Council on Environmental Quality Blog
- Posted byon April 26, 2011 at 5:50 PM EDT
As the bitter chill of winter retreats, the vibrancy of spring beckons us outdoors reminding us of the inextricable link between the natural world and our daily lives. In striving to meet the President's challenge to win the future by out-educating the rest of the world, we must cultivate the environmental health of our learning spaces and our students’ understanding of their environment to enable them to meet the challenges of the future. Today, the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality came together to launch the Green Ribbon Schools Program. This program plants the seeds to move toward educational excellence for the future by recognizing schools that are creating healthy and sustainable learning environments - both inside and outside the classroom, teaching environmental literacy, and increasing environmental health by reducing their environmental footprint.
Led by the Department of Education, in close partnership with the EPA and CEQ, the Green Ribbon Schools program will incentivize and reward schools that help to ensure that our students receive an education second to none by improving the health and environmental footprint of nation’s schools. To prepare our children for the clean energy economy of the future, Green Ribbon schools will be those that incorporate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and environmental stewardship into their curricula.
- Posted byon April 22, 2011 at 7:59 PM EDT
As the rain poured down in Washington, DC, I headed to the National Zoo in a soggy but beautiful Rock Creek Park to celebrate Earth Day. What better place to commemorate the day when we honor our natural environment. After all, it's full of animals. But this day took me to the zoo for a very different reason. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and I got a behind the scenes to look at a new sustainably designed habitat for some of the zoo's most popular residents, the Asian elephants!
Under the President's Executive Order 13514 for the Federal Government to lead by example in environmental, energy, and economic performance, the National Zoo, as part of the Smithsonian Institution, is finding new and innovative ways to institute green building practices in their facilities. These practices help reduce the environmental foot print of these buildings and save money in the cost of operations.
To ensure that these endangered Asian elephants' habitat is comfortable for them, the zoo has incorporated cutting-edge green technologies. From harnessing the heat of the earth to warm the elephants' house, to a green roof that reduces storm water runoff and creates a habitat for birds, butterflies, and fauna, this state-of-the-art home has captured the spirit of Earth Day in so many ways.
Since 1970, when it was first celebrated, Earth Day has meant a time for us to recommit to protecting and preserving the natural wealth we depend on for our livelihood, prosperity, and security. Today, I am proud to see that our National Zoo, already a leader in caring for our wildlife, is also leading the way in delivering on the President’s commitment to a more sustainable government.
It was great to see elephants of all ages, from ten year old Kandula to 63 year old Ambika, enjoy their new home. For the most part, they took to the place right away. Though we did hear it took Ambika a little longer than the rest, but now she's enjoying it as much as the rest. Guess that just goes to show, you can teach an old elephant new tricks!
Nancy Sutley is Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality
What You Missed: Open for Questions on Energy and the Environment with Nancy Sutley and Heather ZichalPosted byon April 22, 2011 at 10:38 AM EDT
In recognition of Earth Day 2011, Nancy Sutley, White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair, and Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, answered your questions on the environment and energy policy in a live chat from the South Lawn of the White House. See what they talked about with the American people, from what everyday folks can do to go green, to what the federal government is doing to make a clean energy economy a reality.
And be sure to check out the Federal agency Sustainability and Energy Scorecard results on the CEQ website, which enable agencies to target and track the best opportunities to lead by example in clean energy; and to meet a range of energy, water, pollution, and waste reduction targets.
- Posted byon April 21, 2011 at 2:12 PM EDT
This week, people all around the globe will come together to honor and appreciate our environment. Since its establishment over 40 years ago, Earth Day in America has given us the opportunity to renew our commitment to protecting and preserving the natural treasures and resources vital to our health and prosperity. The investments that make the water we drink and the air we breathe clean and healthy, and protect the health of the lands on which we work, farm, live, and play will continue to pay immeasurable dividends for generations to come.
As I travel across the country visiting communities, students, educators, businesses and innovators building the path to winning the future, I am reminded of how interconnected a robust economy and a thriving natural environment are. Our clean energy economy will harness and protect the power of the sun, the wind, our waters, our resources, and our Earth. To ensure their success we must also play our part.
- Posted byon April 18, 2011 at 8:35 AM EDT
As the snowy chill of winter slowly melts into spring, our thoughts drift toward getting outdoors. From the cherry blossoms awakening in our nation’s capital to the trees and greening of grasslands and forests across the country, we are reminded of the farms, waters, parks, woodlands, and extraordinary landscapes that renew us and have shaped our national heritage.
This natural bounty come with responsibility. Responding to modern threats to our open spaces, working lands and waters and streams demands thoughtful care and responsible stewardship. And in a nation as large and diverse as ours, this responsibility falls on all of us. That is why President Obama launched the America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) Initiative, a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda designed hand in hand with the American people.
