U2 Tour Has Out of This World Stage -- and Carbon Footprint

Jul 14, 2011 at 9:59 am
click to enlarge U2's spaceship stage as seen in a European stadium. - Image via WikimediaCommons
Image via WikimediaCommons
U2's spaceship stage as seen in a European stadium.
Roadies with U2's "360 Tour" have been at Busch Stadium all week preparing the ballpark for Sunday's show -- said to be the biggest rock concert St. Louis has seen since The Beatles played here in 1966.

On Monday, crews began removing the ballpark's sod to make way for U2's massive, "spaceship" of a stage used for the show. And that got us thinking: Is there anything less "green" (literally) than tearing up grass to accommodate a concert?

The answer: Yes. Especially when it comes to U2's 360 Tour, which in its three years on the road has been criticized as one of the most environmentally unfriendly concert series of all time.

Don't get me wrong. I appreciate U2. Their last journey through St. Louis in 2007 (or was it '06?) was one of the best arena concerts I've ever seen. And the band's donations to worthy causes like fighting AIDS in Africa are certainly admirable. But the band that sings "Pride" just can't well, um, pride itself of the same when it comes to its own environmental impact, even though U2 is reportedly purchasing some carbon offsets to repair the damage. 

When U2 kicked off its 360 Tour in 2009, a British environmental consultant estimated that the band would need to plant more than 20,000 trees to negate the carbon offsets create from that year's leg of the tour.

"Looking at the 44 concerts [in 2009], U2 will create enough carbon to fly all 90,000 people attending one of their Wembley dates (in London) to Dublin," Helen Roberts, with carbonfootprint.com, told the Belfast Telegraph.

Another way of looking at it: U2's carbon-dioxide emissions from the 360 Tour in '09 was the equivalent to the average annual waste produced by 6,500 British people. Since then, U2 has played 32 dates in 2010 and will play 35 shows this year, according to the band's website.

Part of the reason for the band's huge carbon footprint is that the 360 Tour is actually three productions in one. When the band plays St. Louis on Sunday, crews will be dismantling the stage used today for a concert in Philadelphia and setting up another stage to be used in New Jersey for a concert this coming Wednesday.

Flying and transporting those massive stages -- reported to fill 120 tractor trailers -- eats up a lot of fuel, creating a reported 65,000 tons of carbon waste in 2009. Compare that with Radiohead's 2008 tour, in which the British band did everything it could to limit the environmental impact of its travel, and reportedly created just 2,200 tons of greenhouse gases in the process.

Apples to oranges you might say as U2's 360 Tour is arguably one of the biggest and grandest road shows of all time. Still, just something you might want to think about when heading to Busch Stadium on Sunday. We suggest you drive your Prius.