SXSW '07 GOES GREEN


After partnering with the fellow Austin-based company Green Mountain Energy, SXSW will be a carbon neutral company that intends to reduce carbon emissions where it can and purchase carbon offsets where it cannot. SXSW has offset 100% of 250 metric tons of carbon emissions by purchasing 376MW of Texas wind energy carbon credits from Green Mountain Energy Company. In addition, the company has given a $5000 donation to the Austin Parks Department for the purchase and maintenance of native trees.

"Once we set the goal for SXSW to achieve carbon neutral status, our staff took a very active hand in gathering all the pertinent information about our activities which generate carbon emissions," says Managing Director Roland Swenson. "An important lesson we learned was that any business can achieve this goal with some work and a willingness to invest in new activity. While the amount of carbon emissions generated by SXSW alone is relatively small, if every business took similar steps, it would make a profound difference to our planet's future."

"SXSW recognizes that environmental issues are now an important measuring stick that distinguish one event from another and one company from another," noted Una Johnston, SXSW's UK & Ireland Manager and now its Environmental Consultant. She used the standards, guidelines and tools contained in the World Resources Institute's GHG Protocol to calculate the carbon emissions for the year September 1, 2005 to August 31, 2006. SXSW agreed that this 12-month period would be designated as the baseline year in order to use it as the benchmark against which future reductions in carbon emissions can be measured.

Johnston calculated that SXSW carbon emissions arise from gas and electricity usage in its offices (18%), from electricity usage in the Austin Convention Center and all the showcase, movie and party venues that it contracts with during SXSW each year (55%), and also from business travel (27%).

"It's important to say that SXSW is not simply offsetting its carbon emissions," explained Johnston, "we are preparing an emission reduction strategy for the next four years as part of an environmental policy initiative. Roland and Eve have already taken steps to reduce our footprint by replacing the inefficient heating and cooling system in the office and adding insulation to the building. When SXSW takes place in March, the Festival will be working with Ecology Action of Austin to recycle all waste from our outdoor parties and events and will use biodiesel in generators and production trucks."

South by Southwest will take place at venues throughout Austin from March 9-18. While the conference's official lineup has not been announced, a number of artists, ranging from Talking Heads founder David Byrne to rising rock outfit Steel Train have confirmed spots during the multi-day conference.

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[Published on: 1/20/07]

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Comments

MaseBase starstarstarstarstar Fri 1/19/2007 06:10PM
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MaseBase

This is seriously awesome. I hope we will start seeing more events, companies and bands follow this lead.

kirkbrew starstarstarstar Sat 1/20/2007 06:25AM
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kirkbrew

Wow! They are giving a whole $5,000 to the park district? Are they giving that in a lump sum or over a 10 year period?
Look at the carbon emission numbers. They are pretty much limited to the direct emissions from the actual SXSW company. What about all of the other venues that are running during the event? What about all of those disposable plastic cups tossed away at showcases? What about all of the flatulence generated by the taco eatin’, beer swillin’ visitors?
While this is a good thing, don’t go thinking that the founders Black and Swensen are these altruistic green heroes. Their finances are pretty hush, hush and $5,000 is three-fifths of jack crap when it comes to it. The REAL green move would be to go to ZERO emissions and not just cop out with ridiculous credit off-sets. That is a band aid and not addressing their actual impact.
Also, I am starting to find that when companies publicize “green programs”, or “carbon offset”, it is just a half ass publicity ploy so that the thought-challenged masses will say, “Look at how great these guys are”.

“Think! It ain’t illegal yet”

brainhouse420 Sat 1/20/2007 10:45AM
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hey kirkbrew- it must suck being that angry-
It would be nice to see every festival become emission free. This is a wonderful start in that direction. Check it- A festival in TEXAS is doing ANYTHING to offset it's impact on the planet and someone complains!!!

matthewhayden starstarstarstarstar Sat 1/20/2007 11:53AM
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...a step in the right direction. Although change is past due, it is also a slow process. Good to see the ball is rolling.

