Story by Jonelle Kimbrough, Strategic Communicator
Army Reserve Sustainability Programs


Puerto Rico has many unique – and many imperiled – natural resources. In fact, one of its most distinctive trees is also one of its most endangered trees.

Named for the red hue of its heartwood, the Palo de Rosa faces many threats. But, even the strongest storms in the island’s recent history cannot destroy the efforts to conserve the plant at Fort Buchanan, an Army Reserve-funded Installation in San Juan.

Fort Buchanan is one of the few places on Puerto Rico where the Palo de Rosa thrives, and the trees at the Installation are some of the only trees on the island that are producing viable seeds.

According to Victor Rodriguez Cruz, an environmental protection specialist at Fort Buchanan, the Palo de Rosa’s decline could be attributed to many factors.

Deforestation has decimated the Palo de Rosa’s natural habitat.

In addition, the Palo de Rosa’s reproduction cycles are erratic, at best. Biological studies indicate that the tree may be a “mast flowering” species, or one that produces an abundance of fruits in some seasons but no fruits in other seasons.

Seed dispersal is also a challenge for the Palo de Rosa. The Palo de Rosa may be an “outcrossing” species, requiring the cross pollination of individual trees. Since its populations are so limited, the pollination process can be very difficult. Furthermore, the fruits of the Palo de Rosa resemble the fruits of trees pollinated and dispersed by bats. The absence of bats, or other pollinators, can contribute to the tree’s demise.

Last fall, the Palo de Rosa encountered a different enemy: hurricane season.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September of 2017. Despite the destruction, the Palo de Rosa’s future is promising at Fort Buchanan.

On May 2, Rodriguez Cruz – with personnel from the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service – conducted a post hurricane assessment of the Palo de Rosa at the Installation.

“When we first climbed the hill to assess the population, we were a bit concerned because at least 40 percent of the tree cover had fallen, and we suspected that the Palo de Rosa might have also suffered the same fate,” said Rodriguez Cruz. “Fortunately, all the mature trees were still standing.”

“Despite severe defoliation [loss of leaves] and damage to the crowns of the trees, the population is recovering,” said Omar Monsegur Rivera, a biologist with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Rodriguez Cruz said that, as a tropical tree, the Palo de Rosa is a resilient species. “They were already resprouting, and we could see a lot of new growth on them,” he added.

“All trees have an innate capability of resprouting, but tropical species resprout at a much faster rate because their biome receives plenty of sunlight and water, and the soils have sufficient nutrients,” he explained.

As part of its Memorandum of Understanding with the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Fort Buchanan will continue to monitor the Palo de Rosa population, especially as the saplings and seedlings respond to the newly open forest canopy.

“We have seen an abundant germination of new seedlings in the forest floor and saplings with abundant amounts of new growth,” Rodriguez Cruz said, addressing the benefits of the open forest canopy.

On June 23, Fort Buchanan welcomed the city of Ponce’s Boy Scout Troop 514, who planted 20 Palo de Rosa seedlings that were propagated at the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources’ Cambalache Nursery from seed material collected at Fort Buchanan.

The Scouts planted the seedlings near forested habitat to connect the new trees with the known population of Palo de Rosa, providing opportunities for cross pollination and long-term monitoring.

Rodriguez Cruz said that the partnerships between the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Boy Scouts benefit Fort Buchanan in many ways.

“We receive technical expertise from the agencies in order to be more effective in our conservation measures, and they also participate in the monitoring process,” he remarked.

And, as Fort Buchanan cultivates the Palo de Rosa, the Installation also cultivates a caring, conservation-minded community – particularly among the children, who feel that they are contributing to the protection of a species unique to the island.

“We are creating conscious environmental stewards at an early age, which is key to long-term commitment,” said Rodriguez Cruz.

Mother Nature Calls in Ecological Loan on Earth Overshoot Day

This year, Earth Overshoot Day is Wednesday, August 1. Earth Overshoot Day is the date when humans have used more natural resources than our planet can renew in one year through activities such as overfishing our oceans, overharvesting our forests and emitting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than our ecosystems can absorb.

By the end of 2018, humans will use 1.7 Earths, and Earth Overshoot Day is earlier and earlier every year.

Earth Overshoot Day is computed by dividing the planet’s biological capacity (Earth’s supply of ecological resources that year) by humanity’s ecological footprint (humanity’s demand for natural resources that year) and then multiplying that number by 365, or the number of days in one year.

