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Archive for Sunday, January 11, 2009

Nation’s capital rolls out green carpet for Obama inaugural celebrations

January 11, 2009

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By the numbers

Just about everything having to do with President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration involves big numbers. Here are a few:

• $40 million, the estimated cost of the inaugural parade, balls, opening ceremonies, giant television screens on National Mall and other expenses for the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

• 600, hotel rooms left in Washington.

• 112, light bulbs replaced in lampposts on Pennsylvania Avenue parade route.

• 4,100, minimum number of portable toilets available to the public.

— For the inauguration of a president who promised to be a friend of the environment, what would you expect but carbon-neutral inaugural balls, hybrid Lexuses, organic menus and valet bicycle parking?

Political correctness will rule the day.

Two Green Inaugural Balls are planned, including one featuring a green carpet made from — what else? — a recycled rug. Official invitations to the Jan. 20 inauguration are being printed on recycled paper. The homeless will be handed furs.

With millions of visitors headed to Washington for President-elect Barack Obama’s swearing-in, “Our goal is to create an unforgettable evening while treading lightly on the Earth,” said Jenna Mack, an organizer of one Green Inaugural Ball — not to be confused with another Green Inaugural Ball featuring Al Gore.

Beyond the Earth-minded, nearly every imaginable group is planning an event to promote a cause.

PETA plans to give away fur coats to the homeless while offering hot soy milk cocoa in cups that read: “Thank You for Not Wearing Fur!”

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

The furs, collected from people who don’t want them anymore, will be marked with black paint before they are given away so that they cannot be sold.

Among other celebrations with a cause: The Peace Ball, billed as “the largest gathering of peace activists without a protest.”

The greening of the inauguration is drawing a special effort because Obama has made “green” projects a centerpiece of his economic stimulus plan and is expected to highlight the environment in his inaugural address.

“Not only are we committed to holding an inauguration that is the most open and accessible in history,” said Linda Douglass, chief spokeswoman for Obama’s inaugural committee, “but we are also committed to making sure that it is as environmentally friendly and sustainable as possible.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has provided a liaison to the Presidential Inaugural Committee to advise on “best practices” — a first, Douglass said.

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