With visions of rockets flaming across the sky and bullets striking a target, one might be surprised to find that an army can be another shade of green besides their camouflaged uniforms. That is just what the U.S. Army hopes to achieve. The leading edge of the Army’s environmental sword is the United States Army Environmental Command (USAEC). The Army started officially working in the environment regime around 1972 after they began disposing of chemical agents. Since then, the command was tasked with further environmental clean ups and research. As the 21st century began, USAEC has realized that its goal has to be an all inclusive attempt at environmental conservation for their home bases and other installations.
One would not initially think of the Army as being filled with tree huggers, but throughout the decades it has realized that the forests on their bases need their full attention. If the wood and grassland areas are not properly managed then they could be susceptible to wildfires, insect infestations, and much more. Proper woodlands give the bases a sustainable and renewing training field. Healthy trees help create an effective cushion and barrier with neighboring homes and business of the base. Some endangered species can be given a safe and protected area to flourish. Families living on the base can have a place to relax and play.
Cleaning Up Their Act
While the Army becomes more environmentally conscious, they realize the errors of their ways in the past with hazardous materials not being contained properly. Unfortunately, some materials were allowed to leak into the ground decades ago and are being discovered today. However, the Army is using its ingenuity to help clean up the mess without digging up and destroying the existing soil. Through the use of modern technology, the chemicals are sucked up out of the ground. Whatever is missed can then be filtered through special barriers placed at strategic locations, allowing only clean fresh water to get into the underground water table and rivers.
Net Zero three ways
The Army’s biggest initiative is called Net Zero, where by several processes they hope to have 25 installations creating a zero impact on the environment by 2030. The program has 3 main goals: net zero energy, water, and waste. To reach each goal the Army is taking steps towards achieving top efficiency in reduction, re-purposing, recycling, recovering energy, and careful disposal. The end goal is to be able to replace, reuse, and recycle an equal amount of product that was used by the end of a year.
To start with, the Army will take conservation to the extreme by making sure that older installations and homes are upgraded to energy star standards. New buildings are being constructed with the most advanced technology in conservation and sustainability. New vehicles, yes even tanks, are being designed to use alternative fuels so that less pollution is placed into the air.
Next, ways are being found to re-use any and every item or by-product. Grey water from showers, laundry, and dishes will be re-used for other areas of the bases. Even exhaust from building heating systems will be re-used by finding ways to extract even more energy from the heated gases.
Reducing waste products that would go to a landfill comes next. The Army begins this process by considering what will happen to a product, and even its packaging, before a purchase is made. They are making sure to recycle all products like batteries, glass, and electronics to keep them from being disposed of. Any water that ends up going back into the environment will have already been reused, processed, and ready to go into the water table safely.
Not Just at Home
The Army’s Net Zero program will not just be utilized at home bases in America, but across the oceans and even on the battlefields. The Army has introduced environmental awareness training for today’s soldiers so that for generations to come they will be prepared to continue this ultimate conservation task. An army has to bring many things with them when they go to a new battlefield, and the U.S. Army would like to ensure that they leave an area as environmentally sound as it was when they arrived. Ironically, the Army of One is now working towards becoming the Army of Zero with a new understanding of what it means to be green.
More information can be found at http://aec.army.mil/usaec/