New York's New First Lady Continues Greening the Mansion

ALBANY, New York, May 1, 2008 (ENS) – New York’s First Lady Michelle Paige Paterson Thursday unveiled the first installation of solar panels at the Governor’s Mansion, a step toward reducing the mansion’s energy consumption and pollution.

The first solar panels were installed over the pool house, and they will produce 3.5 kilowatts of energy. This fall, the second array of solar panels will be placed on a new carport, adding an additional 46.5 kilowatts to the mansion’s power supply.

First Lady Paterson is the wife of New York’s Governor David Paterson, the former Lt. Governor who ascended to the top position on March 17 in the wake of a prostitution scandal that forced the resignation of Governor Eliot Spitzer.

The new first lady said that she will continue the “Greening the Mansion” initiative to promote healthy buildings and environmental sustainability, while cutting the home’s electrical energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent.

“If our buildings are unhealthy, it increases the chances that we will be unhealthy and that our children will be unhealthy,” said the first lady. “Inefficient buildings are the largest contributors to global warming. In fact, nearly 40 percent of greenhouse emissions come from buildings. This level of pollution contributes to poor air quality and poor health.”

Begun by former First Lady Silda Wall Spitzer, the “Greening the Mansion” initiative is an ongoing project to reduce energy usage, transition the building to clean, renewable energy resources, and develop sustainable practices in maintaining the grounds and operations.

“Greening the Mansion” is intended to demonstrate ways people can change their homes to make them environmentally friendly.

Through simple steps such as upgrading to energy-efficient light bulbs, using natural fiber doormats to reduce the need for vacuuming and toxic floor cleaners, and installing energy-saving appliances, residents can reduce pollution and their energy bills.

“The Mansion should serve as an example of the many ways that New Yorkers can make their homes and businesses into greener, healthier places,” said the first lady.

At the solar panel unveilling event on Thursday, First Lady Paterson announced the submission of a governor’s program bill that would provide an economic incentive to residential developers and homeowners to install solar panels and other green features.

The Green Residential Program Bill would give all New Yorkers the green building incentives already available to businesses. The bill would help offset the typical five percent increase in construction costs when green building features are incorporated into residences.

Tracie Hall, executive director of the New York Upstate Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, said, “The greening of the Governor’s Mansion is yet another example of progressive, sustainable initiatives throughout New York State. We commend the leadership and vision being demonstrated in this beautiful, historic residence.”

Greening the Mansion efforts include phasing in the use of non-toxic cleaning products, organic pest control, mulching lawnmowers that recycle grass clippings in place, extensive recycling, and composting.

The mansion staff has begun to use hybrid electric vehicles. Electric lawn mowers and lawn maintenance equipment that can plug into the solar carport for power will be used to reduce gasoline emissions.

Last year the mansion began purchasing New York-grown, preferably organic, produce to the greatest extent possible. The mansion also purchases from a local food co-op, and joined a local Community Supported Agriculture group, which allows consumers to buy a share in a farm and receive fresh local organic produce when it is harvested.

“Like every home, the history of the Mansion reflects the tenor of the times,” said the first lady. “Decades from now, I hope that historians will look back on our time and determine that it was a turning point, when we made crucial choices to build greener, healthier buildings to reduce our energy consumption, address global warming, and improve the health of all. I hope that “Greening the Mansion” will have played a role in this effort.”

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