WHCA Dinner: Friendly Environment, Environmentally Friendly

The First Lady must be pleased to hear that every effort has been made to use locally produced organic food at Saturday night’s White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. However, it’s highly doubtful she’ll recycle one of her fashionable ensembles to wear to the event.

Diana Taylor, Mayor Bloomberg, Secretary Solis at the 2009 WHCD.

Nevertheless, there will be plenty of recycling going on as the WHCA Dinner goes green for the first time in its 96-year history. All thanks to an effort headed up by Ed Chen, the outgoing President of the WHCA and Senior White House Correspondent for Bloomberg News. Chen reached out to former colleague Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, to see how the ecological footprint of the event could be reduced.

Hershkowitz and the NRDC, a non-partisan environmental organization, have worked with even larger events before: the Academy Awards, the Grammy Awards, and the Major League Baseball World Series championships, to name a few. Yet, with a room full of top political and business decision makers, as well as Hollywood elites, the WHCA Dinner could potentially trump them all as a showcase for practical, ecologically intelligent practices.

“Can you imagine a better place to get the message out about greening?” asks Hershkowitz. “The cultural resonance of this event is substantial.”

Hershkowitz says every detail was reviewed with an eye towards reducing environment impacts, and there was no detail too small. From printing all programs and tickets to the event on 100 percent post-consumer recycled content paper to renting the Red Carpet to distributing uneaten meals to the Washington D.C. Central Kitchen, every decision had a purpose.

“Hopefully this will be seen and nobody will notice anything different. They’ll learn about the initiative in the program, but hopefully people will have as much fun and be as comfortable,” says Hershkowitz.

The NRDC worked closely with the staff at the Washington Hilton Hotel to coordinate the greening efforts.  If you’re parched and are looking for water, don’t expect to reach for a plastic bottle: filtered water will be served in glassware. Should you sneak your own container in, however, there will be recycling bins provided.

And gentlemen, if you’re so inclined, check out the newly installed waterless urinals in the men’s bathrooms. Hershkowitz says he worked with the Staples Center in Los Angeles to install waterless urinals, and they save seven million gallons of water a year.

“Water scarcity is going to rival sea level,” says Hershkowitz, “we should not be flushing drinking water down the toilet.”

Don’t worry ladies, you’ll be doing your part to save the environment: the bathroom tissue contains a minimum of 20 percent post-consumer recycled content.

The WHCA went a step beyond waste reduction and recycling, and took a look at how to offset the carbon generated by travel and the event itself. They worked with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to purchase renewable energy carbon offsets generated by the jet used by host Jay Leno to and from California, as well as, the Presidential motorcade.

Pat Nye, Vice President of the Climate Business Group at the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, says “offsetting the energy use for this dinner and related travel equals about the same impacts as offsetting the electricity for one game of the World Series.”

That’s about 62 metric tons of carbon dioxide; about the amount of power used by six average US homes in one year. The renewable energy purchased on behalf of the WHCA is from the Tatanka Wind Farm on the border of North and South Dakota.

Hershkowitz is hopeful the changes will resonate with the several thousand revelers:

“Everybody has to do something to address the ecological problems that we face. We don’t have to wait for a law in Washington to pass before we take action to address global warming. That’s the message of this dinner. We have to all take responsibility. There’s no action too small to be helpful. Every action is helpful.”

There’s still time to set up that carpool.

WHC Insider Interview with Jake Tapper

ABC News’ Jake Tapper has plenty to smile about at Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.

Aside from snagging the “it” political guest – Scott Brown, the new Senator from Massachusetts – Tapper will be going home with the Merriman Smith Award for presidential coverage under deadline pressure in the broadcast category.

Tapper spoke with WHC Insider’s Tammy Haddad at the White House about his penchant for Twitter, and keeping his prestigious journalism award out of the reach of his two young children.

WHC Insider Interview with Jake Tapper, ABC News from whcinsider on Vimeo.

