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Making music, combating carbon

Reducing greenhouse gases is paramount at Three Pin Productions
by: , Emma Brown ( from left), Maggie Rose, Kaleigh Turner, Cali Hodge and Garett Brennan share the new theme song for Abernethy Elementary’s educational Garden of Wonders.

When your first love is skiing, you take climate change personally.

At least that's how it is for Garett Brennan, a local singer, songwriter and guitarist who grew up in the mountains surrounding Salt Lake City.

'If we don't do something about global warming, there's not going to be any snow, among hundreds of other things,' Brennan says.

Brennan is the founder of Three Pin Productions, an umbrella resource that works with creatives nationwide to support artistic and professional grass-roots efforts. (The organization's name refers to the traditional three-pin binding system used to fasten telemark boots to skis.)

It's hard to precisely define Three Pin; Brennan describes it as a community of like-minded people. There is no paid staff. Members include illustrators, graphic designers, marketing professionals and musicians, all of whom are interested in staying connected to what Brennan calls 'issues of environmental urgency and artistic expression.'

'The thing that works so well about it is that it's small and agile, so it can really cater itself to whatever story wants to be told,' says Brennan, who works full time as the organization's creative director.

The projects in which Three Pin becomes involved usually share a few key themes, such as education, community, music and art, and environmental awareness.

For example, Three Pin recently collaborated on a project called the Youthful Art of Healing, which partnered 11 professional artists with approximately 450 students from Multnomah, Washington, Marion and Yamhill counties. Together, they created original, professional-quality art for the walls of the new Providence Newberg Medical Center.

This fall, Brennan wrote a song called 'Garden of Wonders,' about Abernethy Elementary School's educational garden of the same name. The students learned and performed the song as part of Abernethy's Lunch and Learn event in October.

Brennan likens the workings of Three Pin to the process of writing a song: 'Much like how a song is born, it's really born out of a response to what's going on around us. Three Pin is a collective, creative response to what's going on in our world - locally, regionally, nationally.'

As befits the mission statement, Brennan has come up with his own unique response to global warming: a new record label called Three Pin Records.

The label, an offshoot of Three Pin Productions, officially launched in 2005 with Brennan's acoustic album 'Little Cottonwood.' (A pilot album was released in 2004, titled 'Project 53 Sessions.')

'Little Cottonwood' features Brennan's original folk songs, recorded in a log cabin near Alta, Utah, at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon. Northwest author Brian Doyle has called the album 'a hymn to and a cry for the American West.'

In addition to Brennan's artistic goals for the album, he insisted that the making of 'Little Cottonwood' be as ecofriendly as possible.

Brennan summarizes some of the factors involved: 'Where do you get everything duplicated? There are these companies you hire to print your record on all of these materials, and they normally don't have environmentally friendly options.'

So Brennan collaborated with print companies to find a way to manufacture the CD sleeve from 100 percent recycled paper, printed with soy-based inks.

Brennan also approached Clif Bar Inc. for sponsorship. The energy bar company already had worked on initiatives to offer fans of the Dave Matthews Band and Cloud Cult the chance to offset the carbon dioxide they produced driving to live shows. (Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that experts say contributes to global warming.)

Activities cause pollution

After brainstorming with Brennan for several months, Clif Bar decided to help 'Little Cottonwood' receive carbon neutral status, in conjunction with the release of its new organic fruit and nut bar, Clif Nectar.

To achieve carbon neutrality for 'Little Cottonwood,' Brennan worked with Portland nonprofit the Climate Trust, which showed him how to calculate all the ways that the album's recording and production had created greenhouse gas emissions.

There was the gas consumed by the musicians driving to Utah, the flight to bring in producer Cookie Marenco, the energy to run the cabin and the recording equipment. Then there was the process of printing the CD sleeve and producing the CD.

'We're so used to using energy in a way that we don't realize,' says Bjorn Fischer, the Climate Trust's business development manager. 'With every type of activity there is, to some level, a greenhouse gas impact.'

After calculating the greenhouse gases emitted during the making of 'Little Cottonwood,' Three Pin donated money to offset that amount. The funds went into the Climate Trust's portfolio of projects, which ranges from energy-efficiency programs in Portland to a rain-forest restoration project in Ecuador.

Because 92 percent of the funds that the Climate Trust receives goes directly to offset-related programs - the remaining 8 percent goes toward overhead costs - Fischer emphasizes that donations such as Three Pin's result in 'real, permanent and third-party verifiable' greenhouse gas reductions.

Three Pin also is donating 1 percent of the proceeds from the sales of 'Little Cottonwood' to the Organic Farming Research Foundation in California, through a business alliance called 1% for the Planet.

'Portland is the place'

Brennan didn't take much time to rest after launching 'Little Cottonwood.' In fact, he quit his full-time job in communications to ramp up his work with Three Pin, enabling Three Pin Records to release two new albums in 2006: 'Blueprint of Soul' by Teddy Presberg, and Raina Rose's 'The Prophet, The Panhandler and The Moon.'

Like 'Little Cottonwood,' the two new releases will be carbon neutral productions; that is a requirement for being on the Three Pin label. Brennan also is researching the possibility of using biodegradable shrink-wrap to package future Three Pin CDs.

Is the ecofriendly side of Three Pin as important to other members as it is to Brennan?

For Giovanni Salimena, a graphic designer and illustrator who designed the album art for 'Blueprint of Soul' and 'The Prophet, The Panhandler and The Moon,' the answer is yes.

'That's one of the reasons I stay involved with Three Pin, besides being inspired by working with (Brennan) and knowing him,' says Salimena, who believes creative people should act as strong community leaders.

Three Pin provides participants with the opportunity to 'make good stuff happen,' Salimena adds. He has high hopes for Three Pin's potential to expand and evolve.

'With Garett, the sky is the limit. We never really put boundaries on our dreams. It's a really great thing, and Portland is the place to let it grow.'

Add it up

Take two minutes to use the Climate Trust's online calculator (www.carboncounter.org) to figure how much carbon dioxide you emit into the atmosphere each year, based on the size of your home, vehicle usage and airline travel.

Then, offset your emission amount by donating $10 per ton of CO2 emitted. Donations, which are tax-deductible, feed into the Climate Trust's offset portfolio supporting projects such as energy-efficient building renovations and forest restoration.

Here's an example: An Oregonian living in a small apartment, with no car, who travels 10 hours per year by plane, emits approximately 8.76 tons of CO2 per year. To offset that amount, the Web site recommends donating $7.30 per month, or $87.60 per year.