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Democrats Take On Challenge of Achieving a Green Convention

Having staffed a booth two years running at the Chicago Green Festival, I know what a challenge it is for meeting planners to stage a truly green convention. The Green Festival posts volunteers at the garbage cans, to help the public choose the right bin: compost, recycle, or trash. Exhibitors have to attend a conference call and sign a “leave no trace” agreement.

Now, it’s the DNC’s turn to wrestle with the inherent problems associated with inviting thousands of people to converge on a city for a giant party, while keeping their carbon footprints as low as possible. The Wall Street Journal’s front page story on “The Greenest Show on Earth” provides some insights into the problem:

  • After trying to source an organic, union made fanny pack to be given to volunteers, Bob DeMasse, the convention’s organizer reported that such a thing doesn’t exist.
  • The same goes for baseball caps: there are union caps and organic caps, but no cap with both requirements. (Come on, unions, step up!)
  • Andrea Robinson, the convention’s Director of Greening, is testing balloons to make sure they are really biodegradable — by burying them in steaming compost piles.
  • She has also hired an Official Carbon Advisor to measure the show’s carbon footprint so that it can be offset by investments in renewable energy.
  • “Lean and green” catering guidelines are calling for no fried food and 70% organic or local ingredients.
  • And, yes, the DNC will also have a team of garbage monitors.

Some inevitable compromises have resulted, but the Dems can at least be given credit for forcing everyone to think about the environmental impact of their meeting — and perhaps building a template for future meetings as well. It’s all part of an encouraging trend in the meeting planning business, which the Green Meeting Industry Council is helping to lead, and it’s creating ripples throughout the hospitality industry, evidenced by such organizations as the Green Hotels Association.

Image Credit: Kevin P. Casey, USA Today


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Written By

Carol Gulyas is a leader in the renewable energy community in Illinois, where she serves as VP of the Board of the Illinois Solar Energy Association. Recently she co-founded EcoAchievers -- a provider of online education for the renewable energy and sustainable living community. She spent 18 years in the direct marketing industry in New York and Chicago, and is currently a teaching librarian at Columbia College Chicago. Carol grew up in a small town in central Indiana, then lived in the Pacific Northwest, Lima, Peru, and New York City. She is inspired by reducing energy consumption through the use of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and green building technology.

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