Category Archives: Texas

Find Out What is Keeping Our Parks in the Dark

Imagine a permanent haze smothering the panoramic view from the peak of your favorite hike at Big Bend in Texas, the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma, or the Caney Creek Wilderness Area in Arkansas. Read on to learn how to prevent your childhood memories from being clouded over by pollution.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is finalizing a decision on whether dirty Texas coal plants will continue to release their haze air pollution without regulation. This haze pollution damages our beloved National Parks (NP) and wilderness areas in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

Image 1.1  - Pictures taken from Big Bend and Guadalupe on Clear and Hazy Days to illustrate the immense differences in visibility.Photo Credit: NPCA

Image 1.1 – Pictures taken from Big Bend and Guadalupe on Clear and Hazy Days to illustrate the immense differences in visibility.Photo Credit: NPCA

Haze is a visible and quantifiable measure of the levels of specific pollutants such as Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) that cause haze in the atmosphere (See image 1.1). These specific haze pollutants are released in large quantities from the northern and eastern Texas coal plants. The pollution travels from these locations into federally protected national parks in four surrounding areas: Big Bend NP, Guadalupe Mountains NP, Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, and Caney Creek Wilderness Area.

EPA is finalizing its decision for whether Texas coal plants have to follow the same kinds of rules for SO2 and NOx pollution that other out-of-state plants have to strictly follow. Strong standards would ensure the protection of our national parks and federal lands. The decision will play a pivotal role in propelling Texas towards a breathable future.

The Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ),  the state environmental agency in Texas, proposed a do-nothing plan that would allow the biggest polluters to keep on pumping out visibility and health-harming pollution. With an obsolete plan that requires no changes, no progress towards clear skies, EPA should reject the TCEQ plan and take action to protect the our environment until the coal plants in Texas do their fair share like many other out-of-state power plants.

How do I get started? Call EPA and ask them to follow the law and protect the environment from old, dirty, unregulated Texas coal plants. Tell them that the law requires EPA to hold polluters accountable and that they need to implement a plan that protects our national parks and defends public health by reducing pollutant emissions. As other states like Oklahoma move forward by reducing their power plant emissions, Texas coal plants should not be the forgotten and left in the dark.

With just a few minutes of your day, you could have an impact that lasts through generations – Let’s work together to get EPA to make the right decision! Click Here! 

by Sarah Sharif

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Social and Environmental Change for the Holidays

It’s that time of year when people start shopping for holiday gifts…

A great way to support environmental movements is through consumerism. If consumers demand more environmentally, sustainable goods and socially conscious products, that’s what will be provided. Also, what better way to support  socially conscious causes than to purchase gifts that assist them. This way they benefit and even more people learn about the cause through your gift.

We are going to showcase a few online stores whose mission is to improve social justice and/or promote environmental conservation and stewardship.

Definitely don’t stop here, but be encouraged to search and find all the many organizations and companies that are making an impact on being environmentally and socially conscious in producing their goods.

This is just a start.

SOCO Hammocks

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This Texas-based brand’s mission is to, “empower underprivileged populations through partnerships with nonprofit organizations who provide humanitarian aid”. They  pay fair wages to the artisans at Indocrafts in the small village of Ubud, Indonesia who make the cozy hammocks. Ten percent of the profit goes to a new nonprofit each month.

These  pack down to the size of a softball, making them great for camping. They also are a good hint for that person who just needs to take time, post up a hammock, and relax. Check out their website here and their blog here.                Kick Back Give Back in a SOCO Hammock!

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Greenheart Shop

Greenheart Shop is an online store based out of Chicago that offers an array of products that are both fair trade and environmentally friendly. These products range from kids clothing, to food, to Oil Drum art. Their products are made using sustainable materials and methods and they pay the artisans fair wages. As well as being fair trade and eco friendly, this initiative supports the non-proft, Center for Cultural Interchange, to help international students in the US and Americans traveling abroad to partake in different environmental and social volunteer opportunities.

                  

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Olive Barn

Do you love gardening and want to share your love with others? Or do you know someone else who does? Olive Barn, who’s tagline is “Rooted in Sustainable Living”, has organic seed kits, wind chimes,and  sun catchers. Their seed kits would be really great for someone who wants to start learning about gardening or an avid gardener. All their seeds are organic! The business also happens to be owned and operated by a former Texas A&M Aggie and ranked in the top 100 fastest growing Aggie-owned companies.

These are just a few examples of companies working towards more sustainable, earth friendly, socially conscious consumerism. When you start shopping for your holiday gifts, search for stores that offer the items you want to buy, with an environmental mindset attached to their production.

Comment below with other great, conscious companies you have found.

