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Earth Day ties into an Air Force core value

The newly created Eglin Energy Management Center began a contest between three of Eglin's largest buildings to see which one could conserve the most energy for a month, beginning Feb. 11.  The 53rd Wing and the 308th Armament Systems Wing, occupiers of the identical six-floor buildings, are in a "heated" competition to see how they can reduce energy cost and consumption.  Results will be published and the winner will be announced in March.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

(U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

WRIGHT PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." -New England proverb --

Perhaps because I grew up in a large family, the proverb above became an ingrained practice. Some people today may think this attitude is dated, as if it were pulled from a Depression-era Farmer's Almanac.

For me though, this proverb expresses a value that is more important than ever. It taps into national security, environmental stewardship, preserving resources that sustain life, and sometimes even moral and ethical choices that guide our actions. You could say that conservation is a personal mission of mine, which is why I encourage everyone to observe Earth Day on April 22.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day. The Web site, Earth Day Network, asserts that the first Earth Day in 1970 marked the birth of the modern environmental movement. It's understandable if some people today assume the first Earth Day was dreamed up by starry-eyed nature worshipers. But that wasn't the case. Earth Day was the idea of Gaylord Nelson, U.S. senator from Wisconsin, and he managed to gain support across the political spectrum.

Earth Day went global in 1990. Earth Day Network reports that 141 countries participated that year. One of the outcomes was a heightened emphasis on recycling. In the 20 years since, recycling has become a mainstream value ... but not always a mainstream practice. Recycling isn't always convenient. It requires changing habits or adopting new ones, both of which can be tough. It often means upfront costs for individuals or organizations without the assurance that costs will go down in the long run.

I'm proud the Air Force has shown its willingness to invest in green technologies. A good example of that investment occurred March 25 when an A-10C Thunderbolt II made its first flight powered by a blend of standard JP-8 fuel and hydro-treated, renewable jet biofuel. The Air Force is working toward an ambitious goal of changing half of the continental U.S. jet fuel requirement to alternative fuels by 2016.

Decreasing the Air Force's dependence on foreign oil suppliers contributes to national security. It also improves the bottom line. Alternative fuels won't pollute the air we breathe, which demonstrates respect for the fellow citizens the Air Force serves. Lots of other benefits are likely to be realized, but you get the idea.

In some cases, adopting green technologies and processes do require dollars; but often, all that's necessary to improve management of resources is a willingness to become more aware of what we have and to be part of something larger than oneself. When that awareness is extended to include all the products that depend on a natural resource in some way for their manufacture, processing, packaging, or transportation, the potential for waste becomes huge ... but then so does the potential for better ideas.

I believe that conserving resources, and using them judiciously, is a personal responsibility as well as an organizational responsibility. My goal is for that attitude to take root and spread throughout Air Force Materiel Command. Earth Day reminds us to do what we can to improve people's appreciation for the resources they share, whether natural or manufactured. It's not a stretch to think of Earth Day in terms of an Air Force core value: service before self. Please ask yourself what service you can offer. Then make it a habit of thought and action.

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