Friday, July 24, 2009

Business Sustainability

I came across an article today on Chloregy on"5 Ways to Create a Socially Responsible and Profitable Company." I think every business owner should read it.

When I started my own company, I decided I would spend a percentage of revenue on certain social/environmental programs in the Wichita Falls community (currently 2%.) No matter how small your company, you can do good things for the community. You don't have to choose cash; you can choose other ways to give back. For example, in a recent business newsletter, I talked about developing employee leadership skills and recommended encouraging employees to get involved in non-profit boards and volunteer activities.

The trick is deciding what your company's focus should be and the best way your company can help the community while helping the company achieve its business objectives. There is no reason the two cannot go hand in hand.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Well, I haven't killed my worms yet. I checked this morning when I added some egg shells and the worms were very happily munching on a banana peel I left in there earlier in the week. And no smell.

My oregano and basil are having a hard time on the back porch with the heat. I may have to bring them in the house. My thyme and parsley are not doing much of anything. But we'll see.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Buy Local

Part of a sustainability lifestyle means to help build a sustainable community. A key component of this effort is to buy local.

"Local" is subjective, but generally means that individuals in the local community own at least the majority share of a business and is located within a certain, defined distance of the community it serves. When we were working the EcoFair, we defined "local" as within 100 miles. The distance depends a lot upon what is available.

According to Green Business Practices for Dummies (which I highly recommend if you are a business owner looking to improve your sustainability), a localized economy generally has the following characteristics:

  • Local ownership
  • Direct control
  • Regional sourcing

Why buy local?

  • Small businesses are the largest employer in America
  • Local businesses are owned by people vested in the community--more likely to stay in the community and feel part of its future
  • Hometown entrepreneurs contribute up to 2.5 times as much to local nonprofits as chain stores
  • About 45% of moeny spent at a local business stays in the community compared to 14% spent at a big-box store
  • Unique shops and services are part of what brings tourist dollars to the community
  • Local businesses often hire employees with better product knowledge and more interest in getting to know the customers

Does that mean I never shop at Wal-Mart, Target, or Office Depot? No, but I do consciously decide to try to find local businesses who provide the products I need. I wish I could find goods actually made in our local area--that has been more difficult.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


OK, I'm going to do it. I tried years ago and was unable to start a successful worm colony for my kitchen waste, but I am going to give it another shot. It doesn't look like rocket science. I just have to remember to monitor the water.

I will have to hide the bin from hubby (he is a little squeamish), but that shouldn't be difficult. I had to put my meal worm colonies in my closet when I had them at home--that should work for this as well.

Wish me luck. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Why Native?

I try to encourage people to plant native in their yards, but it is often hard to prove that this is better for the local wildlife.

Last year at the Texas Master Naturalist annual meeting, I found a book, Bringing Nature Home, by Douglas Tallamy. This book provides actual data to show the difference between the number of species supported by native plants versus invasives. The author lives further east, so many of his examples are from the eastern US; however, the principles are the same.

For example, there are about 80 species of oak trees in the US. It has been documented that these oak trees support 517 species of butterfly. Willow support 456. Conversely, he documents that even trees that have been in the US for many years, don't support near the number of species of native plants, nor the number of species they supported in their original homeland. So, for example, although Clematis vitalba has been in North America for 100 years, it supports only one species of herbivore here (versus 40 species in its homeland.) Even Phragmites australis, which has been in North America for over 300 years, supports only 5 species of herbivore in the US, versus 170 species in its native land.

The book provides suggested plantings for various areas of the country and also a list of plants to encourage butterflies and moths.

A very interesting book with lots of photos; well worth buying.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Humane Eggs

Egg production is ugly business for most chickens that supply our supermarkets. But due to pressure from consumers, more humane growing methods are becoming more popular. Unfortunately, we don't always know what the labels on the egg cartons mean. So if you don't have a local source of eggs and know where your eggs are coming from, here is a short primer on egg carton lingo and what it means to the chicken.

Traditional egg production facilities mean life in a very small cage for most hens. However, if you see the terms "free range," "free roaming," or "cage free" the hens can walk around, flap their wings, and preen. Hens are probably kept in a large flock in open warehouses.

