The Navy is embracing change with the growing popularity of Athena Projects being offered to Navy regions throughout the fleet. Athena Project is a perennial event all about innovation for the Navy, it gives Sailors and military civilians a group setting to share and offer ideas to change and improve the way things are done in the Navy.
Many Sailors from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) push for change by continuously attending Athena Project events with new ideas. One of those Sailors is Aviation Boatswains Mate (Fuel) 3rd Class John Broussard, who proposed a small idea that he thinks will make a big difference.
“The shipyard is really into protecting the environment, so I figured ‘why shouldn’t the ship go green too?’” said Broussard.
According to Broussard in just one month $40,000 dollars was spent buying food and drinks from the jet shop vending machines. Each item purchased came bottled or wrapped. The amount of waste 2,000 – 3,000 Sailors and civilians collectively produce each day on board Nimitz can really add up.
“Every single person is an avid waste producer, including me,” said Broussard.
With growing concerns about the Navy’s effect on the environment, Broussard became determined to find a solution that would improve what Nimitz does with its waste.
“I thought about what is happening to the environment and I realized that this is a real issue,” said Broussard.
Broussard said he started small by beginning at home: swapping his old light bulbs with new energy efficient light bulbs and switching to more energy efficient electronics. He also began sorting his trash, making it more recycle friendly.
“I began saving more than $100 dollars a month on bills,” said Broussard. “It’s important to me and has become a lifestyle. If people were willing to put a little time and dedication into this, it could actually save them money.”
As his interest in recycling grew, Broussard turned to the Athena project to change the way the Nimitz does trash. He proposed a simple idea: separate it, much like the way the ship does out to sea.
“We do a fantastic job of recycling at sea because we are forced to,” said Broussard. “In port, we are not as diligent with it, even though it’s almost more important because we generate twice as much trash.”
Broussard proposes that Nimitz starts separating and recycling plastic bottles, aluminum cans and paper on board Nimitz. This would make it easier for the trash to go straight to the proper recycling facilities.
“It’s undeniable that recycling is good for the environment, but I also see it as a gold mine,” said Broussard.
When plastic is recycled, 40 cents is returned on the pound. With 500 bottles in each machine, potentially 7-10 dollars is being missed out on each day per machine when the bottles are just being thrown away, explained Broussard.
“The money goes back into the Commander, Navy Installations Command program for developing the base,” said Broussard. “It would be returned to the Navy in one way or another.”
Once the his plan is set in motion, Broussard and others involved in the Athena project, will make an effort to start a scholarship fund with the returned money and open up even more volunteer opportunities for the Sailors with clean up events to help the base stay green.
“While recycling itself is easy, getting this program in place is difficult,” said Broussard. “There are a lot of instructions to follow and we have to deal with the safety concerns.”
Broussard said, that one of the biggest safety concerns that he had to work out was that having extra receptacles put on the pier to support the separating of trash may take up too much space for there to be a proper fire lane.
“The executive officer and command master chief already seem to like my idea and are on board,” said Broussard. “I meet with the commanding officer next week to see how we can finally get everything set and in place.”
Broussard said, being a 21-year-old third class and pushing a proposal that would greatly affect the entire command was intimidating. Like many, he was scared of the consequences of trying to step up and fight for change.
“How often do you go through your day and say “why does the Navy do it this way?” said Lt. Jonathan Norris, Nimitz Athena Project Representative. “As you get more and more senior you start to forget that idea. When you are a junior Sailor you see it all the time.”
As a junior Sailor, Broussard works on the deck plates and witnesses the way the ship operates, he saw an opportunity to make a change and took a chance and voiced his idea.
“Instead of asking myself what could happen if my idea is turned down, I began, and will continue, to ask myself ‘what will happen if I don’t do this?” said Broussard.
If Sailors like Broussard make an attempt to improve the way things are done, no matter how big or small the change, it will allow the Navy to improve and operate at the most effective level possible.
Story by MC3 Holly Herline