By JC Kreidel, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Public Affairs
NORFOLK (NNS) -- Employees of Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic (NAVFAC Atlantic) celebrated Earth Day with good food as well as environmental conservation information April 22.
Appropriately, Mother Nature cooperated, offering up beautiful Hampton Roads weather aboard the command's Elizabeth River Annex complex for the festivities, recognizing the 45th anniversary of this nationwide program.
Several exhibitors were on hand including the Hampton Roads Transit, to showcase their TRAFFIX program, underscoring the many benefits of ridesharing, vanpool and public transit initiatives.
NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic, one of six subcommands it oversees, offered Loblolly Pine tree seedlings to attendees, as a means of extending the reach of environmental consciousness for years to come.
Denise Thompson, manager of the City of Norfolk's Environmental Protection Programs was also on hand, calling the military a key partner in conservation. The solar power farm the Navy built at Monkey Bottom two-and-a-half years ago just outside Norfolk Naval Station signals the military's commitment to the region's environment.
The 10-acre project, the largest in the Commonwealth of Virginia, shows "the Navy is a real leader when it comes to conservation," said Thompson "and it contributes to our local grid."
Norfolk has made environmental sustainability one of its top priorities and Thompson says the Navy is a big part of that, and is a leader in developing LEED-certified buildings. She often sees its men and women in uniform, and its civilian employees, devoting personal time to improving the regional ecology, participating in many of the city's conservation efforts such as pulling trash out of wetlands, planting trees and oysters.
Military commands in the area have long been engaged in a variety of programs to reduce the impact we have on the environment. Greg Jeanguenat, Integrated Solid Waste and Recycling site manager, overseeing the Naval Station Norfolk recycling program says he values Earth Day events as another opportunity to build awareness, saying "We need to be thinking of it (the environment) every waking moment because it's our planet and we need to take that seriously."
It's a sentiment shared by NAVFAC Atlantic's Environmental Business line manager, Joe Cirvello, who sponsored the Earth Day activities. "Earth Day gives a chance to get a booster shot, if you will, so we can be mindful and more engaged in conservation every other day of the year."
The Integrated Solid Waste and Recycling Program, to include and trash management, has thrived in Hampton Roads with more than 14,000 tons of recycled product captured annually, half of which is from Naval Station Norfolk alone. It's a program that proves it literally pays to be green.
The program's success stems from the capture of metals, cardboard, plastics and paper from every Navy base in the region. Every little bit adds up, and according to Jeanguenat, the 100,000 pounds of classified paper, shredded pierside for the convenience of the ships once was a major cost for disposal. Now the paper is processed into easily shipped "pucks," something paper manufacturers are willing to now buy from the Navy to create recycled paper goods.
While environmentalism is a command priority, it also has great significance on a personal level. David James, NAVFAC Atlantic Natural Resources Branch manager, oversees wetland and offsite habitat mitigation in his day job, but says conservation ideally trickles into the personal lives of all NAVFAC employees.
"My family lives on a tidal creek. My kids group up on the water and I taught them basic wetlands ecology," he says. Such exposure to ecologically safe boating helped his son with a job he landed this summer, supporting the boat rental fleet at Naval Station Norfolk Marina.
Though his kids have grown up, James often taught middle school and high school students about regional conservation awareness. James says developing awareness at an early age works because the kids end up engaging their parents and get the family interested in conservation.