Behind the Scenes of Jack Johnson's Plastic-Free Summer Tour

"All the lights above us, you can see the different colors, all those little bits are from the beaches in Hawaii, which is kind of like a filter out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, collecting all the plastic that's floating in," said musician and activist Jack Johnson to the crowd of cheering fans at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Tuesday night.

The Monday and Tuesday night shows were his first events to be 100 percent free of single-use plastic: no single-use plastic cups or water bottles were for sale at the venue. After both shows, event organizers were stunned to see no garbage anywhere on the ground. How did they do it?

Reducing single-use plastic has been at the forefront of Johnson’s work for over a decade. Johnson, a PPC notable member, has implemented a plastic free backstage since 2005. Since 2007, all shows have offered fans free water through water-refill stations. In 2014, Johnson successfully helped launch a Reusable Pint Program with the Santa Barbara Bowl, which has since inspired venues across the country to follow suit, including the Les Schwab Amphitheatre in Bend, OR, and other venues owned by Live Nation.

The Reusable Pint Program provides fans with an alternative to single-use plastic cups. Fans who purchase this reusable stainless steel cup at venue concessions will receive a discount on all beverage refill purchases for the life of the cup. 

"The idea is to keep the conversation going about where all this plastic is actually ending up," Johnson said of upcycled lights to the crowd on Tuesday night. "It doesn't go 'away' when you throw it away. There is no 'away.' It just ends up in the oceans. It takes thousands of years to break down. So we brought all this plastic, and a lot of it is single-use. And every night at these shows and after people leave, when you see all this plastic on the ground... then I think what are we doing at these shows? So we're trying to get rid of the single-use plastic tonight! If you have a cup hold it up!"

The crowd cheered and Johnson looked out on a sea of red and blue steel cups, cups that were given out for free to attendees of the Santa Barbara Bowl shows. 

"This is the first plastic-free show we've done here," Johnson told PPC in a live video on Tuesday afternoon. "As we left [last night] to see no plastic on the ground, that was a pretty cool sight. Thanks to the Santa Barbara Bowl for working with us. This is the first time we've have no single-use plastic for sale at all."

John Borg, the founder and CEO of Steelys, who creates the steel cups, thanked Johnson for gifting reusable cups to every fan, band member, and member of the crew. Borg praised the Santa Barbara Bowl for embracing change and facilitating the plastic-free shows.

In addition to touring plastic-free, Johnson's summer tour hosts nonprofit organizations in a "village" at each show. Johnson's social action network All At Once, brings together the organizations and helps fans make a positive change in their local and world community. Fans could make a plastic-free commitment, visit the organizations, and get rewarded with free stuff like a reusable steel straw. 

"This collaboration between Kim and Jack Johnson, All At Once, The Santa Barbara Bowl, Reverb, Steelys Drinkware, and all the music fans out there is tremendous and inspiring," said Dianna Cohen, co-founder and CEO of PPC. "Since the founding of PPC in 2009, we’ve seen an arc of change where musicians, artists, venues, merchandize companies, and the promoters are coming together to create more sustainable touring. From our work over the last four years at Bonnaroo, which has saved over 2 million plastic water bottles and cups from landfill, to the tremendous example that Kim and Jack Johnson have created with their plastic-free touring, we are seeing a wave of change!"

Learn how to start a Refill Revolution near you. 

Take the pledge to refuse single-use plastic. 

Thank you Jack Johnson and the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation for matching donations to Plastic Pollution Coalition this month. Donate here.