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Invasive Species: Zebra Mussels Now In Texas

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Zebra mussels are an invasive species in the US. They first arrived in 1988 on European ships ballast. Lack of predators against the zebra mussels gave them the ability to infest eastern US waterways from the start. When they arrived here they increased competition for native aquatic species. They attach to our boats and are hard to see because they are only about an inch long. Zebra mussels spread faster than bunny rabbits- they multiply by producing about one million larvae per one single zebra mussel. Texas should be worried about their lakes because as you can see in the graph, they’ve now spread down here. According to texasinvasives.org, “Zebra mussels can cause tremendous environmental and economic damage – hurting aquatic life, damaging your boat, hindering water recreation and even threatening your water supply.” Find out about if zebra mussel are in our area here.

So what can you do? Firstly, you can spread awareness. Many people don’t know what invasive species are. Spreading awareness brings attention to people like Dan Molloy, a researcher who is trying to find a “natural killer” to eradicate the pests. You can find more information about his research here in this short article. You can also go on outings to help get rid of the zebra mussels.

Zebra mussels attach to many parts of your boat and clean thrive for days. To make sure they aren’t attached to your boat, clean all parts of, drain it completely, and dry the boat for at least a week before entering into a new body of water.

Renewable Energy Roundup and Green Living Fair

The 13th annual Renewable Energy Roundup and Green Living Fair is a great reason to plan a fall road trip!  It takes place the last weekend in September (9/27-9/29) in downtown Fredericksburg, TX and has something for the whole family to see and do.  You can taste, test and explore your way through this event.

See the Solar Car Races, taste organically grown food and learn how you can make a difference with your water usage.  Do you want to know how you can afford solar panels on your home?  How about growing your own food? Come out and learn!  You can get the whole schedule here.
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There are four distinct categories of events.

1)   Renewable Energy

2)   Organic/Sustainable Growing

3)   Green and Efficient Building and Sustainable Living

4)   Alternative Transportation

David Foster, the State Director for Clean Water will be a keynote speaker. Learn more about him through this site.  As you know, Texas is in a severe drought.  He said “Outdoor lawn watering is a huge driver of municipal demand.  We need to re-think our landscaping practices if we are going to manage our water crises.”  Come to learn how you can change your landscaping to become more drought tolerant.
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Don’t forget to bring your refillable water bottle.  We will see you there.

Via: http://www.cvent.com/events/-/custom-20-8a41ebbf42ec40969b667e1adb0cda08.aspx

Pictures from: http://digitaljournal.com/article/298133

Gasland 2 Screenings Coming to Texas

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If you live in Dallas, Fort Worth or San Antonio you are in for quite a treat next week. The much-anticipated sequel to 2010’s Gasland will see special screenings here in the Lone Star State. These three aforementioned cities will receive the special treatment with a Q&A session with filmmaker Josh Fox as well as rumors that Gasland interviewees will be in attendance at the Fort Worth screening.

The best part? These screenings are all free and completely open to the public. Whether or not this is an issue that you have been following for years now or are just becoming exposed to it, this is a great opportunity for community members to come together and educate themselves around this polemic issue.

These screenings come right off the heels of a monumental gas drilling victory in Dallas as well as the recent lawsuit against Exxonmobil for contaminating more than 50,000 gallons of water in western Pennsylvania. The fight against fracking appears to be picking up steam here in the US.

In fact, just last week more news from the mill show threats to communities in northern Colorado, as several activists in Boulder County were posting photos of flooded frack wells to their facebook site. These groups have expressed concerns towards a lack of oversight of drilling wells near their community as well as industry efforts to cover up the risk of contamination.

“Our concern is that all of these sites contain various amounts of hazardous industrial wastes that are now capable of spilling into the waterways and onto the agricultural land. Many of these chemicals are carcinogenic, neurotoxic, and known disruptors of the human endocrine system. As of today there is no testing taking place, industrial, independent or otherwise to determine the extent of the contamination, nor any talk of it. And one can guarantee that this week the COGCC will be issuing more drilling permits even as the hydrocarbons flow into the rivers.” – East Boulder County United spokesperson Cliff Willmeng.

According to an August 2013 poll released by The Guardian, a whopping 76% of Americans are worried about the potentially hazardous effects of natural gas drilling. This trend appears to indicate growing support in anti-fracking policies spreading throughout the United States.

The fact that these screenings take place in Texas cities where fracking is already happening goes to show that Americans are really starting to question the safety hydraulic fracturing.

Here’s a quick snippet of what Josh Fox had to say of his film:

“‘Gasland 2’ features real people -ordinary Americans- whose lives have been upended by the dirty and dangerous process of fracking. That’s why I am working with environmental leaders and advocates across the country to protect our health, water, climate and landscapes and to prevent state and federal governments from allowing a path to destruction.”

Texas is just one several of states hit by recent fracking operations – including Pennsylvania, New York State, Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Arkansas, North Dakota and Louisiana.

Coal Pollution Effects on Human Health

Coal fired power plants are the single largest source of pollution in any country. http://saferenvironment.wordpress.com/2008/09/05/coal-fired-power-plants-and-pollution/

Coal fired power plants are the single largest source of pollution in any country.

