The Obama administration’s sustainability initiatives still have a long way to go to changing the culture of the government.
Federal employees and contractors hold a lot of optimism, but are not seeing changes on the ground level yet.
This was the overall view voiced by many of the 101 federal employees and contractors surveyed by Federal News Radio as part of its The Greening of Government special report.
“If they meant it they would have people quit printing everything and read/review work online,” said one respondent. “They wouldn’t have bought new TVs that run all day and night, and are turned on to the sports channel when the Olympics or some other major sport is on.”
Overall, 40 percent of the respondents say President Obama’s executive order to reduce the government’s carbon footprint is a lot of talk and not a lot of action. Almost 19 percent said it’s reducing their agency’s carbon footprint, and almost 13 percent said it’s bringing more senior level attention to the issue.
“Growing recognition that it’s the right thing to do,” said another respondent. “Resources are limited and that we need to reduce purchasing fossil fuel energy from states who wish the U.S. ill-will.”
Similarly, 73 percent said they were not familiar with their agency’s sustainability plan and 80 percent didn’t know their agency had a sustainability officer.
Still, 60 percent of the respondents said they were very or somewhat optimistic that these efforts will make a difference.
“A lot of information is passed along and ‘green’ training courses are mandatory, but certain activities like turning out the lights or turning of the computer are not monitored,” one respondent said. “Likewise, the recycling bins are not convenient (one bin per floor, nowhere near my actual office) so it makes it difficult to participate.”
Most respondents said their agency is recycling paper or bottles, while 55 percent said their agency is promoting alternative transportation options. However, only 14 percent of the respondents said their agency is promoting telework.
Respondents pointed out initiatives such as solar panels on their building or more efficient computing to help reduce their agencies’ energy usage.
Six others said they were not aware of any actions their agency is taking to reduce their carbon footprint.
Almost 40 percent of the respondents said they believe their agency could promote telework or alternative transportation method such as carpools or biking as a way to be more energy efficient. Almost 21 percent said their agency could modernize their heating and cooling systems to reduce energy usage.
“The AC is the worst,” one respondent said. “One part of the building freezes while the other part is very hot. We have to keep our computers on, most of our lights stay on. We recycle in the kitchen area, but the lights are on and the TV.”
Others said promoting telework more, using less paper and installing solar or wind power generators would help.
Even with a lot of negative comments and results that show many are not informed of what’s going on, several respondents said any attention is welcome.
“This is very doable and should involve everyone,” said one respondent.
Another said the efforts must be enforced and not just talked about. The person said it’s not enough to just have recycle bins in the halls but have not official policy enforcing usage. “Employees must be reminded ‘officially’ that it is necessary.”
Another respondent said the government should take a “positive approach, but not at the expense of increasing costs to our limited budget and at taxpayer expense. There are more important and higher priority areas to spend taxpayer dollars in.”
Several respondents pointed that the White House and other senior officials must lead by example.
“Yes, I believe our leaders should be more conscientious in their own life about energy efficiency. for example…refusal to put energy panels at White House. If it’s not important to them, how do they expect it to be important to us?” one respondent said.
Another said it comes down to enforcement and the basics of becoming more sustainable. Until then, reports to OMB will continue to make the agency look good.
And yet another thought all of this was a waste of time.
“The people tasked with making the changes (i.e., the “grunts”) don’t care about the initiative,” the respondent said. “Like all other initiatives, I’m sure lots of time will be spent twisting words into a report that highlights my agency’s efforts, when in reality, absolutely nothing will be done except waste a lot of time.”
To see the results from the entire survey, click here for the pdf.
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