The Natick Soldier Systems Center workforce was trained on the importance of "greening" the Army mission during a recent green procurement training session in Hunter Auditorium.

According to the U.S. Army Public Health Command, or USAPHC, there are hundreds of ways to go green. Just ask Soldiers who have used absorbent made of crushed walnut shells to clean up their oil spills in the motor pool.

To ensure a healthier workplace and environment, a Department of Defense mandate was issued in 2004 instructing all DOD facilities to purchase green products. Green procurement is the purchase of environmentally preferable products that are made with recycled, less toxic or biobased materials. To be certified green, products have to benefit the environment, protect human health, or conserve natural resources.

Although buying some green products may cost more up front, on a long-term basis, the cost to our nation is minimized. Buying energy- and water-efficient products conserves these resources, and the money diverted from energy and water can then be spent on military programs and the Soldier.

In the 1970s, the federal government recognized the need to identify areas requiring improvement. One of the first areas acknowledged was recycling.

Pat Rippey, an environmental scientist at USAPHC, said programs to support U.S. recycling grew into today's federal purchasing preference programs.

"There wasn't enough incentive to make recyclable products, because no one was buying them," said Rippey. "The first affirmative procurement of recycled products was in the federal regulations."

The DOD goal is to achieve 100 percent compliance with mandatory Federal Green Procurement Programs, or GPP, in all acquisition transactions.

Going green not only sustains the workplace and the environment, but it also creates jobs and saves money.

Rippey said greening our installation doesn't fall solely on the shoulders of management.

"Everybody is responsible (and) makes decisions every day about products and services," Rippey said.

Rippey would like to change the attitude that "we can't green this" into "how can we green this?" She provided many examples where DOD is doing just that, from water-efficient food service equipment to biobased cleaning products used on aircraft.

Richard Valcourt, the garrison environmental engineer, said Natick is working hard to do its part.

"People need to be aware that there are different programs here that are already working on sustainability issues, and we just need to emphasize those amongst one another," Valcourt said.

Beginning the process of going green isn't as difficult as some may think.

"It starts with greening your surroundings, your office environment, your laboratory," said Rippey, "and we have to now make the leap to greening the mission."

Rippey added that the end result is for the Soldier to be greener and, ultimately, healthier.