5 Ways to be Sustainable and Improve Your Health

When you “go green,” you will enhance not only the health of Mother Nature. You will enhance your personal health as well!

Use native plants in your landscaping. Native plants enhance the natural aesthetics of an area and improve mood. Native plants remove ambient contaminants from the air to improve air quality. Native plants also require fewer fertilizers and pesticides, which can contaminate the ground water supply and cause water borne illnesses.
Also, eat locally grown and produced foods. Local foods often contain fewer chemicals, hormones, fertilizers and pesticides. Local foods usually require less or no packaging, and therefore they help to reduce waste. And, local foods do not have to travel as far from farm to table, so they can help reduce the energy consumption and emissions associated with transportation.

Reduce, reuse and recycle! When you divert materials from the waste stream, you reduce the amounts of waste and potentially hazardous substances in the environment that can negatively impact public health.

Choose environmentally preferred products. Common products such as cleaners, cosmetics and construction materials often contain chemicals that are detrimental to our health, but the “green” versions of these products are generally safer for the environment and for public health because they contain biobased or biodegradable ingredients.

Use alternative forms of transportation when possible. Walking and cycling are excellent forms of exercise that can maintain a healthy weight, improve circulation and enhance mental clarity – among many other benefits. In addition, mass transit networks – especially those that utilize alternative fuels or hybrid technologies – can help to reduce the need for private vehicles and thus reduce emissions that diminish air quality and threaten respiratory health. Alternative forms of transportation reduce the number of vehicles on the road, therefore providing a safer environment for cyclists and pedestrians and reducing motor vehicle accidents and their related injuries.

Conserve energy and water. By conserving energy, you can reduce our national dependence on petroleum. In addition, you can prevent a potential scarcity of petroleum – a scarcity that could have direct impacts on the ability to manufacture and transport medical supplies and to provide medical care. Energy conservation will reduce the need for electricity generation, a practice that creates emissions. Furthermore, energy conservation will decrease the demand for coal, which augments air pollution loads. By conserving water, you can help to reduce the demands on municipal water infrastructure. You can also help to maintain the levels of clean water supplies and and reduce the  risks of illnesses associated with polluted water.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Climate and Health Program

Health Benefits of Going Green

How Going Green Benefits Physical and Mental Health

25 Instant Health Benefits of Going Green






Spring is here! Just as Mother Nature renews the environment, you may be ready to refresh your home. Stay “green” while you spring clean with some simple, sustainable ideas.

  • Repurpose old materials to create new cleaning supplies. For instance, you can use an old toothbrush to clean hard-to-reach places such as corners and crevices. You can also use old clothes, sheets and towels as dust rags and dish cloths.
  • Consider reusable cleaning products. Choose mops, cloths and sponges that you can sanitize in a hot water wash instead of disposable or one-time-use items. Buy cleaning products in concentrated form, and refill bottles of cleaning solutions when possible. All of these methods will save money and reduce waste.
  • Use environmentally friendly cleaners. Create your own environmentally sound cleaners with ingredients commonly found in your kitchen such as white vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. If you prefer to purchase cleaners, choose biodegradable or plant-based formulas. Look for certification labels such as Green Seal or EPA Design for the Environment.
  • Replace air fresheners with essential oils. A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that a majority of common air fresheners contain chemicals known as phthalates. Phthalates can disrupt hormones and cause birth defects. To refresh your home, use essential oils such as lemon, cinnamon, lavender, pine and peppermint.
  • Use house plants to clean the air. House plants can absorb volatile organic compounds in the air and actually thrive on ambient chemicals that are detrimental to humans. Gerbera daisy, Chinese evergreen, English ivy, dracaena, philodendron, weeping fig, moth orchid, golden pothos and areca palm are all effective air filters.
  • Change your air filters every one to three months and clean vents regularly to improve your indoor air quality, reduce the amount of dust in your home and increase the efficiency of your climate control system.
  • Take control of your clutter by parting with items that you no longer need or want. Donate any unwanted items to a charity or resell them at a consignment shop. Or, host a tag sale or a swap. Recycle items that you cannot donate, sell or trade.
  • Do not purchase tools, carpet cleaners and other expensive items. Instead, rent them from a home improvement retailer or Fort Bragg FMWR Equipment Rental.



