ARLINGTON, Va. (5/15/13) - With green initiatives taking the United States by storm, it can be difficult to imagine a time when environmental consciousness did not exist.
"I started reading about this thing called sustainability and thinking that we should really get on board with this and make some positive long-term changes," Dorenda Coleman, the Sustainability Manager for the Arizona Army National Guard (AZARNG), said. That was eight years ago, when Coleman began working with the AZARNG.
Now, she has been named a winner of the Secretary of Defense Environmental Security Awards, presented in the sustainability, individual/team category.
The awards have been presented each year since 1962, when the department began honoring "individuals, teams and installations for environmental excellence that support quality of life and increase efficiencies without compromising mission success," according to a memo that announced the winners.
Since the day when Coleman came to work for the AZARNG and chose to take a job as an environmental management systems manager over a position in budgeting, she has built the AZARNG’s sustainability program from a buzzword into an important piece of the AZARNG’s operations.
Now, Coleman and the sustainability program simultaneously educate all AZARNG Soldiers and staff about sustainability while protecting AZARNG training sites, facilities and readiness centers from development encroachment that would threaten the AZARNG’s operations.
Over the past two years Coleman has been the mastermind behind a number of sustainability initiatives. She was recognized by the National Guard Bureau for her efforts in sustainability with a 3rd place award in the 2012 Environmental Security Awards and went on to represent the National Guard and win the Sustainability award from the Army Environmental Awards Program.
"Dorenda Coleman has been a key component in our success with our program," Lt. Col. Robert Moscarello, the construction and facility maintenance officer for the AZARNG, said. "With her knowledge and experience she has been able to mentor the leadership on how to develop a program and its successful execution. She assisted us in finding enduring solutions through innovative approaches and increased future options by promoting environmental stewardship."
Coleman helped create an operations-wide culture of sustainability by establishing interdepartmental sustainability teams. This also helps her better manage and pursue sustainability initiatives throughout the state.
"The best thing about sustainability is that it opens up lines of communication. It brings players to the table that have their fingers in the ‘pie’ so to speak," she said.
"Other government agencies and private organizations are surprised by how much we are involved in promoting environmental stewardship," Moscarello said.
The AZARNG has a team dedicated to infrastructure and utilities, one for materials management, one for community outreach, and one for readiness. Each team works to develop and achieve the goals of the strategic sustainability performance plan. This plan is a living document that takes input and feedback from the sustainability teams.
The sustainability teams have representatives not only from the environmental department but also from the U.S. Property and Fiscal Office, Purchasing, Engineering, Information Technology, Human Resources, GSA Vehicle, Procurement, and Custodial departments.
"Once people get started talking about an issue they suddenly realize they do have an impact and that they can make a difference," Coleman said. "Now apply that to water, energy, green procurement, and fuel usage, and you’ve got an effort that affects cost and ultimately mission."
One way that the AZARNG is getting employees involved in sustainability is through converting to a 10-hour, four-day workweek. This initiative decreases travel for Soldiers and staff, which decreases emissions and allows the AZARNG to reduce the amount of water and electricity consumed.
"Our employees love it," Coleman said. "They get that extra day off to spend with their family or do errands that on a normal Saturday/Sunday off schedule they wouldn’t be able to do. So now they have a day off to do those errands and don’t have to use sick time or vacation time for them.
Coleman said that all federal employees are currently on the 4-10 schedule and that the installation is transitioning state employees to the same schedule.
"There has been no disruption in business as everyone knows to make adjustments," she said.
Coleman put her environmental expertise to good use during the recent restoration and modernization of the historic Camp Navajo 1 Building. "Part of our duty is to protect historic buildings and not tear them down," she said. "We wanted to be an example to other installations that you can have both."
Building 1 was originally a World War II storage and distribution point for military equipment and supplies. The renovation maintained and enhanced the building’s historic character. For example, the installation installed energy-efficient windows to resemble the building’s original windows.
Not only did the renovation of Building 1 earn LEED Silver certification, but the project was also completed for at least $10 million less than the cost of demolition and new construction. The project earned points toward LEED Silver certification by diverting more than 90% of construction waste from landfills, reusing 75% of building materials, and reducing overall water usage by 30%. Camp Navajo’s headquarters are now located in Building 1.
LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, consists of a suite of rating systems for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings, homes and neighborhoods, according to Wikipedia.
"Our goal always was to teach and show others that you can take a historic building and bring it up to LEED standard," said Coleman, who has assisted with the certification of the AZARNG’s first two Gold and second LEED Silver buildings. "In an era of lower budgets it makes sense to use what you have and bring it up to standard. The cost is substantially lower than if you were constructing a new building."
The AZARNG is taking advantage of Arizona’s abundance of sun to help it accomplish Net Zero energy status for energy, water, and other resource use.
"It’s a lofty goal to be sure," Coleman said. "For us it’s more of a security issue" than an energy savings issue. "We want to be able to sustain our mission if something should happen that we would need to utilize Camp Navajo as an emergency operation center." Coleman added that Camp Navajo is the base that is farthest away from the city of Phoenix and that it probably would be the least impacted from any event that might affect Phoenix.
This year the AZARNG implemented a pilot program for a solar parking lot at Papago Park Military Reservation in Phoenix. The 20-car site provides covered parking for vehicles and the top of the parking structure is covered in solar panels. The electricity generated feeds directly to the lot’s structures, thereby reducing the need for electricity purchase.
"Camp Navajo is also in Northern Arizona which can experience some crazy weather," Coleman said of the need for a self-sufficient power source. "Plus from a cost point of view if we can create and use our own energy that’s a bonus."
Coleman’s sustainability efforts extend beyond the AZARNG. "She is a dynamic employee who has a lot of energy and can make things happen," Moscarello said. "She loves getting out and working with the public to inform them of all the great things that the Arizona National Guard is doing to support sustainability goals."
She recently worked with Arizona State University (ASU) to develop a graduate certificate program in sustainability, the first such collaborative program of its kind.
"I’m proud that NGB choose me to work with ASU as the sustainability subject matter expert," Coleman said. "It was an amazing opportunity to work with some great folks at ASU in developing the sustainability certificate program."
Graduate students, both Soldiers and civilians, encounter sustainability opportunities and challenges that are relevant to today’s missions and operations of the Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve. An online component allows for Soldiers to take part in the program anywhere in the world.
The program includes five courses with titles like "Operationalizing Sustainability," "Energy and the Built Environment," and "Sustainable Acquisition and Logistics."
"It’s unbelievable the amount of work that goes into the making of five courses," Coleman said.
Coleman is also assisting with the development of the NGB Joint Energy Strategy, which will bring the Army Guard and Air Guard together to create a joint sustainability plan. Coleman said that combined efforts on the same goals will give the team more leverage to complete projects and distribute awareness materials.
"With limited budgets and resources it makes sense to combine those assets and use your budgets wisely," she said."As a whole, the military can be very reactive as opposed to proactive. I like how sustainability moves you to be proactive and think about making changes today that will benefit the Guard in the future, short term and long term," Coleman said.