The renowned concert and festival promoter – a passionate supporter of sustainability and environmental activism – shares the backstory about how he became interested in environmental causes, talks about how he’s greened his venues, and reveals some of the musicians whose environmental actions inspire him.

Please click here to make a concert ticket-level donation that supports The Nature of Music’s work providing listeners like you with something positive to enjoy during these crazy times.

Conservation Value Institute today released Episode 5 of The Nature of Music Podcast, a conversation with renowned concert and festival promoter, Peter Shapiro.

Between 2007 and 2009, I worked with Shapiro as San Francisco Sustainability Producer and then National Sustainability Producer of Green Apple Festival, which was America’s largest Earth Day event at the time. In partnership with Earth Day Network and the Discovery Channel’s Planet Green, we produced major outdoor concerts that included sustainable product marketplaces, clean energy and transport exhibits, speeches by environmental leaders, and volunteer actions that showcased the valuable benefits of climate crisis and “green economy” solutions. Shapiro was a ton of fun to work with – sometimes calling me late at night with ideas of how to make the events more educational and inspiring for fans. He’s a remarkable businessman with a huge heart – and yes he does strike me as a modern day Bill Graham.

During our conversation, we first explored the origins of Peter’s environmental passions, which he traced back to his days owning the legendary New York City live music club, Wetlands Preserve. “Wetlands”, as fans called it, was a music venue AND a center of environmental activism famous for its weekly political gatherings. Known as Eco-Saloon sessions, participants discussed issues ranging from pollution and wildlife conservation to rainforest destruction.

“I didn’t have an early vision, to be honest,” Shapiro said. “I ended up taking over Wetlands after I graduated college…it was started in 1989 by (original owner) Larry Bloch, God Bless him, he’s upstairs, he had the vision.”

“Through a random series of acts”, Shapiro continued later in the story, “I met Larry Bloch when he was after like 6-7 years of creating this home for activists – he did it – and I met him at a time when he wanted to pass it on in like early ’96 end of ’95. I was a film kid, I had made these films on the Grateful Dead, on the road, on tour, so I saw how important that scene was, and Wetlands was the home of that scene in New York...we met and he basically gave me Wetlands – he made it possible, I paid him over time – and in exchange, I committed to continue the activism center and the sustainability efforts they were pushing…so I got turned on by him to combining activism and music in the venue. It wasn’t like it was in my DNA. But what was in my DNA was like, ‘this is important to have a place like this and I want to help continue it’, I told him. And he gave me the keys.”

Speaking about his favorite environmentally oriented songs and lyrics, Shapiro mentioned Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” (noting how he uses the song during a series of children’s’ concerts that he’s been producing), and Jack Johnson’s, “The Three R’s”.

In response to a question from a surprising fan, the energetic promoter told the 2015 story of how he experienced the magical rainbow that mesmerized fans at the Grateful Dead's 50th Anniversary shows in Santa Clara, California. To this day, says Shapiro, he is still stopped by fans who want to know if the rainbow was real.

A second fan asked for Shapiro’s advice on how to influence venues that aren’t yet sustainability-focused to adopt greener practices. The Brooklyn Bowl owner talked about how much easier it is to green a venue today than it was during his Wetlands days – due to advances in both access to and quality of green products. “Now today…the products do exist, and you can find them online. If you’re a venue owner, and you want to run a (green) venue, you can find…from the toilet paper…to the cleaning material for the bathroom – the spray…to the rubber on your stage – we got recycled truck tires for our stage…and I can keep going. Things ARE available. And you can just find it yourself. If you’re willing to do the research, if you’re willing to put the time in…if you’re willing to…make the commitment, make the investment, you know, you can find it, you can do it…By the way, just in the ‘90’s at Wetlands, we wanted to do it, we couldn’t find it. The internet wasn’t there - the ability to find it - much harder. So that’s one positive, I guess, that’s evolved over the last 25 years.”

