Green today for gay tomorrow

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Originally published in The Metropolitan. September 12, 2007.

While most gays go gaga for theme parties, I’m not a fan. It’s not that I’m against the idea of a bunch of queens getting dressed up in ‘80s dreads or a slumber party in general, it’s just that I have neither the time nor the energy to prepare for such events.

Besides, when I go out, the last thing I want to happen is to be the only one in my boxer briefs when everyone else skips out on the underwear theme.

But this Saturday, Tracks is hosting a Green Party. And I’ll be there.

You see, business as usual is taking on a whole new meaning at the local gay disco. The fag haven is going green. No, not like The Emerald City, more like the rainforest. And this Saturday, they’re having a fiesta to celebrate their new environmentally friendly ways.

“We go through so many bottles and boxes,” said Erik Arredondo, manager of Tracks and the company’s event center EXDO. “Recycling is mandatory now.”

Arredondo described how after big weekends the dumpsters behind the nightclub would be overflowing. He and the other managers paused and realized they could make a difference beyond Walnut Street.

It’s often thought that homos in general are one-issue folks. AIDS, marriage, couture. But Arredondo said he hopes that besides helping the environment, going green will show the world on some scale the community is interested in helping others besides themselves.

And knowing the power gays have with starting trends, he said he hopes other nightclubs in Denver and around the country will adopt similar practices.

In a memo to all office and floor staff at Tracks, Arredondo said that bottles, cans and cardboard boxes must be recycled, and that for every bottle they do recycle they’ll save enough electricity to power a 100-watt bulb for four hours. And believe me, there are a lot of lights at Tracks.

“It’s all going in a dumpster,” he said. “Now, it’s just a matter of taking an extra second and determining which one.”

After the first week of implanting the recycling program, Arredondo said the garbage dumpster and recycling containers behind the club were about equally full.

The office staff will be doing their part as well. From the paperwork and filing cabinets, Arredondo said his staff will recycle all paper, magazines, junk mail, brochures, pamphlets, file folders and staples.

Items the club won’t be recycling include food, napkins, carbon paper, Styrofoam and decorations in general.

Arredondo said the club can’t recycle a lot of its deco because guests sometimes wear and destroy the material. However, he said the club will make every effort to reuse what they can.

The manager said Tracks will be paying a fee to use a recycling program through its current trash service.

“I guess you have to pay to do your part to help the environment,” Arredondo said.

Meanwhile, Larry McDonald, manager of another hot spot in the Denver gay scene, JR’s, said his bar doesn’t have a recycling system because its trash service doesn’t offer such a program.

However, the bar has cut water use by switching its beer and soda lines from a water cooler to an electric fan, McDonald said.

“It’s great that they’re doing this,” McDonald said. “At another restaurant I used to manage, we had a recycling program. It was a lot harder (than just throwing a bottle away) and it wasn’t 100 percent, but it made a difference.”

Aaron Nelson of The Alliance for Sustainable Colorado echoed McDonald in applauding Tracks. He said by the nightclub hosting the party it tackles one of the biggest problems of greening: education.

Nelson suggested any company going green should educate its employees, vendors and partners and, most importantly, its patrons.

“Imagine if a guest sees a low-flow toilet in a club, they’ll see how it works and go home and want one themselves,” Nelson said. “If a nightclub can do it, so can I.”

Nelson said while recycling and educating its guests is a great first step, next for Tracks is to look at the structure of the actual building. He said buildings generally are to blame for 40 percent of greenhouse gases and use 70 percent of all energy in
the U.S.

“Reducing the amount of energy the club uses will present the most quantifiable results,” Nelson said.

Besides recycling, Tracks will reduce its amount of promotional fliers over the next year and will only print on 70 percent recycled paper. In a typical week Tracks prints and distributes 5,000 fliers. Arredondo wants to reduce the number by 30 percent by the end of the year and 50 percent by the middle of 2008.

In the meantime, Tracks’ Green Team will be on hand to sign people up for an e-mail list that will replace the flier system.

Tracks will e-mail promotional information and coupons. And Arredondo said people who sign up at the Green Party and thereafter will be eligible for monthly prizes.

And so in one night Tracks will prove me and the world wrong: recycling and theme parties are necessary.

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