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When we learned three weeks ago that we’d had been selected as finalists for a web award, we were ecstatic. Here was not only the excuse we’d been looking for to come down to SXSW, but also a great opportunity to push sustainability at one of the country’s most respected interactive, film and music festivals. We sped up our preparations for an interactive display that we are launching with bands and events this summer. The SXSW “Interactive Carbon Tree” would act as a powerful tool for SXSW conference attendees to participate in grass roots green initiative.
What is alarming is that SXSW is attempting to address sustainability issues, but just not doing a very good job of it. They are purchasing renewable energy credits to offset the conference’s emissions – now standard for any conference wanting to brand itself as “sustainable”. They are also however, consuming the equivalent of acres and acres of trees in useless promotional materials – the life blood of sponsorship commerce that drives these events. We needed only to peek behind the curtain of the gift bag desks to see an entire warehouse filled with thousands more – so big that SXSW volunteers drove around on pitchfork cars to grab bags and bring them to the desks well out of view (not to worry, the electric vehicles’ emissions were probably offset). More troubling, was that these bags were filled with 12 pounds of absolute crap – Isn’t this an INTERACTIVE conference (ok for music and film), you’d be hard press to find a group of people less inclined to look through pounds of paper flyers, handouts and stickers:
The truth is, this is standard for events and making events emerald “green” isn’t going to change the world – the people who attend them and the companies they run will. That is exactly why we wanted to get people engaged in an initiative we designed to reduce our collective environmental impact here and beyond these two weeks in Austin (read more…).
Unfortunately due to the sponsorship issues we were unable to work with SXSW on the initiative because we didn’t have the kind of cash lying around necessary to do anything official…oh, and when we tried to promote the Green Initiative guerrilla style at the event, a SXSW employee was kind enough to tell us security would be called if we didn’t cease doing so, because “people pay a lot of money to promote at SXSW.”
As a result of getting shut down by “the man”, we are looking to promote the event virtually. We have developed html widgets for the SXSW group that track all the users and their respective carbon reductions in real time. If you are interested in mobilizing greening of SXSW from the grassroots, you can help the initiative by embedding the following widget in your blog or site and spread the word:
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