Posted by: econetworking | October 6, 2015

Good News from the Year 2050

Dear Austinites of 2015,
As a resident of the Shoal Creek watershed here in Austin, Texas, in the year 2050, I write to you to share a message of hope and good news. I know you live in a time when the global situation appears to be deteriorating quickly. It’s true. It seems almost unfathomable how things could get better, given the path you are on with accelerating climate change, biodiversity loss, unhealthy personal toxic burdens, and drastic income inequality. It took a massive wake-up call to bring about this shift but, as Churchill said in the early 20th century, “You can always count on [people] to do the right thing, after they have tried everything else.”
We reached a tipping point a couple decades ago when the citizens of Earth collectively demanded that we “do no harm.”  In part due to the inspiration of Pope Francis, our thinking was re-oriented once we accepted that it was simply not OK to harm others – other people, animals, ecosystems. This meant no pollution or toxics releases, no harmful pesticides and herbicides, and a drastic reduction in pharmaceuticals with much higher testing standards. We accepted a credo that posits: We are all connected. As the founder of the modern Biomimicry movement, Janine Benyus told us there are no individuals – we are all colonies of cells, bacteria, genes and more. Our mutual success and well-being is the business of everyone.
This connectedness also meant we stopped tolerating our neighbors feeling pain, illness and hunger that could be easily resolved. We came to know that hunger and healthcare are not about economics they are about access. Universal access to healthy food and health care is now the norm. When it comes to potential ecological or health impacts, the precautionary principle is now our standard. This approach to risk management states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is not harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an action.
You are at a great point to expand industrial ecology degrees and cradle-to-cradle design thinking. Everything that comes from the biological nutrient cycle must be able to safely return to the Earth. Technical nutrients should remain within closed-loop industrial cycles.
Here are some of the details about what is true now, so you can use these future realities to guide your planning:
  • Complete life cycle assessments are integrated into all products and services. The RoHS and WEEE standards for selling electronics into Europe became a baseline approach for all product design and safety.
  • Labeling and reporting are much more standardized and transparent now so ethical purchasing is extremely easy. Every bar code and product website includes data about the impact on local economies, environmental sustainability, and demonstration of their workforce values, supply chain, materials/ingredients, and certifications for both the company and product. Food products also report on animal welfare and bioavailable nutrition.
  • Our economists are facile with measuring not only the returns on financial capital but also the returns on social capital, natural capital, built capital, and human capital. Because we measure and value these returns our investments in buildings, communities, art, human development are radically different than the short-sighted decisions your peers are faced with to yield quarterly financial profits only.
  • We continued to nurture the culture of innovation and experimentation and from your already strong Austin Technology Incubator we expanded to a new Water Technology Incubator which supported the R&D and product development which together ushered in the era of decentralized City services.
  • Many things became possible when we unlocked the energy challenge and developed reliable, safe, clean ways to harness the energy of the sun and the earth and or water, store it and retrieve it in an affordable way.
  • Austin used the motivation of the billions of dollars it would cost Central Texas to avoid ever going into non-attainment with the EPA Ozone standards.
  • We live in communities that generate and utilize the vast majority of our own energy, water, and organics. Private businesses provide subscription services to residents for food, water, energy and composting system maintenance for residents. Our utility staffers now spend much more time in neighborhoods maintaining the safety and performance of our decentralized network of water catchment systems and community energy nodes. They provide oversight, inspections, continuity and sharing of constantly evolving best practices.
  • Parallel to that innovation we aggressively pursued innovation and policies designed to draw down CO2 to reverse climate change. One of our key activities was incentivizing biomimetic ecosystem-inspired agriculture.
Regarding mobility, I recall the City being at a critical level of congestion, detracting from air quality, time with family and loved ones and lost productivity. 2015 is the year that the Rocky Mountain Institute tapped Austin to be the lead implementation city for a “Mobility Transformation”. That effort really catalyzed the research, innovation and testing of the systems we now use including inter-operable transit data, driverless transit as well as driverless vehicles. We now have more logistics managers than drivers.
