When it is 130 degrees Farenheit with 8% humidity, you need to drink your water. This is the desert, so water is brought into the base from elsewhere. I cannot tell exactly where it comes from, but given the risks of terrorists poisioning our water, I am sure it is not from the local spickets. Drinking water arrives in stacked plastic-wrapped pallets of 1L water bottles, which are subdivided into cases of 12 bottles. These pallets are deposited around the bases, and the water warms in the sun extracting whoknowswhat from the polyethylene terephthalate bottles. The plastic bottletops twist open without the characteristic release of tension and snap which we have all grow so accostumed to in the US. They say the water bottles are not recycled, but who knows why they don't have that seal. (Knowing how many people urinate in these bottles, I want to believe that they are never reused).
The bottles end up in the trash, along with everything else; the cardboard boxes, the styrofoam trays on which I eat, at least, 2 of my daily meals, the mounds of paper, the expired food, all go into the trash, and all of it is burned. In reality, I have thrown out more in the past 6 months than I have in 6 years at home where I recycle with abandon, separate all types of refuse, and make all efforts to wash and reuse those items which can be reused. Military discipline (and martial law) assure there is no litter in sight, but the garbage cans do fill.
Preparing to pack my things, I gave a pair of tennis shoes to the Pakistani janitor, a rug to the Indian who drives the floor cleaning Zamboni, and old towels and hangers to my partners - there seems no reason to carry these things across the pond, and they should be able to use them. This is not reaching my goals for stewardship, but cuts down on the garbage.
Recycling and stewardship have become a tertiary priority, a statement of volunteerism, and they are quickly set aside when the burden grows elsewhere - I even notice this at home where we are less dedicated to composting or separating recycleable goods with 3 children to care for, than we were by ourselves before them - and, here in a deployed setting where environmental considerations are a luxury which seem to impede the mission. When will our jobs of stewards of this planet become mandatory? When will the pursuit of oil and wealth be secondary to the impact on the surroundings, as in the case of the BP oil spill in the Gulf? Do we have to sully the entire planet and render all environments toxic before we place stewardship higher on the moral standard?
The military has its objectives, it just seems that we can accomplish the mission in a way that doesn't leave what we are fighting for so stained from the battle.