Friday, June 26, 2009

Like Butterflies?

Like butterflies? If so, come to the Butterfly Count tomorrow, June 27, 8:00 AM at Lake Arrowhead State Park.

You don't have to know anything about butterflies--this is a good chance to learn some of the more common species. Hosted by the Rolling Plains chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists, the count helps supply information concerning the health of butterfly populations in the United States.

You will be able to enter the park for free if you indicate you are with the Master Naturalists. The group, headed by Terry McKee, will be meeting just inside the main gate. There is a charge of $3 per person to support the North American Butterfly Association in compiling and maintaining the data. Bring water, bug spray and if you have them, a butterfly net and butterfly field guide.

While you're on the NABA website, look around for great information on planting for butterflies.

I have attended these counts in the past, and they are fun. Unfortunately, I can't be there tomorrow. A person can only do so many things in a weekend and Saturday is my day at Wild Bird Rescue.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

TV Takeback Programs

I get a regular e-newsletter from Green America that has some good information. One of the articles this issue is on TV takeback programs. Here is the link to the report. It isn't great, but better than last year, so progress is being made.

There are a lot of great resources on this site--I suggest making it a favorite on your internet browser. Here's an extra from the website: 13 Ways to Go Green and Save Money.

Social Entrepreneurship

I had never heard the term "social entrepreneur" until this morning when I was reading the newest issue of CSRWire. Don't know if I was just not paying attention before (hey--it happens!) or this was really the first time I have read the term.

According to Ashoka, a social entrepreneur is a person with an innovative solution to society's most pressing social problems. They act as change agents for society. One of the interests areas is the environment and on that page, there is a discussion of changing economic incentives. There was a program on KCCU this morning on this approach to climate change--to make renewable energy a better economic value that other forms of energy, such as coal. It was interesting, although I can of course, not find a link to the story on the NPR Facebook page (usually I can.)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Save the Date! NPSOT Symposium in October

I'll post more detailed information when I get it, but if you are interested in native plants, you may want to attend the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) Symposium that will be held right here in Wichita Falls, October 15 - October 18. I will be at another conference on the 15th, but I am going to try to make at least part of the activities.

Thanks to Paul Dowlearn for the reminder.

Sunshine Natural Foods

Sunshine Foods has been a long-time favorite for organic and natural food in Wichita Falls. Before the major grocery chains began to carry a lot of natural and organic foods, this was about the only place in town to get these products. They are also the only restaurant that has organic food on the menu and vegetarian selections. They also have meat dishes.

It has been a long time since I went to Sunshine as the last couple of times haven't been impressive in terms of food quality and selection on the shelves. However, the point is to encourage businesses that support sustainable living, so I decided to go back today to check out lunch. I'm glad I did. Lunch was good. I decided on the chicken soup with whole grain roll, since I wasn't starving (although I did pick up an oatmeal raisin cookie to go--it was supposed to be my afternoon snack, but it didn't last that long. No willpower.) I did overhear some folks who came in behind me who had never been to the restaurant before--let's help Sunshine by spreading the word. I will go more often.

I did notice going in that they are now offering organic produce AT COST. I am not sure how they can afford to do that, but good for them. They don't have a large selection of produce, but perhaps if more people come in, they will in the future. You can also purchase local raw honey by the pound--just turn on the spigot and fill your choice of container. The shelves were better stocked than they were at times in the past. Although many of the products are available in local grocery stores, some are not.

I have been disappointed that Sunshine Foods has not been a vendor at the EcoFair in the past--perhaps they will get involved this year. I hope so.

My favorite is the bakery. They always have some fresh organic bread and cookies, both of which are soft points with me.

Green Workplace Workshop

As advertised, I attended a Green Workplace workshop sponsored by Benchmark last week. It was a good introduction to the topic and we all received another United Supermarkets cloth shopping bag (you can't have too many of those) as well as some handouts on water conservation and other tidbits. They also gave out workplace posters with 10 very simple ways to green the workplace. As they promised, there wasn't much in the way of advertising (of course, there was a little, but that's to be expected.)

