Men in blue lead the efforts to go green

HONOLULU — Even as the U.S. celebrated Earth Day April 22, at least one U.S. Coast Guard base had already been finding new ways to green the service.

Capt. John Hickey, the commanding officer of Coast Guard Integrated Support Command (ISC), Honolulu, and his crew are leading the way in the ‘Go Green’ initiative in the 14th Coast Guard District, which includes units in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Singapore, Japan and Saipan.

The Coast Guard has shown time and again it can save people, but under Hickey’s leadership the past year, the ISC is helping the service help save the earth as well.

In 2008, the crew of ISC Honolulu worked aggressively to build upon previously energy efficient compliance practices, and tremendous strides were made in sustainability. All these efforts resulted in the base receiving the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2008 Overall Environmental Excellence Award for a large unit ashore.

Examples of the ISC crew’s contribution to energy conservation, cost efficiency and overall maritime well-being can be seen on a daily basis.

“It seems like ‘Earth Day’ is every day around here,” said Lt. Bernard Auth, the command center chief at Sector Honolulu and an avid car-pool member. “Being a good steward of the environment is one of the Coast Guard’s core missions and examples of ‘Going Green’ are showcased at ISC every day.”

ISC has a staff of 206 active duty, civilian and reserve employees. The ISC’s 42 acres of property is located at Sand Island in Honolulu Harbor. It is home to 12 tenant commands, afloat and ashore, which boasts more than 1,000 personnel.

Hickey doesn’t just preach the idea of renew, reuse and recycle at work – he takes his methods home with him.

“I live in Coast Guard-owned housing, and I have access to all of the community’s utility bills,” said Hickey. “My home is the lowest consumer of energy because I have high efficiency appliances, compact fluorescent lamps, and we haven’t used air conditioning in months. We recycle everything we can and even compost the food waste.”

The following progress was made in the past year at ISC Honolulu:

  • ISC’s overall energy consumption was reduced 14 percent from 2007 to 2008 through improved awareness, as well as the completion of energy conservation measures, that represented a cost savings of $400,000;
  • A ‘Load Shedding Agreement’ has been signed with the local utility company that stipulates: to protect the local electrical grid in the event of an emergency, the cutters (ships) at ISC will disconnect from the grid and temporally use ship’s power. The incentive associated with this agreement represents a $122,000 reduction in electrical charges per year with little impact to the cutters;
  • In partnership with the National Renewable Energy Lab and the Department of Energy, a pilot program was developed to provide free training for conducting energy audits that are required by legislation;
  • ISC’s Coast Guard Exchange phased out plastic bags and incandescent bulbs this spring. Cloth and paper bags are the only alternatives and the management will stock only high efficiency light bulbs. Consumers are invited, and reminded, to bring their reusable cloth bags to the exchange;
  • Electric carts used by maintenance personnel have been solarized;
  • High efficiency exterior lights have been installed to replace less efficient fixtures, and light fixtures that provided excessive amounts of light have been removed. In office spaces, delamping has been completed to reduce the light levels to appropriate levels;
  • Programmable thermostats have been installed throughout the facility to improve control of air conditioning systems;
  • Two warehouses and the gymnasium at ISC nearly eliminated the need for artificial lighting due to the use of day lighting technology;
  • An internship program with the University of Hawaii has been established for three issues. Interns have completed an analysis of the base’s solid waste to identify opportunities for improvement. A second internship will develop a xeriscaping plan that will result in a substantial reduction in water consumption for irrigation, and a third will provide assistance with energy audits;
  • An agreement was signed with a local company for the disposal of used cooking oil. The disposal process previously cost $2,000 a year, but the new agreement is free to the Coast Guard, and the waste oil is now used to make bio-diesel;
  • Industrial and facility maintenance personnel have received training in solar domestic hot water technology, photo voltaics and energy auditing. The base has three solar domestic hot water systems.

A new solid waste management contract was recently signed that greatly improves the recycling program and diverts a tremendous amount of waste from the landfill.

“We are working on energy conservation and renewable energy solutions, and we are reducing the amount of solid waste that we create,” said Hickey. “The stakes are high in Hawaii, and we are going to do our share.”

The crew members at ISC take great pride in the accomplishments they have made so far but see many changes to come in the near future.

“We piloted training on building energy audits with the National Renewable Energy Lab, and we completed a study on renewable energy solutions,” said Hickey. “Now we need to complete more audits, take corrective action, and implement renewable energy solutions because our best energy resource is the energy that we are wasting – we can still do more.”

The way ahead for 2009-2010 includes:

  • Development of a power purchase agreement to implement renewable energy;
  • Completion of energy audits on at least 25 percent of facilities;
  • Implementation of “deduct metering” on the irrigation system to reduce sewage costs;
  • Implementation of xeriscaping to reduce the consumption of water for irrigation.

The earth conscience efforts do not stop at the ISC’s main gates. Many personnel assigned to Hickey’s base often volunteer at beach clean-ups in the community and buoy tender crews also assist the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with marine debris clean-up trips in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

ISC’s crew members are proving there are more efficient and cost effective ways to do things. The old ways of waste and abuse are long gone and the Coast Guard in the 14th District is playing a major role in the earth conservation movement. ISC’s crew members actions speak volumes and provide results. They are truly are saving the earth and leading the way to ‘Go Green.’

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