The Greening Diplomacy Initiative (GDI) aims to improve the environmental sustainability of the U.S. Department of State’s global operations and to encourage foreign embassies in Washington to do the same. Advanced by the Department’s senior-level Greening Council, GDI challenges the Department to develop and implement policies and actions that lessen its overall environmental footprint, reduce costs, and ensure sustainability remains at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy. This extends from building design – the Department requires LEED Silver certification for all new buildings and extensive renovations – to behavior, such as Mission Thailand’s “Turn It Off” campaign.
The Department of State’s certified green building portfolio continues to grow, and now contains:
As Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy said at a speech at the Embassy of Finland LEED Platinum celebration in January 2015:
Mission South Africa is using cost-efficient and environmentally friendly solar hot water heaters.
“There are three primary reasons why we so doggedly pursue LEED. First, we believe embassies should demonstrate and showcase the very best in green building technologies, policies, and innovation. Second, we believe that embassies and diplomatic facilities should use their operations and policy priorities to help drive more sustainable cities. And third, we believe that embassies should be good stewards of the financial and environmental resources entrusted to them by U.S. taxpayers and the global community. Simply put, green buildings perform better and cost less to run – the total estimated savings from our certified facilities overseas, for example, is approximately $3.7 million per year.”
The Department headquarters holds 104 solar panels on its roof and is among the oldest and largest Energy Star Certified buildings. The Department’s Washington and Maryland-area facilities receive more than half of their power from solar and wind farms built through a Power Purchase Agreement with Constellation Energy.
The Department also works to reduce its impacts from commuting by subsidizing employees’ public transit costs and encourage telecommuting, carpooling and biking. American embassies and consulates around the world are also encouraging biking. The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, for example, co-sponsored a Sunday bike ride in October 2013 to celebrate Bangkok’s bike share program. Embassy Yaounde launched a bike share program for employees so that they can explore. Embassy Canberra traded in its cars for bikes to participate in versions of Bike to Work Day down under. In 2011, Ambassador Nay led a trans-Suriname bike ride to promote environmental responsibility.
Learn more about what U.S. embassies and consulates are doing to reduce their environmental impact on the Greening in Action Success Story Map and in the U.S. Diplomacy Center Diplomacy Explorer online exhibit.
If you would like to know more about the work being done on embassy buildings overseas, visit http://www.state.gov/obo/green/.