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GSA reduced our annual carbon footprint by 29%.

GSA Acts on Climate

| Jed Ela, Sustainability Advisor, Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings
Post filed in: Earth Day  |  Green Building  |  Sustainability  |  Technology

In June 2015, President Obama issued an Executive Order to cut the federal government's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40 percent. Since 2008, GSA has supported the President's efforts by cutting the agency's carbon footprint nearly 30 percent, saving agencies and taxpayers over $340 million in water and energy and water costs. In future years, GSA's actions on climate change will save millions more, by reducing the agency's exposure to extreme weather and other climate disruptions.

Infographic detailing the reduced carbon emissions made by GSA.

Renewable electricity

Using renewable electricity is one of GSA's most important and cost-effective ways to cut carbon emissions. In 2015, GSA awarded contracts to place solar energy systems on the rooftops of dozens of federal buildings across the nation, which GSA estimates will save over $10 million in utility costs. GSA has also contracted to buy electricity directly from wind and solar farms in Illinois and Maryland, and helped the Defense Department procure large-scale solar systems for bases on Arizona and Georgia. GSA will continue to expand its renewable energy purchasing in the years to come.

Net-zero-energy buildings

As the federal government's landlord, GSA takes our stewardship responsibilities seriously. An early adopter of green building practices, GSA is now working towards net zero energy (NZE) buildings. NZE buildings combine dramatic reductions in energy use with renewable energy deployment to meet their energy needs with clean, renewable sources.

The Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building and Courthouse is a century-old structure that GSA renovated into an NZE building that won recognition as one of the American Institute of Architects' Top Ten Green Buildings. GSA is working to spread this success across our portfolio through deep energy retrofits [PDF - 6 MB]that leverage Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs) to slash energy use in our existing buildings. That strategy is bringing some GSA buildings, like the Almeric Christian Federal Center in St. Croix, close to NZE levels.

Electric and hybrid vehicles

As the Federal government's leading source and manager for fleet vehicles, GSA has helped Federal agencies purchase thousands of hybrid and electric-only vehicles. In 2016, GSA's contracts will for the first time let agencies lease fully electric vehicles for the same price as conventional ones. GSA is also developing policies and installations to allow federal employees to charge personal electric vehicles at their work sites. As electric vehicles continue their rapid growth, GSA is committed to encouraging agencies and employees to make the switch to this cleaner alternative.

Supply chain

Like other large purchasing organizations, GSA estimates that at three-quarters or more of our agency's carbon footprint lies in our supply chain — that is, in producing the products and services that GSA buys. GSA is working to require carbon footprint reporting and reductions in many of our largest contracts. To monitor the effect of these supply chain policies and allow for continued improvement, GSA has invited over 220 of our largest contractors to participate in the CDP (formerly “Carbon Disclosure Project”) Supply Chain disclosure program. As more GSA suppliers prioritize energy efficiency and renewable energy to reduce their own carbon footprints, GSA expects this to not only reduce environmental impacts, but also cut overhead costs for contractors and build more resilient and reliable supply chains for agency partners.

Editor's Note: As steward to over 1500 Federal buildings — including many irreplaceable historic buildings in low-lying and other at-risk areas — the U.S. General Services Administration is sensitive to the threat of climate change. Fortunately, as the government's leading supplier of utilities, buildings, and vehicles GSA also has opportunities to protect our environment. This week, to celebrate Earth Day 2016, we will be highlighting GSA's efforts to combat climate change and protect our planet.