By C. Todd Lopez
CHICAGO (Jan. 23, 2012) -- CHICAGO (Army News Service, Jan. 23, 2012) -- Net Zero for the Army means a reduction in energy used, in water used, and in waste produced. For Soldiers it can mean lives saved and more resources to train to fight.
"We are already working operational energy initiatives now overseas and the way we explain that is important is that every time we bring in water and bring in fuel to the area that could have been conserved, that's one more convoy," said Maj. Gen. Al T. Aycock, to director of operations, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, Installation Management.
An Army study released in 2009 showed what many Soldiers already know -- convoys are dangerous. The report showed that in fiscal year 2007, there was one casualty for every 38 fuel convoys in Iraq. During the same time period there was one casualty for every 23 fuel convoys in Afghanistan.
Also by conserving fuel, Aycock said, there's more energy for training.
"By conserving the fuel in theater, by conserving the fuel at our posts, that means we have more fuel overseas to fight better and on our posts to train better," Aycock said. "If I am spending more on heating or cooling a building or maintaining a poorly constructed building that wasn't built to sustainable standards, that is money taken directly out of the training pot."
Aycock spoke at the close of the Army's Net Zero Energy Installations Conference in Chicago, which ran Jan 18-20. During the conference, representatives from 18 installations briefed their progress in decreasing energy use, reducing their use of water, and eliminating waste sent to landfills.
Aycock said selling Solders on Net Zero means a culture change -- making it something they understand -- a competition, for instance.
"Soldiers love to compete with other Soldiers and Soldiers like to be recognized for what they do," he said. "So if we can make this a program that they can participate in and see the benefits of that would be better than just telling them to do it."
Aycock made it clear that Soldiers always do what they're told, but "they do a whole lot better when they're having fun doing it."
At the end of the three-day workshop, Katherine Hammack, the assistant secretary of the Army for installations, environment and energy, said she learned one benefit of the Army's efforts in waste reduction is to spur more programs in nearby communities.
"One of the great things from the waste community that they talked about, because the Army has such a focus on minimization of waste and recycling programs, this is becoming an economic driver in some of the communities that are surrounding our bases," she said. "It's a win not only for the Army ... not only for future generations, but it's an economic win."
Hammack said some communities have no waste recycling programs, and the presence of an Army installation that is doing waste recycling -- bringing in contractors to run their programs for instance -- is generating interest in the community and creating momentum in the community to do what the Army is doing.
"When they move into a community, they bring in construction, they bring in jobs and they bring in an opportunity for the communities and other cities to have the resources so they can start up their recycling," she said.
One challenge Hammack said she has heard from installations involved in the Net Zero pilot program is that bases believe they could do more work toward reaching their Net Zero goals if they had more money. But at the conference, she said, she learned that many bases say they are finding success without additional funding.
Hammack said she heard several "wonderful presentations that it didn't take a higher construction cost to reach Net Zero, or didn't take more money for recycling programs -- because it can be self-funding." She said there was, at the conference, "a lot of discussion about doing it smart verses spending more money to achieve success."
Hammack said overall, it was a "very successful conference ... with a lot of collaboration between the military and private industry."
The Army's Net Zero Installation Strategy focuses on three areas: energy, water and waste.
For each of those areas, the Army chose six pilot installations. Some installations were named pilots in two areas. An additional two installations, Fort Carson, Colo., and Fort Bliss, Texas, were named as "integrated" Net Zero installations. Those installations will work on reaching Net Zero goals in all three areas.
The Army's Net Zero Installation Strategy is about reducing energy use, water use and waste production, to help secure the Army's mission. A Net Zero energy installation produces as much energy as it consumes, resulting in a net usage of zero. A Net Zero water installation limits its consumption of freshwater resources and returns water back to the same watershed, so as not to deplete groundwater. Finally, a Net Zero waste installation reduces, reuses, and recovers waste streams with a goal of zero landfill use.