Every year, my friends and I take the four-hour trip from Cedar Rapids to Chicago to attend Lollapalooza, a huge music festival that takes place the first weekend in August, in Chicago's Grant Park. We go for the music, the food, the people, the beer and the entire experience, which is absolutely amazing. It's a fun festival that draws tons of people from all over the country (and the world! We met some Australians at the Yeah Yeah Yeahs concert) and if you've never been, I suggest you give it a try.
With so many people cramped into Chicago's biggest green space, you can expect there is going to be some serious garbage. But Chicago is a green-friendly city, and the crowd that Lolla attracts is made up of mostly young people, the forefront of the green movement. So the festival does its best to be environmentally friendly in a myriad of ways.
The thing that stuck out most to me, in my experience, was the volunteers running around with plastic bags asking for everyone's beer cans and other recyclables. Two kids fought over the cans from the people around them as we waited for Atmosphere to take the stage. Apparently, if you returned a full bag to the tent, you would receive a free T-shirt.
Then there was Green Street, an area full of environmentally friendly vendors. There were "earth-friendly, sustainable and fair trade" retailers selling merchandise.
For those of us who traveled by car or plane to get to Chicago, we could off-set our carbon footprints by buying a $5 Lollapalooza BeGreen Fan Tag. Apparently in 2008, 8,500 attendees bought these carbon offsets, helping to avoid the emission of 5.5 million tons of CO2.
And Schlumpy. Schlumpy is a horror movie-esque eight-foot tall ball of plastic bags. Schlumpy was there to promote the Billion Bag Pledge
, a nationwide call to use one billion fewer plastic bags.
Lolla sets the goal to make the three-day fest carbon-neutral, through the above measures, as well as running partially on biodiesel and solar energy. Food vendors use recycled plates and utensils, and this year, I was surprised to see that they were selling beer in cans rather than in their regular plastic cups. My friends and I discussed whether aluminum cans are more easily recyclable than plastic or not.
Another thing that is great is how many people use public transportation and walking to get around over the weekend. I know a lot of people have to drive to get to Chicago, but once we're there, the public transportation system is easy to use and the park is a short walk from most hotels in the area.
I love this festival, and it makes me feel even better paying $200 to attend knowing that they are doing what they can to have less of a negative impact on the environment. My one request? More vegetarian food options!
Please also check out this article
about how Chicago as a city has taken steps to go green!