"Green" Awareness at Offutt AFB

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. John N.T. Shanahan
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs
One of my most important base-wide initiatives has to do with improving our overall "green" awareness. This includes making a good base recycling program even better.

We must constantly bring energy conservation and environmental stewardship into our thought processes. Doing this makes Offutt a better base, saves precious resources, and ultimately makes us even better at carrying out the Air Force mission--to fly, fight, and win in air, space and cyberspace.

Leaders at every level of the Department of Defense, from the Secretary of Defense to the commanders and senior enlisted leaders here at Offutt, fully embrace key recycling tenets. To conserve our natural resources and rein in skyrocketing energy costs, all of us are responsible for helping to maintain a strong and fiscally responsible recycling program. Our most successful programs so far have involved cardboard and paper recycling.

We have 60 tan cardboard-only dumpsters located at various locations on base. Additionally, we have 38 locations for clean mixed paper products collection such as magazines, newspapers, printer or copy paper, and so on. Recycling containers for offices, dormitories and other areas across the base are available through the 55th Civil Engineering Squadron's Environmental Office.

There are some items we can't currently recycle, but I strongly encourage all units to recycle everything possible. Plastic is worth little and there is no market for glass, but I ask every organization to be responsible stakeholders by collecting these items and taking them to local recycling centers. I also encourage all of you to recycle aluminum cans by taking them to a local recycling center, which generates funds that can go right back into your organizations for your own Morale, Welfare and Recreation purposes.

Another way we can be good stewards of the environment is by carpooling. Some organizations have taken great strides with this simple yet highly effective way to reduce pollution by identifying reserved parking spots for carpoolers through the base parking board. We are also exploring ways to operate a passive carpooling website so potential carpoolers can locate one other.

Recently we replaced five older vehicles in our fleet with fuel-efficient, low-speed vehicles and about 20 others now run on renewable E-85 fuel. I also want to stress that we recycle used and or contaminated petroleum products from government vehicles and aircraft through a private contractor, and our Auto Skills Center collects and recycles used oil.

Energy conservation is a top priority as well. Our energy conservation program team continues to install motion sensor switches where practical; for instance, in offices, halls and office area restrooms. We've also implemented various other initiatives, such as set-back thermostats, high efficiency heating units and standard building temperatures. Furthermore, we are continuing to examine the value of compressed work schedules, which so far has shown promising results in terms of energy savings on "green Fridays" (it is important to understand that these days come from having certain organizations across the base work longer hours during the rest of the work week).

Another way we've found to reduce energy consumption is by heating large open-air areas with gas-fired infra-red warming objects rather than air. Insulation has also been added in many locations and a "green" roof is being installed on Bldg. 500.
I am also focused on making sure our base construction projects adhere to good recycling principles. For example, virtually all of the metal and concrete that was removed as part of our Frady Fitness center and the old Community Activities Center demolition was recycled or reused.

The 55th Force Support Squadron is also performing a market research analysis for a three-section moisture-resistant cardboard food container to replace the Styrofoam containers we currently use in our dining facilities. Additionally, our former Recycle Center is now used as a refuse transfer point and accepts scrap metal for recycling.

Furthermore, we highly encourage the Offutt community to avoid throwing lead acid batteries in personal trash receptacles because when discharged and subjected to freezing temperatures, they can crack and cause lead contamination. To dispose of these batteries contact the 55th CES Environmental Office.

While all of this is going on to make Offutt a better place to live and work, we are in the process of revitalizing the Environmental Management System. You should hear more about EMS and Offutt's conservation and recycling programs in the near future.

All of us across the base must do our part to accomplish the mission and take care of the environment. We have come a long way in the past 25 years---we wouldn't even have had this dialogue when I entered the Air Force--and there's no question that we will do a lot more over the next decade. We don't have a choice.

I take energy awareness and recycling very seriously, and I ask every member of the Offutt community to do the same. If you have good green ideas, please pass them through your chain of command or directly to the 55th CES Environmental Office at 294-4087. Thanks for helping make Offutt a better place to live, work and play!