Run from water waste with good habits

Do your kids turn off the faucet while brushing their teeth? It can save about 4 gallons of water! These habits add up – over the course of a week a family can save enough water to fill a regular trash can. Wouldn’t you rather use that water? Give the kids a hug and encourage their pride in being good stewards of a vital natural resource.

Kids seem to do better than adults at maintaining good habits when they understand the benefits and their actions are rewarded with praise. The rest of us may need a sticky note on the ‘fridge! Consider this your sticky note.

At least once a year, check for dripping water. Even a small leak makes a big impact on  your water bill. Over time you could be paying for hundreds of gallons of water you aren’t using.

Indoors:

  • Look at faucets and taps in kitchens and bathrooms
  • Check under sinks and inside cabinets for wet spots
  • Remember to check faucets in tubs and shower heads
  • Inspect clothes- and dishwasher connections that can develop leaks over time

Outside:

  • Check  spigots and hose ends
  • Ditto for sprinklers attached to a hose
  • For automated systems, check sprinkler heads for leaks, one sign is taller or greener grass, another is places where the ground is perpetually wet
  • Install a rain sensor, if your controller doesn’t have one, to keep sprinklers off when it rains – what a waste that is

Leaks and dripping faucets are easy to ignore but costly.  How about checking right now to be sure it’s not happening right under your nose. Good habits prevent wasted water, so thank you for being a good water steward! Here’s a virtual hug for you.

Fall in Love with Leaves

It’s Fall! Time for cool mornings and pumpkin spice everything. And, while nothing says fall like fallen leaves, sometimes they can feel like a bombardment.  If you’re thinking there’s got to be a better way to deal with those leaves than hauling bag after bag to the curb, you’re right. Here are three things to consider as you tackle the autumnal abundance. 

Rake Into Beds

The best place for leaves is right on the ground – raked under your trees and shrubs or mowed into the lawn. This returns nutrients back to the soil and provides shelter to caterpillars and other overwintering insects. Come spring these insects will get to work as natural pest control in the garden, and they in turn will feed new clutches of baby birds. This native mulch also suppresses weeds and holds in soil moisture. A great return for “leaving the leaves”. 

If all your landscape beds have a 3-4″ layer and you still have leaves here are some good options: 

  • Start or feed a compost pile
  • Heap up 6-8″ in a corner along with branches and hollow stems for a simple insect hotel 
  • Stockpile to put around tender shrubs as insulation over the winter 

If you regularly contend with a lot of leaves, consider vacuuming instead of blowing. Units that vacuum and shred leaves as you go really help reduce the volume and small pieces break down faster into rich compost wherever they end up. 

Out of Drains & Gutters 

One place leaves don’t belong is in the stormwater system. Don’t blow leaves into the drain, it’s illegal! Stormwater flows, untreated, into local waterways and all that extra debris depletes oxygen, reducing water quality for fish, dragonfly naiads and a host of other aquatic organisms.  

After a rain, check for needles, sticks and other debris that may be lodged in driveway culverts and drain inlets near your house. Keeping the stormwater system clear reduces flooding. It also prevents formation of small, stagnant puddles ripe for mosquito breeding.  

Fall is a great time to check those gutters, too. Pay special attention to sections under trees as well as roof valleys (where two sections of roof join). As these areas fill with debris, you risk damage to the roof and you create more ideal mosquito breeding sites, right at your doorstep. 

Fun with Leaves 

Albert Camus wrote “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” There are 168 words to describe leaf shape, arrangement, venation, and edges; take some time to delight in the variety. Have a leaf scavenger hunt or make a leaf print bookmark. Learn the language of leaves. 

Leaf Print Bookmark 

  1. Collect leaves from the neighborhood that have interesting shapes or vein patterns 
  1. Use a roller or brush to apply paint to the underside of a leaf. Do it sparingly so that the texture appears 
  1. Place painted side down on a heavy sheet of paper or cardstock 
  1. Cover with a scrap piece of paper and use a rolling pin or straight-sided can to press the leaf down evenly 
  1. Remove the scrap paper and peel the leaf back gently from the stem end 
  1. Let the print dry and embellish with doodles, stickers, glitter or stamps 
  1. Punch a hole at one end and loop through a piece of ribbon or yard to complete the bookmark 

Other ways to use the leaf print technique: 

  • Decorate brown kraft paper for a tablecloth or placemats 
  • Stamp over newsprint for recycled wrapping paper 

Resources

Check out the Texas A&M Forest service for help identifying native trees

3R Drive-thru: Light Bulb Recycling

Recycle Light Bulbs; earn scholarship funds for your village!

If you feel in the dark about light bulb disposal, here’s a bright idea: recycle used light bulbs to earn scholarship money! The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department has selected Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent (CFL) and LED light bulbs for the annual Village Recycling Challenge held at the 3R Recycling Drive-thru on Saturday, November 12, 2022 from 9 a.m. to noon in The Woodlands High School’s parking lot. Light bulbs must be intact, not broken. Batteries and other listed items will also be accepted. This event is for residents only, no businesses. 

