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Published on August 27th, 2008 | by Shirley Siluk Gregory


Democratic Convention Organizers See Green

Sascha Brück at Wikimedia Commons under a GNU Free Documentation license to publish.)Organizers of the Democratic National Convention now in full swing in Denver have taken a lot of steps to reduce both the event’s carbon footprint and its overall impact on the environment. In fact, they say their mission is to produce "the most environmentally sustainable political convention in modern American history."

Among the green innovations presumptive presidential nominee Barack Obama, Democratic leaders and and delegates are encountering:

>> Read more on the Presidential Election at Red Green and Blue

  • A kick-off "Green Frontier Fest," held on the eve of the convention. The free "celebration of sustainability" featured a farmers’ market, eco-carnival games, music, exhibits, kid-powered train rides, sustainable wine and beer tastings and goodies baked in solar ovens. Among the special guests attending were actress/activist Daryl Hannah and Van Jones, who founded and leads the green economy-focused organization Green for All.
  • Green convention offices. The convention’s office headquarters is an Energy Star-rated building smack-dab in the middle of Denver’s mass transit lines. The offices also feature motion-sensor lighting systems, recycled materials, compostable bioware, 100-percent post-consumer recycled paper, and energy-efficient lights, computers and appliances. Employees are also handling this conventions’ housing arrangements strictly online, a move that’s expected to save anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 sheets of paper.
  • A waste-reduction goal of at least 85 percent at the Pepsi Center and the Colorado Convention Center, both convention venues. Organizers hope to meet that goal with the help of recycling bins and "Green Team" volunteers who are sorting through waste to make sure that anything that can be recycled or composted will be.
  • 1,000 new bikes available for free bike-sharing across the city. "Freewheelin," a program created by Humana and Bikes Belong, is providing the bicycles throughout the convention (it’s providing an equal number during the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul next month). Convention-goers can check out bikes at solar-powered kiosks and return them at other locations in town. After both conventions, Freewheelin will donate 70 of the bikes, as well as the kiosks, for ongoing use by residents.
  • A focus on environmentally friendly materials that includes sustainably-harvested woods, rented or reused items. After the convention, organizers plan to reuse what they can and donate other materials to local schools and community groups.
  • Eco-friendly transportation for delegates and media members who choose not to walk or bike. That includes hybrid, alternative-fuel or biodiesel-powered convention buses and the city of Denver’s light rail system.
  • 70,000 wooden hotel key cards. The cards, being used at 90 hotels across the Denver area, were donated by Sustainable Cards of Boulder and are made of wood from sustainably harvested birch trees. While this is the first time wood hotel keys are being used in the U.S., they’ve been opening hotel room doors across Europe for some seven years now.
  • Reusable water bottles and bottle-filling stations. At outdoor events, convention-goers can also quench their thirst by visiting the "Water Wagon."
  • "Green" menu offerings at various restaurants across Denver, including locally grown and organic options.

Related posts:

Denver Launches Online Carbon Calculator

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About the Author

Shirley Siluk Gregory, a transplanted Chicagoan now living in Northwest Florida, represents the progressive half of Green Options' Red, Green and Blue segment. She holds a bachelor's degree in Geological Sciences from Northwestern University but graduated in 1984, just when the market for geologists was flatter than the Florida landscape. Just as well, though: she had little interest in spending her life either in a laboratory or, heaven forbid, an oil field. So, of course, she went into journalism. After extremely low-paying but fun and educational stints at several suburban Chicago weeklies and dailies, Shirley and her then-boyfriend/now-husband Scott found themselves displaced by a media buyout and spending the next several years working as freelancers. Among their credits: The Chicago Tribune, a publication for the manufactured-housing industry, and Web Hosting Magazine, a now-defunct publication that came and went with the dotcom era. Shirley's always been concerned about nature and conservation (and an avid pack-rat, as her family can attest to), but became even more rabidly interested in the environment primarily due to two factors: the growing signs that global warming was real and threatening, and the birth of her son, Noah, in 2003. Suddenly, the prospect of a world that might not be quite as habitable in 40 or 50 years took on a whole new, and personal, meaning. Living where she lives now also helped light the fire of Shirley's environmental awareness: her hometown was severely damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and beaten up again by Hurricane Dennis in 2005. That, and the fact that she and her family were vacationing in New Orleans until the day before Katrina -- and spent 12 hours driving home for a trip that normally takes 3 -- has made Shirley deeply appreciate how fragile our lifestyles are, and how dependent they are on sound management of natural resources and sustainable living practices. That's why she's become a passionate reader and writer about all things green and sustainable.

  • Leave it to the Democrats to, as Bill Clinton stated in his convention address, to really “lead by the power of example not the example of power.” As a parent, I know how smart kids are and that my kids don’t do anything I simply “tell” them to do yet they will respect me and follow my lead when I can explain to them why I’m doing what I’m doing. This goes to basic level of human psychology which asks, What’s in it for me? Although the country is waking up to the idea that making green choices is what is best for us all, bad habits die hard and are only changed through constant reinforcement of both the ideas and the example. Kudos to the Dems for walking the walk.

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