Coal-fired power plant emissions contribute to global warming, ozone smog, acid rain, regional haze, and – perhaps most consequential of all from a public health standpoint- fine particle pollution. Emissions from the U.S. power sector cause tens of thousands of premature deaths each year, and hundreds of thousands of heart attacks, asthma attacks, hospital admissions, and lost workdays. So why are these power plants still up and running, and more importantly, why are there still planned developments of new plants?

To simplify things, public health concerns have focused, for at least the last decade, on the role of very small airborne particles in causing or contributing to various forms of respiratory and cardiopulmonary ailments and increasing the risk of premature death. These fine particles are particularly dangerous because they can bypass your body’s defensive mechanisms and become lodged deep inside your lungs. In fact, research also indicates that short-term exposures to fine particle pollution is linked to cardiac effects, including increased risk of heart attack. Meanwhile, long-term exposure to fine particle pollution has been shown to increase the risk of death from cardiac and respiratory diseases and lung cancer, resulting in shorter life-expectancy for people living in the most polluted cities. So who are the people that are most likely to be exposed to these health risks? In general, the poor, minority groups, and people who live in the areas downwind of multiple power plants. And unfortunately, persistent elevated levels of fine particle pollution are common across wide areas of the U.S., mainly in the east.

The adverse effects, including abnormally high levels of mortality, occur even at low ambient concentrations of fine particles—suggesting there is no “safe” threshold for this type of pollution. Since most fine particle-related deaths are thought to occur within a year or two of exposure, reducing power plant pollution will have almost immediate benefits. Below is a very nice table that I found from Physicians for Social Responsibility, outlining various diseases/conditions connected to coal pollutants.

Coal Pollution vs human Health

As it stands, we are at a turning point for determining the U.S.’s future energy policies. The health consequences tied to coal production are vast and have major impacts. We need to address the issue of coal-fired energy production, and we need to address it now. There should be NO new construction of coal fired power plants, and we must initiate plans to retire as many coal plants as possible that are currently in production.

Finally, as a nation, we must develop our capacity to produce energy from clean, safe, renewable sources in order to phase out the existing coal plants without compromising the ability to meet the nations energy needs. Instead of investing any more of our money into coal, the U.S. should fund conservation measures, energy efficiency, and renewable energy sources such as wind energy and solar power, which don’t have such a negative effect on public health.

Written by: Courtney Dunphy

Renewable Roundup and Green Living Fair 2013

Mark you calendars everyone. The Renewable Energy Roundup and Green Living Fair of 2013 is just around the corner. This event is set to begin Friday, September the 27th  in beautiful Fredericksburg, Texas and plans to live up to the title of the largest all-sustainable event in the south, and the best!  This fair is a wonderful opportunity to have a great time with the family and see the newest up-and-coming developments for our environment.  The focus of the event is to present the latest information and technology concerning renewable energy, alternative transportation solutions, sustainable farming, and new efficient building technologies. As such, you can learn how to create and save your own energy, attend informative talks from a variety of green living experts, learn about the next generation in personal transportation technology, talk with the vendors about cutting-edge green living and sustainability practices, and – of course – take home or order some of the many products and services offered at the fair.

The fair will be taking place over the course of three days, Friday, September the 27th through Sunday the 29th and will be located in the MarketPlaza (100 East Main Street, 78624 Fredericksburg, Texas). If you’re curious about what you will be experiencing on any given day be prepared for exhibits and on-going demonstrations, fun learning activities for the kids, local and delicious eats, live musical performances and dozens of speakers all neighboring the beautiful Fredericksburg shopping district. For those who want to be closer into the action you can volunteer and contribute your time and skills all while earning a weekend pass and a one of a kind commemorative t-shirt with a unique design created by artist Hunter Ratcliff especially for the fair. You can choose to join and be alongside the hundred plus companies, agencies, and non-profit organizations spread out across the fairgrounds presenting this one of a kind event. You can also apply for an opportunity to speak at the fair and join the talented speakers who will be featuring hands-on information for consumers, the latest in green technology developments, and much more. There will be a wide variety of speakers giving presentations such as “Help Secure Your Future with a 100% Life Sustaining Capable Home,” “Waste to Water For Texas,” “Honey Bee Rescue and Rehabilitation,” “Growing Organic Vegetables all Winter,” “Saving Water through Solar Living,”  “Shifting our Economy by Investing in Local Food Systems,” “Air, Water, and Solar Power on the International Space Station,” and many more.  For more information on how to volunteer, have an exhibit of your own, or be a speaker you can go to theroundup.org to learn more. And for those who care to partake, there will be new Belgium, 100 percent wind-powered brewery’s beers and ales for sale. Also please remember to bring your own reusable water bottle to keep with the theme of the event as filtered water stations will be provided throughout the grounds.     

Not only is this fair a chance to get out of the house and have a fun time with the family, but also a chance to learn something new and take a step towards a healthy environment at the same time. This event fosters greater self-reliance and a more sustainable Texas for a growing population. For more details and information you can visit the official Renewable Energy Roundup and Green Living Fair website and be sure to come out for a fun and informative good time.

Written by: Christina Farrell