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Keith Johnson, Deseret News
Krisztina Valler and Sven Koch, members of USANA's "green team," recycle plastic beer cups from the garbage.

Last year, United Concerts made a major push to go green at USANA Amphitheatre. This year, they're hoping audience members will do their part.

While United is doing its best to erase carbon footprints, it knows the real impact on the environment will be from the thousands of fans who attend each show. The goal is to make them more environmentally aware, starting with their driving habits.

To encourage more car-pooling to the amphitheater, 5150 S. 6055 West, United is offering special parking and a special gate entrance to vehicles that have four or more people and fill out an application for a permit from www.uconcerts.com.

"In addition to premium parking, it also gets them into a separate gate entrance so they don't have to wait in a big line," United marketing vice president Teresa Mooney said.

For any given show, USANA averages about 4,000 vehicles in its parking lot. A recent article in Rolling Stone magazine noted that it doesn't matter how many changes a concert venue makes to be more environmentally friendly, it won't do much good if the people attending the concert are caught in a three-hour traffic jam, continuously pumping emissions in the air, while trying to get to the show.

During a recent concert in Virginia, fans became trapped in a six-hour traffic jam while going to Radiohead's green tour, according to Rolling Stone. Radiohead commissioned a study to look at the environmental damage caused by their last two North American tours. The study found that on the group's 2003 tour, 97 percent of the environmental damage was caused by fans, according to the article.

Jack Johnson, who will return to USANA Amphitheatre on Monday, has been one of the leaders in pushing for more environmentally friendly venues and set specific guidelines in 2005 for USANA to follow before he would play there again. In 2006 and 2007, United revamped the way it approached environmental issues at USANA, instituting more recycling and energy-friendly lights, for example.

Today, even the vendors at the amphitheater have switched to either biodegradable or recyclable materials, such as the cups that drinks are served in.

"It's absolutely amazing how much ends up being recycled," Mooney said.

Even the paper fliers United used to hand out to promote upcoming concerts have been eliminated because most of the paper ended up on the ground or in the trash. Now, electronic signs or sandwich billboards are used at each concert to promote upcoming shows.

Johnson was so impressed with the changes United had made that he sent the staff gift bags complete with environmentally friendly water bottles.

Now, the push is to get fans to use the recycle bins at the venue and to reduce their impact on the environment when they drive out.

"We're trying to be the teachers. We're trying to implement this," United ticketing manager Chris Abbott said. "It takes the masses to make the big changes. We just give them guidelines."

If nothing else, Mooney said the high price of gas should encourage more people to car-pool to USANA this summer.

A "green team" will be at every USANA concert to educate the public on recycling and other ways concertgoers can help lessen their impact on the environment.

"Once people figure out what we recycle out there, they empower themselves. Then everyone knows how to recycle," Abbott said.


E-mail: preavy@desnews.com