The New Music Fest Model

How Lollapalooza Created a Green Summer Party

Jane"s Addiction"s Perry Farrell led efforts to make Lollapalooza a more earth-friendly affair.
© Dave Mead/Flickr

Music festivals can't usually claim low carbon footprints. Think of all the miles driven, the trash generated and the energy used by speakers, lights and other stage equipment. But some festivals, like Lollapalooza, are seeking to turn those negatives around and create a more carbon-neutral experience, while sharing a few eco tips along the way.

Lollapalooza, which was hosted in Chicago's Grant Park August 7-9, tried to offset the emissions generated by transportation and on-site waste.

The music drew in spectators from all over the country. Over 130 bands performed, with top acts like The Killers, Kings of Leon and Tool. In fact, Jane's Addiction's Perry Farrell led efforts to make Lollapalooza a more Earth-friendly affair.

Organizers got to work looking for places to cut down on energy emissions. Considering the number of bands, the size of the park and the enormity of the crowd, it looked like a daunting task. But the complexity of planning a weekend music festival also provides plenty of places for small changes, which added together, can really make a dent.

The stages themselves were subject to "greening." Generators were run on a biodiesel mix, electricity was substituted for solar energy in certain spots and high-efficiency lighting replaced standard systems whenever possible. From there, organizers got vigilant about recycling. There were volunteers at designated recycling booths who handed out plastic bags to collect plastic, glass and aluminum bottles and cans. Known as "Rock & Recycle" centers, volunteers at these booths also gave free T-shirts to anyone who returned with a bag full of recyclables.

Near the center of Grant Park was Green Street, a quaint strip of eco-friendly retailers selling clothing, jewelry, bags and the like.
© Julie Karceski

Near the center of Grant Park was Green Street, a quaint strip of eco-friendly retailers selling clothing, jewelry, bags and the like. There, festival goers could sign up for the $800 Savings Challenge. Sponsored by the Chicago Climate Action Plan, this challenge was a list of home and lifestyle changes that add up to over $800 in one year. Suggestions include reducing your home heating temperature by three degrees ($129 savings), keeping you car tuned up and tires inflated ($185 savings) and eliminating ten miles of driving each week ($51 savings). According to their figures, in one year a person could offset 2.92 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

At the entrance to Green Street stood the Green Mountain Energy Company booth. This company played a big role in reducing Lollapalooza's carbon footprint: They sell renewable energy credits and forest sequestration offsets. They also sold $5 "BeGreen" tags that offset carbon emissions. In fact, last year fans purchased enough credits to eliminate 5.5 million tons of carbon dioxide from being released.

Finally, there was the Green Card. Located at the back of every festival program, the Green Card was an entry form to win a Honda Insight. The catch was, each Green Card needed three stamps in order to be entered into the contest.

Lollapalooza fans had several different options for stamping their green card: visiting the Honda Eco Zone, riding public transportation or a bike to Grant Park, bringing a reusable water bottle, buying one of the "BeGreen" fan tags or visiting the booth of a nonprofit organization. Returning one of those bags with recyclables to a "Rock & Recycle" center was worth three stamps alone.

So on a sunny weekend in the windy city, you could hear some great music, savor the atmosphere and feel pretty good about your impact on the planet. Lollapalooza organizers purchased enough carbon credits to offset their own vehicles, travel and generators, and prodded fans to take few more steps. With ample opportunity to party a little greener, fans walked away with plenty of tidbits on how to carry these changes over into their everyday routines.

CONTACTS: Chicago Climate Action Plan; Lollapalooza

JULIE KARCESKI is a former editorial intern at E.