First, I checked out the rates. At that time, they were around 200-300 dollars. I saw something about a student rate, so I jumped on it and emailed to inquire. It was only $150! This could work. Then, I found out that volunteers attended for free. This sounded even better, and was my plan, until I won a Twitter contest and could go for free with no strings attached. I knew I would enjoy volunteering, but since I was using my vacation time, I decided to shelf that idea for next year and make the most of the events offered.
Day one, my big idea is that walking to an Eco conference seems appropriate, especially since parking at the Convention Center is over $30 per day, and I pride myself on thriftiness. However, walking from Del Valle is not an option, and the bus takes something like two hours just to get downtown. I decided to drive into town and park at one of the local ACC campuses, since it's free for me as a student. I walked the mile and a half to the conference and arrived in a hot, sweaty mess. My attempt at cool-girl hair (you know, first day of school and all) was totally done, so it's lucky that wasn't my first priority. Still, I felt energized and excited for my day among the movers and shakers of the sustainable world.
I decided to concentrate on the business/finance topics, since I want to work with startups. And of course, the startups all had an eco slant, so I was still in that mix. My first session was the Startup Showcase: Social Impact, Not-for-Profit Category. This is a contest, but it gives all the entrants valuable visibility and all told, previously participating companies have gone on to receive over $27M. This is already exciting, but the drama is heightened by the short pitches (4 min), which lead into a short Q&A with industry experts. These guys were on point!
Accountability Lab, fighting corruption by empowering citizens to shed light on problems and take action.
Ecosia, a search engine that donates 80% of its ad income to a tree planting program in Brazil.
Kula Project, investing in small-scale Rwandan farmers
to create sustainable communities.
Open Water Foundation, working to provide an open source software platform to help organizations make better decisions about water.
ORGANize wants to solve the organ donation crisis.
pAge drinking papers are an inexpensive and simple-to-use new technology to filter water contaminants.
Pollinate Energy, improving the lives of India's urban poor. They demonstrated a solar light that doesn't pollute the air the way that kerosene lamps do.
Urban Death Project, a compost-based renewal system that turns deceased loved ones into life-giving soil. (I am not positive if these guys actually presented, since I don't remember them, but it may have been that they went before I arrived late)
Green Impact Campaign, energy audits for small businesses by local students.
and Small Small + Global Latrine Pr oject, a sanitation/compost system designed to improve world health.
Please check out all these very interesting and important solutions to real problems! I have to say, the most intriguing to me, from a personal standpoint, was the ORGANize project. I signed up to be an organ donor years ago, and have also had the conversation with my husband, "You know I want to be an organ donor, right? Because you know, your next-of-kin can stop it, even if you wanted to donate." The presenter was right, we are operating here in the US on very old technology, with independent state databases, allowing people to die for no reason. I also really liked the search engine, since that's something I can use in daily life.
I plan to blog on my experiences at SXSW Eco over the course of the next few weeks. I was so thankful to be able to go!