CAO to push Pelosi's 'greening' plan

The maintainer of the House offices said on Friday that all offices belonging to members, officers and committees would have “green” consultations by the end of the year in its effort to make the House more environmentally friendly.

The program, initiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and run by the office of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), has trained nearly 3,000 House staffers in ways to eliminate material, electric and pollutant waste in their respective offices, said the CAO in a new report released this week.

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The CAO expects to reach all 7,000 House employees based in Washington by the end of 2010.

Since Pelosi launched the My Green Office program in April 2009 on Earth Day, the CAO says the House has saved 1 million sheets of paper each month, 175,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, diverted 75,000 pounds of waste from landfills, and cut nearly 400,000 pounds of carbon emissions.

“I’m pleased with the progress that Members have made to green their offices,” Pelosi said in a statement. “It’s critical for us to lead by example and show the American people that reducing our carbon footprint saves both energy and money.”

A spokesman for the CAO said that by July they would have a better understanding of the cost savings that the "greening" measures have created, but that right now, "the savings numbers are a moving target."

The report says that the office of the CAO recently conducted consultation sessions with Pelosi's five "green office representatives" who cover the "greening" of Democratic leadership offices. A consultation with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's (D-Md.) office is also under way, the report said. But a spokesman for Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that his office had not been consulted yet.

The program requires offices to complete a series of operational changes, “such as using recycled paper, switching to Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs, converting to e-faxing, consolidating their servers, installing water filtration systems and optimizing their constituent mailing lists.”

One of the changes has been motion-sensor lighting in the offices, which has taken some getting used to for Cassie Alsfeld, a legislative correspondent for Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao (D-La.), according to the CAO report.

Staffers have complained that they’ll be working long hours in relatively motionless positions when all of a sudden the lights will go off. They have to wave their arms around in the air to get the lights to come back on.


By 2011 the CAO is also aiming to spread the “greening” office initiatives to 450 of the more than 900 district offices of members. CAO staff are planning to use video conferencing technology instead of traveling in person to advise offices on greening techniques.

As of the release of the report, the “greening” team of more than 100 CAO and Architect of the Capitol employees had consulted with 175 district offices. In some instances, CAO employees said in an interview, the central district office would hold the consultation and disseminate the information to the other district offices, while in other cases all of the district offices would have representatives present for the training.

The CAO set up an interactive website so offices can track their progress. The site highlights more than 50 “greening” actions, like installing smart power strips and purchasing ENERGY STAR appliances.

The CAO report also highlights some recent "greening" suggestions like faxing electronically and installing environmentally friendly water filtration systems.

In 2010, the office of the CAO said it will be focusing additionally on verifying that all district offices are adhering to the “greening” techniques and are able to track their progress online.