A SOLDIER’S PERSPECTIVE
BY SERGEANT MAJOR JAMES STOOTS
I am energized to continue a culture of taking care of Soldiers, Civilians and their Families. It is one of the greatest feelings to contribute to the success of our Soldiers with facilities and training missions that prepare them to win our nation’s wars and come home safe to their Families. While our Soldiers are away, sacrificing so much for this great nation, it is good to know that we are caring for their Families.
We can better serve our Soldiers and their Families when we are good stewards of tax payer dollars. How, do you ask, can we accomplish this task?
We can accomplish this task by continuously striving for a culture of Soldiers, Civilians and Families conserving energy, saving water and protecting the natural environment for our Army of today and tomorrow.
I have listened to our Army Reserve Installation Management Directorate team talk many times about our environment and energy consumption. The concepts were put to me in a way that I believe most will understand: in order for us to win our nation’s wars, we have to have resources.
Resources come in many forms, but the major ones are water, land and money. We will always need water to sustain our bodies, grow our food and practice proper hygiene. In the Army, we need land to occupy, and we need money to do just about everything. For us to accomplish our mission, we cannot afford a contaminated environment, and we cannot afford to run out of energy and resources. Energy can be the electricity that powers our Reserve Facilities and vehicles, so it is important to have dependable energy.
As I am checking on our facilities and visiting with Soldiers, I talk about how important it is for us to utilize building automation. Building automation helps our buildings regulate climate and reach a balance of comfortability and efficiency. The technology also allows us to tell if something needs maintenance before it goes bad. Building automation can save millions of dollars, which, in return, can be reallocated to other areas of innovative training and new equipment to accomplish our mission.
We are already saving energy in many ways: utilizing efficient light bulbs, deenergizing facilities or parts of facilities that are no longer in use, using laptops instead of power hungry desktops, automating thermostats, installing automatic and motion sensor lights, and the list goes on.
I echo what many have said about how important it is to have support and ownership across all levels of our great Army – from the strategic level down to the tactical level. I hear Soldiers discuss, and I have experienced many times, a disruption to our energy supply that affected our field’s battle rhythm. Army Reserve Soldiers are citizen warriors that have many skills they bring to the fight from their civilian professions. They could have many skills such as architects, environmentalists, solar panel engineers and much more. So, I challenge Soldiers to be innovative – not only to save energy but to think of different ways and means for the Army Reserve to be more efficient and self-reliant.
You can share your ideas with your Facility Manager to see if they can be implemented. I see many people contributing already, and I want to encourage everyone to continue paving the road for success. It is imperative that everyone contributes their part, ensuring the Army is a leader in sustainability as we fight for peace across our globe. We need to ensure that we anticipate and adapt to the constant evolution of energy production, because being secure in energy is the future for our Army.
James Stoots is the Sergeant Major for the Army Reserve Installation Management Directorate at United States Army Reserve Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
IT’S NOT PERSONAL, SONNY …
IT’S STRICTLY BUSINESS
AN INTRODUCTION TO MINIMALISM
BY OLIVIA OUDINOT
Roughly three years ago, I was trying to write a case analysis for my business consultancy class at around three in the morning. Equipped with tea, class notes and a laptop, the screen remained eternally blank. In the meantime … what can I do?
Procrastination lured in. How about sorting paperclips? I opened a drawer and was immediately swallowed by receipts, pens, papers and everything in between.
An hour later, I found myself sitting on the floor surrounded by every single thing that was in my desk. I started to throw out everything I did not use. With much diligence, the result came down to four notebooks, a folder with lined paper, a filled pencil case, a container of paperclips, a box of thumbtacks and a folder for important documents. It felt nice to have this clear, clean space. There’s a name for this … decluttering … no, a concept … isn’t there a book?
A Google search and voila: minimalism. Simplifying your life and decluttering your space. There are even two dudes who blog about this! The Minimalists … what a cool name.
Minimalism, as I found out, is a purposeful process of removing all belongings that are not used or do not provide value. For instance, take a look at your desk, open your drawer and look at the items it houses. Is it used every day? Is this a document you reference often? Do these pens still work? Investigate every item, establish its purpose and determine whether it is worth keeping. Minimalism examines the difference between desire and necessity, and it provides opportunities to recognize what is significant to you.
SIMPLICITY IS A PROCESS, NOT A CONTEST
Often, people ask me: how is it possible to go through all of my possessions and sort it out? I won’t lie to you. It is an extremely daunting task. It is a habit to develop, just like exercising or eating consciously. It is a discipline that requires time to research, reflect and practice.
There are two tactics I would suggest, depending on your preference. The first is a corner approach. Decide on a room – even a corner of a room – and dedicate a week or two to go through all of its belongings. Empty everything, and create four piles: Keep, Donate, Recycle and Trash. As you go through each object, question it. Ask yourself if it has a functional purpose or if it fills you with joy. Be meticulous with every item. It is okay to not know the answer immediately. In fact, it provides a fun challenge. Grab another box, label it Uncertain, and place in it everything that you are unsure about. Close the box and store it away for the next 30 days. Anything left unopened or unused after that time period should be donated, recycled or thrown away. The second strategy, “a packing party,” is one created by The Minimalists. If you are leaning towards a faster process, pack up everything you own (yes, all of it), and tape up all of the boxes. For the next month, open to retrieve belongings only as needed. Everything not used within that time period is to be donated, recycled, thrown away or sold.
Decluttering is the starting point of minimalism. It is a difficult – even an emotionally draining – process that many avoid. Unfortunately, societal and economic factors have created and encouraged a culture of over-consumption, making it challenging to lighten our households and practice intentional purchasing. The over-consumption lifestyle produces an enormous amount of waste. Keeping this in mind, it is important to find what works for you and allow time to develop this practice, regardless of the approach you take.
STRIVING FOR A SUSTAINABLE MINDSET
There are many different ways to live a sustainable lifestyle. It can range anywhere from using public transportation regularly, composting and recycling, or installing solar panels. For me, minimalism means using everything I own to its maximum purpose. It offers three key components: 1) physical sustainability, by reducing the amount of waste consumed; 2) financial sustainability, by purchasing less and intentionally; and 3) emotional sustainability, by placing only the most important and meaningful belongings in your life. It has provided a long-term outlook in how I live, how I consume, how I purchase, and how I act.
I encourage you to explore this practice, should it catch your interest, with the understanding that this is not a one-fits-all formula. Every person will have a different set of values, priorities, and approaches. Reflection is to be paired with intention, taking the time to experiment, learn and discover.
In case you were wondering, by the way, I did end up writing that case analysis at around 5:30 AM, finishing in time for my 8:30 AM class. I passed with an A- (which absolutely shocked me, since I referenced a quote from The Godfather in it). Perhaps it was because I kept saying “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business” to what I was throwing away that evening. It was an unexpected start to a long-term journey.
Olivia Oudinot is the Programs Coordinator for Army Reserve Sustainability Programs.
All of the views and opinions expressed in Voices of Sustainability are those of the author’s alone and do not necessarily represent the views of Army Reserve Sustainability Programs, the United States Army Reserve, or the United States Department of Defense. Army Reserve Sustainability Programs, the United States Army Reserve and the United States Department of Defense do not necessarily endorse any practice, product, service or person mentioned in Voices of Sustainability. The authors own all copyrights to their work. For reprint permissions, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.