by Merlin Miclat

September 2, 2011

In a few days, the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week will not only be debuting the industry’s new fashions and styles, but also a cleaner energy source to power the semi-annual event. After complaints from local residents and businesses, Fashion Week organizers say they will reduce the use of old, diesel powered generators and lean towards cleaner sources of energy to provide electricity. The event will be held at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York.

Diesel generators used in previous Fashion Weeks were scattered around the vicinity of the event and caused many to fume over the noise and air pollution the event brought with it. A few of these generators were older and more pollutive, and many people complained about the worsened air quality and noise before, during, and after Fashion Week. Violetta Ungar, a local resident, told the NY Times, “The noise, the fumes – I smell it all day and all night.”

Another resident likened the generators to power the event to “several buses idling outside your window continuously, 24 hours a day, non-stop.”

Despite the complaints, IMG Fashion claims they try their best to make Fashion Week an eco-friendly event. Lighting and ventilation systems are energy-efficient and the tents are reused or recycled for future events. IMG spokesman Zach Eichman says, “We’re very proud of our team and vendors’ continued efforts to be green and are striving to grow those efforts each season.”

For September’s Fashion Week, IMG Fashion will address the complaints and make a few changes, for the better. Two of the older and noisier generators will not be used this September. The rest of the generators, which ran fully on diesel fuel in the past, have been converted to run on a blend of biodiesel fuel. Additionally, parts of the event will plug in and draw electricity from Fordham University’s Lincoln Center Campus and the David H. Koch Theater. IMG will pay for the electricity they use.

Locals have already noticed the changes made for September’s event. A resident said in an email that “the diesel smell that was wafting through the air last winter is gone. The conversion to electrical power at 62nd and Columbus has definitely made a difference in the air compared to last winter. It’s unknown what the air will be like when they turn on the big generators in a few days, but there is a clear difference so far.”

So how much power does Fashion Week need? IMG Fashion is unable to provide an exact number, but a spokeswoman estimates that 100,000 attendees and 3,000 media professionals attend. Also, various vehicles are used for warehouse and backstage-type operations. The spokeswoman believes Fashion Week is comparable to running “three Broadway plays simultaneously for seven days.” Add to that the hours of blow dryers and hair irons running and the lights make up artists use.

Fashion Week’s changes for the better of the environment was possible in part of the activism of local residents. City Council member Gale Brewer represents the area Fashion Week is held and fought to defend her constituents and make known their concerns.

Additionally, Brewer sees this as an opportunity to address other sources of noise and air pollution and help improve the city. She believes laws need to be in place to regulate other sources of noise and air pollution common in New York, such as food trucks and street fairs.

As residents of New York City did, people anywhere in the country can make a difference and stand up against unwanted noise and air pollution. A couple of related advocacy groups include Noise Free America and the American Lung Association (ALA). These two groups are both active in fighting for air quality and to minimize noise and operate both nationally and locally in regional chapters. Lastly, the EPA’s website contains information and links about noise and air pollution.