By Karl Weisel, USAG WiesbadenDecember 17, 2008
WIESBADEN, Germany - Efforts to heighten environmental awareness, reduce operating costs and save resources by U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden paid off as the garrison received the prestigious Oekoprofit Certificate Dec. 2 from Wiesbaden Lord Mayor Helmut MAfA1/4ller and other city officials at Wiesbaden's Rathaus (town hall).
This marked the culmination of a year-long initiative dedicated to promoting and improving environmental management in the garrison.
"We're the first city in Hessen to do this," said Wiesbaden's lord mayor, explaining that while the program continues to expand - next year it will also include a partnership with Mainz - having strong, pro-active involvement by the U.S. Army and private businesses and public institutions is beneficial to everyone who lives and works in the region. "It's a trustworthy relationship between the city of Wiesbaden and the partners in Oekoprofit."
Since the Oekoprofit initiative was launched in 2000, roughly $3.2 million a year has been recouped in energy savings, waste reduction and resource allocation initiatives, MAfA1/4ller said.
"This is recognition and certification by the lord mayor of Wiesbaden of the garrison's efforts in Oekoprofit - a process that started in October 2007," said Kader Guerba, program team leader. "Our projects consisted of environmental and energy conservation assessment of three sites on Wiesbaden Army Airfield including a hangar, motor pool and dining facility."
As part of Oekoprofit, members of USAG Wiesbaden's team participated in workshops, site visits and consultation by fellow Oekoprofit partners and subject matter experts. Representatives of local companies and agencies joined the garrison team to find better ways of using valuable resources.
"Oekoprofit is designed to help institutions improve their compliance with environmental standards, reduce operational costs and to be more efficient," said Guerba. "We went through the Oekoprofit cycle for a year, we met the requirements and successfully completed the process. ... The results are more efficient investments. We ended up with improved facilities and more energy efficiency."
"This is a mutual effort," said Alwin Garcia, chief of the Environmental Division for USAG Wiesbaden. "They are our neighbors."
Forming strong partnerships with city and government officials to ensure continued support and compliance were among the strong points of the year-long effort, Garcia said, adding that while the garrison already had a strong environmental program supported by the garrison leadership, Oekoprofit helps promote continued focus on environmental issues and conservation of natural resources.
"At this point," said Garcia, "the garrison is conducting a comprehensive energy consumption study to look at ways to reduce even further our energy consumption and waste generation in future projects. That's part of sustainability - dedicating resources to protect and conserve resources and the environment."
Guerba. "This garrison went the extra mile to join in this cooperative effort. We took the initiative to get in close contact with the regulators.
"What's more important is getting building owners' or occupants' full cooperation," said Guerba, "because they are the ones who will make things happen. They are the ones using the equipment, facilities, etc."
"We pay a small fee to join Oekoprofit to find ways we can be better stewards of the natural resources," said David Holt, USAG Wiesbaden's director of public works.
One of the paybacks of having German city and state environmental authorities visit Wiesbaden Army Airfield is providing a first-hand look at how the garrison manages its environmental program, he said.
"It allows the group to come in and see how we do business - how robust and compliant we are with host nation and U.S. environmental laws. Immediate to us is that we get great feedback for achieving cost savings," said Holt. "And equally important is the goodwill we generate with German regulators, local officials and private business leaders."
During this year's initiative, one of the improvements was installation of radiant heat panels in aircraft hangar ceilings, Holt said, explaining that the improved heating saves electricity and resources.
"This project helped us successfully compete for IMCOM funding to replace heat systems in the other base hangars," said Holt.
Another project saw the installation of a consolidated Recycling Center near Building 1036 on Wiesbaden Army Airfield to better control community disposal needs while reducing disposal costs through proper sorting.
"We developed a very good relationship," said Klaus Lamprecht, the lead regulatory official for the Wiesbaden Lower Water Authority, about working with the U.S. Army. While officials initially had concerns that water systems were not in compliance with local national laws, by getting a close-up look at airfield operations, city and state officials were reassured about the garrison's and Army's environmental programs. "It was a process that developed. ... It was a very positive development."
Lamprecht added that with U.S. Army Europe headquarters and other units moving to Wiesbaden, it's even more important to have established strong cooperation between the city of Wiesbaden and the garrison. "If it continues like this then it will be a very positive relationship."
During the ceremony in Wiesbaden's town hall, City Councilor Rita Thies stressed how working together through the Oekoprofit initiative "helps the economy and ecology." She also pointed out the many ways companies have found to better manage their energy, waste and resources while reducing future costs.
The ceremony also welcomed next year's Oekoprofit team members, including USAG Wiesbaden. Now the garrison will focus on improving energy and environmental management of the Wiesbaden Army Airfield Fitness Center.