As hundreds of electronic audio equipment manufacturers and music merchants meet from all over the world this weekend at the NAMM show 2015, many of us are getting excited about the newest of the new and waiting with baited breath to see what manufacturers will soon be shipping all over the world into the homes, studios and bedrooms of countless music lovers.
For those passionate about music it is always a great experience drooling over web pages, Twitter streams and YouTube videos of the latest and greatest devices. But as we get caught up in all the excitement and hullabaloo, are we possibly overlooking one of the most important factors that might eventually be responsible for changing the face of DJ equipment, and the mass production of our plastic toys of creativity?
DJ Industry Pollution
It’s currently no joke that China has the worst case of air pollution in the history of our time on this planet. Their environmental laws, until very recently, seemed almost non-existent, allowing for unchecked growth and for manufacturers to maintain the output they have been accustomed to for so long now.
Our entire planet uses China to produce their goods at a cheaper rate than most other places can, allowing companies to maximize their profits, which is causing products to be mass produced and shipped all over the world, contributing to even more pollution. I only recently discovered that the famous UK brand Allen & Heath had moved part of their operations to China also.
Just because the manufacturing of these goods occurs in a country that, to most of my readers, is across a large stretch of water, doesn’t make it any more justifiable, than if the pollution was in our own back yard.
It’s like having an area of a swimming pool roped off for everyone to urinate in. The entire pool will be affected by this corner of murky yellow effluent, and you definitely wouldn’t want to stay in that area for very long.
After 25 years of no environmental law changes for China, a new set of laws came into power as of January 1st 2015 which allows the government to detain company bosses for upto 15 days if they don’t complete an environmental assessment. Whether this is effectively implemented, is yet to be seen, along with the questionable strength of the new laws, but this could be a potential turning point for our unchecked production of countless products output by a country shrouded in cancer causing smog.
Potential for Change
The astonishing fact; that breathing the air in the City of Linfen China is the equivalent to smoking 3 packs of cigarettes a day; inspires me to take a look at what we, as a world community of DJ’s, can do to improve the lives of our fellow humans who have to live in these appalling and inhumane conditions.
Now, it’s not feasible to simply stop production, or to give up our creative passion of music; that would be too big of a shift to usher in and isn’t a realistic solution. What I feel needs to happen is that, we the people, start to ask questions of our favourite brands. We need to start demanding more sustainable production methods and more eco friendly materials to be used in the production of our DJ equipment.
It’s impossible to ignore the fact that our environment is very high on the list of important and urgent areas of society that we need to improve upon. Awareness is increasing though, which can be seen in the emergence of environmental groups, the changes in oil prices and the constant pleas from scientists; encouraging us to move towards sustainable and renewable energies.
Some companies and Countries are leading the way:
- Google, Facebook and Apple are using huge solar farms to power their production sites and data centres.
- Tesla is the forward thinking electric car company, being closely followed by many others.
- Scotland has implemented the world’s first commercial wave powered generator, hoping to eventually power 750,000 homes.
- Germany’s renewable energy sector provided more power than fossil fuels in 2014.
Change is here and the shift is happening. So why can’t the music manufacturing industry also step up their game and continue to create amazing products, yet moving forward with new materials, new production methods and longer lasting products?
What ARE DJ manufacturers Doing for the Environment?
I have tried to find information on a few of the most well known DJ equipment manufacturers in the business:
- Native Instruments and
- Allen & Heath
Pioneer was the only company displaying information regarding their Social & Environmental responsibility, and whilst it appears more could be done, it was pleasing to see what they have been doing.
Without going in to too much detail here, Pioneer set up the “Pioneer Environmental Conservation Committee” back in 1991, and since then, seem to pride themselves on making products that use the least amount of electricity as possible, whilst attempting to build in a worthwhile product life cycle.
They have also purchased their own forest in 2005 known as “Pioneer Forest” near Kamakita Lake in Saitama Prefecture, Japan and have been conducting conservation there for the past 8 years. Thinning the forest resulted in making some benches that were donated to Tendo City.
Pioneer have also been planting trees in China, supporting children’s charities, donating used cell phones and partaking in various other activities related to days such as “Earth Day”.
Whilst all of these actions are commendable, we really need to understand if their actions truly do counter their huge demand on resources and their massive carbon output?
Pioneer’s environmental impact can be found on their site, explaining that their greenhouse gas emissions related to their output, during the planning, design and production stages only; have dropped over the last 3 years, to 103,000 tonnes per year. Looking at the full details however shows that there is way more to it and that there is definitely room for improvement. This figure doesn’t include distribution, input, waste or water use.
There is no mention of moving to renewable energies or changing their materials, or even any attempts to reduce their targets. They are simply committing to setting their targets to match that of 2014.
Perhaps all their environmental jargon is simply lip service written by lawyers to mitigate damages and to appease the environmentalists? After all, their activities in the forest counted for a grand total of 4.34 tonnes of carbon absorption per year; a drop in the ocean considering the 100’s of thousands of tonnes the company is responsible for emitting.
Can Individuals Foster Change?
Whilst it is inevitable that the industry will soon have no choice but to move towards a more sustainable business model, we can still encourage them to do so more quickly.
Despite the fact that I have focused on the companies here, we do not remain powerless to creating changes of our own. We have the freedom of choice and we still live in a world where money talks. If this topic is of interest to you (and as you’re still with me, I assume it is) then you can take it upon yourself to research this topic and choose to hand your money to the manufacturer who’s values align most with yours.
We all know that the industry listens to what we want. We can see that in the products that are released.
- We asked for controllers that don’t require a laptop and we got one.
- We asked for a replacement turntable for the legendary Technics; and we got one, infact two.
- We mentioned that we might not need jog-wheels, so they took ’em away!
They Listen! – So now it’s time to demand a more socially responsible product, a more sustainably produced product, a product that is not subject to any conflict.
As an individual we can downsize, we can create small solar or battery powered DJ setups. Using an iPad instead of a laptop uses even less power, if that’s your thing?
Due to the size of the world DJ community, we have the potential to make huge changes. I have so far written to Native Instruments, Pioneer and Allen & Heath, expressing my views and giving them an opportunity to comment on this topic. No comment has yet been received prior to publishing.
If we continue to ask our favourite brands what they are doing to give back to the planet, we will undoubtedly encourage them to make the move in the necessary direction.
I’m not even gonna mention the carbon footprint of jet-setting DJ’s – I think I’ll leave that one for another day!
If you would like to see a move towards a more socially and environmentally responsible DJ industry, then share this article, write to your brands and together we can create the world we want to live in.