Should the USGBC Force You To Eat Your [Organic] Vegetables?

According to the SF Examiner, LEED "now includes an energy reduction component called Sustainable Food."

Building owners and managers can now gain credit towards LEED certification by using sustainably harvested foods certified by pre-approved organizations including USDA Certified Organic, Food Alliance Certified, Protected Harvest Certified, The Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade, and the Marine Stewardship Council's Blue Eco Label, and/or by acquiring food from within a 100-mile radius for food service and catering functions at the building. The threshold for achieving this credit is for 25 percent of all food and beverages to meet one or more of these sustainability criteria. Double points are awarded if the food is both certified and locally harvested.

Is this a good idea? It's true, all buildings will serve food at some point, but I am not sure that integrating an operations component like sustainable food is a good idea for a green building standard.  For example, if a municipality incorporates the LEED standard, and a building owner chooses to adopt the sustainable food credit, will the municipality have to police whether 25% of their food purchases are local and organic? 

Now using this argument, there should be no operations related credits in the LEED program.  This, of course, is not reasonable either.  The question becomes, to my mind, what operations credits are integral to the creation of a green building, and what items are merely good sustainable practices for everybody.  Once LEED enlarges its mantle to include every sustainable practice, it dilutes its legitimacy as a rigorous standard.  There is enough work to be done in managing the

  • 72% of electricity consumption,
  • 39% of energy use,
  •  38% of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions,
  •  40% of raw materials use,
  •  30% of waste output (136 million tons annually), and
  • 14% of potable water consumption

that come from buildings directly without frittering away efforts on peripheral matters.

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Philip Simpson - June 22, 2009 1:33 PM

Amen to that. It's important to keep focus, not get diluted, and maintain legitimacy. For USGBC to take on, eg, the beef industry would seriously undermine the momentum. Will corporate tenants with in-house cafeterias sign on to a lease that requires compliance with the sustainable food credit?

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