By Barbara Kessler

Hazardous chemicals are on hiatus, bottled water is out and bikes are in at the Democratic Convention in Denver, where organizers are seizing the opportunity to green the festivities this week.

As some 10,000 delegates, volunteers, politicos and media people converge on the Mile High city, they’ll be quenching their thirst at “hydration stations” or water fountains serving Denver tap water (inside and outside the Pepsi Center) instead of grabbing the once ubiquitous and landfill-clogging plastic water bottles that have been the norm at big gatherings.

Yes, what’s old is new again, and conventioneers have already been drinking from the well, so to speak, at weekend events where the non-profit water utility Denver Water provided a truck of chilled agua to refill water bottles. The new approach has been “incredibly well received” by those attending the pre-Convention activities, said Donna Pacetti, the local government conservation coordinator with Denver Water. “They love it. It’s cold water. We keep it chilled so it comes out at about 38-40 degrees.”

Convention goers also will find themselves with another back-to-basics choice, with 1,000 bicycles available free-of-charge for short carbon-free hops around top, courtesy of Humana and the Bikes Belong Coalition.

The health giant and the bike-advocacy group teamed up for the Freewheelin’
program to demonstrate a more healthful mode of transportation that’s especially suitable for the short trips that conventioneers will be taking between hotels, restaurants and meeting areas.

As of Monday morning, visitors (and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper who helped kick off the program) had taken 350 bike trips on the loaner fleet, logging just under two miles with each trip, said Avery Stonich
Marketing and Communications Director with Bikes Belong. Coincidentally, that’s in keeping with national statistics that show about 40 percent of all trips Americans take are under two miles, and could be converted to bike instead of car trips, Ms. Stonich said.

The group hopes that their bikes, donated by six manufacturers, will log a total of 10,000 rides and 25,000 miles between the Democratic Convention this week (Aug. 25-28) and the GOP Convention in St. Paul (Sept. 1-4), where Humana and Bikes Belong also will provide free bikes.

“We’re just trying to help people understand that bicycling is a great way to get around for short trips,” she said, noting that bicycling is expedient, healthful and green.

“Just like one voter can impact the outcome of an election, one cyclist can help significantly reduce the environmental impact that our lifestyles have had on the planet,” said Jonathan T. Lord, M.D., Humana senior vice president and chief innovation officer, in a news release. “Bike sharing has been popular overseas for years, and is an easy way for Americans to integrate healthy living and environmental conservation into every day life.”

And even those who need to suit up for the political events should be able to take advantage of the program, which is providing trouser straps, in addition to the complimentary helmets, and pre-registration.

“I’m standing outside the Hyatt and I just saw two people pull up in suits on their bikes,” Ms. Stonich said, noting that Denver is a bike friendly city with marked bike lanes, bike/car lanes and biking paths.

Another green statement being made at the DNC gathering concerns toxic chemicals in our home environment, specifically Triclosan, controversial chemical found in antibacterial soaps and in dozens of other consumer products that may cause immunological problems, even cancer susceptibility in humans, according to the Environmental Working Group.

The EWG says that “soap and water” does a better job than the antimicrobial products containing Triclosan, and that the synthetic chemical, that’s been in use in personal products for some 30 years, may be contributing to the rise of “Super Germs.” Its online guide to Triclosan, which also is known to persist in the environment, lists some of the household products in which the chemical is used and summarizes concerns about it.

The DNC convention will not be providing hand sanitizers with Triclosan, but will be featuring a healthier, more natural sanitizer from a company called CleanWell, via dispensers set up at the Pepsi Center.

A convention press release touts CleanWell as the only “poison free” hand sanitizer that doesn’t pollute the environment.

CleanWell products, confirms found Dr. Larry Weiss, are formulated from plant-based hand soaps and sanitizers that rely on natural methods to fight germs.

Yet they can sanitize as well as synthetics, even killing the super strep strain MRSA, says Weiss, a physician. Specifically, the CleanWell sanitizer is derived from “plants that have been part of the environment in which we, as a species, have evolved.

“In fact,” he said, “these plants (thyme and oregano) which are ubiquitous are common ingredients in the Mediterranean diets which is one of the healthiest known.”

Other green activities at the convention include using biodegradable trash bags and lower-impact food containers; extensive recycling of paper, plastic and aluminum beverage containers by Coca-Cola Recycling (yeah — yuck-yuck at the Pepsi Center); a program that helped hotels switch to key cards made of birch waste instead of plastic; and efforts to track the convention’s overall carbon imprint.

DNC leaders have “challenged” delegations traveling to the convention to offset their carbon debt as part of the effort to maintain a carbon-neutral convention; but it’s unclear how effective that will be. Earlier feedback on that plan suggested that many of the state delegations might not come through with flying green colors.

Finally, like every good group or event that “goes green” the DNC published its own “green tips” for Denver visitors (though heavy web traffic prevented us from opening them).

Copyright © 2008 | Distributed by Noofangle Media