rosewood and mahogany didn’t think to replant the trees because they thought there was enough of it not to worry about it.”
But the famed D45 come with a hefty price tag not all can afford, and there are still a lot of guitars to make. “So the next step was to look at non-traditional wood, and find some wood that that can be sustainable.” Martin found a cherry tree farm that knew not to cut it all down together. Still cherry is not always an easy sell.
“During colonial times cherry was called ‘American mahogany,’” he says. “But still, we had pushback. No, it doesn’t sound quite like rosewood or mahogany, but it is still great.” Other changes are in the works too. “You’re going to see guitar makers using smaller pieces of wood. So you’ll see not just a two-piece back, but also a four-piece top. It’s inevitable.”
With a 175-year history, Martin has perspective. It’s not an accident that people started making guitars out of rosewood, mahogany, and spruce. “Guitar makers did pick the best wood, and they are the best sounding guitars, I admit that,” he says. “But we’re splitting hairs between some of these woods. You have to be an aficionado to tell the difference in some cases.”
And the competition for quality wood is not just other guitar makers: “They make caskets out of mahogany!” he says, shaking his head. “What’s a better use for that wood, a guitar or a casket? Sure the casket maker would make the argument otherwise …”
The quality of Martin guitars made from other wood involves a more creative way of making the guitar. The process is different, the guitars are made thicker, and there are experiments with finishes. At the end of the day, it all has to live up to the Martin name.
“The Martin guitar company has done a wonderful job convincing people to buy our product because of our tradition,” he says. “Let’s not deny that. An authentic reproduction of dreadnaughts of the 1930s and 1940s are the holy grail of guitar making,” and that will always be a part of the Martin line. “I always chuckle about some of these ‘innovations’ because I’m a car buff, and I like to point out ‘modern’ T-Birds and Mustangs … what were they thinking? Make them look like the old ones!”
Not everything works: Martin actually did a prototype of a bamboo guitar among other experiments. “The oddest thing is we have a patent for a guitar with an aluminum top, and once people get over that it’s Martin made with aluminum, they realize it’s great – sounds great, plays great. But at first it’s like, ‘Oh my God, Chris has gone crazy.’”
Zuni Custom Guitars
Michael Blank knows more than a little about this issue. He used to supply wood to many major guitar industry companies before starting Zuni Custom Guitars. Now he takes a do-it-yourself approach.
“As these large companies draw on large massive amounts of wood I felt it would be better to build guitars out of the wood that we cut,” he says. “An analogy would be it’s better to own the diamond mine than the jewelry store. We have operated a portable band saw mill for years and strictly cut fancy maples such as curly, birdseye and quilted, among others.”
The company is based in Alto Pas, Ill., and produces about a dozen guitars a month.
“We strictly make our guitars out of North American hardwoods that are readily sustainable and not on any endangered list. We stay away from all the tropical hardwoods that are so prevalent in the music industry today.” Zuni doesn’t even put plastic on their guitars – all pickup rings and cover plates are made out of sustainable figured maple, and most of the knobs and tuners are made out of elk or deer antlers that are shed naturally, and then gathered by Zuni employees during an amiable walk in a nearby woods.
And it’s not surprising that with a name like “Sierra,” this line of guitars is earth-conscious. “Sierra is a guitar brand that supports eco-friendly causes by incorporating recycled paper in its packaging, hangtags, soundhole labels, catalogs, and manuals,” says Laura Pilcher, marketing manager for Musicorp, maker of the guitar line. “Sierra’s use of all-natural wood bindings and soundhole inlays, along with the use of a thinner finish coat which reduces the amount of spray into the environment, promotes a more natural-looking guitar with a more natural resonation and sound.”
