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GreenGov Spotlight Communities: Leading by Example

Summary: 
In local communities across the country, Federal agencies are finding innovative ways to work together to save taxpayer dollars and help the Federal Government work smarter and more efficiently.

As I meet with my Federal colleagues in places like Lakewood, Colorado and San Antonio, Texas, I am often inspired by how individuals have taken to heart President Obama’s challenge for us to lead by example in energy and sustainability within Federal operations.  Over the course of the President’s first term, Federal employees across the country have found creative ways to help us cut costs, reduce our carbon emissions, increase the use of renewable energy, manage our fleet of Federal vehicles, conserve water, and achieve other ambitious goals set by the Administration. 

In many regions, Federal employees are finding innovative ways to overcome bureaucratic barriers and promote cooperation between Federal agencies and local communities to achieve shared goals.  Their efforts are making the Federal Government more efficient, a better member of the local community, and saving taxpayer dollars.  

To connect these local efforts with the broad goals in the President’s Executive Order on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance, we have selected six teams to follow throughout the year to see what they can accomplish when they work together.   These teams include multiple Federal agencies as well as non-profits, local utilities, and private companies.  We are calling them the GreenGov Spotlight Communities.  Some of the teams have been working together for years and have a few energy and sustainability projects under their belts.  Other teams are just getting started on new projects that have great potential. 

Located all over the country, these Spotlight Communities can help other Federal communities by sharing their lessons learned and breaking down barriers to sharing resources among different Federal agencies.  

Here is a short overview of our GreenGov Spotlight Communities.  We look forward to learning from them, and from the many Federal communities that are finding innovative ways to work smarter and better for Americans.

  • Car Sharing - Chicago, IL: Peace Corps, General Service Administration (GSA), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will create a roadmap to vehicle sharing with other agencies.  There are many opportunities to analyze changes to fleet management through a strategic interagency motor pool, commercial car sharing, and alternative transit benefit options.  In the next year, this pilot project will produce quantifiable results that will provide best practices for other small-to-medium sized agencies looking for flexible fleet solutions.  The pilot aims to show how interagency partnerships can reduce an organization’s carbon emissions, save money, and positively impact employee satisfaction. 

  • Federal Aggregated Solar Procurement Pilot - Greater Northern CA: EPA, GSA, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Energy - Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP), and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are working on a joint procurement of renewable energy.  The project in Northern California will bring together multiple Federal agencies and one private company to demonstrate that combined procurement offers economies of scale, resulting in lower electricity bills for individual sites and promoting use of renewable energy in the Federal Government. 

  • Federal Bike to Work Month Challenges - Portland, Seattle, Boise, Anchorage, and East Coast Cities: The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, EPA, and non-Federal stakeholders, including Cascade Bicycle Club in Seattle, Washington and Bicycle Transportation in Portland, Oregon, are seeking to spread the success of their 2012 Northwest Federal Challenge as part of National Bike to Work Month.  During last year’s inaugural challenge, 522 Federal riders from more than 20 agencies, two government branches, and four states logged 65,274 miles commuting to work and back, saving almost 64,000 lbs. of carbon emissions and burning three million calories.  In 2013, this program will work with other Federal employees in other cities across the country interested in helping to expand the challenge and share their toolkits.  

  • Comparing Non-Traditional Water Treatment Cooling Towers – Lakewood, CO: GSA, DOE, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory will analyze and implement several non-chemical cooling tower water treatment systems that have the potential to reduce GSA building operation costs and building energy bills through improved chiller efficiency.  Cooling towers exist in many government buildings, consume large amounts of potable water, and contribute greatly to annual operation costs related to utilities and maintenance.  GSA will use the results of these initial studies to determine how they can help Federal buildings nationwide conserve energy and water, and save money. 

  • National Capital Region Climate Risks Preparation and Adaptation Pilot – Washington, DC: GSA, EPA, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), National Capital Planning Commission, U.S. Global Change Research Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the District of Columbia Government will evaluate the risks posed by the impacts of climate change – for example, increased or more severe extreme weather events – to the IRS's Washington D.C. building. The team will help establish priorities for creating a preparation and adaptation plan for the IRS building and surrounding areas to protect programs and infrastructure. The plan could be adaptable to many Federal buildings in the National Capital Region.

  • Seattle Federal Executive Board’s Business Case for Sustainability - Seattle, WA: The Seattle Federal Executive Board (SFEB) officers who represent the participating Seattle Area Federal Community and their respective agencies (Social Security Administration, GSA, and Department of Commerce as well as the SFEB Executive Leadership Council that represents an additional 18 Federal agencies) will work to build the business case for shared sustainability efforts across the Federal Government.  In 2013, the Board and supporting agencies will: develop a story submittal form to make it easier for agencies to contribute business cases; aggregate regional financial impact based on stories submitted, agency participation, consolidated savings, and other data; determine best methods to publicize successes; and encourage non-participating Federal communities in the region to contribute. This effort will demonstrate how FEBs can play an integral role in coordinating regionally located Federal entities that are working towards shared Executive Order goals.

Jon Powers is the Federal Environmental Executive at the White House Council on Environmental Quality