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Coast Guardsman Inspires Others Through Environmental Stewardship

Michael Hansen stands on top of Texas Hill overlooking the Training Center.

Becoming more environmentally friendly can be as simple as reducing water use and recycling plastic, aluminum and paper products. But one shipmate isn’t stopping there. Michael Hansen is taking his responsibility to be a steward of our environment one step further. His implementation of alternative landscaping design reduces waste and uses less water, resulting in a reduction of ground erosion and lower maintenance costs.

As the engineering technician for Coast Guard Training Center Petaluma in California, and a retired Coast Guard chief warrant officer with 30 years of service, Hansen used innovative and creative thinking to spearhead the use of Xeriscaping – a sustainable landscape design style that requires little or no irrigation. Xeriscaping saves significant amounts of water, which is beneficial in the dry Northern California climate.

Hansen used river rocks, mulch and plants native to the local area to convert nearly 96,000 square feet or 2.2 acres of the training center’s grounds to Xeriscaped areas. Unlike grass which requires extensive watering and often pesticides to nourish the soil, using materials like rocks, mulch and drought-resistant plants help prevent erosion, retain ground moisture, control drainage issues and stabilize the more than 800 acres of hilly slopes on the training center.

“Training Center Petaluma is a great base, but the first impression during the late summer months did not reflect that,” said Hansen. “My motivation to implement Xeriscaping was to provide professional looking landscape year-round as well as reduce water consumption.”

By incorporating a separate tree trimming project, Hansen reduced the overall cost of grounds improvement projects. On site, he trimmed and mulched more than 600 trees producing more than 600 cubic yards of mulch eliminating the need to hire contractors and purchase an equivalent of $30,000 in raw materials.

Hansen also reused clean excavated soil to correct drainage problems and fill in low areas that are susceptible to flooding. Approximately 150 cubic yards were redistributed instead of being disposed off-base or in a landfill.

Despite his success, Hansen is still looking at other ways to be more environmentally friendly, including the implementation of a recycled water program for irrigation.

“It took many people to make this happen and the results are impressive,” said Hansen referring to the all-hands effort to clean up the base, plant trees and shrubs and make other improvements. “It is always interesting hearing from many long time staff, residents or visitors and how impressed they are of the results."

In fact, Hansen’s efforts helped the training center win the Coast Guard Large Unit Environmental Sustainability Award.

“Winning the environmental award two years in a row is a great honor for us,” said Capt. Christopher Hall, commanding officer at Training Center Petaluma. “One of my goals is to make this the most environmentally friendly Coast Guard base in the world. Mike Hansen has been a major contributor to meeting that goal by making a personal and professional commitment to enhancing the landscaping with native plants, reducing our water consumption, and leading by example through stewardship of the environment”

Hansen proves that being environmentally friendly doesn’t have to include elaborate plans or large-scale engineering projects to make an impact. He is just doing his part to help Training Center Petaluma reach the goal of “Petaluma Green.”