Months of planning for a deeply green Democratic National Convention largely paid off, vendors and city officials said Friday, with tons of garbage now in composting rows and recyclables headed for reuse.
"We said this would be the greenest convention ever and it has been," Mayor John Hickenlooper said Friday morning.
Final answers on how sustainable this convention really was won't be available for several weeks.
Parry Burnap, director of greening for Denver's local convention committee, said a report that compares preliminary estimates with actual results would likely be ready in early to mid-October.
"We've had scant time to digest this," Burnap said.
But Hickenlooper said Friday that nearly 70 percent of the trash generated at the Colorado Convention Center had been diverted from the landfill, sorted into compost or recycled.
At the Pepsi Center, the other convention venue, it looked as if similar amounts had been diverted, he said.
On one afternoon alone, volunteers weighed 150 pounds of "e-waste" - laptop batteries and discarded cell phones - that had been captured for recycling instead of being thrown out.
Waste Management, which hauled all of the trash and recyclable materials, said the undertaking, which required hand sorting by hundreds of volunteers, was the most complex it had ever tackled.
Shortage of volunteers
"We feel pretty good about it," said Charles Bayley, Waste Management's Colorado spokesman.
But Bayley said the labor-intensive sorting at the Pepsi Center was hampered early in the week by a shortage of volunteers, some mechanical difficulty operating the compactors, and long waits for drivers to clear security checkpoints.
Nonetheless, he said, it looked as if the DNC would come close to reaching its goal of having just 15 percent of the total trash generated reaching landfills.
On the pollution front, the Freewheelin Bike Share program, designed to reduce CO2 emissions, took off. The city said that the 1,000 free bikes available for public use were ridden more than five times each, with 26,416 miles logged and the equivalent of 9.2 metric tons of CO2 emissions avoided. That's somewhat less than the 12 metric tons Freewheelin had hoped to reach as part of a congressional challenge.
"The bikes blew my mind," Burnap said. "People overuse the concept of the tipping point and how something catches on once you reach that point, but we saw our own citizens coming out on bikes in droves downtown."
Air quality briefly turned ugly during the convention week, with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issuing an ozone alert Thursday.
Preparing for game
Other clean air initiatives succeeded, however, with Xcel Energy, for instance, supplying clean, wind-generated electricity to both the Pepsi and Colorado Convention centers.
Officials said much of the success of the greening effort had to go to volunteers who sorted trash day after day and ran bikes from one station to the next.
Ana Cuprill, 37, drove from Pinedale, Wyo., to help and wound up sweating through mounds of garbage for two days.
"I couldn't not come," said the librarian. "I just wanted to help make a difference. In Wyoming, there's not much of an opportunity to be a good Democrat."
Around the city Friday, cleanup was well under way. At Invesco Field, crews worked through the night to dismantle Barack Obama's stage to clear the field for the giant Colorado State University vs. University of Colorado football game Sunday night.
On sidewalks around the stadium, tiny bits of blue and red confetti and small white paper stars were the only evidence that 80,000 people had gathered there the night before.
"We planned ahead really well and people stayed on schedule all week," said Ann Williams, a spokeswoman for the Denver Department of Public Works.