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E-waste and telework are part of effort to reduce the government's environmental footprint

As the nation's largest producer of electronic waste, the government has an opportunity and a duty to set the bar for disposing of old gadgets and devices, Martha Johnson, head of the General Services Administration, said this week.

Federal offices shed 10,000 computers a week on average, Johnson said, adding that GSA officials hadn't realized the extent of the problem until they began an effort to make government buildings and operations greener.

"How do we set up the government to handle this e-waste responsibility?" She asked Wednesday at the Green Intelligence Forum, hosted by The Atlantic magazine. The Atlantic and Government Executive are both owned by Atlantic Media Co.

"It's about us setting the stage for a much more responsible and thoughtful development of standards and practices and behaviors," she noted.

Johnson, whose agency is in the process of renovating federal properties for efficiency, also stressed the importance of telework -- which she said is "challenging the culture as much as it is challenging the shape of the building" -- to achieve green goals.

GSA has been selling unused federal properties and will, according to Johnson, follow the direction of a recent National Academy of Sciences report that encourages the government to sell unused buildings more quickly to decrease energy consumption.

GSA has learned a great deal from the Defense Department's Base Closure and Realignment Commission, she said, and plans to focus on bundling various properties and asking Congress for one up or down vote, rather than requesting votes on numerous individual projects.

"That is the kind of solution we're going to have to get to, to make a significant step forward," Johnson said.

She warned, however, that the Obama administration should not sell off property that needs extra cleanup before it can be sold: "There is a real challenge in finding the investment needed for making a property ready for sale and that has been an issue, especially with government property"

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