Commuting, indeed most mobility is viewed as a service to be custom ordered and on demand (the right vehicle for the right job), rather than fixed assets to manage. Oh, and we no longer use fossil fuels to power our vehicles. Mostly they are powered with electricity generated on-site. The few fuel-driven vehicles run cleanly on biofuels. Our shared-use streets are much quieter, more pleasant and safer now and loss of life due to vehicles has dwindled to at or near zero in most years.
  • Most thankfully the implementation of the Imagine Austin plan led to more accessible, walkable, complete communities. Today all homes have fiber optic networks and all neighborhoods have collaborative high-tech work spaces. These spaces, suitable for co-working, teleworking to jobs across town and across the globe, attending conferences remotely and Simulcast gatherings are now the way conferences happen. We do a lot less transporting of bodies and a lot more transmitting of images. This newly liberated time allows for more exercise, outdoor pursuits and being civically engaged.
  • People refer to their watershed and bioregion as much as they do their political district and other jurisdictions. One of the unique features of this governance is all upstream and downstream bioregions are recognized as inextricably linked and must make resource decisions together.
  • Interdisciplinary teams comprised of multiple City department, nonprofit organizations and private business interests work together to approach geographic areas holistically. The efforts of Restore Rundberg and Spirit of East Austin foreshadow the new epoch of collaboration you are entering.
  • Food production is nearly all generated from Organic plant-based sources and lab-developed proteins.
  • Logistics have been worked out such that nearly all food is grown locally or delivered direct to homes and businesses. People spend very little time in grocery stores.
  • Nearly all organic waste is harvested, processed and re-applied within bioregions. Sophisticated next-gen composting toilets are the standard now. We can hardly believe we utilized drinking water for flushing toilets and allowed those soil-building nutrients to be whisked away rather than used locally.
  • One of the core things that is different now is our approach to education. Since wearable technology and embedded data receivers make information universally accessible, learning facts and testing is no longer the focus. We now orient our personal development around relationship building, effective communication skills, health and wellness education, development of compassionate and ethical beings, as well as ethical, critical problem solving and design thinking.
Of course we have our own set of challenges to deal with now. Our cities employ large numbers of data integrity units, cybersecurity officers, identity management investigators, and artificial intelligence courtsEthics management is our chief concern these days. At least we are not worrying about whether we will have enough water or food to eat or whether the planet is going to shake us off like a dog shaking off water after emerging from Lady Bird Lake.
We hail the heroes of your era who are speaking wisdom and truth. We hope you will encourage others to take seriously the research and teachings of Janine Benyus and the legions of biomimicry developers including Austin’s own Cathy Zarsky of Biomimicry Texas. Make sure people connect with the important works of Paul Hawken author of important works such as DRAWDOWN, Blessed Unrest, and The Ecology of Commerce where he coined the term restorative economy. Encourage and support the social entrepreneurs and the people demanding fair treatment for all citizens regardless of their skin color, income, religion, nationality, education or other factors. We urge you to hold them up these visionaries you are not content to just write compelling books, but to be actively engaged in shaping the future of our culture and planet. Please celebrate and support them and help their ideas spread. You’ll be glad you did!
Brandi Clark Burton grew up in Austin,Texas and imagines the above future largely based on developments in her home town but hopes that Austin’s future can set a new standard for cities everywhere. Brandi has been a social entrepreneur in the spaces of mobility, civic engagement, ethics education, environmental engagement and more. She is also an inspiring public speaker and trusted green advisor. After founding the Austin EcoNetwork and serving as Chief Inspiration Officer for more than a decade, she now serves in the role of Senior Policy Advisor to City of Austin Mayor Adler. Brandi is proud of the Community Climate Plan and 288MW of solar power purchase agreement that were approved during the first 9 months that this new 10-1 City Council has been in office and she looks forward to much more progress and innovation. 
Posted by: econetworking | July 29, 2011

