Sustainability is not just about implementing Earth-friendly practices at the Exchange; it's also about promoting those practices at its 3,100 retail and fast-food facilities and among its 12.2 million authorized customers.

Actions towards fulfilling their sustainability goals have earned the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, known as The Exchange, the Sustainability Team award in the Secretary of the Army Environmental Awards Program for fiscal year 2010.

The Exchange's dual missions are to provide quality merchandise and services to authorized customers at uniform low prices, and to generate earnings to support U.S. Army and Air Force Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs. Its goal is to build a culture of loyalty, ownership, sustainability and continuous improvement.

Similar to the triple bottom line in the Army's Strategy for the Environment, the Exchange identifies "People - Planet - Benefit" as their focus. Profits gained through this approach support the MWR programs benefiting Soldiers and their families at hundreds of Army installations and remote locations around the world.

Reducing energy by requiring energy efficient equipment; reducing waste through a corporate-wide "Trash-4-Cash" recycling program; requiring all new construction to be silver certifiable by U.S. Green Building Council standards for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design; and modifying their logistics fleet to be more eco-friendly and, in-turn, decreasing petroleum-based product usage are a few of the actions the Exchange has taken that have netted them significant cost savings. Those savings directly translate to additional services for Soldiers and Families.

Exchange leadership emphasizes its sustainability vision and goals through worldwide distribution of information products that publicize how the company, its associates and its customers impact the environment.

"To encourage Earth-friendly initiatives, the Exchange established a sustainability awards program to recognize superior sustainability performance," said Maj. Gen. Bruce Casella, commander of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service. "Reducing energy, water consumption and waste generation is a win-win situation for all, making partnerships between the Exchange and installations crucial.

This month we recognized the Exchange at Joint Base Lewis-McChord as our most Sustainable CONUS Exchange for 2010. They are a great example of serving our customer, conserving energy and being environmental leaders in the military community."

However, what truly impressed the environmental awards judges was how the Exchange is sharing the actions and successes that demonstrate their commitment with franchisees, customers and others.

By collaborating with their franchise partners, the Exchange is able to have a major influence on the food industry worldwide. Installing batch broilers at Burger King, implementing dry lines at Taco Bell restaurants to prepare food without electrically heated steam, energy-efficient ovens at Anthony's Pizza; menu boards that use light emitting diode, more commonly called LED, technology at Charley's Grilled Subs; making energy-efficient equipment standard at Exchange facilities, and promoting the same with food service equipment, makes a huge impact on the environment. It also was part of the reason they won the 2010 Federal Energy and Water Management Award, in addition to the Secretary of the Army's award.

The Exchange also uses Energy Star equipment in its facilities and promotes the sale of energy-efficient appliances, electronics, lighting and home supplies to military shoppers worldwide.

Print advertisements and brochures, coupon books, catalogs, and signage produced by the Exchange's marketing directorate are used to get the sustainability message out and remind its shoppers to use Earth-friendly products and practice Earth-friendly recycling. Exchange facilities also provide cash incentives for the use of recycled and reusable "Green to Go" canvas shopping bags.

The Exchange leadership's willingness to participate in numerous pilot projects testing new technologies also is recognized by the Secretary of the Army Environmental Award.

One pilot test, which began with replacing high-intensity discharge lighting on gas pump canopies with LED technology resulted in 46 gas canopy LED retrofits at Army installations. The lights are 75 percent more efficient, last up to 10 times longer, payback in 3-5 years, and as an unexpected benefit, have improved product marketing and security, while reducing nighttime sky pollution. As a follow-on pilot program, the Exchange is replacing fluorescent lights in reach-in coolers with LED technology and installing occupancy sensors.

Exchange leadership has demonstrated their commitment to positive stewardship in relation to environmentally-friendly practices and tasked their subordinates to surpass sustainability goals by incorporating sustainability actions and objectives into normal business practices.

"Just as the Exchange is committed to providing the best shopping experience for our military customers, we are determined to set the standard for exceptional environmental stewardship in the military retail community," said Mr. Michael Howard, chief operating officer of the Exchange.

The Exchange continues to participate in pilot projects such as the USGBC's LEED for Retail program, in which they helped develop standards for retail facilities, an energy management and control system for a convenience store at Ft. Hood, and offices and restaurant trial of new energy efficient equipment. Potentially, equipment will control and monitor lighting; heating, ventilation and air conditions equipment; exhaust fans; refrigeration equipment; and food preparation equipment.

The simple changes being made by the Exchange have a big impact when implementing those changes across a large corporation. Installing 154 automatic faucets in restrooms reduces water usage by 70 percent compared to traditional fixtures. Selling used cooking oil and grease from 290 Army installation food facilities removes 2 million pounds of vegetable oil from the waste stream and recycles it into valuable resources such as animal feed. Changing to automatic paper towel dispensers that enable adjustment for sheet length, time delay and one-at-a-time towel dispensing along with installing compact tissues with no cores, wrappers, or corrugated cases, reduces manufacturing and shipping fuels, and decreases landfill waste by an estimated 363,000 pounds per year.

The Exchange's across-the-board commitment to sustainability and implementation of innovative techniques and technologies has made them a winner in the Secretary of the Army Environmental Awards Program and positions them to successfully represent the Army in the Secretary of Defense Environmental Award competition later this year.