Mayor Vincent Gray awards ‘sustainability’ efforts by D.C. embassies and companies

Floor-to-ceiling glass panels surround the residence of Danish Ambassador H.E. Peter Taksøe-Jensen. As if that’s not breathtaking enough, step through the front doors and you’ll find a portrait of President Barack Obama — just as large as the glass panels— made out of old, twisted pages of the Chicago Tribune.

On June 26, diplomats and D.C. government officials gathered at the ambassador’s home for the fifth annual Mayor’s Sustainability Awards as part of an ambitious plan to make the District of Columbia completely “green.”

In partnership with D.C. Greening Embassies Forum, the annual presentation of this award highlights businesses and embassies that have adopted outstanding sustainable practices regarding energy, water conservation, transportation, waste reduction, eco-jobs and more.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray speaks June 26 at the Danish Embassy, which hosted the annual Mayor’s Sustainability Awards ceremony. Photos: Lateef Mangum / D.C. Mayor’s Office

This year’s recipients are Akridge, City Blossoms Inc., Farmers Restaurant Group, Fulya Kocak of Clark Construction Group, Jimmy Edgerton, ProFish, Solar Solution LLC and Paramount Group. In addition, the French and Australian embassies received the Green Embassies Award for inspiring green partnership with the community and progress in efficient technology.

“We’ve reached our 2020 goal for Sustainable DC six years early,” said Joyce Barr, assistant secretary for administration at the State Department. “The mayor has helped create this forum which provides a platform for institutions for making D.C. a greener, more sustainable city.”

Dedicated bicycle lanes, carpooling spaces and bike racks are all visible parts of the District’s progress. There’s also talk about building a new soccer stadium, which according to Mayor Vincent Gray “would be sustainable, green and healthy — all things we aspire to be in D.C. The greener we are, the more economic growth we will see.”

Lola Bloom and Rebecca Lemos of City Blossoms accept an award from D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray at the Danish Embassy.

Akridge proposed the Building Sustainability initiative, a program to increase sustainability of buildings the company operates. By carefully focusing on energy, water, waste, pollution, environmental degradation, occupant health and employee productivity, Akridge says it’s reduced its environmental footprint throughout all of its services and operations.

City Blossoms Inc. has worked with over 3,000 children in schools and community-based organizations by organizing gardens through in-school, after-school and summer projects. City Blossoms has developed 34 green spaces in the past nine years and will continue engaging both kids and adults in the establishment of beautiful, functioning gardens throughout the District.

Farmers Restaurant Group is composed of organic-certified restaurants that have been recognized by the Green Restaurant Association for operations such front and back-house recycling, high-efficiency washing and the use of recycled products. Restaurants like Founding Farmers D.C., only serve fresh, locally grown food; the chain plans an outlet at Tysons this fall.

Solar Solution LLC representatives Atta Kiarash and Yevheniya Kupchyk joke with D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray as they accept a sustainability award for their commitment to the environment.

Fulya Kocak of Clark Construction Group was a leader in developing the District’s first green construction codes through the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Green Building Technical Advisory Group. Kocak not only supported the Sustainable DC Plan by working with local, green nonprofit organizations, but also oversaw the cost-effectiveness and applicability of such codes.

Jimmy Edgerton, who presented a chickpea to Gray as he received his award — representing the effectiveness of small business — co-founded D.C.-based 2Armadillos Snack Co. and is a managing partner of Newton St. Development LLC. Edgerton encourages peoples to lead healthy lives with organic snacks and sustainable projects.

ProFish, a leader in sustainable seafood, has developed one of the most advanced traceability programs in the food industry. In addition, its systems reduce waste when possible, use solar energy and convert waste to fertilizer. Solar Solution LLC is recognized for putting more money into the local economy by powering homes and businesses with clean, efficient energy through solar panel roofing. The company’s innovations decrease homeowners’ carbon footprints as well as costs by boosting the amount of available renewable energy.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray congratulates Mauro Kolobaric, consul-general of the Australian Embassy, on winning the Greening Embassies Forum Award.

Finally, Paramount Group received the Energy Star Award for 425 Eye St. as the best performing Energy Star-certified building in D.C. last year. Following a complete overhaul with modern mechanical and plumbing systems, the structure scored a 97 —meaning it performs better than 97 percent of similar buildings nationwide. Paramount saves almost $250,000 a year on energy through its investment.

Denmark, the event’s host country, was a perfect fit for the mayor’s awards. Taksøe-Jensen said his nation aims to be the world’s first carbon-free nation by 2050. The Danish parliament’s current policy on climate and energy lasts until 2020, which will then direct the route Denmark takes in sustainable design for the following 30 years.

But that isn’t all Denmark is doing. It’s also working with fast-growing economies such as China, Mexico, Vietnam and South Africa to help reduce those countries’ greenhouse gas emissions as well.

“The plan is the playbook that our team —city government, private sector and residents — will use to move from vision to reality,” Gray said on the Sustainable DC Plan. “We need everyone to take part. Individual actions can, and will, add up to big change.”

Emily Daffron is an editorial intern at The Washington Diplomat.

This article was originally posted June 2014. Check out the article on The Washington Diplomat’s site here.