U.S. Music Corp
U.S. Music Corp recently announced the Timeless Timber Series of Washburn and Parker guitars which will be made from virgin wood that has been recovered from the Great Lakes region. The origin of these guitars dates back 500 years. During the 1800s first-growth maple was harvested and sent on rafts to industrial cities. Along the way, several of the rafts sank and the timber was forgotten. The icy water of Lake Superior preserved the wood. Today, over one hundred years later, the timber has been recovered and is being used to produce high-quality guitars for Parker and Washburn.
Lace Music has introduced a replacement bass pickup, the Aluma P. “These new Aluma P pickups are a system, in that they will not only work with a traditional four string bass, but by rearranging them they can work for five and six string bass applications as well” says Jeff Lace, vice president and designer of the Aluma P. Formally introduced for Earth Day, the revolutionary Aluma P and Alumitone family of pickups use 95 percent less copper wire then standard pickup designs. By reducing the need for copper, it saves resources, reduces open pit mining and the very high energy need for converting copper ore to fine wire. It also eliminates the need for a battery powered pre amp. Batteries are laden with highly toxic chemicals and most often find themselves in landfills.
Gibson now has a global relationship with Live Earth in the campaign to combat global warming and has created of 25 exclusive, environmentally friendly custom guitars with the Live Earth logo emblazoned on the front. The limited edition acoustic guitars were signed by artists performing at the official Live Earth concerts on July 7, 2007, and, ultimately, auctioned off to benefit Live Earth and the Alliance for Climate Protection.
The round-shouldered dreadnought Live Earth Guitar is based on the J-45 Gibson acoustic. The body and neck of the guitar are constructed using rainforest friendly, FSC Certified mahogany.
Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz is also personally involved in this issue, and he’s spoken out on the subject often. But he ultimately points out that even a supply from a sustainable forest will be less than the demand, so alternative materials being used for guitars are inevitable.
Modulus Guitars in Novato, Calif. is in the forefront of experimenting with alternative woods from sustainable forests and other materials. Working with SoundWood and Eco Timber (a company devoted to timber operations from sustainable forests), Modulus is now crafting its electric guitars and basses using non-endangered woods such as granadillo, chechen, red cedar, chakte kok, and soma. These woods are not only exceptionally good for instrument construction, but they also come from sustainable forests. Sustainable forestry, or ecoforestry, balances economic and ecological needs, and aims to preserve the integrity of healthy, self-perpetuating forests.
Modulus is rapidly reaching its goal of constructing 100 percent of its instruments using non-endangered wood from sustainable forests. The Modulus “green guitars” are used by well-known musicians and groups like Bob Weir (former guitar player for the Grateful Dead), Pearl Jam, Chris Isaak Bank, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The Rolling Stones.
This year with great fanfare, First Act unveiled the all Bambusa, made of bamboo, touted as the most renewable natural resource on the planet as it grows especially fast and in many places. No traditional wood at all is used for the body and the neck of the Bambusa, but rather the instrument is made of densely laminated bamboo, which, combined with its water-based natural matte finish and food safe glue. Nearly all of the hardware and electronics are made from recycled or salvaged parts. Even the exterior finish and paint were chosen for their low toxin emission.
Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars recently returned from yet another trip to the Alaskan wilderness. Taylor, along side of Gibson, Martin, and Fender, and in association with Greenpeace, the Forestry Stewardship Council, and the Native American logging company Sealaska, is making an especially concentrated effort to save the remaining Sitka spruce forest in the Pacific Northwest.
“Most spruce that makes it into guitars comes from Sealaska, which are private tribal lands,” Taylor explains. “They own 300,000 acres, of the Tongass’ 17 million acres, and have harvested it for 35 years,” depleting many of the old big trees. Currently there’s discussion involving another 80,000 acres, which they are owed, and if the federal government sees it Sealaska’s way, they will have some more old growth forest in their inventory.
