Academy receives Colo. environmental award

(U.S. Air Force image/Don Branum; original U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

(U.S. Air Force image/Don Branum; original U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Air Force Academy received a Colorado Environmental Leadership Program Gold Leader award from the Colorado Public Health and Environment Department at a ceremony in Denver Oct. 4.

The Gold Leader awards recognize institutions that have fully operational, facility-specific environmental management systems that have undergone planning, implementation, operation as well as checks and reviews at several levels.

The nomination process began earlier in 2011. An application signed by the previous 10th Air Base Wing commander, Col. Rick LoCastro, outlines some of what the Academy has accomplished to date, including the 6-megawatt solar array and a recycling program that has reclaimed more than 93,000 pounds of household hazardous waste and more than 2 million pounds of cardboard, paper, metals, glass and wood.

In terms of future goals, the Academy seeks to meet the Air Force "Net Zero" installation requirement, meaning that the Academy will meet its energy needs solely through renewable sources.

"To accomplish this, we set a couple of goals," LoCastro wrote on the nomination form. "By 2015, our installation must reduce its current energy consumption by 38 percent while increasing its renewable and green energy from a 2010 amount of 10 percent to 100 percent."

Meeting the criteria to receive a Gold Leader award isn't easy, said Environmental Leadership Program Coordinator Lynette Myers.

"Gold Leader candidates must be able to demonstrate above-and-beyond environmental achievements," Myers said, citing the Academy's solar array and recycling program as examples. In addition, candidates must have fully implemented environmental management systems and at least three years of regulatory compliance.

Myers said she would like to see the Academy continue its environmental stewardship, learn from their results and share the information with others who have the same goals and environmental impacts.

The award is renewable every three years, meaning the Academy will become eligible to receive another Gold Leader award in 2014.

Among the other Gold Leaders recognized Oct. 4 were the city of Aspen, Colo., and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Previous years' Gold Leaders include the city and county of Denver, the Denver Zoological Foundation, Ellis Elementary School in Denver and Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Littleton.