By Demi Manglona
A haze of people swarm under the blistering heat, standing shoulder to shoulder and carelessly clashing against each other. Time stands still while the deepness of the bass surges through ground. The audience dances freely, and devotees shout along to their favorite songs. Summer is music festival season. Everyone is dressed to sweat and it’s liberating.
The lineup for Lollapalooza 2019 is no joke. With headliners like Ariana Grande, The Chainsmokers and Tame Impala, the venue will be filled to the brim. Lollapalooza’s hype crowd easily makes the festival Chicago’s loudest and busiest summer event. It’s a weekend-long party where stress isn’t an option. It’s the thrill of being in walking distance from your favorite artist.
Just make sure to dodge the trash while you’re inching your way up to the stage.
“The atmosphere is very relaxing and brings people together through music,” junior biology major Haley Nowowjieski said. She went to EDC Orlando last November with a group of friends to enjoy the flashing lights of an electronic dance festival. “You can just forget about everything else going on and live in the moment.”
Though the experience serves as a euphoric memory, it’s hard to walk a foot away without seeing plastic water bottles, food wrappers and crumpled beer cans sprinkled along the grass.
“I think more trash accumulated outside of the venue because you weren’t allowed to bring outside containers in,” Nowowjieski said. Throughout the two-day festival, the grass eroded into patches of dirt accented with food scraps and red Solo cups.
Junior political science major Jacob Geller is a seasoned music festival-goer who has danced his face off at Okeechobee, Moonrise Festival and more. He put on his rave attire and attended EDC Orlando with Nowowjieski. It’s the goal to stay at the park while the concerts are winding down, but security usually kicks everyone out before the crowd empties. Though it’s hard to stick around too late, it’s never too early to see the layer of trash coating the ground.
Most music festivals hire cleaning crews to pick up the slew of alcohol-soaked food wrappers while the audience grooves to the music. A few venues have a volunteer program to help manage the litter — some smaller events even waive the entry fee for those who participate.
“It’s mainly because of all the intoxicated people,” Geller said. “They just don’t really care because someone will pick up after them eventually.”
Relying on other people to clean behind you is only a temporary solution and won’t maintain an enjoyable concert experience.
Part of the festival fun is due to the setting. Lollapalooza takes place in Chicago’s vast and open Grant Park. Austin City Limits sets its stage in Texas’s Zilker Metropolitan Park. If a festival isn’t in a huge stadium setting, it’s spread across natural spacious fields with flowers blooming in from the Spring dew. In the words of Geller: “Why would anyone want to ruin those?”
Nowowjieski said without a doubt, she wants to travel and experience more festivals like EDC. Geller advised that everyone should visit any festival at least once in their lives. However, both agreed that the vibe wouldn’t be the same if the venue devolves into a drunken wasteland.
Throwing trash on the ground makes it harder to walk around when it’s already crowded, and no one wants to be walking in a dumpster.
“I think it’d be helpful if people are more proactive about how much waste they’re bringing to the concert,” Nowowjieski said.
Mass littering isn’t just a problem at large
festivals however. During local festivals in Tampa, there are just as many contaminants strewn under everyone’s shoes.
“Seeing all the trash makes me sick,” said Justine Pe, director of box office for the Tampa-based event planning company Big City Events. Big City Events coordinates outings like Gasparilla Music Festival, the Summer of Rum Festival and Margarita and Music Festival.
To combat the mess, her team implements clean-up crews and volunteers. Pe said she’d like to see a trash policy like Disney World, where cleaning staff changes the garbage cans when the bags are three quarters full rather than overflowing.
Tickets for Woodstock come out April 22, which is uncoincidentally Earth Day. Festivals are starting to raise awareness about the harm that weekend-long live entertainment events cause. Lollapalooza has a whole page dedicated to potential sustainability practices you can use to keep the vibe alive. Rock & Recycle is the festival’s environmental program that promotes recycling and composting appropriate waste instead of throwing it away or on the ground.
From Lollapalooza’s page: “The issues that are facing our environment won’t stop when the music ends.” When the stages close, the crowd will drive away in their cars or fly back to their hometowns, emitting harmful carbon dioxide. Not every scrap of metal will find its way to a recycling bin, and all the leftovers will eventually contaminate the air and life beneath our feet.
The next time you are jumping aimlessly to the beat of the drums, make sure to rehydrate yourself through your reusable water bottle. It’s harder to lose and safer to carry around than a plastic container. Spend some time with your friends before letting loose and carpool to the festival together. There’s nothing more satisfying than making memories with groovy people and electric tunes, but it’s even more enjoyable when you’re not tripping over each other’s beer cans.
Demi Manglona can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org