The State Department's Earth Day event, an exhibition titled "American Face of Green -- Embassies Leading the Way," demonstrated how our embassies, consulates and other diplomatic missions are going green. The displays included information on embassy-led tree planting projects, programs dedicated to recycling, reducing energy usage, and more. The participants in the exhibition, a mix of the State Department's regional and functional bureaus as well as Earth Day Network representatives and a local artist who creates sculptures purely from recycled materials, showed off the many projects that have been undertaken to demonstrate that America takes greening seriously.
American government agencies may not be the first institutions when one thinks of greening operations and practices. But, I would say that anyone who attended the exhibition would have to whole-heartedly reconsider. Just look at this year's Greening Diplomacy Award winner, chosen by the Greening Council and popular vote, U.S. Embassy Kathmandu, which is an example of how American missions abroad are heading greening projects in collaboration with their local communities. The mission at Kathmandu invested in solar water heaters for residences and for the Chancery, because of the 240 plus days of sunshine in Nepal. Furthermore, not only does U.S. Embassy Kathmandu provide a strong recycling program, but it also went one step above to partner with several NGO's that were able to re-use the recycled goods collected from the mission to make recycled paper briquettes to help cook meals on a weekly basis for over 300 people at a rehabilitation center.
One should also consider our embassy and consulate buildings themselves, many of which are brick-and-mortar examples of sustainable design. The State Department's Bureau of Overseas Building Operations (OBO), has a very strong commitment to sustainable design, construction, and operations. Over the last year alone, five new U.S embassies and consulates earned LEED certification: Ouagadougou, Antananarivo, Lusaka, Tijuana, and Dubai. And with 40 more buildings registered with the U.S. Green Building Council and working toward LEED certification, OBO is building a firm foundation for eco-diplomacy.
The embassy communities here in Washington and overseas are key promoters of greening initiatives as well. The American League of Green Embassies is a group of U.S. diplomatic missions committed to sustainability, and the D.C. Greening Embassies Forum brings together the sustainability priorities of the city of Washington, D.C., with those of the foreign missions who rely upon the city's resources and exist within its community. The Greening Council helped facilitate the first-ever charter among foreign embassies, which states that its signatories will strive to make their buildings and operations more sustainable, will support the city's efforts, and will share best practices on greening and sustainability. This is remarkable, because the foreign embassies are considered the sovereign territory of the countries they represent and, as such, are not under obligation to make these types of commitments.
This unprecedented type of forum could be replicated in any capital city in the world, and would afford diplomats the opportunity to do what they do best: communicate the values of the country they represent. As Under Secretary of Management Patrick Kennedy stated in his remarks at the State Department's Earth Day exhibition, "Through grassroots efforts to raise environmental awareness, from the U.S. Embassy in Freetown planting more than 2,500 native hardwood and fruit trees to advance reforestation, to showcasing American clean energy technology and services through the League of Green Embassies' energy efficient makeovers of Chief of Missions residence in Europe, our actions are speaking volumes about who we are and for what we stand."
On this Earth Day, we recommit ourselves to advancing a more sustainable future and raising awareness that green is good. No, actually, as I hope the exhibit demonstrated, green is great!