Dishing on WHCA Dinner

WHC Insider’s Tammy Haddad sat down with ABC News’ David Chalian and Rick Klein on the ABCNews.com show “Top Line” to chat about the evolution of the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner into an all-out weekend event – including the annual brunch she co-hosts on Saturday morning.

In a town where politicians and notable folks tend to avoid the press, it’s one of the few times when the invitation bearing, ticket holding, media is suddenly in demand:
“This is the only time they call us and beg…. This is the only time where everyone has to stand in line together.”

Ed Chen's White House

Ed Chen will soon be stepping aside as President of the White House Correspondents’ Association but he’s still got his day job to keep him busy.

The Senior White House Correspondent for Bloomberg News recently sat down with Hans Nichols, fellow Bloomberg News correspondent and guest interviewer for WHC Insider, to talk about what goes on behind the scenes in the press room and what it’s like to cover the Obama administration.

The two also covered Senator John McCain during his bid for the Oval Office, and Nichols asked what it would be like if McCain were behind the press room podium instead:”Do you think he would have done those weekly briefings?”

Chen: “It would have been very interesting every day, and I also would have kept a suitcase here, packed, at the White House because you never know when a President McCain would have decided to go to Russia.”

Bloomberg’s Ed Chen & Hans Nichols for WHC Insider from whcinsider on Vimeo.

DC: Party Central

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and CURE Epilepsy's Susan Axelrod at the 2009 White House Correspondents' Garden Brunch

It’s been called the Nerd Prom and compared to Hollywood’s Oscar extravaganza, but the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner and the parties surrounding it have evolved into their own electrifying entity. Politico takes a behind the scenes look at where the sparks will be flying this weekend.

Favreau Funny Factory

Jon Favreau, Graydon Carter at the 2009 Bloomberg & Vanity Fair Cocktail Reception
Photo - BILLY FARRELL/PatrickMcMullan.com

President Obama owned the room at the 2009 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner before some 3,000 elites in the Washington Hilton Ballroom. While the President’s charisma and innate comic timing carried him through the night, he did have a little help from his scribes.

Speechwriters Jon Favreau and Jon Lovett led the charge with timely references, including a video where the President welcomes a “Pirate” to the Oval Office (a tip of the feather-topped hat to Bloomberg Media guest Richard Phillips, Captain of the Maersk ship who was captured by Somali pirates in April 2009 and valiantly rescued by US Navy SEALS).

Senior Advisor David Axelrod was one of the top presidential aides who helped come up with the visual joke.

Tom Vietor, Jeff Nussbaum, Jeff Shesol, and a few other outside joke writers helped polish the President’s speech. This year, it will also be a team effort to make sure WHCA Dinner host Jay Leno will not be the only one getting laughs.

No pirates this year, but there’s bound to be a health care joke or two tickling the crowd’s funny bone.

Politico has more on what it takes to make a president funny – on purpose.

WHCA Dinner: Thanks, But No Thanks?

Turns out there are actually some politicians who aren’t clamoring for one of the coveted tickets to the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.

As Politico points out, while the dinner has always been a place to network and schmooze with media and political heavyweights, there are some lawmakers who see more value in heading home to their constituents than swapping bon mots over cocktails.

The Best of 2009 WHCD Garden Party

For the past 18 years, the WHCD Garden Party has been where friends gather before one of the biggest nights in Washington. Each year the stories are unique and the guest list represent the best representation of the news and events of the moment. Last year’s garden brunch was held just a few months after the arrival of the new administration. The economic crisis was in full bloom and both the media and official Washington were all trying to figure out how adjust to the new realities. Hollywood was fascinated with the new political stars and the new political stars were still adjusting to being celebrities. Here is a look back.

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Leave' em Laughing

There’s probably no tougher room to play for a comedian than the Washington Hilton where hundreds gather for the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, with the guest of honor – the President of the United States – seated at your side.

And this year there’s no tougher act to follow than his own for Jay Leno, just months into his second stint as the host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show” after a much-publicized tussle between the peacock network, Leno and Conan O’Brien.

So The Hill gathered some advice for the funny man from some fellow comedians as he preps for his hosting duties.