The South Dakota Army National Guard (SDARNG) was recently named a Runner Up for the 2019 Secretary of the Army Environmental Award in the Sustainability -- Team/Individual category. That has not slowed the Sustainability Team, in part because they continue setting loftier goals.

SDARNG encompasses more than 3,100 Soldiers in 22 communities. At the center of the organization is Camp Rapid, a training resource and home to the Joint Forces Headquarters.

The Sustainability Team, co-located at JFHQ, is charged with maintaining compliance and improving sustainable management throughout the state. In the past few years, the Team achieved outstanding results, successfully transforming the environmental culture of the SDARNG and its communities to create a greener, more resilient state for all.

Prior to FY16, SDARNG was not fully engaged in recycling and solid waste diversion goals of at least 50 percent of non-hazardous solid waste annually, holding steady at 11--17 percent.

That year, the Environmental Quality Control Committee (EQCC) established a solid waste diversion program, and the Sustainability Team created a massive, hands-on education campaign targeting every SDARNG Soldier, staff member, and tenant.

Results were dramatic: waste diversion rates spiked statewide to 50 percent the quarter after training, thus meeting mandates, but the Team set an even higher goal (61%) and met that!

"Many factors made them successful," said Emily Beck, SDARNG environmental conservation and compliance manager. "For starters, they identified each facility's risks and conducted on-site Environmental Performance Assessment System (EPAS) audits that introduced waste diversion--a customized recycling roadshow, of sorts."

The Sustainability Team also introduced positive peer pressure, establishing a 'Caught in the Act' incentive to acknowledge effective units and encourage friendly competition. They helped SDARNG facilities find local recyclers, which was particularly helpful in rural communities with few vendors.

They encouraged units to work together, as well--perhaps opting to drop off recyclable materials to nearby armories or stockpiling materials for regular transport to Camp Rapid.

The efforts clearly paid off. Diversion and disposal rates jumped in two years, nearly achieving the 61 percent goal for FY17--FY18. Diversion of construction and demolition debris now results in the recapture of sheet metal, asphalt shingles, concrete, and more. Concrete barriers from one project were listed on a state auction site, where farmers purchased them for agricultural use.

Soldiers have enjoyed the cultural shift throughout the SDARNG. The Team introduced a single-sort recycling collection during the Golden Coyote Annual Training Exercise in FY17, collecting over 25,000 pounds of recyclable materials from the field in two weeks. They topped that in FY18 when they collected more than 25 tons. The entire project cost virtually nothing, as local businesses supplied pallets and collection containers.

The Team's ongoing inspections and training instill accountability within units. Enhanced spill control and prevention training, for instance, led to a seven-fold increase in spill reporting. The Sustainability Team is currently revamping the SDARNG's Qualified Recycling Program to generate additional funds for Morale, Welfare, and Recreation. Sales of brass and other metals the past several years generated over $70,000 to support sustainability initiatives.

The Hazardous Materials Inventory and Pharmacy is yet another achievement. The "pharmacy" lets units share materials rather than dispose of them or purchase new. The Team also rewrote the Hazardous Waste Management plan, tailored to actual operations at specific sites. Keeping all plans for the Sustainability program current helps maintain the SDARNG's outstanding compliance record.

The Sustainability Team achieved its goals without sharp funding increases--instead fostering community outreach, volunteerism, and donations. Additionally, their results saved disposal costs and generated recycling revenue.

Members participate in fairs and Earth Day events, as well as work with schools and Scout groups. This vibrant education program supports the SDARNG ethics of environmental accountability well beyond facility boundaries.

All of the Sustainability Team's undertakings directly support the SDARNG's commitment to achieving waste diversion goals and achieving compliance.

The Team's continued success is an important reminder that when you accomplish one mission, it may be time to set another.