House of Reps Making Green Changes

The first six months of the greening of the Capitol have brought measurable successes -- from beginning the process of relighting the Capitol Dome to eliminating Styrofoam(r) from House food services -- and the initiative promises to deliver more gains in 2008.

"We're thrilled with the progress that's we've made so far," said Chief Administrative Officer Daniel P. Beard in a release Jan. 15. "We're looking forward to even more improvements in the way we do business and getting the House community involved in reducing our carbon footprint."

Beard's organization just issued the six-month progress report on the initiative (http://cao.house.gov/greenthecapitol/progress-booklet-2007dec.pdf).

The Capitol Dome soon will be lit with environmentally-friendly lighting, and food services will also be revamped as part of the Green the Capitol Initiative mandated by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The transition to the new food service vendor on Dec. 17 brought 100-percent biodegradable food service containers. The changeover is important because the House complex is responsible for producing an estimated 250 metric tons of waste every month, half of which is comprised of food service waste, Beard added.

The House has purchased carbon offsets to account for the 30,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases it emits. The remainder will be eliminated, in part, by using natural gas instead of coal in the Capitol Power Plant to power the House.

Natural gas has fewer emissions of carbon, sulfur and nitrogen and releases much less ash into the environment. The plant's conversion to natural gas will decrease the number of offsets by 10,000 metric tons. The $2.75 million fix is included in the legislative branch appropriations bill.

The House will purchase wind power to provide 100 percent of its electricity.

Beard said getting the House community involved in going green is another essential goal of the initiative, with outreach to House employees beginning in earnest next year.

For more information on the Green the Capitol Office or the initiative, visit http://cao.house.gov/greenthecapitol/.

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