Green Spring Cleaning Ideas

25 Green Spring Cleaning Tips

Easy Ways to Green Your Spring Cleaning

DIY Cleaning Recipes for the Whole House

67 Homemade, All-Natural Cleaner Recipes

How to Make Your Own Cleaning Products from Good Housekeeping

Green DIY Air Fresheners

Natural Home Deodorizers and Air Fresheners

Build Your Own Oil Diffuser

Using House Plants to Clean the Air




  • Two cups of distilled water
  • One-half cup of distilled white vinegar
  • One teaspoon of pure castile (vegetable-based) soap
  • 20 drops of tea tree essential oil
  • 20 drops of lemon essential oil

Combine all ingredients into a spray bottle and mix thoroughly. Apply to surfaces to be cleaned and then wipe with a damp cloth. This cleaner is safe and effective on a variety of surfaces.


Air Filter

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air can be up to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air, and since we spend as much as 90 percent of our time indoors, the quality of the air in our homes and offices can significantly affect the quality of our lives and the quality of our health.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units can have an impact on indoor air quality. More than 70 percent of American households have central heating and air conditioning units, but nearly half of homeowners do not consistently change their air filters. Air filters are designed to remove polluting particles such as pollen, dust and mold from the air, but over time, those particles accumulate and eventually restrict air flow. As a result, a saturated air filter contributes to a decrease in HVAC efficiency and becomes its own source of air pollution. Regular air filter maintenance is one of the simplest, most inexpensive and most effective means to improve both the efficiency of an HVAC and the quality of indoor air.

The common blue or green spun fiberglass air filters are considered the “traditional” filters, but they may not be as efficient at cleaning the air as other filters.

When choosing and caring for air filters, there are several features to consider.


Generally, air filters are one inch to four inches in depth, and they are available in a variety of heights and widths. An air filter is usually labeled based on its nominal size, which is the size of the filter rounded up to the nearest inch. An air filter should fit snugly into its chamber and be equipped with a sturdy frame for proper air filtration. Consult your HVAC owner manual for manufacturer-recommended specifications.


There are several types of air filters that are commonly used for residential HVAC systems. Spun fiberglass air filters may be considered the “traditional” air filters. They are inexpensive, disposable and effective at capturing common air pollutants, but they should be replaced at least monthly for proper air filtration. Pleated air filters are a more efficient choice since they collect minute pollutants and require replacement about every three months. They are also disposable, but they are slightly more expensive than their spun fiberglass counterparts. Some filters feature an electrostatic charge to attract more polluting particles, and some filters feature an antimicrobial treatment to prevent pollutants from living on the filter where they are trapped. Washable air filters can be reused and require replacement only every few years, so they can reduce waste. However, they are not disposable and therefore must be cleaned regularly. Consult your HVAC owner manual for manufacturer-recommended specifications.


Many air filter manufacturers and retailers use their own systems to evaluate a filter’s ability to remove polluting particles from the air. But, the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) is the only universal rating system for air filters. Residential air filters have MERV ratings of one to 12, depending on their abilities to capture miniscule particles. Most air filters remove large particles such as pollen, dust and lint quite adeptly, but filters with higher MERV ratings are more efficient and can capture microscopic mold spores, dust mite debris, pet dander, smoke, smog and even particles that carry viruses and odors. So, a higher MERV rating generally translates into cleaner air. Filters with higher MERV ratings also have to be replaced less often. ASHRAE recommends a filter with a MERV rating of at least six for most residences, but a filter with a nine to 12 MERV rating is considered the best choice, especially for households with people with allergies, asthma and other respiratory concerns. However, a filter with a MERV rating above 16 is not often recommended for residential filtration because it can actually restrict air flow, cause damage to HVAC systems and increase utility costs.


Some air filters, such as those made from spun fiberglass, have no pleating. Others are pleated. If you choose a pleated version, choose a filter with more pleats per foot, which has more filter media for cleaner, more efficient air flow.

Remember: every disposable air filter needs to be replaced at least every one to three months to maintain proper HVAC operation and to improve air quality. Washable air filters must be cleaned regularly, too. A filter may require replacement or maintenance more often if a member of the household smokes, if a member of the household suffers from respiratory concerns, if the home is located in a dusty or polluted area, or if the filter becomes saturated with polluting particles, especially at certain times of the year such as pollen season.



Environmental Protection Agency – Indoor Air Quality

No If’s, And’s or BUTTS: Preventing Cigarette Litter Pollution

September is Pollution Prevention Month, and Sustainable Fort Bragg wants you to butt out – your cigarette butt, that is.

Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the United States and the world.

Of the 176 million pounds of cigarette butts that are discarded in the United States each year, 65 percent of those are littered. Over 4 TRILLION cigarette butts are littered every year worldwide.

Cigarette litter presents numerous public health and environmental concerns.

