DENVER — As the Mile High City gears up to host a Democratic bash for 50,000, organizers are discovering the perils of trying to stage a political spectacle that’s also politically correct.
Consider the fanny packs.
The host committee for the Democratic National Convention wanted 15,000 fanny packs for volunteers. But they had to be made of organic cotton. By unionized labor. In the USA.
Official merchandiser Bob DeMasse scoured the country. His weary conclusion: “That just doesn’t exist.”
Ditto for the baseball caps. “We have a union cap or an organic cap,” Mr. DeMasse says. “But we don’t have a union-organic offering.”
Convention organizers hired the first-ever Director of Greening, longtime environmental activist Andrea Robinson. Her response to the mayor’s challenge: “That terrifies me!”
To test whether celebratory balloons advertised as biodegradable actually will decompose, Ms. Robinson buried samples in a steaming compost heap. She hired an Official Carbon Adviser, who will measure the greenhouse-gas emissions of every placard, every plane trip, every appetizer prepared and every coffee cup tossed. The Democrats hope to pay penance for those emissions by investing in renewable energy projects.
Perhaps Ms. Robinson’s most audacious goal is to reuse, recycle or compost at least 85% of all waste generated during the convention.
The Trash Brigade
To police the four-day event Aug. 25-28, she’s assembling (via paperless online signup) a trash brigade. Decked out in green shirts, 900 volunteers will hover at waste-disposal stations to make sure delegates put each scrap of trash in the proper bin. Lest a fork slip into the wrong container unnoticed, volunteers will paw through every bag before it is hauled away.
“That’s the only way to make sure it’s pure,” Ms. Robinson says.
Republicans are pushing conservation, too, as they gear up for their convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Like the Democrats, they’re cutting down on printing by doing as much work as possible by email; using recycled office furniture; and urging employees to walk or take public transportation to work. The Republicans also encourage vendors to be as environmentally friendly as possible.
But Matt Burns, a spokesman for the Republican convention, looks on with undisguised glee at some of the Democrats’ efforts — such as the “lean ‘n’ green” catering guidelines.
Among them: No fried food. And, on the theory that nutritious food is more vibrant, each meal should include “at least three of the following colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple, and white.” (Garnishes don’t count.) At least 70% of ingredients should be organic or grown locally, to minimize emissions from fuel burned during transportation. “One would think,” says Mr. Burns, “that the Democrats in Denver have bigger fish to bake — they have ruled out frying already — than mandating color-coordinated pretzel platters.”
Joanne Katz, who runs the Denver caterer Three Tomatoes, will take one for the green team by removing her fried goat-cheese won tons with chipotle pepper caramel sauce from the menu. But she questions whether some of the guidelines will have the desired earth-saving effects.
Ms. Robinson, the greening director, says big showy conventions are part of the American political tradition, and thus worth a few emissions here and there. Also, she hates to be a killjoy.
True, she did try (unsuccessfully) to get bottled water banned from the convention hall. But remember those balloons? She checked the compost heap last week — and found them still intact. She has added more liquid to try to get them to degrade.
And if they don’t? “The balloons will be there,” she promises.
So will the fanny packs — made in the USA of undyed, organic fabric. Mr. DeMasse vows to get a union shop to print the logo, but he says the ink will be petroleum based. Unless, that is, he decides to get the logo embroidered — with biodegradable thread.
This is just a little picture of the world environmental activists want to create (hint: totalitarianism). There are people who need desperate help here in this nation and around the world – and yet we’re too busy burying celebratory balloons in compost heaps, “protecting” people from un-colorful french fries, and digging through garbage looking for accidentally tossed forks…