Although fairly elementary, I did pick up some things I didn't know about. If you use a lot of batteries in your workplace or home, then The Big Green Box is an option. Yes, it costs, but considering the weight of batteries, the cost probably about covers shipping. The box can also be used for recycling some e-waste. We don't have a lot of options for that in Wichita Falls.

I have also been looking at web conferencing options and Benchmark uses DimDim as a free option for small groups (less than 20). I can see this as a good alternative for small businesses and non-profits to keep travel costs down (and reduce carbon emissions.)

Thanks, Joel, for the invite and Janet Jackson for the presentation.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Interested in Water Habitats?

The following is the text of an e-vite I received today:

Red River Stakeholders:

The SARP Community Watershed Project is coming to Wichita Falls the week of June 29th. As a stakeholder in the waters, the aquatic resources, and the use of the land, you are invited to participate.

In case you have not already read about the project, please look over the information provided below.


Tuesday, June 30th from 3 – 4:30 PM in Room 178, Dillard College of Business Administration, Midwestern State University.

Please read below (or the attached brochure Note: since I cannot attach the brochure, please contact me for a copy--I can email it--Penny) for more information and forward this email to others who are engaged and informed about the river basins and the resources they provide. We will continue to collect input and information through the middle of August 2009.

What is the SARP Community Watershed Project? The SARP Community Watershed Project seeks to find out what key stakeholders in the Sabine and Red River basins know and care about—specifically with regard to aquatic resources. Aquatic resources are the fish and other species which make up the diverse ecosystems found in our rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. SARP (see below) is an alliance of the 14 southeastern states, some federal agencies, Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, and others focused on preserving the benefits we receive from healthy fisheries and aquatic ecosystems. The Watershed Project brings a range of interests together to bring a diversity of local perspectives and knowledge into the planning process.

The guiding document for SARP is the Southeast Aquatic Habitat Plan (SAHP) (Note: I can also email this to you--Penny), which sets targets and strategies for conservation. 34% of North American fish species and 90% of the native mussel species designated as endangered, threatened, or of special concern are found in the Southeast. Read on to see how you can communicate your knowledge and concerns to SARP and its partners as they work to turn this around.

Who is SARP? The Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership (SARP) is an alliance working to “restore aquatic resources including habitats throughout the Southeast, for the continuing benefit, use, and enjoyment of the American people.” SARP focuses on six key issue areas of greatest concern and interest to the Southeast
· Public Use: Increase recreational fishing and other sustainable uses of aquatic resources by the public.
· Fishery Mitigation: Provide high quality angling opportunities at water development projects.
· Imperiled Fish & Aquatic Species Recovery: Reduce the number of imperiled species in the Southeast.
· Inter-jurisdictional Fisheries: Protect, conserve, and restore inter-jurisdictional fisheries in the Southeast.
· Aquatic Habitat Conservation: Appropriate biological, chemical and physical integrity to support healthy functional communities for aquatic habitats.
· Aquatic Nuisance Species: Prevent and control the impact of invasive species on the ecological, economic and societal values of the Southeast.

Our Targeted Stakeholder Categories – If you are engaged and informed on issues that are relevant to the project , we need to hear from you.

Water supply management (human)
Water supply management (environmental)
Water quality management
Land use planning
Real Estate
Economic Development
Fishing, recreational
Fishing, commercial
Conservation advocacy
Natural resource management
Oil & Gas
Policy, Regulation and Law
Friends of [the lake]

Get Involved Stakeholder meetings. Join a live, in-person discussion and help us nail down local issues and priorities. See the enclosed flyer for meetings scheduled for your area (Note: again, call me for a copy--Penny).

The Stakeholder Survey. Tell us what you know about issues relevant to aquatic resources by filling out a convenient, online survey. Go to or email (this page goes live by June 22nd.)

Your contributions to the Watershed Project can take two forms: #1—Express your knowledge and priorities by participating in stakeholder meetings and our online survey.
· What you have experienced and what you care about.
· Local issues and priorities.
· Aquatic ecosystems and populations you know to be under stress.
· Conservation efforts planned, ongoing, or completed.

