Defending the borders, protecting the environment

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In honor of International Earth Day, we take a look at how the IDF (Zahal) works all year round to protect the environment by minimizing its ecological footprint

Date: 22/04/2013, 5:47 PM     Author: Gabriel Freund and IDF (Zahal) Website

The State of Israel joins nations around the world today (Monday, April 22) in celebrating International Earth Day. The IDF (Zahal) will be spearheading the national effort for the third consecutive year by turning off lights on bases across the country for this evening’s Earth Hour.

The IDF (Zahal) has made giant leaps forward in the ‘green revolution’ in recent years, especially through the establishment the of its Environmental Protection Administration in 2009. This step was quickly followed by the appointment of the IDF (Zahal) Legal Advisor for Environmental Protection, Cpt. Izhar Yitzchaki.

Cpt. Yitzchaki has described the IDF (Zahal)’s efforts to become a ‘nature-friendly’ organization as impacting every unit and “representing a change in the culture of the IDF (Zahal)”.  Here is a brief look at some of the year-round initiatives that are part of the IDF (Zahal)’s ongoing fight to protect the environment.

Recycling revolution

As of December 2012, every IDF (Zahal) base throughout Israel has been equipped with facilities for the recycling of paper, cardboard and newspaper – including large cages for the disposal of shredded paper. The appropriate disposal of massive quantities of shredded classified material had long posed a challenge for the IDF (Zahal). The new facilities installed on every base are already allowing for the proper management of recyclable waste – a phenomenon which is also leading to significant budgetary savings.

Paper products are not the only things being recycled. Formerly in the Israel Air Force, old and unused generators and engines would lie in disrepair gathering rust. Nowadays spare parts are sold to a Ministry of Defense appointed contractor – helping the environment, and the budget. Scrap metal too is being resold in an effort to clean up bases and conserve resources.

Education

The IDF (Zahal)’s Education Corps has worked together with the Technology and Logistics Branch’s Environmental Protection Administration to raise awareness about environmental issues among as many soldiers and commanders as possible.

The Environmental Conservation Course established in 2012 trains IDF (Zahal) officers and NCOs to monitor energy consumption on their bases, to use new, energy-saving technology, and how to teach their soldiers to change their habits for the sake of saving energy and reducing pollution.

Over the past several years, thousands of soldiers and officers have attended seminars and workshop days to learn how the choices they make during their service can impact the planet for the better. After attending one such seminar, soldiers from the Judea and Samaria Regional Brigade took the initiative to clean up their sector with a massive sweep to pick up trash and recyclable plastic bottles.

Unit by unit efforts

Each unit on every level is encouraged to take the initiative by implementing their own programs to look after the environment of the area in which they are based. In the Northern Command, for instance, every unit is appointed an instructor to train commanders as to the best methods for preserving the environment on bases and during operational activity.

One battalion adopted a polluted and abandoned beach in the northern port city of Acre, and worked devotedly toward its restoration. The battalion’s soldiers, together with their commanders, cleaned the beach and eventually received a citation for their efforts. A similar endeavor was undertaken by an Armored Corps battalion at a river in northern Israel.

Solar energy

For the past two years, IAF bases have been integrating the use of solar energy through the installation of photovoltaic cell infrastructure. Many of these bases are located in Israel’s sun-soaked Negev desert, the perfect place for harnessing solar energy. As the commander of the Air Force’s Air Defense Training School, Col. Yoni Seida-Marom, explained, the benefits of solar energy are many.

“Implementing the system doesn’t only save money, but also expresses the values we believe in,” he said. “By using the system, we are creating a better environment for the commanders, without the noise and pollution of generators. We’re teaching our soldiers a green state of mind and a high environmental awareness that they will follow for the rest of their lives,” he added.