NATICK, Mass. (June 5, 2012) -- This close to Boston, green is a popular color -- especially with the Celtics making an unexpectedly strong run in the NBA playoffs.
When people talk "green" at the Natick Soldier Systems Center these days, however, they could just as easily be discussing the environment as basketball. Although Natick is one of the Army's smallest installations at 78 acres, unique environmental challenges present themselves here as a result of vital work that produces what joint war fighters wear, carry and eat.
"We're (a research and development) facility," said Rich Valcourt, an environmental engineer at Natick. "We have so many environmental issues, because we have the laboratory aspect and the vast array of hazardous materials."
Sit down with Valcourt, and he will tell you about the formation of Natick's own "Green Team," which will neither shoot nor rebound, and the coming of its certified "Green Laboratories" and "Green Offices," all in the name of sustainability.
"You can use your inner conscience to say, you know, that's the right thing to do," said Valcourt, "or you can march on and not be the steward of the environment that we all should be."
Valcourt envisions the Green Team as a group of environmentally conscious volunteers from the workforce who will suggest innovative solutions for sustainability to the Natick command team.
"There are tons of folks out there -- really environmentally conscious folks -- and I'd love to steal their ideas," Valcourt said. "Why not have them part of this team?"
Laboratories would achieve green certification by using substitute chemicals, implementing sustainable lab practices, conserving energy, and reducing waste.
"The big thing for the green labs is chemical substitution," said Valcourt, "working with less hazardous materials in processes."
Some labs had made their own progress before the green program began during the April 22 Earth Day celebration, according to Valcourt.
"I've shared what I've learned here at Natick with some of my counterparts who do the Army-wide inspections," Valcourt said.
Green Offices would save energy, recycle, reduce waste, share rides, purchase green products, and take part in sustainability programs.
"People should take pride in that," Valcourt said.
With a goal of a 50-percent diversion rate for solid waste, Natick has already implemented a successful single-stream recycling program that could do even better.
"We really need to recycle more," Valcourt said. "We can do more."
This is just a starting point at Natick, which will also push forward in other areas, such as renewable energy sources. As Valcourt pointed out, the green initiatives are more than environmentally responsible: They represent genuine potential cost savings.
"This is all in its infancy at Natick," Valcourt said.