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Green conventions or green meetings are conventions which are conducted in ways which minimize the environmental burdens imposed by such activities. Green event planners apply environmentally preferred practices to waste management, resource and energy use, travel and local transportation, facilities selection, siting and construction, food provision and disposal, hotels and accommodations, and management and purchasing decisions.

Green event and convention planning is now an established trend within the global tourism and convention industry.
Several cities in the United States and Europe now sport green convention centers designed using green building principles and practices.

Several high visibility events including the Olympic Games in Italy, Sydney, Utah, and Greece; the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, and the 2004 Democratic and Republican National Conventions have implemented green practices with varied success. A more recent example is that of Live Earth, a series of worldwide concerts held on July 7, 2007, that initiated a three-year campaign to combat climate change. Such efforts aim to conserve resources, protect air and water quality, habitat and human health, and showcase sustainability practices and concerns.


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Some private consultants in the meeting planning industry specialize in mounting green events, and industry groups and governments now sponsor awards to recognize achievements.

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The Wall Street Journal Democratic Convention 2008

The Greenest Show on Earth:
Democrats Gear Up for Denver 2008

From Organic Fanny Packs to 'Pure' Trash,
Party Planners Face Logistical Nightmare

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.

[See more]
With biodegradable balloons and organic snacks, Denver Democrats hope to stage the "greenest convention" ever. See examples.

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."

Much of the hand-wringing can be blamed on Denver's Democratic mayor, John Hickenlooper, who challenged his party and his city to "make this the greenest convention in the history of the planet."

Convention organizers hired the first-ever Director of Greening, longtime environmental activist Andrea Robinson. Her response to the mayor's challenge: "That terrifies me!"

After all, the last time Democrats met in Denver -- to nominate William Jennings Bryan in 1908 -- they dispatched horse-drawn wagons to bring snow from the Rocky Mountains to cool the meeting hall. Ms. Robinson suspected modern-day delegates would prefer air conditioning. So she quickly modified the mayor's goal: She'd supervise "the most sustainable political convention in modern American history."

Now, she must pull it off.

Green Conventions Green Meetings - Keep it Green!

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.

[Andrea Robinson] - Green Conventions Green Meetings - Keep it Green!

"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."

Democrats say the point is to build habits that will endure long after the convention. To that end, the city has staged "greening workshops" attended by hundreds of caterers, restaurant owners and hotel managers. "It's the new patriotism," Mayor Hickenlooper says.

Laura Hylton, general manager of Biscuits & Berries catering, agrees in principle. But she has been testing her recipes using local ingredients for weeks and still can't get the green peppercorn sauce right when she uses white Colorado wine. The state's high-altitude wine industry took off in the early 1990s and produces some award-winning labels, but Ms. Hylton says diplomatically, "It's a little...lacking. Our wineries out here aren't what you'd see in California or France."

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.

Compostable utensils, she says, are often shipped from Asia on fuel-guzzling cargo ships. As for the plates: "Is it better to drive across town to have china delivered to an event and then use hot water to wash it, or is it better to use petroleum-based disposables?" she asks.

The convention's greening gurus say they're doing the best they can with the most current information available.

Coors Conflict

But it's almost inevitable that principles, politics and profit will conflict. To wit: Coors Brewing Co., in Golden, Colo., will donate biofuel made from beer waste to power the convention's fleet of flex-fuel vehicles. A green star for the convention -- but it has rankled die-hard liberals, who boycotted Coors in the 1960s and '70s to protest hiring practices that they said discriminated against blacks, Latinos, women and gays. Heirs to the Coors fortune have long been active in conservative causes and Republican politics.

Convention officials say Coors is a good corporate citizen. And a Coors spokeswoman says the donation was a gesture of civic pride, not politics.

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No matter, grumbles Anna Flynn, a longtime union member from Denver who objected to the donation. "Any way you put it, it's still Coors," she says.

Chris Lopez, a spokesman for the host committee, says that securing a diverse group of sponsors is as much about showcasing the regional economy as promoting sustainability. He added that Democrats are nudging sponsors to "think green" by participating in an eco-festival and cutting back on paper fliers stuffed into delegate goody bags.

Watching the greening frenzy from afar, Fred L. Smith Jr., president of the libertarian Washington think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, suggested the Democrats could really shrink their footprint by staging a virtual-reality convention: "Just have everyone stay at home with their laptops, sitting in their pajamas, interacting through their avatars."

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.

Write to Stephanie Simon at

The Wall Street Journal Democratic Convention 2008


Buying Into the Green Movement


HERE’S one popular vision for saving the planet: Roll out from under the sumptuous hemp-fiber sheets on your bed in the morning and pull on a pair of $245 organic cotton Levi’s and an Armani biodegradable knit shirt.

