Beyond 'An Inconvenient Truth': The Army's March toward Operational Sustainability

By Davis, Addison D. | Army, April 2009 | Go to article overview

Beyond 'An Inconvenient Truth': The Army's March toward Operational Sustainability


Davis, Addison D., Army


Concerns about the future of our planet and climate change-fueled in part by former Vice President Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth"-have placed responsibility for the future of the environment and the health of the planet squarely at our feet. Indeed, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas L. Friedman refers to green as "the new red, white and blue." The Army is poised and prepared to take its place on the front lines to address the future of our environment and to enhance the future of our nation and ultimately the health of soldiers. Army civilians and their families around the globe.

The reawakening of the green movement domestically and internationally over the past decade is rooted in a widely accepted principle known as sustainability. Sustainability is now a globally accepted approach to maintaining economic growth while avoiding harm to our planet or exhaustion of its resources and improving the quality of life for its current and future inhabitants. Practicing sustainability makes good business sense for the private sector - and good operational sense for the Army.

In many respects, the Army sustainability initiative began just short of a decade ago when the sustainable Fort Bragg program was launched in 2001. Since then, goal-driven sustainability programs have been implemented at 30 Army installations throughout the continental United States and in Hawaii and Germany. The initial effort at Fort Bragg was the impetus for both the Army Strategy for the Environment and the more recent release of the Army Sustainability Report.

From the beginning. Army sustainability has proven to be an extremely useful organizing principle that ensures continued access to training lands, availability of materiel, and provision of facilities and services, all of which are necessary to provide trained and ready forces for the Army mission and to support future needs.

Army sustainability is codified in a simple yet powerful "triple bottom line" that includes three key components: mission, environment and community. Mission accomplishment is the true determinant of success or failure within the military. Sustainable ranges and training areas ensure combat readiness through increased training days, while sustainable buildings, facilities and neighborhoods enhance the quality of life for soldiers and their families.

Environmental, safety and health considerations form the foundation of Army sustainability. Clean air and water, abundant natural resources, properly managed wastewater, and solid- and hazardous-waste programs have a positive impact on the overall health of the planet and local ecosystems, and they ensure the health and well-being of soldiers, civilians and their families on installations and in local communities.

The contributions of the military community can have a profound effect on the environment through recycling of household and commercial waste, reduction of consumables, carpooling and other initiatives that reduce unnecessary use of materials. Energy efficiency and water efficiency decrease resource consumption, thus reducing the overall cost of operations, and through sustainable design they lower maintenance costs over the lifetime of our buildings. There is also the community outside the installation fence line, however, where many of our soldiers, civilians and their families reside. Collaborative community efforts can generate enormous economies of scale, saving monetary resources by pooling funds for multiuse projects that support community needs both on and off the installation.

Through sustainability and the application of the triple bottom line, the Army is building green, buying green and going green. The Army is building green to support a sustainable living and working atmosphere. After first adopting the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards in 2006, the Army has raised the bar by requiring that all new military construction meet the LEED silver standard. …

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