All Loving Liberal White Guy Sat 1/20/2007 03:26PM
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All Loving Liberal White Guy

seeing to it that texas is one of the most polluted states in america when speaking in terms of smog, this is a little bit like closing the barn doors after the horses have gone out.

pianote Sat 1/20/2007 06:07PM
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pianote

hey kirk,
why dont you cool the fuck out.
at least there are companies like these to help curve pollution.
they did not have to donate anything!
if your such a tuff guy to come on here and talk shit then tell us your what your doing to fix the problem!

kirkbrew starstarstar Sun 1/21/2007 01:33PM
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kirkbrew

Brianhouse420 – Angry? I think that you confuse skepticism with anger. For anger, please refer to Pianote’s post.
Also, have you been to Austin? It is nothing like the rest of Texas (certainly not San Ant, Dallas or Huston). It is one of the most liberal towns in the US. There are great environmental projects going on in Austin and some real progressive thinkers. Comparatively, SXSW is way behind the curve.

Pianote – What do I do to fix the problem? We really don’t need to go into all that, but I will tell you that I am an engineer in the electric motor and power generation industry. Many of my customers are massive polluters and even automotive companies. And I am talking REAL polluters. Not just SXSW’s penny-ante carbon emission. So, since I am on the inside, I am in a unique position to become part of the solution. Much of the technology I provide directly addresses motor/generator efficiency while minimizing emission of VOC’s. I have a real impact and take great pride in that. That is just part of how I am the solution. It is more than just bitching about Bush, recycling and slapping a Greenpeace sticker on my ride.

So, being on the inside of large companies on both an engineering and corporate level, I can tell when a company is just “talkin’ the talk” or if they are really “walkin’ the walk”. From what I have seen here (as well as other research on their “plan”), SXSW is just doing some talkin’ so that they can try to get a little positive press (which they need). Serious – five grand?

I hope that I am wrong about that. I hope that Black and Swensen start to put their money where their mouth is (and they got LOTS and LOTS of money). I hope that Lalla does this along with other festivals and other touring acts. More importantly, I hope that larger manufacturers and building developers get more involved too since energy consumed by industry and buildings make up a majority of our carbon emissions. We all hope for the situation to improve.

That being said, I am not going to let hope get in the way of my natural skepticism when a multi-million/billion dollar corporation starts to “wave the green flag”. Is it better than doing noting? Sure. However it is only better AS LONG AS they do not continue with all of their old habits and hide behind a half-ass attempt to get green street cred. That is the danger that we face and why you should be skeptical when you see this. Come on, do you really think that Shell is a “green” company because they have commercials telling you they are? As the issue gets more press on environmental issues, you will see more of this happening. So, instead of just falling for it, we as their customers should demand specifics and think critically about it.

While not all of you can be as involved in the solution as I am, you can always do better and keep setting objectives for yourselves and your community. "Thinking global and acting local" is more than a saying. So, put down the bong and go to your local government to see what they are doing to be part of the solution. You are their customer. They need to respond to you and your questions. Hold them responsible!

So, in conclusion – rock on, live green and question everything!

hellyeah Sun 1/21/2007 01:59PM
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leave kirk alone, finally someone is getting angry about something on this website that doesn't amount to a pissing contest about who's band is better. we need more skepticism in this world, not less. "if you are not outraged you are not paying attention"

GarthVadar starstarstarstarstar Mon 1/22/2007 06:43PM
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Wow great idea SWSX!! This is a great first step! Maybe this will spur the venues and concertgoers into stepping up to the plate next year. As someone who is employed is the law and policy field, you cannot help but run into doom and gloomers like Kirk who think the situation is hopelessa and therefore we shouldn't even bother trying. It's great to see that so many of this sites users are on board with this idea. And for all the "realists" who like to crush our hope, come up with a better idea or be quiet. Be part of the solution!!!

Matis Wed 1/24/2007 06:43AM
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Matis

Keep telling yourself that "being on the inside of a large company" is any way beneficial to anyone but yourself. Sounds more like you're just another wide-eyed pawn in their corporate agenda. Keep up the good work, sucka.