Friday, December 31, 2010

Green Resolutions

Well, 2011 is upon us. I am one of those people who make New Year's resolutions. I am also OCD enough to create a tracking mechanism to see how I'm doing. That may be why I am reasonably successful in achieving many of my resolutions--I write them down and make myself track progress. I hate to see no movement in the direction I want to go. So I may not achieve all of the resolutions I make, but I almost always make progress

Generally, I don't share my resolutions. I figure they aren't important to anyone but me and unlike many, sharing them doesn't seem to make it any more likely I'll succeed with them. However, I'll make an exception in the case of one of my resolutions, since this blog is about living more sustainably.

Last year I resolved to recycle everything possible and to not use any bottled water in the courses I teach for my business. I now put out a trash bin only once a month, if that--everything else has been going into the compost bin. I expected to get bad feedback on course evaluations over the lack of bottled water in my courses, but that didn't happen. I had ice water in pitchers available and everyone seemed fine with that.

So what's on the docket for this year? This year, I have decided to eat more sustainably. I don't do a bad job of that now, as I cook from scratch pretty much all of the time. However, my husband is a confirmed carnivore, and I have been catering to his preferences in cooking. For a variety of reasons, we have been on different eating schedules this past year, so I am going to go back to fixing more vegetarian meals for myself and eating out less.

I like eating in restaurants, but there's no doubt I eat more and know less about what I am eating than when I cook for myself. I am not going to cut out eating in restaurants, but I am going to eat out less and order more vegetables when I do go out. After all, I do want to help support the local economy, right? (OK, so that bit of logic was thrown out to support what I want to do anyway.)

What's your green resolution? If you're not sure, here are some ideas that won't force a huge change in your lifestyle but can be beneficial. If you're already doing all of these, there are many other things you can do. Anyway, here are some ideas:

  • Eat one vegetarian meal a week (or add one more vegetarian meal per week if you are already doing this.) Why? Meat takes more water and food to produce. Eating more vegetables reduces the amount of water used in agriculture and also, leaves more food to feed everyone. Americans eat more meat than they need for good health (yes, I know vegetarianism is a healthy diet and people can choose not to eat any meat and be healthy, but it does require paying attention--so go with me here) and for most, a reduction in meat will have a positive effect on cholesterol.

  • Turn up the thermostat in the summer and turn it down in the winter. Just a couple of degrees can make a difference. My husband has been sneaking the thermostat up to 70 this winter and in the summer, he wants the AC on 65. What sense does that make? I try to keep the heat between 65 and 68 and the AC between 78 and 80. When it's 100 degrees outside, 80 feels darned good.

  • Start a garden. If you don't have the room or the inclination for a large garden, think about starting some herbs on the kitchen windowsill and planting some tomatoes or peppers in a pot on the patio.

  • Buy local produce. Some foods in our stores is trucked thousands of miles when the same type of produce is grown in our local area. Reduce the carbon footprint by buying from local farmers at the farmers market, when it's open.

  • Eat more seasonally and put up produce for later. Again, we spend lots of carbon fuel to bring in crops that do not grow in our area (or the US) in the winter. Change up your menus to allow for root and cold weather crops in the winter and take full advantage of in season fruits and vegetables in the spring and summer. Can or freeze in season crops for a winter treat. I have some peaches in the freezer an acquaintance gave me in the summer when he had too many for his family. I am looking forward to a peach cobbler soon.

  • Fix water leaks and change out plumbing fixtures to water saving devices as you do so.

  • Look for energy saver devices when updating appliances.

  • Don't buy bottled water. The water in Wichita Falls tastes good most of the time. If you can taste the Lake Kemp water at certain times of the year, consider getting a filter for the tap or a filter pitcher to keep in the refrigerator.

  • Consider buying/cooking in smaller amounts. Americans throw away a LOT of food. This is a waste of money and also uses more resources than needed.

  • Make a compost pile. If you don't have room for a big one, consider a small one targeted toward food waste.

  • Eliminate some invasive plants from your yard. Although many invasive ornamentals are pretty, they tend to use more water and they provide less food for our native wildlife. We tore out a lot of invasive shrubs this fall and are replacing them with native plants.

  • When landscaping, buy native and reduce your dependence on chemicals and water.

  • Eliminate plastic shopping bags by getting cloth bags. Remember to take them to the store when you go. It seems my bags migrate into the house, and I don't always remember to put them back in the truck when I go to the store.

  • When purchasing cleaning supplies, switch from products with ammonia and bleach to those with natural ingredients. You may have to experiment with different products to find ones that do a good job that you like, but they are out there. I like Meyer's products myself, but there are more to choose from all the time.

  • Get a rain barrel. In our area, rainwater harvesting can have big benefits. If you want to experiment, try a rainbarrel first to collect water for your houseplants. Trust me, they prefer rainwater.

  • Try to reduce use of your car/truck. Wichita Falls is not laid out for a walking community and public transit is admittedly not as efficient as it is in some larger cities. However, we can all reduce the number of trips by combining errands. I pass by my favorite supermarket and my favorite used book store when I have to go to Wild Bird Rescue, so I often combine those errands on the way, rather than make separate trips.

  • Consider buying used. I buy almost all of my books used at this point, although since my husband got me a Sony Reader for my birthday, I am also buying many books as electronic downloads, eliminating paper and transportation altogether. The Wichita Adult Literacy Council book sale is coming up in early March--read cheap and support a great organization at the same time. I also stop in the Goodwill store for shirts and consignment shops for work clothes. I don't always find what I need, but often I do, saving me money and keeping these items out of the landfill.

  • Change your newspaper to e-edition. I am still trying to decide whether I like this or not since I made the switch. I just need to develop discipline to read the paper this way each day. I am enjoying less paper cluttering up the house though.

  • Spay/neuter your pet. There are way too many unwanted dogs and cats euthanized each year.

  • Keep your city cat in the house. Cats kill many wild birds and other wildlife. Cats outside live shorter lives--cars, disease, injury and predators do in many pets. I can understand those who have rodent problems in their barns, etc. keeping outdoor cats, but for most of us, we should take better care of our pets.

  • Produce less waste. Consider packaging when purchasing. Making more of your own food from scratch will help a lot, but consider the amount and type of packaging in your purchasing decision. Is the packaging made from recycled materials? Can the packaging be recycled? If you eat out, consider getting To-Go Ware.

These are just a few ideas. Pick one or come up with one of your own. We don't have to make a huge change to make a difference. If we each did one thing, we could make a big difference in our environment. What's your green resolution for 2011?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Newspaper Test

Well, I did it. I have been thinking of changing to an e-edition only subscription for the newspaper for some time, but honestly, change is hard.

I tend to go for days sometimes without reading the paper and then have to catch up. In the meantime, I have all of these papers laying around the house. Then I have piles of newspapers sitting around until I get around to taking them to a recycle bin. They can go into the compost bin for the city, but I have so much other compostable material to put in the bin, I have kept the papers separately. Anyway, I was looking around my house the other day and noticing how many newspapers were laying around cluttering up the place and said, "now's the time." I immediately called the circulation department and changed my subscription to eliminate the paper delivery before I had a chance to waffle again. After all, if I decide I hate it, I can change back. Now I don't have to remember to stop delivery when I am out of town.

On average, a daily newspaper uses 550 lbs of paper per year. Although most newspaper in the US is now recycled and the ink has been changed to soy-based inks, there is still a lot of water and energy put into the production of newspaper. Much of newsprint contains a high proportion of recycled content. According to the EPA recycling paper uses 50% less water and causes 74% less air pollution than making the paper new. However, when you get down to it, using no paper causes no pollution and uses no water. So environmentally, it makes sense to switch to a no-paper option.

However, when I posted the switch to my Facebook page, even my environmentally conscious friends said they thought it was a bad idea. The arguments were that reading the paper at breakfast was a tradition, and I would read less of the paper on line. I admit, I like to sit and read the paper, but I am not sure it matters whether it is online or in print. And I definitely won't miss the black fingers.

I had much the same trepidation when my husband bought me an e-reader for my birthday. I like the feel of a book in my hand and wasn't sure I would like the reader. However, I do. I still like my paper books, but I can carry the e-reader in my purse. I have over 100 books on it. I can make the font bigger to help my eyes (and that is becoming a bigger deal by the day). So I am getting used to it. I haven't quit reading regular books though. I can still buy a used book for less than I can purchase the e-books and as much as I read, that is not to be sneezed at. However, I can also download many classics from the Google library for free.

