The UN Greens Its Geneva Headquarters


New bike-parking spaces and solar panels are among the eco-friendly improvements at the Palais des Nations in Switzerland. Photos via United Nations Office at Geneva.

You think you have a hard time making your old, drafty house energy efficient? Just imagine trying to green up a massive 70-year-old building ... with 1,680 windows. That's a whole lot of weather stripping. And that's just one among the challenges the United Nations Office at Geneva is working to meet as part of an organization-wide "Greening the U.N." initiative.Earlier this summer, the U.N. won an environmental prize from the Swiss non-profit Fondation Nature & Economie for its eco-friendly efforts to tend the 46-hectare grounds of its Palais des Nations in Geneva, which, a spokeswoman said, include "avoiding pesticides, utilizing compost, and making use of sheep instead of lawnmowers."

Sheep on the Palace Lawn
Each fall, 300 to 400 sheep are allowed to graze the 68,000-square-meter Ariana Park surrounding the Palais des Nations complex, which is home to U.N. humanitarian, economic, and trade agencies. The park also contains century-old trees and a variety of flowers.

On World Environment Day in 2007, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon committed the entire organization to work toward climate neutrality. As part of this mandate, and in addition to the woolly lawn clippers, the Geneva office, the organization's second-largest site, has:

  • put in 60 square meters of solar panels to help generate hot water for the buildings;
  • installed 20 solar lamps in Ariana Park;
  • creating 233 parking spaces for bicycles and added 37 showers for employees who bike to work;
  • installed energy-efficient lighting and motion sensors throughout the Palais;
  • replaced pipes and flushing units with water-saving versions;
  • and phased out heating oil in favor of natural gas, which reduces emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and sulphur dioxide.

The most recent effort, completed in June 2009, installed pipes around the grounds to bring water up from Lake Geneva to cool the Palais and neighboring buildings. The Genève-Lac-Nations Project is expected to reduce electricity consumption by 490 megawatt-hours (MWh) per year and water consumption by 8000 cubic meters per year.

More about the United Nations:
Cheetahs on the Brink of Extinction, UN Report Finds
United Nations Protected Areas Get Own Database and Google Map
United Nations Report Projects 8.4 Million Jobs In Solar & Wind By 2030, Plus Green Goods Production Worth US$2.74 Trillion By 2020
United Nations Officially Makes June 8 World Oceans Day
World Environment Day and an Interview with UNEP's Achim Steiner
NYC Photo Exhibit at United Nations: Climate Change, Poverty and Hope for Avoiding the Sixth Great Extinction
United Nations to Organize List of Green Women

Tags: Green Building | Solar Power | United Nations

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