But now, President Obama is calling on White House staff to buy into the idea of switching to greener cleaning options, further energy consumption reductions, and expanding on programs begun by President Bush.
Yet, similar efforts by Congress have fallen by the wayside, even when attempts to use carbon credits to offset usage were purchased (your tax dollars at work!).
In the late 1970s, President Jimmy Carter installed a $30,000 solar water-heating system designed to save $1,000 a year in heating costs. It didn't really work.Many of the interior systems were completely replaced during the Truman Administration when structural issues forced a massive interior renovation and restoration. Since then, more efficient systems have been routinely installed and new technologies applied.
"Talk to anyone who worked in the West Wing then, and they would say they washed their hands with cool water," said former chief usher Gary Walters, who spent 37 years at the White House before retiring two years ago.
Those who've been involved in past efforts to make the White House more eco-friendly say that for all that's already been done, there is plenty left to do, given how quickly technology changes.
"It's definitely time to revisit it," said Bill Browning, who helped launch the Clinton-era greening effort in 1993. "The green building movement has evolved quite a bit since then."
Browning, founder of the Terrapin Bright Green consulting firm, said the staff members who manage the White House and its grounds — employees who carry over from one administration to the next — have been "the real champions of greening the White House. They made it their project during the Clinton years and kept it going during the last administration."
For all the enthusiasm about going green, though, there are practical limits. Last year House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced a "Green the Capitol" program to zero out the Capitol's carbon impact by December 2008. But this month, the House quietly shelved the project because it couldn't guarantee that Capitol operations were carbon neutral even after purchasing "offsets" that finance projects to reduce greenhouse gases.
During George W. Bush's two terms, workers installed three solar systems, including a thermal setup on the pool cabana that heats water for the pool and showers, and photovoltaic panels atop a maintenance shed that supplement the mansion's electrical supply. Bush also made a big push to recycle office paper, although the overall go-green effort lost momentum during his tenure, according to many outside observers.Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch also incorporates numerous green features, without the ostentatious and fawning by the eco-left, primarily because it's George Bush we're talking about and not Al Gore (whose oversized mansion is an energy hog of the first order).
And while Gore and the other eco-leftists talk quite a bit about how we must go green and reduce our carbon footprint (even while flying around the planet to preach his pseudoscience pablum, I'm already walking the walk. Since that posting was written, I have added a layer of R30 insulation to the attic and installed the new energy efficient garage door I previously wrote about and am now in the process of picking out new entry doors to further tighten up the house. Since I'm buying the entry doors in 2009, I will likely take advantage of the Energy Star credit (30% on cost of doors or windows, up to $1,500 per year).