SXSW: Greener is Better

I’ve decided to attend next years SXSW Interactive festival followed by a tour of North America. The details of where I’ll be visiting and for how long remain undecided, but I imagine my itinerary will be varied and involve much travelling by train.

This will be my only flight of 2011 as I continue to reduce the number of flights I make each year. I feel slightly more comfortable about making this trip as I’ll be spending three weeks abroad, making the very most of my long haul flight. I’m really looking forward to experiencing SXSW as part of the Clearleft team, before catching up with friends in San Francisco and then seeing what Canada has to offer. I hope I’m going for the right reasons.

Whilst I was pretty confident I’d be visiting North America at some point next year, I was still unsure whether I would be attending SXSW, especially given my previous concerns about their green credentials. My mind was put somewhat at ease when I learnt that the SXSW Big Bag won’t be making an appearance this year – or at least contain considerably less crap:

In a continual effort to lessen our environmental impact, SXSW has done away with the traditional Big Bag inserts. In its stead, we’re introducing SXswag – a digital marketplace offering free or greatly reduced items for the SXSW Registrant base. From digital downloads to subscription offers, the possibilities are limitless.

Such an approach has been too long coming but still, this is very welcome news.

However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so I’ll be interested to see what this greener SXSW Big Bag actually looks like, and also what other activities they’ll be undertaking to lessen their impact on the environment. They do have a number of sustainable initiatives already, and you can now opt out from receiving the SXSWorld Magazine too, so hopefully there are less of these magazines being airmailed around the world.

The icing on the cake for me would be to see them use plastic-free conference passes – an idea that has shown itself to be successful at a number of events this year – although whether this would work for a 5-day program remains to be seen.