Eco-Friendly Gift Wrap Guide

The best gifts come in sustainable packages!

Approximately 4.6 million pounds of wrapping paper is produced in the U.S. each year with 2.3 million pounds ending up in the landfill.

Holiday wrapping paper is often coated in plastic or foil causing it to be non-recyclable. If the wrapping paper is metallic, has glitter on it, or has a texture to it, it is not recyclable. Gift wrap mistakenly put in the recycling cart harms the value of other collected paper at the recycling center.

Beautiful paper like these: glitter, metallic, textured and reversible are NOT recyclable wrapping papers.

If it feels like plain paper, not slick or wax coated, or is made from recycled paper, then it’s a wrapping paper that can be recycled.  Another way to test recyclability is to crush the paper into a ball. If it stays bunched up, it is likely recyclable.

An eco-friendly gift is thoughtful for the recipient and the planet! Check out these tips for a greener holiday.

Reusable Gift Wrap and Recycled Paper

If the holiday rush has you hustling and there’s no time for crafting, consider purchasing a reusable alternative. Fabric gift wraps, nice tea towels, scarves and bandannas make excellent choices.

For wrapping boxes, try using found newspaper or purchasing wrapping paper made with recycled content.  Really get in to the recycling spirit with these two simple crafts and make your own gift box or hand-made bow this holiday season.


Shopping Bag Bow

Materials:

  • Paper – shopping bag, newspaper, etc.
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Double-sided tape

Instructions:

Cut your paper into nine strips, each ¾ of an inch wide. Next, measure and cut the length. You’ll need three strips that are 11” long, three strips that are 10” long, two strips that are 9” long and 1 strip that is 3 1/2” long.

Using one strip of paper at a time, twist each end toward the center until they meet in the middle and create a loop. Secure the ends in place with double-sided tape. Repeat with the remaining eight strips, with the exception of the 3 ½” inch strip; loop that one into a circle.

Start with the three longest strips of paper and begin stacking in descending order by size; largest on the bottom. Secure each loop in place with tape. Finish with the circle loop in the center. Attach your bow on top of your gift wrapped in recyclable paper.


Create a Gift Box

Turn any recycled card stock into a gift box. Find old record covers, cereal boxes, or old shipping boxes and make a custom box for a loved one.

Materials:

  • Card Stock
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Hot glue or double-sided tape

Instructions for an 8 inch square box:

Trim two pieces of card stock into a square that is 12″ wide and long.

For the top: Draw a line 2″ wide on each side. For the bottom: Draw a line 2 1/4″ wide on each side. Press firmly to score lines but not too hard or you might cut or tear the card stock. See image below.

Use scissors to lightly score along the lines

Cut alternating flaps as marked on the image below. Fold along all four scored lines on each piece of card stock. Use glue or tape to secure each corner flap inside the longer, side piece of the box. 

Use clothespins to secure corners while glue is drying

Once glue dries or the corners are secured with tape, you have a custom, upcycled box to fill with a special gift for friends, family or the holiday gift swap at the office.

Questions? Contact our staff at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

What do mosquitoes DO all winter?

If you have been following the Eastern equine encephalitis outbreak in the Northeast US, most of the news stories end with a statement such as “the first killing frost ends the adult mosquito season in any given area.” This is a completely valid assumption when you live in an area where temperatures drop below freezing and stay there for weeks at a time.

However, to say that winter weather in our region can be variable is an understatement. While our recent cold front may have frozen some tender plants, it wasn’t enough to do much damage to our resident population of southern house mosquitoes, Culex quinquefasciatus.

A technician collects mosquitoes resting underneath a bridge

That’s because, as the days get shorter and temperatures and humidity drop, this last generation of female mosquitoes plump up internal fat reserves and find a nice sheltered spot to wait out the winter. Storm drains are a favorite haunt, along with garden sheds and rodent burrows.

The southern house mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus, overwinters as an adult fed by fat reserves in her abdomen

Along with a thicker outer skeleton that resists drying and a metabolism slowed down like cold molasses, these mosquitoes enter a form of dormancy called diapause. This state of suspended development will last until the days lengthen and temperatures rise again – a relatively short window in SE Texas.

And that sheltered spot? When it warms up, storm drains do double duty as a breeding place for those overwintering mosquitoes. Excess irrigation and grass clippings keep drains perpetually moist and full of organic material. This creates the perfect breeding ground– read more about it here. Consider turning off your automatic sprinkler for the winter to avoid runoff (it’s also healthier for your lawn).

Mosquitoes shelter in storm drains over the winter, which become breeding grounds in the spring if kept wet by irrigation run-off

So how do mosquitoes survive where it is cold and below freezing? They do so as eggs, just like the invasive Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, that we have here. Based on seasonal cues, females will lay eggs with more fat to sustain the embryo, along with a thicker “coat” to keep eggs from drying out so they can survive the colder temperatures. These eggs are as big as a speck of dirt and almost impossible to differentiate with the naked eye. So, do yourself a favor and give those plant pots and other outdoor items a good scrub before storing them away for the winter. You’ll be rewarded with fewer mosquitoes when the weather warms.   


