News Stories

Earth Day Message 2009: Corps puts sustainability into practice

Published April 21, 2009

Every year in April we celebrate Earth Day and take the opportunity to reflect and focus on the environment and sustainability.  If you take a minute to look at the Corps' programs and projects, you will see many examples of how we've been putting sustainability into practice. 

In Fallujah, Iraq, you'll see a great example of our commitment to the environment and to sustainability.  We are installing solar lighting as part of our infrastructure reconstruction work.  Our use of the renewable energy source of the sun (solar lighting) balances the needs of the environment and our community by providing power, conserving our natural resources for other uses, improving air quality through reduced air emissions and reducing our logistics tail.

Closer to home, we'll once again spend a couple days educating some of America's best and brightest talent on our sustainability initiatives when we participate in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Sustainable Design Expo, featuring the P3 (People, Prosperity and the Planet) Awards on the National Mall, April 18 through 20. At this Expo, college students from across the country will compete for grants based on their projects that promote sustainability.  Not only does it give us a chance to glimpse into the future, but it also lets us share what the Corps, and the Army, has been doing in the field of sustainability. Their creativity and imagination are inspiring, and just maybe we'll find something that we can adopt in our quest for a more sustainable U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  As we look to build our bench and Corps to last, perhaps we can interest some of these young engineers to become a member of our Corps family.

We've spent a number of years looking at ways to incorporate the sustainability ethic into our work.  Embracing sustainability means living our Environmental Operating Principles.  We are building facilities as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Act and military construction mission to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver standards. We've also been focusing on renewable energy projects at military installations at home. Two projects worth noting are a geothermal heating and cooling project at Fort Sill, Okla., that will save nearly 2,500 barrels of oil a year; and solar walls and rehabilitation shops at Fort Knox, Ky., which will save 2,400 barrels of oil a year.  These two projects alone will have a lasting impact on our nation's economic and environmental health, and it's just the beginning!

And for those of you looking to our Campaign Plan for evidence of our commitment to sustainability, check out Goal 3:  Deliver innovative, resilient, sustainable solutions to the Armed Forces and the Nation.

In fact, you'll find the word "sustainable" in a number of different places within the Campaign Plan.  We did that deliberately because we know we have to ensure that quality resources are available both for today and tomorrow, and that our actions today shouldn't negatively impact the future. 

The Army is operationalizing the concept of sustainability in support of the mission, and we're part of that movement.  We've been adapting to changing needs, practices and priorities to achieve sustainability in everything we do, from supporting the Soldier and the nation at home and abroad to:

- improving navigation
- restoring damaged ecosystems
- improving flood risk management 
- embracing low impact development
- building and buying green
- supplying hydropower and recreation
- protecting and managing the environment, including current and future wetlands 
- considering how the Army's carbon footprint can be reduced through better designs and operating practices as well as the potential impacts of climate change on how we build and operate our facilities.

We've established the Center for the Advancement of Sustainability Innovations to provide research and expertise needed to achieve the goals of the Army Strategy for the Environment and the Sustainable Design and Development Directory of Expertise to support LEED building standards.

The Environmental Operating Principles provide us direction on how to better achieve stewardship of air, water and land resources, while demonstrating the connection between water resources, protection of environmental health and the Nation's security.

And that's the bottom line, going from good to great by embracing sustainability today and tomorrow.