Sustainable programming works to reduce Dillo Day's environmental impact


Students gather to enjoy music and good times on the lakefill during Dillo Day 2014. Photo by Lan Nguyen by Lan Nguyen

On days like like Dillo Day, it’s hard to think green when all you see is red from the Solo cups scattered across lawns and parks.

An annual music festival hosted by Mayfest, Dillo Day brings in thousands of people to the lakefill. With so many people spending hours lounging and celebrating on the lakefill, Northwestern faces many challenges in minimizing the event’s environmental impact.

“We definitely have the desire to implement more sustainable practices,” said Matt Gallagher, the co-chair of university relations for Mayfest.

Mayfest currently promotes sustainability by working to reduce plastic waste. They hand out 1500 reusable Dillo Day water bottles and bring in a water truck for students to refill their water bottles throughout the day.

However, Gallagher recognizes that there are areas that could be improved. He said that waste management and energy consumption are the main areas of concern.

“One of our big pushes this year is to collect data on sustainability,” Gallagher said.

The ASG Sustainability Committee and the Northwestern Office of Sustainability have been working together toward this goal. They will be doing a waste audit this year by keeping track of waste bins and recording litter that is brought in from a post-event cleanup. An energy audit is also in the works for next year’s Dillo Day, with hopes to track how much electricity is consumed to power the stages.

Additionally, ASG and the Office of Sustainability will be composting food waste from the Dillo Day pizza giveaway hosted by Norhtwestern Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association. Nikki Romane, project lead of the Green Events Consulting Team on ASG, said it would be difficult to implement more composting bins at the event due to lack of participation.

“This is difficult since people don’t really want to sacrifice their Dillo experience,” Romane said. “Monitoring bins means signing a sobriety contract for the day up to and during the shift.”

If students want to help out but aren’t willing to stay sober for Dillo’s festivities, they can also sign up for ReNUvate. Various student groups partner for this event to clean up parks, beaches and neighborhoods the morning after Dillo Day.

However, the various students working toward improving Dillo Day’s sustainability, both within Mayfest and outside of the group, have struggled with communication issues. In addition to the seven different committees within Mayfest, the Northwestern Facilities Department and the City of Evanston all play a role in planning the festival’s logistics.

“If there was better communication between groups there’d be a lot of room for improvements in sustainability,” said Kalyn Kahler, Mayfest’s co-chair of promotions.

The costs of sustainable programming also prevents Mayfest from implementing more environmentally friendly practices.

“Most things boil down to money,” Gallagher said. “It all adds up so the dollars get tight and we have to make trade-offs. We have to prioritize the most cost-affective option, even if it isn’t the most sustainable.”

Even environmental advocate Leena Vilonen, an executive board member of Students for Ecological and Environmental Development (SEED), admits that she forgets to think about sustainability amidst the celebrations of Dillo.

“I haven’t really considered the sustainability of Dillo Day,” Vilonen says. “Concerts are fun and exciting so it’s really easy to forget about environmental issues. That’s why it’s so important to promote sustainability at these events.”

Although there are a lot of barriers preventing Dillo Day from taking after many earth-loving musicians out there, students can do their part to reduce their Dillo footprint by being environmentally conscious and disposing of waste and recycling in proper containers.

Though Dillo Day is a time when it’s socially acceptable to be unkind to your liver, many groups are working together to make sure students remember to be kind to the planet.

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