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Sustainability at Oak Ridge National Laboratory


Sustainability: Not just a nice idea—essential for ORNL's future.

While ORNL has emphasized sustainable practices for many years, the effort has become even more critical recently because of numerous laws, Executive Orders, and DOE orders and initiatives whose requirements are intended to achieve environmental sustainability. Three of these orders are especially important:

  • Executive Order 13514, Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, October 5, 2009, whose goal is "to establish an integrated strategy towards sustainability in the Federal Government and to make reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) a priority for Federal agencies," and that specifies aggressive reduction targets.

  • Executive Order 13423, Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management, January 26, 2007, which “instructs Federal agencies to conduct their environmental, transportation, and energy-related activities … in an environmentally, economically and fiscally sound, integrated, continuously improving, efficient, and sustainable manner.”

  • DOE Order 436.1, Departmental Sustainability, May 2, 2011, which “defines requirements and responsibilities for managing sustainability” at DOE and its facilities. In part, this Order seeks to “institute wholesale cultural change to factor sustainability and greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions into all DOE corporate management decisions” and ensure that DOE achieves its EO 13514-related sustainability goals.”

    Sustainability is incorporated into ORNL’s Laboratory Agenda for 2011, which stresses energy efficiency along with renewable and environmentally sound technologies and processes. The Agenda commits the Laboratory to the following outcomes:

    • Showcase ORNL as a leader in sustainable energy research, development, deployment and practices,
    • Develop cross-directorate partnerships that leverage scientific discoveries and infrastructure functional needs to advance sustainability of ORNL’s campus,
    • Engage employees to support sustainable activities at work and at home,
    • Move ORNL toward the goal of a zero waste facility, and
    • Develop and deploy transformational technologies that will have a substantial impact on ORNL’s transportation and energy systems.

    The Laboratory created the Sustainable Campus Initiative in 2008 to guide its transformation toward sustainability and ensure that efforts are benchmarked and tracked. By integrating sustainability into all its projects and activities, ORNL is meeting regulatory requirements and simultaneously reaping the benefits of being a sustainable campus—saving energy and reducing greenhouse gases.