Column: GSA likes its standing as a leader in green

Tuesday - 10/5/2010, 1:53pm EDT

It is an exciting time to be at GSA. We've been challenged in new ways by an administration that has declared its commitment to a clean energy economy and a more sustainable federal government. A year ago, the President issued an executive order setting sustainability goals for the government. The President recognized GSA as a strategic asset in this initiative and put us at the forefront. This, in conjunction with the work we are doing across the country thanks to the Recovery Act, has energized the organization. We've risen to the challenge and have undertaken an ambitious challenge of our own: achieving a zero environmental footprint.

The President recognized that GSA's role as the government's acquisition expert positions us to examine and impact the sustainability of the goods we are procuring across government. Last year, GSA was directly responsible for more than $60 billion in government purchases, and indirectly influenced over half a trillion dollars in federal spending. That is a tremendous amount of buying power that could be harnessed and directed toward more sustainable products. So, we have undertaken an incentivized, phased approach to ask federal vendors to track and disclose their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

Having this information will help us move toward purchasing more sustainable products. Recognizing that small businesses are the engine of the American economy, we are committed to providing them with the tools and support they will need to track their emissions. We've also developed a carbon footprint tool that will allow federal agencies to calculate their own GHG emissions.

Thanks to the Recovery Act, we are putting people and green technologies to work modernizing our federal buildings. Across the country, we are installing solar panels, public green spaces and smart metering technology. We are employing the highest standards of sustainable design and construction. We are modernizing properties and installing cutting edge technologies in all 50 states.

All of this work positions us to see what works best in different climates and settings, and we are sharing our knowledge. The work that we are doing now will literally change the way federal buildings look and feel in the future.

The Recovery Act also facilitated GSA's purchase of over 22,000 more fuel efficient vehicles for the federal fleet, including thousands of hybrids. These vehicles will reduce the fuel we consume by millions of barrels over the coming years.

Sustainability is a significant challenge, but the government is moving, and GSA is committed to helping our federal agency partners rise to the challenge. In our role as workplace solutions experts, we have researched and implemented green services and technologies for decades. As agencies across government work to reduce their environmental footprint and provide a more efficient and cost effective government for the American people, GSA will draw on our size, experience and expertise to help them achieve their goals.

Stephen Leeds is the General Services Administration's senior counselor to the administrator.