This year’s Recycling Village Challenge shines a light on the importance of responsible waste disposal. Recycling light bulbs saves material that can be reused, reduces landfill space, and keeps hazardous chemicals out of our environment. Although they are made of glass, metal and plastic, light bulbs cannot be recycled in your curbside cart.


How are light bulbs recycled?

Light bulbs are put through a machine, called a tumbler, which crushes and separates the primary components: glass, metal, plastic, mercury and phosphor. These materials are then stored for manufacturing into new items.  


Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) contain a small amount of mercury gas. If CFLs are disposed of in a trash can or landfill, the glass can crack and release mercury into the environment. Chemicals from CFLs and other hazardous waste, such as batteries that end up in the landfill, can leach into the surrounding water table, endangering human health and aquatic habitats. CFLs and other household hazardous waste should always be treated with care and safely disposed of through special collections. If you are saving CFL bulbs for recycling, please store them in a safe place such as their original box to avoid damage. 

Want to save money, energy and even water? 

LED light bulbs use 80% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs, saving energy, money and even water. They also pose almost no fire risk because they emit  less heat than other bulbs. LED lightbulbs may cost more up front, but they’ll save you hundreds or thousands of dollars over the years because of efficiency and long life span.  

Join us for free recycling of select items and support your village by bringing Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent (CFL) and LED light bulbs to the 3R Recycling Drive-thru for the Village Recycling Challenge. The village that collects the most will receive a donation to its scholarship fund from The Woodlands G.R.E.E.N.  

Can’t make it to 3R Recycling Drive-thru?  

That’s ok! The Montgomery County Precinct 3 Recycling Center (1122 Pruitt Road in Spring), Home Depot, Lowes, Batteries Plus and Best Buy accept different types of light bulbs all year. For a comprehensive list of local recycling opportunities of other oddities such as electronics, batteries, paints, pharmaceuticals, and more check out the Recycle More Guide.  

For more information, visit www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/3rdrivethru

Creature Feature: Mexican Free-tailed Bat

Superhero crime fighters, blood-sucking vampires, quirky animated characters, and quintessential fixtures of Halloween décor; these creatures of the night are thoroughly intertwined in American pop culture. Yet, these cultural characterizations often lead to misunderstanding, fear and certainly under appreciation of these flying mammals.  Let’s dive into how bats really are heroes of the night.

Fast Facts

  • More than 1,300 species of bats worldwide. 10 species call the Greater Houston Area home
  • The Mexican Free-Tailed Bat is the official flying mammal of Texas
  • They can fly up to 60 mph and at a height of 10,000 feet
  • Bats aren’t blind! In fact, they have excellent eyesight. Their renowned echolocation ability allows them to hunt more efficiently at night and has no connection to blindness.

What do they look like?

An adult Mexican free-tail bat is about 4” long, weighs no more than .5 ounces, and is covered in short fur that ranges from red to dark brown to gray. Their long, narrow wings span between 12-14″. They have large, round ears that point forward and a snub nose. The tail is naked and extends beyond the tail membrane, earning their namesake – free-tailed.

What do they eat?

Mosquitoes. Need we say more?  Yes, mosquitoes are part of a bats diet, but they also dine on moths, beetles and other flying insects. Bats can eat their body weight in insects every night! The volume of insects that bats, in Texas, consume annually is equivalent to $1.4 billion in insect control.  Installing bat houses/roosting boxes on farms is becoming a common practice among farmers who welcome bats in hopes of reducing the need for pesticides on their crops.

What eats them?

Owls, hawks, snakes, raccoons and house cats all dine on bats.  However, the biggest threat to colonies is White-Nose Syndrome, named for the white fungus that grows on the muzzle and wing of hibernating bats.

This disease causes bats to become overly active, including flying during the day. This extra activity burns up their fat reserves which are needed to survive the winter. There is no cure for white-nose syndrome, but scientists are working to control the spread of the disease.

White nose syndrome is caused by a newly identified fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destrictan, and currently has no cure.

Where to see them

Mexican free-tailed bats arrive in Texas in early March, breed in the summer, and migrate back to the warmer temperatures of Mexico for winter. However, some do “hang around” throughout the year, roosting in large colonies. One of the best places to see bats is at Houston’s Waugh Bridge.

Removal

A single bat in your house is likely just a lost or confused bat. In most cases, they will try to leave on their own. Assist the bat by opening windows and doors. Turn off all ceiling fans and remain quiet. Have patience and allow the bat to leave unharmed.

If you have a more permanent tenant, contact a specially trained bat rehabilitator or bat rescuer. Bat World Sanctuary provides a list of people who can help. Remember bats are wild animals, and many species are protected under federal law.

Have you taken preventative steps to bat-proof your home? Check out the Bat Conservation International website for some great resources.

Interested in learning more about local wildlife? Check out these articles: