Sunday night featured a couple of interesting green events – the Green Inaugural Ball hosted by Planet Green and the “Cool” Inaugural Ball presented by the Sierra Club. The dramatic contrast between the two really summed up for me a fundamental dichotomy that presently exists in the green world... I'll call it lifestyle vs. activism.

First up Saturday night was the Green Inaugural Ball. The event, sponsored by Planet Green and Green Electric Motors, was positioned firmly in the "green lifestyle" camp. There was hardly an environmental activist in sight (except the symbolic Margie Alt of Environment America), though this claim would be extremely difficult to verify since the press weren’t allowed onto the main floor to talk any of the Ball attendees (or drink the organic wine, BTW). Instead we were quietly marginalized to a balcony some 40 feet above the ball floor to watch the tedious amusements transpire below.

At the entrance to the doors of the ballroom were several oddly clad models in a sort of modern gothic, 40’s era costumery all made from reclaimed garbage – in this case Obama door hangers and plastic yard signs. Almost to prove a point that eco-fashion is neither wearable nor relevant, the outfits stood out as bizarre fashion anomalies, much more interesting as works of art than as evidence for the possibility of fabricating real clothing from reclaimed materials. You can check them out at Recycle Runway (the Obama dress is pretty cool though).

The press balcony made two things very clear about the event producers. First, they definitely don’t seem to know very much about the blogosphere — we bloggers need to eat and drink, too (or else we just might get a little bitter green). And secondly, it was clear by the abundant number of empty seats just how abundantly uninterested the press actually was in the Green Ball. For good reason…

Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles launched into a canned speech about how much CO2 we could save if we each screwed in 1 CFL light bulb (7 million pounds), as if a room full of people who are so environmentally friendly that they would drop $500 for a carbon-neutral party, wouldn’t know about CFL light bulbs! It’s 2009 … we’ve heard it like, 7 million times (1 time for each pound). I’m all for recycling, but this rafter-sitting choir member was not enjoying the reused preach.

Reycled RunwayThe other featured speakers included Gay Brown (creator of the green shopping guidebooks called Greenopia), Christiana Wyley (creator of the social network Zaadz) and Summer Rayne Oakes (super model and eco-fashionista), three gorgeous and intelligent women, all of whom are leaders in the green lifestyle world, and definitely representative of the softer side of the eco-movement.  I’m not opposed to this faction of green it’s just that, well, I’m a little tired of it.

Yes we can help by screwing in a light bulb here or buying an organic cotton T-shirt there, but somehow in the dawn of the Obama era, a time that promises to be the most environmentally progressive in US history, cotton T-shirts and CFL light bulbs just weren’t cutting it. It was surprising that no one was talking about the bigger issues and offering a more innovative, forward-thinking agenda. I was hoping to hear how media creators, like Planet Green, are going to move the ball forward, especially considering they are owned by the science-friendly Discovery Network.

Then there was the bizarre entertainment. I spotted Jackson Browne walking in so I thought maybe we would get some retro 70’s tunes. But then Tommy Davidson came on … wow what a strange dude. The highlight was a rather bizarre interpretation of the Star Spangled Banner done in the style of Sammy Davis Junior (including the glass eyeball jokes, I’m not kidding) but with key lyrics substituted for common processed foods – spaghettios, frosted corn flakes, etc. No seriously, it was really, really weird.

At that point I joined the few remaining press folks hastily making their way to the elevator. I just couldn’t tolerate any more (even though I did want to see Graham Hill of Treehugger speak), and besides my stomach was growling. So off I went to the Sierra Club’s Cool Inaugural Ball. 

Read Peter Dykstra's piece to get a low down on all the green events happening this week in DC.

Washington, DC -- from 'green lifestyle' to 'green activism'
Planet Green Ball reveals the dichotomy of all that is green.