Lollapalooza 2011…and Plastic

Where did summer go? One minute I setting up a garden with my roommates, the next I’m staring at my now-defunct cucumber plants and watching as all the college kids come back into town. Shipyard Pumpkinhead is on the shelves at our local grocery store, so I suppose I had better accept my fate. Autumn is here to stay.

With that, I’ve got some updating to do! The last time you heard from me, I had happily discovered Bill Nye’s “Garbage” episode and was getting ready to head off on a multitude of August adventures. First up, Lollapalooza! This year, Grant Park saw its 20th Lollapalooza and I’ve got to hand it to the people in charge: they have this thing down. Music festivals, or any sort of festival for that matter tend to be full of waste and excess; it’s all about free stuff and convenience. Not so at Lollapalooza. Yes, there was free stuff and yes, I did get suckered into free things but there were definitely more positives in the waste department. Here’s a rundown:

  • Water Stations!

    Canned beverages: I.E. there was no sale of plastic water bottles…at all.

  • Tetra Pak water boxes (H2O) – more on this in a minute. I have mixed feelings.
  • CamelBak water stations throughout Grant Park. Camelbak was one of Lollapalooza’s leading sponsors this year and the water stations were such a lifesaver! Every other person walking by had one some sort of CamelBak pack and there were so many reusable water bottles everywhere that my heart did a little song and dance.
  • Loot!

    Rock & Recycle Campaign – this was the biggest and most pleasant surprise about Lollapalooza and pretty much won me over to attend the festival next year. It goes like this: concert goers stop by the “Rock & Recycle” tent. Volunteers at the festival hand us bags to fill with any and all recycling we can find and upon returning the full bags we will automatically receive a “free commemorative Lollapalooza T-Shirt made of organic bamboo/cotton blend by Five Bamboo.”  That’s it. Why is this

    Yum in a can.

    awesome, apart from guaranteed free, one-of-a-kind shirts? Just dragging a bag full of cans across the park was enough to inspire people to action, whether it was throwing cans and cardboard our way or asking us what we were doing and getting interested. When something is right in your face like that, people take notice…especially if they realize, “These returnables actually have value?! I want in!” Plus, everybody participated. I saw teenagers asking people waiting in line for cans and then I saw a couple that could have been my grandparents walking through the park, holding full bags. Totally inspiring!

  • Garbage & Recycling in Hyde Park

    Chicago itself was a very clean city. On our walks to and from the bus stop every day, we passed at least 3 or 4 sets of garbage/recycling bins just hanging along side the sidewalk. It’s always great to see public waste receptacles en mass because it just shows that the city cares…maybe they care about keeping their parks clean and beautiful, but regardless…props to you, Chicago. I will be back. 🙂

In general, this was an overwhelmingly awesome experience. Next year, more planning is definitely in order to ensure we see all the musical acts that are on our list. If you have a chance, GO because the experience is incomparable to any other music fest I’ve seen.

Of course, it wasn’t all good. So here are the two things that stuck in my mind as pretty annoying.

First: water. At Lollapallooza this year, instead of selling bottled water, this newfangled “water-in-a-box” was offered. If you’ve ever purchased boxed soup stock from the grocery store, or sipped on an individual-sized box of Silk chocolate soy milk, you are familiar with this packaging. It’s called aseptic packaging and is so named because of its ability to keep a product sterile and fresh for a long period of time, thereby extending its shelf-life.

Alternative to bottled water?

The concept behind h20, the brand responsible for all the boxed water at this event is that instead of having a plastic bottle house the water, you put the water in a box that is “fully recyclable”, saves natural resources and therefore benefits people and the earth at the same time. All of which are great ideas, in theory. In reality, Tetra Pak boxes are composed of many layers of plastic, paper and aluminum, so it’s not just “a box”, which makes them really hard to recycle. And so the debate continues…plastic water bottle, full of petroleum and a waste of $$/resources? Or Tetra Pak packaging, consisting of a multitude of different materials sandwiched together to house a substance that doesn’t need an extended shelf-life…any opinions from the peanut gallery?

The second annoying thing: while waiting in O’Hare for a delayed flight back to Boston, we went to Wolfgang Puck’s for dinner. The food was surprisingly delicious and the beer, Goose Island Honker’s Ale was refreshing. After our meal, the bartender collected our plates, took them back into the kitchen and…threw the beer bottles in the trash. I couldn’t move or speak, I was so upset. It was crazy to realize that there are still a lot of places where recycling isn’t commonplace. I took this as a motivator to keep educating people on waste management and conserving resources!

Next up: a rant. Get ready…


One thought on “Lollapalooza 2011…and Plastic

  1. The rock and recycle campaign sounds pretty darn AWESOME!! What a super ingenious way to have people take responsibility, guarantee that recycling happens AND ensure that the grounds stay clean!! I really think that something similar should be implemented at all concerts (that have lawn seating). 🙂

    I’m surprised with the water hubs that they had the boxed water. I think both options plastic bottle or (plastic, aluminum lined paper) box are both horrible choices. Lollapalooza could have easily gotten away without having any kind of boxed/bottled water by selling reusable water bottles at the water hubs. It’s something that they could let people know when they buy their tickets that they won’t be selling bottled water and to bring their own OR reusables will be available for x amount of $$.

    Also, I wonder if at O’Hare they do the commingled trash/recycling?? Everything goes in together and then is sorted out… not sure how it works but I know that our area almost switched to that system. On a similar note, my husband just got back from Alaska and he said that they don’t recycle any glass there!!!! (Just google “glass recycling Alaska” and you’ll see… craziness.)


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