#2-Direct us to relevant work — studies, reports, databases.
· Bring it up in the survey.
· Email it to me at

We extend our sincere thanks to the Dillard College of Business Administration for hosting this meeting, to Penny Miller for making those arrangements, as well as to the many people who have helped in reaching others with a stake in aquatic resources.

The SARP Community Watershed Project is conducted by the Gulf of Mexico Foundation through a grant from the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership. Learn more about the Foundation on our website at

Thanks, Mike Smith
Project Manager
Gulf of Mexico Foundation
361-882-3939 office
361-563-3406 mobile
361-882-1262 fax

Reusable Bag Sanitation

I really think this should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway. If you are using cloth bags for grocery shopping (and I am sure everyone reading this is), it is important to wash them on occasion. A report from Canada illustrates that bad things can happen when bags are not washed. However, note that the study was conducted and distributed by plastics manufacturers, so there is some bias (and when you read some of the recommendations, it becomes obvious.)

That being said, the information about contamination of bags is valid and should be a concern.

I wash my bags regularly--usually because the minute I carry them in the house, dog and cat hair jump onto them and they just look like they need washing. But we should wash the bags on a regular basis and especially if anything leaks in them or they get wet in the rain.

A blog at has some good pointers:

1. Wash your reusable bags or disinfect them frequently. Leaving them in hot cars with food
ick on them is going to breed germs and bacteria...which leads to,
2. Purchase and use better quality bags that are made from canvas or other washable fabrics.
3. If you have meat, fish or veggies, bag them separately.
4. Anything that leaks should be in its own bag and if that bag gets wet, it should be washed or
dried thoroughly before reuse.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Planning for Sustainability

When I started my company (Venture HRO, LLC), I thought about what I could do to ensure the company would do its part in corporate social responsibility, to include sustainability. Again at the annual meeting this past April, the company policy was reviewed and expanded--from the types of office supplies to be used, reducing/eliminating/recycling waste, and work arrangements for future employees to permit flexible work arrangements.

Mine is still a small company, but my feeling was that these principles and policies needed to be in place immediately, so we keep focus on these principles as we grow, rather than as an afterthought.

What is your company doing?

Help EcoFair

If you have been to the EcoFair the past two years, you know it is a fun and educational event. The next Ecofair will be October 3, so save the date now.

If you have ideas for vendors, speakers or sponsors, please contact River Bend and pass on the information.

Look for a page/group on Facebook soon.

Don't Forget EcoFair Meeting Tonight!

If you are interested in EcoFair 2009 on October 3, please attend a planning meeting tonight at 7 PM at River Bend Nature Center. Bring your ideas, potential vendors, speakers, etc.

See you there!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Top 10 Myths About Sustainability

I was doing some research for my presentation on sustainability on Wednesday and came across this article from Scientific American, "Top 10 Myths About Sustainability," that I thought was a good introduction to the concept for everyone. I find that we tend to throw around words and assume we are all talking about the same thing, but that isn't always the case.

Another good article (that I chose in part because of the reference to zebra mussels) is "Being Green 11 Environmentally Friendly Habits." I am going to be doing a mussel watch this Sunday and part of our purpose is to look for zebra mussels--thank goodness we haven't found any in our area yet.


New Resources Added

I added some blogs to the blog list. One I find exciting is the Norman Sustainability Network. I am going to try to find a contact to see what we can learn from them since they are so close.

I also added a couple of blogs of individuals who are trying to change the way they live--I thought they may provide ideas and encouragement to the rest of us. I know I have a house bigger than I need and a truck that uses too much gas. I don't pay as much attention as I should to the things I eat and the things I buy. I will probably rebel if I try to do too much at one time, but small changes add up. So what small steps are you taking (or considering) to live a more sustainable lifestyle?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Worksmart by Going Green

Joel White with Benchmark gave me a flyer today for a 1-hour complimentary workshop they are sponsoring on June 18. I have been assured this is NOT a sales presentation. Here is the pertinent information on the event:

Title: Worksmart by Going Green

Description: Businesses play a key role in implementing smart, goal-oriented "green practices." Come and discover effective green practices that can help your office reduce costs, improve efficiency, and drive innovation--all of which add tremendous value to the bottom line.