Earth Overshoot Day is an estimate, not an exact date. Humans cannot determine with 100 percent accuracy the day we will bust our ecological budget. However, every scientific model used to account for nature’s supply and humanity’s demand shows a consistent trend: we are well over our resource budget. Our debt is compounding, and the interest is devastating.

Concerns such as erosion and pollution and events such as food shortages and droughts can have many unfortunate effects on our planet and its residents. They can harm our health, degrade our infrastructure and create civil unrest – to name only a few of their worldwide impacts.

The United States Army Reserve has a global presence, and we rely on natural resources such as energy, water and land to be ready and resilient. So, any threats to our natural resources are threats to our mission.

To protect our critical assets and “Move the Date” of Earth Overshoot Day, the Army Reserve implements numerous sustainability initiatives.

The Army Reserve promotes energy conservation, increases energy efficiency and invests in renewable energy. For instance, Fort Hunter Liggett, California generates more than 30 percent of its electricity from renewable technologies. Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico generates about 25 percent of its electricity from solar and wind power. The 63rd Readiness Division completed 21 light emitting diode (LED) projects at John Paul Gaffney Army Reserve Center in Garden Grove, California, for a projected savings of 7.5 million kilowatt hours across 3.6 million square feet of building space.

And, the Army Reserve leverages water conservation and alternative water projects to save resources. To that end, the 63rd Readiness Division has installed drought-tolerant xeriscapes to reduce irrigation at several Army Reserve Centers in California. Pilot projects at Army Reserve Centers in Grand Prairie, Texas and Savannah, Georgia harvest rainwater for vehicle wash and save an estimated 140,000 gallons and 200,000 gallons of potable water, respectively.

Here are some ways to “Move the Date” in your daily life …

Reduce your energy use. If we reduce our energy consumption by 50 percent worldwide, we can move Earth Overshoot Day by 93 days.

Set your thermostat to 68 degrees in the heating season and 78 degrees in the cooling season (where feasible in areas with high humidity) to save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide every year.

Turn the lights off when you leave a room. Artificial lighting accounts for 44 percent of the electricity use in office buildings. And, power down and unplug electronics and appliances when you are not using them.

Replace your incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient light bulbs. One compact fluorescent light (CFL) can save 150 pounds of carbon dioxide every year. LEDs reduced carbon emissions by 570 million tons worldwide in 2017. CFLs and LEDs generate as much light as incandescent bulbs, but they consume less power, produce less heat and last ten to 20 times longer than their less efficient counterparts.

Conserve fuel. If people reduce their driving activities by 50 percent worldwide (assuming that one-third of vehicle miles are replaced by public transportation and two-thirds of vehicle miles are replaced by cycling and walking), we can move Earth Overshoot Day by 12 days.

Reduce your use of hot water. Wash your clothes in cold water or warm water instead of hot water to save as many as 500 pounds of carbon dioxide every year, and wash only full loads of dishes and laundry.

Take a shower instead of a bath. A full bathtub uses about 70 gallons of water, while a five minute shower uses only ten to 25 gallons of water.

Reduce your food waste. About one-third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted. If we can reduce our food waste by 50 percent worldwide, we can move Earth Overshoot Day by 11 days.

Reduce your paper consumption. In the United States, paper products comprise nearly 25 percent of our municipal solid waste, and paper bills alone generate almost two million tons of carbon dioxide. Sign up for e-billing to save paper.

Choose local foods. In North America, fruits and vegetables travel an average of 1,500 miles before they reach our plates. By purchasing locally sourced food, you can reduce the emissions and costs associated with transportation. Local foods are fresher and thus more nutritious, too.

Article by Rosemarie Richard, Environmental Programs Coordinator
Army Reserve Sustainability Programs

For the Birds: Fort Buchanan Conducts Migratory Bird Surveys

In a Puerto Rican forest, a researcher watches as an amber-bellied bird soars on the wind, with only a gentle rustle of her delicate plumes.

“One bananaquit,” he notes.

The birds are common in the Caribbean islands, but each and every one is valuable to the scientists who are studying avian populations in critical – but often ignored – habitats.

In recent years, ecologists have conducted many studies on birds in temperate, urban environments. But, studies on birds in tropical, urban climates have been rare. Scientists in Puerto Rico have surveyed migratory birds in the island’s southern and eastern forests. Cities have been all but neglected – until now.

