Green acres: The Fort Bragg challenge to live sustainably
August 6, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The Army's latest mission involves the comfort of your own home. The Fort Bragg Sustainability Team, whose motto is "The right way ... the green way ... all the way," focuses on finding better ways to engage Soldiers and Families in school, work, home and social circles by encouraging them to "think green."
Its recent project, the Fort Bragg Green Living Challenge 2010, featured five categories to score points for the environment: (1) maintain a green home and garden, (2) conserve energy, (3) reduce auto dependence, (4) shop responsibly and (5) green your community.
The challenge ran from June 7 to 30 and culminated with the announcement of a winning Family on July 2. The prize - a Kenmore 25 bottle wine chiller worth $200, which pleased Erica Miller-Walker and her Family (think: organic chardonnay) but the real reward was learning to leave a lighter footprint on the earth.
"It's poured over to Family time ... from exercising to game nights in lieu of TV and Internet," said Miller-Walker, who now shops locally and chooses reusable or paper bags over the plastic variety (which are harder to recycle and take much longer to decompose). The Family eats better too, saving $400 in restaurant bills over the course of a month.
"I think this project started out as a mission to win a contest and has become a slow progression to changing our ways of thinking and living," said Miller-Walker, whose Family downsized to one vehicle and committed to neighborhood walks and other outdoor activities.
According to Miller-Walker, "It's important to start simple and do things that are easy, effective and make an immediate impact." Miller-Walker's children even helped create a wildlife sanctuary in the backyard, then added their photographs and paintings to the journal.
Miller-Walker switched to paperless billing during the green living challenge and began opting out of ATM receipts. "Sometimes a little effort goes a long way," she added.
Melinda Harrington, a sustainable materials planner for Fort Bragg's Environmental Division, said, "It was like a journey for (the Miller-Walkers), it's a neat story, and that's why they won. It brought them closer together as a Family."
Harrington helped spearhead the green living challenge, which invited participation from anyone connected to the Fort Bragg community.
"We wanted to capture people's stories, lessons learned, so (others) could experience the challenge vicariously and go, 'you know what, I could do that too'," noted Harrington, who was raised in the "green" state of Oregon. A former Soldier stationed at Fort Bragg, Harrington remembers the early days when sustainable awareness was still low.
"It was just killing me to throw my soda can in the trash," said Harrington, who notes the marked difference in Fort Bragg's earth-friendly focus today. Harrington added that new construction is supposed to be leadership in energy and environmental design certifiable silver, thanks to practices adopted in 2008.
But the momentum behind the green living challenge comes from individuals who hope to preserve, and improve, the community's quality of life. Phyllis Crumley, a property book officer for the department of Plans, Training and Mobilization on post, heard about the green living challenge through the Green Directorate Program. Crumley, an Army widow, spent her childhood in the Fayetteville area and said, "the military has been part of my life from birth."
Crumley welcomed the challenge to improve her lifestyle by making easy changes to her daily routine. She'd always been conservative with water flow at home (cutting off the water when brushing her teeth or washing her face, for instance) but noticed room for improvement. So Crumley increased her recycling efforts, even picking up trash on her neighborhood walks. She now carries her own reusable bags to grocery stores and uses a filtered water system instead of bottled water.
Crumley's influence is felt in subtle ways, too, among Family and friends. "At work I've had people who just threw their stuff in the garbage and now they ask, 'Would you like to take this home and recycle it''" said Crumley.
Concern for the environment and wildlife motivates Crumley, but she said, "Most of all...our children and our children's children can have all the benefits we've appreciated."