Virginia Enacts Green Challenge, Requires State Agencies to Adopt Environmental Initiatives

Virginia state agencies can join in a green challenge in which metrics, like frequency of teleworking and video conferencing, will be tracked beginning June 15.

by / June 11, 2009

In order to reduce the energy and environmental impact of Virginia's executive branch agencies and institutions, Gov. Timothy Kaine issued an executive order that promotes energy- and water-efficient buildings, encourages reductions in employee travel and commuting, and minimizes disposable materials use. The executive order requires state agencies to adopt energy and travel policies, and gives them the option to participate in a green challenge that will track a variety of environmentally friendly metrics.

"Because the commonwealth's business operation is so large, any action we take to reduce our environmental impact will have a significant effect," Kaine said in a statement. "I am hopeful that by reducing the environmental impact of government operations, the commonwealth can inspire private businesses and individuals to adopt similar measures."

State Agency Environmental Policies

Executive Order 82 requires all executive branch agencies and institutions to adopt and post policies concerning topics like energy and water use, waste reduction and travel on their Web sites by July 1, 2010. Agencies have the option to state their intent to develop an Environmental Management System -- a tool that can be utilized to assess how the agency interacts with the environment and how to minimize those interactions -- by the date instead of posting the policies on their Web sites.

According to the order, agencies that choose to adopt policies must include:

  • Energy use policies that will address powering down computers when not in use, turning off interior and exterior lights when not needed, and reducing the energy consumption of heating and cooling systems outside of office hours.
  • Water use policies that will address eliminating plumbing leaks and (if applicable) minimizing use of water for irrigation through reduced frequency of watering, timing of watering, and the selection of low water-use landscaping such as drought-resistant grass, plants, shrubs and trees.
  • Waste reduction policies that will address ways of decreasing consumption of paper and other office supplies, ways of reducing the use of disposable supplies, and recycling of white paper, mixed paper, plastic, batteries, printer cartridges and aluminum. For any agency that performs maintenance on vehicles, the policy shall address recycling of oil and antifreeze. Agencies are encouraged to include provisions regarding composting.
  • Travel policies that will address carpooling to meetings, use of video conferencing and conference calls in lieu of in-person meetings, and purchasing of alternative fuels where available. Agencies are encouraged to include restrictions on whether the agency will pay mileage for single-passenger use of personal vehicles for business travel.

Green Challenge

The executive order created the Green Commonwealth Challenge, in which Kaine asks state agencies and employees to make deliberate actions that aid the environment. Agencies that choose to participate in the challenge will report to the secretary of Natural Resources, who will track specified metrics from June 15 through Nov. 15, 2009.

The metrics will include:

  • The number of in-person meetings avoided through the use of video conferences or conference calls, and an estimate of the resulting travel miles avoided.
  • The number of trips avoided by agency employees carpooling with others.
  • The number of meetings planned by the agency for which the agency facilitated carpooling of attendees (e.g., through the use of a survey or other tool to help connect meeting attendees).
  • The number of different materials included in the agency's recycling program (e.g., white paper, mixed paper, plastic bottles, batteries).
  • The number of days each employee telecommuted or commuted to work any way other than by driving in a car alone.
  • The agencies' electricity bills for July, August and September of 2008, as well as for July, August and September 2009.

Gordon Hickey, spokesman for the governor, said the details of the challenge are still being determined and the secretary of natural resources is developing the metrics and scoring system. The three highest-scoring agencies will be announced by Dec. 15, 2009. Hickey didn't know if the agencies would receive a reward, but said receiving acknowledgment from the governor about being environmentally friendly and saving the state money would be a reward in itself.

Green Initiatives

Kaine ordered that all buildings beginning the design phase of construction or renovation must meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver or Green Globes two-globe standards.

Kaine also declared Aug. 3, 2009, "Statewide Telework Day," and he requests that the directors of state agencies and private-sector employers allow as many citizens as possible to telecommute on that day. Hickey didn't know if Virginia will arrange a way to track the number of participants, but said it may be something the state looks into. He estimated that of the state's approximately 100,000 employees, at least one-third of them have jobs that are conducive to telework.

"The idea is it's voluntary, and the idea is to try to set an example and set up a day that the governor suggests that people who can should stay home and telework," Hickey said. "The issue is to try to save money. And it saves money for the state because in offices, peoples' lights won't be turned on and their computers won't be turned on, and it will save time too."

The executive order also states that by Jan. 1, 2010, the governor would like to have 20 percent of the state government's eligible work force telecommuting.

Elaine Rundle Staff Writer