The annual Greening Diplomacy Initiative (GDI) Awards recognize innovative leadership within the Department on sustainability, energy, and environmental diplomacy.
This year’s winner is U.S. Embassy Canberra. The Embassy’s sustainability initiatives have avoided costs for the State Department, and resulted in strong partnerships with local organizations. Working with the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO), the Embassy installed a solar array that has reduced energy consumption from the grid by 45,000 kilowatt hours annually. Solar power also provides hot water for government-owned properties, generating $18,000 in savings annually on utility spending.
To conserve water, the Embassy installed a 20,000 liter tank to collect water from the roof that is used in toilets and for washing vehicles and furniture. The embassy also installed its first water bottle filling station to encourage reducing waste, and so far, the initiative has provided refills equivalent to over 10,000 single use plastic bottles. Avoiding waste is also a priority, and the Embassy has a composting initiative for local staff to collect 15 kilograms of organic food waste per week from the cafeteria for use at home chicken and vegetable farms. The embassy also maintains its own worm farm to compost organic waste to help provide nutrient-rich soil for native species within the embassy gardens.
“Mission Australia is honored to be recognized by the Department for our greening diplomacy initiatives that have created a strong ecological alliance with local organizations, provided ecological educational awareness, and ensured cost savings for the Department. I could not be prouder of this Mission’s efforts and look forward to how we can continue to lead through our greening initiatives,” said A. B. Culvahouse, U.S. Ambassador to Australia.
The second award is the People’s Choice GDI Award, selected by the vote of Department employees. This year’s Award goes to U.S. Embassy Panama. Every month in 2018, the Embassy recycled approximately one ton of waste, including paper, cardboard, plastic, aluminum, and glass. Embassy Panama uses biodegradable containers in its cafeteria to avoid contributing to local waste management challenges. Replacing older light bulbs with LEDs reduced energy consumption by 70 percent. Off the compound, the Embassy planned Panama’s first ever “Bike to Work Day,” which was attended by several NGOs, other embassies, and local companies. Nearly 250 bicycle riders participated, and the event generated significant interest among media and the local community.
U.S. Embassy Ouagadougou received the “Runner-Up” award. The Embassy’s new solar array provides about 20 percent of their daily electricity needs, avoiding $15,000 in energy costs every month. As most electricity in Burkina Faso is generated from imported diesel fuel, this is an excellent example of U.S. environmental solutions for improving air quality, increasing operational resilience, and reducing energy costs.