SXSW Eco: Green Car Racing, Tech Soup, & Gaming For Water Conservation

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Today was the first day of the second annual SXSW Eco in Austin, Texas, and it’s already obvious that the crew has been hard at work fine tuning the entire event. This year’s Eco features dozens more speakers and options for shorter sessions so you can see and hear as much as possible throughout the day. Topics include sustainable seafood, clean energy investments and (literally) everything in between. Here are highlights from some of the sessions we attended today!

Accelerating Environmental Performance in Motorsports

BMW hydrogen racing car

BMW hydrogen racing car. Image via SOCIALisBETTER

Auto racing. Let’s ignore the “is it really a sport?” debate for a moment. It’s a major industry, whether you’re talking about NASCAR or Formula 1. (Example: 13% of Americans identify as science enthusiasts while 61% identify as sports fans!) The demands of this industry, from fuel for the cars to buildings and concessions  have a huge impact on the environments. Circuit of the Americas‘ Edgar Farrera spoke about efforts to infuse motorsports, an industry inherently consumptive, with a greater awareness about environmental responsibility while simultaneously increasing its own efficiency. Both Circuit of the Americas and the American Le Mans Series are early examples of what could be next for this energy-intensive industry. In this series, Le Mans emphasizes not only who crosses the finishing line first, but who uses the least amount of fuel. In this way, green racing is fostering technology developments for tomorrow’s production vehicles (including hydrogen fuel cell racing cars), enhance national energy security and reduce carbon emissions.

Tech Soup for Food Economies 

Portland-based nonprofit Ecotrust, creator of local food online marketplace FoodHub , and Boston-based social venture OR FoodEx announced today their intention to partner on a new joint venture designed to overcome the single biggest barrier to building robust regional food economies: distribution. FoodHub is an online “dating service” for those involved in all aspects of the local food system, from chefs, to wholesale buyers, and retailers. Through their online interface, food makers can connect directly with local food producers. Food Ex is an online food exchange and regional logistics platform with a transparent, open source approach to the aggregation and distribution of food. Unlike farmers’ markets and CSAs, both organizations are focused on commercial scale exchange, helping to make local food accessible for all instead of too expensive for most. Now, through their new partnership, those connections can be supported by a distribution system with the same values. If you’re involved with a restaurant, food-centric non-profit, or are just interested in supporting locally-grown food in your community, check out this interactive infographic that categorizes local food/technology innovations and find out how you can help develop a new alternative food system.

Gaming Our Way To Real-Life Watershed Conservation 

CNN correspondent and environmental advocate Philippe Cousteau made his second appearance at SXSW Eco this year. His company, Azure Worldwide was on hand with the University of Virginia to host an interactive, educational and fun experience with the Global Water Games: The UVA Bay Game! Cousteau also held a press conference to announce that Azure will partner with The Nature Conservancy to develop a new version of the large-scale simulation game for a (yet to be announced) major Texas watershed. Studies indicate that by 2040, the population in Texas will more than double to 43.5 million people while water resources will decrease by nearly 20 percent. The Texas Water Game will engage stakeholders from multiple sectors – government, business, civic and community-based organizations, agriculture, non-profit conservation, and universities – in identifying and sharing strategies for watershed conservation and water sharing.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog