How to save the world: blue goes green

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany – Airmen from the 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron water and fuel systems maintenance shop spread petroleum absorbent rocks across the scene of a simulated fuel spill on the flightline Oct. 10, 2012. The scenario is a mandated annual exercise that tests first responder capabilities for fuel spills on the flightline. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon/Released)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany – Airmen from the 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron water and fuel systems maintenance shop spread petroleum absorbent rocks across the scene of a simulated fuel spill on the flightline Oct. 10, 2012. The scenario is a mandated annual exercise that tests first responder capabilities for fuel spills on the flightline. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon/Released)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany – Simulated JP-8 fuel spills from a fuel truck on the flightline Oct. 10, 2012. The Defense Logistics Agency mandates that Air Force installations conduct an annual exercise to test their emergency procedures when responding to a fuel spill. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon/Released)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany – Simulated JP-8 fuel spills from a fuel truck on the flightline Oct. 10, 2012. The Defense Logistics Agency mandates that Air Force installations conduct an annual exercise to test their emergency procedures when responding to a fuel spill. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon/Released)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany – Firefighters from the 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron assess the severity of a simulated fuel spill during an exercise on the flightline Oct. 10, 2012. U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jimmy Welch, 52nd CES fire station chief and native of Burlington, N.C., took command of the scene and directed first responders to secure the area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon/Released)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany – Firefighters from the 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron assess the severity of a simulated fuel spill during an exercise on the flightline Oct. 10, 2012. U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jimmy Welch, 52nd CES fire station chief and native of Burlington, N.C., took command of the scene and directed first responders to secure the area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon/Released)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- If you've flushed a toilet, printed notes or changed the light bulbs lately, then you've played a part in the Environmental Management System here.

EMS sounds rather intimidating, but it's simple; it's a management process that helps Airmen and Spangdahlem AB prevent environmental problems before they occur and work to continually improve those processes.

EMS is applicable to everyone whose activities may impact the environment, like using the computer (energy consumption) and changing toner cartridge (generating nonhazardous waste). And if that doesn't do it for you, Col. David Julazadeh, 52nd Fighter Wing commander, has signed a policy letter charging all Airmen of the units and tenant organizations to comply with and support EMS in daily activities.

"Sabers will remain dedicated to pollution prevention and consider unintended discharge, energy consumption and recycling while accomplish daily tasks," the policy letter reads.

Why does it matter? Not only is it legally required of the base, it saves money that can be better used to increase the quality of life and support our mission of defending American and allied interests and building partner capacity.

"EMS is simply a good business practice that Spangdahlem AB uses to work toward a sustainable future for the U.S. Air Force and the local community," explains Christian Thurner, 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron environmental engineer program manager.

It used to be dealing with pollution, but now it is reducing pollution.

"We look for pollution prevention at the source. What can we make better in our processes?" Thurner asked. "Previously, we used to wash all contamination into a catch basin, which is expensive to maintain in the infrastructure. Now we look to reducing the source."

There are three main concerns that EMS addresses, Thurner said: unintended discharge to land, storm water or surface water; energy use; and solid waters diversion (or in layman's terms, reduce, reuse, recycle).

Mistakes like fuel spills, excess trash and rampant energy use cost Spangdahlem hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, according to Capt. Phil Compton, 52nd CES deputy commander. But more importantly, it can negatively impact the environment on and off Spangdahlem.

One success story of EMS is the surface de-icing liquid that is used on runways, taxiways, aprons and hardstands to ensure aircraft safety in the winter. The current de-icing liquid has a high chemical oxygen demand that takes a long time to degrade and can impact the surrounding environment. Thanks to the EMS team, they found that NATO bases were using another surface de-icing liquid that had 70 percent less chemical oxygen demand and was 20 percent cheaper. As Thurner puts it, it's a win-win for the environment.

While EMS is every Airman's responsibility, according to Julazadeh's policy letter, the environmental team at Spangdahlem AB has been successful at planning for a sustained future and pollution reduction. Most recently, they earned the 2013 U.S. Air Forces in Europe Gen. Thomas D. White Environmental Award for Team Excellence and Environmental Restoration Program Excellence.

If you want to know how your unit can practice EMS, contact the local environmental team at 011-49-657257.