Do good. Feel good: a guide to community service while social distancing

If you are looking for a relaxing activity to make a positive impact on your community while practicing the CDC’s recommendation of social distancing, consider cleaning up litter along your regular walking route, local green belts and your neighborhood.

All litter, big and small, is not only unsightly, it has serious environmental consequences, that can be easily prevented. It is important to dispose of waste properly, educate or report those seen littering and start the habit of picking it up when you see it.

Negative effects of litter:

1. Decreases community aesthetic, reducing property values.

2. Causes soil, water and air pollution. Chemicals can leach from litter, polluting nearby soil and water bodies. If the littered area is burned, it can release toxic particulate matter.

3. Creates breeding grounds for mosquitoes. It only takes 1 plastic bottle cap full of water for mosquitoes to reproduce.

4. Causes fire hazards.

5. Harms wildlife. Small pieces of litter are often ingested by aquatic and land animals and fishing line or other tanglers can trap them. This can lead to death or severe injury.

Cleanup Tips:

If you’ve been racking up a collection of plastic bags, reuse them for litter bags! Remember to take clean plastic bags and film back to the grocery store for recycling. They cannot be recycled in your curbside cart.

Dispose of collected litter in a pathway receptacle or your curbside cart. Please use care not to overstuff trash bins on pathways. Overstuffed trash cans lead to more litter.

Want to burn some calories while you’re at it? Try “plogging,” the act of picking up litter while you are jogging!

Safety Tips:

  • Use reusable work gloves to save disposable ones. Wash them after use.
  • Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands. ·
  • Watch out for poisonous plants. Leaves of three, leave it be!
  • Use care around wildlife and observe them from afar. Use a stick to disturb grass before walking through.
  • Wear long sleeved, light colored clothing and close toed shoes.
  • Bring a hat, sunscreen, mosquito repellant and a water bottle.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Do not go into streets or busy vehicle areas.

Look down for litter, look up for other hidden treasures in the community!

While you are out enjoying a relaxing walk through the neighborhood, take advantage of being surrounded by nature in spring and consider the following social distancing approved activities:

Photography – Take a moment to share your photos with your family, friends, your community through social media and us! Many people are unable to leave the house during this time. Your photos can help them get a healthy dose of nature to brighten their day.

iNaturalist – Become a Citizen Scientist! Observe locally and identify globally by snapping pictures of local flora and fauna in The Woodlands. Download the app, snap a picture, receive help identifying species and contribute to global research.

Birding – Here is a resource from Texas Parks & Wildlife to get you started. Grocery stores often have laminated guides in the checkout lines.

Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Gardening with Children: easy strategies during social distancing

With the extra time created by social distancing, gardening is an activity that children of all ages can enjoy. Simple and exciting gardening opportunities abound in your yard and even inside your home. Here are a few tips to get you started with minimal supplies and minimal cost.

Look around. Get Creative.

Take a quick inventory of your gardening supplies. Just a few simple tools that are needed to start: a spade or trowel, hoe or small gardening rake are essential. If a tool is missing, improvise using items from your home. No trowel? Use large cooking or serving spoons. Lacking a rake? Try a large cooking fork. Plastic milk cartons make excellent watering cans and soil scoops.

Younger children can use small recycled containers as soil scoops

Small cardboard containers or cans are useful seed starting pots. Your Sunday newspaper is perfect for creating paper pots. Older children will enjoy making these seed starting pots for the family.

Shop around

When making the weekly grocery trip, add gardening supplies to your list. Most groceries are currently stocking flower and vegetable seeds and potting soil. They’ll likely have a selection of vegetable and herb starts on hand, as well. Another great option for starts are your local plant retailers. Many are now offering online purchasing with curbside pickup.

Time to plant

Flowers and vegetables can be planted in the landscape or in containers. Soil for containers can be sourced from an existing landscape bed, or commercial potting soil may be used. If your supply of planting containers is scarce, check the recycling cart. Large plastic containers can be transformed into pots simply by punching drainage holes in the bottom. Giving children the freedom to plant seeds any way they wish is a satisfying activity. The seedlings can be separated later on as a new gardening activity. When the seeds sprout, the joy is obvious!

Gardening has many benefits that nourish the body, mind and soul. Spending time learning a new skill while enjoying nature is beneficial for all ages.

Caring for a garden can become a regular part of your child’s daily routine. Even the youngest child will quickly learn how to carefully water the growing plants.

