Bonnie is as known for her lifelong commitment to social activism as she is for her music. She has long been involved with the environmental movement, doing concerts around Forest, Oil, Mining and Water protection since the mid-70s. She was a founding member of MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy,) which produced the historic concerts, album and movie, NO NUKES in 1979. She has been especially active in the fight to preserve our Ancient Forests, performing numerous concerts, lobbying in Washington and getting arrested twice in support of a change in forest policy.
She has also supported groups working for Native American, women's and human rights, as well as the fight against apartheid in South Africa and U.S. involvement in the war in Central America in the 80s.
As one of the founding members of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation she continues to work for increased recognition, health benefits and royalty reform for the pioneer generation of R&B artists to whom we owe so much. In 1995, she helped establish the Bonnie Raitt Guitar Program, which now provides free guitar lessons to kids in over 180 Boys and Girls Clubs around the world.
On her 2002 Summer Tour, Bonnie initiated Green Highway, a travelling eco-village providing information to concert-goers about alternative energy solutions (solar and wind power,) displaying Honda Hybrid vehicles and connecting fans to local environmental issues and organizations. Carrying the message of change to the national energy policy, Bonnie participated in the historic Vote For Change Tour, co-headlining a bill along with Jackson Browne and Keb’ Mo’. In October 2004, this multi-artist, multi-city tour through the battleground states aimed to get voters to the polls on Election Day to vote for a change. After an historic 40 shows in 30 cities in 9 battleground states over the course of 10 days, all 20+ artists and bands on the tour gathered for a rousing finale concert in Washington, DC bringing the message of change home to the nation’s capital.
Green Highway continues to promote renewable energy alternatives and environmental protection along Bonnie’s Souls Alike Tour 2005-2006. The touring buses and trucks made the leap from running B20 to B100 biodiesel for the fall leg of the tour, and most of the concerts along the way are wind-offset by putting clean 100% wind power into the grid to offset the impacts of the concerts’ electricity use. By treading lightly as she tours, Bonnie has inspired a number of other artists to do the same.
In late 2007, Bonnie joined her fellow MUSE collaborators Jackson Browne, Graham Nash and author Harvey Wasserman in spearheading a signature drive to petition the United States Congress to abandon a plan to give $50 billion in loan guarantees to the nuclear industry for new reactor construction. The three artists along with Keb' Mo and Ben Harper, created a YouTube video that aimed to galvanize the on-going grassroots movement against a "nuclear renaissance" and drive traffic to the website, NukeFree.org to learn more about sustainable energy alternatives, the dangers of nuclear power and the problem of nuclear waste disposal. Ultimately, the 2007 Energy Bill passed both houses of Congress without the nuclear loan guarantees. Two subsequent attempts to appropriate that $50 billion in loan guarantees have been thwarted. But $18.5 billion set aside for reactor construction in the 2005 Bush Energy Bill may remain available to reactor builders. The Department of Energy has issued a "short list" of four projects under serious consideration. Thus, the fight for a clean energy future continues!
On her 2009 national tour with Taj Mahal, dubbed the BonTaj Roulet, through the efforts of the Artists, the concertgoers, Ticketmaster, Live Nation and Musictoday as well as some venues and promoters, $1 from the sale of every concert ticket was raised for the BonTaj Collective Action Fund. These funds, in addition to those from the sale of special benefit seating and aftershow reception access, totaled over $200,000. Concertgoers had the opportunity to vote on which cause area they wanted the funds to support, bringing an element of democracy to this collective method of fundraising. The fund was then distributed to more than 85 non-profit organizations working in the areas of Safe & Sustainable Energy, Environmental Protection, Social Justice & Human Rights and Blues/Music Education. The organizations also did information tabling at the 34 BonTaj concerts from coast-to-coast, continuing Bonnie's long-standing effort to raise awareness of local issues among her fans.
Staying current with the movement to forge a non-nuclear future, in August 2011, Bonnie and her MUSE collaborators mounted a very successful benefit concert at Shoreline Amphitheatre to raise funds for Japan disaster relief (following the devastating earthquake, tsunami and meltdown of the Daichi-Fukushima nuclear reactors in March 2011,) as well as non-nuclear organizations worldwide.