|By Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, Commanding General,
Installation Management Command
The Army has a bold vision for
managing natural resources on its installations: they will become Net
Zero. That is, as we go about the complex business of living, working
and training on installations, our use and production of resources will
balance out, so that in the end, we do not over-consume or waste. The
most exciting part of the Army Net Zero vision is this: we all have a
part to play in achieving it.
When the concept of Net Zero first was applied to installations, it
was in terms of energy. A task force that grew out of a 2008 joint
initiative of the Departments of Defense and Energy studied the
possibility of Net Zero Energy installations, or installations that
produce as much energy on site as they use over the course of a year.
Army Net Zero goes beyond energy, though, to also include water and
Army Net Zero’s holistic approach increases our ability to achieve the
larger goal of sustainable installations. With an eye to all three —
energy, water and waste — we are more likely to move beyond isolated
projects, which carry the risk of succeeding in one area at the expense
of another, to an integrated plan that balances benefits and costs
across our operations.
Installations reach Net Zero through five interrelated steps: reduction,
repurposing, recycling and composting, energy recovery, and disposal. To
achieve Net Zero Energy, garrisons start with aggressive conservation
efforts, to reduce the amount of energy being used in the first place.
Then they repurpose energy, or find secondary uses for building
exhausts, boiler-stack exhausts and other thermal- energy streams, and
recover heat from the electricity-generation process. Once they have
reduced their load through conservation and efficiency measures, they
can meet their remaining requirements through renewable- or
A Net Zero Water installation limits the consumption of fresh water and
returns water back to the same watershed, so as not to deplete the
groundwater and surface-water resources of that region in quantity or
quality. Similar to the process with energy, installations aiming for
Net Zero water begin with rigorous conservation efforts. Then they
repurpose the water used in showers, sinks, washing machines and cooling
towers, capture rainwater for on-site use, and treat wastewater for
recharging into groundwater aquifers. They achieve Net Zero water by
capturing, repurposing, and recharging an amount equal to what they
A Net Zero installation reduces, reuses and recovers waste streams,
converting them to resource values with zero landfill. In other words, a
Net Zero Waste installation aims to make disposal an unnecessary step.
Garrisons start by reducing the initial amount of waste, and then find
ways to repurpose waste with minimal processing. For example, they might
crush construction rubble to use on trails. When they cannot reuse
waste, they recycle or compost as much as they can or convert it to
energy. They achieve Net Zero Waste when they have nothing left to send
to the landfill.
During my site visits over the past year, I have seen how our garrisons
have taken steps — great strides in some cases — to manage our resources
more efficiently. Look at the water projects at Forts Huachuca, Bliss
and Belvoir; the waste-management projects at Forts Bragg and Jackson
and Joint Base Lewis-McChord; and the energy projects at Forts Drum,
Wainwright, Carson and Campbell, to name just a few. So I know there
will be tremendous interest in an opportunity that the Assistant
Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment (ASA
(IE&E)) is launching this month. The ASA (IE&E) is asking garrisons to
nominate themselves to become Net Zero Energy, Net Zero Water or Net
Zero Waste installations, or all three, by 2020. Five will be selected
in each category, with one to become all three. These installations will
receive long-term, in-depth training and support and become showcases
for the strategies, technologies and best practices of sustainable
I encourage every garrison to take on this challenge. It will require
commitment and a lot of hard work. Not only do we have to learn about
energy, water and waste-management best practices and technologies, but
we also have to learn the business practices that support them.
We have to build partnerships with those in the private sector and in
non-government organizations who will join us in investing in the Net
Zero vision. However, this is a prime opportunity to learn lessons we
will be required to know in the future.
Everyone — every Soldier, Civilian and Family member — has a role to
play in managing our resources. Maybe it seems like a smaller role —
turning out the lights, adjusting the thermostat, or separating out
recyclables at home. Maybe it is a more direct role, such as running an
installation waste-management program or writing enhanced-use leases or
energy-savings performance contracts. Regardless, every effort adds up,
and what it adds up to is important — our future.
Energy efficiency and security is a critical issue for the Army. The
Army depends on a reliable, safe, cost-effective supply of energy to
accomplish its mission, as well as provide a good quality of life for
Soldiers, Civilians and Families on installations worldwide. To the
extent that the supply and distribution of energy lay outside the Army’s
control, the ability to accomplish our mission is open to risk.
The same can be said of water, or practically any of our resources. If
the Army is to accomplish its mission in the future, if we want to be
good neighbors to those outside our gates and to leave a healthy world
for our children and grandchildren, then we have to start operating
sustainably today. It is the right thing to do.