You would think that with his career accomplishments, Jack Johnson might be kicking back beside his surfboard and stacks of well-earned cash. But the Hawai‘i native isn’t so much counting green as he is going green. At his upcoming two-night stand at the Santa Barbara Bowl on July 17 and 18, every concertgoer can pick up a reusable Jack Johnson souvenir stainless steel pint cup with any beverage purchase, or even just to hold some free water. In an experiment in zero tolerance for single-use plastic, there will be no plastic cups or water bottles sold at either show.
The pint-glass giveaway at the Bowl is just one part of Johnson’s All At Once campaign, which involves area nonprofit environmental organizations, such as UCSB Plastic Solutions, Heal the Ocean, the Ocean Futures Society, and the Community Environmental Council, in promoting plastic-free initiatives, sustainable local food systems, and reduced ocean waste. The Santa Barbara Independent spoke with Johnson recently by phone. What follows is a version edited for length.
What got you started on this issue of reducing ocean waste? I grew up surfing and spent a lot of time in the ocean on different sides of the island that I live on in Hawai‘i. There’s one side — on the east shore of Oahu — where if you cross over the high tide line, it’s just full of plastic. It’s a filter out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It’s accumulated so much plastic that it’s become part of the makeup of the sand.
Just seeing that — and seeing it increase as I’ve grown up — and being part of [the touring] industry that uses a lot of single-use plastic, it’s something that’s been on our mind. And we’ve been working on it a long time.
What’s so special about the Santa Barbara Bowl’s environmental efforts? It’s been a long conversation of how to eliminate single-use plastic at shows. All of the venues we are working with on this tour have upgraded to offering reusable pint cups as an option for concertgoers, and a lot of them are incentivizing people to use them with discounts.
The Santa Barbara Bowl was one of the first to offer them — it worked, and now when I go to shows at the Bowl, I see people with them — so this time we wanted to do something more. This time, they won’t be selling any single-use plastic at the show at all. People can bring their own reusable containers, and there will be water-filling stations around the venue. All the drinks will be served in reusable pint cups, which will be free for everyone at that show. We’re trying to make it really easy, especially at our hometown show, so that everyone has the chance to do it.
What are you most proud of in your musical career? When I put out the first album — I was living in Santa Barbara at the time — I remember telling my wife, “I hope this is somebody’s favorite album.” Even if it’s just one or two people. Even when this became a career, every time I’d put out an album, I would hope that this was somebody’s favorite album.
Do you have any new music coming up? Yes, it was just finished and is coming out in September. It’s called All the Light Above It Too, and I really approached it in a different way. I did most of it alone this time around. I worked with Robbie Lackritz, who has worked with Feist and Bahamas. I brought him in more during the demo process, so I could capture that original spirit on those first times that I take a stab at the songs.
Jack Johnson plays the Santa Barbara Bowl (1122 N. Milpas St.) on Monday, July 17, with ALO, and Tuesday, July 18, with John Craigie, at 6:30 p.m. Call (805) 962-7411 or visit sbbowl.com. For Craigie’s other upcoming shows, visit johncraigiemusic.com/shows.