Federal Green Challenge

Federal Green Challenge - Frequent Questions

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General FGC Questions

  • What is the Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Program?

    For many years, EPA has recommended that our society "Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle" to conserve resources and help protect the environment. However, there is much more we can all do.  Through its Sustainable Materials Management Program, EPA is asking us to refocus our thinking to consider how materials are managed over their entire lifecycle. By looking at how materials are extracted, manufactured, distributed, used, reused, recycled, or disposed of, we can find new opportunities to reduce their environmental impacts and conserve resources.

  • What is the Federal Green Challenge?

    The Federal Green Challenge (FGC), a part of EPA's SMM Program, challenges federal facilities to meet or exceed federal agency requirements to advance sustainability in their operations.   It targets executive level managers as well as environmental staff to get a top-down and bottom-up approach to improving environmental performance at the facility level.  To join, participants "challenge" themselves to reduce their environmental impact by 5% per target area in a minimum of two of six target areas – energy, transportation, waste, water, electronics, and purchasing. It is necessary for program purposes that one of the target areas be waste, electronics or purchasing. Active FGC participants establish baselines, set goals, and measure results on a fiscal year basis.

  • Why is EPA taking a leadership role in this Challenge?

    EPA created the Federal Green Challenge as a way to engage federal facilities in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, save money through improved operational performance, and both meet and exceed sustainability requirements of Executive Order 13693: Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade. With a mission to protect human health and the environment, EPA is in a unique position to coordinate federal collaboration as well as provide technical expertise by hosting trainings and developing associated tools.  In addition, EPA also participates in the Federal Green Challenge - working to encourage further improvements in its own facilities as well as sharing best practices and lessons learned. 

  • What added value does EPA bring?

    Participants are provided with tools and resources to help them achieve their goals as well as public recognition, both in the form of public announcements and a competitive awards process. EPA manages the process by helping facilities establish a baseline, set goals, provide technical assistance, and create accountability for results through accomplishment reporting. Beyond participant-specific assistance, EPA also sponsors an educational webinar series and hosts meetings and symposia where regional participants can share and learn from one another. 

  • My facility is already very "green," what is need for joining this Challenge?

    First, facility management technologies and methodologies are always improving.  The recent growth of LED lighting and organics diversion opportunities provide just a few examples that are more cost feasible or practical today compared to a few years back,.  Second, if your facility has achieved greening success, please share your experiences with fellow federal agencies through this Challenge.

  • What is General Service Administration's (GSA) role?  What is the role of the Office of the Federal Environmental Executives (OFEE)?

    GSA and OFEE are key supporters of the Federal Green Challenge. Their support is critical because many participants need to work with GSA in order to achieve their building-related goals (rather than goals driven by occupant behavior) including their purchases of goods and services. The Federal Green Challenge seeks to create a unique forum with GSA to discuss facilities management and procurement and work towards solutions that can benefit the entire federal community. OFEE has also been a key partner providing technical expertise on the Executive Orders and guidance.  

  • How does the Federal Green Challenge support EPA's Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery's (ORCR) Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Program?

    EPA has shifted from the concept of "waste management" to "sustainable materials management" – the most productive use of materials throughout their lifecycle of resource extraction, manufacturing, use, reuse, recycling and disposal. The Federal Green Challenge is one of the Challenges being implemented under the SMM Program. Other Challenges include the Food Recovery Challenge, and the Electronics Challenge.  The Electronics Challenge is currently open to original equipment manufacturers & retailers.  Federal facilities can focus on electronics management within the FGC electronics area but would also need to select at least one of the other target areas. 

  • How does the Federal Green Challenge relate to Executive Order 13693?

    Executive Order 13693: Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade proposes to cut the Federal Government's greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent over the next decade from 2008 levels and increase the share of electricity the Federal Government consumes from renewable sources to 30 percent. The Executive Order outlines a number of measures to make the Federal Government's operations more sustainable.  By participating in the Federal Green Challenge, facilities are provided with technical support, networking opportunities, and tools to assist with tracking progress toward the Executive Order directives. Learn More

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Recruiting, Goal Setting, and New Participants

  • Where should I sign up? We don't have the same regions as EPA?

    A federal facility can register online on the FGC Join Now page.  If signing up as a regional federal entity with facilities that cross multiple EPA regions, there are several options – (1) sign up in the EPA Region where the majority of the facilities are located, (2) sign up in the EPA Region that coincides with the location of the participant's regional headquarters, or (3) take a facility-by-facility approach and have the individual facilities sign on as participants directly on the FGC Join Now page. This should be determined on a case-by-case basis with the following key considerations in mind – the ability of executive and staff to attend events in the host EPA region, the geographical applicability of information shared by other participants in the network, and how possible recognition would be desired to be applied (facility level or broader).  Contact your EPA regional FGC representative for consultation. 

  • For what time-period do I sign up as a participant?

    Participation in the Federal Green Challenge is based on the standard federal fiscal year (October 1 to September 30).  All participants roll over at the end of the year – they do not have to re-register each year and can opt out if desired.  The Federal Green Challenge does ask participants to re-evaluate their selected target areas and set new goals for the subsequent fiscal year.

  • Can my whole agency be a participant?

    Yes. The whole agency may join as a single participant, then report at a regional or facility level. The Federal Green Challenge is designed at the regional level to work with specific facilities or groups of associated facilities within the same sub-agency (such as all of the buildings on a military base, or a regional office and its associated field offices).  Participating at the regional level allows the regional participant network to set priorities and address challenges that are unique to their geographic area (e.g., temperature extremes which may impact energy choices and conservation measures, remote location which may impact purchasing ability, etc.).  Additionally, a key element of the Federal Green Challenge is the shared experiences, best practices and lessons learned, and networking opportunities that are typically more readily available regionally than agency-wide.

  • Are there different levels of participation in the Federal Green Challenge?

    While there are three levels of participation in the FGC, "Active Participants" are those facilities that have submitted baseline, goals and accomplishment data for one year or more, and is the desired activity level for all participants. "New Participants" are facilities that have submitted their baseline data and established goals but have not yet entered results. "Registrants" are facilities that have recently joined. Typically, a facility is able to move from the Registrant level to the Active Participant in about a year.  Also, a participant can be a team of facilities or agencies at one location or campus, such as with a Green Team.

  • How are my goals used, and what if I don't meet them?

    Goal setting is an important part of the process for establishing internal priorities and to motivate action.  The Federal Green Challenge is not a "gotcha" program and does not share participant goals and results individually, nor is there any EPA penalty or enforcement action if a facility falls short of its FGC goal.  EPA would look forward to working with a participant that fell short of a goal to analyze what happened and to strategize on possible next steps. After results are reported, the Federal Green Challenge reports the achievements of all participants in aggregate.  Participant goals may be used to calculate projected results, but again, these are done for all participants in aggregate.  Of course, participants are free to share and announce their own individual achievements as they see fit.

  • On the baseline and goals form, can I count the "Other" section only?

    No.  Participants must pick quantifiable goals in a minimum two of the six target areas, at least one of which must be Waste, Electronics or Purchasing.  The "Other" category (where shown in online forms) is a subsection where additional activities either in the target areas that do not have metrics, or activities participants may want to share that are not captured elsewhere.  For example, some participants like to capture more qualitative improvements or provide more detail on how they achieved a quantitative improvement.  They can do so in the "Other" subsection.

  • Is participating in the Challenge required?

    No, the Federal Green Challenge is voluntary with no enforcement component.  Participants may join or leave the Challenge at any time.  However, facilities are encouraged to participate to help meet and exceed the requirements of Executive Order 13693: Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, and other environmental requirements.

  • I am in a leased facility.  Can I still join?

    Yes, absolutely.  Federal facilities located in self-owned, GSA-owned, and/or leased private buildings are encouraged to register with the Federal Green Challenge.  Reducing the federal environmental footprint will provide environmental gains and efficiencies regardless of the construct of ownership or lease, thereby benefiting all parties and the public.

