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How The Military Is Taking Steps Toward Sustainability

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When thinking about sectors that could and should make sustainability a key agenda, the military may be the last thing on anyone’s mind. But if anything, armed forces would do well to take the carbon footprint generated by their activities more seriously.

A joint study published by the Scientists for Global Responsibility and Conflict and Environment Observatory last November concluded that the world’s militaries account for 5.5% of the world’s emissions. And it said that the figure was greater than that of Russia and less than that of China, India, and the United States and is expected to increase with the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Reducing carbon contribution to climate change to close to zero, if not zero, will go a long way. Yet achieving sustainability in the military is a complex task that involves many areas, from energy use and waste management to procurement and training. Here’s a look at several steps militaries have taken toward sustainability.

Reducing Resource Consumption

Nothing says sustainability better than reducing demand and consumption of critical resources; the military is no exception. Deploying troops and equipment on the field, whether in peacetime or wartime, requires various resources, from the fuel for their transports to materials for setting up their makeshift camps—not to mention the fuel needed to transport those materials.

In light of this, engineers have been looking for ways to build a complete military shelter system with fewer raw materials. Researchers at Korea Military Academy in Seoul studied the feasibility of lightweight shelters that can also defend against electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks. Among the materials tested include conductive fibers, stacked sheets, and paint.


The researchers estimate that these lightweight military shelters can keep roughly 50,000 tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, owing to the reduced demand for concrete. They’ll save the government about USD$2,500 (assuming one ton of carbon dioxide costs USD$50) too.

Using sustainable construction techniques and materials is also viable. This could involve using recycled materials, designing buildings to take advantage of natural light and ventilation, or even constructing green roofs or walls.

Switching To Renewable Energy

Just this March, the Indian Army signed a Memorandum of Understanding with one of India’s largest renewable energy companies for its green hydrogen projects. The agreement—the first of its kind—will see various army bases and camps shift from diesel generators to solar and wind power, especially in off-grid areas.

Elsewhere, militaries are investing in renewable energy amid a growing electronics and digital hardware inventory. The average modern soldier carries around 45 kg of gear through various environments, a large portion of which consists of digital equipment and rechargeable batteries. Generators can only keep these devices powered for as long as their fuel supply allows.

Renewable energy technologies can be more efficient and reliable, reducing the time and resources spent on transporting fuel. For example, solar panels and wind turbines require less maintenance than conventional generators and don’t require a constant fuel supply.

Nonetheless, creating a renewable energy grid should consider the local wildlife. For instance, birds can mistake a large solar farm for a body of water and dive to their deaths, which experts call the ‘lake effect.’ The key to minimizing the impact on wildlife is careful planning, site selection, and ongoing monitoring and mitigation efforts.

The shift to renewable energy is also reflected in vehicles. While limited to utility vehicles like pickup trucks and motorcycles for the time being, some militaries are testing hybrid-powered designs on combat vehicles like main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers.


Environmentally Preferable Purchasing

Green procurement, also known as environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP), sustainable procurement, or green purchasing, refers to the process of purchasing goods and services that have a reduced impact on the environment and human health compared to other similar goods and services serving the same purpose.

EPP is necessary given that many militaries delegate some non-military functions to contractors. These functions include base security, food service, and janitorial services, freeing up essential personnel for more critical functions. To do this, militaries must ensure that contractors practice sustainability in their operations, down to the amount of packaging they use for their goods.

Another aspect of EPP is performing a life cycle assessment (LCA) of an item or service. This process determines how much of an effect an item or service will have at the end of its life cycle. Considering how the product will be disposed of at the end of its life, including whether it can be recycled or composted, can be an important factor as well. 


The journey to achieving total sustainability in the military is long but not impossible. While it’d be better to avoid open war altogether, should a situation require boots on the ground, militaries should do so in the most efficient and environmentally-friendly manner.


Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

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