As you walk through the facilities at headquarters in Washington and in the field, it quickly becomes apparent that a new attitude has taken hold at USDA: A drive to use energy more efficiently. These efforts were noted by President Obama and the White House Council on Environmental Quality recently when USDA was chosen as one of six departments (and seven teams) in the Government to receive a Presidential Award for Leadership in Federal Energy Management. USDA won the award for reducing energy and water use through tools including energy savings performance contracts, utility service contracts, green power purchase agreements, internal agency scorecards, renewable energy projects and sustainable buildings.
“It is an honor for USDA to be recognized,” said John Crew, USDA Director of Operations. “We have ‘Green Teams’ here that are both formal and informal. The main message is ‘sustainability’, and increasing efficiency. We measure our energy use now, and what gets measured gets managed. One of the initiatives we pursued was ‘USDA Unplugged’ which asked our employees over a long weekend to unplug equipment that otherwise would have been an energy drain. Not only was it successful, it encouraged employees to re-think the way they use energy in their homes as well.”
Crew noted that USDA is encouraging a combination of long and short term actions, big and small, that together add up to substantial daily savings. “For example, we found that a four inch steam line was operated all summer solely so that soup would be heated in the kitchen. That’s an expensive heat source for soup. We found a much more energy efficient way to get the job done and deactivated the line, saving $200,000 a year.” Additionally, significant projects such as the renovation of one of the South Building wings in Washington, D.C., will use new technology and be “LEED Certified” saving energy for decades to come.
Crew stressed that the award isn’t just for the green team, it is department-wide and was received through the efforts of all 100,000 USDA employees across America. “USDA is the second largest landholder in the Federal Government. We occupy about 89 million square feet of space in over 23,000 buildings spread over 193 million acres of land. In addition, we have 40,000 motor vehicles and buy over $4 billion in goods and services annually. Small individual actions, combined with overall policy decisions that promote energy savings, really add up.”
For more information about the award, visit the White House Website.
- Wayne Maloney, Office of Communications