Selfridge, USAF Work to Go Green

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
As millions of people around the world observe Earth Day April 22 this year, the Air Force is challenging every member of the Air Force family to do his or her part to conserve natural resources, minimize waste and prevent pollution.

"I challenge all Airmen to think about pollution prevention in new ways," said Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff. "We all need to understand that we can make a difference in managing waste so we can find cleaner, more cost effective ways of accomplishing our mission."

Like Selfridge Air National Guard Base, installations across the force are taking aggressive strides to enhance sustainability and cut costs.

One endeavor the Air Force has undertaken to improve sustainability is by modifying current processes to incorporate innovative, environmentally friendly technologies.

The Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, is leading efforts to reduce the pollutants and heavy metals currently involved in stripping paint from Air Force planes. Tom Naguy, senior program manager for environment and energy in the AFRL's materials and manufacturing directorate, is overseeing the project. The robotic "de-painting" system uses a laser as an effective and environmentally safe alternative to existing processes.

Earlier this year, Airmen at Selfridge concluded a major test of ground fuels created from a 50/50 blend of plant oil and more traditional hydro-carbon based fuels. The test was deemed a success in that no noticeable difference between the blend and the hydro-carbon-only fuel was detected. The fuel is under consideration for further use around the Air Force and other military services.

Nearing completion at the base is the installation of Selfridge's first geo-thermal heating and cooling system, which will be used to control the climate inside a three-building munitions storage complex, which also includes office space.

"Installation of the final elements of that system is expected to take place in late April," said Shannon Bergt, who works on energy savings initiatives with the 127th Civil Engineer Squadron at Selfridge. "The geo-thermal system is expected to use about 50 percent less energy than a traditional heating and cooling system."

While work on the geo-thermal system is still in progress, a plan to install highly-efficient SMART meters on the 40 largest buildings around the base is now complete. Coupled with new digital control thermostats currently being installed, base engineers should be able to quickly and easily make adjustments and tweaks in heating and cooling operations to save energy - and expenses.

"Civil engineers are building sustainable installations every day," said Maj. Gen. Timothy Byers, the Air Force civil engineer. "We are focusing on being smarter, faster, better and cheaper; we are reducing waste, conserving energy, and building leaner, more sustainable facilities because we know these efforts not only support the environment, but also save money and improve our mission capabilities."

Strategic reuse of products and materials, where appropriate, is another way the Air Force is slashing costs and controlling its waste stream.

Hill AFB, Utah, is saving money and simultaneously reducing hazardous waste by implementing solvent filtration systems which allow multiple re-use of cleaning solvents used for aircraft parts, said Guy Whalen, environmental representative for the Commodities Maintenance Group there.


The Air National Guard's 187th Fighter Wing in Alabama successfully conserved energy by recovering all of its contaminated JP-8 fuel for use in aircraft ground equipment, said Lt. Col. Elmer Norvell, base civil engineer there.


Even seemingly small changes can have large repercussions.


Implementation of a moving box exchange service at Fairchild AFB, Wash., resulted in the reuse of six tons of moving boxes and a savings of $5,000 for base personnel.


"I call upon every Airman to re-think how we approach waste in the Air Force," said Terry Yonkers, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics. "As the Air Force becomes leaner, we need to reduce the burden of waste disposal costs that impact our budget. Ask yourself what you can do to be a little greener and leaner in your workplace."

Substituting nonhazardous and environmentally friendly materials for hazardous ones is another way the service is going green. Such product replacements not only create a healthier environment for Airmen, but also reduce the need for hazardous material disposal.

For example, a conversion from steel break assemblies to carbon brake assemblies at Fairchild has led to a reduction in hazardous waste.


According to Senior Airman Kera Tracy, aircraft hydraulics system journeyman from the 92nd Maintenance Squadron at Fairchild, the pucks that help make up the brakes are made up of many metals including arsenic, cadmium, lead, copper, zinc and selenium. Some of these metals are very hazardous and can cause major health concerns in addition to environmental contamination.


"We discovered the impact the brake repair had on the environment when our mop water was tested and found to have high levels of cadmium," Tracy said. "Our mop water then became hazardous waste and a program was made in the shop for proper disposal."


Between 2005 and 2006, the base began the process to convert to carbon brake assemblies and now all of their KC-135s are equipped with the new brakes, Tracy said.
Recycling is another means of preventing pollution and diverting waste.

Like many installations, Eglin is home to a robust recycling center. Over the last fiscal year, the facility compacted enough recyclable material to fill 325 school buses, reducing waste disposal costs by as much as $500,000 and diverting over 17,000 tons from landfills.

In addition to traditional recycling efforts, recycling has become the standard in Air Force construction and demolition projects.

During a recent runway project at Fairchild, concrete, asphalt and scrap metal were reused and recycled. To date, the project has resulted in the recycling of 60,000 tons of concrete and approximately 44,000 tons of asphalt on site. An additional 87,000 tons of concrete and 63,000 tons of asphalt were recycled off-base, said Wayne Musselwhite, 92nd Civil Engineering Squadron chief of construction management.

At Selfridge, personnel from all services - not just the Air Force -- can recycle items such as paper, cardboard, toner cartridges, batteries, plastics, CDs, and light bulbs at the base recycling center, Bldg. 180 (behind the civil engineering building).

To help emphasize the importance of individual efforts, the Air Force is promoting a "Blue Acts of Green" social media page. Selfridge Airmen and their families are encouraged to visit the site at www.facebook.com/blueactsofgreen to commit to perform an act of "green" at home or work to benefit the environment and prevent pollution.

"We must make a habit of being green, making the most of all the resources we use and looking for opportunities to conserve today for a secure tomorrow," said Erin Conaton, undersecretary of the Air Force and the Air Force senior sustainability officer.