This weekend was the 9th annual Renewable Energy Roundup and Green Living Fair in Fredericksburg, TX, benefiting the Texas Solar Energy Society and TREIA (Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association). Despite competition from the nationally acclaimed ACL festival in Austin, the Roundup enjoyed a record crowd – more than any year in the past – approximately 8000!
The weather was great, conversations were lively, and the event was more “waste free” than it ever has been. For the first time ever, we arranged for on-site water filtration, freely available to event participants. We sold over 200 reusable stainless steel water bottles, vendors sold reusable cups, and participants were encouraged to fill their containers at the station and make a donation to the Roundup instead of buying single-use plastic water bottles. Another exciting spin-off is that a school principal who saw the onsite water filtration setup has signed up to get that service for his school and stop selling bottled water! Yea!
Thanks to Ecology Action, recycling bins were placed next to all the trash cans, and occasional spot-checking showed that most Roundup participants were cooperative in helping us divert recyclable materials out of the waste stream. I don’t know if the trash cans ever had to be emptied during the three-day event!
Another innovation this year was (a last minute) partnering with a new ride sharing company, TripVerde. Participants were encouraged to sign up for carpools instead of driving single-occupancy vehicles. Though the number of people who used the service was relatively small, TripVerde’s preliminary report states that, with 6 drivers and 13 riders, about 100 gallons of gasoline were saved–the equivalent of about 1988 pounds of CO2!
Audiences packed the tents for the three keynote talks. Friday featured Mason Arnold of Greenling Organics, who talked about the impact of eating local and organic. Saturday, all the way from California, Mat Stein talked about preparedness using renewable techniques, sustainable living practices, and green technologies. The last part of Stein’s talk was more motivational, aimed at inspiring people to take action now, before crises occur. Sunday featured (for the first time as a keynote) the always-popular Peter Pfeiffer, who gave a well-documented and clear explanation of why building green by design, not device is the smartest strategy. His point was that there are many steps we can take to green a house that can and should be done before resorting to expensive installations like solar panels.
Our EcoNetworking crew provided volunteer staffing for the kids’ area and supported scores of children in learning about renewable energy. Kids were able to build and race their own miniature solar cars and cook s’mores in their handcrafted solar ovens. (Those who want to learn more about solar cooking here in Austin can attend Jenny Nazak’s course this weekend, Sunday October 5, at Green Gate Farms from 11 – 2. Kids welcome. Advanced registration required–call Jenny at 512-619-5363.)
It’s exciting to see the growing numbers and feel the growing energy around the themes that have been a part of Roundup for nine years: green building, renewable energy, and organic agriculture. In these challenging economic times, its the green, sustainability-oriented economy that should actually keep growing.