Green Right Now Reports

Austin’s SXSW Eco conference, which brings together green experts and entrepreneurs from across the country Oct. 7-9, will be focused on six areas.

Ron Finley in Garden

Ron Finley, known for his wild urban gardening, will be among the featured keynote speakers.

The topics: Business; Climate Change; Design; Energy; Behavior Education and Health; Food and Agriculture; Land and Water; and Policy Activism.

If that seems like more of a broad sweep of activities than a “focus,” consider that tackling epic problems like global climate change, deforestation, water scarcity, rising oceans and the loss of arable land, will require major, innovative human endeavors.

Fortunately, SXSW Eco, which expects record attendance of about 3,000 for its third annual summit, has assembled a small army of changemakers and entrepreneurs to lead us in this task. They’ll share their experiences, plans and insights at the three-day event at the Austin Convention Center.

Here are just a few highlights:

  • SHFT co-founders actor-filmmaker Adrian Grenier (of HBO’s Entourage) and film producer Peter Glatzer will speak about how SHFT promotes moving toward sustainability through art and design.
  •  Urban gardening activist Ron Finley, known for advocating a profusion of plants, will offer opening remarks entitled “Nothing in Nature is Straight.”
  •  A “Startup Showcase” will introduce 12 companies with green solutions as they participate in an investor pitch competition.


    Filmmaker M. Sanjayan

  • Filmmaker M. Sanjayan will offer a peek at his 8-part TV series “Years of Living Dangerously,” a Showtime special that will air in 2014. The film, which features Matt Damon, Mark Bittman, Olivia Munn and Harrison Ford, is about the impact of accelerating climate change.
  •  “Climate Wise Women” from Biloxi, Fiji, the Maldives, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea and Uganda will tell how they deal with the effects of climate change every day, as high tides destroy agriculture and submerge their homes; floods drown their children and wash away the crops.
  •  Robin Chase, the founder of Zipcar and Buzzcar, will speak about new methods of organizing companies that are collaborative, but also allow individual creativity, creating more efficient businesses.
  • A panel will explain how Austin is using expertise from the Dutch to create a robust urban biking system.
Robin Chase

Robin Chase, founder of ZipCar

  • Several panels will address ways to foster and conserve nature in cities, both to improve how they work and to beautify the environment.
  • Representatives from major corporations will explain how to draw consumers toward sustainable products, without depressing them about the reasons why.
  • A panel of energy experts and environmental advocates will try to answer the question “Can We Keep the Lights On and Stay Green?”; looking at the hard challenges of transitioning off fossil fuels.
  • Foodies don’t worry, you’ll be well fed. Panelists will address lower-carbon eating (and food waste). One panel, “Slow Fish Movement: My Filet-O-Fish vs. Your Tofu, covers the surprising sustainable advances in the fishing industry.
  •  Pliny Fisk, co-founder for the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, will talk about how he brought green design to building and architecture. (Seriously, just google this man.)

And while all this is going on, hackers will be participating in a SXSW Eco Hackathon to produce apps that collect energy data, which can be used to make systems more efficient.

Adrian Grenier, actor and founder of SHFT

Adrian Grenier, actor and founder of SHFT

Energy and design companies will be showing ideas in the exhibit hall.

Of course, there’s a movie screening and this one will be provocative. Pandora’s Promise, a documentary about how controversial nuclear power may well be the world’s best answer to climate change, is sure to shake up the Eco crowd.  The film features environmentalists who’ve gone over to the “other side”, becoming nuclear power proponents.

Visit the SXSW Eco website for more details. Anyone can attend. Tickets are discounted through Sept. 20, but walk-ups are welcome at anytime. Students get a discount.

A bonus: After you attend you’ll be able to toss around terms like “biomimicry,” “intermittent generation” and “distributed energy architecture,” hopefully in context.