He may have won two Grammys, but Ricky Kej doesn’t even own a car.
The environmentally conscious singer also shrinks his carbon footprint, which he gets audited every quarter, by avoiding jeans, because they call for a lot of water in production. And he consistently appeals to people to donate money to the Bay Ecotarium to make our oceans a better place.
“Not only are they serving education, which is extremely important in today’s time, but also the kind of conservation efforts that they are creating is absolutely mind-boggling,” Kej said in a conversation with Aquarium and Bay Ecotarium President and CEO George Jacob.
Kej, and Lonnie Park, another Grammy winner, were at the Smithsonian Affiliated Aquarium of the Bay event on December 14 calling for climate awareness and action.
Lauding the Bay Ecotarium’s work and transformative vision for an interconnected web of oceanariums and climate literacy centers around the world, Kej said, “A pair of jeans requires at least 14 to 16 plants of cotton, which you have to water for a couple of months… Once you harvest it, the cotton has to be plucked and … flown to different countries for processing, weaving, dyeing, and then [there’s the actual] stitching of the clothes, too. By the time you receive that pair of jeans, the water footprint is 8,000 liters [over 2,000 gallons]. That is how many liters of water go into making a single pair of jeans.”
Calling upon the audience to look at the fashion industry from this perspective, he added: “This year I won the Grammy Award in April, I wore a particular costume. After that I walked the red carpet at the Cannes festival representing my country. I wore the exact same thing. I wore the exact same thing when I represented our country in Software Plus 50, a huge event in software. If you go on to my Instagram, you’ll see this – whatever I’m wearing right now – you’ll see the outfit in at least 15 different photographs.”
In fact, he said, he had also worn it when he did a concert for the Aquarium of the Bay’s Blue Marble Benefit in San Jose.
“I wear the same clothes all the time because I think it’s pretty cool for two reasons. One is that you’re saving the planet. This is the way to be fashionable,” he said. “The second reason is that if I’m doing the concert, and if there are no good photographs in the concert, I can use one from the previous one.”
He said that he had three cars till 2013, when he considered that since he used public transportation in other countries, he could do the same thing in his own city.
Kej also is on a meat-free diet.
“The choice of following a meat-free diet depends upon everybody’s culture and tradition,”he said. “That’s something that should not be forced on anybody. But this is what I do. And you can read about the effects that the meat industry has on the planet. I get my carbon footprint audited every quarter, just like how people get their finances audited. Plenty of companies do that… At the end of a quarter, you can figure out how you can reduce your carbon footprint, your impact on the planet.
“It’s impossible not to have an impact on this planet the way that we built our systems around us,” Kej said. “But what you can do is you can mitigate the carbon footprint that you have with free plantations and investment in renewable energy.”
During the pandemic, Kej and six other Grammy winners joined composer and actor Stewart Copeland to write the Bay Ecotarium song.
His album “Shanti Samsara – World Music for Environmental Consciousness” was launched on November 30, 2015 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then French president, Francois Hollande.
With live performances in over 30 countries including at the United Nations headquarters in New York and Geneva, Kej was named a UNCCD Land Ambassador at the COP14 to raise public awareness about the challenges of land degradation, desertification and drought. He serves as a UNESCO – MGIEP Global Ambassador for Kindness,” a UNICEF Celebrity Supporter, and is an ambassador for the Earth Day Network.
During his travels, Kej has spoken a lot about conservation and the environment. During a visit to the Republic of Kiribati, he interviewed and created music with the three-term ex-president, Anote Tong. President Tong was the guest of honor at the Bay Ecotarium’s Climate Conversations atop the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco.
The Bay Ecotarium is celebrating 42 years of environmental and ocean conservation through its seven branches in the Bay Area. It offers an immersive, interactive, evocative exhibit experience that builds awareness of contributing factors towards global warming, sea-level rise, depletion of natural resources, and habitat destruction endangering species both on land and seas. The living museum with an aquarium at its core explores solutions and explains the cascading and cumulative consequences of inaction.