Food Surplus & Salvage Working Group is established

Today at the July Sustainable Food Policy Board Meeting, (Monday 12:30-2:30), I will be presenting the following for consideration/adoption as an official working group of the SFPB.

Actually this is my draft and I welcome your input to make it even better. Please send me your suggestions!
I especially want to get the name of the group right. What we call this will help set our intention in people’s minds. I also want us to be sensitive to the perceptions of restaurant folks and those potentially receiving the surplus food.

Food Surplus & Salvage Working GroupMission and target dates

* Assess the universe of local, state & national laws, regulations, ordinances, health codes, and conditions that currently exist in the food waste/disposal mgmt/recovery/transportation ecosystem. (by Oct 2011 board meeting)
* Participate in meetings sponsored by the Universal Recycling Ordinance Meeting and relevant Solid Waste Advisory Commission meetings to help learn about and shape rules as they pertain to food waste/composting and identify salvage opportunities.(Through December 2011)
* Catalog and map the local businesses and services that relate to food donations, surplus food, farms that want scraps and what type, composting operations and their capacity.
* Identify working models, best practices, programs and regulations from other locations that facilitate the highest and best use of surplus food and food scraps. (by Oct 2011 board meeting)
* Make recommendations for national, state county, cIty and state policy changes that would facilitate more surplus food recovery. (Spring 2012)
* Develop communication tools (survey and educational information) for contacting all Austin area food businesses to assess their current practices as they relate to surplus/scrap/spoiled food and educate them about the alternatives. Find organization and/or interns and/or City or County staff to implement. (Summer 2012)
* Create a surplus food map that identifies businesses that are willing to release their surplus food and under what conditions. (Fall 2012)
* Support the funding of vehicles with temperature controlled chambers that can safely transport food in recovery and delivery efforts and find an entity to carry out such pick-ups. (Winter 2012)

Initial Members:
Brandi Clark Burton – Austin Eco Network –
Marla Camp – Edible Austin –
Melanie McAfee – Barr Mansion, SFPB –
Mark McKim –
James Jolly Clark – citizen –
Tod Wickersham – citizen –
Laura Tankersley –

Erin Hickok – Go Local –
Ruthie Redmond –
Stacy Guidry – TCE/CTZWA/Austin Zero Waste Alliance –
Debrah Dubay – Shades of Green –
Allen Schroeder – Food Recovery –
Sayuri –

Others? Someone from Capital Area Food Bank

I am pleased to share with you that Friday evening I was honored with the Austin Under 40 Community Service Award

Previous winners of this category include my friends Randi Shade, Kerri Qunell, Walter Moreau, David Shaw and Jim Walker (who handed over the title of “Austinite of the Year” on Friday to the fabulous Carolyn Schwarz from HAAM).

The recognition was sweet, as so much of my upbringing was about generosity and service. And don’t think I’m going to stop, or rest on my laurels.  I am so blessed to have so much, and have so many allies who support me in having a life I love and serving with me on behalf of causes we believe in – wow! It is my honor and privilege to share my most precious commodity with you all, and that is time. ALL of you give your precious time and energy to make the world a better place. I honor each of you for even taking the time to read these posts, and for passing the messages along, and using the info to plan your social and activist calendars. You care. Thank you, for all you do.


Later this morning I’m giving a talk, at 11:30 am on the Sustainability Stage in the Austin Green Living and Home Products Expo at the Austin Convention Center (NW entrance)

Here’s the brief outline of my talk:  Living Your Life in Alignment with Your (Green) Values

1)   What you value, care about
2)   Things we have some control over, or choices
3)   Priorities and decision-making processes
4)   Making GREEN choices
5)   Responsibility
6)   Trusted sources of information for making informed decisions
7)   Living in alignment doesn’t feel like deprivation, it’s empowering. When you know your WHY, and it is compelling to you, then you feel good about your choices.

MANY of the speakers on all the different stages are Austin EcoNetwork list members and contributors (and will be featured Green Leaders on the upcoming website).

Gardening Stage
Green Building Stage
Sustainability & Renewables Stage

Kids Activity Area
Cooking Stage

Come check them out and check out the ever-growing collection of greener vendors that Curah Beard has so ably assembled.

Admission: Adults 17+ – $7.50;  Children 16 and under: Free

Peace, Brandi

Posted by: econetworking | January 1, 2009

Resolving to be more green, and resources to do so!

Resolving to be more green, and resources to do so!

If one of your resolutions is be more green, live more lightly on the planet, or just save… money (while doing something good for the planet)…consider my list of 5 key areas for action you might take on:

You may not be ready to total convert your life to be instantly green but you can start by trying one or all of these practices once and increasing it from there.