Taylor says Sealaska has done an impressive job managing the second growth of the trees. “After a plot is clear cut it regrows on its own, 3,000 trees per acre grow back naturally. After 16 years of growth Sealaska thins each acre to 200 trees. This allows trees to grow fast and straight.” The additional land they have chosen would give them plots that would ’round out’ their inventory. But they need 20 years of harvestable trees to bridge them to their goal. Then, in 20 years time they would have a perpetual farm of forest managed on an 85-year cycle. In other words, there would be plots of trees covering each age group form zero to 85 years.”
While there are honest disagreements involved with these trees, which is where so much of Taylor’s wood comes from, Taylor stresses, “there are no good guys and bad guys” in this story, but many people wanting what is best environmentally. Greenpeace, the Musicwood Coalition, Sealaska, and guitar makers are respectfully working together (Taylor says that his experiences have given him even greater respect for the people at Martin and Gibson, among other makers).
“The guitar makers need old growth trees,” he states. “Eighty-five years doesn’t grow a guitar tree as we know it. Guitars are an issue, but the health and welfare of the forest and the economy of the people who derive their living from the forest are a bigger issue. We are willing to look at new ideas.”
If Sealaska doesn’t get that additional acreage there will be trouble getting quality guitar wood off the current landscape, although Taylor always seems to manage, he says. But these issues will be pressing harder with each year. The wood is essentially gone or locked up in litigation or as wilderness or on National Forest which is a lousy supplier to small private enterprise like the guitar market.”
Taylor says that currently Sealaska and The Musicwood Coalition are examining opportunities to prolong the supply of old growth trees that are acceptable for guitars. Some of this is just hard to get to, and one possibility would be to use heavy lift helicopters to individually harvest trees, and perhaps be able to buy selective trees from the National Forest.
“It’s important to note the need for Sealaska to maintain a sustainable business presence in this region. No matter what people think about harvest trees, we all need to use trees and the regions that provide the trees rely on the economy.”
He points out that Taylor does a lot to use all the wood. “The NT neck was designed to make a better neck also addressing the use of the wood. With this neck, mahogany can now be cut simply and in the most primitive of fashion, allowing very local and primitive tribes in the jungles of South America to harvest a sustainable yield of trees for us. The design of the neck allows this practice. This is but one example.”
As for the future, it’s now, and it involves exploring other woods he says. “Six or seven years ago nobody made good guitars using sapele or ovangkol. Taylor introduced these woods on the 300 and 400 series. These woods are abundant and make very good guitars.
“The future is in the hands of us guitar makers who, every day, solve the problems of dwindling supply. Yes, wood will increase in price, because essentially wood has been ‘mined’ for centuries, simply taking what nature has grown. Be prepared to see things change slightly here and there. The changes will evolve. There will be evolution and a migration into the future such that people will be fine and be able to accept it.”
Taylor doesn’t consider using synthetic materials for guitar making. “These are often called ‘renewable’ but so is wood. If one were to accept a fake material, then why wouldn’t one accept a different wood species or a four-piece top or a grade that is different than we are used to? Fact is: wood makes the best guitars. I’ll always use wood.”
The Final Frontier? Breedlove Guitar
Or, how about genetically modified super trees capable of creating amazing guitars in a single bound?
Breedlove Guitar’s Peter Newport states: “We’ve hired a company to do research into tree genetics, and one of our plans is to continually find seedlings from figured trees and create propagated figured tone woods.” These would grow faster, richer, and specifically for guitars.
Meanwhile, they instituted a program called Breedlove Adopt-A-Forest where employees and local teens go out and plant more trees to offset their carbon footprint. “We are already extremely aware of environmental issues, a fact that is reflected in our lifestyles and habits,” he says. “But we realize we can do much more to decrease our energy consumption, decrease direct and indirect CO2 emission, and increase livability.”
In addition to that they have switched company cars to hybrids, provide bonuses to employees who carpool, and have a wood recycling program that redirects scrap wood to better uses, among other initiatives.
But mostly, it’s the trees. “Some trees take a minimum of 60 years to mature … we just gotta plant more trees!” he laughs.
