Earth Day 2017: Conserve today, secure tomorrow

  • Published
  • By Sean Houseworth
  • 21st Civil Engineer Group
I would like to take a moment to remind Airmen to keep the mission in mind as the Air Force observes the 47th annual Earth Day April 22, 2017. The Air Force’s theme for Earth Day 2017 is: Conserve Today. Secure Tomorrow.

in the Air Force’s 70th anniversary year, we are reminded to focus on innovation, teamwork, and heritage while conducting the mission and protecting and sustaining the environment.

The history of Earth Day dates back to 1970, was founded by Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, and is celebrated by more than a billion people every year. Let’s make this year’s celebration a day of action. Take advantage of opportunities to get involved in conservation and sustainability activities on base, at home, and in the local community.

Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, will have multiple activities in the community center and housing areas on April 21. Seek out how you can take action when you see the base environmental office spreading conservation and sustainability information.

The Air Force's commitment to sustainability and energy-efficiency is not new. Sustainability is important to making sure that we have and will continue to have, the water, materials and resources to protect human health and our environment.

In 2001, the Air Force produced its first policy to "apply sustainable development concepts" to facilities and infrastructure projects. The Air Force also issued guidance in June 2011, building on the Air Force's vision for sustainable installations requiring new vertical and major renovations fully incorporate federal requirements for high-performance and sustainable buildings. This includes achieving a minimum of 20 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design points dedicated toward energy efficiency and water conservation.

Besides energy conservation, the Air Force is also focusing on reducing the use of hazardous and toxic chemicals and materials as part of its sustainability efforts. In its 2013 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan, adopted by the Air Force, the Department of Defense outlined four key priority areas: energy and reliance on energy, chemicals of environmental concern, water resource management and maintaining readiness in the face of climate change.

Strategies which improve sustainability can also make the DOD more resilient to climate change. Conserving energy and water, while increasing the use of renewable energy, can help the Air Force be less vulnerable to fluctuations and shortages of the resources.
Fresh water is a limited and mission critical resource, and water conservation plays an important role in sustainability efforts. Installations across the Air Force are installing low-flow sinks and lavatories in their facilities, as well as promoting the use of landscaping using indigenous drought-tolerant lawn and plant varieties.

Airmen also have a history of seeing solutions instead of seeing problems. When looking at garbage, we should not see 'trash'. We should see materials that need a new home. Plastic and glass bottles that could be rebuilt into the new products, or cardboard and paper packaging that could reduce the number of trees that need to be cut. The DOD’s strategic sustainability performance plan also calls upon all branches of service to divert 50 percent of non-hazardous solid waste and 100 percent of electronics waste.

Air Force leaders encourage Airmen to take action to conserve and recycle at home. Can you also use drought-tolerant landscaping techniques to save on your monthly water bill, or upgrade to LED light bulbs to save on electricity? The answer, of course, is yes. It simply requires action.

While the Air Force continues making progress to conserve today, secure tomorrow, we all can emphasize areas where every Airman can make a difference. Let’s work together to take action on base, at home and in our valued community.