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How Green is the Republican National Convention?

By August 30, 2008

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The Republican National Convention has published a Green Fact Sheet to let us know that "the Republican Party is committed to making this year's nominating convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul the "greenest" in party history".

The RNC's Green Fact Sheet has a lot of praise for Minneapolis' and St. Paul's status as some of the greenest cities in the nation, but seems a little short on any kind of innovative ideas specific to the convention.

According to the Fact Sheet, delegates registered for the convention, and have been communicating with convention officials, online. RNC volunteers have been arranged using the internet, and convention supporters have been holding discussions via the net, rather than mail or physically traveling for meetings. Well, it is 2008. We could sign up as volunteers online in the for the 2004 election season. And have been able to talk and hold meetings on the internet for years.

RNC administrative staff work in offices where the climate control turns off automatically when not needed, and you may or may not be amazed to hear that yes, they are recycling paper, cans and bottles at the office. Is anyone else wondering why this is news?

A national convention needs a lot of electricity, and part of the electricity used to power the Convention will come from wind and solar sources. Solar panels recently installed near the High Bridge plant in St. Paul will produce 10 kilowatts of electricity for the Xcel Energy Center. That's enough electricity to power three average sized homes.

And what percentage of the energy needed by the convention will this offset? During the convention, it's estimated that the Xcel Center, and the media operations outside, will consume the same power as 8,000 homes. Or to put it another way, 0.0037% will be provided by the solar panels.

Coca Cola and the MSP welcoming committee announced that they would be running a recycling program where coke products would be delivered on hybrid gas/electric trucks, then the empty bottles will be collected and recycled in the Twin Cities, saving emissions from delivery trucks. At a press conference announcing the program, dinky bottles of Coke products were offered to the journalists. Here's some more math: cute little bottles have a much higher packaging-to-product ratio. All that talking and politicking is going to be thirsty work, so could Coca-Cola provide their beverages in big bottles? Or could the delegates drink packaging-free faucet water rather than Dasani?

Some more lip-service to environmentalists are the GOParty cards. RNC guests and media have been issued with plastic cards entitling them to discounts at local Twin Cities businesses. The cards are made of special biodegradable plastic. Cute, but how significant in all the waste the convention will generate?

Health Insurance company Humana, and bike advocacy group Bike Beyond are providing 1000 bikes for conventioneers. The city street-friendly machines are free to rent and come with a lock, helmet and computer to log your miles. There will be seven locations in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Early September is fine weather for biking in the Twin Cities. The weather is forecast to be beautiful, and there's some touches of fall color appearing along the river. Anyone over 18 - visitors, delegates, media, protesters, and local residents - can hire a bike for free. For any visitors who do check out a bike, here's a bike route from the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul, to downtown Minneapolis' Convention Center, passing historic mansions on Summit Avenue and then following the Mississippi River, just over 11 miles and bike route most of the way.

So is the 2008 RNC green? And who's conference is greener - last week's Democratic National Convention, or the upcoming RNC?

The RNC's green initiatives, like recycling bottles, which have been innovative in back in 2000, should be standard practice, rather than something to hype, in 2008.

The Democratic National Convention, has to be the winner of the two.

The DNC is buying carbon credits to make it a carbon-neutral affair, and is exhorting the media and each state's delegation to offset it's carbon emissions too. A fraction of the protesters traveled to Denver than are expected here. And as Denver is one city, with most hotels and convention venues within walking distance of each other, instead of requiring a car ride out, the DNC is the winner, but somewhat more to do with circumstance and cold hard cash, than the organizers' efforts.

An event as large as the RNC, with all the months of preparation, the air miles logged by those traveling here, and all the power and resources consumed, is unarguably going to have an environmental impact, biodegradable discount cards or not. But the conventions only come around every four years, so it doesn't really matter who's conference is greener. What really matters is what long-term environmental policies John McCain or Barack Obama actually implement once they are in power.

September 2, 2008 at 3:07 pm
(1) Ethan says:

It’s also ironic that the RNC would promote how “green” the convention is while environmental advocates are being detained by the police simply for being in the area. A group driving a re-tooled school bus titled the Earth Justice Bus was pulled over and the bus was prevented from going to its destination in St. Paul to do ecological sustainability awareness trainings. It’s been covered in the local IndyMedia, and you can learn more at: http://www.starhawk.org/activism/activism-writings/RNC2008_permibus.html

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