The White House: Green Inside and Out

August 2, 2012

The White House shows sutainability through gardening, LEED certification and holiday'sHow eco-friendly is the White House? Sustainability is a huge issue, so President Barack Obama and his family should be living in eco-friendly surroundings, right? Well, we’re here to tell you just how green 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is inside and out. Here are just a few ways the White House gives back to the environment.






The First Lady’s Garden

The White House shows sutainability through gardening, LEED certification and holiday'sMichelle Obama doesn’t just sit back while her husband is on the campaign trail, but she is hard at work fighting childhood obesity with her “Let’s Move!” initiative. As part of her goal to get children and Americans to eat healthy, she maintains a lovely green garden at the White House. In April 2009, it was a big deal when the first lady planted a garden on the South Lawn. The garden evolved into an important cause for Mrs. Obama, and now events such as the annual “White House Garden” exist, where children join her in planting produce like carrots, onions and kale. The garden doesn’t just sit there for looks, but the food is used in the White House kitchen, is pickled, stored and canned, with any leftovers going to homeless shelters, the West Wing staff and used at State Dinners. Even though the garden is not certified-organic, no harmful pesticides are used, but natural controls like ladybugs and praying mantises are used. She even released her own book, “American Grown,” which tells the story of the White House’s kitchen and garden. Overall, it shows how anyone can plant a garden and stay healthy by eating veggies.

Aiming for LEED Certification

The White House shows sutainability through gardening, LEED certification and holiday'sIn 2009, it was announced the White House was aiming for LEED certification. The Federal Energy Management Program and the White House Council on Environment Quality (CEQ) are pursuing an upgrade in energy-efficient equipment, hoping to improve procurement, looking to reduce waste and toxins, along with lowering the carbon footprint. This won’t come without challenges, as since this is such a historic building, some improvement won’t be made. For example, windowpanes, which are usually replaced to improve efficiency, can’t be changed due to their historic glazing. Furthermore, security provides challenges as well. What the White House will do is focus on using biodegradable cleaners, recycled content products, and low VOC paints. The CEQ is also looking into energy reduction, efficient heating, cooling and ventilation, and automatic light sensors. Many other sustainable elements will be integrated at the political residence, but LEED certification will take some time. Hopefully, it will receive Silver, Gold or Platinum certification very soon.

Holiday’s Go Green

The White House shows sutainability through gardening, LEED certification and holiday'sAny holiday at the White House is huge, especially Christmas and Easter. At Christmas, each room has fabulous decorations including wreaths, ribbons, lights and of course unique trees. In 2009, eco-friendly touches were added to make the holiday green. For example, after Christmas, six trees were adopted by the National Park Service and replanted. The 18.5 foot Douglas-fir was used as the official White House tree that showed off recycled and re-decorated ornaments from past years, and was lit with low-energy-use LED lights. The annual Easter Egg Roll is also a huge event at the president’s house. Thousands of children and others attend to spend the afternoon on the South Lawn and have a fun time celebrating this special holiday. In 2010, the event went green by not only encouraging children to lead healthy and active lives, but wooden eggs made from FSC-certified hardwood with vegetable-oil based inks and water-based coating were used, rather than real ones.

These are just a few of the ways the White House has contributed to the environment in the past and in the present. If President Obama stays in office, it will be interesting to see what other sustainable elements will be added to the famous and historical establishment.

-Allyson Koerner

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Ad Meskens, Wikimedia Commons/The White House, Wikimedia Commons/Pete Souza