Fort Buchanan, a United States Army Reserve-funded Installation in the San Juan metropolitan area, is conducting migratory bird surveys.

Such surveys ensure Fort Buchanan’s compliance with federal, Department of Defense and Army regulations regarding avian conservation, and they protect the birds that provide essential ecological services to the island.

Victor Rodriguez Cruz, an Environmental Protection Specialist at Fort Buchanan, said that birds have many roles.

Birds pollinate our plants, and they scatter fruits and seeds, helping the forest regenerate.

Birds also control vermin such as mosquitoes and rodents. By regulating these nuisances, birds prevent the spread of pest-borne illnesses, and they control the populations that harm agricultural commodities.

Last, but not least, birds add cultural value to their communities. “Birding and nature photography are very popular these days,” Rodriguez Cruz noted. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation discovered that nearly 46 million people watch birds for recreation, and bird enthusiasts invest 36 billion dollars in such activities every year.

While birds benefit our environment and our economy, they face many threats at the hands of humans – especially habitat loss. Farmers in Puerto Rico leveled land for agriculture in the 19th century, and developers razed forests for construction in the 20th century. In fact, 11 percent of the island is now urban.

Fort Buchanan, however, remains a viable habitat for migratory birds. Even in the midst of Puerto Rico’s largest city, the Installation boasts 70 hectares of fragmented forests. The Directorate of Public Works actively manages these forest patches for endangered animals such as the Puerto Rican boa, and birds have reaped the advantages of these practices.

Fort Buchanan and the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ Research and Development Center conducted their first migratory bird surveys at the Installation in March, April and October of 2016 to correspond with spring migration season, breeding season and fall migration season. They observed 60 avian species and 1,760 individual birds during those surveys.

The scientists noted Antillean grackles and bananaquits most commonly among native birds and white-winged parakeets and saffron finches most commonly among non-native birds. Surveyors also observed herons, pigeons, doves, woodpeckers, thrashers and rare West Indian Whistling Ducks.

Some of the documented birds are species of “regional conservation concern.” But, their relatively robust presence on Fort Buchanan is a testament to the Installation’s continuous efforts to protect their forest patches and the island’s unique natural resources. For instance, populations of the Puerto Rican flycatcher and the white-crowned pigeon have declined throughout Puerto Rico, but surveyors detected the birds relatively often on the post survey.

In the wake of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in the fall of 2017, Fort Buchanan initiated another round of migratory bird surveys to determine the impacts of the storm on their avian populations and their habitats. So far, Rodriguez Cruz is optimistic about their future. “Tropical forests are very resilient and tend to recover at a faster rate than other forests in other biomes,” he said. “The forest habitats on the Installation are already beginning to recover.”

According to Rodriguez Cruz, the birds can rely on Fort Buchanan’s ambitious conservation plans for generations to come. “[We will strive to] maintain the forest patches as intact as possible to benefit the species,” he said. “And, if projects arise that may have negative impacts to those habitats, [those projects] will be accompanied by potential mitigation measures, such as reforestation, to ensure the long term conservation of our avian species.” The Installation will also protect habitats by ensuring that no pesticides or chemicals are released into the environment.

Rodriguez Cruz said that the community on and around Fort Buchanan can contribute to the efforts to protect and conserve migratory birds, too. Individuals can support local or national bird conservation programs, reduce waste, protect forests, create landscapes around their homes and limit their use of chemicals – especially pesticides. “Most importantly, our communities should become educated about the natural resources around them and the impacts of their actions on the environment,” he said.

So, if you visit Puerto Rico and hear the distinct trill of that bananaquit, listen close. Her melody may be praise for Fort Buchanan and their efforts to protect their avian communities. A verdant oasis in the middle of a bustling city, the Installation is – and will continue to be – quite literally for the birds, and that certainly gives our feathered friends a reason to sing.

Article by Jonelle Kimbrough, Strategic Communicator
Army Reserve Sustainability Programs


Recycle Keyboard

Often, recycling is considered one of the easiest ways to integrate sustainability into daily operations. The U.S. Army Reserve has been successful in implementing recycling programs at its Installations, Mission Support Command (MSC) and Regional Support Commands (RSCs). But, due to their geographical dispersion and unique needs, RSCs face a challenge: to capture the recycling efforts that happen at their sites every day, across the country. The Army Reserve Solid Waste Program is meeting those challenges to ensure that the Army Reserve will reach Federally mandated solid waste diversion goals.

