Fort Riley, community leaders plan greener tomorrow today
Story by: Alison Kohler
Picture an Army with hybrid Humvees, shuttle buses and green munitions. This picture is attainable in the near future, according to experts who addressed Fort Riley and Central Flint Hills Region leaders Jan. 27 to 29 during a sustainability conference.
"Ecosystem, ecoregion – that's the way we're going to go," said Michael Cain, director of the Army Environmental Institute.
Alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles, recycled construction products and green procurement were just a few of the common initiatives installations across the nation have explored as they move toward sustainability.
Sustainability is rooted in a triple-bottom-line-plus concept. The three bottom lines are mission, environment and community and plus is the cost.
"Sustainability is not just compliance. It's having that perfect balance," said Col. Cynthia Murphy, garrison commander at Fort Lewis, Wash.
Murphy was invited to the conference to explain some of the initiatives Fort Lewis has undertaken since 2002 when it began sustainability planning and execution.
"This is a gorgeous post, and I can see why you want to keep it that way," Murphy said.
One example she discussed was a local business owner who took Fort Lewis' discarded wood and turned it into flooring, which was then sold in the community with the tag, "from Fort Lewis wood." The post also began reusing asphalt and concrete, and it has saved $300,000 a year.
"We're really into food waste and garbage," Murphy said.
Another example she discussed was a walkable area where people could take a child to ballet, stop by the bank, pick up a few items from the commissary, pick up the child from ballet and get an ice cream cone without driving from place to place.
"By having an open mind, it has made a tremendous impact," Murphy said.
The conference was designed to get Fort Riley on a path toward sustainability, just like other installations around the world. Leaders and planners from Fort Riley and other communities in the Central Flint Hills Region met to design a 25-year plan that will focus on engaging the people who are going to be here in the next five to 10 years to execute it.
"Think about mission, community and environment every time we make a decision – not just cost," said Kevin Palmer, owner and operator of the Center for Sustainable Solutions.
Green initiatives are not always more expensive, and if there is a greater upfront cost, savings usually are realized just a few years later, Palmer said.
Palmer's presentation discussed the current momentum with sustainability, what the government and the Army are doing for sustainable solutions and where we are going in the future.
Fort Riley's plan will only begin to take shape during the conference. After additional conferences in coming months, Fort Riley will have a strategic plan that supports sustainability.
"We need to take a step back and get after this. What's our vision at Fort Riley? It's time to get at it," said Col. Richard Piscal, garrison commander at Fort Riley.
The teams spent nearly two working days on developing the strategic goals. In a few months, the facilitators will return to Fort Riley to help develop objectives and begin writing action plans to shape the sustainability campaign plan.
"We've got to hand this off to whomever follows in your footsteps. We want to set the conditions and shape (what's going to happen in 25 years)," Piscal said.
For more about the Army sustainability, visit www.aepi.army.mil.