Trash Talk

By Art Wiselogel
By the time this column appears in Biomass Magazine we will all be tired of hearing the trash talk on countless political TV ads, but as I write, the Democratic National Convention is in sessionŻjust down the street from my officeŻand the Republican National Convention will soon be held in St. Paul, Minn. Both events were being touted as the greenest conventions each party has ever held. By all accounts, that would not be a difficult feat. It's interesting, however, to see the publicity, number and types of greening efforts and how they were implemented. I would say that they fall pretty much along typical party approaches, but you decide. The information that will probably never be tabulated is just how successful the vastly different approaches were in reducing fossil fuel use, carbon footprint and trash going to the landfill.

The Democratic Convention highly publicized its greening efforts. From having its own green Web pages, complete with an environmental starlet and videos, to trying innovative "green" products, the Democrats put their efforts out there for all to see and critique. Some were successful, such as delegate participation in the carbon offset program for air travel, while others, such as the splintering hotel door key cards made from recycled wood, had less spectacular results.

Additional Democratic Convention greening efforts worth noting were the goal of reducing by 85 percent the amount of waste going to the landfill and promotion of low-carbon ground transportation. To meet the landfill reduction goal at the Pepsi Convention Center monitors were standing by waste bins to insure nothing went into the wrong container.

Biodegradable utensils and balloons were purchased, and signs and banners were to be recycled. The effort even extended to the local hotels, restaurants and other venues.

For the low-carbon ground transportation hybrid and biodiesel vehicles were to be used when possible. Also, ethanol derived from beer waste powered many of the large SUVs used to transport dignitaries. Interestingly, the ethanol was produced by Coors Brewing Co. The Coors family is well known in conservative political circles. In fact, Pete Coors unsuccessfully ran for the Senate as a Republican in 2004. Who would have figured that Republican-produced beer would be used to transport presidential hopeful Barack Obama around Denver.

The Republican National Convention was lower key in publicizing its greening efforts. While doing many of the same things as the Democrats-purchasing wind energy from Xcel Energy, providing bicycles for conventioneers to use, using hybrid vehicles, renting office space in energy-efficient buildings, using recycled products when possible, printing only when necessary and turning out the lights-the Republican Convention's approach was to rest more with the individual. Matt Burns of the Republican Convention Committee stated, "I think we need to focus on how we can be good stewards and do the little things that add up and change people's habits, but we're not going to shamelessly pander."

At the end of the day, both parties made efforts to be greener. The real question is, will the greening of the conventions eventually reflect change in government policy? Whether it is showy or quiet, promoted from the top down or the bottom up, government mandated or socially conscious, it is progress and provides hope for the future.

Art Wiselogel is manager of BBI International's Community Initiative to Improve Energy Sustainability. Reach him at or (303) 526-5655.