By Mike Sergeant
BBC News political reporter
Petrol price rises have given recent news stories a green dimension
A day at the Green Party conference begins with what is called a minute's "attunement" - 60 seconds of total silence for the delegates to calm down, collect their thoughts and prepare for the cut and thrust of debate.
It is certainly an opportunity to gaze around the modest conference hall at an interesting spread of humanity.
The stereotypical Green activist is not hard to spot.
At least one person in 10 has a beard, a few stubbornly wear their cagoules inside the hall and, if you glance under the tables, you'll find that socks and sandals remains a popular combination.
But these days the Green Party boasts a much wider cross-section of members - from young bright-eyed idealists to gnarled old campaigners.
They talk about a dizzying range of issues and causes. Pamphlets are provided on everything from the situation in West Papua to the future of GM food.
In previous years, children were allowed to play on the conference floor during debates. That has now been stopped
One leaflet calls for "raising awareness and respect for trees". Even the coffee cups encourage people to "change the system".
That said, the Green conference does not feel like a hotbed of revolutionary politics. It has a polite and serious air.
In previous years, children were allowed to play on the conference floor during debates. That has now been stopped.
The party knows it has to project a business-like image. There is no-one better at that than the principle speaker, Caroline Lucas MEP.
Actually, she is one of two "principal speakers" - the other being Keith Taylor. They jointly (and one suspects slightly uncomfortably) share the duties of being the party's leading figurehead.
On the main media day, it is Ms Lucas who gives the keynote address.
That is no surprise. She's an attractive, articulate personality who canters through a compact 20-minute speech.
The Greens got their "best ever general election result" we were told. The government's anti-terror laws were "Alice in Wonderland politics". The electoral system was "creaking and rotten". Hurricane Katrina was just "a glimpse of what's in store" for the world.
Part of the reason for the less-than-spectacular showing may indeed be Britain's first-past-the-post system
As the rain lashed down outside the Lancashire conference hall, that was easy enough to believe.
The reality, however, is that at the last election, the Greens failed to achieve a decisive breakthrough.
Yes, they got more votes than before, but that was still only 1% of the UK total. They did not secure a single Westminster seat.
Part of the reason for the less-than-spectacular showing may indeed be Britain's first-past-the-post system.
In elections to the European and Scottish Parliaments and the London Assembly, the Greens have managed a clutch of seats.
The frustrations with the voting system and our reluctance to put the needs of the planet first, could hold the Greens back
But shouldn't they be doing better? Particularly at a time when so many news stories (from wild weather to the price of petrol) seem to have a green dimension.
Opinion pollsters say it is not that we don't care about the environment. We do care.
We simply care more about jobs, schools and hospitals.
The main parties know that and, at election time, the Green agenda gets squeezed. Tony Blair said hardly anything about the environment during the whole campaign.
The Greens know they can't simply be an environmental protest group. They have to offer a coherent set of policies across the board.
This week's conference, which finishes on Saturday, was about doing just that, and establishing the Green Party's credentials as a serious and thoughtful alternative.
The frustrations with the voting system and people's reluctance to put the needs of the planet first, could hold the Greens back.
They may struggle to emerge, if not from the wilderness, then at least from the suburbs of political life. But someday - perhaps a long time in the future - people may have to admit they were right all along.