GREEN ELBOW GREASE: Enmarket Arena staff sort waste by hand as part of efforts to produce a zero-waste tour opener for Dave Matthews Band, which played the venue in Savannah, Georgia, Nov. 7. (Courtesy Venue)

When Dave Matthews Band set out to begin their fall 2023 tour leg at Enmarket Arena in Savannah, Georgia, on Nov. 7, they had a mission. They wanted their show to be sustainable, and the 9,500-seat venue was up to the challenge.

With a capacity crowd attending the show, venue management partnered with sustainability platform Green Operations & Advanced Leadership (GOAL) to produce a zero-waste concert.
More than 90% of waste produced by the show was diverted from landfill, with 1,798 pounds of compost hand-sorted to decrease methane emissions.

The idea came to be about two months before the show. The venue brought in reusable cups and eliminated all fan-facing single-use plastics, as well as a variety of plant-based food options for those attending the show.

“We have at least two different variations of plant-based food options and vegan or gluten-free vegetarian,” said Yasmeen Badich, the venue’s vice president of marketing. “And they’re keeping [some] fully on the menu moving forward. And there are some vegetarian and gluten-free options as well that they are keeping on the menu, because we see the value in it.”

Since opening in 2022, Enmarket Arena has strived to be an example of what’s possible in sustainable venue operations. The arena utilizes 100% LED lighting, auto-water faucets, reusable souvenir cups, two ORCA “food waste digesters” that that refine food waste into liquid, draining it rather than diverting it to landfill, and electric equipment including forklifts, golf carts and more.

“As a company we see, especially in sports and entertainment, the huge opportunity to influence and change the world for better,” said Kristen Fulmer, head of sustainability at Oak View Group and director of GOAL. OVG360 manages the city-owned Enmarket Arena, “We see our role as implementing positive change as locally as possible. What works in a different market might not make sense in Savannah. We have the ability to be flexible and do what’s best for the community.”

Enmarket and GOAL also teamed up with Support+Feed, donating 500 pounds of plant-based food to America’s Second Harvest Bank. They also donated $4,000 to Support+Feed to match in-venue plant-based purchases, as well as teamed up with FutureCard to offer cash back on all plant-based meals.

“Having a band like Dave Matthews Band and that caliber of show come to our little venue here in Savannah, Georgia, is huge for us,” Badich says. “We’re very lucky and honored that they would make us a stop on their tour. It was no small thing for us to host them as a venue. Then, on top of that, being the opening night is always huge for us, because that’s also a couple days of rehearsal, which allowed Kristen and I to add some extra stuff on top of the sustainability from an operation standpoint within the venue, and extend that a bit.”

Conservancy is always top of mind for Dave Matthews Band, which has an ongoing partnership with The Nature Conservancy. Since 2020, they have planted 3 million trees, with the current trek bringing the total to 4 million. With a donation of $2 available for purchase on all tickets, fans are also able to participate in the project.
Shortly after the band arrived, they did a cleanup day with the local organization, Geechee River Keeper, where they went down to clean 300 pounds of waste from the watershed with a group of volunteers.

Other sustainable efforts included providing 3,000 free shuttle rides, encouraging alternative transportation as well as prioritized parking for hybrid and electric vehicles owned by show attendees.
Renewable energy credits were utilized to power all show-related electricity consumption, equating to 250 tree seedlings growing for 10 years, according to arena officials. A “Dreaming Tree” was planted on behalf of the band at the arena, which included handwritten notes from fans written on wildflower seed paper.

“From the band’s perspective, they were able to post about this on their social media ahead of the event,” Fulmer said. “So I think it was a moment for them to recognize the beginning of their tour. It was a really great kickoff.”

Fulmer says the event was an example of venues working together with artists directly to meet sustainability goals that further both parties’ goals.

“Of course, being part of the Oak View Group family, both from an operations perspective as well as that direct connection for corporate support like sustainability, we thought this was a really valuable partnership,” Fulmer said. “It’s a way for GOAL to work almost directly with the artist and be the connection between the artist and the operations team. We’ll be looking to do that more in the future. So, not saying, ‘Hey, you need to be a GOAL member to be able to activate sustainability with an artist,’ but we can connect those dots, and this was the perfect opportunity to pilot that.”