So, we'll see how the experiment goes. Can an old dog learn new tricks? I think so. I'll report back in a few weeks.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Post from a Friend re Wichita River

I received an email from my friend, Paul Dowlearn, with Wichita Valley Nursery, about a news report concerning the Wichita River. The news report is currently available on I am not sure how long it will be posted. I am presenting Paul's email content as sent to me. I will look into this further and post information later.

"I have heard several news reports concerning the results of a survey on flood control of the Wichita River. The last news report state a sense of urgency..."We must act quickly." Really? Let's not lose sight of the fact that the recent flood event was comparable to the flood of 1941...70 years ago!! The law of averages and current long range forecast show no imminent danger. Instead we may be headed into another drought cycle....This sense of urgency then may signify that there is some funding available and for whatever reason local engineers and contractors could certainly benefit from a nice, fat, expensive project.

Question is...Have we (citizens) been given the opportunity to consider the impact of such a project? Do we really want our river to resemble a much larger version of Holiday Creek? This is a river...not a creek. I am among those who lament the Holiday Creek project regardless of the obvious relief of those living in low areas historically prone to flooding. I still recall summer picnics in Weeks Park, splashing up and down the creek trying to capture minnows and crawdads. Today, there is little is an aesthetic value of Holiday Creek save the Hike and Bike Trail. At normal flow, one has to negotiate a good 50 feet or more of ankle twisting stone (placed there for man made erosion control) to get to the water. IF you are brave enough to walk down you wil find the native marine life that once existed has all but disappeared. Algae, a few plants...maybe a golf ball?

So what about the aesthetic value of the Wichita River? Consider the history of our namesake. What about the River Walk, The Falls, Lucy Park, Williams Park, Bicycling and Equestrian Trail, Wee-chi-tah Park, Front Street Bridge and Berend's Landing. How will these be impacted? How about tourism, adjacent hotels, RV parks, fishing, canoeing, or kids just having fun? Will we be able to enjoy the river with no shallow rapids or deeper holes for fish? Well....judging from the news reports, that's exactly what the experts that submitted the report are proposing. I say let's leave the felling of trees to the beaver population.

I am not an expert at hydrology, but common sense and simple physics tell me that water actually backs up on itself regardless of the channel capacity. In other words, if enough rain falls on any given location, there will be flooding. Furthermore, if the goal is to relieve flooding in the downtown area, the removal of obstacles should occur downstream and not in the city itself. Finally, Nature controls erosion by slowing runoff with her trees, shrubs and grasses. While this does cause occasional flooding it also reduces current strength. An increase of unrestricted current could cause the river to change course. Historical evidence of this is easily seen in the occurrence of numerous oxbos along the length of the Wichita. True, there has not been major flooding in Holiday Creek since the channelization...yet. So chalk one p for the engineers at the loss of a few (?) picnickers, kids chasing crawdads, and golfers who would rather lose a ball than risk an ankle injury."

Paul Dowlearn, citizen, email:

Oncor to Begin Installing Smart Meters

Oncor is to start installing smart meters in the Wichita Falls area on December 13. Since this is a large project, it will take some time to impact all of the businesses and houses affected. The smart meters will allow home/business owners to better monitor their energy usage on their computer. The goal is to put visibility into energy usage so users can make smart choices.

There does appear to be an additional charge for the meters and not all homeowners have seen their bills drop. It will be interesting to see the impact (if any) in our area.

Getting Employees Involved in CSR Activities

Although this blog is oriented primarily toward individual sustainability, many companies are looking for ways to improve their sustainability practices and to get employees involved. This is a good blog post from The Green Economy Post on the subject I thought was worth sharing.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


I am re-watching the documentary, A World Withough People. Although I seriously doubt billions of people will just disappear overnight, it is interesting to see what would likely happen if they did. It is far more likely people will reach some sort of tipping point and there could well be a population crash of some sort, but who really knows? Perhaps we will just get smart and change our lifestyles.

But anyway, I find it vastly reassuring and comforting to realize that as dominant a species as we are currently, nature could quickly reclaim what we have subjugated for so long. There are a number of questions not answered, but I supposed the makers of the film did have to pick and choose the things to address to fit into a 2-hour time slot. The documentary focuses on infrastrucure issues. Certainly infrastructure is the most obvious sign of humans, but there are some significant impacts we've had on the environment that are not readily apparent. I would have liked to hear something about the persistence of the many poisons we pump into the environment. But I would guess in the end, most of that would also be gone.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Baking Bread

One of my favorite things to do is make fresh bread. The smell (and taste) are glorious. I don't do it often enough.

For me, bread making is about more than wonderful smells and great taste. There is something peaceful about kneading bread dough. It is a great way to take out frustrations. My husband once told me he was thinking of getting me a bread machine for a Christmas present. His motive was primarily the floury mess I make on the kitchen counters when I knead the bread. I told him it would not be a good idea as I would then need something else to punch to take out frustrations. I guess he believed me as that gift has never shown up for Christmas, birthday or anniversary.

Yesterday, November 17, was Homemade Bread Day. I was traveling out of town and just didn't get to posting, but thought I would post one of my favorite bread recipes in a belated celebration of the day. "More-With-Less Cookbook" is still one of my favorite cookbooks. The book I bought was published in 1976, and I still use some of the recipes often. There is a newer edition available on Amazon and a look at the index confirms they still have this recipe. Anyway, in honor of the day, here is the recipe--I hope you'll consider getting the book. There are some other excellent bread recipes in the book. My dog-eared copy is looking pretty rough--one of these days I may need to replace it.

Combine in a bowl:
1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 T. salt
(note: personally, I use a little less sugar and a little less salt)

Stir in 2 c. boiling water.

Add 1/4 c. oil
Cool to lukewarm.

2 pkg dry yeast in 1/2 c. warm water

Add yeast to cornmeal mixture.

Beat in:
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. rye flour

By hand stir in 4 1/4 - 4 /1/2 c. unbleached white flour.

Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Place in lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double. Punch down dough and turn onto a lightly floured surface. Divide in half and knead each portion a second time for 3 minutes. Shape dough into 2 loaves and place in greased pans. Cover and let rise again until doubled in bulk. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes (or until the loaf sounds hollow when you strike it with a wooden spoon.)

You can vary the texture and flavor of the bread by changing the proportion of the various flours.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Another Event Saturday

Busy weekend coming up.

Smith's Gardentown is hosting a free organic gardening seminar Saturday, November 13, 10:00 AM. Makers of Nature's Guide products will be on hand to answer questions.

PETS Food Pantry Event Saturday

Saturday, November 13, PETS will be holding a community pet food drive to help people who have pets and due to unforeseen circumstances need help feeding them.

The event will be held from 10 AM - 2 PM at Berend's Landing, 500 Wichita St. There is no admission fee--just bring donations of dog and cat food. There will be several organizations with booths at the event, to include Wild Bird Rescue, which will have Missi, their avian mascot there until she gets tired of the attention. They will also have small gift items for sale so you can get a start on your Christmas shopping. There will be other pet-related groups there as well.

Stop by, donate food and learn more about helping our community pets.

Earth 2100 at Vernon College Monday

Vernon College has been hosting a film series on various issues this year. The last documentary in this series, Earth 2100, will be shown Monday, November 15 at 6:30 in Rm 201 at the Vernon Campus on Maplewood Dr, in Wichita Falls.

This should be a good program, so come on out. There is no charge for admission, although they do have popcorn and soft drinks available for donations to raise money by the Student Forum.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park

Some weeks ago a few people met to begin talking about forming a Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park 501(c)(3). A second meeting will be held this Saturday, November 6, 10:00 AM at Lake Arrowhead in the Dining Hall building at the fishing pier.

I was at the first meeting, but will have to miss this one due to a scheduled class Saturday (only a few more weeks and no more Saturday classes for a while--yippee!!)

Please attend if you are interested so we can get this much needed program off the ground. Now, if we could just do something similar for the parks in Wichita Falls! But one thing at a time.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Standing Room Only for E.O. Wilson Tonight

I'm glad I arrived early for E.O Wilson at Midwestern State University tonight as it was standing room only. Of course, many students were there because it was a class assignment, but there were a lot of students and members of the public there. The Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists turned out in force.

