Friday, August 23, 2013

Save the Night and Star Party at Lake Arrowhead State Park Saturday

Saturday at Lake Arrowhead State Park there is a special event open to the public. You can attend all or part. The only portion of the day that requires attendance at any other portion is the Light Assessment Training, which requires the Save the Night presentation first. For most members of the public, the Star Party beginning at 9 PM will have most of the information and be of most interest. 

Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalist members may count the Save the Night and Lighting Assessment and Retrofit Project Training as advanced training.

If you want to attend for dinner, you are asked to RSVP to Terry at

4:00 PM to 5:30 PM      
Save the Night Presentation

Almost every living thing on our planet uses the cycle of light and dark to trigger life processes. Humans are for the most part diurnal and have come to depend on artificial light for nighttime activities. So, how does our artificial light at night effect fauna and flora? We know what death by bulldozer looks like. It’s hard for us to see what habitat destruction by artificial light looks like. This session helps us understand the effects of artificial light on living things and how we can reduce the negative effect of our lights.

Most of the presentation is a peek into our natural world after dark and the affect that artificial light has on it. The scientific background is derived from the research papers compiled in the book “Ecological Consequences of Artificial Outdoor Lighting” which was edited by Catherine Rich and Travis Longcore.

Participants will take home a new awareness of the nighttime activities and processes of the fauna and flora around us. They will be more knowledgeable about outdoor lighting practices allowing them to have the light that humans want or need for nighttime activities while they save energy costs, reduce glare, increase safety, reduce light trespass, create a more aesthetically pleasing nocturnal environment for humans and limit the negative consequences on the environment. Participants will see samples of good lights and be given a handout with drawings of recommended light fixtures and light fixtures to avoid.
5:30 PM to 6:30 PM      
Dinner time 

If you have a special dietary need, please bring your own dinner. We plan on having chicken spaghetti courtesy of the Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park. We’ll have water and coffee for beverages.If you have a special dietary need, please bring your own dinner. We plan on having chicken spaghetti and hot dogs available courtesy of the Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park. We'll have water and coffee for beverages. If you have a special dietary need, please bring your own dinner. We plan on having chicken spaghetti and hot dogs available courtesy of the Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park. We'll have water and coffee for beverages.If you have a special dietary need, please bring your own dinner. We plan on having chicken spaghetti and hot dogs available courtesy of the Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park. We'll have water and coffee for beverages.

6:30 PM to 8:00 PM      
Lighting Assessment & Retrofit Project Training 

(Save the Night is the prerequisite for this workshop)

The Lighting Assessment and Retrofit Project (LARP), is part of a larger initiative in which Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) has partnered with both the Texas Section of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) and McDonald Observatory. McDonald Observatory will train Texas State Park interpretive rangers to deliver night sky programs. The LARP initiative from the Texas Section of IDA will train volunteers from all over the state to do lighting assessments for Texas Parks near them in order to assist the parks in the implementation of best practices in night lighting. The Lighting Assessment and Retrofit Project hopes to recruit at least two volunteers for each Texas State Park with camping. A volunteer may request to work with more than one park or facility.

The three-hour LARP workshop teaches participants how to critique outdoor lighting fixtures and make recommendations to retrofit or replace ones that produce light pollution. You’ll be provided with the details about and samples of the approach agreed upon with the Texas State Parks for consistent reporting for all parks. The workshop will also briefly cover the broad challenges that outdoor lighting can produce as it can create glare that reduces safety & security, produce light trespass, waste money in needless energy costs, obscure our view of the night sky, and jeopardize the health and sustainability of ecosystems. Workshop activities will allow participants to test their new skills and provide contacts for post workshop questions.

Volunteers who want to participate in the LARP program for the Texas State Parks are expected to:
·         Communicate with the park leadership
·         Do a site visit
·         Inventory the existing outdoor lighting at their mutually agreed upon Texas State Park
·         Determine recommended changes to reduce light pollution
·         Create a written assessment of the park’s lighting situation
·         Follow up and coordinate with the park superintendent

Cindy Luongo Cassidy, LARP Training Coordinator for the Texas Section of IDA, will facilitate the workshop. Steve Bosbach, Texas IDA Section Leader will work with any parks selected to pursue the designation of Dark-Sky Park by IDA.

9:00 PM until about 10:45 PM              
Public Star Party 

Starts with a 15 minute "Intro to Good Lighting" talk (especially for those who have NOT attended the earlier workshops). It should be completely dark by 9:25 and the moon rises about 10:25. The moon will be very bright so, after everyone who wants to gets a good look at the moon and it's craters we'll shut down for the night.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Status of Community Garden

Kale from my backyard garden
It may seem it has taken years to get a community garden in Wichita Falls (it has), but we are almost there. The new community garden on Smith Street is nearing completion. It will have 75 spaces and should be open by the end of September.  The garden will be operated by a volunteer committee made up of residents of the neighborhood it's in.

