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House Touts ‘Green’ Savings in 2009

The House saved almost 75,000 pounds of waste from landfills and cut nearly 400,000 pounds of carbon emissions last year through a new program to make the chamber’s offices more energy efficient, according to a year-end report from House Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard.

The program, called My Green Office, focuses on urging Members to take at least 15 environmentally friendly steps, such as installing fluorescent light bulbs and purchasing Energy Star appliances. Since May, CAO officials have met with staff members in about 200 offices, said CAO spokesman Jeff Ventura; they plan to meet with all 441 Member offices by the end of 2010.

In a recent letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Beard called the program a representation of the “fundamental transformation of perspective and behavior.—

“The House,— he wrote, “is changing the way it does business.—

My Green Office is the latest initiative in the Green the Capitol program, which Pelosi created in 2007 with the initial goal of making the House “carbon neutral— by the end of the 110th Congress. Since then, the Capitol Power Plant has switched almost entirely to natural gas from coal, and House officials have implemented dozens of smaller energy-efficient practices throughout the Capitol campus.

But the program has been controversial. Some staffers claim Beard focuses more on the Green the Capitol program than on core House functions. And in 2007 Republicans criticized Democrats for buying $90,000 of carbon offsets from the Chicago Climate Exchange. House officials haven’t bought offsets since, and Pelosi has never declared that the chamber is “carbon neutral.—

But the program has made inroads on decreasing the House’s energy intake. Among other things, House officials are now in the process of consolidating office servers, encouraging Members to give up the physical servers in their offices for virtual space on a server in the Ford House Office Building. If every office switches, it will save the House more than $450,000 a year in electricity, according to CAO officials.

My Green Office aims to encourage offices to make dozens of other small changes. If all House offices in D.C. ­­— including Member, committee and leadership offices — completed the 15 “core greening actions,— CAO officials say the House would decrease its energy consumption by 10 percent and save $1 million in energy and procurement costs each year.

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