Start each day off by checking on your growing garden and watch how quickly children will embrace their new sense of purpose and responsibility

Many online resources are available to support creative gardening activities with children.  Check this list for simple, practical ideas to get you started:

The joy of gardening and the skills children learn will benefit them all of their lives. Get outside and get growing!

Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

The kids are home.

Yikes, the water bill will go up!

Many of us are at home now, trying to stay busy and entertained. As we use the extra time for baking cookies, starting a garden, and getting through the laundry, keep in mind these projects use a lot of water, too.  Don’t be shocked by a high water bill as Grandma Gene enjoys a long bath every night and the kids recreate Splash Town in the backyard. What a great time to get the family engaged in simple actions to save water!

  • Games are a great way to learn new information. Water Use It Wisely can keep you entertained for hours with fun games all about saving water. Try your hand at Tank Tip and Save Splash and see how saving water makes everyone a winner.
  • How about a weekly contest to see who does the best job of saving water. Winner gets to choose dinner. Or pick the movie.  Or load the dishwasher that night… oh, wait, maybe that’s not a good prize. But you get the point.
  • Have fun with the Texas Water Development Board’s trivia game on daily water use. Test your knowledge, on the game below, and then test the family’s.
Answer: 27 to 41 gallons
Answer: 1.3 to 7 gallons
Answer: 94 gallons
Answer: 22 gallons
Answer: 6 gallons
Answer: 620 gallons
Answer: 4 gallons
Answer: 1 to 8 gallons

So, how did you do?  8 for 8? Or did you learn something new?

If you’re still curious to know exactly how much water you use around the house and where it all goes, this online water calculator can help. Answer basic questions about your family’s habits and then learn simple actions you can take to save even more water. For instance, did you know that meals with meat require double the amount of water to get to your table than a vegetarian option?

There’s a lot you can learn and share while the kids are home, but above all, enjoy spending time with your family and yes, eventually you will get all those chores done.

Graphics courtesy of the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). For more water savings ideas to encourage youth to think about the importance of water, enjoy more resources from TWDB here.

Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Are you ready for spring?

Warmer weather is here so pack away those sweaters and coats and get your closet ready for spring. While you’re at it, take a moment to set aside clothes you no longer wear or that your kids have outgrown. Hmmm, now that the closest is clean, what about the garage, or the attic. How about those toys, books and games no one plays with anymore?

Well, now it seems a spring cleaning is in full swing. Once you decide you can live without it, what do you do with it? Can you donate it, recycle it or should it be landfilled? We’ve highlight our top 5 most viewed articles to help you clean house this spring.

1. Recycling Dilemma: Got Stuff?  From bulky items that don’t fit in the trash bin, to scrap metal, appliances and light bulbs, find out how to properly dispose of it all in this quick read.

2. Recycle Right, Recycle Often Need a quick refresher on what CAN and CAN’T go in your curbside recycling bin?

3. Moving Boxes and Oversized Cardboard Did you know that Waste Management has a special pick-up day each month for your village to collect cardboard boxes at the curb?

4. To Bag or Not To Bag  You may have heard, plastic bags create havoc when placed in your recycling cart. For more information on why and what you can do with your clean bags and film, read To Bag or Not To Bag.

5. Resolution for a Greener Year Beyond just spring cleaning, what other actions can you take to reduce, reuse and recycle at home?

For a complete list of resource, visit The Woodlands Township Recycling and Solid Waste  or email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Fix a Leak Week

It’s a great time to check your home for leaky faucets, showerheads, hose ends, and other pesky places that leaks hide out. Here are some easy ways to check for leaks:

Check your water meter:

  • Turn off everything that uses water in your home.
  • Read your water meter.
  • Wait 15 minutes, and then read the meter again. Did the numbers change? If so, you have a leak somewhere.

Look around:

  • Check that the faucet on the outside of the house is not dripping.
  • Look under sinks in all bathrooms and the kitchen.
  • Do you have a sprinkler system? You may have an underground leak.

If you want help to fix leaks yourself, contact the Environmental Services Department (281-210-3800 or email us) and ask how you can receive a FREE copy of the Practical Plumbing Handbook. It’s full of helpful tips and great illustrations on making repairs and  installing  water saving devices in your home.

For more water saving information or to get your copy of the Practical Plumbing Handbook, contact Teri at tmacarthur@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov