Its Environmental Protection Office was set up back in 1990s, developed along the lines of the standards laid out in ISO 14001 (Environmental Management Systems). The office facilitates numerous training courses and raises environmental awareness among base personnel and has seen the implementation of numerous improvements. A primary goal is to reduce energy and water consumption and this is already in progress. Electricity consumption has reduced by almost 20% since 2000, and it is anticipated that this will reduce further after the implementation of more energy-efficient solutions, for example, by introducing LED lighting. Water consumption has also reduced by almost 40% in the same timeframe. The base is self-sufficient, operating and managing its own water wells, enabling the timely and cost-effective repair of leakages and faults.
Another important goal is to reduce waste and promote recycling. Multiple recycling systems are in operation, even on board our NATO E-3A aircraft, ensuring the correct segregation of waste such as plastic, paper, toner cartridges, food waste, electronic waste, batteries and hazardous recyclable waste. In the year 2020 alone, recycling levels of 33% were recorded. The recent introduction of biodegradable food containers by the on-base food provider is another small but important step to reduce waste.
But the effort doesn’t stop at infrastructure. The NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force (NAEW&CF) has increased usage of advanced aircraft and mission simulators to provide effective aircrew and mission crew training, reducing the need for physical training, thereby saving 3,400 aircraft hours a year and reducing aviation fuel usage by approximately 41 million pounds a year. In this way the NAEW&CF has effectively managed resources placing a greater emphasis on operational requirements. From an engineering perspective, extensive investigation is being carried out to source sustainable materials to replace those hazardous materials currently used in aircraft maintenance. The goal is to make flight operations more environmentally friendly and as sustainable as possible.
Although environmental protection is an important part of sustainability, the wellbeing of humans and wildlife cannot be ignored. NATO Airbase Geilenkirchen has consulted closely with political leaders and local civilian representatives over many years and several changes have been implemented – for example, flight movements above the Netherlands have almost halved, night flights are limited, and an agreement is in place to avoid flying over densely populated residential areas, whenever possible. There are also several breeding and resting sites within the base boundary for rare and threatened species with protected habitats, overseen by a specialist manager for environmental protection who ensures wildlife is not endangered by the airbase’s mission.
The primary task of the NAEW&CF is to fulfill all operational requirements. But this difficult task has been met with a significant emphasis on environmental protection and sustainability.