“Today, as we celebrate this 38th Earth Day, we are confronted with significant environmental issues from energy security to climate change. Although many of these issues must be addressed through legislation, there are things that all Americans can do to help. With this in mind, we urge Senate staff to recycle more, to purchase more ‘green’ or environmentally friendly supplies and to conserve energy,” the senators said. “Buying recycled means cutting down fewer trees, mining fewer minerals, drilling for less oil and ultimately reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
Last year alone, the Senate recycled more than 990 tons of paper products, bottles and cans, scrap metal, toner cartridges, batteries and wood products – a 15 percent increase from 2006. Serious recycling efforts started in 2001 when the Senate hired a full-time recycling manager and improved the collection system by providing comingled recycling bins at each staff desk and selling more clean recyclables.
Now, the long list of Senate recyclables includes: paper (comingled copy and printer paper, stapled paper, manila file folders, colored paper, envelopes, newsletters, magazines, books and post-it notes), cardboard, comingled plastic, glass and aluminum beverage containers, newspapers, alkaline batteries, and toner and inkjet cartridges. Other items recycled when available are carpet and ceiling tiles, scrap metal, wood pallets and electronic waste from construction projects.
“As Congress crafts legislation mandating reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, we encourage our Senate colleagues and their employees to continue to reduce their environmental footprints by recycling more and consuming less,” Sens. Carper and Snowe concluded.
Sens. Carper and Snowe plan a review of the Senate offices’ recycling and conservation efforts later this year.
In addition to recycling, several other important Senate “sustainability” projects are underway, including:
Dimmable Lighting Ballasts
The Senate has completed a pilot project to use daylight sensors that automatically reduce power consumption based on the amount of daylight. This can reduce the energy used by the lighting system in an office by up to 40 percent. The next phase of the project will be initiating a building-wide system.
Other Lighting Reduction Projects
About 99 percent of lights in common spaces have been changed to CFLs. Each 60 watt incandescent bulb replaced with a 13-watt CFL, over the its expected 10,000 hour life, will save 470 kilowatt-hours (kwh) of electricity.
Dual Flush Valves
The superintendent’s office has completed a three-month test with dual flush valves. Senate offices can now order these duel flush values from the superintendent’s office for offices’ private bathrooms. Dual flush valves reduce water consumption by up to 30 percent. Valves are available for Dirksen and Russell buildings only due to existing infrastructure. Hart private bathrooms already have low flow commodes.
Capitol Grounds constructed a stormwater management rain garden in 2004 on the corner of 1st and D Streets, NE. The garden filters runoff from a Senate parking lot.
- Dirksen Senate Office Building Vegetative Roof Study: Vegetative roofs capture rain water, which reduces storm water run off, improves air quality by capturing airborne pollutants and by providing some Carbon Dioxide (CO2) uptake. The Senate Superintendents office has embarked upon a study to evaluate the feasibility for a green roof on the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
- Solar Cells on Senate Office Buildings: Solar Cells produce electricity without generating greenhouse gases. It has been estimated that the roof of the Hart Senate Office Building can produce about 100 kilowatts of electrical power. The Senate is evaluating roofs for possible Solar Cell use at the Senate’s Hart, Dirksen, Russell and Child Care buildings.