Dr. Wilson spoke as part of the Midwestern State University Speakers & Issues Series.

I am posting just a hodge podge of what I thought were interesting bits throughout the 1.5 hour presentation.

Wilson's Law: If we save the living environment, we will automatically save the physical environment. But if we only save the physical environment, we will ultimately lose them both.

Dr. Wilson encouraged biology students to enter fields studying organisms that we know little about but that have a huge impact upon the environment: fungi and nematodes, for example. He referred to these organisms as "little creatures that run the engine of the world." Nematodes for example, constitute 4 of 5 animals on the earth.

1 gram of soil contains 1 billion bacteria (approximately 5000 - 6000 species.)

A human mouth contains 150 species of bacteria which act to hold pathogens at bay.

If 1 cell of the human body (of the trillion cells of the body) was the size of Wichita Falls, a bacterium would be the size of a football field and a virus the size of a football.

The DNA from a single cell if laid out flat would be 1 meter in length. However, if we increased the size of the DNA strand to the thickness of string, the length would be 1820 miles.

If you decrease the size of an island (referring to habitat) to 10% of the original mass, the number of species will decrease by 50%.

Primary causes of loss of species:
- Habitat reduction
- Invasive species
- Pollution
- Population
- Overharvesting

Dr. Wilson also mentioned two major biodiversity projects underway. The Encyclopedia of Life is intended to be an open source on every species known to man. Also of future use to researchers in biodiversity is a digital library of all writings on biodiversity is the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

I hadn't heard but the UN designated 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity. Why haven't I heard about that? Not surprisingly, the US has not signed the International Biodiversity Agreement that was negotiated this year.

Dr. Wilson showed the dramatic decrease in tropical rainforests throughout the world, which are the locations of the highest biodiversity. He also showed critical areas for conservation. He estimated that an investment of $50B worldwide could save 50% of species if it is properly applied. Really, in the scheme of things, this is not a lot of money for the world economy.

Dr. Wilson gave us a lot of food for thought. I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation. Many thanks to MSU, the Speakers and Issues Committee and their donors for bringing such a wonderful speaker to our community.

Don't Forget EO Wilson Tonight at Akin Auditorium

I mentioned this in an earlier post but probably should have posted a reminder before today. E.O. Wilson will be at Akin Auditorium at MSU at 7PM tonight, talking about biodiversity.

My BS degree is in Biology and I have been reading EO Wilson for some time. I have 4 of his books on my shelves now. There was a good article in the Times Record News yesterday about him and his presentation. I will let everyone know about the presentation later in the week.

I hope there is a good turnout, but I also want to sit. Last year I was worried that the Dr. Leakey presentation would be standing room only and there were plenty of seats. We'll see tonight.

The presentation counts as advanced training for those in the Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dog Poop

Bet the title got your attention.

Many thanks to Jan Herzog for forwarding this article on dog poop to me. Having three dogs that seem to do nothing but eat, poop and sleep, this was fascinating. Maybe an idea for the soon-to-be dog park? And perhaps someone might look into this for the Humane Society. They've got to be doing something with all that waste.

What got me in the article is the amount of water pollution derived from doggie waste.

Anyway, it just goes to show that there are infinite possibilities for things we usually throw away.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cleaning the Bathroom

No one likes cleaning the bathroom. I don't like cleaning, period. But at some point, it has to be done. I came across an article today on cleaning the bathroom in 15 minutes. I thought I would share because of the emphasis on less toxic cleaning supplies and products. Bleach and ammonia are not good for us doing the cleaning nor for the environment.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Congratulations to the Matador Ranch

Well, the Matador Ranch isn't as local as some others, but it is still in the Rolling Plains area of Texas, so it's local enough. The Matador Ranch received a land stewardship award from the Texas Section Society for Range Management and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. There was an article in Friday's Times Record News with more information. Congratulations and thanks for making sustainability a priority in your ranch operations.

Food Inc to be Shown at Vernon College Tonight

Vernon College will host a free showing of the documentary, "Food, Inc." Monday, Oct 18 at 6:30 PM in Room 201 (of the Maplewood Campus). This is free and open to the public. Come learn more about the way food is produced in the US.

I saw this posted at Vernon College last week, but forgot all about it, so thanks to Paul and Nila Dowlearn for their Facebook reminder Friday.

Support the Humane Society

The Humane Society of Wichita Falls is once again hosting Paws in the Falls to raise money for their important work.

Saturday, October 23

6:30 PM

Neon Spur, 200 North Burnett

Preferred Seating Tickets: $40/person (dinner, dancing, live auction)

BBQ dinner by RIBS, Inc.

Tyler Rushing Band

$5 general admission

Dancing only

9:30 PM to closing

For tickets, call 940-696-0520. If you can't go, consider a donation anyway.

We're Talking Water Today

Today is Blog Action Day for water. Since water is an issue I am already deeply involved in, I am happy to participate with thousands of other bloggers around the world to inform people on issues relating to this vital resource.

Is water a commodity or is it a fundamental right of every person, since without clean, accessible water, life is miserable and very short indeed? The League of Women Voters of Texas has a position on water and this year we are studying the impact of water as a commodity. Since the study is still in progress, I won't say anything more about it. However, the fact that the issue has to be studied at all should be a concern to all of us. The League of Women Voters of Wichita Falls also has a position on water that is specific to our area and has periodic programs on the subject. Watch for announcements if you want to attend--the meetings are always open to the public.

Since we treat food as a commodity, it should be no surprise that we treat water the same way. In other words, water is a product that is exchanged for money, unless you happen to have control over the resource and are the person selling it. The scarcity and cleanliness of water is a huge concern throughout the world. It has caused wars and will likely spur more conflict in the years to come as water resources are polluted and the limited resources subject to greater demand as population rises and our standard of living rises.

But as in many large, complex issues, most of us can have the biggest impact locally.

Here in Texas, where the population is rising very fast indeed and water resources are scarce, water is a subject every citizen needs to be informed about. The City of Wichita Falls has done a lot to ensure water sufficient clean water for the next 40+ years. They have been farsighted in their approach to building infrastructure (although there has been a lot of fussing from citizens about the water rates needed to pay the bonds for this infrastructure.) However, we can do more in terms of encouraging water conservation. There has been some debate about conservation as there is currently "plenty" of water and less water use means the rates for water have to be raised to pay for maintaining the supply capability. The City does have a water conservation tip sheet on line. The Red River Authority has a tip sheet available as well, although I couldn't find the information on line.

Sometimes you do the right thing because it is the right thing. And we should be developing habits and processes in preparation for the future, when we are certain our water supplies won't be sufficient. So what can each of us do about ensuring adequate supplies of clean water for the future?
  • Be frugal in your water use at home. Fix leaks and as you replace fixtures and appliances, consider low water use items.
  • Have less lawn and replace it with native, drought tolerant plants. For the grass areas, consider grasses that need less water and fewer chemicals. Water less often. Water at night or early morning.
  • Consider rainwater harvesting for your landscape/gardening needs.
  • Eat lower on the food chain more often. The higher up the foodchain you go, the more water there is involved in the production of the food. Need suggestions? The local Sierra Club chapter just finished a meat-less cookbook that will be on sale soon.
  • Reduce your use of chemicals that pollute our water.
  • Pay attention to water issues in your community. The Region B Water Planning Board is responsible for water planning in our area. Watch for notices of upcoming meetings and public hearings. Participate in the process.

Water should be a concern to all of us and little changes can make a difference.

Feast or Famine

Some days it seems nothing interesting is happening in the world of sustainability around Wichita Falls and other days there is a deluge of news to share. Today is a deluge day, so I thought I would just post some upcoming events in a bullet form and then provide more information later in the week on a couple of them. Today is Blog Action Day on Water, and I will be posting on that topic later this morning. But for your calendars:

  • PAWS in the Falls, supporting the Humane Society is October 23. I'll post more on this--probably this weekend.
  • Science Saturdays at River Bend are great! The program on October 16 is Migration, so be sure to get your kids there. You can find more information on the River Bend Blog in the blog roll.
  • EO Wilson is coming to Wichita Falls November 2, 7 PM at the Akin Auditorium. Free and open to the public. I am planning to go. More to follow.

