It starts with the individual Marine, but Marine Corps installations around the world have organized activities to increase awareness of environmental issues in honor of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day April 22.
The events focus on the importance of energy conservation, water intensity reduction and waste reduction, said Joanna Curlin, an environmental specialist with the Land Use and Military Construction Branch, Headquarters Marine Corps.
“Participation in Earth Day activities raises awareness levels regarding our environmental impact and highlights the many ways that the Marine Corps safeguards the Earth and its resources while still accomplishing our military mission,” she said.
Activities vary from base to base, and include cleanup efforts and presentations on the benefits of protecting the environment, Curlin added.
“Just pick up the trash and throw it away,” said Lance Cpl. Penitila Leapaga III, a personnel and audits clerk with Headquarters and Service Battalion, Headquarters Marine Corps, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Arlington, Va. “It’s like field day, except this is for the whole world.”
The increasing cost of energy and dwindling natural resources has made energy efficiency an important goal for the Marine Corps, said Scott Houldsworth, the energy program manager for Facilities Branch, Headquarters Marine Corps. Last year, Gen. James T. Conway, the commandant of the Marine Corps, released guidance on how Marines can support a national pledge to reduce greenhouse gasses and dependence on foreign oil. Becoming more efficient is a goal for the entire service, but individual Marines can help by remembering some easy tasks that help reduce waste.
“It starts at the individual level, like turning off the lights and making sure the equipment is turned off properly,” Houldsworth said.
In Conway’s 2010 report to Congress on the posture of the Marine Corps, the commandant set three long-term goals for every Marine. These goals include reducing energy consumption by 30 percent by 2015, reducing water consumption by 2 percent each year through 2020, and increasing the use of alternative energy at Marine installations to 50 percent of the total energy consumed by 2020.
To help this goal, the Marine Corps created the Expeditionary Energy Office, which evaluates ways of increasing energy efficiency at forward operating bases and in combat. Already, Marines in Afghanistan are using spray-on insulation on their tents to keep cool in the summer and warm in the winter. At Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Marines are testing alternative fuels to reduce the need to ship fuel to Afghanistan.
Col. Bob Charette, the director of the energy office, said being more efficient in the remote areas of Afghanistan will reduce the need for resupply convoys, the main target of improvised explosive devices.
“Every Marine should understand that things like water and energy don’t just appear,” said Charette. “Our fellow Marines bring that in, and by being more efficient we can take them out of harm’s way.”
While the primary goal of the energy office is to increase the efficiency of Marines in combat, Charette said he is aware they are accomplishing much more then that with their mission.
“If by improving our combat effectiveness we also help the environment – it’s a win-win,” he said.