Good morning. Thank you, everyone, and welcome to VA’s 1st annual Green Routine Awards!
Let me extend a very special welcome to our honored guests—VA’s 2010 Green Routine award winners! Congratulations to each of you! You’ve developed and implemented solid strategies for “going green”—in recycling, waste reduction, and in resource conservation.
On behalf of Secretary Shinseki—Well done! Thank you, all!
Make no mistake, VA is intent on importing green, sustainable practices into our workplace. We’re committed to helping save our environment and, at the same time, to better serve Veterans. How? In part, by making those easy changes in our daily routines that deliver a big impact. From replacing and updating lighting, plumbing, and boilers … to double-sided copying and printing … to conserving and reducing energy, water, and other resources, VA is ushering in a new era of eco-responsibility. We’re enhancing efficiency, maximizing savings, and allowing more money to go toward our department’s greater mission—serving Veterans.
Both Secretary Shinseki and Deputy Secretary Gould are leading the drive to reduce VA’s environmental footprint. This year, alone, we’re making a $400 million “green” investment in a 21st century VA. It’s all part of President Obama’s GreenGov initiative to make significant improvements in our government’s environmental, energy, and economic performance.
Why? The President knows that the nation that leads in a clean-energy economy will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy. Toward that end, the White House Council on Environmental Quality will hold the first GreenGov Symposium this October, here in Washington. Leaders from federal, state, and local governments, the nonprofit and academic communities, and the private sector will gather to identify opportunities for greening the federal government; to share challenges and best practices; and to discuss cutting-edge approaches for the future. You can be sure VA’s “green management team” will be there in full force.
Eco-responsibility is an old idea adapted to new times. Over a century ago, Spanish-American War Veteran, President Teddy Roosevelt, made a national commitment to conservation that continues to enhance our lives today in our national parks, wilderness areas, forests, wildlife sanctuaries, and wetlands.
A lot has changed since Roosevelt’s time, though. Our population has grown from about 90 million to 300 million. And a host of other factors are changing how we approach conservation—new sources of pollution, new sources of energy, and new ways of thinking about finite natural resources.
Environmentalism, today, is more than sweeping vistas, natural wonders, or wide-open landscapes. Now it’s about cities and rooftop gardens; smart electricity grids and wheat-board wall panels; solar, wind, and geothermal energy; “water-wise” landscaping; containing hazardous waste; recycling; alternative fuels; and eco-friendly products like reusable mugs and shopping bags, and recycled paper cups and napkins.
The truth is that Americans have always been conservation-conscious. We just didn’t have catchy terms for it.
A friend of mine reminds me that, every year, as winter approached, his grandmother would get up on a chair and put heavy plastic sheeting over the windows of her house. She didn’t say she was “greening” her home. She didn’t say she was “weatherizing” her house. She didn’t call herself an “environmentalist.” From her perspective, she was keeping out the cold and saving money on the monthly oil bill, plain and simple.
The issues we call “green” are sometimes just straightforward, common-sense solutions to every-day challenges.
What have we accomplished in greening VA? Let me give you just a few examples. We were one of the first federal agencies to place environmental and energy managers at our facilities—today they number in the hundreds. The payoff? In just seven years, we’ve reduced energy consumption in our buildings by 11 percent.
We’re aggressively investing in renewable energy technologies. In solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal systems, and renewably-fueled central energy plants. VA’s goal is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020. Yes, that’s right, by almost one-third!
Last year, VA certified 25 facilities as “sustainable”—that’s over 13 percent of VA’s square footage and 6 percent of our buildings. We know that green buildings use energy and water efficiently, and employ a variety of environment-friendly operating practices, like recycling. With every certified building that comes on-line, VA becomes a better community partner in greening our neighborhoods, and our nation.
Our environmental management systems—now in all VA medical centers—will soon be in all of VA cemeteries as well. That means we’re purchasing green products, recycling, and, reducing carbon emissions.
More than 40 percent of VA’s vehicle fleet uses alternative, cleaner-burning fuels that help lower greenhouse gas emissions. Not only that, but we are increasing on-campus use of electric vehicles. What’s more, by the end of this year, we’ll have electric metering in all our facilities in order to better spot problem areas and identify opportunities to become more energy efficient. We’ll be installing water, steam, and natural gas meters as well.
So what’s next for the great, green VA machine? We’ve made a good start, but there’s a lot more work to do.
VA is transforming into a high-powered, innovative organization that takes its responsibility for the environment very seriously. Going green is a top VA priority. We’re leveraging collaborations across the private and public sectors—especially with the Department of Energy—and we’re tapping into emerging research and findings; the latest technologies; collective problem-solving; the best practices from all sectors; and new ideas and new approaches.
We’re taking the offensive and educating our employees. We’re “getting the word out”—to employees and Veterans, alike—reminding them about the importance of eco-responsibility through our website, in promotional events, educational videos, and in communications across the board.
This ceremony highlights the fact that we all can do our part to bring green, sustainable practices into the workplace. And we are proud to recognize and reward grassroots efforts taken by employees who are in the vanguard of greening our government. Our honorees are on the front lines of our environmental advance toward a more eco-friendly VA.
VA rightfully prides itself on serving America’s warriors, and their families, with the highest quality care and services. As I see it, our 10 awardees are nothing less than “earth warriors”—warriors serving warriors with the best in green initiatives. I congratulate each of you for your great contributions to our department.
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give them a big round of applause!
And now, let’s hear about their achievements and present some awards!