Date: 18 June

Time: 10:00 am or 1:30 pm

Location: Benchmark Office, 900 8th Street, Suite 112 (Hamilton Building)

To RSVP: Call 940-691-1043

I plan to attend the morning session to learn more.

River Bend Education Program

Peter Loos, Chapter Liaison with the Native Plant Society of Texas, will be presenting a program, "The 10 Ecoregions of Texas," Friday, June 12, 7:00 PM. $3 for the public; free to River Bend members.

Unfortunately, the League of Women Voters has a board meeting/pot luck that same evening, so I doubt I will make it, but here's hoping for a large turnout.

Thanks to Paul Dowlearn of Wichita Valley for the heads up. Check out Wichita Valley's new website as well.

Curbside Recycling

Talk about a controversial issue!

A number of people and organizations have been advocating a curbside recycling program for some time. The League of Women Voters of Wichita Falls has been lobbying for a curbside program since 1998. Last year, two young people (Samantha McMahen and Heather Vasquez) started a petition requesting the city begin a curbside recycling program and spoke to the City Council (as did I, representing the League). The room was full of interested citizens. I understand from Samantha she is getting ready to go back to deliver a stack of signed petitions to the Council--Samantha--let us know when you are going and we'll try to get the word out for support!

The city has an organics recycling program for items that can be made into compost. Recently, the City of Wichita Falls has started charging residents $3 per month to pick up organic waste in recycling (although I can throw it in my trash at no charge.) This past week in the Times Record News, there was an article that the organic recycling program is in danger due to residents placing non-compostible items such as plastic and aluminum cans in the organics container. I thought it was just ignorance among those using the containers, but someone at the Sierra Club meeting said that some had told her they were doing it as a form of protest. If they put other recyclable items in the compost bin, then the City would get the message that they should have a curbside recycling for aluminum cans and plastic. Unfortuately, that is not the message the Sanitation Department is getting.

Get a grip, people. Let's do this part right. We're diverting a large percentage of potential refuse from the landfill. We can continue to work on the rest. We don't want to go backwards on this.

EcoFair Planning Underway

River Bend is planning the annual EcoFair for October 3, 2009. If you are interested in helping plan this year's event, please attend the meeting on Monday, June 15, 7:00 PM at River Bend. If you have questions, please contact Samantha McMahen, 940-767-0843 or

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How About a Vegetarian Restaurant?

One of the things we talked about at the Sierra Club meeting is the need for a good vegetarian restaurant, preferably emphasizing local, organic produce. Right now, that would be a tough sell as it is not easy (perhaps impossible) to find locally grown, organic produce.

There is very little in the way of vegetarian fare in the local restaurants, and certainly nothing organic. Sunshine Foods has a small lunch selection. The food is okay, but nothing to write home about.

I could see an argument for having a portion of the menu with grass fed, organic beef and other meat items, to encourage more people to try the restaurant and sample vegetarian fare.

Please, one of you restaurant owners or restaurant owner wannabe's, how about giving this a try? (Or if you don't want to go too far out on the proverbial limb, how about adding more vegetarian choices to your current menu? Of course, the dishes would have to be more orginal than a side dinner salad with iceberg lettuce.)

Getting Started

Last night I attended a meeting of the Red River Sierra Club (note, the group page has a lot of broken links.) We're a small group, but we exchanged a lot of ideas and information. When I left, I remembered a thought I had some months ago about starting a website that focused on green topics in the Wichita Falls area, in an attempt to help those who are trying to live a healthier, sustainable lifestyle connect to others with similar interests. I am not quite ready to take on that project yet--I am still trying to get my business website updated. But in the meantime, I thought a blog would be useful in at least spreading what I hear about and allowing others with similar interests to interact.

I have two related blogs that I have listed in the blog list to the side. I also added a couple of other local blogs that may be of interest. The bird blogs are not necessarily a spot-on match, but I find people who are interested in green topics often appreciate nature as well.

Send me:
Links to other related blogs
Reviews and links to good books and articles
Upcoming events
Forums, meetings, and workshops of sustainable living products
Businesses with related products or services

I am looking forward to encouraging a more sustainable and healthier Wichita Falls.