Aiming to contribute to the environmental revolution that has swept up so many Israelis, the nation’s defense force intends to significantly slash its energy use, increase recycling and incorporate renewable infrastructure in its bases during the coming years.

“Now we are creating a grand plan to deal with the reduction of solid waste, and in six years from now we want to be recycling 50 percent [of our waste],” Lt.-Col. Eyal Ezra, head of the IDF’s technology and logistics department told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

“We are doing all of this with the Environmental Protection Ministry.”

Ezra’s department received a special award from the IDF and the Environmental Protection Ministry at a ceremony in Tel Aviv on Wednesday evening honoring specific IDF branches for their environmental advancement. As a result of his team’s efforts to ready the entire army for a comprehensive environmental overhaul, the head office within the technology and logistics branch won first prize in the category: “integration of environmental protection as an integral part of organizational culture.”

Reaching a state in which the army is recycling 50% of its waste is a lofty goal, as the IDF is only recycling about 11- 12%, according to Ezra, who has headed the department since March, but has a professional background in urban planning. To attain this goal, Ezra and his team will be focusing on the recycling of domestic waste generated by the soldiers at their bases, which constitutes about 75% of the IDF’s total waste, he explained.

Already, several bases – in army bases in the Eilat-Eilot region, a navy base in Ashdod and the Sde Dov air force base – have begun separating their wet and dry waste at source, he continued. Next year, bases in Carmiel are to join in the effort, and Ezra said he hopes to expand the program into recycling electronic and packaging waste soon.

In addition to increasing the IDF’s focus on recycling, Ezra and his team have committed to energy conservation, and hope to achieve a 20% reduction in energy consumption by the year 2020 alongside the entire State of Israel, he explained.

Eventually, a central management system will allow for the constant monitoring of energy consumption and conservation on all bases, Ezra added.

Not only does he aim to decrease energy use, but he intends to see the army running on cleaner sources.

“We have reached an agreement with a big company that provides electricity that will provide the IDF with energy whose origin is natural gas,” he said, remarking that the influx of gas from this private supplier will begin in 2014.

Within five years, nearly all of the IDF will be fueled by natural gas, and by 2020, Ezra said he would like to see 5% of the army’s supply coming from renewables. Already, one air force base and several army bases in the South employ solar installations, and more will soon begin integrating solar power, wind turbines and geothermal facilities, he added.

Ezra’s department is working on connecting all IDF bases to proper sewage systems, a NIS 4 million investment project that will be complete in 2017.

Thus far, 170 of the 400 bases still requiring sewage connection have been hooked up, he said.

Meanwhile, as the IDF plans to construct a wide range of buildings in the Negev, the country’s center and in the Galilee, it will be doing so according to a regulation for sustainable building, Ezra continued.

“All the future building for the army will adhere to this regulation,” he said.

This decision is particularly critical, he explained, as the IDF will be replacing about 40% of its infrastructure in the next couple decades.

One final way in which the technology and logistics department has been helping transform the IDF into a more environmentally friendly institution is by promoting cooperation with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) regarding nature reserves, Ezra explained.

“The IDF influences over 50% of the state,” he said, observing that 35% of the IDF’s land use involves training zones, and 95% of these training zones fall on nature reserves.

“So we have to deal very carefully with these areas,” he said.

In Ezra’s mind, the IDF makes two oaths – one on the soldiers that they must be returned home to their families and another on the land that must be returned to the citizens unharmed.

“It’s a sort of promise that we need to preserve,” he said.

“That’s the idea of cooperation between the IDF and INPA.”

At the awards ceremony on Wednesday, several other departments received acknowledgements for their environmental contributions to the army. In the same environmental integration category in which Ezra’s team was honored, the intelligence corps, the Center for Rehabilitation and Maintenance 7000 and the ground forces command received awards for specific bases under their command, according to the IDF Spokesman’s Unit.

Meanwhile, the “Flying Fox” Infantry Training School received a prize in the category of excellence in nature conservation, due to a project called “Between the Irises and the Commanders.”

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