Interested in a space? You can contact the oversight committee through the Martin Luther King Center at 940-761-7980.

If this community garden is successful, the City is interested in establishing additional gardens in other residential areas. Not only are community gardens a good way for people to take control of some portion of their diet, but it is a good way to bring neighborhoods together socially.

World Overshoot Day

The Blue Marble. Photo by NASA
Although I managed to get it up on the Living Green in Wichita Falls Facebook page on the 20th, I am just now getting around to posting about World Overshoot Day here. August 20 was the approximate day in 2013 that we humans used as many natural resources as can be sustainably replaced for the year. For the rest of the year, we are using resources we don't have and driving up the level of carbon in our atmosphere.

It seems many times as if we are Don Quixote tilting windmills--the news seems to get worse all the time. Every day there is another news story of some serious environmental threat.

However,  look at all the good that has been done since the 60's: the Clean Air Act (1963), the Endangered Species Act (1973), the Clean Water Act (1972), and establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (1970), to name a few. Yes, there are some whack-jobs out there who want to dismantle our environmental protections (and if the House budget passes, they would manage to do much of that.) However, generally I think most Americans know these protections are absolutely essential and support them.

The key here is not to give up. We still have the power of the ballot box (if we can get environmentally aware people to run). We absolutely have the power of the wallet. Although our individual purchases may not be a lot, they add up. We have control over our own lives and the choices we make to reduce our environmental footprint. I am not advocating taking all of the joy out of our lives and live so austerely we feel guilty about everything we do, but we can make the conscious choices that matter.

Many times you hear that the American economy runs on consumption. And that is true. But who is to say that we can't turn the tide of consumption from goods to memories, to experiences, to learning, to health, to relationships, to art? Yes, we all need some stuff, but we don't need near what most of us have. We can choose to spend our money on things that matter in making us happier and healthier as individuals, families and communities.

Each of us can do something; collectively we can turn the tide on the consumption madness.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Working on a Meet Up

This has been a topic on the Living Green in Wichita Falls Facebook page, but since not everyone is on Facebook, I am posting it here as well. We are considering having a Meet Up of like-minded people to share information on some topic related to green living. It looks like there is interest. There are so many possible topics that narrowing down the subject for the first meeting is difficult, but it looks like cleaning and personal care products are likely to be the subject of the first meet up.  Still working on a date/time. Right now the larger number seem to prefer a week night. Once we have a date/time/location/topic, I will post the announcement here. Hope some of you can come.

How Low Can You Go?

Although many locals complain about the lack of recycling opportunities in our area, for those who care, there are a lot of options, especially now that the Progressive Waste single stream recycling is here.  Even before that option became available, my husband and I could go 2 - 3 weeks without putting out a cart, due to the amount of compostable materials that could go in the City compost bin. However, now we can also drop off bottles and plastics in the single stream dumpsters around town, reducing the need to roll out our cart even more.

My daughter and family have been living with us for several months now. Although it sometimes seems these adults cannot get the hang of sorting their trash, we are still doing pretty well. They got used to the single stream where they used to live and are a little lazy. We're working on that.

We have a compost barrel set up for most garbage (not meat), the City compost cart that goes out weekly, and we drop off plastics, glass and metal at the single stream dumpsters when we are out and about. I also periodically drop off those annoying plastic shopping bags that still seem to show up in the house when someone besides me goes shopping. My husband hordes aluminum cans and turns them in when he has a pick-up load of crushed cans to finance some of his projects.

But some online posts got me low can we go? The Utne Reader had a good article on zero-waste living that is worth a read by anyone. Even if you don't want to go as far as some of the folks mentioned in the article, it does point out some ways in which you can reduce a lot of waste, save money and live healthier. A win-win-win. Here are some tips from the Zero Waste Home blog. I'm not sure I am 100% ready for all of the ideas, but most of them wouldn't require a lot of effort.

There are several blogs on this topic out there. Two good ones are mentioned in the Utne Reader article. Another I particularly like that also has some great idea for businesses is Pick Up America. The link here is to The Zero-Waste Home toolkit.  Zero Waste in ACTION is targeted more toward business and industry. There are a couple of other related blogs worth mentioning. One I particularly enjoy is My Plastic-Free Life.

Who knew there would be so many people making such an effort to reduce their trash production? If only there were more. Even if you aren't ready to take on the zero-waste challenge completely, all of us can do better. Why not see how low you can go?