Be Heard: Guitar Center is celebrating artists, brands and organizations that are using music to raise awareness on critical issues facing us all, to help us heal, to bring us together—to make the world a better place.
Jack Johnson has an extensive history of advocating for the environment through his music. In 2008, Johnson and his wife, Kim, created the Johnson Ohana Foundation to support non-profit organizations focused on environmental, art and music education.
“The work these organizations do in their communities is so vital and gives a chance for the community to be a part of environmental solutions,” said Johnson. “We also support music and arts education for kids because, for us, art and music were an important part of growing up and provide a way for young people to express themselves. The arts are also a powerful way to learn about environmental issues and get people talking about creative solutions.”
Johnson's environmental advocacy is present in his music and on the road, as he's worked for over a decade with Reverb to green his tours. Co-founded in 2004 by environmentalist Laura Sullivan and her husband, Adam Gardner of Guster, Reverb partners with musicians, festivals and venues to create and execute comprehensive programs to reduce the ecological footprint of concerts and tours.
“For every tour, we try to take greening to the next level,” said Johnson. “We have been focusing on eliminating single-use plastic from our shows and are working with venues to support sustainable local food through catering and vendors.”
Jack Johnson by Morgan Maassen.
Additionally, Johnson recently helped launch a global BYOBottle campaign, which he said is “bringing together the music industry to turn the tide on plastic pollution by promoting reusable water bottles and water refill stations.”
Johnson encourages other musicians to get involved, too. “Musicians can take steps to reduce the environmental impact of their tours and engage fans to take action around issues they care about, such as climate or clean oceans,” he said. “Artists can join the BYOBottle campaign and ask venues to reduce plastic waste.”
Growing up surfing and playing music outdoors in Hawaii is partly what inspired Johnson to use his platform to help preserve the ocean. “[As] someone who loves the ocean and spends so much time in it, the plastic pollution issue is really close to my heart,” said Johnson.
In 2015, Johnson set sail on the 5 Gyres SEA Change Expedition, led by marine scientist Marcus Eriksen, to study marine debris and further raise awareness about the issue of plastic in the ocean. The trip was chronicled in the documentary The Smog of the Sea, which Johnson helped produce.
“Surrounded by scientists, surfers and ocean activists, we learned that plastic that ends up in the ocean breaks down into smaller pieces, which then look like bits of food to fish,” said Johnson. “The plastic that we think we are ‘throwing away’ is ending up in our food chain. There is no ‘away.’”
Johnson’s experience on the 5 Gyres SEA Change Expedition also inspired some of the music on his 2017 album All the Light Above It Too. “The song ‘Fragments’ was inspired by this voyage,” said Johnson. “At first glance, the ocean looked blue and pristine. But every trawl net that we brought up on deck showed there was microplastic everywhere, like a smog in the sea.”
In recognition of his commitment to environmental advocacy, Johnson was named a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme in 2015.
“The time I’ve spent around the ocean has given me so much that it makes sense to try and give back,” said Johnson.
To learn more about Johnson Ohana Foundation, visit www.johnsonohana.org.