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Environmental Management System helps wing reduce, reuse, recycle

Lt. Col. Michael Knutson passes out reusable cups on base Aug. 4 to help wing members reduce their use of disposable water bottles. The cups promote awareness of the Environmental Management System by including the EMS mission statement printed on the side in green letters - “Continual improvement of our processes and practices that enable us to reduce our environmental impacts, increase our operating efficiency wile executing our mission.” Knutson will distribute more cups when he makes EMS presentations at future unit training assemblies. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Hollie Hansen)

Lt. Col. Michael Knutson passes out reusable cups on base Aug. 4 to help wing members reduce their use of disposable water bottles. The cups promote awareness of the Environmental Management System by including the EMS mission statement printed on the side in green letters - “Continual improvement of our processes and practices that enable us to reduce our environmental impacts, increase our operating efficiency wile executing our mission.” Knutson will distribute more cups when he makes EMS presentations at future unit training assemblies. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Hollie Hansen)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- When it comes to streamlining processes and making operations more efficient, the 162nd Fighter Wing applies cutting edge management practices that extend even to the way it manages its environmental footprint.

Through the wing's Environmental Management System (EMS), members can assume a more proactive role in protecting the environment while supporting the unit's mission.

According to Lt. Col. Michael Knutson, EMS coordinator for the wing, this initiative has a reciprocal relationship.

"EMS essentially covers all items in the environment that we could affect, and how items in the environment could affect us," Knutson said.

Knutson said the most significant aspects surrounding the EMS program range from base-wide consumption of energy and water to spills involving petroleum, oils and lubricants.

In an example, Knutson pointed to Aerospace Ground Equipment (AGE) efforts to reduce water consumption while complying with environmental procedures.

"They use wash racks to remove cadmium, a type of heavy metal that can't go through the sanitary sewer. So AGE has installed a water-recycling cleaning process in their wash racks that removes heavy metals from the wash water. As a result, they're able to reuse the water until it can be dumped as ordinary waste."

The wing's exemplary environmental operations do not go unrecognized, either. In March, the Air Force singled out the wing for its recycling program, and its system for removing heavy metal from aircraft is looked upon as a best practice.

"In many areas, we are in the leading edge of environmental protection Air Force-wide," said Knutson, whose expertise in EMS landed him a representative role for the western region of the Air Guard on environmental issues.

Despite an environmental policy that is often inspected and reviewed by regulatory bodies like the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Defense and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, the wing actively engages in its own form of self-governance through a cross functional team, chaired by Mission Support Group Commander Col. Garry Beauregard. The team consists of various representatives from major squadrons, such as logistics and civil engineering.

"We plan, do, check and act," said Beauregard, referring to the cross functional team's process of sustaining a purposeful EMS program that involves "continual improvement."

Beauregard added that environmental awareness shouldn't be reserved to just cross functional team representatives, but to everybody that passes through the wing's gates.

"We have an active role in being good members of our community," he said. "As tenants of this area, it's our duty as wing members to be informed and dedicated when it comes to the environment."