One person makes a sustainable difference
April 19, 2013
Sustainability looks at managing your impact on everything, according Ms. Dorenda Coleman, winner of the 2012 Secretary of the Army Environmental Award for Sustainability in the team or individual category.
Judges selected the Arizona Army National Guard sustainability manager over 11 teams and one other individual nomination from across the Army for her efforts in integrating sustainability concepts throughout the Arizona ARNG in fiscal year 2012.
Coleman started working in the Arizona ARNG environmental department in 2005 as the person responsible for implementing ISO 14001, Environmental Management System (EMS). When she heard about sustainability, she said it sounded like EMS on steroids.
"Like EMS, sustainability is about supporting the mission and ensuring we can continue into the future, short term and long term," said Coleman. "However, sustainability looks beyond managing the impact of operations on the environment, to determine how to manage impacts on everything."
Realizing that sustainability had to be integrated throughout ARNG operations to be successful, Coleman established four interdepartmental teams and a cross-functional network of support dedicated to infrastructure and utilities; materials management; community outreach, and readiness.
The teams incorporate members from ARNG sites and facilities throughout Arizona. Members come from the environmental department, but also include representation from the property and fiscal office, purchasing, engineering, information technology, human resources, fleet management, procurement and custodial departments. The teams are focused on the Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan and the goals laid out in that plan.
To support the Army's emphasis on Net Zero Energy, Coleman is assisting with the development of the NGB Joint Energy Strategy, which will help set a national standard for conservation, fossil fuel use reduction, pollution prevention, and alternative energy use, as well as securing energy and water resources to ensure long-term mission viability.
With Coleman's leadership, the Arizona ARNG opened up a solar parking lot as a pilot program in 2012. 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.
Coleman is always looking for opportunities to improve the sustainability of Arizona ARNG's operations. She worked with the AZARNG command to initiate a new conservation initiative this year that saves resources, decreases costs, and enhances safety. The Infrastructure and Utilities Team established by Coleman continues to implement use reduction initiatives and technological upgrades in order to reduce facility energy.
Sustainability recommendations will result in huge energy and operating cost reductions with the implementation of a 10-hour, four-day workweek throughout the AZARNG installation. This change will mean less commuting for soldiers and staff, which will increase safety and lower emissions. It also allows the AZARNG to shut down hundreds of buildings for one day each week, decreasing water and electricity consumption .
In addition, Coleman has been expanding sustainability education and training across the Arizona ARNG. To better educate existing Army and Army Guard Soldiers and personnel, as well as prepare the next generation of sustainability professionals, Coleman worked closely with Arizona State University (ASU) to develop and launch a Sustainability Leadership Graduate Certificate program.
This certificate program is the first of its kind, bringing together the unique viewpoints and requirements of the military and the Army Guard with the academic community in the field. Though the courses are tailored to the National Guard and its operations, the class is open to civilian students as well, demonstrating the cross-compatibility of the military's sustainability practices, techniques and approaches.
"Culture change is a huge part of any shift in thinking and these courses really will help initiate that culture change in the Army and the Army National Guard," Coleman said. "It took about three years to develop and get off of the ground. I'm truly thankful I had the opportunity to work on this program," she said.
In addition to the ASU partnership, Coleman has established strong collaborative relationships with Northern Arizona University, the Arizona Air and Water Trust, the Arizona Water Association, the Pinal County Partnership, the Western Regional Partnership, a coalition of federal, state, and defense agencies involved in sustainability issues, and others.
Coleman and the Arizona ARNG hosted a sustainability partnership workshop in 2012, bringing together 30 potential partners, including universities and local, federal and state agencies to work toward shared sustainability goals. One outcome of this workshop has been a new pilot project with Northern Arizona University to begin producing liquid methanol as an alternative fuel for military vehicles, a component of long-term net zero goals.
The Arizona Air and Water Trust is another ARNG valuable partner that assists with purchasing and managing easements and the associated administrative work, through the Army Compatible Use Buffer program. This helps further conservation goals for both organizations, while saving tens of thousands of dollars each year in terms of staff and resource management costs for the AZARNG, who continues to receive encroachment protection.
As the Sustainability Manager of the Arizona ARNG, Dorenda Coleman is at the core of all sustainability undertakings across the AZARNG's training sites, readiness centers, and mission facilities, and is deeply integrated into operations at every level. Coleman's leadership and management of the many facets of sustainability, from encroachment protection to green construction to recycling to energy and resource conservation has been key to integrating sustainable practices and awareness into the Arizona ARNG culture.