A lot of countries give lip service to the idea of "green government," but there is one diplomatic mission in Washington that's putting its money where its mouth is: Finland.
The Finnish Embassy in D.C. just became the first embassy in town to be awarded the LEED Gold Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. To get that award, the Finns had to retrofit their 15-year-old mission home, which is now carbon-neutral, and fundamentally change the way they approached energy use in the building.
Occupancy sensors were installed in offices, recycling became a major priority, and all procurement became subject to environmental considerations. Used furniture and other durable goods were donated to local schools and organizations. All cleaning supplies were replaced with environmentally sound products, and low-impact chemicals were introduced in site maintenance such as gardening. A stringent non-smoking policy was implemented, and garage space was redesignated to encourage staff to cycle to work or use hybrid vehicles.
Perhaps most impressively, all of this was accomplished during a time of great activity for the Diplomatic Finnish Sauna Society of Washington, that semi-exclusive group of politicos that meets in the basement sauna of the embassy to eat salmon, drink Budweiser, and talk about matters of global intrigue. (FULL DISCLOSURE: Your Cable guy is a founding member of the society.)
"We are extremely proud to be the first embassy in the U.S. to achieve this recognition", said Finnish Ambassador Pekka Lintu. "Retrofitting our embassy building demonstrates that we Finns strive to be active but energy efficient members of our neighborhood and the greater D.C. community. ... We hope that our adaptation of green principles and our commitment to the well-being of people and the environment will inspire other foreign missions to view their opportunities in this field."
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.