Sustainability Efforts: The grades are in

Friday - 6/15/2012, 6:50pm EDT

By Esther Carey
Special for Federal News Radio

Agencies and students face a similar moment of truth at this time of year. While students traditionally get their final grades in June, the White House is handing out final grades for how agencies are meeting sustainability goals.

The Agriculture Department is one of those agencies that progressed in a majority of areas. The agency Friday released its fiscal 2011 scorecard measuring its progress toward () achieving sustainability goals. In five of seven areas, the agency earned a "green" grade. USDA will use the scorecard as a benchmark to identify opportunities for further efficiency improvements, according to an agency press release.

President Barack Obama established the sustainability goals through Executive Order 13514 in October 2009. The order directed agencies to take the lead in sustainability efforts, particularly in the areas of energy, water, pollution and waste reduction.

Along with USDA, two dozen agencies also received similar scorecards, which feature grades of green, yellow or red. This is the second time the agencies have publicly released their performance. Nancy Sutley, the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said the scorecards keep departments focused on their sustainability goals. The grades also show agency progress in meeting Obama's goals of saving energy and taxpayer dollars.

Of the 17 agencies who had the scorecards posted on their websites, 13 received a green score in at least four of the seven areas. The Environmental Protection Agency and the General Services Administration each earned seven greens, while the Army Corps of Engineers received seven reds. The departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Transportation also received three or fewer green scores. USDA came in at the middle of the pack.

"Although the department is doing relatively well, the scorecard identifies areas for continued focus and improvement," said Robin Heard, USDA's acting assistant secretary for administration in a release.

USDA hit the mark in several areas, including reducing "scope three" green-house gas emissions, reducing energy intensity, using renewable energy, reduction in potable water intensity and green buildings. The grade was based on reaching certain percentages or other target goals.

The agency failed to meet its goals in two of the areas: reducing scope one and two green house gas emissions and reducing fleet petroleum use. Instead of decreasing use in these two areas, USDA had an increase in 2011 as compared to 2010.

The department plans to improve in these areas by increasing its use of alternative fuels, acquiring more efficient vehicles, utilizing the optimal alternative vehicle for each particular need and using alternative vehicles where access to alternative fuel allows, the release said.

Esther Carey is an intern at Federal News Radio

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