Green Conventions Green Meetings - Keep it Green!

Stroll from the bedroom in your eco-McMansion, with its photovoltaic solar panels, into the kitchen remodeled with reclaimed lumber. Enter the three-car garage lighted by energy-sipping fluorescent bulbs and slip behind the wheel of your $104,000 Lexus hybrid.

Drive to the airport, where you settle in for an 8,000-mile flight— careful to buy carbon offsets beforehand — and spend a week driving golf balls made from compacted fish food at an eco-resort in the Maldives.

That vision of an eco-sensitive life as a series of choices about what to buy appeals to millions of consumers and arguably defines the current environmental movement as equal parts concern for the earth and for making a stylish statement.

Some 35 million Americans regularly buy products that claim to be earth-friendly, according to one report, everything from organic beeswax lipstick from the west Zambian rain forest to Toyota Priuses. With baby steps, more and more shoppers browse among the 60,000 products available under Home Depot’s new Eco Options program.

Such choices are rendered fashionable as celebrities worried about global warming appear on the cover of Vanity Fair’s “green issue,” and pop stars like Kelly Clarkson and Lenny Kravitz prepare to be headline acts on July 7 at the Live Earth concerts at sites around the world.

Consumers have embraced living green, and for the most part the mainstream green movement has embraced green consumerism. But even at this moment of high visibility and impact for environmental activists, a splinter wing of the movement has begun to critique what it sometimes calls “light greens.”

Critics question the notion that we can avert global warming by buying so-called earth-friendly products, from clothing and cars to homes and vacations, when the cumulative effect of our consumption remains enormous and hazardous.

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“There is a very common mind-set right now which holds that all that we’re going to need to do to avert the large-scale planetary catastrophes upon us is make slightly different shopping decisions,” said Alex Steffen, the executive editor of, a Web site devoted to sustainability issues.

The genuine solution, he and other critics say, is to significantly reduce one’s consumption of goods and resources. It’s not enough to build a vacation home of recycled lumber; the real way to reduce one’s carbon footprint is to only own one home.

Buying a hybrid car won’t help if it’s the aforementioned Lexus, the luxury LS 600h L model, which gets 22 miles to the gallon on the highway; the Toyota Yaris ($11,000) gets 40 highway miles a gallon with a standard gasoline engine.

It’s as though the millions of people whom environmentalists have successfully prodded to be concerned about climate change are experiencing a SnackWell’s moment: confronted with a box of fat-free devil’s food chocolate cookies, which seem deliciously guilt-free, they consume the entire box, avoiding any fats but loading up on calories.

The issue of green shopping is highlighting a division in the environmental movement: “the old-school environmentalism of self-abnegation versus this camp of buying your way into heaven,” said Chip Giller, the founder of, an online environmental blog that claims a monthly readership of 800,000. “Over even the last couple of months, there is more concern growing within the traditional camp about the Cosmo-izing of the green movement — ‘55 great ways to look eco-sexy,’ ” he said. “Among traditional greens, there is concern that too much of the population thinks there’s an easy way out.”

The criticisms have appeared quietly in some environmental publications and on the Web.

GEORGE BLACK, an editor and a columnist at OnEarth, a quarterly journal of the Natural Resources Defense Council, recently summed up the explosion of high-style green consumer items and articles of the sort that proclaim “green is the new black,” that is, a fashion trend, as “eco-narcissism.”

Paul Hawken, an author and longtime environmental activist, said the current boom in earth-friendly products offers a false promise. “Green consumerism is an oxymoronic phrase,” he said. He blamed the news media and marketers for turning environmentalism into fashion and distracting from serious issues.

“We turn toward the consumption part because that’s where the money is,” Mr. Hawken said. “We tend not to look at the ‘less’ part. So you get these anomalies like 10,000-foot ‘green’ homes being built by a hedge fund manager in Aspen. Or ‘green’ fashion shows. Fashion is the deliberate inculcation of obsolescence.”

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He added: “The fruit at Whole Foods in winter, flown in from Chile on a 747 — it’s a complete joke. The idea that we should have raspberries in January, it doesn’t matter if they’re organic. It’s diabolically stupid.”

Environmentalists say some products marketed as green may pump more carbon into the atmosphere than choosing something more modest, or simply nothing at all. Along those lines, a company called PlayEngine sells a 19-inch widescreen L.C.D. set whose “sustainable bamboo” case is represented as an earth-friendly alternative to plastic.

