Most people know Ryan Miller primarily as the lead singer and guitarist of Guster. But anyone who's followed the band for a while also knows about his (and his band's) commitment to environmental activism. It's as big a part of his life as the music, yet Miller has a somewhat unusual approach to discussing the issues -- a sort of non-judgmental take-it-or-leave-it attitude that leaves fans free to not engage with it if they don't want to. He's also actively involved with the non-profit REVERB, which facilitates eco-conscious collaborations between fans, brands, and other artists like the Barenaked Ladies and the ever-present John Mayer. To date, they've reduced more than 100,000 tons of CO2.
VICE Impact recently sat down with Miller at the Creating Equilibrium conference to discuss the combination of music and environmental sustainability, and the merits of quiet activism.
Ryan Miller: I think it's just making the information available to them. A lot of it is working with local organizations. We want to provide the experience for you and know that this is something that we care really deeply about, and it's available to you if you'd like it. They're not necessarily coming to the show to think about this stuff, so that's why I think we just tread that line very carefully, about how this isn't what people signed up for. But also if you're coming to see us this is who we are, too.
How do you use REVERB to channel that dialogue with your fans?
It's a non-profit started in 2004 by my bandmate Adam [Gardner] and his wife, Lauren Sullivan. It started with our band for how we could help alleviate some of the impact we have by touring in a bus. Once we figured out there's biodiesel, just not even having plastic bottles every day was actually kind of an amazing thing, and using coffee cups [instead]. It's just stupid little things like that kind of all add up.
So the organization started like that and because other friends feel similarly. So we'll send out a REVERB staff member on a Jack Johnson tour all day to coordinate all the activities. There's front-facing stuff for the fans and there's all the backstage stuff [like] the biodiesel. They've done 217 tours so far. They do a campus consciousness specifically for college kids because obviously there's a lot more energy there. It's a lot of volunteering and it's a lot of engagement. That's really what they're after.
How can people get involved?
Reverb.org is a total clearinghouse and a lot of it -- not exclusively, but a lot of it -- is around touring and music. We just had a weekend festival in Portland, Maine, and Saturday morning we did beach cleanup. Adam was there, and our fans can meet other people who are alike.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.