SXSW Eco is the environmental branch of the internationally recognized SXSW brand and the conference that is associated with it is held annually in the fall in Austin Texas. This year's event, which is the organization's third, took place October 7-9 and was headquartered at the Austin Convention Center for the first time.
The new location was a major improvement over last year's, the AT & T Conference Center on the University of Texas campus. The Convention Center provided much more space for everything connected with the conference: a large number of meeting rooms that could be configured in a variety of ways, several ballrooms that were used for keynote addresses and other events that drew large crowds, exhibit halls to house Eco Exhibit vendors and plenty of space for attendees to gather and make their way to and from events.
This year's conference also showed much advancement in its sustainability efforts. The convention center itself is a Gold certified LEED building. Not only was the structure environmentally appropriate but everywhere you looked there were plenty of receptacles available for recyclables, compostables and trash. The organizers partnered with Sustainable America whose mission is to address the intertwined issues of energy and food.
While this company is not based in Austin they reached out to locally owned Texas Disposal Systems and their director of recycling and composting, Jason Sanders. This partnership greatly increased the ability of the conference to make a strong sustainability statement. Additionally, Jo's Coffee, an Austin institution, provided food and drink for attendees and even their efforts enhanced the sustainable lifestyle. A typical meal including a salad and a drink resulted in only the dressing wrapper going into the trash. Everything else was either compostable or recyclable!
SXSW Eco also partnered with a variety of other environmentally conscious organizations to increase sustainability efforts. The City of Austin Office of Sustainability sponsored free bicycles, helmets, lights and locks to allow conference goers a chance to explore Austin on two wheels.
The official transportation resource was RideScout which is a mobile app that assists you with finding a variety of "rides" to your destination. These rides include bus, train, electric cab, pedicab and car2go. Green Mountain Energy provided carbon offsets to help balance the emissions and greenhouse gases that were produced as attendees made their way to the conference. Even the program guide to events was printed on recycled, FSC approved paper.
All in all, this year's version of SXSW Eco was a resounding success in regards to the wide variety of actions and efforts that were put into place to enhance the sustainability and reduce the negative impacts of an environmental event with hundreds of attendees from all over the world gathering in one place. Well done!