There was also an article on a local ranch winning some environmental awards in the TRN this AM. They deserve their own space, so again that will be a separate post over the next couple of days.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Don't Forget the EcoFair Saturday

River Bend Nature Center is once again hosting the EcoFair Saturday. This is a great event so head out there, take the kids and have a good time. I will be out of town, so won't get to see it this year, but it will be worth the time and small gate fee. Information on activities and the schedule of events can be found here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Business Coming

I ran into Dave Ruhe this week. I haven't seen him for some time as he has been going to school. He says he is starting in a new business by December selling energy-saving products. For example, one of the products retrofits your water heater to use less electricity. There were others as well. He promised to send me more details I can share when we get closer to launch. I'll be sure to pass on the information when I get it.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Monarch Tagging!

Monarch butterfly photo, courtesy of Jeff Kramer, Wikimedia Commons

The Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists are tagging monarchs in Lake Wichita Park tonight, Friday and Saturday beginning at 7:00 PM. Members will meet at the Chat Trail entrance. Although this is a chapter event, the members will be happy to show and tell the tagging process and let children assist. So look for people with butterfly nets and learn more about these long-distance travelers.

What's the Big Deal About Invasives?

Mimosa at left is an invasive. In this area usually in yards or along waterways. Very invasive in the wetter climate to the east. This photo was taken along the Chat Trail in Lake Wichita Park.
This summer my husband has been working diligently to remove a number of shrubs and vines around our house. In his mind he has been working to take out some unsightly plants I wanted to get rid of to make way for something that looks nicer. My real motive was to get rid of non-native invasive plant species to make way for native species more hospitable for native birds and butterflies. An added plus is that the area will look nicer.
We plan to plant some new plants now that fall is here. Fall is the perfect time to plant shrubs and we'll be heading to Wichita Valley Nursery as soon as he finishes getting rid of the English ivy. I haven't told him yet that there is at least one tree that has to go as well.
Why the big deal about invasive plants? First of all they can drive out native plants (think kudzu in the east.) Secondly, invasives support far fewer native insects, birds and other wildlife than our native species do. If you get a chance, read Douglas W. Tallamy's Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens. The book is easy to read, has lots of pictures and plenty of ideas for good plants to put into your home landscape to encourage butterflies, pollinators and birds to visit and stay in your yard.
If you want to know more about invasives in Texas, see Texas Invasives.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Inspiring Video About Food

I shared this on Facebook today, but if you're not a "friend" of mine there, you still need to see this. What a great short presentation by an 11-year-old about our food supply.

Monday, September 27, 2010

TCEQ Environmental Excellence Award Nominations

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has announced it is accepting nominations for state Environmental Excellence Award. These awards recognize individuals, businesses, communities and organizations that serve as models in taking an active role in protecting our natural resources. The awards are made in 9 different categories.

If you want to submit a nomination, the deadline is October 8. For more information, click here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Easy Green Living

I was scouting the sale bins at Hastings in Brownwood, TX when I was visiting there and found a neat book, Easy Green Living, by Renee Loux. You might want to check out the sale bins here--I recommend it.

The book looks at a lot of household items and discusses the environmental impact and suggests alternatives. It includes cleaning products, appliances, cookware, personal hygiene and beauty products. She also discusses labeling and what many labeling terms mean (in some cases, not much.)

The book is listed for $10 on Amazon, but I picked up at Hastings for $7.99.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park

I really need to replace my little camera to help liven up this blog. But that has nothing to do with the topic of this post.

Tonight John Ferguson, Superintendent of Lake Arrowhead State Park, held a meeting to gauge interest for a Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park 501(c)3 to support a variety of programs and amenities in the park. I don't think the word got out very well. Some members of the Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists were there and one other person who is a member of the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club. The group agreed that there is a need for such an organization and there is interest. However, we want a more diverse group of organizations and individuals involved.

The park has over 80,000 visitors a year. Not bad for a small state park. But truthfully, the park is not manned or funded to do much more than it does. All agreed additional interpretive programs and additional park amenities would improve the park experience for those who come and would pull in more visitors. Additionally, a 501(c)3 organization could apply for grants and conduct fundraising activities to raise monies for things that are not likely to be funded by the state.

So the consensus was to move forward. The next meeting will be Saturday, November 6, 10:00 AM at the Dining Hall at the fishing docks. It would be great to have a good sized group of excited, interested and energetic people there. I will be teaching at MSU that day so will miss this meeting, but I'm in.

If you would like more information, contact the park at 940-528-2211.

New Neighborhood Fishing Pond

If you have been traveling on Southwest Parkway recently, then you know the city of Wichita Falls took out the small, overgrown pond near the Y and have replaced it with a much larger, more aesthetic pond, with trails, benches, and next year, a pavillion. I have the privilege of serving on the City Park Board, and we met today at the park to see up close what is happening on this project. It is exciting to know that the City is continuing to improve parks and recreational activities for our community.

The Times Record News ran a short article and photos in today's paper.

They are putting the finishing touches on the pond and soon there should be a grand opening event of some kind. The pond will be stocked for fishing by Texas Parks and Wildlife, as is Plum Lake on Sheppard Access Road.

Once the dirt has all settled, there will be a picnic pavillion on the hill adjacent to the pond and the trail will link to the city trail system.

I encourage individuals who are interested in parks and recreation to apply for a position on the Park Board. Currently there are no vacancies, but seats open regularly. You can apply online and your application will be considered by the City Council as vacancies occur.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sad News on the Food Front

Well, I was all excited about the possibility of a Sprouts food store in Wichita Falls. Emphasis on the "was." It turns out that Sprouts did a little more market research and decided United Market Street had too much market share and high customer loyalty so they figured they would have a difficult time competing. I love Market Street and shop there a lot, but there are some things that could be better, and I was hoping Sprouts could provide some alternatives.

So what's happening to the old Circuit City store? Apparently it will be demolished and an Aldi grocery store built at that location. Not the same at all.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Program on Composting

Fred Hall, the County Extension Agent, will be presenting a program on composting at the Native Plant Society meeting, tonight at 7PM at Vernon College Century City. The meeting is free and open to the public. If you want to learn to make your own compost, this would be a good start.

Sorry for the late notice, but I just read the email with the information today. I'll be at Vernon College, but not at this meeting--I am teaching a class down the hall.

Next City Compost Giveaway October 2

The next City of Wichita Falls compost giveaway is Saturday, October 2, 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM at the landfill on Wiley Road.

Remember that to pick up compost, you need to take you water bill to show you pay the $3 surcharge for organics pickup and live in Wichita Falls. You also need a tarp to cover your load of compost.

This is always a popular event. Unfortunately, I am teaching that day at MSU....

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Science Saturdays Back at River Bend

I think Science Saturdays are one of the best ideas River Bend has ever had. In September, Science Saturdays are back, led off by an exploration of the pond on September 4.

The program, "What's in the Pond," will be 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM this Saturday. Admission is $3.


One of the frustrations of living in Wichita Falls is finding food. Not to say there isn't food--there are plenty of grocery stores, and we probably have one of the highest number of restaurants per capita anywhere (I don't have the numbers to prove that assertion, but I think it's true.) My issue is a lack of variety, a lack of organics, a lack of locally grown food and a lack of specialty products.

We can use restaurants as an example. As much as I like mexican, BBQ, chicken fried steak and hamburgers, it sure would be nice to have some additional options. Unfortunately, the few restaurants that have started up with different foods haven't been extremely successful. Vegetarian entrees on a menu are few and far between. A good vegetarian restaurant would be a great addition (or just a restaurant that had a good selection of vegetarian foods.) A restaurant featuring locally grown, organic food would be fantastic. However, there are very few organic growers in this area (actually, I'm not aware of any within 100 miles) so that would be difficult to do.

I was reading the September issue of Entrepreneur magazine and noted a neat biz,, supporting small artisan food producers. Unfortunately, I didn't find any local businesses featured on the website--the closest seem to be in the DFW area and that is only one business. But I like the concept.

I have driven by the International Grocery at Southwest Parkway and Fairway many times and several friends have recommended it for hard-to-find items. I need to go there to check it out as if there are not places to eat out, there is still the option to cook--it's just finding the ingredients.

We'll talk more about cooking later.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Trash Tirade

I'm on a trash tirade this morning. At the Park Board meeting this past week I was telling the other Park Board members that Lucy Park looked as bad as I have ever seen it just before Hotter 'n Hell weekend. There was trash everywhere.