My suggestions are packed full of links (in red) to other resources where you can dig deeper. Spend some time educating yourself on one of the topics and make at least one New Year’s resolution to adopt a green upgrade to your life.

1) Eat more local & organic food (or at least chemical-free)

Start with one meal a week and work up to one meal a day. Once you discover the joys of eating fresh food, in season, that didn’t travel far and wasn’t sprayed with lots of nasty chemicals, maybe even grown by someone you know, you may find you want every meal to be that way!  Plus when you shop at the local farmers’ markets you can enjoy live music, a social setting and the chance to meet the fine folks who grow your food. Try growing some of your own food, at home, at a neighbor’s, or in a community/school/church garden. I helped start a new program last year, called Citizen Gardener, to get more people started growing food inside the City. If growing is not your thing or you want to supplement what you harvest, check out the farm stands, farmers’ markets an/or consider a CSA or a delivery service like Greenling Organics. The City of Austin and Travis County jointly created a new Sustainable Food Policy Board, which I will be serving, at the pleasure of Councilmember Randi Shade. We will soon be putting together our vision of what we want to happen in Central Texas as it relates to sustainable food. 

2) Drive fewer miles

Please!!! Austin has one of the worst rankings for vehicle miles traveled (55th place and almost double what they drive in the NY tri-state area) . That means we spend a lot of time behind the wheel and are burning lots of fossil fuels into our local airshed rather than swimming in Barton Springs, relaxing or spending time with loved ones. Who wants to spend their life in traffic? There are many ways to tackle thisCombine trips. Walk, bike, carpool or use public transit (even once a week). Work from home. Arrange for a work week that is four 10-hour days. If you have the option to move closer to where you work or attend school the time and money you don’t spend driving can help you justify spending a little more on where you live.  And here’s another thought…what if you were to get rid of one vehicle from your household and fill in the gaps with biking, riding the bus/train, carpooling, or using a carsharing program and check our cars or trucks from a program like Austin CarShare.

3) Buy/Use less Stuff and send less stuff to the landfill 

First, if you have not yet watched The Story of Stuff, please budget 20 minutes sometime today to watch this fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. So if you have already asked yourself if you really need a particular product or service, and the answer is “YES,” first see if you can borrow it, rent it or barter for it. If you do have to go shopping, try to find a used version through a thrift or consignment store, garage sale or swap.. If you must buy new, shop locally, within walking distance if possible, and of course take your own bag. Then look to buy products with minimal packaging (this is called precycling). For the truly advanced, practice what I call Practice “X-ray shopping” –  Shop with eyes and a mind that can see beyond the surface to detect the story of how that product came to be (again, WATCH the Story of Stuff!).  Then there’s the mantra, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” and I’ll add “Compost”. For the stuff that ends up in your home, Austin’s new single-stream recycling and Ecology Action’s expanded locations, it just got a lot easier to recycle a lot more items in Central Texas. We are no longer pained by having to throw out those pesky yogurt containers, hummus tubs and #5 and #6 bottles. [Note: Even with the current trek that Austin’s recyclables are making to Garland, the fact that MORE material is picked up, every OTHER week, diversion rate is higher and the environmental footprint of this method still comes out ahead. (We will, of course be pushing for a comprehensive local zero waste plan and local handling of materials in the coming weeks and months. )] Take advantage of the lawn and leaf collection days, bulky trash pick ups and the household hazardous waste drop-off facility. Another strategy is to divert organic matter (lawn/yard waste and food scraps (especially fruit and veggie parts), egg shells, coffee grinds, paperboard, etc) to compost piles.  Organic material in landfills doesn’t compost, it is mummified and putrefies and creates methane gas and potential water table leakage when the liners eventually wear out. Composting is so awesome that just about everybody who can wrap their head around the NUMEROUS benefits of compost becomes a compost evangelist and soil worshipper! If a group of us who have been visioning a more sustainable future are successful, there will be neighborhood gardens and compost centers. If you have a yard there are many varieties of compost bins you can purchase or construct. In the meantime,  I believe ANYONE can compost, even if you have no yard.  I live in a condo and keep a bucket in my freezer that I walk over to a friend’s yard when it gets full. Dropping off my compost creates a fun excuse to be social and I occasionally get to share in the bounty of their garden. There are people who feed their food scraps to a bin of earthworms under their sink and love it!