“Vic Firth has been concerned about the environment before it was fashionable to do so,” says Mark Dyke, director of marketing and sales. “In 1992, Vic Firth was the first company to package paired sticks in the paper matchbox sleeves now used throughout the industry,” eliminating unfriendly plastic bags. “Vic back then was concerned about all this plastic and where it ended up.”
At the facility in Newport, Me., there have long been many green procedures in place. All the water and saw dust used in the grinding process is recycled through a de-watering filter press, and the water is removed and reused while the sawdust is used as fuel. “We are currently recycling 10,000 gallons of water per hour.”
They purchase their wood from the Forestry Stewardship Council registered suppliers whenever possible, and encourage their large vendor base to participate in the program. “With a grant from the state of Maine, we rewired our motor controls in the kilns and installed energy efficient motors and vents,” Dyke adds. “This has saved us a considerable amount of electricity over the past three years. And we’ve not had to fire up our back-up oil using boiler because of the improved efficiency.”
Not even the dust escapes scrutiny – a state-of-the-art dust collection system eliminates any sawdust getting in the atmosphere and instead is used for fuel. “Our manufacturing team is always trying to improve our use of water and energy,” he says. “A better process leads to a better product as well.”
And an extra marketing tool, too. Dyke says in their next catalog they will share their emphasis on lowering their carbon footprint with their customers. “But first, we do what we do because it’s the right thing. But the main point is that all these things we’ve done has meaning beyond what happens in our building. Today you have to look beyond your own four walls. Actions taken really do ripple out through partners, suppliers, and customers.”
It’s all getting noticed, too. Just this past February Vic Firth received the Maine Wood Product Association’s 2008 Pine Tree Award, which is awarded each year to a Maine-based wood products manufacturing company.
“KHS, which makes Mapex drums among other products, has done quite a lot in this area,” says Miles Chen of KHS. He explained that the Chinese Government has two different sets of regulations – one for domestic manufacturers, and one for foreign companies. “The standards for foreign companies are much higher.”
For Mapex, the factory creating their products is the first to have an onsite wastewater treatment facility. “We renew it as the capacity of the factory grows,” Chen says. “And all the glue we use for the shells contain very low levels of formaldehyde.” How the product is moved through the production line is arranged in such a way that there is no fueled derrick car needed. “The almost zero [fuel] used in filling a container for shipment not only benefits KHS customers in terms of the cost of our product, but the overall ability to consumer less energy is good for all of us.”
This attitude is continued on every level, from unplugging equipment when not in use, intense recycling efforts, and implementing new software that allows for conservation of paper.
“All the paper that is printed, the phone calls made, the duration the lights are on, can all be monitored on the computer,” Chen says. “And every month each unit receives the records so we’re constantly re-evaluating and setting new goals for conservation.”
Minimum Carbon Footprint
“Being located in the wilds of beautiful eastern Canada, Sabian has always been a strong supporter of the environment,” says Sabian spokesman Ben Mann. “We take great pride in both our cymbal making and our minimal carbon footprint.” Sabian even dedicates a page on their website to tout their successes. Some of the policies Sabian enforced many years ago in an effort to stay green include:
They create their own bronze to last a lifetime. If a cymbal does break, that metal is fully recyclable.
They recycle metal created in the sizing, lathing, edging, and other cymbal making steps.
Water used in cymbal making is filtered to remove any impurities before being reused.
“To conserve energy, heat from our cymbal vents is used to heat the buildings during our long Canadian winters,” he adds. Also Sabian has partnered with the Vans Warped Tour on their Sabian Dream Spot Contest, and Vans is promoting a “Green Tour,” and raising awareness on their initiatives and programs, which Sabian is also supporting.
Remo has also been awarded for their environmental efforts. Last year they were one of five companies to receive the WOTY (WRAP of the Year) by the Waste Reduction Awards Program (WRAP) recognizes California businesses that have made outstanding efforts to reduce non-hazardous waste and send less garbage to the landfills.
