A Green Convention
“The 2008 Democratic National Convention, like our great party, is about the future – the future of our country and the future of our planet,” says House Speaker and permanent Convention Chair Nancy Pelosi. "That is why we are ensuring that this Convention will be the greenest, most sustainable, most successful political Convention in history.”
This effort has been in the works for quite some time. The Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) initiated a comprehensive greening plan a full year before the Convention and continues to incorporate sustainability principles in all aspects of planning and subsequent restoration. Meanwhile, the Denver 2008 Host Committee of the Democratic National Convention has pledged to “conserve energy and natural resources, avoid waste and prevent pollution. When possible, we will mitigate the negative environmental consequences of our actions.”
Here’s a quick look at some of the green specifics.
For the first time in Democratic National Convention history, the DNCC is comprehensively calculating the carbon footprint of the Convention with help from Camco, the Official Carbon Advisor. The ideal goal is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible. Where emissions are unavoidable, the DNCC will find verifiable carbon offset programs that benefit American renewable energy and agricultural and landfill methane capture projects.
A Greener Arena
Much of the Convention will take place at the Pepsi Center, the home of the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche (not to mention a regular series of blockbuster concert events) located downtown. In March, the Center announced that it would be the first arena in the United States to go 100 percent green. Plans are afoot for the 19,000-seat arena to operate entirely on renewable wind and solar energy. The switchover will also include new recycling bins, a hybrid vehicle-only parking area and a “no idling zone” outside the arena. At the Pepsi Center media pavilions, there will be high-efficiency lighting systems and compact fluorescent, LED and solar powered lighting wherever possible, in addition to solar arrays and hydrogen fuel cells for cleaner power. In areas where generators will absolutely be required, the goal is to fuel them by a minimum of 20 percent biodiesel.
Denver is an ideal city for a convention the size of the Democratic National Convention, in part because it is such a walkable city and is well served by public transportation. If you’re downtown, you can walk to virtually all of the convention hot spots. The Pepsi Center, the Convention Center, the DNCC Headquarters Hotel and the DNCC offices are all located within walking distance of either the RTD light rail or the 16th Street mall shuttle, which is run on hybrid buses. Most delegation hotels are also accessible from these public transportation systems. The buses used to transport delegates and media from all the hotels to the Pepsi Center will be either hybrid, alternative fuel or run on biodiesel. Bus idling will be kept to a minimum to reduce air pollution, keeping those crystal clear Colorado skies looking their best. The Democratic National Convention’s Official Vehicle Provider, General Motors, is working with the DNCC’s transportation team to offer hybrid, E-85 and high fuel efficiency vehicles to support their fleet needs. All DNCC vehicles and bus miles will also be tracked and included in the convention’s carbon footprint calculations.
Freewheelin Bike Sharing Program
In May, Denver Host Committee President Elbra Wedgeworth and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper unveiled plans for a bike-sharing program called Freewheelin, part of Denver's efforts to support healthy living and environmental sustainability during the Democratic National Convention. The Freewheelin program was developed by Humana, Inc. in partnership with bike industry leaders. As part of the multi-pronged initiative, Humana and the not-for-profit Bikes Belong will bring nearly 1,000 bikes to Denver during the Democratic National Convention in August. The bikes can be used free of charge by anyone looking for an alternative to automobiles while the convention is in town. The legacy program will feature Freewheelin bike racks set up at various points around the city, each housing a collection of the program's proprietary bikes, which are equipped with trip computers. A solar-powered kiosk through which participants can "check-out" a bike will accompany each bike rack. Participants can use the bikes for things such as riding to work or doing errands, or simply taking a leisurely spin. Once users are finished, they simply return the bike to any Freewheelin rack in the city. Participants can register for the program on the soon-to-be-launched Freewheelin website, and use the site to automatically track things like their mileage, their personal carbon offset and other health information. Riders simply use a credit card or a Freewheelin key fob to check the bike out at no charge during the convention.
Inevitably, 50,000 people are going to create waste. But the DNCC’s goal for resource recovery systems at the Pepsi Center and the Colorado Convention Center is a minimum 85 percent diversion from the landfill. How will this be done? Through a comprehensive recycling, composting and waste minimization program – not to mention the help of hundreds of DNCC Green Team volunteers. Organic materials collected through our system will be composted, degrade within weeks and be returned to the soil. The Pepsi Center and the Colorado Convention Center staff are working to acquire sustainable and recyclable service ware. In this way, the city hopes to not only lower our waste impact for the Convention, but to create a long-term legacy of recycling and sourcing recyclable materials at these venues.
The Green Delegate Challenge
In April, House Speaker Pelosi and Convention organizers announced the Green Delegate Challenge, offering special rewards for the delegation or delegations that show the highest level of commitment to offsetting their Convention carbon footprint. Delegations with the highest percentage of members offsetting their carbon will be recognized in their seating section on the floor of the Pepsi Center during the Convention. Each delegate, alternate and super delegate from that state will also receive a limited edition "green" prize to be announced at a later date. Progress will be tracked on DemConvention.com, with the winning state or states recognized on the website in August. Any delegate who offsets their travel will receive a unique wearable "green item" for Convention week, available only to these delegates, and be recognized individually. To participate in the challenge and be identified as a "Green Delegate," delegates must obtain and present their offsets prior to August 1, 2008.
Green Pages at www.DemConvention.com
In March, the DNCC launched a series of “green” pages on www.DemConvention.com highlighting the committee’s efforts to design waste out of the Convention by applying sustainable planning principles to every decision in the lead-up to the four-day event. DemConvention.com features a carbon calculator to help Convention guests measure the carbon footprint generated by their individual trips to Denver, as well as an overview of the DNCC’s sustainable goals and objectives, a weekly innovative and easy “greening” tip, and behind-the-scenes “Green Screen” video of the DNCC’s efforts to create a sustainable event, along with the latest news and information.
A series of DNCC Service Days are planned, focusing on three areas of importance to the Denver-area community: youth, environmental projects and the combined issues of homelessness and hunger. Local river clean-ups, tree planting and tree care events are just part of how the Democratic National Convention will create an environmental legacy in Denver and the surrounding communities.