Last October, President Obama signed an Executive Order on Federal Sustainability that requires Federal agencies to set a 2020 GHG emissions reduction target; increase energy efficiency; reduce fleet petroleum consumption; conserve water; reduce waste; support sustainable communities; and purchase environmentally-responsible products and technologies.  In other words, it’s not at all ambitious.

In order to accomplish these bold goals, President Obama asked all Federal and military personnel to contribute their ideas for greening the government on the GreenGov Challenge.  Thousands of individuals in the Federal government and military agencies nation- and world-wide shared more than 5,300 ideas and 165,000 votes on the GreenGov Challenge website.  The top ideas from the GreenGov Challenge are summarized in the GreenGov Final Report

Now President Obama is issuing a new challenge to Federal and military personnel to put the ideas to work. Government personnel are encouraged to check out the GreenGov Challenge Final Report and pick an idea they can champion in their workplace. They can then sign up for the GreenGov Collaborative  (an internal online network) to work with colleagues across the government to make the ideas a reality. They’ll be able to share strategies, ask questions, and create a “green team” in this online community.

To support these grassroots initiatives, the White House Council on Environmental Quality assembled a Steering Committee on Federal Sustainability composed of a senior official (dubbed a Senior Sustainability Officer) from each federal agency that is covered by the Executive Order.  The Steering Committee will be developing federal sustainability plans and making sure agencies live up to the goals they set for themselves.

By engaging and empowering U.S. Federal and military employees to take the reins on this initiative, President Obama is setting up the United States government to lead the rest of the country by example.  Improved environmental sustainability at this scale could not be achieved by one man or even by his small army within the White House.  It must be owned by everyone involved, and President Obama has shown us once again how to rally a nation.