The Green Inaugural Ball was a blast: part rock concert, part political rally, part fashion show, and definitely part food feast. Co-sponsored by clean energy and environmental groups ranging from the National Wildlife Federation to the Solar Energy Industries Association to Bloomberg News, was held at the snazzy Newseum, USA Today's museum about the news biz that's located on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., smack dab between the U.S. Capitol and the White House.
If there's a better place to have a party in D.C., I don't know where it could be. The exterior walls of all eight floors look out on historic Washington sites and offer a stunning view of the Capitol. Guests could mingle on the balconies, dance to any number of great musical acts, or wander through the exhibits, including one about noteworthy presidential elections.
Vice-President Joe Biden surprised the crowd of happy, celebrating enviros by stopping by early in the evening. Smiling broadly as he took the stage to a roar of applause, the Vice President noted that one of the main reasons he got into politics forty years ago was to protect water quality in his home state of Delaware. Acknowledging the Administration's unfinished agenda on climate change, Biden urged the cheering throng to "keep the faith" and promised we'd see progress on carbon and alternative energy during the next four years.
Other members of the President's cabinet dropped in on the Ball too, including Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and Lisa Jackson, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Both Salazar and Jackson are leaving their posts, so their appearance was somewhat bittersweet for the eco-activists who've spent four years building relationships with both critical environmental agencies.
Lisa Jackson acknowledged that though she is departing, she knows the job is unfinished. As long as even one child has to breathe dirty air, she said, "our work is not done." Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), who has been in the Congress 36 years and has been one of that body's earliest and strongest advocates of measures to reduce pollution, agreed. Rep. Markey also reminded the party-goers that he's running for the Senate seat John Kerry will be vacating when Kerry is sworn in as Hillary Clinton's replacement as Secretary of State.
Seven-time Grammy winner will.i.am of the group Black Eyed Peas got the crowd clapping and dancing as he belted out his signature song, "Good Times." I would have been clapping, too, except I was too busy eating the delicious hors d'oeuvres created by Wolfgang Puck Catering that were being served at various epicurean stations located around the venue. Though the flavors were definitely gourmet, the foods were distinctly sustainable. With a menu that paid homage to local, organic agriculture, organizers said that 98% of the ingredients were procured within 300 miles of the event.
The taste treats were abundant, too. While standing in line for a glass of champagne, I snacked on endive-filled sea bass ceviche and butternut squash shooters. A three-bean salad on baby lettuce was a refreshing counterpart to the delicious ratatouille served with triangles of savory polenta. Though plenty of organic wines and beer were being poured, my favorite drink of the night was the "Om-bama," a cocktail made from vodka, grapefruit juice and cloves, believe it or not.
I'm glad I lasted until the desserts were served around 11 p.m. Waitstaff whirled about the Newseum proffering plates of melt-in-your mouth cookies, chocolate truffle "lollipops," s'more parfaits, and vanilla bean pudding shots. I really wish I'd had room for the chocolate decadence cheesecake and the mango pudding, but I had to stop eating at some point if I wanted to wear home the same dress I came in.
Speaking of dresses, the ladies took the "ball" part of the evening seriously, arriving in a stunning array of mostly floor-length sheaths and gowns. I decided I'd be as eco-friendly for the evening as possible, so wore an elegant red sequined, floor length, vintage dress borrowed from a close friend, plus jewelry and a black clutch borrowed from my daughter. I did get a new pair of black patent leather shoes, mostly because I needed short heels that would be comfortable during hours of standing and for walking to and from the subway I took to the party.
The Green Ball was as close to a waste-free event as I've ever seen, a particularly noteworthy accomplishment given the hundreds of people in attendance. All cutlery and dishes were reuseable, and food waste was composted. Organizers also offered to recycle the badges we were given to gain entry to the ball, but I decided to hold on to mine. You never take politics for granted in Washington; with the next election "only" four years away and the future as uncertain as it always is, this could be the last green ball I attend for some time. I'm keeping my badge as a prized souvenir.
National Wildlife Federation, the primary green sponsor for the Ball, invited the Twittersphere to attend virtually by tweeting their hopes for the future to #greenwish. The wishes ran in a continuous and inspiring newsfeed around the stage all night long. NWF COO Jaime Matyas, one of the evening's emcees, said her #greenwish for the future was that all kids could enjoy more time outdoors in Nature.
What's your #greenwish? It's not too late to let the world know, whether you went to the Green Inaugural Ball or not.
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