The Green Army

Environmental consciousness hits the Pentagon

| July/August 1998

You don't have to be a member of Greenpeace to be an environmental activist these days. From homeowners composting their grass clippings to business leaders promoting eco-friendly manufacturing, lots of regular folks are pitching in. Who's next? Believe it or not, it's the defense industry.

Under pressure to cut toxic releases in half before the year 2000, the U.S. Department of Defense is hard at work developing more 'environmentally friendly' munitions and weapons, according to Leora Broydo in Mother Jones (March/April 1998). The results: nontoxic metal alternatives to traditional lead bullets, missiles with increased emissions controls, and exterior coating for fighter planes that reduces the need for paint strippers and other hazardous chemicals.

This new approach is 'greener' than you may think: The push for more environmentally friendly weapons can actually save the government serious money. Using lead-free bullets, for instance, could cut the amount of money the army spends cleaning lead-contaminated soil from its 1,870 small-arms firing ranges by some $20 million a year.

But while the new weapons may help keep the planet healthy, they'll still be as lethal as ever. As one Pentagon official puts it, 'None of these efforts to green our weapons will reduce their performance.'