The Windy City company is finding new ways to engage the green instincts of the music biz.
BY REBECCA COOK
Bright Beat was founded by Chicago-based marketing executive Stephanie Katsaros. The company combines her passion for the environment and her extensive experience in the entertainment business. Bright Beat’s goal is to create stainable, green-friendly policies within the music industry, especially at festivals and venues. I interviewed Katsaros down in Austin. (Contact: www.brightbeat.com)
BLURT: Tell me a bit about Bright Beat and some of the work you’ve done.
STEPHANIE KATSAROS: Bright Beat is a company that I created about three years ago, and we were founded on the purpose of finding ways to demonstrate environmental sustainability in the entertainment industry. With my background in marketing and working in concert promotion, really, when I worked in radio, I saw that there was interest and activity moving forward in terms of the green initiatives at events. I covered it as a journalist and really saw that around the country some things were being done.
Around the world, the value of a plastic bottle is well known in China, Brazil, India. They’ll go out of the way to take that resource and recycle it, because it’s money. And in the United States it isn’t.
The programs that we do are cost-effective and they provide really a marketing platform for the events…so that they have a good story to tell. But on the back end, they’re really doing things right, really hopefully setting the standard and making change happen industry-wide.
Can you tell me about some of the work you’ve done so far for Bright Beat?
Bright Beat’s been involved in some venues and events…including the Allstate Arena, a 30,000-capacity venue that won the 2011 US EPA Wastewise Gold Achievement Award for Public Venue Recycling. We won that for doing a lot of innovative recycling, including cups, which people don’t realize, especially, when you go to a concert, everyone’s got a beer cup. And that’s going in the landfill. And that’s not okay with me.
So a big initiative we started in Chicago at Allstate Arena…was finding a way to recycle those cups. And then I’ve worked with Solo Cup, which is a maker of cups. Well, they’ve got an initiative, corporate social responsibility initiative, to make sure their items don’t end up in a landfill. So brands, partners like that, have been a great way to help finance some of the programs. They’ve got resources, they’ve got knowledge and research into how we can work together hand in hand with the waste industry.
At Wicker Park Music Festival in Chicago, I understand you created eco-stations too.
What we did was looked at the locations where you could throw stuff away and said, “What if we reduced the number of them but made them very highly visible, high profile, and had eco-educators at each eco-station, helping people separate their trash, their recycling, and their compost. That can be as easy as when someone walks by, just point where it goes. But also, what we found, with the eco-stations, there was a lot of interaction. A lot of people said, “Wait, that’s not recyclable? Why? Well, what goes there? What does this ‘number 1’ mean? What does ‘number 7’ mean?”
And the engagement of the community was great, and the program that we did was done in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce, the community in which the festival took place, and their green initiatives are really kind of setting the standard for what’s happening at a lot of festivals in Chicago. So it’s almost like a case study. It’s really a case study for how to recycle in Chicago, which, as the third-largest market, there’s a lot of waste being created and a lot of opportunity to divert, like I said, set the standard. (Below: Dinosaur Jr at the Wicker Park Fest)
Would you like to expand into other cities like New York or L.A. or Austin, for example?
That’s a great question, because there are so many initiatives happening. Everyone knows San Francisco and Seattle are doing a great job. The West Coast is quite far ahead of the Midwest. Yes, we want to grow. We want to work with partners. We want to work on programs where we’re not only changing one day’s event but changing the way production happens on a large scale.
The village of Rosemont is the location of the Allstate Arena. It’s just a border suburb to Chicago. And we’re doing some things there that are municipal related. How can we merge the needs of the public venues and residential waste and the commercial waste, the skyscraper hotels? How can we benefit from working together? And when we’ve got that concept going, I’d want to give it to the world to use.