In 2007, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi directed the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the House to develop a “Green the Capitol Initiative” that would “demonstrate leadership to the nation by providing an environmentally responsible and healthy working environment for employees.”
The Final Report submitted by the CAO shortly after the directive detailed the major goals of the program and proposed strategies to meet each of the goals. The goals were charmingly optimistic, but the Green the Capitol team has worked aggressively to implement them:
- Operate the House in a carbon-neutral manner by the end of the 110th Congress
- Reduce the carbon footprint of the House by cutting energy consumption by 50% in 10 years
- Make House operations a model of sustainability
The program’s most recent Activities Status Report lists some specific achievements of the team. Under a section entitled “Sustainable Dining,” it’s noted that 650 tons of compost to date have been diverted to a composting site and subsequently converted to usable topsoil. Some of the topsoil was then used in a “comprehensive landscape renovation” at the Ford House Office Building.
However, according to the Washington Post, Styrofoam cups were re-introduced into the House cafeteria last week, replacing the compostable ones previously made available through the Initiative. What gives? Late last month, Republican Rep. Daniel Lungren announced that the composting program would be suspended indefinitely, citing high costs and “nominal reductions” in carbon emissions.
Though there are currently no public plans to do so, many see this suspension as a first step in further dismantling the Initiative.