More than Music; how Lollapalooza Benefits the Environment, the Economy, and the Future

By Jen DeSalvo for WGN News via www.wgnradio.com

Lollapalooza 2018 wraps up after another four-day massive takeover of Chicago’s Grant Park, with over 180 bands performing on eight stages.

The weather held out for the more than 400,000 attendees and crew members. The heaviest traffic day was Friday, hitting over 110,000 patrons, with no arrests according to the OEMC.

Lolla is known for being a music festival, but really, it is much more than that.

A mecca of sustainability, education and charitable causes, Lollapalooza sets the bar higher and higher for itself year after year.

Sustainability

In 2017, Lollapalooza earned the Illinois Sustainability Award for its conscious environmentally-friendly efforts. Programs include Rock and Recycle, an initiative where concert goers receive a large garbage bag to fill with recyclable materials they find lying around the fest. When that bag is filled, they return to the Rock and Recycle booth to collect a specially designed exclusive Lollapalooza t-shirt.

rock and recycle

In 2016 there were about 1,100 participants in the Rock and Recycle program according to Farid Mosher, Senior Guest Services Manager of C3. In 2017, the number jumped to nearly 1,750 partaking in the clean-up effort.

In addition, event production company C3 works with organizations that prevent taking up space in landfills and instead compost.

“We work with a partner from Loyola University and their Institute of Environmental Sustainability,” said Farid Mosher, Senior Guest Services Manager of C3.

That program has been part of an immense increase in environmental waste disposal.

In 2016, the organization diverted five tons of compost, and increased that number to 15 tons in 2017.

The company also offsets their carbon emissions – a process that according to Carbonfootprint.com is “used to compensate for emissions used by funding an equivalent carbon dioxide saving elsewhere.”

Even the food vendors adhere to specific sustainability recommendations. There are restrictions against using products such as Styrofoam and plastic, and they are instead encouraged to use biodegradable and compostible items.

Mosher also explained the organization’s efforts to make the festival comfortable and accessible to people with special needs.

Nearly 500 persons with disabilities visit the Lollapalooza Accessibility Center during the four-day event.

accessibility center

The center features programming information with large print, charging outlets for power wheelchairs and sensory assistants like headphones for guests with Autism Or Down Syndrome. Even some of the larger-named acts will have ASL interpretation for the hearing impaired. Attendees can also get a wristband that allows them access into special accessible areas of the festival.

Mosher says that this does not encompass everyone with these needs, only because not all people who would benefit visit the Accessibility Center.

Mosher’s company also works to bring a non-profit presence to the festival. This year the number of nonprofits doubled from ten to 20 since 2017.

One of this year’s charity partners is Bunker Labs, an organization helping military veterans…

Non-Profit

Aside from the music, brands are doing “good” at Lollapalooza.

Bunker Labs, a Chicago-based non-profit is this year’s partner for the “Love Tito’s” activation – the charitable arm of Tito’s Handmake Vodka

“Bunker Labs helps military veterans and their family members start small businesses,” said Becca Keaty, Chief Development Officer for Bunker Labs. “About 250,000 active duty military will transfer out this year and over the next five years. Twenty-five percent of them would like to start their own business, but only four percent will.”

Bunker Labs has expanded into 22 cities since it’s creation in 2014.

The organization partnered with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, a beverage sponsor of Lollapalooza 2018.

“Our Love, Tito’s platform is the philanthropic arm of Tito’s Handmade Vodka. We focus on turning spirits into love and goodness,” said Zack Flores, Director of Philanthropic Programming with Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

The company partners with a variety of different non-profits across the country at various music festivals, but at Lollapalooza, they executed a new interactive experience.

The activation was a digital time capsule that encourages fans to make a video pledge for change. That message will be emailed to them a year later.

Funds from Tito’s beverage sales will go directly to Bunker Labs.

Education

Not all performers at Lollapalooza are renowned rock stars. Many of the festival features artists who haven’t hit the mainstream airwaves or received millions of digital downloads. There are even students performing for the first time on a large stage thanks to a scholarship program.

Jeff Dorenfeld, a professor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and creator of Berklee’s Popular Music Institute, sat in a New York City conference almost a decade ago. Here he listened to Charlie Jones, a founder and one of the three C’s of C3 Presents, talk about the festival going into its 20th anniversary and wanting to expand the festival’s place for kids.

“I can add an academic component to Kidzapalooza,” Jeff told Charlie.

Kidzaplaooza sponsored by Lifeway is an area in Lollapalooza where parents who attended the festival in their younger days can now bring their own children to share in the experience.

kidza
Kidzapalooza, 2016

The Berklee College of Music students hosted a Music Video interactive booth, allowing kids to star in their own video using electronic instruments and a synchronized light show.

While some worked with child attendees at the music video booth, six students from Berklee got their chance to perform on the big stage at Lollapalooza 2018.
The gig comes through Berklee’s Popular Music Institute, which provides students performance experience and prepares them for the industry.

This is all part of the scholarship program that has raised over $500,000 to date.

Over 100 applicants apply annually, and this year 18 students were chosen. Six of them ended up on the stage at Lollapalooza including pop-vocalist Emilia Ali.

Local Businesses

Sustainability, Education and family values aren’t the only positive attributes of the music festival.

Chicago-area restaurants see financial advantages to having a presence at Lollapalooza.

“It’s a lot of fun – the staff really enjoys it – they have a great time – they get to see some bands, sort of work in an unusual environment that’s festive and upbeat,” said Erin Waldron, Area Director for Wow Bao. “Everyone’s always so happy and in such a good mood. And it’s great business too. We do a tremendous volume over the four days here.”

chow town
A photo of one part of the Lollapalooza Chow Town on Columbus Avenue.

In true “love thy neighbor” fashion, Wow Bao provides breakfast for their fellow vendors by bringing breakfast buns to all the other Chow Town booths before the festival opens.

It’s no doubt that the festival has a large effect on tourism profits for the city. In 2017, Lollapalooza was responsible for injecting $245 million into the local economy according to Brittany Pearce of Fresh & Clean Media, spokesperson for the event.

The festival has a partnership with the city of Chicago through 2021. With an annual increase in security, non-profit presence and services, it is certain that Lollapalooza can only grow more prominent than it already has.

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