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Bibb Unveils Green Agenda for GSA Child Care Centers

Remarks by
David L Bibb
Acting Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration
19th Annual GSA Child Care Conference
San Francisco, California
July 9, 2008


Thank you so much, Peter Stamison. Good afternoon everyone. I’m very pleased to join you for the 19th Annual GSA Child Care Conference. My only question is, with all of you in San Francisco, who’s watching the kids?

If anyone’s here from NAEYC, that was just a joke!

Before I go on, I’d like to read from a letter that just arrived from the White House. President Bush sends all of you his greetings and says:

"Children are a special gift, and we have a duty to provide them with the support and skills they need to become happy and successful adults. For nearly 20 years, this conference has fostered networking and discussion to help ensure the best possible care for America’s youth. By offering a valuable service to working parents, child care providers help prepare our children to meet life’s challenges and realize their full potential. I appreciate GSA and all those attending this year’s conference. Your dedication to America’s young people is exemplary."

I of course agree whole-heartedly with those sentiments.

You may have heard I announced recently that I’ll be leaving GSA in September. I’d like to tell you that I started life in a GSA child care center, and that planted the early seeds for my success. I’d like to tell you that, but unfortunately it wouldn’t be true. I did start pretty early, though. I began as a management intern in our Atlanta office in 1971, the same year the Kennedy Center opened and Apollo 14 took off for the moon. The reason I mention this is that I want you to know that during a career of more than 36 years, I’ve seen and been part of many GSA initiatives that have made me proud.  Prominent on that list – very prominent - has been our work in the field of child care.

We have, as you know, more than 110 centers serving 8,000 children. Eighty-five percent of the centers are accredited by NAEYC, the National Association for The Education of Young Children. Also:

  • 95 percent provide infant care;
  • 84 percent are open 11 or more hours a day;
  • And 81 percent of our directors have at least 10 years experience in early childhood education.

Today, donning my other hat as chief environmental executive, I’m pleased to announce an exciting new green initiative that teams GSA with an organization dedicated to environmentally friendly child care facilities: the Oregon Environmental Council.

Here’s how it came about: three years ago, the council created a statewide program – eco-healthy child care - designed to support and educate providers about how to rid their facilities of environmental toxins. The program was so successful they won an award from the Environmental Protection Agency as well as a grant to take the program nationwide. In March, the council reached out to GSA and asked if we would serve on its national advisory committee.

It didn’t take long to say “yes.” They -- and we – want to implement the program and apply its rigorous checklist to all our child care centers. In so doing, we will reduce the use of pesticides, improve air quality, reduce children’s exposure to lead and mercury, and avoid exposure to toxic plastics.

Although I'm confident that many of our centers already meet these standards, I want to ensure that all GSA facilities meet this high level of environmental excellence.

I know that I can count on all of you to help make us reach this ambitious goal. In fact, I'd like to take a moment to recognize one of our greenest providers.

"Imagine Learning" runs 11 centers in the Metropolitan New York Area, five in GSA space. They’re watching their carbon footprint, turning off lights and air conditioners whenever possible. They no longer use styrofoam; they carpool for Imagine events and recycle printer cartridges. Whenever possible, they purchase recycled and environmentally friendly materials. In addition, they have a "learning healthy early" initiative designed to help parents and children make healthier choices and become more environmentally aware.

The president of Imagine, Holly Salzman, and several members of her staff are in the audience today. Holly, please stand with your crew so we can give you a round of applause.

During this conference, all of you will have an opportunity to learn how to get a lot more green into your centers.

For building and project managers, there will be a tour of the San Francisco Federal Building, which I must say is a marvel of sustainable design built to exceed the most stringent energy code in the country. We’re very proud of this building. To me, it says we are committed to the world outside our buildings as well as the workers within.

For teachers, there will be workshops on how to incorporate natural materials and products in your classrooms. And look for the workshop on going green in child care projects, which addresses renovations and new projects with LEED and environmentally sound principles in mind. Another session focuses on how to navigate our design guide when planning new projects, renovations and maintenance projects.

I want to stress that our efforts in this area part of a broader, agencywide commitment to being a responsible steward of our nation’s precious natural resources. As the purchasing arm of the government, GSA has an enormous responsibility – and opportunity -- to serve our customer agencies, the taxpayers and the nation.

This translates into GSA providing and promoting thousands of eco-friendly goods and services to the other agencies. It translates into leading by example when it comes to saving energy. It means being on constant alert for a light-bulb moment when we can conserve resources, be it in the amount of gas used by the federal fleet, or the electricity used to light our buildings. It is why we’ve become a government leader in telework. Telework saves gas, reduces harmful emissions, increases productivity and gets us better prepared for times of national emergency. GSA’s goal was to get 20 percent of our 12,000 employees teleworking one day a week or more by the end of 2008. We hit that mark two months ago.

Coming full circle, our environmental commitment now encompasses our child care centers. I’m very pleased to have made today’s announcement, and, since we’re in California, will end with some good advice from someone I’m sure you all remember. Walt Disney said, "The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing."

Everyone here today has done just that. Thank you for the great work you do day in and day out, for your commitment to our youngsters, and for your attention this afternoon.