Remo employs a recycling consultant to help them reduce, reuse, and recycle. In 2006, Remo recycled 420 tons of plastic, cardboard, paper, metal, and shipping supplies. They also recycled 158 tons of leftover PET-Mylar scrap from manufacturing drumheads, which is enough to fill eight shipping containers. Their finished drum shells, including the drum kits seen on stages around the world, contain 100percent recycled fiber. The company has also revamped the way they package their products, resulting in the creation of an internal re-use program that reduced the need to buy and dispose of cardboard.
Meanwhile, at Latin Percussion (LP), every single wood conga, bongo, and djembe is made from plantation grown wood. “The sape from the tree is used to make latex rubber,” says LP’s Jim Rockwell. “Only when the tree has stopped producing the sap is the tree cut down, and then every tree is replaced. LP has been producing wood drums this way for over 25 years.”
He adds that Toca congas and bongs are created the same way, produced in Indonesia but made from mahogany instead of Siam Oak. Some make drums from material sold from the suspicous “white vans” which are typically filled with illegally harvested wood and do not make sure that the wood is free from infestation and disease. This is serious as there have been several recent cases of African djembes tainted by anthrax.
Paiste’s efforts to cut back on paper use include their “My Own Catalog” feature located on their website. This allows consumers to retrieve only what they specifically want out of the catalog as opposed to printing out the entire thing. A dealer can also use their “Sound Room” feature to create a personalized retailer catalog that shows only the Paiste products that his or her store is carrying.
Then there is Trick Drums. Here’s Michael Dorman pitch: “Often times when radically new products are brought to market that defy conventional thinking, people react with skepticism, and understandably so. For a moment I urge you to put aside any preconceived notions about what a metal shell drum set will sound like and give Trick Drums a chance to captivate you.”
Dorman, president and CEO, says that while all metal drums are a bit unconventional for the drum industry, one thing he’s banking on is that drummers themselves are unconventional,
“especially when it comes to obtaining the best performance and sound possible.” The drums are manufactured using a special resonant alloy “AL13″ which comes certified from the mill and guarantees the same hardness and thickness of every drum shell. He says they are more resonant than wood, and more consistent than wood … more important for the sake of this topic, by definition, “no trees were harmed” during the making them.
“We’re the greenest company out there,” Dorman says.
Timpani’s New Big Bang
Yamaha’s Band and Orchestra Division has come up with the 3100 Series Timpani, which is a replacement for the popular 3000 series of portable timpani. It is the first of its kind to use environment-friendly aluminum bowls.
“By using the renewable resource of aluminum in the bowls and eliminating the need for fiberglass, Yamaha is able to provide a consistent high-quality instrument that honors our commitment to sound while helping to preserve the environment,” says Troy Wollwage, marketing manager. He adds that being such a large company making so many products has advantages, and one is that since they make many things beyond just musical instruments allows them to have access to a pool of knowledge that “is wide and deep. For example, the fiberglass used in the 3000 series timpani is also used in making bathtub products in Japan.”
But that fiberglass isn’t environmentally friendly. “It’s hard to recycle, so we came up with something different, something that produces even a better sound.” The aluminum bowls now used to make the 3100 series are better for many different reasons. “If they get dented, they can be easily repaired.” Right now the 4200 series of timpani is using the fiberglass, but they too will soon go to the new aluminum material.
“I’ve seen no resistance to the new series. Percussionist, like other musicians, are always looking for and foremost for their sound, and when new materials and processes are used to make an instrument, it sparks a lot of interest. Look at drum sets. There are many kinds of woods, and all the manufacturers are trying to find different ways to achieve their sound.” And because Yamaha is Yamaha, they have a team of specialist always experimenting in house with wood and metal to come up with better products.
“As our team progressed, we were able to use aluminum, to put it in the shape of timpani, and create a fantastic sound and yet also be environmentally friendly. But the social responsibility aspect wouldn’t matter if the sound weren’t great. We’re fortuned we found a way to take this aluminum and create a drum with a fantastic sound. That’s what is important.”