Shapiro cited use of energy efficient LED lighting as being among the practices that provide the greatest business benefits. “At first it was LED is great, but it’s just like fluorescent bright, you know what I mean? That was at first. But now they’ve got these LED fixtures that can also provide the aesthetic. You used to have to sacrifice aesthetic for the functionality (energy efficiency), but not today…The LED lights can be created with a golden hue…which you just couldn’t do a decade or 15 years ago.”

Another question by sustainability consultant, Beverly Modell, asked Shapiro to share examples of musicians whose environmental actions have inspired him. He pointed to the tour-greening, education and advocacy work of Jack Johnson, as well as the band Guster, whose guitarist, Adam Gardner, founded the music industry sustainability organization, Reverb.

A particularly interesting exchange explored how the lessons society is learning from the COVID19 Pandemic might apply to efforts to solve the climate crisis. I noted that climate scientists are talking about the similarities between COVID-denial and climate-denial (and emphasized how the solutions to BOTH crises offer society valuable economic, health and other benefits). Shapiro replied by pointing out that now it is the people who at first called COVID “fake news” who are dying – and how sometimes that’s sadly what it takes to inspire the types of broad societal changes needed to solve both crises.

Click here to listen to Episode 5 of The Nature of Music, which is also available on podcast apps ranging from Apple Podcasts to Spotify.

And please consider making a concert ticket-level donation to The Nature of Music podcast, which wouldn’t exist without the generous support of listeners like you.

With Gratitude,

Jonathan Gelbard

Conservation Scientist & Host of The Nature of Music

Updated: Jul 9

Tea Leaf Green’s keyboardist/vocalist/songwriter – also a farmer, a winemaker, and a botanist – shares stories about how growing up immersed in Nature inspired the lyrics of songs from The Garden Suite to Kali-Yuga to Smoggy Air.

Please click here to make a tax-deductible donation to The Nature of Music, which relies on the generous support of listeners like you.

Conservation Value Institute today released Episode 4 of The Nature of Music Podcast, welcoming keyboardist and songwriter extraordinaire, Trevor Garrod of Tea Leaf Green.

I first got to know Garrod and Tea Leaf Green during my ecological Ph.D. studies at UC Davis. I was fortunate enough to meet friends of the band and enjoy their early performances at intimate house parties. To put it mildly, we had a lot of fun as Tea Leaf Green launched into an epic run highlighted by sold out shows San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium, a packed showcase at Bonnaroo, and several legendary performances at High Sierra Music Festival.

What drew me to Tea Leaf Green was not only their raucously triumphant rock n’roll concerts, but the band’s meaningful lyrics, many of which are infused with Nature imagery. Take for example a couple of verses from the song, Drink of Streams (Coffee Bean Brown Comes Alive, 2009):

If you’re thirsty drink from me

My toes are tapped to endless springs

Like rooted trees and jealousies

For salty seas of which they dream

So test your eye by meteor

Think with thought of mountain core

Walk the edge of and ocean shore

I’m sure there’s more than this.

I remember once driving back to California from a Colorado ski trip, Tea Leaf Green’s “Looking West” (2010) blasting on my stereo as I cruised across high desert basin and range landscapes:

Go ‘cross the desert and over the mountains

Roll through the valley and into the ocean

Go ‘cross the desert to California

All the way from Baja to the forests of Arcata.

Obviously, I was excited to welcome Garrod as one of our first guests on The Nature of Music podcast, and enjoyed preparing questions for him – including by inviting fans to submit their own (follow The Nature of Music on FaceBook, Twitter and Instagram for opportunities to submit your own fan questions for future guests).

Raised on Cooper Garrod Estates Vineyard in Saratoga, California, Garrod shared memories about how his time studying botany in college profoundly expanded his perspectives before he transitioned to being a full time-musician.

With Tea Leaf Green having recently released its first new album since 2013 (Destination Bound – 2020), Garrod talked about the influence of Nature (and politics) on several of the band’s new songs – including Shelter (a song about immigration), Smoggy Air (a song about climate change), and Before There Were Houses Here (a song that laments the loss of natural habitats to human development).

