Sam Roberts Hopes Role As Junos Sustainability Ambassador Is Temporary

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"If David Suzuki could hold a tune, I'm sure they would've asked him," Montreal rocker Sam Roberts quips in an interview with Samaritanmag about his recent appointment by the Canadian Academy of Recordings Arts & Sciences as the Juno Awards first-ever Sustainability Ambassador.

"I think that's gonna be my quote for the rest of this. If you hear it again, it's because that's gonna be my catch phrase," he laughs.

In all seriously, the Juno Award-winning singer-guitarist is a perfect candidate for the title and its obligations. He was first informed of environmentally-friendly practices by his roommate in university and found living that lifestyle was "very simple. It doesn't really take much." All these years later, he continues to implement them, and more.

"There are so many things - from the most small mundane details like the cleaning products and detergent that you use and washing your clothes with cold water and using phosphate-free hand soap and dishwasher detergent, to not flushing the toilet every time we go pee to composting to try to recycle as efficiently as we possibly can," says Roberts.

Canada's biggest music awards show — which takes place in Ottawa this year over two nights, one a private untelevised gala dinner March 31 and one a more concert-like two-hour televised event April 1 — will be using the Canadian Standards Association's event sustainability management standard, CSA Z2010, to guide the design and delivery of the awards and associated Juno events.

"The fact is music festivals have been blazing the trails — some of them anyway — to becoming more environmentally friendly or more sustainable, and if you can do it with music festivals, you can do it with the Junos," says Roberts.

"[As a band] it's something that I've been involved in since the beginning of our career or the time that we've been in the public eye, so the last 10 years. It's definitely something that I've incorporated into how we do."

While recycling, conserving and switching out hazardous products is easy to do at home, Roberts says those same things pose some problems when The Sam Roberts Band — guitarist Dave Nugent, bassist James Hall, drummer Josh Trager and keyboardist Eric Fares — is on the road.

"We try to overcome them in terms of recycling on the bus. We keep big bags of bottles underneath the bus. In America, where there are no recycling bins anywhere, you have to carry garbage with you basically," Roberts says. "Busses can also run on bio-diesel; it's not always an option but when it is, we try to use it. Using Bullfrog Power when you're in Ontario because it's the only place in North America where you can actually opt for that. Again, the simplest things are often the most effective ones. Me, Nuge and Eric ride our bikes to our rehearsals in the summertime in Montreal, something as small as that."

Last year was the first in the Juno Awards 40-year history that the show and related progamming met the CSA standard Z2010, as it is called. The criteria included actively engaging production companies, venues, caterers, printers, transport providers, and other suppliers to minimize resource consumption, divert waste from landfills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, track performance, and support markets for sustainably produced goods and services.

For 2012, CARAS is building on those same initiatives. Strategin Solutions works with CARAS to integrate sustainability into operations and events. Bullfrog Power powers the CARAS office and Juno Awards event venues with clean, renewable electricity. Carbonzero offsets greenhouse gas emissions generated due to non-electricity energy consumption and travel of both organizers and attendees. As well, Me to We Style produces the official Juno Awards apparel with organic cotton and viscose from bamboo.

As Sustainability Ambassador, Roberts will record a public service announcement later on this week, during the Juno Cup hockey practice or game, that will air during the Juno Awards pre-show broadcast on CTV and will be available via social media.

"It's the kind of thing where hopefully the couple of million people that tune in to watch the Junos take a little bit of that away from them," says Roberts. "It may not register with everybody, but if it registers with even a small fraction of people, then I don't care; I'll throw my name into the ring anytime."

Roberts, however, hopes the Sustainability Ambassador position doesn't last.

It's not that he's not willingly taking on the role to talk whenever possible about doing our bit to help this planet of ours and making sure mankind's apathy and ignorance doesn't deplete all our natural resources and kill all its living creatures; it's just that he wishes there wasn't even a need to do so.

"I would hope, sincerely, that this is a very temporary position. Personally, you're always working for a time where this is so engrained in people's psyche and the way we live and the way we operate, that we won't need this kind of reminder all the time."

Roberts says he's not sure what other duties he will be called upon to do for CARAS after Juno Week is over, but he is committed until the next Sustainability Ambassador is named in 2013.

"CARAS has different endeavours, charitable and otherwise, that they engage in throughout the course of the year, so this may be something that carries forward in that respect, the same way that [its musical instrument charitable arm] MusiCounts can take you to a classroom.

"I'm like Miss America for a year," Roberts says. "I will have a sash."

Perhaps it will read: "I'm here because David Suzuki can't carry a tune."

Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.