None of this “going green” stuff is new to the D’Addario Company. Just some of their programs include:
Player Points program. Starting in the 1990s, all D’Addario packages (now all D’Addario brand products) were marked with a Players Points. Consumers collect the packages (and points) and exchange them for more D’Addario goods.
Colored ball ends. This eliminated guitar string packaging that featured seven envelopes – one envelope for each string, plus one envelope to put the six other envelopes in. The colored ball ends each mark the note of the string and only one package is used to file the strings.
The company recycles all scrap wire and film used in the drumhead making process.
All packaging and printing is done with soy ink.
Jim D’Addario’s feelings about all this go way back to when he was a beginning player. “It always bothered me that every time I changed my strings, I had a pile of garbage to throw out,” he says. Then in the late 1970s, the company moved their print shop out of the factory to a place that was near a landfill. D’Addario now had a visual and “aromatic” reminder of the problem every working day.
D’Addario’s colored ball program was not for the faint of heart, though. “Sure, we heard complaints,” he admits. “Players said they couldn’t see what string to change if they were in a dark club, for instance. You try to anticipate complaints.” Undeterred, the company simply created two versions of a product – one packaged the traditional way, the other the more environmentally friendly way, with the latter costing a $1 less. “Eventually everyone got it.”
Initially there was no savings for the company. “It took us three years, but we ended up saving 30 percent in labor costs. But I believe it’s the right way to go. I’m surprised how what we do it isn’t copied more. This year we’ll do 17 million sets of strings in environmentally-friendly packaging, and so now our efforts have been very successful.” He adds sales overall has gone up over the years, and now they get compliments for their packaging.
Internally, they collect scraps of metal used and sold to a scrap metal company, and for 20 years people in their office have had a recycling bin at every workstation. But the efforts never stop. “One concern is the clear vinyl pouch,” he adds. “Obviously we were using those by the millions. Now we have a program that if you send ten of those back to us, you get a free T-shirt. And we reuse them.
“So we’ve been doing all these kinds of things for 25 years, and in a small way, I think it’s had an impact.”
For John Maher, marketing director of Reunion Blues, their location has put them in the green mindset. “We’re just north of San Francisco, so all this is no big deal,” he says. “Up here, conservation is a cultural thing.” He adds that having Brad Paley join the company has been a big step because he came from a company who worked in sustainable materials creating hats, T-Shirts, etc.
“We’re in the early stages of working on new products that use sustainable materials, and we have a couple of initiatives in the works already,” says Dave Andrus, director of product development. “We’re looking at using more natural fibers, and we have a guitar strap made of real wool – all 100percent natural fiber marino wool. It’s the most comfortable guitar strap in the world.” He adds that they’ve been exploring a lot of material, including hemp and bamboo.
“We’re very committed to this, and this isn’t an end for us, but just the beginning,” Andres says.
Leather may not at first seem to ecologically friendly, but Maher makes the case that its durability makes it environmentally friendly. “It’s so protective, and it lasts for ever. People who have a passion for instruments insist that only leather will do.” In a 25 year period, the musician will likely still be using his or her leather case and it’ll still be in great shape; but that same musician could have gone through 10 nylon bags in that same time.
Even Driving To and From Work …
“Most of what we are doing is behind the scenes,” says Cavanaugh president Jim Cavanaugh. ” Yes, have moved to friendlier packaging, but the real question is how one gets to the new friendlier packaging. If you don’t care how your product is made, then what good is it to just show the consumer that you have eco-friendly packaging?” Cavanaugh company is the parent company of Red Label Strings, Super-Sensitive Strings, Black Diamond Strings, and Bari Reeds and mouthpieces.
