Editor’s note: This is part one of the Resolution Solution series on 2019 New Year’s goals. The topics encompass the seven dimensions of wellness and this week’s subject is environmental awareness.
In 2018, Fort Bragg’s utility bill was $40 million, according to Dave Heins, Directorate of Public Works-Environmental Division (DPW-ED) chief. This figure, which is a reduction from the year before, excludes various private businesses and the residential areas on post.
“That’s a large bill,” Heins said. DPW-ED is doing what they can to conserve energy to keep the annual bill low or lower.
It is important for the Bragg community to realize and take active steps to be more energy efficient and environmentally conscious because the natural resources available are dwindling, according to Lynda Pfau, DPW-ED sustainability training and outreach contractor.
“As we continue to grow on Fort Bragg, as we continue to add square footage and population, those resources start to get strained,” Pfau said.
Here are several ways the community can go green and conserve energy and natural resources.
Leave the thermostat, stat
“Messing with the thermostat may mess with the system that is not going to recover fast, so it costs more more energy to cool it down (or) warm it up,” Heins said.
This goes the same with propping doors open to regulate indoor temperature, he added.
Pfau noted almost all of the government buildings on Fort Bragg have a large rock near the front door for the purpose of propping the door open. But letting outdoor air in brings in moisture, which in turn is going to feel cooler when the temperature inside goes down or more hotter and humid when the temperature goes up. In warmer situations, this could even cause mold to grow.
“Keeping the door open to let the fresh air in is not the way we operate,” Heins said.
Sneaky peak-hour costs
On Fort Bragg and the city of Fayetteville, there is an extra cost for using energy during peak hours to encourage the community to conserve. Therefore reducing the use during these hours will not only save consumers money, but also aid energy wastage.
According to Heins, peak consumption on post happens between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Off post, summer peak hours from April to October are 3 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday; and winter peak hours are 6 to 10 a.m., Monday through Friday, according to Fayetteville Public Works Commission.
“This is the carrot and the stick … if I charge you more during the peak hour and you’re paying the bill, hopefully you’ll turn it down,” Heins said.
Kick the plastic
Small preventative steps from the get-go are more effective than finding solutions to handling the after effects of recyclable waste. Heins and Pfau suggested a simple step of reducing waste by first owning a reusable water container instead of purchasing drinking water.
“We pay for convenience a lot, but now we have a waste stream we have to (deal) with,” he said.
Curbing the plastic use a step further is being conscious of how much plastic packaging consumers go through. When purchasing a product or produce, consider if it’s necessary for it to have excessive plastic wrapping.
“Reusable bags are one way to reduce that waste stream, which is not large, but you have a floating mountain of plastic in the ocean,” Heins said.
Fort Bragg does not recycle plastic bags, Pfau said. Although several supermarkets in the surrounding towns off post will collect them, she said there is no sure way of knowing if they’re getting recycled because there is no market for them.
“With those plastic bags, sometimes it’s cheaper for them to make new ones than to recycle them,” she said, adding the cost is much greater to recycle single-use plastic because of the cost of cleaning them is too high. Contamination from one-bag can cause a whole batch of plastic to be unrecyclable.
“Water is (a) natural resource we take for granted,” Pfau said. “There are places in the world that are running out of water.”
She listed several water issues in the U.S. that occured in the last several years, such as a Tennessee and Georgia border dispute over water and the 2013 southeastern major drought. Pfau then added the importance of water not only for human consumption, but also to irrigate agricultural, support recreation revenue and drive the economy.
“(Water) is something we take for granted when we have an abundance of it, but when we don’t then it’s ‘how did we get here; why should we be doing this,’” Heins said.
Little steps everyone can do that make a big difference starts at home, such as not letting water run when brushing teeth or washing face, Pfau said. Additionally, choosing what types of plants to garden with can also help conserve water.
“Use drought tolerant native plants,” she said. “They don’t draw in the water so much.”
Interestingly, this past year has been the wettest year on record, so a drought is not an issue in the present.
Another step people can take is to deal with leaky water systems as soon as possible whether they are the ones footing the bill or not.
“Every gallon of water that goes through our system costs money, so not repairing a faucet is sending money down the drain,” he said. “Since 95 percent of our (on post) facilities are not occupied 100 percent of the time, when you see something wrong, report it so that somebody can fix it.”
If a fix needs to be made on post, contact DPW to file a demand maintenance order to get it resolved.
The extra steps
Apart from the four top lifestyle changes people can make to reduce waste, conserve energy and go greener, Pfau and Heins had three additional tips to a greener 2019: keep the storm drains clear of debris, throw flushable wipes in the trash and don’t pour grease down the sink.
“You’d be surprised what they put down the drain,” Pfau said.
Grease goes into the trash. If it goes down the pipe systems, it will cause a back-up, which increases maintenance costs and impacts the environment, Heins said.
As for flushable wipes, Pfau said they clog the drains because they never dissolve even if labeled biodegradable.
Editor’s note: Next week’s Resolution Solution covers how to create sustainable habits to promote physical wellness.