Lollapalooza offers lessons in water conservation

A concert-goer refills at one of Lollapalooza's water stations.

A concert-goer refills at one of Lollapalooza's water stations. / Photo by Katie Roche

Most people think of Lollapalooza as that behemoth music festival in early August that attracts droves of young, hip music fans to Chicago’s Grant Park for three raucous days – and it certainly is that. Yet, like many major festivals – including The World Cup and our own Taste of Chicago – Lollapalooza 2010 took steps to balance its bacchanalian spirit by going green – and blue.

The height of summer is prime time for dehydration, so Lollapalooza organizers encouraged festival-goers and staff to drink plenty of water – but promoted conservation at the same time. All food vendors were required to bring their own water, an incentive to waste less and reduce overall usage. To cut down on single-use plastic bottles, Lollapalooza staff sipped from custom-designed SIGG bottles, and organizers encouraged fest-goers to bring or purchase their own refillable containers and rehydrate at water stations.

Those who didn’t BYOB (bring their own bottles) could purchase water at the festival, but even that vendor – h2o – was carefully selected. “We have a new water supplier sourced from [sustainable natural underground aquifers in the Canadian Niagara Escarpment] that uses a recyclable paper carton made from sustainable forests,” said Green Street Production Manager Emily Stengel. Festival garbage was sorted at additional cost to recycle as many of the h2o bottles as possible. Through the Rock & Recycle Rewards Program, concert-goers received a free Lollapalooza T-shirt as a reward for each bag they filled with bottles, cans and other recyclable materials – including the h2o cartons – from the fair grounds. In 2010, more than 3,000 people participated.

Anyone who has tried to refill water bottles at large festivals knows that the free-for-all at the water fountains leads to broken faucets, swaths of mud, and lots of wasted water. This year’s festival organizers contracted with Event Water Solutions to bring in 10 refilling stations, with doting attendants who ensured no drop hit the ground. The water stations poured enough water to fill 204,200 bottles, saving piles of plastic from hitting the landfill. “I’ve never seen that before; it’s a lot more efficient this way,” said Katie Roche, a thirsty concert-goer waiting in line to refill a Nalgene bottle she’d brought from home. “And it’s nice that I don’t have to stand around in the muck just to get a drink.”

WOWW factors

2,000 times more expensive

Bottled water costs about 2,000 times more than tap water, not to mention that the safety regulations for tap water are much stricter than those for bottled water. Bottled water is less safe and more expensive – why buy it?

40% comes from the tap

Bottled water often comes from the same source as your home faucet. Almost half of the water in each bottle is simply filtered tap water.

17 million barrels of oil per year

Bottled water production uses as much oil as it would take to run 1 million cars for a year.

Conservation tips

• Keep a reusable water bottle with you. Carry a metal or high-density plastic bottle with you instead of buying bottled water. You will save money and help to reduce plastic consumption.
Filter water at home. Get a home water filter for your faucet or fridge – you’ll get water that tastes great, saves you money, and reduces waste.
Drink up. Find out where some water fountains or filling stations are around your part of town to avoid having to buy bottled water.

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