“For the past 40 years my father and grandfather Vince have been running their cars on propane. They said that was great during the 1970′s with all of the gas rationings because they didn’t have to wait in lines plus it was better for the car due to the fact it ran hotter and cleaner. Almost every area of the country can take advantage of renewable energy technologies, but some technologies are better suited for particular areas than others.”
He says the success of using renewable energy system is dependant on geographical location. While their company is located in sunny Florida, solar energy is not the best, as opposed to Arizona, where it is. “However, we are researching solar into other forms of energy. Right now we are in the process of evaluating geothermal for our A/C units. This is where we take cool water from deep into the ground and pump it through the units and then pump the heated water back into the ground.”
At their factory one also finds 3M film on windows to reduce heat; machinery with motors that require fewer amperes; tubular skylights; and more. “Now wouldn’t it be amazing if China and other countries took the same attitude,” he adds. “Maybe then we would have more of a fair playing field when it comes to manufacturing.”
Vandoren Reeds, distributed by DANSR, is on the forefront of this issue as well, from president Bernard Van Doren driving a hybrid car to a section on the company’s environmental impact being featured prominently on page one of the company’s Web site.
“We have also been concerned about environmental issues,” Van Doren explains. “The cane used to manufacturer our reeds is 100 percent natural, and we use no fertilizers or pesticides during it growth, so no chemical components are involved in the transformation from cane to reeds. Any leftover cane is completely reused as either compost or for fuel for the boiler that heats our factory. Our high performance boiler gives off only water vapor and CO2 into the atmosphere, and the CO2 in of plant origin, not fossil Fuel, so in no way contributes to the greenhouse affect.”
And today their reeds packaging is 100percent recyclable. The new box is used from trees planted expressly for paper production, so they aren’t contributing to deforestation. “Moreover, trees are systematically replanted in each section as they are felled.”
Conn-Selmer wants you to know that their Legere Synthetic Woodwind Reeds are made completely from renewable resources. Dr. Guy Legere and Dr. Mark Kortschot founded Legere Reedsin 1998 for the sole purpose of producing state-of-the-art woodwind reeds. Like most woodwind players, Legere was frustrated using cane reeds and wanted to develop an alternative reed type that had the same characteristics as traditional reeds. He approached Kortschot, who was a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Toronto, and together, they designed a new reed and built a modern manufacturing facility to produce the product.
The Legere Synthetic Woodwind Reed is ready to play instantly, lasts for months, and sound warm like great cane reeds. Legere reeds do cost a little more than regular reeds because they are made using a 15 step process that takes two weeks and are precision ground for ultimate quality and reliability.
“Legere reeds represent a huge leap forward in the synthetic reed market,” says Craig Denny, director of marketing for saxophones. “They are perfectly suited for all types of playing and last far longer than a traditional cane reed. As we all know, the quality of cane has steadily declined in the last decade; Legere gives the professional as well as the amateur a viable option while allowing depleted cane fields the opportunity to repopulate.”
Wittner GMBH & Co.
Wittner GmbH & Co. released the Tailpiece Ultra in 1999; the Chin Rest Ultra in 2000; and most recently, the Peg Ultra in 2007. The company says these traditional violin components are made of a high-tech composite material and provide an excellent substitute for rare woods typically used for these parts. The other advantage is that these parts are susceptible to climate and humidity changes, and they are also lighter.
And some violin manufacturers are turning to carbon fiber bows. Companies like Fein Violins, who while they admit pernambuco wood bows tend to produce a warmer sound, also say that the carbon graphite bows are extremely predictable resulting in a great sound. Of course they last longer and hold up better, too.
How Far Can It Go?
So what’s it coming to? A leather free vegan organic hemp guitar strap?
Actually that already exists. Ecolution, based in (not making this up) Transylvania, Romania, offers products that are, according to their Web site “politically, socially, economically, and environmentally responsible.” Also they add that employees get “respectfully treatment, and work in well-heated, and well-lit working conditions.”
The journey continues to see how green the industry can be, and clearly no effort is too small. Or too big.