Leading by Example: Using Information and Communication Technologies to Achieve Federal Sustainability Goals

As the nation’s largest landlord, fleet operator, and purchaser of goods and services, the federal government has the opportunity, if not the responsibility, to lead by example in moving our country in a more sustainable direction.

Recent initiatives across the federal government have demonstrated that the expanded use of information and communications technologies (ICT) can spur significant reductions in energy consumption and greenhouse gases, while at the same time achieve substantial cost savings and improve productivity. Recent technological developments have created new energy saving opportunities in the areas of smart buildings, smart transportation, and travel substitution. Additional opportunities exist related to mobility and collaboration tools.

Led by the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Department of Defense (DoD), these government-wide efforts are changing the way federal departments and agencies operate. They represent the intersection of two critically important forces driving agency behavior today. Increasingly stringent budget constraints are pushing agencies to take a hard look at ways they can reduce costs and enhance efficiencies. At the same time, new Executive Orders and Congressional actions are mandating that agencies alter their practices to become more sustainable. These two forces have come together to create new opportunities for the government to change in important ways that produce multiple benefits for individual agencies and for the public they serve.

The eight case studies presented in this report highlight how the federal government is using ICT solutions to achieve these multiple objectives. The case studies are:

  • GSA’s Prototype Alternative Workspace: Redesigning the Federal Workplace for the 21st Century
  • Sustainability Base: Channeling NASA’s Expertise to Create a High-Performance Building Here on Earth
  • Defense Connect Online: Advancing Sustainability through Enhanced Collaboration and Communication Tools
  • Shift to the Cloud: Achieving Efficiency through Cloud Computing and Data Center Consolidation
  • Fleet Management at the Smithsonian: Using New Tools to Advance Sustainability and Efficiency
  • Testing New Building Technologies at DoD and GSA: Advancing Energy-Saving Innovations
  • Energy Savings at Sector San Juan: The Coast Guard’s Innovative Shift to Clean Energy in Puerto Rico
  • GSA’s Print Management Initiatives: Cutting Costs and Saving Energy Through Smarter Printing

A recent report used the term “intelligent efficiency” to describe the use of ICT solutions to reduce energy consumption. Several studies have estimated that these technologies, if widely implemented, have the potential to reduce energy consumption across the U.S. economy by 12 to 22 percent.

Because of its size and scale, the federal government has an important role to play in advancing ICT solutions like those described in this report. Success in this role will come from demonstrating that these technologies not only reduce energy use, but that they do so in ways that are cost-effective, that advance sustainability objectives, and that improve productivity.