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Review :: DNC
NEWSPAPER Greening the DNC Gehring
10 Jul 2004
Michael Charney, co-chair of the Massachusetts Climate Action Network and publisher of the Cambridge Climate Calendar, was on the phone within hours of Boston being chosen as the site of the Democratic National Convention, organizing a meeting of like-minded activists.  They all quickly agreed that because of the worldwide attention that would be afforded Boston come late July 2004, ‘greening’ the convention presented a tremendous opportunity for the environmental community.
 
Thus was born CERC, the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Conventions.  “We are promoting the use of environmental best practices for the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, in order to showcase those practices to the political leaders and the general public,” explained Executive Director Daniel Ruben.  “We want to establish the role model for future conventions, political and otherwise.”
 
Since those first meetings in the fall of 2002, the non-partisan umbrella group has grown to include 250 volunteers from over 60 organizations spanning the non-profit, commercial, and public sectors.  As they lobbied the Democratic National Convention Committee and Boston 2004, the local organizing committee, their influence slowly increased and they decided to work on the Republican National Convention in New York as well.
 
CERC’s environmental advocates are not merely talking the environmental talk, but also walking the walk.  Quite literally as a matter of fact, since they are teaming with WalkBoston to encourage delegates and party-goers to walk to and from the convention and all the various related events.  Leading the way will be former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, obviously no stranger to political conventions.

They are also working with transportation officials to ensure enforcement of the state’s anti-idling law, so that when conventioneers (and regular folks for that matter) are walking around they don’t have to breathe unnecessary noxious fumes from buses and cars.
 
The coalition has coordinated with Shawmut Design and Construction to incorporate green building techniques into their $3.5 million upgrade of the Fleet Center.  This includes a modular design for the stage, which will be broken down and reused instead of merely thrown away.  And with the help of greenGoat, a construction recycling firm, they are ensuring that other building materials like plywood and masonite will be donated to local non-profits, as well as the miles upon miles of cable that will be used for the party.
 
Many of the 25 projects CERC developed here in Boston will benefit both cities, like a five-step guide to greening hotels.  “Suggestions like replacing incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescents are a win-win for both the environment and a hotel’s bottom line,” said Tedd Saunders, Co-Owner and Executive Vice-President of the Saunders Hotel Group in Boston, who oversaw the guide’s publication.  Saunders hosted a seminar at the Lenox Hotel in late May to encourage other area hotels to embrace these practices.  “We want Boston to be recognized as the first city to embrace urban eco-tourism,” he boasted.  Sounds like he’s inviting some friendly competition from the Big Apple.
 
Since global warming is by far the greatest environmental threat our planet will face in the coming decades (and perhaps the greatest threat period), CERC is ensuring that both conventions will be ‘carbon neutral.’  They have obtained credits to offset the greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, that will be emitted – at least 1 ton of CO2 for every one of the expected eighty-five thousand combined attendees.   So you could say that they are taking the hot air out of both events, though not the hot air one would ordinarily associate with a convention.
 
Both events will be powered using renewable energy certificates (RECs) as well.  These certificates convey the attributes of clean power but not the actual electricity, and their purchase sends a clear signal to utilities that more clean energy sources need to be constructed.  $3,000 in RECs have been purchased from nearby Hull’s 660 kW wind turbine to help ‘power’ the Fleet Center, and CERC will host a Boston Harbor boat cruise to the aptly named Windmill Point during the convention to educate delegates about renewable energy’s potential.
 
“We believe that American political conventions should be powered by American made renewable energy; that is created by American workers; that benefits the American economy; that doesn’t pollute Americans’ lungs; that no American must risk their life to defend; and that doesn’t contribute to global warming,” said Ruben at a recent press conference.
 
CERC is proving on this national and worldwide stage that green practices are not only environmentally friendly, but also economically sound - all of their initiatives will save money eventually if not immediately.  They also want to show that such practices will have a lasting positive effect on the livability of the city and the region if they are widely incorporated into the everyday operations of both the public and private sector.
 
“Without a doubt, this political convention will be the most environmentally friendly in our nation's history,” said Rod O’Connor, CEO of the DNCC, at that same press conference.  Thanks in no small part to the dedicated volunteers at CERC.  To find out more about their efforts toward ‘making green meetings the convention,’ go to www.cerc04.org.
 

This work is in the public domain