Spurring the Feds to Pursue Green from Data Centers to Cafeterias

"What we heard back was fascinating," Moore said. "It came down to those experiences that touch federal employees everyday. Ultimately, it is how our little everyday decisions add up that will make or break us."

Feedback revealed some chinks in the armor. For example, one respondent replied, "Energy Efficiency -- you say this is important yet your lights are on at all hours of the day." Others pointed out that green cafeterias should allow people to bring in their own cups instead of filling up in Styrofoam.

"We work to connect the dots," said Moore. "We have a lot of extraordinary professionals in the federal community who've been doing sustainability for 20 and 30 years." Such employees have tacit knowledge on how a process actually works. This has helped demystify how change actually unfolds and lay out expectations for others. "We're trying to build on opportunities for them to exchange information," Moore added. "Events like this conference are sharing tools. So are workshops and webinars."

"We want to help federal agencies put sustainability in the context of what works for them," assured Moore. "We understand that the DoD is different than the EPA, so one size does not fit all."

"We want to hear great ideas," she continued. "We consider ourselves colleagues with private enterprise. We want to help entrepreneurial enterprises succeed.  In some cases we are even their customers." Such cooperation embodies the spirit behind public-private partnerships, which have been a mechanism for numerous successful sustainable development initiatives.

"Celebrating success is critical," added Moore, who helps issue green government awards to elevate the work of groups and individuals. "What we do in Washington D.C. matters, but what we do in Fort Dearborn matters just as much."

Moore's goals for this program are not different from the expectations of change agents elsewhere: "Meet or exceed present targets. Have real and reliable stories to share. Lead by example. Practice what we preach."

In an era where green policies are perpetually sidelined by political gridlock, the Green Gov Challenge appears to be a way to make the U.S. government more relevant in terms of sustainability, proving indeed that within every problem lies a solution.

Photos by Goodwin Ogbuehi, http://flickr.com/photos/yoshikatsu