Thoughts on Lollapalooza: Concerts Getting Cleaner?

photo lollapalooza 2010 crowd
Photos by Jeff Kart

So I spent the weekend at Lollapalooza, along with another 200,000 or so people, rocking out to headliners like Green Day, The Strokes and Lady Gaga. And I noticed something. For the most part, people were doing the right thing: Recycling their beer cans, using refillable water bottles, putting trash in its place. Now this may not seem like a revolution, but it's worth mentioning, especially against the backdrop of the first few Lollapaloozas I attended back in the 1990s.I know, I'm showing my age. But music festivals, as mentioned by Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell in a Planet Green interview, are notorious for making piles of trash and making a mess of their host cities. Based on my experience, most of the people at Lollapalooza 2010 were taking the green message to heart.

Perry Farrell talks with Fuse on Friday.

You couldn't escape that message, for one. "Green Street" welcomed visitors to Chicago's Grant Park. There, groups like Sierra Club were gathering signatures against coal plant developments. HeadCount was registering people to vote. Green Mountain Energy was selling carbon offset "fan tags." Global Inheritance was showing off a people-powered energy well and giving away snow cones. Fair trade vendors like Beads of Hope Africa were selling their wares and spreading awareness.

People were stopping and participating. And hopefully learning a thing or two. Of course the event generated a lot of trash. Of course there were bad actors. After the big nighttime shows, the grounds in front of the Parkway and Budweiser stages were covered in smashed beer cans and water boxes.

Bags of recyclables collected by 'Rock and Recycle' volunteers.

But by the next morning, the park was clean again, and waste had been separated and recycled. There was even a "Rock and Recycle" program signing up volunteers to turn in recyclables for a free T-shirt and a chance to win a bike. Those big Waste Management trash bins were fitted with recyclable bags on their sides, and most people took the time to separate their stuff. I even saw trash bins with recyclables stacked neatly next to them by patrons, when the cleanup crews were slow on refilling the recyclable bags.

All in all, not a bad weekend for Chicago. Proceeds from ticket sales will go to the Parkways Foundation, by the way. Last year, more than $1 million was raised to help beautify the city. For those of you who were there, what did you see? Leave your comments below.

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