Tapping into Alternatives

19 01 2007

This press release sent to me via SXSW publicity merits reading in full. It’s refreshing to see organizations – especially one of this stature, one of new music’s most important outlets in America – changing, quite literally, the structure of their operations in order to think broadly. It’s also a powerful message that, despite political pleas that alternative (read: non-oil) energies cannot be profitable.

SXSW GOES CARBON NEUTRAL

Austin, Texas – January 17, 2007 – South by Southwest Music, Film & Interactive Conferences (SXSW) in Austin, Texas has announced that it is partnering with Green Mountain Energy Company, an Austin-based renewable energy market leader, to offset 100% of carbon emissions arising from SXSW business activities. SXSW is now a Carbon Neutral company and 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,” said 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.

“This base line analysis was much easier to do than I had anticipated,” said Operating Director Eve McArthur. “We had great cooperation in data collection from the City of Austin, the Convention Center and Austin Energy. SXSW wants to take responsibility for its own carbon emissions first and to work for positive change on the environment among all of our stakeholders. The increased awareness has already resulted in our staff making steps to reduce their own emissions.”

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.”

“Climate change is a global challenge with serious consequences for our social and economic infrastructure as well as the natural environment. However we all realize that long-term solutions require emission reduction efforts by the entire economy,” continued Johnston.

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