Marines celebrate Earth Day the Corps way

22 Apr 2011 | Lance Cpl. Christofer P. Baines

The Marine Corps is renowned for protecting the nation’s freedoms, but every day when Marines train to fight, they protect the environment as well. For Marines every day is Earth Day.

The public trusts the Corps with more than 2.3 million acres to train its Marines, as a result, they train on an almost daily basis to conserve and protect the precious resources that reside within those boundaries.

“Sound environmental practices minimize our logistical requirements, reduce operational costs and enhance force security, making the environment a key consideration in the sustainability of our mission as a force in readiness,” said Gen. James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps. “Earth Day offers an opportunity for the Marine Corps to promote our proactive role in protecting our people, our bases and our planet.”

After the National Environmental Protection Act of 1969 was signed into law, Earth Day was established the following year to raise awareness of environmental issues nationwide. The Marine Corps theme for Earth Day this year is “Preserving our resources, protecting our future,” highlighting the Corps’ mission of environmental excellence for a more efficient force and keeping true to the intent of the NEPA.

Bases around the world are hosting numerous events. Shoreline cleanups, nature walks, educational fairs and periods of less electricity usage are just a few examples of what Marines can expect. At Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., a single cleanup has rendered spectacular results.

“In one day alone we collected over a ton of trash from Northeast Creek in the [New River, N.C.,] area,” said John Townsend, director, Environmental Management, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. “We have a broader cleanup effort scheduled for May as well.”

Though clean-ups render immediate results, education is key to a positive long term impact.

“Environmental education gives people the knowledge they need to do the right thing,” said Townsend.

People can make better decisions when they know about their impact on the environment and how they can benefit, he said. It all comes down to individuals.

Successes like the composting system at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., which can process food waste and reduce waste volume, show that the Marine Corps has been making great headway in waste reduction.

Not to mention, the base is the home of numerous archaeological sites, preserving precious cultural resources.

The Combat Center also won a Secretary of the Navy Environmental Award for its extensive solar energy program.

The Combat Center’s ultimate goal is to meet 50 percent of its energy needs through renewable sources, said Gary Morrisett, energy manager, Utility and Energy Branch at the Combat Center.

Twenty-nine percent of waste from all Marine Corps installations is recycled. Materials such as metals, woods, paper and plastics are spared a fate in a landfill and achieve a more beneficial fate.  

The Marine Corps wants to recycle as much as possible, with the ultimate goal of minimizing waste that ends up in landfills, said Ahmed Ferguson, program manager for utilities and recycling.

The Combat Center is only one of many Marine Corps installations worldwide that have environmental awards for efforts in recycling, energy conservation and overall environmental excellence, ultimately saving the Marine Corps millions of dollars in the coming years and benefitting the planet.

At its roots the Marine Corps is an organization designed to be a force in readiness that deploys its power on land, air and from the sea.  But Earth Day provides an alternate view of the Marine Corps.  It’s an opportunity to see Marines as protectors of this nation’s liberty as well as caretakers of environmental resources and surroundings.

Headquarters Marine Corps