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NEWS | April 18, 2014

Joint Base Charleston celebrates Earth Day

By Keith Thompson, Jr 628th Air Base Wing Conservation Program manager

On April 22, Joint Base Charleston will join the rest of the world in celebrating the 44th observance of Earth Day. Started in 1970, Earth Day was the idea of U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. Nelson was very cognizant of environmental issues plaguing our country and started an effort in the early 1960's to increase environmental awareness. He also inspired a conservation tour for President John Kennedy in 1963, but it was not until 1969, that he developed the idea for what was to become Earth Day.

Nelson took notice of the campus activism of the late 1960's and believed if he could capture that energy and focus it toward grass-roots awareness of urgent environmental issues, he could make a difference. Hence, Earth Day was born. It is estimated that as many as 20 million Americans took part in the first Earth Day April 22, 1970.

The Air Force has adopted the theme of "Conserve Today, Secure Tomorrow," for this year's Earth Day. The Air Force focus for this year's Earth Day observance is "Sustainability." In the spirit of this theme, Joint Base Charleston recognizes our responsibility to preserve the environment for future generations and continue to find ways to reduce waste and pollution while still accomplishing our mission.

Again this year, Joint Base Charleston sponsored an essay, poster and mural contest for local fifth graders to continue our outreach efforts. The schools were asked to make their submissions reflect the theme mentioned above. The schools selected their own winners, who then compete against the other schools.

The overall winner of the school mural contest this year was Cathedral Academy. Second place was Hunley Park Elementary School. The winner of the essay contest was Hannah Bendure, Hunley Park Elementary and second place was Lydia Alford from Cathedral Academy. The winner of the poster contest was Jaylyn Bridwell, Hunley Park Elementary and second place was Lacey Jackson from Cathedral Academy.

Joint Base Charleston has also been recognized as having one of the best Environmental Management Systems in the Air Force. This EMS has been developed on the base's environmental policy which expresses our commitment to maintain compliance, reduce pollution and to continually improve our environmental stewardship.

The acronym CARES summarizes the base environmental policy:

· Comply with all applicable laws, regulations and executive orders

· Achieve continuous improvement in environmental performance over and above regulatory and legislative requirements

· Reduce pollution and work in partnership with all stakeholders to promote pollution prevention

· Environmental excellence in all we do and integrate environmental information into all levels of management

· Sustain the mission by protecting our natural infrastructure to ensure adequate resource capability for the warfighter through the minimization of encroachment and the protection of human health and the environment

A conscious effort has been made to educate all levels of JB Charleston and to make all personnel aware of the above philosophy, whether they are active duty, Reserve, civilian employees or contractors.

Joint Base Charleston has also several established goals for reductions in energy usage, water consumption and fuel use. These goals are expected to be reached by the end of fiscal year 2015. In addition, JB Charleston was selected as the winner of the 2014 Smart Business Recycling Program from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Controls. The award is given to industries that implement practices to reduce their environmental impact through recycling. To be eligible for an award, applicants must be located in South Carolina and have a current recycling/waste reduction program. SCDHEC will come to the base and present the award in May.

Joint Base Charleston effectively manages approximately 24,000 acres, part of which is in Charleston, Berkeley and Orangeburg counties. Much of this land is comprised of forests, wetlands and other natural areas with a thriving wildlife population. This serves as a testament to our commitment to merge our various missions with responsible stewardship of the environment.

As Earth Day approaches, take a look around at the bountiful natural resources that have been entrusted to our care and try to incorporate the above ideals into all that you do. Countless opportunities exist both on JB Charleston and in the local area for hiking, biking, nature tours, bird watching, hunting and fishing. With that in mind, try to think "green" every day in both your professional and home life and strive to make every day Earth Day.