The Greening Council Executive Secretariat (GC-ES) partners with internal and external stakeholders, including with governments, academia, and the private sector, to further the Department’s diplomatic mission; enhance operational resilience, security, and efficiency; and develop and maintain needed programs.   

Additionally, GC-ES works to both share best practices and learn from others through a multifaceted communications strategy that includes social media, web blogs, and face to face engagement and exchange.

Annual Greening Diplomacy Initiative Awards

Every year on Earth Day, the annual Greening Diplomacy Initiative (GDI) Awards highlight U.S. embassies and consulates that have undertaken exceptional efforts in sustainability.  The awards foster a community within the Department committed to best practices in diplomacy.  The process also provides input for long term strategic planning and measurement capability for the Department’s sustainability initiatives.

The GDI Awards are made up of three accolades.  The senior level Greening Council (GC) selects the Overall GDI Award.  Department employees vote to select the People’s Choice GDI Award.  The Bureau of Overseas Buildings and Operations (OBO) selects the winner for the themed award which vary by year.

In 2018, Embassy Kabul won the GDI award, Consulate General Cape Town won the People’s Choice Award, and Embassy Valletta won the Overseas Cost Containment Initiative’s (OCCI) thematic award for the “Year of the Vehicle” for increasing efficiency and greening in motor pool operations.

Despite facing a constant critical-threat security environment with limited infrastructure, Embassy Kabul worked to reduce their environmental footprint.  The embassy started a recycling program that processed 364,000 pounds of waste in 2017.  Local partners turned the recycled material into items such as plastic furniture, toilet paper, and dishes.  This partnership expanded private sector-led economic growth and provided employment alternatives to those at risk of radicalization and violent extremist messaging.

Employees voted for Consulate General Cape Town as the People’s Choice GDI Award winner.  As the city suffered a record drought, Post prioritized water conservation.  Post reduced their municipal water consumption by 70 percent through a variety of measures, such as reducing water pressure, planting a water-wise, indigenous garden, and installing water- and energy-efficient chillers and rainwater collection tanks.  These actions helped conserve limited resources and reduce costs.  Post encouraged changes in employee habits, sending out a weekly “Water Words” newsletter, sharing monthly residential water consumption, and utilizing signage to advocate for shorter showers and reduced flushing when possible.  Consulate General Cape Town also met with local and regional officials to offer assistance, exchange information, and liaise with environmental experts from the U.S. government and private sector.

In 2018, Embassy Valletta won the Overseas Cost Containment Initiative’s (OCCI) thematic award for the “Year of the Vehicle” for increasing efficiency and greening in motor pool operations.  Post added a fully electric vehicle to their fleet and installed a solar panel carport, using it during daylight hours as a charging station for night patrol vehicles.  They also negotiated with the Ministry of Transportation to install charging stations in the public parking lot across from the embassy and advocated with a Car2Go-type car sharing service to create dedicated parking spaces directly in front of the embassy.  These were all creative tactics that will contribute to a lower fuel bill and a smaller carbon footprint.

Previous Winners:

  • 2018:  Embassy Kabul, Consul General Cape Town, Embassy Valletta [Read more here]
  • 2017: Embassy Phnom Penh, Embassy Bangkok, Embassy Santiago [Read more here]
  • 2016: Consulate Ciudad Juarez, Mission India, Embassy Amman [Read more here]
  • 2015: Embassy Ouagadougou, Mission India and Embassy Bangkok [Read more here]
  • 2014: Mission Thailand, Embassy Stockholm, Consulate Karachi, Embassy Manila [Read more here]
  • 2013: Embassy Beijing, Embassy Kampala, Embassy Helsinki
  • 2012: Embassy Kathmandu, Embassy Canberra, Diplomatic Security
  • 2011: Embassy Ulaanbaatar, Mission Geneva

Air Quality Fellows

The GC-ES launched the Air Quality Fellowship in 2016 to virtually pair U.S. air quality experts with U.S. diplomatic posts.  Since then, more than 100 U.S. experts from municipal, state, and Federal governments and universities have been paired with embassies and consulates to help Fellows have helped build capacity and understanding about how to understand air quality data, both within the embassy community and with host governments.

SpaceApps

Now in its 8th year, NASA’s Space Apps hackathon invites coders, scientists, designers, storytellers, makers, builders, technologists, and others to engage with NASA’s free and open data to address real-world problems on Earth and in space. This year, the Department of State, Environmental Protection Agency, and NASA collaborated to submit a challenge on air quality for SpaceApps. The challenge is to integrate NASA data, ground-based air quality data, and citizen science data to create an air quality surface that displays the most accurate data for a location and time. Create algorithms that select or weight the best data from several sources for a specific time and location, and display that information.  Sign up to participate and see more information here.  Scroll down for three sample data sets from NASA.

Sample Data for the Surface-to-Air Quality Mission

To help illustrate the variety of data available, a sample data set has been compiled with satellite data, local meteorological data, and ground reference monitor data for the sites in the three locations:

  • Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Delhi, India
  • Los Angeles, CA, USA

Teams are not required to use this data or these locations for their work.

