Feds learning sustainability begins with them

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Interior Department is encouraging employees to plant organic gardens on its roof.

The Treasury Department will use wind power to supply electricity to its headquarters and annex buildings in Washington by July 31.

And the Office of Personnel Management is upgrading its windows and putting solar panels on its roof to improve its energy efficiency.

These are just some of the changes the federal government is making to be more sustainable or greener.

“Sustainability is both about systems and planning and doing all the big structure work, but it’s also about our behaviors and our work together as a community,” says GSA administrator Martha Johnson. “The teamwork and the collaboration among the agencies should give indication about the fact that no one solves these problems by themselves, they do them together.”

Johnson, OPM director John Berry and Interior Department Ken Salazar hosted the annual Federal Campus Green Fair in Rawlins Park in Washington, which sits between GSA and Interior headquarters buildings, in celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day.

The fair included more than two dozen booths that featured information from federal and non-profit organization on conservation, recycling and energy efficiency.

“This day is about looking at all of these options and it’s great to get everyone together,” Berry says. “Sometimes it sparks new ideas. As you walk around these booths, Martha and I are sitting there saying why don’t we do this more? Each one of these things will hopefully keep growing and inspire people to do better in their lives.”

The fair was part of the campus initiative Berry is promoting between the three agencies.

Employees from GSA’s horticulturist’s office handed out saplings for visitors to plant, The agency’s fleet management office offered details on the new hybrid and electric cards for agencies to lease.

Interior’s National Park Service provided information on conservation and its National Business Center collected electronic waste to recycle.

“This year it has a special oomph to it because we are doing it in such a collaborative way with the notion that we are going to enjoying this campus in a new way going forward,” Johnson says.

GSA has positioned itself as a leader in the federal green revolution. It spent hundreds of millions of dollars on new fuel efficient cars and received $5.5 billion from the Recovery Act to modernize federal buildings to be greener.

“We are doing a lot with roofs in some cases allowing for plants to be planted on the roofs, in some cases allowing them to be painted white to reflect the heat or in some cases putting down solar panels,” Johnson says. “There is a great amount of activity going on in terms of studying and reworking internal systems and upgrading the right kind of shades, light bulbs and delivery systems for heating and cooling.”

She adds that GSA is experimenting with their own buildings to be a proving ground for others.

Berry and Johnson both say telework is another sustainability initiative is garnering a lot of their attention.

Berry says OPM is considering replacing all of their desktop computers with laptop computers to make it easier on employees to telework.

“This doesn’t have to cost the taxpayer anything,” he says. “We can build this into our existing buying strategies where as we place equipment, let’s replace it so it’s mobile and gives us the ability to accomplish teleworking effectively.”

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