Questions? Comments? Contact enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Create Rich Compost Using Thanksgiving Kitchen Scraps

Give thanks for the piles of potato and apple peelings, egg shells, onion skins, coffee grounds and tea bags left over after a home-cooked holiday meal and create your own nutritious backyard compost in just a few easy steps. 

Compost offers an abundance of benefits to the home landscape, garden and container plants through:

  • Improved soil texture and aeration
  • Improved drainage and nutrient availability in clay soil
  • Water loss prevention and nutrient leaching in sandy soil
  • Less fertilizer required since compost helps soil hold moisture

Food is the largest single source of waste in the U.S., taking up 20% of our landfill space. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, only 6% of our food waste gets composted.

Good news, it’s easy to do something about this problem. Start this season by composting your holiday meal scraps.  Here’s how:

Follow these simple guidelines

What to compost

  • Egg shells
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea bags and leaves
  • Raw vegetable scraps/peelings
  • Raw vegetable cores
  • Fresh fruit peelings/rinds

What NOT to compost

  • Meat
  • Bones
  • Fish
  • Dairy Products
  • Grease
  • Cooking Oil

Animal by-products are not appropriate for home composting systems. As they decompose their odors may attract wildlife scavengers.  These items also require a lot more time to break down into components that are useful to plants.

Where to store your scraps

Most folks elect to save their compostable scraps in a bucket with a lid or a freezer quality zipper lock bag until they have enough to warrant a trip out to compost bin. Keeping the scraps sealed prevents any unpleasant odors.

How to compost

There are many ways to compost: bins, piles, barrels, enclosed, exposed and more.  Whatever your preference, a good starting point is to select an area for your compost that receives partial shade to keep from drying out too fast and good drainage to keep from being too wet. Compost needs a mix of organic material, microorganisms, air, water and nitrogen for decomposition to occur. The good news is that you have all these elements at home.  A good mix of kitchen scraps, dry leaves and garden clippings is a great place to begin. For more information on how to manage your compost throughout the year to produce the best material for your lawn and garden, check out this resource from The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Services.

Setting up a home composting system is simple and easy.  The Woodlands Township’s Environmental Services Department offers home composting classes on the first Saturday of each month from November through March.  Classes are free!

High quality C. E. Shepherd compost bins are available for purchase at each class.  Our classes are taught in our outdoor composting classroom located at 8203 Millennium Forest, The Woodlands, TX 77381.  Class is from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. with optional hands-on opportunities immediately following the presentation.  Join us to learn more about turning kitchen scraps into compost and be sure to check out our website for more information.

Questions? Comments? Contact us at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Residents Recycled MORE at 3R Bazaar

On Saturday, November 9, more than 800 residents enjoyed shopping local artists, free recycling, document shredding and learning about recycling at the 9th Annual 3R Bazaar! 3R Bazaar is a once a year recycling event with local resources available to educate on a number of ways to reduce, reuse and recycle as well as on-site recycling opportunities. Residents saved 13,817 lbs of material from the landfill by bringing hard to recycle items for free recycling. $1,485 and 850lbs of canned food items were collected from the document shredding service and donated to Interfaith of The Woodlands Food Pantry.

The 2019 Recycling Village Challenge item was batteries. The Woodlands G.R.E.E.N. will award scholarship funds to villages based on the amount of batteries they collected.

Save the date for the next 3R Bazaar on Saturday, November 14, 2020 and watch for the new Recycling Village Challenge item, to be announced in January. Batteries will not count towards the 2020 Village Challenge but will be accepted along with eyeglasses, textiles, oral care products and documents for shredding. In the meantime, batteries can be recycled at Precinct 3 Recycling Facility, Batteries Plus Bulbs, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe’s or a Walmart Super Center.

Residents are encouraged to think beyond the curbside cart and take advantage of the wide variety of local recycling opportunities. A complete list of participating locations and the items they accept can be found here.

For more information about recycling, please visit www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/recycling or contact the Township Environmental Services Department at 281-210-3800. The 3R Bazaar is a free program of The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department with sponsorship from Waste Management, Southern Shred, Gullo Dealerships, Woodlands Water and The Woodlands G.R.E.E.N.

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

Bird is the word

Grab your binoculars and guide.  Winter on the Texas Coast is a great time for bird watching.

With more than 600 species of birds documented in Texas, an afternoon outside in the Lone Star State can easily provide a rewarding bird watching experience for all. Whether you’re a novice or have decades of experience, bird watching offers something for everyone from an excuse to spend time outside, travel more or practice your photography skills. More than 20 million Americans enjoy this hobby; now might be just the time to try it out yourself.

In 2016, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported that 45 million people nationwide purposefully watched birds, making roughly 1 out of 7 Americans birdwatchers

Consider yourself warned, though; birding can be addictive.  “Birders” spend $41 billion annually on travel, lodging, food and equipment. Many travel great distances just to see that one elusive species, plan vacations around migration patterns, trek through difficult landscapes, and invest in the best equipment. If you’re new to bird watching you probably aren’t ready to splurge on high end binoculars or hop on a plane at a moment’s notice to chase a lead. Don’t despair, there are plenty of opportunities to view our feathered friends at your own pace and price. Simply walking outside and observing can offer plenty of reward.

