Stick a Fork in it: GOP Defunds 'Green the Capitol' Initiative

Plastic spoons and Styrofoam cups make comeback on Hill

ByABC News
February 28, 2011, 4:23 PM

March 4, 2011— -- You can debate whether or not it is a good thing or bad thing, but here's one tangible accomplishment for the new Republican Congress: They've brought plastic and Styrofoam back to the House cafeteria.

Republicans are practically giddy about the change: They've turned the clock back on one of Nancy Pelosi's pet projects.

When Pelosi became Speaker of the House in 2007, she launched an initiative called "Green the Capitol." The centerpiece of the project was the Capitol cafeteria. She replaced the greasy French fries (which Republicans called Freedom Fries), plastic ware and Styrofoam cups with locally grown organic food, recyclable utensils and cups made of cornstarch.

In the effort to make the Capitol a beacon of environmentalism, Pelosi's program also converted the Capitol Power Plant from coal to natural gas and installed more than 13,000 compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) across the House of Representatives campus. A report from April 2010 found that those greener efforts actually reduced energy consumption in Capitol buildings by 23 percent, and water consumption by 32 percent.

But the changes weren't cheap, and now Republicans say enough is enough: They've had it with the flimsy utensils, the rows of recycling bins, and the $475,000 per year it costs to truck the compostable waste off to a facility in Virginia.

Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., chairman of the House Administration Committee, announced the indefinite suspension of the composting program in January, a change implemented this week with the reintroduction of Styrofoam cups and plastic utensils to Congressional cafeterias.

"It's one of those things that didn't work," Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., told ABC News. "Let's not perpetuate this. It takes more energy, it costs taxpayers money and it doesn't work."