Trash Overwhelms South by Southwest

Trash collectors at SXSW

The question “do you care about the environment” could more accurately be worded “do you enjoy breathing” or “is fresh air a priority”. Sadly, even the most environmentally savvy of us neglect to realize the effects of our actions. At the SXSW music festival during this past spring break, I was astounded at the amount of trash that those in attendance had strewn across the streets of Austin, Texas, a city at the heart of the “Go Green” movement.

The 15th annual festival featured a variety of performers, artists, and conferences, welcoming about 200,000 people from all over the world. The events were relegated to the downtown area, spanning across central Austin – a concentrated area which boasts more original music nightclubs than any other city in the world and encompasses all manner of stages, galleries, exposés, and bistros.

Jay-Z performing at SXSW

The tradition, began in 1987, originally hosted only 700 registrants, but now accepts over 16,000 people a day. The festival found a home in Austin’s artsy and unique climate, rich with cultural and musical history. Since its inception, thousands have traveled about  SXSW via bicycle – a favorable mode of transportation for the city’s eco-friendly residents.

For the 2012 festival, which spanned from March 8-19, the city itself and many of the its environmental protection groups provided compost and recycle bins at almost every event, had crews working 23 hours a day, and set aside roughly $122,000 solely for SXSW cleanup. Still, against their best efforts, the streets of downtown Austin were littered with trash. Apparently, holding onto bottles and paper items for a few steps before you see a trashcan is remarkably difficult.

The convention center at SXSW

Walking down S. Congress, Estefania Lamas (a friend and Brahma Tales co-editor-in-chief) and I found endless amounts of cigarette cases in the bushes, cups and beer cans in the streets and on the sidewalks, and unwanted wrappers and band fliers forming their own pathways. As the trip continued, our repulsion grew at the mess the ongoing festival had left behind. We conveniently acquired a plastic bag from the limbs of a desolate tree – offering it to us; almost begging for assistance. For almost an hour, we filled the bag to the brim with discarded junk, dumped it in trashcans, and started again. Those we passed on the street thanked us, over and over – though help would’ve been more appreciated than encouragement. If everyone picked up just a few pieces of trash, no one would have to devote so much of their time to the dirty job. In that train of thought, if people would just take a second to take care of their own messes and have some respect for the city they’re in, no one would have to pick up their slack.

Teen girls do their part to pick up trash

This beautiful world is the only one we get, and we must do everything we can to protect it and ensure tranquility for every creature that calls Earth home. One piece of trash may seem inconsequential in itself, but when mass populations pay no mind, the trash builds up in overwhelming amounts. Do yourself (and the world) a favor by throwing away (OR RECYCLING) your waste!

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About Taylor Johnson

This is my fourth year as a Brahma and my third year with publications, of which I'm co-Editor in Chief this year. I believe in rights for everyone, love animals, and am very opinionated.

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