4) Eat lower on the food chain, toward a plant-based diet

According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions (and thus contributes more to global warming) than all the cars and trucks on the planet. It is also a major source of land and water degradation.  Wow!  And that doesn’t even account for the massive energy, water and food inputs that it takes to produce animal protein from plant material. It takes the most energy and material inputs to produce a lamb, beef, eggs, pork, dairy and poultry. Fish are not this chart, but beware, fish farming is not so great from an environmental perspective, and many of the world’s fish have already been overfished and/or are in danger of not being able to regenerate their populations. I won’t go into any details but CAFOs (Confined Animal Feed Operations), where most of the meat eaten by Americans comes from, are worse that Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and anything else where torture and inhumane treatment are allowed. Many of them also lead to pollution of waterways, and lots of emissions. These places should be abolished and replaced by sustainable agriculture practices that give animals a good life while building soil, the basis of our life here on Earth. It’s possible to be very healthy and be vegetarian or vegan, but if you have determined that meat is an essential part of your diet, opt for smaller portions of the good stuff you can find at the farmers’ markets and select retail establishments, like People’s Pharmacy. Always seek out organic dairy products (just reading the details of the CAFO and conventional dairy are enough to turn my stomach)

5) Conserve Water & Conserve Energy

Sooooo much has been written about conserving energy and water (including a whole book written by my friend Susan Meredith Beyond Lightbulbs: Lighting the Way to Smarter Energy Management), that I’ll put in some links here and call this blog post done.

In case you didn’t know, the largest single user of electricity in the City of Austin is the Water utility. So, saving water not only saves a precious resource (we are in record drought) but saves energy and the associated pollution that goes along with extraction and burning of those fuels.  Solar and renewable energy are great but it’s a lot more efficient to cut demand first. See these sites for lots of resources, tips and rebates: 

Austin Water Conservation  *  Austin Energy Efficiency  *   Austin Energy Green Building

More Tips

For further tips see the Austin Climate Protection Plan’s Green Tips lists, which are very good. For an amusing dose of green living tips, subscribe to Ideal Bite. I have also been impressed with the Sierra Club’s “The Green Life” daily green tips.

OK, there are at least 1000 more tips I could have written but for now, I’m happy to tell you that the coming year (hopefully before the next Solstice) there will be a fully functional green portal website built, the Austin EcoNetwork, and there will be primers and discussions on a myriad of environmental topics. If you feel like an issue expert or just a great researcher, you can apply to be a subject leader. Details forthcoming. If you know you are interested, send an email to


I am thrilled to be stepping into a new year that will have Obama as president, an energized population, and a lot on my plate to keep me productively engaged. I look forward to working with many of you to create effective dialogue about issues of sustainability that leads to ACTION and a healthy, thriving city with healthy, thriving people .

Wishing you a prosperous and peaceful new year.



Posted by: econetworking | January 1, 2009

Austin CarShare launches new Prius at Mellow Johnny’s! 1/1/09

Austin CarShare is kicking off the New Year with our first expansion vehicle since our November fundraiser. Very exciting! 

The site of our new Prius is Mellow Johnny‘s, at 400 Nueces, in downtown Austin (across the street from the 360 Condos). 

This site has the added benefit of bike lockers, shower and nearby access to buses, for those who are really making the effort to be multi-modal in their transportation choices.

Not a member of Austin CarShare yet? You can sign up online HERE!

Posted by: econetworking | December 11, 2008

Zilker Christmas Tree – how Green?

Austin’s longstanding icon of holiday cheer was lit up again recently for the season; and when stopping by to show a friend the joys of spinning under the lights, the reality of how much energy is used hit me!

I’m looking into the facts (via Austin Energy) to see if they match my intuition and figure out what the real energy usage is. I want to figure out what the savings might be if the incandescent bulbs were switched to LED lights.

It seems I’ve seen fewer lights on homes this year, and perhaps that is due to the awareness that the traditional strands burn lots of energy.  This is a tough one for me, because I’ve always loved the twinkly lights.  Maybe we should start a contest for who can create the most striking display with the fewest strands, or the best power conservation.

