President-elect Barack Obama is trying to leave the smallest possible carbon footprint at his inauguration.

The plans for the ceremony give the new president an opportunity to set the tone for the environmental policy of the new administration.

“I think it is excellent for the public to see the president making these sorts of steps, because even those the effects of this one event won’t make or break the environment, a renewed spirit of activism will,” said Clinton Ibarra (SFS ’12), an EcoAction member at Georgetown.

The highlight of the environmentally friendly celebration will be the Green Inaugural Ball on the night of Jan. 20. The event will be wind-powered, feature as many locally grown and organic foods as possible, and use only locally grown flowers. Additionally, local rental companies will be used with attention to highly reusable and easily recyclable materials.

According to the event’s Web site, the location of this ball – the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium – was chosen because of its close proximity to a metro stop. The event coordinators hope that the location will promote use of public transportation to get to the event. They are also able to keep lighting and decorations to a minimum because of the large windows of the auditorium. All additional decorations will be environmentally friendly, including undyed, unscented soy wax votive candles and LED colored lighting. All printing for the event was done on recycled paper with a carbon-neutral, waterless printer. All ticket sales were online to avoid unnecessary printing. All leftover food will be composted at a local Maryland farm, where trash decomposes into dirt in 90 days. Plastics and Styrofoam have been banned from the event.

The air travel of guests to the ball will provide the largest cost to the environment. The event emissary will buy carbon credits in an attempt to make up for the transportation of guests and food and equipment delivery. Guests who arrive by car have been asked to carpool or use hybrids, and will also be asked to offset their travel costs to the environment. Transportation is a general concern in the District during the inauguration, but it is also a chance to demonstrate the efficiency and beneficial effects of public transportation.

“This event is going to be a real test of DC public transportation, but I think that it will be viewed as a great example of how public transportation is a useful and vital part of transforming our economy and national infrastructure to help cut greenhouse gases and curb global warming. People will need to travel all over this city this weekend, and Metro will take them there, leaving a much smaller carbon footprint than if they had driven cars,” said Shea Kinser (COL’09), a member of EcoAction and active environmentalist.

Another green inaugural ball, hosted by Al Gore, “The Green Ball: Inauguration of a New Green Economy” is taking place at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery on Jan. 19.

In addition to these balls, efforts have been made to reduce environmental pollution at other parts of the inauguration. The inaugural platform will have a green carpet made from recycled materials. Some floats from previous inaugurations will be reused in this year’s parade, and there will be recycling bins on the National Mall for the swearing-in ceremony.

Representatives from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will be present at the inauguration ceremony itself. They plan to give fur coats to the homeless – the fur coats were collected from people who gave them away, and PETA has marked them with black paint so that they cannot be resold – while handing out cups of soy hot chocolate in cups that say, “Thank You for Not Wearing Fur.”

“We expect that the only fur on the streets on Jan. 20 will be on homeless people,” Bruce Friedrich, vice president of PETA, said in an article in the Chicago Tribune.

Other efforts include the use of segways to get around the city over the course of the weekend, and the use of biodegradable materials by all of the House of Representatives events.

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