Going green is not a new concept within our government. They’ve been taking steps towards green for years; back in the 1970s, during the Carter administration, a solar water heating system was installed at the Whitehouse. Although the technology at the time was not able to produce the wanted results, those living in the Whitehouse did not give up on having the government lead in going green. With technology finally able to make environmental conservation a reality, the government is working to upgrade the nation’s Capitol to become a bright green beacon of inspiration.
A Green Whitehouse
After Carter’s failed attempt to heat water, the Clinton administration made environmental upgrades throughout the Whitehouse and was able to save over a million dollars in six years. George W. Bush continued the legacy of making the Whitehouse green by having several solar power systems installed. One was an upgraded version of the water heating system, and it successfully heated the pool and showers. Surprisingly, a several hundred year old building like the Whitehouse is actually environmentally conservative in its own nature because the thick walls and insulation helps retain heat.
The Obama’s moved in and have taken the previous small roof top garden and placed it front and center as a full scale garden, which produces ample fresh vegetables for the President’s kitchen staff. Research is continuing today to find additional ways to help the Whitehouse continue being green well into the future.
Capitol Hill Reaches for the Future
Ever since George Washington placed the first stone down for the Capitol Building, there has been one person in charge of maintaining all the land and buildings of the Capitol, the Architect of the Capitol (AOC). The AOC must find a balance between making changes for environmental conservation and protecting the Capitol’s structures. One part of going green that works for both objectives is eliminating carbon waste from power sources. The AOC is accomplishing this goal by buying wind powered electricity from an area utility. With the decision to use wind energy, the AOC has helped keep over 190,000 tons of carbon emissions out of the air, and off the nation’s landmarks.
Keep it Out of the Landfill
The AOC has been completely recycling all electronic devices for over four years. In 2008, the amount of non-office waste recycled saved over 700 tons of materials from going to landfills. Plans are currently in development to help recycle and reduce office waste up to the amount of non-office waste in the next few years. By having such success in recycling non-office materials today, the AOC is researching ways to include even more types of waste.
Let it Grow Green
To help remove some of the dependency on petroleum, the Capitol has switched to vegetable based fluids and away from oil based products. Not only is this good for the environment by using biodegradable material, but it is also good because vegetable based products are sustainable. This new hydraulic fluid is being utilized in several elevators around the Capitol. Most of the vehicle fleet has been replaced by vehicles that can use Ethanol 85 fuel, a vegetable based mixture. The Capitol’s boiler and furnace systems were also upgraded to use natural gas and bio-diesel mixtures.
Give it an Upgrade
Just as major appliances should be replaced in a home every 10 years, the AOC has a plan in place to replace several conditioning units and other major building appliances over the next few years. Replacing the decades old equipment with new modern units will help reduce electrical usage and will cool the buildings more effectively. Along with these upgrades, the AOC makes sure that greener products are used in maintaining and cleaning the precious landmark buildings, and their beautiful lawns.
Although we may never see a wind turbine farm on Capitol Hill or the Whitehouse lawn, plans are in the works to create energy by other means including geothermal, solar, and non-oil based products. The largest hurdle left for our government to tackle will be paper, or office waste products. As many have seen, tons of paper is still used to print out bills, proposals, and budgets. However, like the green beacon it is working to become, the government will hopefully continue in that direction and help eliminate that waste as well.