(Note: if you do have holiday lights, put them on a timer so they are only on for a few hours in the evening, while you area wake and when most people will drive by and see them!)

Want to help me green the tree?  Leave a comment!

Posted by: econetworking | December 10, 2008

Austin EcoNetwork Logo

 Website development underway!

The Austin EcoNetwork website development is in full swing.  Our developer, HCIDev, is peppering us with questions about colors and fonts and looks that we want. It all starts with the logo – the look and fonts, etc.

We’re currently holding a contest over at 99 Designs to get a purposeful logo and design ideas–you can weigh in on design options folks have submitted in less than a day here.

You could vote for/comment on the logo that Austinite Eric Cavanaugh generously created for us last year when we needed a logo for an event. 


We’ve been using it as a placeholder and like it, but before committing to the look that will be with us for a long time, we wanted to do one last look for ideas. 

You are also free to submit something that you think would work well as a logo and banner for the upcoming website.

Very exciting! Please tell us what you think. : )

Posted by: econetworking | November 19, 2008

Austin CarShare 2nd Birthday Party and FUNdraiser

A good time was had by all who attended the Austin CarShare party last Friday. The atmosphere was made particularly festive by (biodegradable) balloons, twinkle lights, a juggler, acrobatic entertainers and the delightfully fun music of La Strada. People happily nibbled on food donated by Artz Rib House, Texas Honey Ham, Bouldin Creek Coffee House, White Mountain Foods, and Miles of Chocolate and sipped on brew from Live Oak Brewing and root beer from Maine RootDesign Within Reach was a great space for the festivities.

The silent auction was amazing!  Chris Riley, our retiring vice chair, said it was the best he’d seen in ages.  Special thanks to our big auction donors Mellow Johnny’s, Bicycle Sport Shop (and also for their generous donation); Habitat Suites Hotel; and Tusa Fitness.

This party got us halfway to our fundraising goal:  we raised about $15,500 of the $30,000 we need to take possession of all six of our new Prius and get them insured, outfitted with onboard computers, logos, and into our reservation system.

We have donations pending from a few more sources, so I expect the tally will still rise. Anyone who wants to do so can make a donation online at

We couldn’t have done it without all the wonderful help of Christine Tusa and Elizabeth Hannah, our party co-chairs; my fabulous assistant Christa French, our brilliant interns Morgan Whitney, Tracy Stewart, and Nita Durant; volunteer extraordinaire Douglas Finer; and of course our amazing CarShare Board.

In the process of asking for donations and preparing for the party, we identified a videographer and a donor willing to fund the production of a promotional video for Austin CarShare…more on that soon!

Hopefully this will lead to many more people reevaluating their relationship to their transportation and embracing multimodal transit–including Austin CarShare!

Posted by: econetworking | October 29, 2008

Turf to Table, Eat Your Lawn

Written June 9, 2008 (drafted for the Austin Chronicle before I even had a website or blog)
Eat Your Lawn! Last week, a “Back-of-the-Napkin” Business Plan submitted by a team of Austinites won recognition in a contest at the BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) Conference in Boston. The team, headed by Austin eco-activist Brandi Clark, was recognized for “Turf to Table: Eat Your Lawn.” The 5-minute YouTube video planned would inspire people to convert their lawns to gardens, to produce more locally-grown food, providing how-to tips and resources. The napkin-sketch business plan, inspired by the Fritz Haeg Edible Estates exhibit at Austin’s Jones Art Center, has evolved into a broader proposal for a green-collar job program, native and edible-landscape plant distribution, and a city-wide community-supported agriculture program. Collaborators include Edible Austin, the Sustainable Food Center, Austin Green Art‘s “Grow Austin Weird” project, and other food- and gardening-oriented programs. The other team members are Marla Camp, publisher of Edible Austin, green consultant Katie Sternberg, and Grace Wicks, a Philadelphia-based installer of edible landscapes. They are seeking creative talent and funders for the video and job development program, as well as labor, skills, and locations for gardening installations. Contact:
Note: this was the origin of the July 4th weekend Citizen Foodie talk Brandi gave at the Downtown Farmers’ Market and the subsequent development of the Citizen Gardener program. 
Posted by: econetworking | October 2, 2008

Rounding out the Roundup

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.

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