This past weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to the great city of Austin, Texas for a weekend of collaboration, inspiration, and most of all, fun. What brought me there? The groundbreaking new conference series, Outdoor Nation. This series of nine summits throughout the summer and fall of 2012 brings youth from throughout the country together to identify outdoor issues, overcome barriers to outdoor participation, and propose projects to increase youth engagement in their outdoors.
Following an early morning flight out of DC, I arrived at the University of Texas campus just in time to participate in a great service project with the Student Conservation Association. Fifteen volunteers and one hour of hard work in the Texas heat, and we had picked up over forty pounds of trash and five pounds of recycled goods from Waller Creek, running through the heart of the UT Austin campus. We were rewarded for our hard work with a delicious lunch at UT’s Jester Center Dining, where we met with the director of campus housing and dining, who spoke with us about the university’s sustainability initiatives. One fun fact from the conversation: by eliminating food trays in dining halls, the University of Texas was able to reduce its food waste by 48%, from 112 tons/year to approximately 48 tons/year. What a great example of an exercise in both sustainability and food economics!
Following an evening of exploration in Austin, including stops at the Blanton Museum of Art and the Texas State Capitol, I was up bright and early to participate in my first ever Outdoor Nation Signature Summit. Arriving at UT’s Thompson Conference Center, I joined 160 eager young adults (ages 16-28) for a welcome breakfast and an engaging discussion on the rights and responsibilities of our generation in relation to our great outdoors.
Video courtesy of Outdoor Nation.
Throughout the morning, we were kept engaged with challenging quizzes, photo contests, and democratic decision making, all run by our technologically-savvy facilitator, Chris Bui. Chris is a Social and Civic Entrepreneur, whose primary work area is in fostering democratic movements to solve modern challenges. Thanks to the Outdoor Nation team for bringing in such an engaging leader for our summit!