The Greening of the White House


"We're going to identify what it takes to make the White House a model for efficiency and waste reduction, and then we're going to get the job done."

President Bill Clinton

The White House, which recently celebrated its 200th birthday, has a long tradition of demonstrating technological innovation. In keeping with that tradition, President Clinton announced the Greening of the White House Initiative on Earth Day 1993. The initiative improves the energy and environmental performance of the White House complex by identifying opportunities to reduce waste, lower energy use, and make an appropriate use of renewable resources, all while improving indoor air quality and building comfort.

The Greening of the White House Report, on President Clinton's legacy of greening at the White House, summarizes progress made to date and gives an overview of new opportunities identified during the past year. It also includes an environmental history of the White House and a short tour of the buildings that make up the White House complex. Over the past five years, this initiative has involved hundreds of dedicated people from both within and outside government. A description of how they worked together to develop and implement the Greening Plan is also included in the report, along with a number of helpful resources.

Many of the steps identified during the first two years of the Greening Initiative were implemented. The Second Annual Report, issued in March 1996, estimated savings of more than $150,000 per year in energy and water costs, landscaping expenses, and expenditures associated with solid waste. White House Greening measures completed since 1996 are saving an additional $150,000 each year, for a total of approximately $300,000 annually. These new projects, together with original measures, are also avoiding atmospheric emissions of at least 845 metric tons of carbon every year.

The Greening Plan can decrease White House energy and water consumption by 50 percent or more. It also supports President Clinton's leadership role in protecting the environment. The Greening of the White House project creates an environmentally sustainable White House and a world-class environmental showcase.

The White House has been described as the house of the people. In that sense, this work is not just about the White House, it is about your house. Many of the steps identified and implemented in this report make good economic and environmental sense for many Americans. Hopefully this report will provide you with the ideas and inspiration to make your home, office, or business more energy efficient, environmentally sound, and comfortable.

The Program's Start

The President's Council on Environmental Quality assembled a team of experts that included members of the American Institute of Architects, the U.S. Department of Energy's Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the General Services Administration, the National Park Service, the District of Columbia, the Executive Residence Staff, the White House Office of Administration, and the Potomac Electric Power Company. The team oversaw a comprehensive energy and environmental audit. In addition, the team participated in a greening design workshop that produced recommendations to preserve the historical presence of the structure and maintain (or improve) comfort and productivity.

More information can be found regarding the history of the Greening of the White House on the Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology Web site.

White House Upgrades

The White House upgrades represent an ongoing effort to cut waste and improve energy efficiency throughout the complex (the Executive Residence, the Old Executive Office Building [OEOB], and the White House Grounds). Since beginning the upgrades at the White House, similar upgrades have been made at other Federal facilities, including the Pentagon and buildings at the Grand Canyon.

The Greening measures fit into seven categories:

  1. Building Envelope: A significant amount of energy is lost through the roof, windows, and walls of buildings, so those areas were analyzed for options to increase efficiency.
  2. Lighting: Energy-saving light bulbs were installed wherever possible, and steps were taken to ensure lights are turned off in rooms that are not in use. Maximizing the use of natural light was a priority, because it's free and more visually pleasing.
  3. Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC): Measures were sought to reduce the amount of energy used to heat and cool the buildings while simultaneously increasing occupant comfort. Improving indoor air quality and reducing the use of paint with volatile organic compounds are also major goals.
  4. Plug Loads: Energy-saving office equipment was installed, and refrigerators and coolers were replaced with more energy-efficient models.
  5. Waste: After analyzing the waste being generated, a comprehensive recycling program began for aluminum, glass, paper, newsprint, furniture, batteries, fluorescent lamps, paint solvents, and laser printer cartridges. Organic yard waste is recycled at an off-site composting facility.
  6. Vehicles: Many leased vehicles accept cleaner-burning alternative fuels, and the White House is participating in a pilot program to test electric vehicles. Also, many employees use public transportation to decrease the use of automobiles.
  7. Landscaping: Methods to reduce unnecessary water and pesticide use and increase organic fertilizers on the grounds of the complex were analyzed.


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