  • Whom do I contact in my building to get data?

    Each building should have a private, federal and/or a GSA facilities manager, a property management company, or an office coordinator who knows where the management office is located and the contact information.  Your building may also have a useful Environmental Management System (EMS) that already tracks some of the information needed (more information on EPA's EMS site). Regional offices of EPA are also available to assist you in tracking down or calculating your data.

  • We are only one tenant in a multi-tenant building. How do I count data?

    There are a few ways this can be handled.  First, you can participate on your own by apportioning building data.  Or, if the other tenants in the facility are federal agencies, try to get them to join the Federal Green Challenge individually or as part of a green team! This encourages collaboration and information sharing in a multi-tenant building and can lead to greater success in working with the property manager.  A coordinated Environmental Management System (EMS) can help everyone make progress toward common goals. Resource use can be allocated to individual participants based on square footage or you can participate along with federal co-tenants in a collective green team if your FGC account is set up as such—contact your regional EPA office for assistance. Consult GSA's Green Teams site for some ways to help get everyone working together.

  • I am in a leased building.  What if I can't get data?

    Even if a participant is unable to obtain discrete data from the building, the target areas of electronics, purchasing, and transportation offer opportunities for participation.  By focusing on actions that are controllable within your office such as electronics stewardship, green procurement, and transportation initiatives, participants can calculate their results and show reductions of their GHG emissions and improve their environmental performance.  The energy, waste, and water target areas generally require building data to establish baselines and measure results; they can be more difficult to obtain in a leased building. You can find out if your part of the building has its own utility meters to measure those areas. Also, there may be opportunities, especially in waste, to do visual inspections and create metrics tailored to your situation.  For example, apportioning aggregated building data by floor space used per tenant can approximate a baseline or results when more discrete metering data do not exist.  Participants should work with their EPA regional point of contact to select target areas and associated baselines that are feasible and offer the most opportunity for quantifiable environmental improvement.

  • How long after I sign up do I have to submit my baseline and goals?

    Registrants have 90 days after signing on to the Federal Green Challenge to submit their initial baseline and goals form.  If after six months baseline data has not been received, the participant will be removed from the participant list and must contact their regional FGC representative to continue participation. 

  • What is my baseline year?

    A baseline is a known or calculated measurement from which to compare a future associated measurement.  For example, if your facility recycled 100 tons in FY2013, such would be your baseline to enter and subsequently measure against in a future fiscal year.  The baseline year should be the last fiscal year prior to the target year for setting a goal in the Federal Green Challenge.  If data are not available for the last fiscal year, an earlier baseline year may be used.  The most recent baseline year is preferred. The Federal Green Challenge also welcomes participants to submit additional baseline data – generally back to FY2008 – to help you see trends and track progress.

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Executive Engagement

  • Does my executive have to indicate support for my participation?

    Yes.  Executive engagement is critical to the success of Federal Green Challenge participants.  Executive sessions and involvement, which can bring all Federal Green Challenge participants together at the executive level, are an excellent forum for sharing successes and lessons learned along with setting priorities. Existing participants cite networking as one of the most valuable aspects of participation.  The responsible executive's name and contact information must be included with your online registration.

Results and Awards

  • What are the deadlines?

    The FGC has ongoing registration but registering closer to the beginning of the fiscal year is recommended.  Baselines and goals are due within 90 days after registering.  Results and awards self-nominations must be entered into the Re-TRAC online data system by selected due date in January after the end of the reporting period (fiscal year). (For example, participants were asked to enter FY14 data from selected target areas by January 31, 2015. Check the FGC web page for the most recent reporting due dates)

  • What is Re-TRAC

    Re-TRAC Connect is a third-party online data management system contracted by EPA to handle FGC registration and data management.

  • Can I get an award if I didn't measure my results?

    No. Participants must measure and report data on their target areas in order to be considered for an award.

  • I have more questions, how can I get answers?

    Please contact the applicable regional representative or complete the form on the FGC Contact Us page.

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