About the Sample Data

Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) Data

The .zip file “AOD_Data.zip” includes satellite-derived Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) produced from the NASA MODIS instruments on the Terra (morning) and Aqua (afternoon) satellites using NASA’s Deep Blue and Dark Target algorithm. For each location there are two files: those ending with MOD04 are from the morning satellite and those ending with MYD04 are from the afternoon satellite. 

Also included in the .zip file are two information files. “station_for_state” is the list of 22 sites selected for the sample data set and “readme_csv_sat” provides details on the AOD files. Each AOD file has a variable number of lines corresponding to best quality measurement days spanning from February 2000 for MODIS-Terra and from July 2002 for MODIS-Aqua through April 2019.

AOD is a unitless quantity representing the opacity of the atmosphere from ground to space at the given location and time. Each measurement line includes the AOD for the 10km x 10 km grid point closest to the ground site as well as the average and standard deviation for 3×3 grid points centered on the closest grid point.  Learn more about AOD here.

Meteorological Data

The .zip file “MERRA2.zip” contains 365 meteorological data files corresponding to each day of 2018. Within each file are 24 hourly measurements for each of the 22 station locations. Each hourly measurement includes location, date, time, water vapor, temperature, wind speed, and trace gas concentrations. Detailed descriptions of the columns are available here.

These data were produced by NASA using satellite observations merged with atmospheric model forecasts in a “reanalysis” to provide the best estimates in a retrospective sense of atmospheric quantities. These data are typically used to improve the accuracy of the relationship between the satellite-derived AOD quantity and the near surface particulate matter quantities such as PM2.5 and PM10.

Reference Ground Monitor Data

The .zip file “Reference_Monitor_Data.zip” contains historical measurements of ground pollutants at each of the 22 locations for various time periods between 2016 and 2019. Each file contains measurements of PM2.5, PM10, and trace gas pollutants for time periods and sampling intervals that vary by site. Not all sites have all data for the full period.

These data were obtained from the OpenAQ website. Other historical data can be obtained by following the protocol here. The data may need to be “cleaned” (bad data points removed). An open-source tool for cleaning these data and teams may refer to a blog post explaining the tool, an intro video, and the repo on GitHub.

The .zip file “AirQualitySystem.zip” contains sample (“raw”) data for all criteria and toxic pollutants (acute health effects and cancer causing, respectively) for the Los Angeles monitor sites for 2008-2018. There are 2.8 million individual samples in the file.

These data are from the Air Quality System (AQS), which contains ambient air pollution data collected by EPA, state, local, and tribal air pollution control agencies from thousands of monitors. The data dictionary is here.

Eco-Capitals Forum

Started in Washington, DC in 2009, the Eco-Capitals Forum (ECF) is a platform for embassies, the local government, the foreign ministry, and other entities to collaborate and share sustainability best practices and pragmatic solutions for environmental challenges.  Now there are chapters in four cities around the world, with more on the way.

Learn more:

Washington, DC Eco-Capitals Forum

Originally called the DC Greening Embassies Forum, the DC chapter of the Eco-Capitals Forum has nearly 100 signatory embassies and diplomatic institutions.  The District of Columbia counts the diplomatic community as a partner in its SustainableDC plan.  Through the Forum, embassies have received training on EnergyStar benchmarking, green building certifications, sustainable transportation options in the city, stormwater management, and more.  The Forum also participates in local community projects such as tree plantings and Bike to Work Day.

Embassies have also partnered with the city to install green roofs – in fact, the Embassy of France now has the largest green roof in the city.  This helps mitigate stormwater runoff and the heat island effect.

Read more:

Bangkok, Thailand Eco-Capitals Forum

In 2016 on World Environment Day, the Bangkok chapter of the Eco-Capitals Forum (ECF) was established.  The Governor of Bangkok and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) hosted the event and the U.S. Ambassador to Thailand, Glyn T. Davies, spoke.  Almost 20 embassies and diplomatic institutions signed a pledge to collaborate to make Bangkok a sustainable city.  The Forum was chaired by the U.S. Embassy for its first two years and is currently chaired by the Embassy of Australia.

League of Green Embassies

The U.S. Ambassador to Sweden, Michael Wood, originally initiated the League of Green Embassies in 2007 in order to share opportunities and successes related to the conservation of natural resources at U.S. diplomatic missions worldwide.

To join the League, Chiefs of Mission at U.S. diplomatic facilities sign a pledge committing to support energy efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation, and environmental stewardship.  They also pledge to leverage sustainability to support the Greening Diplomacy Initiative and showcase American innovation in policy, technology, and solutions.  Member embassies put together Green Teams, voluntary groups of employees, to coordinate activities both in the embassy or consulate and out in the host community.

League Chairs include:

  • U.S. Ambassador to Sweden, Michael Wood
  • U.S. Ambassador to Finland, Bruce Oreck
  • U.S. Ambassador to Estonia, James Melville

 

U.S. Department of State

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