Agencies greener on this 40th Earth Day

The President\'s executive order about creating a greener government is on its way to being a year old. What\'s changed since last October?

By Dorothy Ramienski
Internet Editor
Federal News Radio

Thursday marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and the Obama administration has made green government one of it’s signature issues.

Michelle Moore is the Federal Environmental Executive in the Executive Office of the President. She explained that a lot of ‘green’ agency behavior has to do with Executive Order 13514.

In October, 2009, President Obama signed that order, which told agencies to become more eco-friendly. Moore said, so far, the results have been pretty positive.

“This past January, we announced a federal-wide greenhouse gas reduction target of 28 percent by 2020, and we’re already seeing agencies moving out on meeting that goal. From GSA and DOE working together to double the federal hybrid fleet and bring 100 new plug in, hybrid electric vehicles into federal agencies to implementing solar panels and wind turbans on federal properties across the country, like what the VA is doing.”

The Department of Defense is also getting in on the green movement. Ft. Irwin, Ca., employees are in the process of building one of the country’s largest solar installations.

Overall, Moore explained that many agency heads are getting away from the notion that going green means spending a lot of money.

“Our expectation is that what’s good for the environment is going to be good for the economy, as well. Making investments in things like energy efficiency in our 500,000 federal buildings is going to end up saving taxpayer dollars down the line in our federal utility bill. Most may not know this, but the federal government is actually the largest energy consumer in the U.S. Economy. So, every mega-watt we save is ultimately dollars that we’re not going to be spending on utility bills.”

Moore said it’s also part of her job to get the message out to the general public. She explained that every little bit does help, even if it’s just a matter of throwing a water bottle into a recycling bin instead of a trash can.

“We really saw this in the Green Gov challenge. [It] brought together ideas from people around the federal community about what we could do together, and what we should do as individuals to make a difference. [For example] printing on both sides of your paper, making sure you use the agency’s recycling facility, turning off your computer and your monitor and your speakers at night — all of those changes add up to a big difference.”

The project was launched on along with the president’s executive order last October.

An online form for civilian and military federal employees simply asked for their ideas about what needed to be done to make the White House — and the federal government — more eco-friendly.

Now, the site houses the best of the crowdsourced ideas, and anyone can access it at any time.

This year, the White House will also host a Green Gov Symposium, which will bring together federal leaders in order to create more ideas and momentum around the green movement.

“When you look around the federal community and think about what we have in greatest abundance, the single most important resource that we have are our people — the men and women in federal and military service. I know that with their engagement, we’re going to be able to meet the goals that President Obama has set for us, and we’re going to be able to set the right example for the communities in which we live and work.”

Read more on Federal News Radio: Beneath the Green Dome.

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