Earth Day every day: Commissaries routinely recycle, divert waste, conserve resources

Earth Day every day: Commissaries routinely recycle, divert waste, conserve resources

by Kathy Milley
DeCA Public Affairs

FORT LEE, Va. – The Defense Commissary Agency identified environmental responsibility as a major priority in 2005, making environmental management a key part of operations. From that Earth Day to this, DeCA has diligently worked to reduce its footprint through recycling, food donations, green initiatives and environmentally friendly products.

“The agency now has a long history focused on the reduction of waste, recycling materials, conservation of resources and becoming more energy-efficient overall,” said Clark Jordan, a DeCA environmental engineer. “From the design of commissaries to the products offered inside — and everything in between, DeCA strives to be a good steward of natural resources, to find creative ways to recycle and conserve, and reduce our carbon footprint.”

Since making that commitment in 2005, commissaries have made great strides in protecting the environment and generating surcharge funds, saving taxpayer dollars.

Recycling: Since 2005, commissaries have recycled or diverted almost 1.7 billion pounds of solid waste from landfills all around the world. The agency’s resale of this waste - paper, plastic and cardboard - has generated almost $54 million in surcharge funds used for commissary repair, renovations and construction.

Equipment liquidation: Using a liquidation service to help sell out-of-use items, the agency has supported the environment by diverting 1.4 million pounds of used equipment from landfills. The sale of these items generated over $3.9 million in surcharge revenue.

Donated food: DeCA donates edible but unsellable food to food banks throughout the country to help feed those in need. In 2018, 177 (or 75 percent) commissaries donated 4.6 million pounds of unsellable but consumable product to 186 foodbanks.

Energy conservation: Commissaries, committed to a long-term energy strategy, use glass doors on most refrigeration cases, natural and LED lighting, and are converting or upgrading HVAC and refrigeration technology to both protect the environment and conserve energy. According to Kyle Seiling, DeCA’s energy program manager, when compared to commercial supermarkets, commissaries are about 40 percent more energy efficient, and their annual water use has been reduced by 25 percent from 2007 levels.

Green foods: DeCA continues to increase its volume of organic products. The lineup includes organic meats, produce, dairy products, baby food, and organic dog and cat foods.

Green products: To promote the benefit of saving energy and dollars, the commissaries offer patrons green products from energy efficient light-emitting diode (LED) lightbulbs, high efficiency (HE) dish and laundry detergents and reusable shopping bags to products with reduced packaging like paper towels and bathroom tissue without cardboard tube inserts.

“Not only do we remain committed to reducing our footprint through operational conservation and recycling, but we also facilitate our patrons’ commitment to “going green” by offering environmentally friendly products at significant savings,” Jordan said. “We will always look for bigger and better ways to reduce and conserve.”


Note: To see a video on the agency’s environmental management program, press the “Ctrl” key and click on the photo or go to

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