First, 95 percent of cigarette filters are comprised primarily of cellulose acetate, a plastic that does not biodegrade.

Cigarette butts pose a threat to our municipal water sources because they often enter local waterways through storm drains. In fact, 32 percent of the litter that enters storm drains is tobacco products. Over 125 detrimental chemicals from cigarettes and tobacco can then infiltrate and contaminate the water supply. These chemicals include arsenic, acetone, lead, formaldehyde, benzene, nicotine and cadmium – all of which have been associated with numerous health concerns such as neurological issues, cardiovascular issues and cancer.

Cigarette litter is harmful to wildlife and marine life if animals, birds and fish consume the litter as food.

In addition, cigarette litter creates a fire threat. Improperly extinguished cigarette remnants contribute to devastating property fires and wildfires. The National Fire Protection Agency estimates that cigarettes cause at least 90,000 fires every year. According to the United States Fire Administration of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, such fires claim the lives of 1,000 people, and they injure over 3,000 people annually.

Furthermore, cigarette litter carries financial impacts. Cigarette butts account for a significant portion of the litter that costs $11.5 billion to remove each year in the United States. Fort Bragg must pay over $1 million annually to remove litter from roadways and waterways on post. The presence of litter decreases property values by an average of 7 percent and can decrease the appeal of natural areas where it is present, thus decreasing revenues garnered by tourism. Fires caused by cigarettes lead to millions of dollars in property damage, too.


If you choose to smoke, choose to be an environmentally responsible smoker and commit to pollution prevention.

Always ensure that your cigarette is fully extinguished before you discard it.

Do not discard cigarette ashes or remnants on the ground, in a storm drain or in a waterway. Do not flush cigarette remnants.

Use an ash receptacle, if one is available, to deposit your ashes and cigarette remnants. If an ash receptacle is not available, fully extinguish your cigarette and place the remnants in another proper waste receptacle. Request the placement of ash receptacles at your office in designated smoking areas, and consider using an ash receptacle at your home.

Or, use a pocket ashtray to collect ashes and cigarette remnants until you can properly dispose of them. Many pocket ashtrays are available for purchase, or you can create your own pocket ashtray by using reclaimed materials such as film canisters or mint tins.

If we all work together, we can ensure a clean and healthy Fort Bragg for the Soldiers of today as well as the Soldiers of tomorrow – the right way … the green way … all the way!

For more information, visit Keep America Beautiful’s Guide to Cigarette Litter  Prevention.

Green Clean

Chemicals are a part of our modern world, and every individual at some point in time will be exposed to these potentially detrimental substances. As Rachel Carson wrote in Silent Spring, “As crude a weapon as the cave man’s club, the chemical barrage has been hurled against the fabric of life.”

However, safer chemicals can create a safer world.

When purchasing cleaners, consider biobased and water based cleaners.

Or create your own cleaners with common materials.


According to numerous studies, environmentally preferred cleaners perform as well as – if not better than – commercial chemical cleaners. These five recipes are safe for your health, your wallet and your environment.

To polish silver, cover the bottom of an aluminum or enameled pan with aluminum foil. Place your tarnished silver in the pan. Fill the pan with enough water to completely cover the silver. Add one teaspoon of baking soda and one teaspoon of salt. Boil on your range for three minutes. Remove the silver, rinse in clean water and polish.

To polish furniture, combine two teaspoons of lemon essential oil with one pint of olive oil in a spray bottle. Spray the wood polish on a clean, soft cloth and apply to furniture. This wood polish is safe for both varnished and unvarnished furniture.

To clean glass, mix two tablespoons of white vinegar with one quart of water. To add a fresh fragrance, add drops of your favorite essential oil such as lemon or lavender. Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle. Apply the glass cleaner to glass with a soft cloth or newspaper.

To create a linen and fabric spray, place two tablespoons of vodka in a spray bottle. Fill the bottle with distilled water, leaving two inches at the top of the bottle. Add one teaspoon of the essential oils of your choice. Cinnamon and patchouli create a spicy scent. Lavender and vanilla are calming. Lemongrass, orange and mint are refreshing. Spray onto linens and fabrics as needed.

For an all-purpose cleaner, combine two cups of distilled water, one-half cup of distilled white vinegar, one teaspoon of pure castile (vegetable based) soap, 20 drops of tea tree essential oil and 20 drops of lemongrass essential oil into a bottle. Apply with a cloth to the surface to be cleaned and rinse well with warm water. This cleaner is effective at cleaning various surfaces including acrylic, ceramic tile, porcelain, marble and granite.