Winners of the "Billion Acts of Green" Contest

Kerri-Ann Jones
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Washington, DC
May 6, 2011

As most of you know, the State Department leads our country’s engagements on many international environmental issues. We are actively engaged in negotiations to respond to climate change, to protect oceans, to promote clean air and water, and to conserve important ecosystems on land and sea.

Ensuring the quality and management of natural resources and ecosystems worldwide promotes the health and stability of populations and builds sustainable economies for a secure and prosperous world. Actions are needed at all levels. Secretary Clinton’s Greening Diplomacy Initiative is a commitment to lead by example and improve the sustainability of the State Department’s facilities and operations. This year’s Earth Day celebration recognized our ongoing efforts and reminded us that there is more we can do.

Our Embassies and Consulates partnered with their local communities to take steps to promote a healthy planet. Here in Washington, we hosted a speakers’ event, showcased our green building and recycling efforts, and performed our first-ever 6k Walk for Water to recognize the millions of people worldwide without access to clean water.  We also partnered with the Earth Day Network’s “Billion Acts of Green” campaign.

The Billion Acts of Green campaign recognizes the role that individuals can play in promoting healthy ecosystems and preserving natural resources. The relatively simple commitments of many individuals to use energy efficient appliances, take shorter showers, or take public transit, can make a difference.

The State Department participated in the “Billion Acts of Green” campaign by creating an internal contest using our Sounding Board intranet site. We encouraged the Department’s posts and bureaus to compete against each other to see which offices would make the most “green” commitments on our internal “Billion Acts of Green” website.

The Earth Day Network’s goal is to record one billion green acts by the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio +20, to be held in Rio de Janeiro. The State Department is pleased to announce that, as of April 24th, we had logged almost 1,300 green acts toward that goal. The hundreds of State Department employees, locally engaged staff, and members of the embassy communities who participated show a high level of commitment to recycling, to conserving energy, to reducing waste, and to using water wisely. These individual green commitments can make our communities and workplaces cleaner and more energy efficient. They can save money, and encourage healthy habits. The post with the highest employee percentage of green pledges through April 24th was Reykjavik, Iceland. Reykjavik logged a 63% commitment level relative to the size of their total staff. Two more posts came in above 50% participation rate: Bratislava, Slovakia, and Canberra, Australia. This willingness to do something good for the earth – and to commit to it publicly – is something everyone at these posts can be proud of!

The domestic bureau with the highest percentage of Green pledges through April 24th was by far our Overseas Building Office, known as OBO. OBO had a 25% commitment level relative to their domestic staffing numbers. Truly the employees at OBO showed that they care about energy efficiency and recycling. I am glad to know that the teams that design and maintain our overseas buildings have such things on their minds! Congratulations to OBO and to Reykjavik! We recognize your dedication to principles of efficiency and sustainability. Thank you.

As the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, I am happy to know that so many members of the State Department are committed to using our natural resources wisely and protecting the environment. Our partners at the Department of State include the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, the regional Bureaus, the Special Envoy on Climate Change, and the Global Health Initiative. Our partners also include other federal agencies. Together, we ensure that the United States is engaged and leading on many environmental issues. Our security as a nation is strengthened by ensuring our participation and leadership on environmental issues. No matter where we work in the State Department or the interagency teams serving at Post, we are all invested in making our country safer and ensuring our prosperity into the future.

Congratulations again to Reykjavik and to OBO. May we keep making the individual decisions that lead to important environmental change.