I have been one of the proponents of increasing Lake Wichita shoreline access for fishing. But I was at Wild Bird Rescue Saturday and walked down to the shore on a break at the old boat launch where a father and son had just been fishing. The trash in that area (see photos above) makes me wonder about the wisdom of that work. I don't know that these two had anything to do with the mess on the shore, but the fishing line packages, fishing line and bait containers indicate some fisherman (or woman) left the mess there.

Littering is one of my "hot button" issues. It just really sets me off to see people leave a mess. Unfortunately, I don't often see people make a mess (which my husband says is a good thing as I have a tendency to say something about it), but obviously someone is leaving trash around. We should use a little peer pressure to encourage people to clean up after themselves. When we plan an event, trash pickup (and recycling) needs to be part of the planning process.

Littering is a crime. True, the fine isn't all that big, but money talks. When Park personnel have to be used to clean up trash, they can't mow or do other important maintenance work in our parks and along our trails. I would prefer to see the money that is now spent on trash pick up or graffitti clean up used to beautify more medians or spent on other needed improvements in our city, not cleaning up after people who have no respect for their neighbors.

So, what can we do?

  • Clean up after ourselves. If we bring it in, we need to take it out.
  • Clean up trash when we see it. I don't pick up all of the trash I see (I wouldn't get anywhere) but I try to pick up some trash and put it in the nearest trash container.
  • Apply peer pressure when we see others litter.
  • Participate in city cleanups.

Are you part of a group that would like to help keep Wichita Falls looking clean? The Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists clean up Plum Lake once a quarter and Sikes Lake every September. Jack Murphy (Park and Recreation Director for City of Wichita Falls) said he would be willing to work with volunteer groups that would be responsible for certain areas on a regular basis.

The first time the Master Naturalists did Plum Lake, it was a major job, but we can usually clean up the shoreline in less than 2 hours now that we do it on a regular basis.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hotter 'n Hell Hundred (HHH)

Today is the HHH here in Wichita Falls. As seems to happen just before HHH every year, the temperatures broke. For the last several weeks we have been over 100 degrees everyday. For the past few days the weather has been relatively moderate. A good thing for the riders, but they must wonder about the name of the event.

A good thing about the HHH this year is that they are collecting recyclables at the rest stops for the city composting program. There was an article in the Times Record News this week, although I haven't been able to find a link to that article on the web site. This should remove a lot of compostable materials from the waste stream. Good for the HHH committee and the City of Wichita Falls for working together.

One thing that has rather surprised me is that Wichita Falls is not a more bike-friendly city. I do see many bikers on the city trails when I am out. The city buses have a way for bike riders to transport their bikes. However, most of the main roads don't have room for bikes to ride safely and their is no place to secure bikes at most businesses. The local Sierra Club was talking with some MSU students about making and setting up bike stands at some locations. I don't know what happened to that idea. Money was a sticking point.

It would be nice for the Hotter 'n Hell to be a catalyst for more biking opportunities in the Falls.

New Look

I decided to change the look of the blog to something a little more interesting--I hope you like it.

Don't forget to send your information about businesses, products and services you like to me at

Friday, August 27, 2010

Care About Water?

Just a reminder that the League of Women Voters of Wichita Falls will have Curtis Campbell from the Red River Authority and the Region B Planning Group as our speaker on September 1. If you care about having enough drinkable water in the future, be sure to be there.

September 1
11:30 (buffet line opens); noon (program starts)

Buffet price is $8.75

The meeting is open to the public.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Solar Screens

Well, three people have now told me what a great difference solar screens from Builders Wholesale (hopefully the website will have more product information on it soon) have made on their electricity consumption. All have estimated about a year to pay back the investment they made--that doesn't seem too long to me.

Rick Belz is the owner of Builders Wholesale, and was one of the initial vendors (and sponsors) for the EcoFair the first year. Rick has a lot of products to reduce your carbon footprint. Go by and check out his place at 2905 Seymour Hwy. Tell him you saw the information here (not that you're likely to get any special benefits by mentioning this blog, but just a way to get the word out that people are paying attention and promoting businesses with sustainable products.)

Any other products or services you want to make sure others know about? Be sure to let me know at

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tired of Styrofoam Take Out Boxes?

As I mentioned in the last post, the local Sierra Club group usually meets at a local restaurant. One thing that is a source of conflict for me when eating out is the styrofoam to-go boxes. I hate to ask for one as the container is petroleum based and can't be recycled, but at the same time, I don't want to throw away perfectly good food. Unfortunately, that usually means I end up eating more than I really want.

Tonight one of the members brought their "To-Go Ware" from Gaiam. The product is also available from Amazon. Great idea! I have seen these before, but had forgotten. I need to order one or if anyone is aware of a local store that carries them or a similar product, all the better--post a comment here. It is much better to spend our money locally when possible.

This is just another small thing we can do to reduce waste and live more sustainably.

Sierra Club Meets Tonight

I am sorry about the late post, but this is a reminder that the Sierra Club meets tonight at 7 PM at El Paisa.

The Sierra Club meets the 2nd Tuesday of every month at 7PM. However, since the location changes each month, it isn't enough to just record the meeting on your calendar. If you are a member of the national Sierra Club, you are automatically a member of the local group. You should be receiving the local group newsletter, either in the mail or by email (since the local group gets none of the dues you pay, they really appreciate your willingness to get the newsletter by email.) If you are not getting a copy of the Red River Messenger, email Jan at

I have not seen an agenda for the meeting, but I am sure the primary business will be the upcoming EcoFair. If you can make it, please come.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

11th Hour

Several months ago, I bought Leonardo Dicaprio's documentary 11th Hour at Wal-Mart for $1. (Yes, I do occasionally shop at Wal-Mart.) I am sorry I waited so long to watch it. If you can find a copy, get it.

I'm a systems thinker. That was the focus on much of my early education in biology and that is the way I see and understand the world. This documentary does a pretty clear job of explaining how our actions in one area impact other areas. It clearly explains the concept of our dependence upon "ancient sunlight" (carbon fuel), especially it's impact on the ability for the earth to support the large population we have now (as well as its impact on climate, food supplies, and health.) It also focuses on the impact of chemicals on health, deforestation, soil depletion, and other environmental issues.

Next the film focuses on the forces that block change, such as our legal system, large corporations, our political system, and most importantly our consumptive culture. (One statement that caught my attention is that for every 1 truckload of valuable goods, we produce 32 truckloads of waste--isn't that insane?)

Anyway, the film is not just a catalog of problems, but discusses a way to go forward. As one of the experts says, "What a great time to be born. What a great time to be alive, because this generation gets a chance to essentially completely change the world." With my background in biology, the examples of using organisms our teachers in sustainable technologies was especially interesting. The film brings it home with a call to action for individuals.

In sum, find the DVD and watch it. Invite your friends.

Monday, July 26, 2010


I read an interesting blog from Joel Makower this morning on what label we should apply to someone commited to sustainability. It is true that we tend to label everything and without a label, we don't seem to be able to wrap our arms around it. Of course, labels also lend themselves to extremists on both sides who use the label to avoid having to deal with complicated issues. Attack the label and you avoid having to put more than one or two brain cells to work.

But his premise is an interesting one. I don't have any great ideas; do you?

Budget Cuts and the Environment

Is there anyone who isn't aware the federal government is swimming in red ink? There have been many calls to cut the budget, but not a lot of ideas on precisely where.

The Friends of the Earth have published "Green Scissors 2010" a compilation of their ideas of where $200 B could be shaved from the federal budget that would have the added benefit of helping the environment as well.

I don't know that I agree with all of their recommendations, but at least there are some concrete suggestions here, which is more than I have heard from others calling for cuts in the budget. Let the debate begin!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Three Things

First, I added a widget to this blog to make it easier to share these blog posts on Facebook or by email or incorporate into your own blog (you don't have to cut and paste the link). Hopefully, that will help spread the word on new companies, businesses, products, and events of interest to the community.

Second, for those on Facebook, Greenco now has a business page, so search for it and "like" the page.