Currently, the municipal solid waste (MSW) diversion rate for the Army Reserve is 37 percent, which is five percent greater than the MSW diversion rate for fiscal year 2014. So, even though there is still work to be done to reach the Federal goal of 50 percent diversion from landfills, the Army Reserve is charting progress that can be attributed to improvements in reporting.

Many Army Reserve sites have established successful recycling programs, but according to Solid Waste Program Coordinator Tyrone Cook, “the challenge has always been in capturing the diversion at the MSC and RSC level due to their unique organizational structures.” So, Cook and the Solid Waste Team sought solutions. They developed a Solid Waste Management and Recycling Profile Survey, which will be used to improve solid waste best management practices, identify areas within established programs that need improvement and identify additional diversion opportunities. In addition, the team added a solid waste management assessment to existing Comprehensive Energy and Water Evaluations to further identify diversion opportunities and program improvement areas, and they created a Solid Waste and Recycling Weight Estimation Tool and accompanying guidance to help sites more accurately report their diversion.

As a result, sites have markedly improved their diversion reporting in Solid Waste Annual Reporting on the Web (SWARWeb). SWARWeb is an online system for
tracking, analyzing and reporting information on the generation, recycling and disposal of non-hazardous solid waste at Department of Defense Installations. Army Reserve
Installations, the MSC and RSCs are capturing a more complete set of data for the diversion that is taking place throughout the enterprise. “We have improved processes that are helping to identify and include data that have been overlooked in the past,” Cook added. “Overall, Installations, the MSC and RSCs are prepared to increase their diversion reporting simply by capturing what is taking place within their fence lines and out in the field. We may find that we have already reached or exceeded the Federally mandated goals.”

As they ride the momentum of a notable increase in solid waste diversion, Cook and the Solid Waste Team realize that they cannot simply rest on that achievement. While they focus on capturing diversion at Army Reserve Centers, they also want to find ways to decrease or divert food waste from waste streams. They are also bolstering recycling education and awareness efforts. For instance, a paper reduction awareness campaign
began in April with goals of meeting Federal and Department of Defense paper reduction mandates, conserving resources, lowering operating costs, reducing waste and improving business efficiency for the Army Reserve. The recycling programs in the field are forging ahead, too, and continuing to support diversion efforts.

Whether it is reporting more of its diversion or recycling more of its waste, the Army Reserve is taking out the trash today so we have a more sustainable mission for the future.


Colored Paper

In honor of the 46th anniversary of Earth Day, enjoy these 46 practical and creative ways to reuse paper. You can click on the projects that are in green for further instructions.

• Use shredded white paper or black and white newspaper to line cages for small animals
Make an eco-friendly cat litter with shredded newspaper

Cut unbleached, undyed paper bags into strips and use them as mulch in your garden
Create biodegradable pots for seedlings from toilet paper or paper towel tubes
• Use a paper coffee cup to scoop garden soil
• Place fresh fruit in a used paper bag to accelerate ripening

• Clean windows with old newspapers and vinegar
• Use pieces of crumpled newspaper to deodorize small spaces
• Line drawers and bookshelves with colorful gift wrap
Decorate a paper towel tube to make a jewelry holder
• Cover old shoe boxes with colorful paper to make storage containers

• Make confetti with colorful shredded paper
• Cut shapes out of colorful paper to make banners, streamers, ornaments and other decorations
Make party hats out of used gift wrap
Make a piñata with scraps of colorful paper
String holiday lights through paper coffee cups to make paper lanterns
Roll old newspapers to make a firestarter

Fold colorful newspapers and magazine pages into gift bags
• Fill gift bags, boxes and baskets with shredded, colorful paper
• Wrap gifts with colorful paper such as newspaper comic strips, obsolete maps and brightly patterned magazine pages
Fold old wrapping paper into gift bows
Design your own greeting cards with graphics from
newspapers and magazines
Turn a paper coffee cup sleeve into a gift card holder

Make a book cover with used gift wrap
• Use blank sections of printed office paper as scratch pads
Decorate toilet paper or paper towel tubes to create desk and drawer organizers
Make a journal or notebook from old magazines
Make a bookmark with bright card stock, old photos and paper

