In a world bloated with so many Elvis impersonators that you could easily make a case for Elvis Pollution, at least one stands out: Just look for the forest-green jumpsuit studded with as many reused aluminum can tabs as rhinestones. Indeed, while other Elvis impersonators merely recycle the King, Matt Riggs recycles paper, plastic and metal, too, as Eco Elvis.
As a treat for dealnews readers, he wrote up "Green Christmas" for us. Check it out:
Riggs explains the plot of the song this way: "I’ve often thought I needed to write one Christmas song as Eco Elvis, so what’s the first thing that came to my mind? I’m going out with this girl and she’s totally ungreen, and so I have to leave her. And now that I’m on this new road, I can change all of my behaviors and have a ‘Green Christmas’ without her."
By day an environmental planner for the Mid-America Regional Council in Kansas City, Riggs performs eco-friendly versions of Elvis' greatest hits after hours. That’s right: No private jet for this guy. "In an ideal world, Eco Elvis would have a little electric Chevy Volt," says Riggs, 39. "But Eco Elvis isn’t as flush with cash. So I try to take the bus or ride my bike as often as I can. Gotta go pick up some jelly donuts, man." (By the way, that's pronounced EEE-co Elll-vis, baybuh.)
The King may have died in 1977 (or went into hiding as a CIA operative, if you prefer). But it wasn’t until 20 years later that Eco Elvis came to life. "I was working at an environmental nonprofit." Riggs recalls. "We were kicking off a recycling program, and it was really boring. But it happened to be the same day of an Elvis parade, and we were hanging out in the lobby and this kid came in wearing an Elvis suit. And I thought, ‘Yes!’"
And so the light bulb went off, in more ways than one. Riggs ordered a custom-made green jump suit — he’s gyrated his way through three of them to date — and put his musical training to work. Having knocked around in surf and rockabilly bands, Riggs had the chops to mix two unlikely bedfellows: an eco-friendly message and a hunka-hunka burnin' groove. The result: the world’s only Elvis impersonator to pen ditties such as "Compost Hotel" and "Viva Las Vegans."
But behind the levity — Riggs says spectators at an Eco Elvis show either giggle or flee within 60 seconds — comes a serious love of the environment. Riggs’ mother raised him to go on bike rides and hikes and notice all the fragile wonders the outdoors held. He’s worked for environmental causes much of his adult life and wears that love on his jumpsuit sleeve proudly. Even Eco Elvis’ recording engineer, Evan Smalley, is a nature nut. Eco E has a 12-track disc out, "Burnin’ Globe," with another in the works.
"When you think about it, the environment is the most important cause of the 21st Century," Riggs says. "Every human being needs air, water and food, and if we save the environment, we’re saving ourselves. We’ve got to save the polar bears and penguins, but we’re also digging a big hole we’ve got to get out of ourselves. We’re really the most endangered species."
To that end, Eco Elvis has hit the road with his pro-planetary message, playing Chicago, Minneapolis, Seattle and Colorado Springs. Come Earth Day, he gigs nonstop; the rest of the year, he’s usually on stage in the Kansas City area once a week, showing up anywhere from churches to corporate gatherings. (No word yet on whether he’s played the lounge at the Compost Hotel.)
It’s been a "wild ride," Riggs says, and a big change from the desk job where he favors the more conservative attire of khaki pants and a plaid shirt. "It’s the whole Clark Kent thing," he notes. "It’s hard to remember sometimes when I’m working on a spreadsheet in a cube that I have this alter-ego."
Lou Carlozo is dealnews' new Green Dad columnist. He was most recently the managing editor of WalletPop.com and, before that, a veteran columnist at the Chicago Tribune. Follow him on Twitter — @LouCarlozo63. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.