NAVAL AIR STATION WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. For the 22nd year, military and civilian personnel assigned to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island took time out of their day to engage in base-wide events in support of Earth Day on April 21, 2017.
This year’s Earth Day theme, “Building Strength Through Stewardship,” is a natural fit for Sailors and civilian employees assigned to the Navy’s only air station in the Pacific Northwest which has been a long-term award winner for its environmental protection activities. The year, much like previous years, personnel across the base came out in force to participate in several events to spruce up and beautify this scenic base.
Under early morning sunny skies, Sailors came out for a Zone Clean-Up to kick off the day at 8 a.m., picking up litter throughout the base.
“We start here as community leaders to set standards on how we should care for our base and community,” said Electronics Technician 2nd Class (SW) Jason Taylor of NAS Operations, who participated in the basewide cleanup. “If we don’t make a conscience effort to preserve the environment things can go bad.”
Later that morning, Capt. Geoff Moore, NAS Whidbey Island Commanding Officer, helped plant a Northern Red Oak at a newly built recreational gazebo between two barracks.
“Earth Day is important; it signifies our rejuvenation for spring,” said Moore said. “ “While we celebrate Earth Day today, the activities we are highlighting are really the daily incorporation of the best practices that helped earn the base the 2016 Navy Community Service Award for Environmental Stewardship.”
Teams of Sailors also converged to the Nor’wester Activity Center for an annual Dumpster Dive event, where a random large dumpster was carted in and Sailors “dived” in to see what recyclables were still being thrown away. Eight teams numbering about 40 total participants sorted through the usual recyclables of glass, paper and cardboard. Additionally, there were food scraps that got redirected to the compost bin, and a few unusual items, including a bag full of plastic toy dinosaurs. The team that sorts the most recyclables will earn a free round of bowling at the base’s Convergence Zone.
Over two dozen Sailors also went to Deception Pass State Park, the most visited park in Washington State, to clean up hiking trails.
Education displays were set up at the base’s family service center, the Nor’wester, to show personnel and families how to conserve energy, including how to access and use public transportation service on the island.
For fiscal year 2016, the air station diverted 71 percent of trash from the waste stream. With no landfill on the island, solid waste disposal rate per ton is $266. The base removed 3,910.03 tons from the solid waste stream with an avoidance cost of $1,040,068. As a result, the base earned $195,000 for its Qualified Recycling Program revenue which offsets the Recycling Center program.
An in-vessel compost system is still in place at the air station which has set the standard for Navy composting, which is fed by yard waste from base lawn upkeep and food waste from Admiral Nimitz Hall, Navy Exchange and Commissary.
All this effort led to the 2016 Recycling Center winning the SWANA Solid Waste Association of North America Silver Excellence Award Collection Systems. This award was also among NAS Whidbey’s 2016 Secretary of the Navy Energy and Water Management Award, 2016 Navy Community Service Environmental Stewardship Flagship Award and the 2016 Chief of Naval Operations Environmental Award – Natural Resources Conservation.
In the energy conservation arena, the base has replaced over 1,100 exterior lights that were converted to dark sky compliant energy saving LEDs. Street, parking lot, fence line and hangar exterior lights were replaced. Dark sky lighting contributes to pilot safety and pure white LEDs contribute maintenance safety and increased security while making the environment better.