As some of you know, I work for a lab run by the Department of Energy. I get the opportunity to not only witness exciting research that furthers tomorrow’s sustainable lifestyles, but also to see the changes the federal government is making to make their sites as ‘green’ as possible. Current government regulations stipulate that “each agency shall reduce annual petroleum consumption by two percent each year from a FY 2005 baseline through FY 2020”. That might not sound like much, but that adds up to an over 20% decrease in petroleum over the next ten years! That’s a fantastic step in the right direction.
Federal institutions with more than 20 vehicles have also been told to “acquire Electric Vehicles (EVs) to replace gasoline vehicles in locations near facilities and parking structures with electric outlets, and High Efficiency Vehicles (HEVs) in areas with limited alternative refueling, or as appropriate”. In my lab, this translates to replacing all retired vehicles with electric, hybrid or alternately fueled vehicles, and phasing some vehicles out earlier than planned. We were even able to trade in some of our new Ford and Chevy trucks for brand new hybrids for a moderate fee. More electric outlets for vehicles have been added throughout the site as well. My favorite part of the recent changes: the bike trend. More and more the federal institutions are making bicycles a part of their Federal Fleet. Around my lab, we’ve been acquiring bicycles for employees making trips to other buildings or job sites across our 426 acre campus. At first, a few employees complained when the vehicles weren’t available and we handed them a bicycle helmet and a key to the bike rack, but it’s catching on. People not only enjoy doing good for the environment, but enjoy getting off their butts and exercising during their workday.
I know that sometimes it seems like the government is slow to respond, especially when voters are pushing for a greener way of doing things. However, in the past year I have noticed a marked change in the way the national labs have approached sustainability. Steven Chu, the current Secretary of Energy for the United States, has done wonders by getting serious about sustainability in the national labs. He has set aside a large amount of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for infrastructure supporting sustainability in the labs. He’s also placed a high priority on energy research that will hopefully lead to breakthroughs in sustainable technologies. I know that it’s taken a long time to get there, but it’s happening. At least from my end, there are a lot of exciting changes that have taken place and that are mandated to take place in the coming years. I hope you can share in my excitement, knowing that however slow the changes are, they are there.