Greening Of The White House

One of the country's most historic homes has become a model of energy efficiency. The Early Show Home Improvement Expert Bob Vila was at the White House Thursday to see how it was all accomplished.
In 1993, President Clinton introduced the Greening of the White House initiative to improve the energy and environmental performance of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Recently, White House Chief of Staff John Podesta gave Vila a tour of the West Wing. Ceiling lighting has improved the energy efficiency in the Oval Office, where presidents do their work, Podesta said. Cove lighting was first introduced in the Oval Office. Old incandescent light bulbs were replaced with fluorescent lights.

The bulbs were changed in all the table lamps. "We have installed compact fluorescent bulbs in virtually every fixture in the White House, with the exception of a few," Podesta said.

Even when it comes to an antique lighting fixture, one can go to the hardware store for the newer compact bulbs, which just screw right in place. "I think what's important to note is that all these kinds of features can be done for people at home," Podesta said.
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At the White House, there are also many smaller offices with computers and office equipment. To make them more energy efficient, equipment was installed with the Energy Star label, Podesta said. "Virtually every piece of equipment now carries this Energy Star label. With this total program that we've had at the White House, we are now saving about $300,000 a year on energy costs," he said.

These energy enhancements can be translated to any three-bedroom house in the suburbs.

"If you look for an Energy Star label on a washer/dryer, on a refrigerator, on a TV set or on your computer, you can help save yourself some money in the long run, and you can obviously help save the environment," Podesta added.

The White House also has an 18-acre botanical garden as well. Even in the Rose Garden, water conservation measures were adopted.

"One of the things that we have done is, we've tried to put in a total recycling program, so that virtually everything that comes in here is recycled and comes back in the form of fertilizer," he explained.

As Podesta and Vila talked about energy conservation, the current tenant of the White House showed up to expand on the issue. "You know, one of the big challenges we face as a country and as a world is trying to deal with this whole greenhouse gas emissions global warming issue," said President Bill Clinton.

"To do i, we have to convince ordinary people, as well as members of Congress, that you can actually cut your energy use and improve the economy; that you don't have to hurt the economy," he said.

"The technology is there now to grow this economy and to be more energy efficient. So, I hope that we can use the White House as an example, and then the whole federal government," Clinton observed.

"When we get our federal governmentwide program in, we think that we will cut greenhouse gas emissions enough so that it will be the equivalent of taking 1.7 million cars off the road," he adds.

According to President Clinton, this program, in the works ever since he came into the White House, is now in high gear. The savings have been about $1,400,000 since it started in 1993.

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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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