BY ANNE ROYSTON
Green Street becomes a neighborhood at this year’s Lolla, with areas for shopping, eating, learning, and then the Prius Playground, in a class all its own. Stands from Bleeding Heart and Metropolis have you regretting that overpriced corn dog. Local farmers bring local flavor, too, including a Wisconsin cheese company selling, well, cheese on a stick (think saganaki). Perhaps the biggest difference, though, is the presence of more eco-conscious and activist organizations than ever, including the Chicago Public Library, Rock the Vote, and the Love Hope Strength Foundation.
Spotlight on bikes: Active Transport Alliance
With more than 6,000 members in its 25th year, the Active Transport Alliance is rolling stronger than ever. It sponsors the ever-popular annual Bike the Drive, but that’s really the tip of the iceberg. It reaches out to children in schools to combat child obesity, has a lobbyist who travels to Springfield to press for fairer treatment of cyclists on the road, and was a consultant to the city for Chicago’s 2015 Bicycle Plan, which has a stated goal of making Chicago one of the top bike-friendly cities in the country. To get you started, the Active Transport Alliance is giving away a few bikes of its own — just the thing to put you in the mood for a ride.
Planning for the future at the Prius Playground
This year’s Toyota Prius Playground goes way beyond the standard win-this-car-in-the-tent festival setup. Aside from the giveaways (iced bandanas, silkscreened tote bags), festival-goers went for a round of seesaw or bicycling to produce energy enough to make their own sno-cones. How is this magic possible? For example: 30-50 watts of power per bicycle is generated, which runs through an alternator hooked up to the back tire, which then feeds into what’s called an “energy computer.”
It’s like a regular computer but stores energy instead of data – a sort of battery-hardware-software triple threat that we might be seeing a lot more of in the future. With the energy computer, you can make and store energy for whatever you need. And who doesn’t want to eat a sno-cone, especially in August heat?
Turning cans into cotton with Rock and Recycle
Of course, the festival doesn’t forget about the immediate problems facing us, like all that trash in the park. Volunteers with signs trot around offering plastic bags to collect cans and containers, which can be redeemed at either end of the park for a free T-shirt. Unlike last year, where demand was so high the bags ran out before the weekend did, this year’s walkabouts are staffed with what you need to get what you want. We’ll raise a (recyclable plastic) glass to that.