Military facilities across the US are becoming some of the most polluted sites in the country according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Department of Defence (DoD) predict that a clean up will cost the services $165 billion. Whilst there are some barriers like cost, performance and compatibility with existing equipment, arms experts believe that sustainability has to become a priority. One division of the military in particular has started testing bio-based grease on all its vehicles. The US Air Force will be trialling the green innovation for the next twelve months to lessen the base’s impact on the environment. Members of the 441st Vehicle Support Chain Operations Squadron VSCOS will also partner with the Navy, Marine Corps, NASA and the Kennedy Space Center to test the bio-based grease in their vehicles. Bio-based grease is an environmentally friendly lithium-based product to replace petroleum based grease, but this is not all.
Tech Sergeant Kevin Moss, the 441st VSCOS vehicle programme manager said, “We do a lot of planning, research and working with different partners such as DLA and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense to select the random vehicles from several different bases to participate in this programme."
After the testing is complete, if the bio-based grease proves to be just as capable as the current grease being used, it will be substituted and used Air Force-wide and possibly Defense Department-wide. According to Moss, the environmentally-friendly bio-based grease aligns with the Air Force’s initiative to utilise more renewable or green materials and resources. One of the US bases situated in Virginia, JP Langley-Eustis places a great deal of pressure on its vehicles from tugging aircrafts to dealing with the varying temperature changes. Therefore, it will provide the perfect testing environment to reveal if the bio-based grease is suitable for operations.
To keep the integrity of the experiment, Joint Base Langley-Eustis was not the only base selected for testing. The other bases selected include Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, and Hill AFB, Utah. Each base was selected based on its diverse climates, unique mission capabilities and vehicle usage. Along with ensuring the positive impact on the environment, this test could potentially show if the maintainers are affected by the shift to eco-friendly products. By changing from a petroleum-based to a non-petroleum-based product, the research team expects vehicle maintenance life will extend, as well as decreasing the time between needed maintenance and the amount of work maintainers put in.
“I think it’s very important that the DoD leads the way in these activities because so many of us are doing this in our own civilian lives, off the installation, and are being subjected to the opportunity to buy sustainable products at home,” George Handy, Defense Logistics Agency programme manager said. “Bringing awareness of the DOD using sustainable products may encourage commercial sectors such as the railroad and farming industry to implement bio-based products, therefore reducing the impact on the environment.”
As the Air Force increases the use of sustainable products throughout everyday operations, Airmen gain the knowledge and opportunity to raise awareness of the benefits of going green.
“The Air Force is on the leading edge of technology,” Moss said. “Hopefully, we can use this initiative to become a greener fleet and reduce our carbon footprint. We are the world’s greatest Air Force. We fly, fight, win and push to reduce, reuse and recycle.”
What about bio-based oil?
The US Air Force burns through 2.4 billion gallons of jet fuel a year. This shocking statistic has spurred the DoD to begin testing bio-based oil in federal vehicles, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) have stated.
The tests, which include the use of oil that contains a 25-40 per cent mix derived from agricultural products such as canola or soybean oil as well as animal fats, are being trailled at four Air Force bases and a Department of Homeland Security facility. DLA said programme managers are looking to expand to other federal agencies soon. The Defense governing body also commented that it is conducting the tests in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory.
Bullets do not only kill people but evidence shows that they are also killing the environment, so the Department of Defense is requesting environmentally friendly ammunition for use during training exercises. The DoD are calling for its replacement with biodegradable alternatives pointing to materials used for manufacturing water bottles, plastic containers and other composite plastics already on the market today.
"Components of current training rounds require hundreds of years or more to biodegrade," states the Department of Defense. "Some of these rounds might have the potential to corrode and pollute the soil and nearby water."
They stipulate that the new ammunition should instead, contain seeds that produce food for animals: "This effort will make use of seeds to grow environmentally friendly plants that remove soil contaminants and consume the biodegradable components developed under this project. Animals should be able to consume the plants without any ill effects."
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