WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 12, 2010) - It's really not that difficult to be green. If you doubt that, have a seat at the picnic table behind Building 45 at U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center, Natick, Mass., and talk with Richard Valcourt.

"The picnic (table) ... that we're sitting at right now is made of recyclable materials," said Valcourt, an environmental engineer with Natick's Directorate of Public Works, who slapped the bench with his hand for emphasis. "You are sitting at a table that will not rot. This picnic table is not going anywhere, at least not in our lifetime."

Valcourt recently used the table as one small example of "green procurement" - the move to buy environmentally friendly products and services, which is gathering momentum at Natick.
"Green procurement has been happening," Valcourt said. "Sometimes people are doing it without ... even knowing it."

In pursuit of their sustainability goals, the Army and the Department of Defense require purchases that consider the environment, along with cost and mission. Among products to look for when buying green are those made with recycled content or bio-based products, those that are energy or water efficient, alternative fuels or vehicles, renewable energy sources and sustainable building materials.

"Does it use less natural resources to manufacture that piece, that widget'" Valcourt asked. "Or is the widget itself made of some recyclable content'

"When its material has exceeded its lifetime, or its life cycle, what do you do with that product' Is it hazardous waste' Is it solid waste' You also have to look at it from start to finish, so you have to look at the whole life cycle."

People always ask Valcourt why they should buy green. He said there are benefits for the environment, sustainability and compliance with federal regulations.

"We're still getting the message out," Valcourt said. "Now (green procurement is) truly being emphasized."

According to Natick's Green Procurement Plan, "The (Soldier Systems Center) has a distinct and significant role regarding (green procurement) in that the center provides the technology, research, development, engineering, fielding and sustainment of the U.S. military's food, clothing, shelters, airdrop systems, and Soldier support items.

"Therefore, the missions of SSC partners have global impact on the materials acquired and used by DOD entities. The SSC's (Green Procurement Program) will institute the established procurement preferences to the maximum extent possible, both in procurement of products and services used at the Natick facility and in the development and production of items supporting the war fighter."

Valcourt termed the plan "a starting block," adding that "there's a lot in that plan."

Whether it's that picnic table or the energy-efficient windows in the Wood Building that houses the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, green procurement has found a home at NSSC."Everything's about efficiencies," Valcourt said. "Anything that is efficient is part of sustainability. This is our objective, to maximize green procurement."