1600 Pennsylvania Avenue may be best known as a white house, but itís actually quite green, as well. For a centuries-old house, itís certainly not as environmentally unfriendly as some would expect. Thanks to various eco initiatives, recent First Families are leading by example and showing how everyone can green their homes.
After years of discussing the improvements, this week, the Obama administration has begun to add solar panels †to the White House. Not only will the panels generate energy for the building, but the unnamed American company in charge of the project anticipates that the installation will pay for itself in just eight years thanks to a reduced electricity bill.
In truth, itís a return to solar panels for the nationís most famous address. President Jimmy Carter had some installed back in 1979, but when President Reagan took office the following term, he ordered them removed.
2. Smarter Drinking
Although avoiding disposable products altogether would be preferable, the White House has found a smarter approach for serving drinks.†First, the White House water fountains underwent alterations to more easily allow refills of water bottles, thus reducing waste. Then, after using all of the existing disposable cups purchased during the Bush administration, the Obama staff switched to biodegradable hot beverage cups composed of recycled materials. Additionally, they purchased environmentally-friendly PLA cups (made from plant-based materials) for residents and guests to hold cold drinks.
With Michelle Obamaís garden projects, the White House has a heightened need for soil. By instituting a composting program, the White House found a way to build a local supply by shipping dirt in from outside sources. Not only does composting on site reduce fuel usage, it also cuts down on food waste that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Thereís nothing like turning food scraps into new food!
4. The Benefits of Being Big and Old
Although the building is more than 200 years old and in need of technological advancements to fulfill a green mission, some of the White Houseís natural qualities make it ecologically sound. Constructed with unusually thick walls, the White House has great insulation, which cuts down on heating costs. Moreover, the buildingís signature large windows let in plenty of natural light, reducing the inhabitants’ need for electricity throughout the day.
5. Updating Existing Technologies
In honor of Earth Day, President Bill Clinton created a task force in the 90s to environmentally improve the White House. This resulted in several important changes: using energy-saving light bulbs, replacing refrigerators with energy-efficient models and test piloting electric vehicles on site. Although seemingly minor, given that most of these updates are in place, they add up to a lot of energy saved over the past 20 years.
Just as the White House is going green each year, our nation’s National Parks should continue to be protected as well. Sign this petition to protect national forests, monuments, and parks from fracking.
Photo Credit: Sean Hayford O'Leary