Zero Waste Tips for Musicians


Music, the language of the universe, and the trashiest art form.

Maybe. Maybe not. But, I believe that practicing music can produce an unnecessary amount of trash. As a musician for 8 years and a college music major for 2 years. I have at least a little experience with the amount of trash that a musician produces. The thing is, musicians, and artists in general can be really emotional about their instruments and methods of practice that it can be difficult to downsize or change. In reality, it’s not that much more trash but here’s some tips anyway.

The Biggie:

Sheet music. Ah, sheet music. The love of any true musician’s life. Some musician’s play strictly by ear. But, many of us, myself included, have developed a love affair with paper music. Books and volumes of paper music specifically. There’s just something nice about it. And, as a music major especially or a working musician escaping from paper sheet music is very difficult.

The obvious answer is: Download your sheet music onto your iPad. Duh.

But, the person saying this is probably not that into sheet music. Here’s my annoyances with that.

  1. I don’t have an iPad.
  2. There’s SO MUCH music that is not available in digital format.
  3. I need to mark my music. And, making marks on an iPad or computer just doesn’t work for me.
  4. iPads and tablets eventually break down and are way too expensive, not to mention not very sustainable, to replace.

So, what do you do? I have 7 tips:

  1. Borrow music from your school’s music library if it has one. This way no inadvertent trash is created. Boom.
  2. Buy volumes and share. If you need a piece of music, buy a high quality, authoritative volume of music that includes that piece. This is better than simply buying one copy. Why? Well, although printing only one piece may save more paper initially, it doesn’t in the long run. Because, loose paper is not as durable as a book. Because, books can be read and viewed by other people. Books are easier to share with fellow musicians. And, books are just sexier. Also, bonus points, if, and the answer is most likely yes, the music needs to be shipped to you. Buying and shipping one piece of music is soooooo wasteful. Just get a freaking book.
  3. Print and make copies for your marks on biodegradable, sustainable paper. You will inevitably have to make copies eventually, especially if you’re buying or using thicker volumes that won’t stay open. Plus, you have to make copies for people like your accompanist, etc. You may as well do it on eco friendly paper.
  4. Make marks with eco friendly pencils. Or, mechanical pencils. And, you better take a pencil and your music to class or else your chorus director will throw things at you.
  5. Put your copies into a Naked Binder. These things look sexy af and work beautifully. They’re eco friendly and 100% recyclable. If you are in a choir and are required to have a real black choral folder, just choose one that is durable and will last a long time. I like this one. Take care of it. It should last you years.
  6. Recycle or compost your music when you are finished with it.
  7. If you use real copies of music for ensembles and not *cough* illegal *cough*, uh I mean photocopies, then here is what you do. Most colleges and musical groups keep their music. They do not throw it away. And, they will most definitely appreciate it if you take care of their music and give it back to them when you are finished with it. If your college is using photocopies for music, (if you want to) ask if you can get it on your tablet (if that’s your thing), ask if you can memorize it. Share a copy with someone else. Or see if you can purchase your own copy which is not only legal, but is more archival and usable than crappy college printer paper.

Omg, that took too long. On to other stuff.


Metronomes like this one are great, beautiful works of art and last forever. Especially if you can find one either made locally or second hand. However, they can be quite expensive. Metronomes like this are plastic and crap. Yes they work well. But, they’re wasteful and not eco friendly. Don’t buy them. Use a metronome app on your phone. Or, this one is kind of like a musician’s life hack. Use the clock. Yes. If there is a clock in the room that has a definite, audible tick, then use it as your metronome. It’s naturally at 60BPM. You can just divide and get 120 or 240. Or wait every 2 seconds and get 30BPM. It works just give your brain a bit to get used to silently subdividing the beat.

Musical Instruments

Here’s where it gets touchy. I am not telling you what to do with your instrument. Jeez. Calm down violinists. However, if you are open minded and are looking to become a more eco friendly musician here’s my tips.

Disposables: This includes anything for your instrument that you intent to throw away within a short period of time. 

  • Picks: Don’t use plastic guitar picks. Opt for metal or even wooden guitar picks. Or, like the classical guitarist that you are, use your fingernails. Grow them out. Let it show!
  • Strings: This varies per instrument and is mainly a matter of taste. However, my tips are: 1. Buy high quality strings. This will make them last longer and they’ll just sound better. Don’t waste resources and money on cheap strings. 2. Recycle the packaging. 3. Take good care of your strings so they break less. Inexperienced violinists make sure you clean the rosin off. Don’t tune up too quickly. Etc. Just, you know, take care of your instrument in general.


  • Instruments: Buy high quality, well made instruments. When you are upgrading or no longer want your instrument, consider donating it, or giving it to a young musician who will greatly appreciate it. DON’T EVER, EVER, THROW AWAY YOUR INSTRUMENT.
  • Pianists: Real pianos are much more eco friendly than keyboards. They last longer, sound better, and are made of more sustainable materials. When you get your piano regularly maintained, if you need any parts replaced. I suggest asking your piano technician if you can keep them. You may be able to upcycle or recycle them. When you upgrade your piano or simply get a newer one, ALWAYS donate it. My first piano was a very nice tall, upright from some obscure piano maker in like Pennsylvania or something. Not the best piano, but nice enough. And, when my brother and I got a upgraded, brand new piano, my dad took the old one to a landfill. It was quite sad to say the least.
  • Singers: Get · A · Reusable · Water · Bottle. In fact, get several. Keep one in your car. Keep one in your bag. Keep like 2 in your house. Keep one in your locker at school. Never be without a reusable bottle. No. I see you inching towards the Fiji water. Fight the temptation! Also, in terms of allergies and such. Drink whole loose leaf tea with a stainless steel tea filter. To help with congestion try steaming. It opens you up. Simply get some water boiling. Let it cool slightly, add some peppermint essential oil, then with a towel over your face and the bowl, breathe in the steam. You can also use a neti pot if things get really intense.
  • String players: Use high quality rosin that doesn’t wear away as quickly. Use the correct type of rosin for your instrument. Although rosin is a matter of taste so who am I? I played violin for a bit. And, I highly recommend this rosin. Lasts forever. Use organic, reusable cloths to clean your instrument. And, if you can, drop the plastic/foam shoulder rest.

That’s all I have energy for today. I’ll add more later.


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