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August 02, 2018

Water stations at music festivals—safety and sustainability that rocks

Lollapalooza starts today in Chicago. More than a quarter-million people will be getting together to groove on music, party with their friends and enjoy summer in Grant Park. They’ll also spend money—aside from the cost of tickets, Lolla lovers will spend millions this weekend on food, drinks and merchandise galore.

One thing they don’t have to spend money on? Water.

That’s because Lollapalooza, like most outdoor summer music festivals these days, offers attendees free water at refill stations throughout the venue. In fact, Lolla’s been named one of the country’s three best festivals for water availability.

Free water at music festivals is a huge common-sense safety and sustainability measure—and you know how committed we are to sustainability. Here’s a closer look.

Fresh water as a basic amenity

Free water at music festivals is a fantastic idea on multiple levels—but people’s safety comes first.

“Water stations are first and foremost a safety issue,” says Jeff Cuellar, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at AC Entertainment, which produces events such as last month’s Forecastle festival in Louisville. “It’s July, it’s Kentucky and it’s hot, so it’s our responsibility to provide that comfort as a basic amenity.”

Staying hydrated is much easier when people can fill a hydration backpack or a big refillable bottle instead of buying 12-ounce, single-use water bottles. In fact, Forecastle’s non-profit water sponsor sold out of its supply of branded, refillable water bottles.

Providing free water, Cuellar says, is “the right thing to do. We need our fans to remain hydrated and safe.”

Music fans love sustainability

The other key benefit of water stations, of course, is keeping gazillions of plastic bottles out of landfills. Water stations at Forecastle eliminated the use of more than 800,000 single-use bottles over three days.

Water stations wouldn’t make the impact they do if festival guests didn’t care about sustainability. But they do care—they bring their hydration packs and buy refillable bottles to avoid the hassle, expense and negative environmental impact of single-use plastic bottles.

At Sloan, we feel the same way. In 2017, we completely eliminated plastic bottles from our headquarters’ vending machines and cafeterias, eliminating from use more than 18,000 bottles a year.

Here’s why eliminating single-use plastic bottles at music festivals matters:

  • It takes three liters of water to create a water bottle. That’s 2.4 million liters of water saved by Forecastle—not to mention the petroleum that didn’t need to be consumed making the bottles or the greenhouse gases that weren’t emitted.
  • Most plastic is made new. According to the EPA, only about 7% of plastics are recovered from recycling. The rest is made new. At Forecastle, that would have meant 744,000 water bottles made from new plastic.
  • Plastic is hard to recycle. So even if all of a festival’s bottles are thrown into recycling bins, many might end up in landfills anyway.

 “A basic pillar of a world-class event”

Forecastle partners with several non-profits—many through the Forecastle Foundation—to protect natural resources and habitats locally and worldwide. Its partnership with Arcadia Power for renewable energy offset credits, in fact, is similar to Sloan’s carbon offset program.

Cuellar also points to water-related partnerships with a popular brewery and the Bourbon Cares program—since, after all, “it takes water to make beer and bourbon.”

He says every top festival now provides water stations, because “they’re a basic pillar of a world-class event. Free, clean water is as important to a music festival as putting high-quality musicians on the stage.”

Want to know more about Sloan innovations that save building owners billions of gallons of water every year? Talk to Sloan!

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