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:
- 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.