As part of this initiative, we have established the America’s Great Outdoors Council to foster collaboration across federal government agencies and to assure the robust and coordinated, multi-year implementation of our action plan. At our first meeting, the Council discussed ways in which the Federal government can be a more effective conservation partner to help to achieve our conservation and recreation goals by empowering communities and other partners to achieve our conservation and recreation goals; to engage with youth about conservation and recreation; and to create green jobs. To keep our nation's youth in touch with our outdoor traditions, we will join hands with the First Lady’s Let's Move Initiative, a campaign to end childhood obesity in the United States by keeping our kids active and healthy.
As you can see from AGO Council members' comments below, we’re already working to achieve AGO's conservation and recreation agenda that will also help to support sustainable, healthy communities across America.
Nadine Gracia, Chief Medical Officer, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
"Outdoor recreation plays an important role in the physical and mental health and well-being of people of all ages. By redoubling our efforts to improve physical activity opportunities in communities through safe and accessible parks and playgrounds, we will increase opportunities for all Americans, especially our youth, to experience the great outdoors."
James Lopez, Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary, U.S. Deparment of Housing and Urban Development
"Part of HUD's core mission is to help build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination. Availability of community green spaces is vital to the sustainability equation. Working with our partners both inside the Federal government and across the nation, we look forward to helping connect all Americans to the great outdoors for generations to come."
Asim Mishra, Deputy Chief of Staff, Corporation for National and Community Service
"The Corporation for National and Community Service hopes to connect all Americans to the great outdoors through volunteerism and national service. Through CNCS programs -- like AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps), AmeriCorps VISTA, Learn and Serve America, and Senior Corps -- and by finding, creating, and listing volunteer opportunities online on www.serve.gov, Americans can serve in urban and rural communities to preserve and improve our public lands and waterways."
From our children who spend afternoons playing in our parks to the farmers who depend on our working lands, we are joining together with common purpose. As we continue to work on AGO, we look forward to ongoing conversations with the American people to ensure that we continue to connect with one another to foster the best ideas to protect and enjoy our nation’s treasured spaces for generations to come.
Amy Salzman is Associate Director for Policy Outreach at the Council on Environmental Quality and is a member of the AGO Council's steering committee
- Posted byon April 4, 2011 at 2:45 PM EDT
When President Obama called for 80% of our energy to come from clean sources by 2035, he challenged Americans to awaken their creativity, innovation and expertise to help us meet this charge. Across the country, public and private institutions are leading the way in developing the research and technologies that will help us win the future.
Right here in Gaithersburg, MD, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is doing pioneering work to boast state of the art greener, safer buildings and homes. I was pleased to take part in the ground breaking for three exciting new facilities on the NIST campus.
On the outside, the NIST Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility will resemble a typical suburban home occupied by a Washington area family, but no one will actually live there (NIST would probably get plenty of volunteers to live there in a moment!). Researchers will simulate the daily energy usage of a family of four and prove that the typical American home can still use very little energy and produce as much as it consumes. With the installation of state-of the art energy saving windows, solar thermal panels, and energy efficient appliances, the net-zero test facility will bring us closer to the next generation of homes that can produce as much energy from renewable resources as it consumes over the course of a year. It will also help create clean energy jobs and the industries of the future.
NIST's 2,000 new solar energy panels will catch the sun's rays and with the flip of a switch, feed up to 600kW of electricity directly into the electrical grid. This renewable energy produced by the sun will fuel the groundbreaking work happening on the NIST campus, and exemplifies our commitment to innovative and responsible government. Instead of wasting energy and emitting carbon pollution, the NIST facility in Gaithersburg is acting as a good neighbor to local families and communities by protecting public health and producing energy with greenhouse gas emission-free energy.
The third new facility, the National Structural Fire Resistance Laboratory, will give researchers a place to develop the solutions and technologies that will ensure we have the safest buildings in the world. Stemming from the tragic collapse of the World Trade Center, NIST scientists are working to ensure that our buildings can withstand severe fire conditions. The Laboratory will provide a unique capability for testing full-scale structural elements and systems under realistic fire conditions to protect our homes and buildings from disaster. The facility will also serve as a reminder of how our nation responds in the face of hardship: that we are a country that remembers the tragedies from our past, and always strives to build a safer future.
Turning the soil and breaking ground on these three important projects at NIST shows once again that we are on the cusp of delivering a new energy future for America. In research labs across the country, the future is being won each day. It is in these centers where landmark discoveries are made and where we see American innovation at its finest. I want to thank Representative Van Hollen and Representative Edwards for supporting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which invests in facilities like the ones at NIST. We are already leading the way to becoming clean energy leaders, and I look forward to continuing our work to build a healthy and prosperous future for America.
Nancy Sutley is Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality
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