New Year’s Rose Parade: Hurry Up and Go Green

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


Jennifer Martin
Jennifer M7 years ago

I think it's a waste. Slapping Mother Nature in the face. Rip out her beauty just to dispose of it. The roses would be much prettier on bushes, not floats. Ever think about all the pesticides and chemical fertilizers?? Or the fact that most of these flowers are shipped from far, far away?? People will be pissed for a while, but these kinds of things need to be banned. Society has to change or we won't have a planet left...

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman7 years ago

The Roses ARE SO Beautiful.

Bruce Daniels
Bruce Daniels7 years ago

The Rose Parade has been a New Year's tradition for me for many years. Since they have a float in the Parade each year, Send this article to Cal Poly-SLO & Pomona and have those young, brilliant minds work on the problem. They have done some amazing things in the past and would surely want to help in this situation. Other entrants may also come up with some new ideas to lessen the carbon footprint. Think of transporting all of those flowers from all over the world to Pasadena. Some have tried to use local growers, but the rain and cold weather did not help.

Mary B.
Mary B7 years ago

How about just ban all these wastful events?Let people grumble. They'll get over it. In the big scheme of things, stuff like this matters so little.If it takes this much expense and polution, and human time and energy just to entertain people for a few hours, or days, then their lives are already so meaningless, they may as well lay down and die.

Marilyn W.
Marilyn W.7 years ago

something so beautiful - leave it alone

Kay D.
Kay D7 years ago

As a Pasadena resident, this is an issue I've wondered about for some time, and I thank Cynthia Liu for raising it to a wider audience. Below is the note I wrote to the Tournament -- we'll see if they answer.

As a lifelong Pasadena resident, I am severely disappointed that the Tournament appears to be making absolutely NO effort to be more environmentally responsible. The same glue whose fumes choke the volunteers, the same diesel powered floats, the same crushing amount of trash after the parade is finished. . . When is the Tournament going to become the responsible citizen of Pasadena that it should be? It's high time the Tournament cleans up its act. We citizens should expect no less.

Seana F.
Past Member 7 years ago

This is an interesting article. I worked as a florist for a while and almost all the flowers we used were imported as there is no home-grown industry. Eventually all the plants we sold, especially bedding plants, were imports as local growers could not compete on price!! This has become even worse as supermarkets have entered into the floristry and gardening sectors. Unfortunately, with such "luxury" items consumers buy with their pockets and not with their consciences. And the idea of buying organic for something that is not being consumed or worn is somewhat of a joke here. It seems that very few people understand that the concept of organic is more than just about what we put inside ourselves, but how we treat the planet too.

Rose N.
Past Member 7 years ago

Thank you for posting.

David N.
David N7 years ago

They didn't try very hard to find Organic Flowers. I live on the Central Coast (about 5 hours away) and we have Earth Bound Farms.
The least that they could have done was use biodiesel. We use it in our firetrucks.

Olivia Schlosser
Past Member 7 years ago

I think I watched maybe 15 minutes of the parade once in my life. What a disrespectful waste! And if the flowers aren't organic they shouldn't even be composted....what do they do with them all?