But it may be better to keep your old cathode-tube set instead, according to “The Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook,” because older sets use less power than plasma or L.C.D. screens. (Televisions account for about 4 percent of energy consumption in the United States, the handbook says.)

“The assumption that by buying anything, whether green or not, we’re solving the problem is a misperception,” said Michael Ableman, an environmental author and long-time organic farmer. “Consuming is a significant part of the problem to begin with. Maybe the solution is instead of buying five pairs of organic cotton jeans, buy one pair of regular jeans instead.”

For the most part, the critiques of green consumption have come from individual activists, not from mainstream environmental groups like the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Network. The latest issue of Sierra, the magazine of the Sierra Club, has articles hailing an “ecofriendly mall” featuring sustainable clothing (under development in Chicago) and credit cards that rack up carbon offsets for every purchase, as well as sustainably-harvested caviar and the celebrity-friendly Tango electric sports car (a top-of-the-line model is $108,000).

One reason mainstream groups may be wary of criticizing Americans’ consumption is that before the latest era of green chic, these large organizations endured years in which their warnings about climate change were scarcely heard.

Much of the public had turned away from the Carter-era environmental message of sacrifice, which included turning down the thermostat, driving smaller cars and carrying a cloth “Save-a-Tree” tote to the supermarket.

Now that environmentalism is high profile, thanks in part to the success of “An Inconvenient Truth,” the 2006 documentary featuring Al Gore, mainstream greens, for the most part, say that buying products promoted as eco-friendly is a good first step.

“After you buy the compact fluorescent bulbs,” said Michael Brune, the executive director of the Rainforest Action Network, “you can move on to greater goals like banding together politically to shut down coal-fired power plants.”

John Passacantando, the executive director of Greenpeace USA, argued that green consumerism has been a way for Wal-Mart shoppers to get over the old stereotypes of environmentalists as “tree-hugging hippies” and contribute in their own way.

This is crucial, he said, given the widespread nature of the global warming challenge. “You need Wal-Mart and Joe Six-Pack and mayors and taxi drivers," he said. “You need participation on a wide front.”

It is not just ecology activists with one foot in the 1970s, though, who have taken issue with the consumerist personality of the “light green” movement. Anti-consumerist fervor burns hotly among some activists who came of age under the influence of noisy, disruptive anti-globalization protests.

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Last year, a San Francisco group called the Compact made headlines with a vow to live the entire year without buying anything but bare essentials like medicine and food. A year in, the original 10 “mostly” made it, said Rachel Kesel, 26, a founder. The movement claims some 8,300 adherents throughout the country and in places as distant as Singapore and Iceland.

“The more that I’m engaged in this, the more annoyed I get with things like ‘shop against climate change’ and these kind of attitudes,” said Ms. Kesel, who continues her shopping strike and counts a new pair of running shoes — she’s a dog-walker by trade — as among her limited purchases in 18 months.

“It’s hysterical,” she said. “You’re telling people to consume more in order to reduce impact.”

For some, the very debate over how much difference they should try to make in their own lives is a distraction. They despair of individual consumers being responsible for saving the earth from climate change and want to see action from political leaders around the world.

INDIVIDUAL consumers may choose more fuel-efficient cars, but a far greater effect may be felt when fuel-efficiency standards are raised for all of the industry , as the Senate voted to do on June 21, the first significant rise in mileage standards in more than two decades.

“A legitimate beef that people have with green consumerism is, at end of the day, the things causing climate change are more caused by politics and the economy than individual behavior,” said Michel Gelobter, a former professor of environmental policy at Rutgers who is now president of Redefining Progress, a nonprofit policy group that promotes sustainable living.

“A lot of what we need to do doesn’t have to do with what you put in your shopping basket,” he said. “It has to do with mass transit, housing density. It has to do with the war and subsidies for the coal and fossil fuel industry.”

In fact, those light-green environmentalists who chose not to lecture about sacrifice and promote the trendiness of eco-sensitive products may be on to something.

Michael Shellenberger, a partner at American Environics, a market research firm in Oakland, Calif., said that his company ran a series of focus groups in April for the environmental group Earthjustice, and was surprised by the results.

People considered their trip down the Eco Options aisles at Home Depot a beginning, not an end point.

“We didn’t find that people felt that their consumption gave them a pass, so to speak,” Mr. Shellenberger said. “They knew what they were doing wasn’t going to deal with the problems, and these little consumer things won’t add up. But they do it as a practice of mindfulness. They didn’t see it as antithetical to political action. Folks who were engaged in these green practices were actually becoming more committed to more transformative political action on global warming.”



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