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Eglin Air Force Base is the winner of the 2017 Secretary of Defense Environmental Award for Sustainability, Department of Defense officials announced this week.

The award is given to the installation that best extends the longevity of its resources by preventing or eliminating pollution at the source and practicing efficiency and sustainability in the use of raw materials, energy, waste, or other resources. Sustainable practices ensure the protection of valuable resources that are critical to mission success.

This is the sixth DOD environmental award Eglin AFB has won in the last seven years.

“Being recognized six times out of the last seven years as the best in the Department of Defense reflects the truly exceptional team we have guiding Eglin’s environmental stewardship,” said Brig. Gen. Christopher Azzano, commander of the 96th Test Wing. “I couldn’t be more proud of them, for their service and for demonstrating the complementary nature of our military mission and environmental conservation.”

“This team is truly a global leader in environmental and energy management,” Azzano added.

DOD officials said that Eglin’s environmental team displayed environmental leadership by recycling or reusing municipal solid waste, pursuing alternative energy sources, enhancing the prescribed burn program, and achieving designation as a clean and resilient installation.

The Eglin environmental division consists of more than 80 biologists, scientists, foresters, fire management specialists and engineers. They are responsible for managing a remarkable assemblage of biodiversity of distinct natural community types, the largest forested military reservation, and over 120,000 square miles of water ranges while enabling essential DOD missions.

Credit for the accomplishment goes well beyond the team at the 96th Civil Engineer Group, according to Maria Rodriguez, the 96th CEG environmental management chief.

“It’s definitely a reflection of the base leadership’s commitment to being good stewards of the environment,” said Rodriguez. “Understanding that the military missions here can thrive because our stewardship, not in spite of it, is key to having total buy-in to our management practices.”

Some of the accomplishments contributing to Eglin’s award-winning effort include:

  • Eglin recycles or reuses approximately 77 percent of the municipal solid waste it creates, exceeding the DOD goal by 27 percent, saving the base $3.5 million in waste disposal costs.
  • They furthered the national goal of pursuing alternative energy sources by facilitating and breaking ground for a 30-megawatt solar photovoltaic array project on 245 acres of Eglin property, raising Eglin’s percentage of renewable energy sources to 19 percent.
  • The team identified an increase in the number of reportable spills resulting from poor marina operations and worked with base personnel to adopt Florida Department of Environmental Protection practices and procedures to certify Eglin as one of only 10 other marinas in Florida to receive the Clean and Resilient designation. Since implementation, marina oil spills have been reduced to near zero.
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