Earth Day 2009: Greening Diplomacy

Patrick F. Kennedy
Under Secretary for Management 
Washington, DC
April 22, 2009

Thank you, Ms. Sutley, for that excellent overview of President Obama’s commitment to greening the United States Government. Here at the State Department, we are committed to doing our part, and we recognize that how we
incorporate environmental sustainability into the Department’s daily operations is of concern to our global partners overseas as well as domestically.

Hopefully many of you were able to stop by the Exhibit Hall earlier today to see some of the exciting greening initiatives the Department already has undertaken. I’ve noticed a remarkable evolution in how we approach sustainability. When I joined the State Department, conversations about solar panels or cleaner vehicles
or more unimaginably biodegradable food service products would have been met with a blank stare.

Today, the enthusiasm to go green is everywhere. From summer interns to seasoned managers, great ideas are pouring in and being implemented. I’d like to highlight a few of these here today before Secretary Clinton shares her thoughts about how we can take this encouraging trend to the next level.

We’ve made some significant progress in our facilities. Our managers around the world and in the U.S. are continuously seeking ways to improve energy efficiencies and use environmentally sustainable resources.

The National Visa Center in Portsmouth alone has realized a saving of $4.1 million annually due to increased efficiency and modernization. For example, it is implementing web based processing. In addition, the National Visa Center
will be the first Department of State facility to receive the Green Globes environmental certification for an existing building. This award status from the Green Building Initiative recognizes building practices that result in energy
efficient, healthier, and environmentally sustainable buildings. The Green Building Initiative is recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. And we are honored to receive this award.

The EPA and Department of Energy also recognized two of our domestic buildings, the Diplomatic Security building in Rosslyn and the National Visa Center, with its Energy Star certification signifying excellence in energy
performance and efficiency.

In addition, multiple State Department facilities are seeking either Green Globes certification or the equivalent LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the
internationally recognized certification for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.

Our Overseas Buildings Operations now requires all its new embassy and consular building projects to be LEED certified. In 2007, the new embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria was the first U.S. diplomatic mission to receive LEED certification. And, in 2008 our new embassy in Panama received its LEED certification.

Domestic facilities are also on their way, with the new office building scheduled to open this summer across C Street from the Harry S Truman Building and which will be LEED certified.

In addition to LEED certification, there are several greening efforts that incorporate principles of sustainable design and energy efficiency into our operations. For example, there are photovoltaic panels producing electricity for the
U.S. Mission in Geneva. And, we have solar hot water and photovoltaic panels at the Department’s Regional Center in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. These systems have reduced energy consumption by nearly 8% annually and also have received
recognition by the Department of Energy.

Many of you may not be aware of what is happening right here in Washington DC. In terms of recycling office waste, the Harry S Truman building alone recycles nearly 200 tons annually. We also recycle over 80% of waste generated in
selected warehouses in the Washington DC area. In fact, as we renovate this building, we are recycling or reusing over 75% of all construction and demolition wastes.

An issue of concern to many is the cafeteria. So, let me give everyone a brief update. We took a small but significant step when we started selling new reusable coffee mugs in the cafeteria and the Foggy Bottom coffee shop. I am pleased that so many of you decided to support this endeavor. So much so that they sold out immediately, but now are again available for sale.

The cafeteria also is undergoing a scheduled renovation within the next year and a half. As it does, you will see several noticeable changes. Most obvious and one I think you’ll be please about will be the transition to 100% compostable disposable service ware, glasses, and plates.

The Department also is using energy savings performance contracts to achieve sustainability success. This enables us to finance facility efficiency upgrades through each greening project’s generated cost savings. Last year we initiated an energy savings performance contract to reduce energy consumption here and at our Beltsville, MD Information Management Center. And, just a few months ago, we requested letters of interest from 16 energy savings performance contractors to pursue energy savings projects in Conakry, San Salvador, and Santiago.

And, one last area I want to highlight is our expanding domestic green fleet.

Last year, the Department purchased 156 alternative fueled vehicle, exceeding the mandated requirement by almost 500%. We also added 7 hybrid vehicles into our domestic fleet. As our green fleet expands, our petroleum fuel consumption decreases. And, last year, the Department reduced its fuel consumption by 25%.

I am proud of our greening achievements thus far. At the same time, I realize that we can and must do more. Embracing environmental stewardship and sustainability are not a choice but rather a responsibility for us as a Department and as individuals. I am asking and calling on everyone to participate in this endeavor.

It is a pleasure to introduce someone who also is passionate about the environment and climate change: Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern. Mr. Stern is the Administration’s chief climate negotiator and plays a central role in developing the U.S. international policy on climate. He is the lead participantin the development of climate and clean energy policy, and participates in allenergy-related policy discussions that impact carbon emissions.