Third, I noted today an article on the front page of TRN about the solar panels James Lane is installing to reduce their carbon footprint. Good to see businesses investing in alternative energy in Wichita Falls. If you're a customer of James Lane, let them know you care.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Safe Cosmetics Campaign

Today marked the launch of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. I don't use a lot of "stuff," and am not well versed on the topic, but after watching the little video at the campaign website I need to pay more attention. I posted the link to my FB page and encourage others to share as well.

The Prairie

I have a lot of respect and admiration for John Hirschi and his support of many worthwhile efforts in various charitable and green causes in our area. Some years back he started talking about developing a green subdivision. He bought and started working to restore some property in Archer County and last year at EcoFair had information. Building has begun. There was a story today in the Times Record News about the Prairie development. I hope it proves to be a successful venture.

Sunshine Eatery Closing

According to a story in today's Times Record News, Sunshine Natural Foods is closing its restaurant. I am sorry to hear that, even though it wasn't a place I ate often. I don't know any of the local restaurants that serve organic and only a couple that seem to make any effort toward local foods. I think if we could find someone willing to go organic and local, they could make a go of it, even in "meat and potatoes" Wichita Falls.

Best wishes to Jay Murray in his new job at Rolling Meadows.

Follow up on Recycling Service

I was able to contact Jason from Greenco to get more information about his services. He gave me permission to paste his email in this blog, so here it is--the scoop, straight from the person in the know! (I want to point out one of the things Jason says below: "..if something was going to be done then I'm the person to do it..." We need more of that attitude in the Falls.)


"Thank you so much for inquiring! I love the blog!

"First of all I just wanted to introduce myself. My name is Jason Tucker and I have been working for a home/business water delivery company in Wichita Falls for the past 8 years. Over the years I've had tons of my customers asking me about recycling the bottles. I actually brought that up to my upper management team to see if that was something we could act upon. Although it was a great idea, they just couldn't see where it would be cost effective enough for us to participate. I have been contemplating this idea for a very long time. I finally realized that if something is going to be done then I'm the person to do it, so here I am starting up Greenco. We have a very small budget. We hope to get the word out with flyers, business cards, and most importantly word of mouth. My short term goal is to make as many people as possible aware of how important it is to recycle. My long term goal is to get a recycling plant in the Wichita Falls area that deals with plastic and many other products that the current recycling plants here in town don't handle. At this time, I will be driving to the Metroplex to a recycling center to drop off our loads. Hopefully we will not be doing this long. We are meeting with several companies this weekend to see about having them come to us to pick up and deliver directly to recycling manufacturers.

"With that being far as set up, not much is needed. I supply your bin. There is a $10 set up fee due at the time the bin is delivered.

"Monthly rates for the curbside service:
$7.99 Monthly pick up
$9.99 Bi-Weekly pick up
$12.99 Weekly pickup


"As we grow we will be adding to the list of items we will pick up for recycling.

"We also service businesses and have a one time pick up service available. If you're having a get together and need additional bins give us a call and will get you set up. (What a great way to encourage others to participate!)

"Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

"Thank you!!
Jason Tucker

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Like to Read?

If you like to read, come to Books-a-Million, Sikes Senter Mall, this Saturday from Noon - 4 PM. Book-a-Million is donating 10% of all purchases made during that time to River Bend. Get yourself a treat and start your Christmas shopping early.

Monday, July 19, 2010

New Recycling Service in Wichita Falls

I have been out of town for a couple of weeks for vacation and it seems like I am having a hard time reconnecting now that I am back.

I did receive an email over the weekend from Jan Herzog by way of Kelly Maestas. All of you who have been agitating for a way to recycling plastics, pay attention.

Apparently a Jason Tucker has started a curbside recycling for aluminum and plastics, called Greenco. I am sending him an email this morning in hopes of talking to him directly and getting more informaion to share. In them meantime, here is the information in Jan's email:

Accepts all types of clean plastic containers--doesn't have to be sorted
He will supply the bins--a small deposit may be required
$8 for once a month service, $10 for twice a month, and $12 for weekly

This is a startup, so Jason currently works another full-time job. You can reach him by email at or 940-257-7257. Since he does work another job, he may not call you back until the evening.

For those who have been wanting curbside recycling and plastics recycling, this would be a good way to get on board. However, as a reminder, you can greatly reduce the need to recycling by reducing your waste stream. It's not entirely possible to eliminate plastic and aluminum waste, but we can cut it down considerably. But I encourage you to recycle what you have and consider contacting Greenco about their services.

I will post more information when I get it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Call for News

If you know of any new stores, services, events or products in Wichita Falls promoting sustainable living, let me know at I'd like to promote them here. One new company in town is 411 NRG, which does solar installations.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bug Fest This Weekend

River Bend Nature Center's popular Bug Fest is Saturday, June 26, from 6 - 9 PM.
Always a great time. Take the kids (or not) and learn more about these fascinating critters.

Great American Backyard Campout

The Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists are hosting the Great American Backyard Campout at Lake Arrowhead State Park on June 25. This was a very well-attended event last year.

From 8 - 10 PM at the group picnic pavilion, the Master Naturalists will host a scavenger hunt on the nature trail, host a mini-concert by Bill Gordan and Jack Jordan, make S'Mores and have an owl calling event. There is no charge to participate in these activities; however, all regular park entry and camping fees apply. It isn't necessary to camp in order to take part in the Master Naturalists activities.

Why not get the kids out to enjoy many of the activities we did as kids?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Have You Noticed?

The City is testing perennials in some of the medians (the one in front of the fire station on Beverly Blvd for one). Currently the city plants annuals (which are beautiful) and they have to be replaced on a regular basis to stay colorful and looking nice. The perennials would save money and perhaps some maintenance. We'll see how they work out. Congratulations to the city for looking for more environmentally conscious ways to keep the city looking nice. I wonder if the plants are also natives?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pond Tour Next Weekend

Photo Cruickshank Pond, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Texoma Water Garden Society is hosting its annual pond tour June 12 and 13. You can get a copy of the pond tour booklet at Wichita Valley nursery, Smith's Gardentown and Nature's Half Acre. My husband and usually pick a few ponds to visit. We don't have a pond yet, but want to eventually put one in. The tour is a great way to see what others have done and pick up ideas.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Correction on Numbers--Recycling Article

I sent yesterday's post to Dave Lehfeldt and he noted two errors, so I am posting the correction here.

Amount of trash per year: 170,000 tons
Amount of trash composted per year: 25,000 tons

Thanks to Dave for making sure we have the correct information.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Today's Recycling Program at League of Women Voters Wichita Falls

I mentioned earlier this month that Dave Lehfeldt, Sanitation Superintendent for the City of Wichita Falls, would be the speaker today for the League of Women Voters, talking about recycling.

As always, Dave gave an informative and interesting presentation. I wanted to share some of the information I gleaned from the presentation (if I make any mistakes, hopefully, someone will correct me.)

I think most citizens of Wichita Falls know the highlight of the city recycling efforts is the composting program. Potentially, this program could capture as much as 66% of the city's solid waste as any compostable material can be placed in the green compost bins. The primary detractor from the program is participation. Of the 33,000 accounts on the city trash routes, only 9,000 participate in the composting program.
  • It costs the city $5/month to pick up the compost bins--they charge $3/month. When the $3 fee went into effect, 1800 accounts eliminated the green carts--most were accounts that weren't using them.
  • The landfill takes in 160 - 170 tons of trash monthly; 20 - 25 tons enters the composting program (just think how much less trash would enter the landfill if everyone maximized us of the bins.)
  • Contamination of compost bins with non-compostable materials still occurs, but is less than in the past. Some of the confusion is due to people calling the bins "recycle bins" and thinking they can put anything recyclable in the bin.

Why doesn't Wichita Falls recycle plastic? Basically, because it isn't economically feasible at this time. The two biggest types of recyclable plastic (#1 and #2) constitute about 2% of the waste in Wichita Falls. Capturing a significant amount would be unlikely (look at the results for the compost program.) It costs $300 to take a load of any recyclable material to the metroplex and they cannot get nearly $300 from selling the product. If there was a local market for the material, it would be look a relook. Currently, Walmart takes plastic for recycle--they can make money on it because they would be sending the trucks back empty, so any money they make on the plastic offsets the expense.

There is no city recycling on computer equipment. However, on the city website there is information on how to participate in the mandatory recycling offered by various computer manufacturers.