"Free range" or "free roaming" means chickens have access to the outside. However, what access to the outside means is ambiguous. It can mean that outside access is limited and on dirt or concrete.

"Cage free" does not mean the birds have had access to the outside.

If the carton says "certified humane" it means the birds were raised in a manner that meets certification requirements of Humane Farm Animal Care. Laying hens must be uncaged and have access to perches, nest boxes and dust-bathing areas. Flock density is limited but birds are not required to have access to the outdoors. Beak trimming is allowed; debeaking is not. Starvation to induce molting is not permitted.

Many pay a lot more for "certified organic" eggs. This means the birds must be fed organic, vegetarian feed and cannot be dosed with antibiotics. Birds cannot be caged. However, birds may be debeaked and starved to induce molting. The amount of outdoor access to the birds is not clearly defined and on many organic farms, birds may have access only to a small concrete yard.

"Omega 3" eggs are also quite pricey. All eggs have omega-3 fatty acids in small amounts. Omega-3 can be increased in eggs by feeding flaxseed, fish oil or alfalfa meal. If we're lucky, the grower will choose instead to increase omega-3 through allowing the birds to forage on lawn or pasture.

Although not on the carton, when you open the egg, the brighter orange the yolk, the more carotenoids the egg contains.

We need to encourage pastured egg and chicken production. Pastured eggs contain 10% less fat, 34% less cholesterol, 40% more Vitamin A and 4 times the amount of omega-3. Pastured chicken meat contains 21% less fat and 50% more Vitamin A than the USDA standard.

I'm going to snoop around and see what I can find in the local area. Anyone have any good sources?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Curbside Recycling

Unfortunately, I didn't know until yesterday AM that Samantha McMahen was going back to the City Council this morning to present a petition on curbside recycling to the Council. I think we could have had a larger group there with a little more notice. However, there were several citizens there and both Samantha and Kelly Maestas gave short presentations.

If you want to increase the opportunities to recycle in Wichita Falls, it is important to make your views known to your Council member. Contact information is on the City of Wichita Falls website.

Involvement and persistance are key to getting things done by government.

In the meantime, the newest edition of the Red River Sierra Club/League of Women Voters of Wichita Falls recycling brochure is available on line.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Too Much Stuff?

If you have something you no longer need and either couldn't get rid of it during a garage sale (or don't want to expend the time and energy to host a garage sale), consider giving the item to one of the charity thrift stores in town or post it on the Wichita Falls Freecycle network.

Donating the items to a charity thrift store is a good way to help charities you care about to make money for their organization. Goodwill, First Step and Faith Mission all have thrift stores (which are also good places to find used stuff at a reasonable price--my purse is a $3 find from the Goodwill store.)

On Freecycle, you don't have to worry about getting your stuff to one of the thrift stores (Although some will pick up items.) And the person getting the item is getting it free. So check it out--you do have to register to post or look at items.

This is a great way to reuse items instead of throwing them in the landfill and to save money.

Rolling Plains Sierra Club Vegetarian Cookbook

At our last meeting, the Sierra Club decided to put together a small cookbook of vegetarian recipes to sell at the EcoFair in October. It is not intended as a fundraiser (although we sure don't want to lose money), but more as a way to educate the community on improving their diet through eating less meat.

If you have a family favorite recipe, then send it to me by email at

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Kitchen Herbs

I usually have a couple of pots of herbs in the kitchen window, but when my last basil was gone, I got sidetracked and didn't replant. I have been wanting fresh herbs for weeks to cook with and haven't had any. Fresh herbs at the supermarket are pricey and who knows what they have been sprayed with!

I finally went to Wichita Valley for some seeds. They didn't have much in the way of seeds at this time of the year, although I did pick up packets of thyme and parsley. I bought basil and oregano plants.

I feel guilty that I didn't plant more basil months ago, but there you go. Things happen. I am looking forward to some bruschetta and some insalata caprese this coming week to use some of the basil I bought. I'll be watching for some seeds to plant in the fall.

I also planted my thyme and parsley and will be watching for the sprouts soon.