The Greenest White House

President Obama seeks LEED certification for the White House.

Upon first entering the White House, President Obama expressed to Barbara Walters his intention to set an example for Americans on how to live more eco-friendly: "Each of us have a role to play in not being wasteful when it comes to energy... Part of what I want to do is to show the American people it’s not that hard." The Obama family put those words into action very quickly from Michelle Obama’s organic herb and vegetable garden on the south lawn to the Obama girls’ green swing-set made of recycled materials, shredded tires and nontoxic dyes.

The current first family isn’t the first in the White House to implement energy-saving practices. In 1979 President Jimmy Carter had a $28,000 solar water heater installed on the roof of the West Wing, and President George W. Bush installed a small photovoltaic system as well as two solar water heating systems. Obama, however, plans to earn a LEED certification to make the White House the greenest it has ever been. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to measure and reward buildings and communities that implement green building design, construction, operation, and maintenance.


Greening a home is no easy task, but with the historic status and required security of the White House, the Obama family has their work cut out for them. Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and President of the USGBC, believes that "LEED certification of the White House is absolutely possible and viable." On top of the availability of recycling in the East and West Wings, White House drinking fountains – which apparently did not accommodate the refilling of water-bottles – are even being modified to make the process much easier.

White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) spokesperson, Christine Glunz, says the effort to get the White House to LEED certification includes energy and water systems as well as waste. She believes it is vital to consider toxicity and life-cycle when making purchases for facilities. CEQ is looking to reduce the carbon footprint of the White House by implementing computerized energy management systems, automatic light sensors that turn off in unoccupied rooms and low-flow water valves. Paints and sealers with low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs), biodegradable cleaners and recycled equipment will all be used by White House groundskeepers and engineers, according to a White House spokesperson. Window films that will lower UV rays and save energy will also be added.

According to an article on the National Geographic website, any leftover materials from White House renovations and demolitions will be donated to local reuse organizations. If President Obama continues to enforce such eco-friendly changes throughout his term, he will be on the right track to making the White House more of a "green house," proving with a LEED certification that he can lead Americans to a greener world.

This article was reproduced with the kind permission of our affiliate Sierra Club Green Home.