How Green is the White House?

by Lauren Verini

The third Monday of every February, we celebrate President’s Day and honor the past Presidents of the United States, specifically George Washington whose birthday falls on February 22 and Abraham Lincoln whose birthday is on February 12. Today we wanted to take a look at the famous residency located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to see how green the home to our country’s leader really is.

Anyone who is in a position of leadership and power, like the President, carried with them great responsibility.  Their actions both on a professional and personal front, are watched closely, but this also means that they have the power to do good, influencing others to do good by following in their footsteps.  In taking strides to make the White House eco-friendly, the President is encouraging the rest of the country to do the same. As President Bill Clinton once said, “…Before I can ask you to do the best you can in your house, I ought to make sure I’m doing the best I can in my house.”

There have been many great Presidents in our history who have taken action to help the environment. Theodore Roosevelt for instance placed a high priority on conservation, established five national parks, 18 national monuments and played a key role in creating the U.S. Forest Service. In 1979, Jimmy Carter had a $28,000 solar water heater installed on the roof of the West Wing, making him the first President to utilize solar power in the White House. On Earth Day in 1993, Bill Clinton introduced the Greening of the White House project, which would take strides to evaluate and improve the energy efficiency throughout the historic monument. In its first six years, nearly $1.4 million was saved in conservation efforts.

These strategies where further implemented during George Bush’s time in office. In 2002, three solar systems were installed on the roof and by 2007, according to an NBC report, many improvements such as energy efficient lighting, low flush toilets and improve insulation, among other things, had been made.

As the house’s current residents, the Obamas are continuing the momentum to make the building, which is over 210 years old, as efficient as possible. Aside from Michelle’s organic vegetable garden that she planted, President Obama also installed additional solar panels and solar hot water heaters to the roof during the spring of 2011. President Obama is also seeking LEED certification for the White House through water and energy conservation. The Treasury Building, which sits right next to the White House, received the LEED Gold certification in December 2011, and is currently the oldest building in the world to have received the certification.

How would you rate President Obama’s efforts to green the White House? What are some other changes you would like to see him make?

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