Waste not, want not at South by Southwest

AUSTIN, TEXAS--Because my friend and I arrived here Friday, just as registration for South by Southwest (SXSW) was opening up, we saw something rather spectacular: An entire exhibit hall floor covered in a sea of attendee swag bags.

It was quite the spectacle, but in thinking about it afterwards, I realized that there was a real problem there--something that the SXSW organizers should think about.

And that is that the bags--they're really large informational packets in canvas sacks--are jammed full of magazines, pamphlets, brochures and the like, several pounds worth, almost all of which end up in the trash bins here.

That's not all that unusual for a conference, I know. But the issue is that there are three different kinds of bags: those for the separate Interactive, Film and Music festivals. If you are just attending Interactive, you get that bag. Same for the film and music events. But there's a gold pass, which gets you into Interactive and Film, and a platinum pass, which affords access to all three.

Yet, if you have a platinum pass, you get all three bags. Literally more than ten pounds of literature, much of which I am sure is redundant. And most of which is going to end up being thrown away, and probably not even recycled.

It seems to me that they should sort combination bags, at the very least, for the gold and platinum pass holders, so as to cut down on repeat waste.

I suppose that would be a logistical nightmare. Still, given the sheer volume of paper that went into the bags, it would seem worth it.

On the other hand, as a commenter on my friend's Flickr photo of the sea of bags put it, "I guess it's not easy being green in Texas."

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