Going Green

The Jersey Surf studies the benefits of an environmental initiative.

The Jersey Surf Drum and Bugle Corps from Berlin, N.J., revealed in June 2007 their comprehensive environmental-impact project, one of the first made public by a marching organization. The project focuses on reducing carbon emissions, identifying recycling opportunities, determining proper waste disposal, and incorporating environmental service into the corps’ future schedule.

It’s no surprise that marching organizations like The Jersey Surf would begin to look at their environmental impact on the planet. This art form lives by the motto, “Leave a place better than you found it,” and drum corps in particular have been ahead of their time on social and civil issues.

The Environmental Landscape

As political comedian Stephen Colbert has pointed out: “We now know that global warming exists because Al Gore’s movie made money. The market has spoken.”

Venture capitalist John Doerr has been quoted saying, “Going green is the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century.” Many others including three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman have echoed the sentiment.

The California Legislature has read the writing on the wall and passed the landmark AB 32 bill in 2006 to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the state by 25% by the year 2020. What does the state get for its Dudley Do-Right-ing? The Governor’s Climate Action Team estimates an increase of 83,000 new jobs and $4 billion of state income, all while keeping 174 million tons of emissions a year from entering the local atmosphere.

Companies and individuals are also finding that the environmentally responsible policy is also often economically responsible as well. Outdoor clothing outfitter Patagonia saved $800 a year when it decided to remove Styrofoam coffee cups from its offices in favor of hand washing porcelain cups. The company reinvested that money into other larger environmental improvements.

Small Changes, Huge Potential Impact

Back at The Jersey Surf, Eileen Althouse, a five-year visual staff member and environmental engineer specializing in water resources is spearheading the assessment phase of the green initiative of the corps. She sees opportunities at every turn. “There are small things we can do now,” she says. “For example, with a little elbow grease, we can work out a carpooling network for the winter camps. That’s a personal fundraiser for every member involved. If you save five gallons of gas per camp, that’s about $100 you kept during the winter, which is a nice chunk of your tour fee.”

Althouse concedes that other programs won’t be as immediately beneficial to the bottom line. “To buy environmental improvements completely, you have to understand that what goes around comes around,” she says.

Although there may not seem to be an immediate need to reduce the corps’ fleet emissions any lower than the state regulations or find a better way to dispose of wastewater from the food truck “when the need for tighter regulations from the government come, we won’t have to scramble to play catch up, saving money in the long run,” Althouse says.

The point is well taken. Years ago, Brazil mandated that every gas station in the country provide ethanol—fuel made from sugarcane—and every new car produced be built for flex-fuel operations. As Americans feel the crunch on their pocketbooks due to the gas hikes over the last several years, Brazil has come out unscathed, thanks to their self-imposed reduction in fossil fuel use.

While The Jersey Surf should be applauded for being the first marching organization to go public with a green initiative, the real environmental strides are still out there to be made. Which company will be the first to come out with truly nontoxic field paint? Which marching organization will enact a World War II level recycling drive? Which drum corps will be the first to put a solar cell on their food truck? It’s all inevitable—the market has spoken.

For more information and periodic updates on The Jersey Surf’s environmental initiative, visit www.jerseysurf.org.

About author

Chris Previc

Chris Previc is a marcher. He is the author of  “The Student’s Guide to Marching,” a book steeped in the idea that the power of education belongs in the hands of each individual. Chris also contributes essays and audio readings to the MarchingEdu.com project, a website dedicated to the development of the educational community of the marching art form.