Green convention mania: Is sustainability sustainable?

It’s almost over — the Democratic National Convention in Denver, my home town.

I’ve been quiet this week about the hubbub because I haven’t wanted to deal with traffic, thousands of people, etc. I would have liked to visit some of the information booths, but I was too slow to get on the green blogging bandwagon. I am incredibly curious what the aftereffects of this “green convention” will be.

The Pepsi Center is installing a permanent solar array that will be operational before the Convention and long after our nominee has been chosen in Denver.

  • Much has been made of the wood key cards being used at hotels for the convention. 70,000 key cards will be wood instead of plastic. At least for a few nights. I assume all the hotels will revert to plastic by Friday evening. Forgive me for being doubtful about the ultimate value of this one. Didn’t we once use a sustainable means of hotel entry? I believe it was called the “key.” What ever happened to those?
  • If you would like to experience the convention atmosphere vicariously, check out this blog, apparently written by a Denver lawyer who works downtown. The 16th Street Mall is a pedestrian mall that goes through downtown Denver, ending a few blocks away from the Pepsi Center. Free shuttle buses typically carry workers and tourists up and down the downtown area. It’s always a bit of a circus (entertaining, poignant, with lots of junk for sale), but this is a new perspective.
  • Speaking of new perspectives, let us consider the anarchists. I appreciate some of this blogger’s points, of which this excerpt will give you a flavor:

Greening the convention … [is] also an opportunity for global polluters to remake themselves as environmental leaders- General Motors will be providing a fleet of hybrid hummers while notorious corporations such as Newmont Mining, Peabody Energy, Archer Daniels-Midland, and Ford get to sponsor a green event.

  • Overall, I am curious to see whether we’ll get any photographic evidence of the aftermath of the convention. I hope our media will hold them to a report of whether the convention reached its goal of 85 percent waste reclamation. The sad truth is, huge events like this typically aren’t very sustainable. Even the “green DNC” Web site has a lot of “where possible” disclaimers. I suspect the outcome won’t be too different from Fake Plastic Fish’s recent report on a green festival featuring Radiohead.

I would offer to go down to our downtown city park, Civic Center, and photograph the aftermath, but Denver is hosting the huge “A Taste of Colorado” festival this weekend. Their Web site doesn’t say a word about sustainability.

Have you been to this convention or any other? Heard any good (or dreadful) sustainable news about it?


4 thoughts on “Green convention mania: Is sustainability sustainable?

  1. alottaerrata says:

    I’ve not been to any sustainable conventions, at least none that would rival the scale of the DNC, but I’ve been to many a trade show and they are quite possibly one of the most wasteful types of events I’ve ever seen. New carpet is cut to fit the layout of each trade show and then usually disposed of. While some booths are reusable and stored until the next event, other displays are one-time deals and end up in the dumpster. Then there are the promotional items… pens, pins, cheap plastic gadgets… an occasional tote (not usually made of anything organic or recycled). UGH.

    I suppose this comment doesn’t have much of a point, just airing my frustrations. I wish more companies gave trade shows a bit for thought- they could at least hand out pens made of recycled materials or corn based plastics or something to start with.

  2. Condo Blues says:

    I believe that most hotels switched from traditional keys to using keycards was in the name of better security for their guests. Often, guests would forget to turn in/lose their extra room keys or other people would steal room keys so they could come back later and rob the new guests in the room. In those cases, it was costly for the hotel to switch out the door locks every time a room key came up missing. Instead, hotels use key cards so they can easily reprogram each hotel room key and lock after each guest checks out for better security. Hopefully the wood keycards will work well during the convention and more hotels will consider adopting them.

  3. Kellie says:

    I was a Green Team volunteer for the DNC and blogged a lot about it. To tell the truth it was pretty amazing. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it also wasn’t just a talk with no follow through….as happens so often.

    Most of the containers within the convention were corn-based (which we all know has it’s own problems but…) so they were compostable, as were cups, straws, and flatware. Other items like cans and bottles that came from vending machines were recycleable. One of the issues that irritated me was that the catering company did not follow this rule (or “request” I should say). They catered for the volunteers – and there were a lot! The tops of their boxes were recyclable, but the bottoms were not, nor were they compostable. Big error there!

    There were Green Team volunteers stationed at every Resource Recovery Station (there’s a link on my blog to my Flickr photos where you can see these) literally directing people “that goes in compost, that goes in landfill, that goes in recycling”. And if it was thrown in the wrong bin, we fished it out. After filled, the bags then went to the “back of the house” where volunteers opened each bag and picked through every piece of trash to make sure it was in the appropriate place.

    I was very pleased with the results and we can only learn from and improve upon the experience.

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