• Save cardboard boxes for future shipping needs
• Use newspapers instead of Styrofoam “peanuts” or plastic
bubble wrap to pack boxes for shipping

Use paper towel or toilet paper tubes to make a wreath
Weave old newspapers into a basket
• Decorate a paper coffee cup and fill it with water to use as a vase for flowers
• Frame colorful, patterned paper to make unique art

Fill paper towel or toilet paper tubes with rice or beans to make homemade maracas
• Make an old-fashioned paper airplane with old newspapers
Use colorful magazine pages for découpage projects
Use old newspapers for paper maché
• Decorate old paper bags to make reusable grocery totes
Make your own recycled paper
Roll old newspapers into beads for jewelry
Fold origami shapes out of old paper
• Repurpose a paper coffee cup to mix paint
• Use old newspapers as a “drop cloth” to protect floors and furniture from painting jobs, your child’s art activities and other potentially messy projects

• Donate old books to a local charity, school or library
• Donate recent magazines to your doctor’s office

No Army Reserve or Federal endorsement of external links is intended.


Paper Reduction

Have you ever felt that you are drowning in a sea of white paper at your desk? If so, you are not alone.

The average American office uses 12.1 trillion sheets of office paper annually. In terms of weight, Americans use 85 million tons of paper, or about 680 pounds for each person, every year.

Clearly, paper is a popular commodity, but its massive consumption has impacts on both our natural and fiscal resources.

According to Ecology Global Network, about 4 billion trees worldwide are felled to manufacture paper each year. Paper production is the third most energy-intensive of all manufacturing industries, accounting for 12 percent of energy consumption in the industrial sector. Paper mills are the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in manufacturing. The creation of paper from virgin materials is also a water intensive industry, and it produces copious amounts of waste water.

The environmental impacts of paper do not end with its production, though. Paper accounts for half of business waste and is one of the largest single components of landfill waste. About 25 percent, or 30 million tons, of landfill waste is paper.

Paper does not come cheap, either. Millions of dollars are expended on paper supplies and paper management by businesses.

And, despite the constantly growing number of electronic mediums available to conduct business, worldwide paper consumption has increased by 400 percent in the last 40 years and is expected to double by the year 2030.

If you could save just one ton of paper, you could save a lot of natural resources.

  • 17 trees
  • 380 gallons of oil
  • 6,500 gallons of water
  • 60 pounds of air pollution
  • 4,000 kilowatt hours of power
  • Three cubic yards of landfill space
  • Millions of dollars

The Army Reserve could reduce its paper use by 20 to 25 percent if everyone remains mindful of conservation. “Paper usage reduction in the Army Reserve will help reduce operating costs and improve business efficiency,” said Tyrone Cook, Army Reserve Solid Waste and Recycling Coordinator. “Environmentally, it will help reduce the negative impacts associated with paper usage such as resource use, pollution from processing and production, transportation costs and disposal costs.”

Consider these paper reduction tips for your office.

  • Adopt a “think before you copy” attitude, and print or copy only what you need.
  • Print or copy on both sides of the paper, and set your office printers to double-sided or “duplex” mode by default.
  • Print documents that could become outdated – such as business cards and letterhead – on demand instead of storing stocks of documents.
  • Store and share files electronically instead of maintaining hard copies.
  • Archive emails in electronic folders instead of printing them.
  • For document editing, use the electronic proofing features in word processing and PDF programs instead of editing on hard copies.
  • Use electronic presentation programs or white boards instead of paper for briefings and presentations.
  • Opt out of individual mailings of catalogs, journals, annual reports, magazines and other publications, and share copies with your colleagues instead.
  • Read publications online instead of on hard copies.
  • Reduce paper flow by conducting processes such as banking, invoicing and ordering online.
  • Use labels to mark file folders instead of writing on the folders directly.
  • Reuse paper supplies as much as possible. For instance, use a blank section of unneeded paper as a scratch pad.
  • Share unneeded or unwanted paper supplies with your colleagues.
  • Choose the most environmentally sound paper possible when purchasing. Choose the lightest paper weight available.
  • Minimize your use of packaging materials when shipping, and reuse packaging materials such as cardboard boxes and “peanuts” as much as possible.
  • Use reusable cups, dishes and utensils instead of disposable products. Replace paper napkins with cloth napkins and paper towels with sponges.