WASHINGTON -- The Minnesota Army National Guard has two main bases, the 53,000-acre Camp Riley Training Center, and the 1,500-acre Arden Hills Army Training Site; the MNARNG command’s responsibilities also include 62 facilities in 58 communities.
The MNARNG Sustainability Team is charged with securing the viability, resiliency, and efficiency of these sites. Their efforts directly support one of MNARNG’s priority actions to “Optimize Capabilities—establish a collaborative environment through sustainability efforts and resource efficiencies to improve global mobility, cyber, and support capabilities,” said Lori Ruff Sustainability Manager.
The team set their sights on implementing several comprehensive sustainability plans between 2019 and 2020 while working with community partners and internal cross-directorate groups, MNARNG Sustainability Working Group and the Office of Enterprise Sustainability, supporting implementation and helping to navigate licensing and permitting requirements.
The Joint Sustainability Master Plan focused on reducing energy use, increasing recycling, promoting a “greener” fleet with reduced emissions, and eliminating waste streams. The Adjutant General’s Campaign Plan also emphasizes sustainability projects vital to the MNARNG’s mission, particularly energy conservation, renewable energy production, and building new facilities to the LEED or SB2030 design standards. From these plans, the team identified multiple projects over a two-year period that would transform MNARNG’s overall footprint on the environment.
Renovation projects at St. Cloud Training and Community Center, Arden Hills Army Training Site, and the Inver Grove Heights TACC provided the perfect opportunity to take advantage of renewable energy. Overall the team installed six solar photovoltaic (PV arrays), producing 234 kilowatts of electricity. They also contributed to this building’s design phase, integrating features like geothermal heating and cooling, daylighting, and water-conserving fixtures.
To meet state and federal mandates for fuel-efficient or zero-emissions vehicles, the team obtained four Chevy Volt PHEVs for Camp Ripley’s staff. They also replaced older fleet vehicles with more fuel-efficient models, purchasing two Chrysler Pacificas, two Toyota Camrys, and one Toyota Rav4.
Other measures in the sustainability plans focused on reducing waste and water consumption. A previously piloted composting program at Camp Ripley’s dining facilities emphasized reducing waste by recycling plastics and aluminum, reducing Styrofoam use, and composting organic material by separating it from other miscellaneous trash items. This program has been expanded and includes education and awareness campaigns.
Though the pandemic disrupted operations, they tracked a diversion rate of over 37% by the third quarter of 2020, with 110 tons of material recycled. They also achieved 100% diversion rates for non-hazardous construction and demolition materials, recycling 62 tons of this debris in 2020.
Water consumption was also reduced over the two-year period. In 2019, cumulative water use intensity was 0.0123 kilogallons per square foot, and in 2020, the intensity dropped to 0.0088 kilogallons per square foot, a 28% reduction.
To further reduce water use, a turfgrass feasibility study started in July 2020 is expected to increase water reduction in 2021 and beyond. In addition to water conservation, the team looked at ways to improve water quality.
They identified potential harm to water resources through the unavoidable use of salt to treat icy roads, sidewalks, and parking lots during Minnesota winters. Salt is the most cost-effective treatment for ice on pavement. However, the overuse of salt leads to sodium chloride washing off roads and into surface and groundwater sources. This led to the “Smart Salting” program that provided training and awareness of over application.
The Sustainability Team is the cornerstone of the MNARNG’s long-term sustainability strategy. Their work has helped to slash waste and grow efficiencies across waste, water, and energy usage while realizing cost savings. For these reasons, the MNARNG was awarded the 2020 Secretary of the Army Environmental Award for Sustainability for a Team/Individual.
“The MNARNG Sustainability Team works with staff and units to instill sustainable practices within operations, empowering all components of the organization to enhance environmental activities while keeping the focus on installation readiness,” said Jay Brezinka, Environmental Program Manager.