Eco-Rock

Five years ago, Tom Sellars wasn't getting any respect in the music business: His calls rarely got beyond industry secretaries. These days, musicians like R.E.M., Paul McCartney, k.d. lang and Kenny Loggins are listening, because Sellars and former college buddy Michael Martin have combined a vision, a cause and commitment into the Minneapolis-based Concerts For the Environment (CFE). "We're not in the concert business," says Martin, CFE's executive director. "We're in the behavior modification business. We're trying to marshall the music industry's power to create quantifiable social change." CFE wanted to go beyond the traditional benefit show. Martin says, "It should be more than a concert; it should educate people. If all they do is sit there and leave--well, it still raises money, but you need to do more. We use the musicians to focus on issues, to create awareness, to empower people. It's a great non-threatening way to reach people." Helping CFE achieve its ambitious vision are advisory board members like rocker Steve Miller, former 10,000 Maniac lead singer Natalie Merchant and the imposing Peter Garrett of Australia's Midnight Oil. CFE is best known for its annual Earth Day Campaign, which for this year's 25th anniversary on the Mall in Washington drew performances by Boyz II Men, Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Bruce Hornsby, Shawn Colvin and many more. In between the performances were calls to action by people like Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, Fred Krupp of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and environmental attorney Robert Kennedy, Jr. CFE temporarily relocated to Washington for the event. Environmentally sound practices at CFE concerts include on-site recycling, solar-powered backstage sound and lights, use of electric vehicles for concert production, vegetarian concessions and the selling of unbleached organic cotton merchandise. With the help of major supporters like the Surdna Foundation, CFE has raised more than $500,000 in the last two years, with the proceeds going to a dozen environmental organizations, including Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of Earth, Greenpeace and the League of Conservation Voters. "We've done tours with Dan Fogelberg and Mary-Chapin Carpenter," says Mary Hanley of the Wilderness Society. "It's a very novel concept to harness the talents of people and use them to help causes they believe in."Contact: Concerts for the Environment, 126 North Third Street, Suite 308, Minneapolis, MN 55401/(612)338-5485. All-cotton Earth Day concert t-shirts are $15, and available by calling 1-800-951-1666.

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