A couple of announcements that are exciting:

  • The city will be providing compost bins for the Hotter 'n Hell this year.
  • Business composting pick up is now available, but only for those with dumpsters, not curbside bins.

As a reminder, the League of Women Voters of Wichita Falls, in conjunction with the Red River Sierra Group, publishes a brochure on recycling opportunities in Wichita Falls. The brochure is due for another update, but is still accurate.

As far as plastic goes, I suggest we "just say no." Although it is impossible to get by without some plastics (I try), I have been fairly successful at eliminating plastics by choosing not to buy items in plastic whenever possible. I do occasionally purchase drinks in a plastic bottle if I am desperate and other options aren't available. A suggestion is to purchase a sturdy water bottle and fill it from the tap--we have good water in Wichita Falls.

Overall the audience learned new things about recycling. If we all concentrate on putting as much as possible into the compost bins, we can divert much of the city's waste stream into compost.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Raffle to Support Wild Bird Rescue

Wild Bird Rescue is raffling a 2009 Honda Rebel motorcycle (MSRP $3999) to raise money. Tickets are $10 and only 500 will be sold. The drawing will be at United Market Street on June 5 in conjunction with the baby shower (you do not have to be present to win.)

Last year Wild Bird Rescue cared for over 1000 injured and orphaned wild birds and provided educational programs about birds to a host of audiences. Like al lnon-profits, Wild Bird Rescue is operating on a very tight budget, and this is another attempt to raise money to continue to provide for our local birds, like the four baby mockingbirds in the photo (courtesy of Wild Bird Rescue.).

If you would like to purchase a ticket, call Wild Bird Rescue at 940-691-0828 or stop by at 4611 Lake Shore Drive, Wichita Falls, TX.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Plant a Tree in Texas State Parks

The company Odwalla is donating $200,000 for trees in state parks. The amount of money donated to state parks is based upon the number of votes the state receives from citizens. Each vote is $1 for trees. Log into the website to vote. So far, Texas is in the lead, but not by much--and we are nowhere near the $200,000 cap, so vote and encourage your friends to vote as well.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Good News for Wichita Falls

I heard a rumor this week that the vacant Circuit City building on Lawrence has sold and will be opening as a Sprouts Farmers Market. I checked their website and didn't see a mention, but then the building apparently just sold. Looks like a much needed grocery for Wichita Falls.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Have an Interest in Archaeology?

River Bend will be hosting a Texas Master Naturalist advanced training on archaeology on Saturday, May 22, 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM. This training is open to the public. If you are not a member of River Bend, there is a $3 admission.

The presenter is Tony Lyle, Cultural Resource Coordinator with the State Parks Division of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He will be talking about what archaeology is and an overview of the cultural history of the Rolling Plains. Attendees will be able to have hands-on work with artifacts.

Sounds like an interesting class. I plan to attend.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Interested in Wichita Falls Recycling?

David Lehfeldt, Sanitation Superintendent for the City of Wichita Falls, has agreed to speak about the city's recycling plans to the League of Women Voters meeting, June 2, Luby's Cafeteria. The meeting is open to the public. Those who wish to eat should go through the line (either in front of the special buffet set up in the back) and be seated before noon. The meeting starts promptly at noon and will end by 1:00 PM.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Learn to Cook Vegetarian and Support the Texas Humane Legislation Network

Want to learn some super vegetarian recipes, eat, and help the Texas Humane Legislation Network at the same time? Now you can! Joanna Bonnheim and Leslie Harrelson will be presenting "Mom's Comfort Food the Vegetarian Way."

On May 8, 11:00 AM - 2:00 PM, Womens' Forum, 2120 Speedway, Wichita Falls. Registration is $30, which includes handouts and lunch. All proceeds go to the Texas Humane Legislation Network. RSVP to or call 940-923-9000 by May 3.

To learn more about the Texas Humane Legislation Network, see their website at

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Follow up on Some Previous Posts

The City Cleanup was Saturday. I didn't have a chance to go by Lucy Park as I was at Wild Bird Rescue, so I am not sure how many people were there. I can see a few places around the city where it appears there was some work done, but there are still plenty of places that are heavily littered. Please, if you are out for a walk, try to carry a bag and pick up what you see (I don't do this enough myself).

I went to the pubic hearing on the Region B draft water plan last night. I have read the plan and I asked a question at the hearing last night to be sure what I thought the plan said in an area was in fact the case and will be writing up my comments soon. I'll post the content on this blog in case others find them helpful.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Compost Giveaway April 3

For residents of Wichita Falls who use the city organics bin, the Spring Compost Giveway is Saturday, April 3. Here's a link to all of the information you need to get this true "black gold." Be sure to take your water bill showing the $3 composting charge and a tarp to cover the load when you go.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

City-wide Spring Cleaning

In my next column in the Biz to Biz magazine published by the Times Record News I tell the story of the first day my son and I arrived in Wichita Falls. After the green, hilly environment of Virginia, the plains were an adjustment. However, it wasn't the flat, browner prairie landscape that led to my son saying, "This is the ugliest town I've ever seen." It was the trash spread up and down the highway as we entered the city.

Fortunately, with time came an appreciation of the more subdued landscape, and generally the city has done a reasonable job of improving its appearance. Trash is still a problem.

At one time, Wichtia Falls had a Clean City Commission. The annual city-wide cleanup was one event that fell to the wayside when the Commission was disbanded. If you look around the city now, there are some very unsightly areas, full of trash and junk. I am going to go around the city and take pictures over the next few days, but I promise you, Wichita Falls is not ready for company.

Spring cleaning used to be a time honored tradition. Keep Wichita Falls Beautiful and the Clean and Green Committee are working together to spruce up the city in conjunction with the Don't Mess with Texas Trash-Off on Saturday, April 10. They're encouraging homeowners, business owners, civic groups, and families to get involved in a community Spring Cleaning.

Volunteers should meet at the Lucy Land Park Pavilion at 9:00 AM on Saturday, April 10 for a photo shoot for Keep Texas Beautiful. Keep Wichita Falls Beautiful will provide trash bags to volunteers.

To sign up go to or email

Take trash collected to the City Transfer Station at 3200 Lawrence Road. There is no charge for your "deposits."

If you can't participate on the 10th, make it a point to clean up trash where you find it over the next two weeks. Clean up your yards and workplaces and take a trash bag with you when you walk. Together we can make a difference.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Airline Recycling

I've mentioned Green America before and their Responsible Shopper project. They just released a report on recycling in the airline industry and it isn't a pretty picture. American Eagle, a part of American Airlines is running about the middle of the pack
I really like the Responsible Shopper area--I got to the airline report while researching mobile phone companies.
This is an easy to use site and provides ratings on a lot of products and services and offers suggested alternatives.

River Bend Plant Sale Extended

Due to the snow Saturday that kept many people home, River Bend is extending its plant sale through the week. Tell the gift store worker you are there for the plant sale and you won't have to pay admission to the conservatory.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Clean and Green Committee

Last year, the nonprofit community started the Clean and Green committee to encourage recycling in the community. The efforts of that committee were folded up into the Keep Wichita Falls Beautiful organization at the conclusion of this awareness event.

Keep Wichita Falls Beautiful is calling a meeting of the Clean and Green at 10:00 AM on March 22 in the Silver Square Room of Wells Fargo on Kell Blvd. Although targeted to non-profits, the meeting is open to anyone interested in a more sustainable community. We'll be talking about a number of things to include a community cleanup.

New Draft Water Plan Available for Comment

The Region B Water Planning Group has released the draft 2010 water plan for public comment. When you open the plan, I suggest you do not print it, as it is 440 pages.

Public comments can be submitted on line or at the public hearing. The public hearing is April 13, 6:00 PM, at the Comanche Suites at the Clark Student Center on the Midwestern State University campus. Comments are due by June 18, 2010, according to the Red River Authority website.

During the last planning cycle in 2005, I was the only member of the public that spoke and mine was one of only 5 written comments received (one other member of the League of Women Voters, the Texas Water Development Board, Texas Parks and Wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation.) I have not yet finished reviewing the plan--it takes a awhile to read over 440 pages. However, once I do, I will be sharing my thoughts here, so visit back. If you can, please attend the public hearing, even if you don't intend to comment. It's a good place to get an overview, ask questions and hear what others think. Water is a precious resource and deserves our attention.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Local Food Conference Midland/Odessa

In this month's el despoblado e-newsletter (if you don't subscribe, you should!) there was an announcement of the Midland-Odessa Local Foods Conference on March 30.

