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Beard Turns Green Eye to Congressional Staff

With energy-efficient light bulbs being installed throughout the Capitol campus and recycled paper available in Congressional office supply stores, officials are moving to the next phase of their plan to make the Capitol a model of sustainability.

Their focus: Congressional staffers.

House Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard and his Green the Capitol Initiative staff will host a Green Transportation Expo on Thursday, designed to give staffers an idea of how they can reduce carbon emissions on their way to work.

It’s the first step in a bigger plan, Beard said in an interview Tuesday, to get people to begin thinking about doing things differently.

“This is a place where there is a routine,” Beard said. “There tends to be a pattern to the way things go. … How do you alter that pattern?”

Staffers’ participation is critical for Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) Green the Capitol Initiative to succeed, Beard said. In upcoming months, CAO officials hope each office will appoint someone to take charge of greening issues — or at least have someone on each floor of the House office buildings filling the role.

But CAO officials decided to target transportation first because it is one of the more obvious ways to get people to think green. After all, everybody has to get to work somehow.

“We want to open up the staff here, to see the technology that is already here today,” said Allison Rodgers, who serves as education and outreach coordinator for the Green the Capitol office.

Rodgers — who spent much of last year campaigning for global warming awareness as Miss Rhode Island — said people often shy away from going green because they are afraid it would require them to dramatically change their daily routine.

For overworked staffers, pushing change could be difficult — but not impossible. Officials just need to tap into staffers’ decision-making processes, getting them to think about alternative transportation options should they move to a new apartment, buy a new car or get sick of sitting on the Beltway every morning, Rodgers said.

“They don’t have to think about it in the long run,” Rodgers said. “Just the short run.”

An array of bicycles, hybrid cars, electric vehicles and even a few Segways will be on hand outside the Cannon House Office Building on Thursday. Officials hope to show that green alternatives are very diverse — taking the Metro is one option; driving a flashy electric sports car is another.

Meanwhile, inside the Cannon Caucus Room, officials will be on hand from a wide range of groups devoted to helping lower carbon emissions generated from the nation’s highways.

Among them: GoLoco, a service that helps people quickly arrange to share rides between friends, neighbors and colleagues via the Internet; Goose Networks, which helps commuters create a network of rideshare partners using the Internet or text messages; and EcoLimo, a chauffeur transportation service whose entire fleet consists of alternative-fueled vehicles.

Other Green the Capitol plans are moving forward, Beard said.

On Nov. 5, officials plan to buy carbon offset credits from the Chicago Climate Exchange. When Restaurant Associates takes over House cafeterias in December, several new environmentally friendly policies will be instituted, from getting rid of styrofoam cups to bringing in healthier food.

“It’s not a top-down initiative. It’s something we all need to take on,” Rodgers said. “If no one inside of these buildings, if the 10,000 people working inside here aren’t working for sustainability, we aren’t going to meet these initiatives.”