Underneath all those beautiful flower-bedecked Rose Parade floats on New Year’s Day, 2011, lies a fossil fuel-fest with a big, ugly carbon footprint.
Yes–sad to say. The parade’s presenting sponsor, Honda, will showcase a hybrid-powered float accompanied by the car company’s new CR-Z. But all other vehicles will use diesel fuel with pitiable mpg. Check out stats on the gas-guzzling engines that power the rest of the floats, what a writer for the LA Times called “a whirl of planet-warming emissions”:
46 floats powered by V-8 engines, some supplemented with gasoline-powered motors for moving parts, that are expected to burn through about 800 gallons of gasoline by the time they finish their 2.5-mph cruise along the 5.5-mile route. Mixed in are 80 auxiliary trucks, 145 fleet cars and dozens of law enforcement vehicles — all of them powered solely by old-fashioned fossil fuels.
Watchers in the stands and people camped out on sidewalks will choke on the fumes while green-minded tv watchers around the world will marvel at the sight but groan at the lack of environmental consciousness. Compounding the problem are tons of flowers flown in from around the world, some from as far away as 4,000 miles from locations in East Asia and South America.
Needless to say, the carbon footprint of the Rose Parade is so high, embarrassed organizers find it easier to say it’s too hard to calculate.
Parade organizers can’t even hide behind the daunting logistics of a vast event.
When it comes to large-scale public events, the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl football game are well behind the international trend of taking extensive measures to reduce the environmental impact generated by the care and feeding of hundreds of thousands of fans, and cleaning up after them.
The Olympics, the Super Bowl, and even the Republican and Democratic national conventions have programs to sort and recycle trash, donate used building materials and use alternative energy sources or purchase carbon offsets. The 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver were the first to achieve a “carbon neutral” status for the Games and the travel of 7,000 athletes, coaches and officials.
Neither the Rose Parade nor the Rose Bowl takes any special measures in this regard, according to spokespeople for both events.
The worst insult adding to injury? California flower growers were snubbed as suppliers to float decorators. Eight major counties in California generated $10.3 billion in contributions to the state’s economy in 2008, according to the California Cut Flower Commission. A proposal to adorn the Honda float with certified organic flowers fizzled when no one returned the flower grower’s call.
Flower growers, especially those operating in other countries, use toxic pesticides as dangerous if not more so than ones intended for food since the flowers will not be eaten. Additionally, women and children who pick the flowers in other nations with lax worker safety standards are exposed to these pesticides and fungicides which are banned in North America–as are the students, Boy and Girl Scouts, and other volunteers here in the U.S. who help arrange the flowers on the floats in Southern California.
Too bad, especially when California has the reputation for leading the way in environmental causes and the know-how exists to reduce the carbon footprint of both the vehicles and the flowers used on them. And too bad for those Californians without a job; the state’s unemployment rate is 12.4%, or almost 2.7 million people.
If you’d like to send a message urging the parade organizers to go green in 2011, you can email them here.
Credit: Cynthia Liu