Asked about another tune that seems to allude to climate change (5000 Acres – 2005, Taught to Be Proud), Garrod recalled sitting in a restaurant while on tour in the Deep South, watching a television news story that inspired his haunting lyrics:

Dirty oil in this engine runs

As 5000 acres burn

5000 acres burn

5000 acres burn in California.

The Tea Leaf Green keyboardist reached deep into his memory to reminisce about how the anthem, Kali-Yuga (2003, Living in Between), was inspired by a book he read nearly twenty years ago:

It’s a long way

Through Kali-Yuga

Age of iron

Cooled in the ocean

And the mountains

Are for exploring

Devils have danced on my doorstep

Angels have sung in my yard

There’s wise men hiding in mountains

While most of us are working too hard.

After a solo performance of Smoggy Air, Garrod answered questions from several fans – encouraging them to absolutely Vote on Tuesday, revealing that he has a new solo album on the way, and sharing tales about the origin of the band’s mythological “Garden Suite” of songs.

As a long-time fan of Tea Leaf Green, this episode was a lot of fun to produce – especially to prepare by exploring Garrod’s remarkable online songbook for ideas of Nature-related questions to ask. I couldn’t help geeking out a bit and guiding the conversation to explore the backstories of some old fan favorites. Garrod didn’t disappoint, sharing never-before heard chronicles that old school (and new) Tea Leaf Green fans are sure to enjoy.

Click here to listen to Episode 4 of The Nature of Music podcast, which is also available on podcast apps ranging from Apple Podcasts to Spotify.

And please consider making a small donation to Conservation Value Institute’s GoFundMe Charity campaign for the The Nature of Music podcast’, which wouldn’t exist without the generous support of music fans like you.

With Gratitude,

Jonathan Gelbard

Conservation Scientist & Host of The Nature of Music Podcast

Updated: Jul 13

Lebo reflects on the influence of Nature on his lyrics and songs, tells the story of a magical experience in the Costa Rican rainforest, and reveals how ALO got its start in college playing “Rainforest Thursdays” at a Santa Barbara pizzeria

Please click here to make a tax-deductible donation to The Nature of Music, which relies on the generous support of listeners like you.

Conservation Value Institute today released Episode 3 of The Nature of Music Podcast, featuring a fascinating conversation between conservation scientist, Jonathan Gelbard (program host) and guitarist Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz of ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra) – a California based band that has built a passionate following through famously fun live shows that “liberate the inner animal” of their fans.

Lebowitz and Gelbard are supporting a GoFundMe Charity Campaign to launch The Nature of Music Fund, which Conservation Value Institute will use to benefit musicians in need during the COVID19 pandemic and help cover the podcast’s production costs.

“We hope that with venues closed and festivals cancelled, music fans will support both The Nature of Music and musicians in need during the COVID19 Pandemic,” said Lebowitz.

“We’re just doing what we can to give something back to our friends in the music industry who bring so much community and joy into our lives,” said Gelbard. “We thought about how we can help musicians during this crazy time when closed concert venues and cancelled tours have left them without a paycheck. The idea came to us to create a virtual ‘venue’ where we partner with musicians to advance conservation and climate crisis solutions. We host GoFundMe Charity campaigns to crowdfund a small payday for their help advancing our mission. It’s a community effort.”


In Episode 3, Lebo shares stories about the influence of Nature on several of ALO’s songs. “You want to express…the things that are on your mind, the things that you’re wondering about, the things that might be troubling you, the things that inspire you and make you happy, and I would say that Nature fits all those things…it’s something we care so deeply about, it’s the rivers and the fields, but..Nature is you and me too.”

The ALO guitarist shares a fascinating account of being entranced by the soundscape of a Costa Rican rainforest, which “was like a complex orchestra – from the animals to the rushing water, to everything. They all played their part.”

