Several programs designed to “green the supply chain” will lower the Defense Logistics Agency’s environmental impact and reduce expenses, a research and development program manager with DLA Logistics Operations told employees at the McNamara Headquarters Complex April 22.
“From a DLA standpoint, we can really reduce the amount of expenses on the entire supply chain,” Matt Hutchens said. “When we simply use and dispose of something, we increase the cost on the environment, which is really a cost to all of us.”
Discussions titled "How DLA is Greening the Supply Chain - Rations Research and Development," and "Innovative Process for Battery Manufacturing" were held to mark Earth Day.
“These programs we are pursuing are more efficient and environmentally friendly,” Hutchens said. “These products require less money and energy to store and dispose of, so there’s a good reason for doing it.”
The first initiative discussed is aimed at reducing waste at the point of production for batteries by eliminating redundancies caused by using multiple contractors and streamlines the production of costly electronics.
“If DLA didn’t have that capability, the services would have to redesign new radios each year,” he said. “Not only would that cost a lot of money, but the old ones would be scrapped, placing a big burden on the environment.”
Hutchens noted that DLA has reduced consumption and waste through the redesign of packaging for troop rations.
Previously, meals, ready to eat were composed of costly plastic packaging and contained wasteful cardboard packages. DLA simplified the packaging of rations to use less material.
“There’s a lot of stuff in here that isn’t the meal,” Hutchens said, holding up several pieces of plastic and cardboard to the audience. “We asked ourselves, ‘Do we really need that?’”
By eliminating the excess packaging, DLA saves $510,000 annually in production costs.
The new packaging reduced the weight of one MRE by 35 percent. With 35 million MREs shipped each year, Hutchens said, the change helps the agency save$600,000 in shipping expenses.
In another related initiative, group rations were redesigned to be heated in microwave ovens instead of fuel-powered ovens.
“The microwave technology uses less energy,” Hutchen said. “That’s reducing energy use, which is another one of our environmental objectives.”
Lindsey Hicks, an R&D program manager for DLA Energy, rounded off the seminar with a presentation on biofuels.
“Biofuels are not ultimately meant to be a replacement for fuels,” Hicks said. “Rather, they should be thought of as supplements.”
After explaining the origins of biofuels, Hicks described the shift from fuels based on sugars, starches and oils to fuels based cellulose plant materials. He said that ultimately, biofuels are a step in the right direction for the Defense Department.
“The main driver for DoD is energy security,” said Hicks. “We’re also trying to cut down on greenhouse gas pollutants that the fuels emit.”
Following the discussions, attendees were encouraged to participate in the start of a three-day seedling giveaway in the HQC cafeteria to celebrate Arbor Day, which is held on the last Friday in April in Virginia. The seedlings were provided by Fairfax ReLeaf, an environmental non-profit organization that works to replenish native trees in Northern Virginia.
Gail Carter, a contractor with DLA Installation Support, said the goal was to get people to put trees back into the ground and raise awareness for Earth Day.
“We are giving away seedlings for people to plant into their yards,” Carter said. “It costs the employees nothing.”
Steffi Hamilton, a software manager for DLA Information Operations, said she was excited about planting trees and giving them a chance for life.
“Everybody should come and give a plant a new home,” she said. “It’s the best thing for them and for us.”
The McNamara Headquarters Complex will wrap up its observance of Earth Day with a presentation about Fairfax County’s renewal of Huntley Meadows Park May 1 in the McNamara Auditorium.