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Senate Seeks Eco-Conscious Citizen Suggestions

April 15, 2009 — The Legislature wants to go green, and community members are being asked for input on how to make that goal a reality.
In February, Senate President Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg formed a Green Government advisory committee of legislative staffers who will make recommendations and develop new policies for making the building more eco-friendly. Residents from both districts are invited to join the committee and throw their suggestions into the pot.
"The Legislature will serve as a lab for what we're talking about in terms of green government," said Nicole Bollentini, Donastorg's public relations officer. "That way, if a bill comes out, we will already know what kind of things work and what doesn't, and can make sure that we're not asking anybody to do something that's not possible."
A couple of on-site energy assessments recently highlighted some sore spots, including lighting, air conditioning and other infrastructure improvements. It was recommended that the building's exiting T12 florescent lights be replaced with less-expensive and more energy-efficient T8 bulbs, according to Kyza Callwood, a member of the Green Government advisory committee. To keep the cool air in, the building needs to be more insulated, with air-conditioning filters changed on a regular basis, he said.
Working on a recommendation for programmable thermostats that automatically turn the air conditioning on and off, the advisory committee is in the process of issuing some new temperature regulations, Callwood said. It's hoped the regulations will eventually get passed on to other government agencies, such as the courts, where the temperature is often unbearable.
"We have about 50 air-conditioning units now, but we're looking at one centralized system for all the offices," Callwood explained. "In the meantime, we're being more conservative about turning them off, turning the air down and keeping them running at one temperature."
Much of the Legislature's electric bill — which currently totals around $9,000 — is eaten up by air-conditioning costs, he said.
Reducing paper waste and making the switch over to more eco-friendly cleaning products are also on the to-do list.
Meanwhile, recycling and composting are making their way onto the Senate grounds. One of the building's vending machines — which previously sold drinks in plastic bottles — has been replaced with a cans-only machine. Legislative staff can also bring in aluminum cans from home and throw them away in one of the three cans-only recycling bins that have been installed.
A composting site on the western end of the property is also in the works, according to Alden W. George, the Legislature's facilities manager. Most of the Legislature's waste can either be composted or recycled, but is usually trucked to the landfill. Once the site is up and running, all green waste will be deposited there, he added.
"We call ourselves the Green Team," George joked. "But on a serious note, everybody has been really supportive about this, and it's something all the offices can do. We're trying to promote good practices and habits."
Residents interested in joining the Green Government advisory committee can stop in at the Senate president's offices in both districts or call 693-3515 for more information. Updates on the initiative will also soon be broadcast on the legislative channel.
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