State partners to green diplomacy

Earth Day Network and the U.S. Department of State have developed the D.C. Forum for Greening Embassies so that foreign missions can exchange ideas on environme...

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

If you were the State Department and thinking about where to hold the first, crucial, event in an initiative to get the entire Washington, D.C. diplomatic community to agree on going greener, you’d have a couple of options.

You could look to the first embassy in the United States to receive the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR for superior energy efficiency. Or maybe the first embassy in the United States to be awarded the U.S. Green Building Council’s prestigious Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certificate for green buildings.

But since they’re both the same building, you’d hold it at the Embassy of Finland.

By hosting the first in a four-part environmental conference series called the D.C. Forum for Greening Embassies, that make the Finnish Embassy only the beginning.

The State Department’s director of management policy, rightsizing and innovation, Marguerite Coffey, told Federal News Radio the venue was ideal. “The embassy of Finland, with their LEED certified building, certainly has shown what can be done in a diplomatic facility in Washington, D.C..”

The goal, said Coffey, is to provide a way to share best practices.

“What we’re seeking to do is to share the information from those who have already experienced what it’s like to take a building from day to day operations and grow towards LEED certification and become more energy efficient.”

What exactly makes an embassy green, said Coffey, is “kind of the $64,000 question. What makes anything green?” First, said Coffey, is to figure out what the baseline is and go from there.

Coffey said the forum will be using “ideas from the diplomatic community and (partner) Earth Day Network to get us started,” as well as federal agencies like the EPA, Department of Energy, and GSA.

Coffey said State has been leading by example in building embassies overseas. “We’ve got a wealth of experience. We’re interested in sharing that,” she said. After all, “we all use the same electricity. We all use the same water, breathe the same air, et cetera. And I think there’s a lot of good information to exchange.”

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