Inspired by a fan question from old friend, Leila Salazar Lopez (currently the Executive Director of Amazon Watch), Lebo reflects on the band’s early days playing “Rainforest Thursdays” at a pizzeria in Santa Barbara. “We were creating a space for people to celebrate and gather, and at the same time, we were able to raise money for what Leila was involved with, and Jenna (who’s my wife now)…We were able to help their cause that they were working on, which was buying acres in the rainforest to conserve. To me, it’s like a complete circle when you can have that kind of thing. I mean I love music on its own, but when it’s working to create something bigger, to me that’s a much greater goal, it’s much more powerful, it’s much more inspiring.”

Toward the end of the interview, Lebo recalls the night that a torrential rainstorm captured his emotions and inspired the lyrics for the 2009 ALO song, “I Wanna Feel It”. A powerful live version of the tune, played with Grateful Dead bass player, Phil Lesh and Friends, at New York’s Capitol Theater, brings the third episode of The Nature of Music to a close.

To hear these and other stories that Lebo shared with Gelbard, click here to listen to Episode 3 of The Nature of Music podcast (which is also available on podcast apps ranging from Apple podcasts to Spotify).


The Nature of Music features interviews with musicians that tell the story behind their Nature-inspired lyrics and songs. Each episode explores the conservation and climate crisis-related issues — and solutions — that musical guests are passionate about. To encourage listeners to let their voices be heard in the voting booth, the podcast, “promotes the important work of our friends, HeadCount.”

A Charitable Program That Supports Musicians in Need During the COVID19 Pandemic: Each episode of The Nature of Music promotes a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe Charity. Episodes with headline-level artists such as Lebo raise funds to support the program’s charitable and educational goals. For musicians who the program hopes to aid, their episodes promote a dedicated GoFundMe Charity campaign, with proceeds split between guests and The Nature of Music podcast (as needed to help cover production costs).

The model’s success depends on the generosity of music fans and other listeners. If many listeners give just a little (e.g., the cost of an average-priced concert ticket, or a $10 monthly donation), they will enable the program to provide musicians in need with a modest payday (for their help advancing Conservation Value Institute’s mission) during this time when the pandemic has left so many in the music industry without a paycheck.

An Invitation to Donors to Help Conservation Value Institute Build The Nature of Music Fund: The Nature of Music invites donors, foundations, and corporate giving programs to help us build The Nature of Music Fund, which we will use to subsidize payments musicians in need. We’ll tap into The Fund to make sure that musicians who request compensation can earn at least $500 for appearing on the podcast.

To contribute to The Nature of Music Fund, click on any of the “donate” links on Conservation Value Institute’s web site,

Click here to join the campaign raising $1,000 in support of Episode 2 of The Nature of Music podcast, featuring Nat Keefe of Hot Buttered Rum!


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ABOUT CONSERVATION VALUE INSTITUTE: Conservation Value Institute is a non-partisan non-profit 501(c)(3) organization creating and advancing conservation and climate crisis solutions. We specialize in researching and educating people about Nature's valuable benefits to society — e.g., environmental, economic, health, social justice, national security, and quality of life.

ABOUT THE NATURE OF MUSIC HOST, JONATHAN GELBARD: Conservation scientist, Dr. Jonathan Gelbard’s, life and work are inspired by a love of Nature. He infuses The Nature of Music Podcast with 25 years’ experience strategically designing and reliably executing conservation science, "climate smart" land management, and sustainability education projects. With strong ties to the music industry, Gelbard is emcee of the Nature-based festival, Camp Deep End, and appeared in the environmental documentary film, Dig It, directed by Danny Clinch and featuring members of Pearl Jam and Timberland’s CEO, among others (click here to watch a clip). In 2004, he served as the founding Outreach Director of HeadCount during its inaugural Jammy Award-winning campaign, was National Sustainability Producer of Green Apple Music & Arts Festival from 2007-2009, produced and directed the Rothbury Festival Think Tank in 2008-2009, advised efforts to green the Outside Lands Festival, and led the design and implementation of High Sierra Music Festival’s vendor compost program (a partnership between the festival and local farmers that continues to this day).


Contact Information (not for publication):

The Nature of Music host & Conservation Value Institute Executive Director, Jonathan Gelbard, Ph.D.

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