Obama’s Inauguration Will Be the Greenest Ever

  • Published on January 12th, 2009

Barack Obama

This is a guest post by Caitlin Sislin, a public interest environmental attorney in Oakland, California and founder of the Transformative Advocacy program of Women’s Earth Alliance.

Barack Obama is committed to slowing and reversing climate change. Environmentally-friendly initiatives such as green jobs are at the center of his economic stimulus plan. So it’s no surprise that Obama’s inauguration will have the smallest “footprint” of any president in history.

>>See Also: Obama Could be Just the Third President to Mention Environment in Inaugural Address

The four-plus million people expected to flood Washington, D.C. in two weeks will be treated to numerous eco-friendly perks:

  • For the first time ever, the Environmental Protection Agency will advise event organizers on techniques for throwing a greener party.
  • Festivities will include not one, but two carbon-neutral Green Inaugural Balls — one hosted by Al Gore.
  • Organic food will be served at official events.
  • Bicycle-riders will be treated to valet parking.
  • Public restrooms will feature air dryers instead of paper towels.
  • Many of the festivities will be lit using energy-efficient bulbs.
  • All catered events at the House of Representatives will use compostable or biodegradable plates and utensils.
  • A small-wind turbine display from Southwest Windpower and Mariah Power

Environmental groups will also be on hand, working to raise awareness about sustainability among the millions of event attendees. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will hand out used fur coats to homeless people, as well as hot chocolate with soy milk in cups that read “Thank You for Not Wearing Fur!”

The environmental ethic is already taking hold for many people attending the inauguration. The city’s Segway outfitters have already seen a rise in advance rentals of the electric two-wheeled transporters. And thousands will take public transportation, even in tuxedos and ball gowns.

Millions of people will ride airplanes and automobiles to the inauguration in a few weeks, so even a sizable reduction in carbon emissions at the event itself won’t offset all the energy expended in getting there. But the nation, and the world, will be watching Obama’s sustainable opening day. These unprecedented green measures will symbolize his commitment to the environment and, hopefully, will inspire real change.

Image: BohPhoto at Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

About the Author

A public interest environmental attorney in Oakland, CA, Caitlin has worked with NRDC, Earthjustice, the California Center for Environmental Law & Policy, and the Center for Human Rights and Environment in Argentina. At U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law, Caitlin chaired the Environmental Law Society and coordinated the first annual Environmental Justice Symposium. Her article “Exempting Department of Defense from Federal Hazardous Waste Laws: Resource Contamination as 'Range Preservation” was published in Ecology Law Quarterly, one of the nation’s foremost environmental law journals. Caitlin's poem entitled “The Nation Waits” appears in Imagining Ourselves, an anthology of women's art and writing published by the International Museum of Women. Caitlin is the Transformative Advocacy director at Women's Earth Alliance, where she works to convene women attorneys and other professionals with women leaders working on environmental justice issues for international journeys of conscious dialogue, experiential learning, and appropriate advocacy.