Midland's a bit of a jaunt, but not so far interested people couldn't make the trip.

I also noted a Lubbock area Southern Plains Conference that may be of interest to some folks.
There are many other "green" events coming up--I'll post those that are within a few hours of Wichita Falls as I find out about them. In the meantime, don't forget our own EcoFair at River Bend on October 9!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Another Congratulations for the Texas Master Naturalists!

The League of Women Voters of Wichita Falls nominated the Texas Master Naturalists for the LWV Texas Environmental Awareness Award. The LWV Texas presents this award every two years at their state convention (held this year April 23 - 25 in San Marcos, TX). The Wichita Falls League decided to nominate the state program as this is a state award, but drew heavily on examples from their hometown Rolling Plains TMN chapter to illustrate the many worthwhile activities undertaken by the organization throughout the state. The picture with this blog is the group who participated in the Plum Lake Cleanup on Saturday, March 6 (I'm way in the back, where I like to be. Jane McGough took this photo.)

The LWV Texas has announced that the Texas Master Naturalist program won the Environmental Awareness Award in the non-profit category. The award will be presented at the State Convention at the EAA luncheon.

The Rolling Plains chapter is currently recruiting for its Spring training class. If you want to know more about this worthwhile organization and the training class, visit their website. Applications are due by March 12, and the class begins March 23.

Monday, March 1, 2010

New Blog Added to Blog Roll

I went back out to the Wichita Valley website today and remembered that Paul Dowlearn has a sporadic blog. Coming as we are into the busy season for the nursery crowd, I am not sure how faithful he will be, but the articles are interesting and the blog reflects Paul's personality very well, so I am including it on the blog roll and hope he will continue to post occasionally. And now that I have the feed on the blog roll, I'll read it more often too!

River Bend Program on Xeriscapes is Tonight!

The next in a series of programs relating to water will be tonight at River Bend Nature Center. Paul Dowlearn, from Wichita Valley Landscaping will be presenting a program on Xeriscaping. Be there at 7:00 PM. Members of River Bend may attend for free; non-members pay $3.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lots of Fun Events Coming Up!

Usually I try to post individual announcements about various events, but there are so many things happening in the near future, I am going to post several items.

- Home and Garden Show at the MPEC this weekend. A schedule of speakers and demonstrations is posted to the Kemp Center's website. There are several presentations about nature-related topics. They will have 2 tracks going most of the day, so it will be hard to fit everything in. Birds, amphibians, rainwater harvesting, gardening--it's all there, so come by. In addition, Wild Bird Rescue, the Texas Master Naturalists, and River Bend Nature Center will all have booths. Stop in to see them. Tickets are only $4 in advance; $6 at the door. I still have a few tickets left if you need one or two. Email me at

- River Bend is still running Science Saturdays. Currently free to everyone, these programs are a great way to introduce children to the fascination of science.

- River Bend is registering now for Spring Break camps. I included the flyer in this post.
- Duckie and Grackle event to support Wild Bird Rescue. Thursday at the Kemp Center from 6 - 8 PM. Free, although there will be opportunity to donate to suppport Wild Bird Rescue's efforts. I posted details on this event in A Charm of Finches blog last week.
- Wild Bird Rescue celebrity roast of David Farabee, March 26, 6:30 PM at the MPEC. Tickets are $25 and include dinner, silent and live auction and of course, a roast of David Farabee. It promises to be a great evening. For tickets, call Wild Bird Rescue at 940-867-9761.
- Texas Master Naturalist Spring Training Class starts in March. If you are interested in the outdoors, this is the place for you. More information about the local chapter is available at their website. They have posted the training schedule and application. The local chapter is very active and involved in many projects in the area.
Hope to see you at one or more of these upcoming events.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Another Great Program At River Bend Coming!

I try to attend the majority of the adult education programs at River Bend but missed the one Monday by Daniel Nix. Just ran out of gas before 7 PM. But I am going to rest up to attend Paul Dowlearn's program on March 1 on Xeriscaping.
If you've been to River Bend you know what a beautiful job Paul Dowlearn and his crew did there.
Hope to see you there!

Public Input Sought By City of Wichita Falls

If you are a resident of Wichita Falls, plan to attend the public meeting on February 23, 5:30 pm - 7:00 PM in Room 203, Wichita Falls Public Library.

I couldn't find the press release on the city website so watch for more information in the Times Record News and local TV. This meeting is to get public input on funding priorities associated with parks, public works, streets, child care, neighborhood resources, housing, code enforcement, first time homebuyers and senior citizens. Be there if you want a voice.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Science Saturdays at River Bend

River Bend has started Science Saturdays for children at River Bend. This is one of their best ideas yet! Last Saturday was rocks and this Saturday is water.
If you have kids, this would be a fun and educational program for them.
Way to go, River Bend!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Congratulations to the Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists

The Rolling Plains Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists won the 2009 Texas Rain Catcher Award in the Nonprofit category from the Texas Water Development Board.

The Master Naturalists designed and constructed two rainwater harvesting systems at River Bend Nature Center in Wichita Falls.

Entries were scored by members of the TWDB staff and outside experts based upon conservation efforts, cost efficiency, originality of design and how well the rainwater harvesting system benefitted the environment. The chapter will be recognized at the upcoming meeting of the Texas Water Development Board in Austin.

The Times Record News did run a small article about the award on February 5.

Way to go!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Nature Photography Competition

River Bend Nature Center is sponsoring a nature photography competition. Details are in the flyer to the left (click on the photo to increase the size). Further details are available by calling River Bend at 940-767-0843.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Public Forum March 2

The Rolling Plains Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists is hosting a public forum for community members interested in environmental issues. The purpose of the forum is to get to know some of the people who have an impact on the natural resources in our area, hear what's happening in our community and ask questions of concern.

The forum will be Tuesday, March 2 from 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM at River Bend Nature Center, 2200 Third Street, Wichita Falls, TX. Light refreshments (cookies and punch) will be served.

The following community leaders will be attending:
  • Mark Howell, Inland Fisheries Biologist, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
  • Jon Ferguson, Superintendent, Lake Arrowhead State Park, Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept
  • Fred Hall, Wichita County AgriLife Agent
  • Jack Murphy, Director of Parks and Recreation, City of Wichita Falls
Come on out, listen, and ask questions!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Wonderful Adult Education Program at River Bend

River Bend Nature Center had an excellent adult education program last night. Fred Hall, our new county extension agent, was the presenter on personal water conservation. I wanted to share with you just a couple of tidbits I picked up:
  • 30 - 50% of urban water use in Texas is used for irrigation of lawns and gardens
  • People spread 67M lbs of pesticides on Texas lawns and currently 5 - 10% of water wells have detectable levels of pesticides in them
  • 1 hour lawn mowing releases as many volatile organic compounds as driving 100 miles in your car
  • Trees lower home energy bills by 25%

He also mentioned that corn meal gluten will help rid your lawn of crab grass and grass burs, although he recommends crab grass for grazing cattle--they apparently love it.

Anyway, a fascinating presentation. Be sure to attend the next program in the series. Daniel Nix from the City of Wichita Falls will be talking about city water planning on Feb 15, 7 - 9 PM at RBNC.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Water Programs at River Bend

I gave a water program a couple of weeks ago at River Bend. They have announced the remaining programs in the series. All programs are from 7:00 - 9:00 PM at River Bend Nature Center. The public is welcome. $3 for the general public; members get in free. For more information, call River Bend at 767-0843.

- Feb 1, Fred Hall, County Extension Agent, "Personal Water Conservation"
- Feb 15, Daniel Nix, Wichita Public Works, "City Water Planning"
- Mar 1, Paul Dowlearn, Wichita Valley Landscaping, "Xeriscaping"

Hope to see some of you there.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club Meets

The North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club meets Tuesday, January 19, at 7 PM at the NALC Building on Southwest Parkway (next to Wichita Valley nursery.) Terry McKee will be making a presentation about the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count.

Foggy Morning

It was foggy at Lake Wichita this morning. Consequently, I had the park pretty much to myself, other than 2 intrepid bikers that crossed the bridge to the right about the time I was leaving the part at 8:30. Usually there are lots of bikers and walkers on the trails on Sunday mornings.