That said, a few simple tools will make your birding more effective, even a cheap pair of binoculars will make a big difference. As leaves fall off of trees, take advantage of the bare branches which provide great perches for resting birds. What’s that?  A small red bird, with a black mask, hopping from branch to branch.  Can you identify it?  Take some photographs  or write down details, like size, color and distinct markings or make a quick sketch in a notebook.  Identification apps like Merlin Bird ID and Audubon Bird Guide are great tools for identifying birds and collecting data that can then be shared as part of citizen science efforts. Now that you’ve identified your red bird as a male northern cardinal, you are officially a birdwatcher!

Houston Audubon has a great resource on local and migratory birds around Houston

If you build it, they will come

Birdwatching can be as simple as observing with the naked eye. It’s fun as an individual or with groups. And it can range from casual hobby to fierce passion.  When you‘re ready to go beyond just ‘watching’ know that there are several ways to actively bird right in your own community.

Create a bird-friendly environment in your yard, patio or balcony. Providing food, water and shelter for winged visitors provides an ecological benefit while also creating great birdwatching opportunities right outside your window. Depending on the species you wish to attract, the habitat should include a variety of trees, grasses, and shrubs to create an inviting space for birds to live, hunt, and raise their young.  A general rule of thumb is “more native plants mean more insects, which leads to more birds” (ecology professor and author, Doug Tallamy). If using pesticides in your garden to control the insect population, you are removing the main food source for many birds.  Adult bluebirds will eat up to 2,000 insects in one day and gather more when they have a nest of chicks to feed.  A yard full of insects is like an all you-can-eat buffet for birds.

Providing shelter and food are two very important considerations if you are hoping to attract specific species to your yard. For example, did you know that red-bellied woodpeckers are attracted to suet feeders? For more tips on attracting local birds to your yard, check out this article on the Environmental Services blog. Looking for the right bird house to attract purple martins? Plans to build the perfect birdhouse  to attract your favorite feathered friends can be found here.

December is a great time to get your Purple Martin houses prepared for their arrival in January

Beyond the back yard

Filled with local and migratory birds in search of winter sustenance, southeast and coastal Texas offers a number of prime bird watching spots, several within a short drive of The Woodlands.  When you’re ready to venture out, be sure to check with the Houston Audubon’s Bird-Friendly Map for nearby birding hotspots.

Hit the road early to enjoy a full day of birding and be sure to remember the essentials for a day of birdwatching: binoculars, sunscreen, hat, water, snacks, a notebook and pen. 

Don’t forget that the annual Texas Christmas Bird Count takes place December 14, 2019 – January 5, 2020.  For more information on how you can participate and take part in this long standing holiday program that collects data from around the state, be sure to check out this year’s event page.


The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department presents ‘An Introduction to Bird Watching in The Woodlands’. Join us Thursday, November 14 at 6 p.m. at Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) for a presentation by Alisa Kline, naturalist at Buffalo Bayou Park. To register online, view here.

Questions? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or call 281-210-3800

What do you think about water?

Consumers in Texas commented on a Water Survey!

  • Do you think about your water usage on a daily basis?
  • Do you make an effort to use your appliances efficiently?
  • Do you contribute to community-oriented water conservation efforts?

In 2018, 4,000 residents across 14 states shared their thoughts on these and other questions about our most precious natural resource – water. Texas respondents to the Perspectives on America’s Water Survey numbered 383, second only to California. See if you agree with their answers.


More than half of the people surveyed thought American businesses should do more to contribute to sustainability efforts related to water:

Should businesses take the lead and work with local community groups on water related initiatives?  

70 percent said YES.

Should businesses help community members be better educated about water usage and conservation?

67 percent said YES.


Are you trying to conserve water?

46 percent of consumers reported that they were personally trying to conserve water.

43 percent are willing to do more – by new daily activities at home to reduce water use.

However, 23 percent said they needed help in identifying new ways to save water.


In answer to questions about drinking water:

67 percent of consumers in the southern region of the U.S., including Texas, are concerned about contaminants in the sources of their drinking water.

Overall, 91 percent of consumers say clean water is our most important natural resource.


So what do you think?

Do you agree with their answers? We want to hear from you! Copy and paste into an email the questions below , and include YOUR responses. Send it to enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov.

Water Survey Questions:

Should businesses take the lead and work with local community groups on water related initiatives?  

Should businesses help community members be better educated about water usage and conservation?

Are you personally trying to conserve water?

Are you willing to do more by learning about new daily activities at home to reduce water use?

Are you concerned about contaminants in the sources of our drinking water?

Do you agree that clean water is our most important natural resource?

Sign up to receive “New and Noteworthy“, a weekly update from The Woodlands Township Environmental Services to stay informed, receive notifications about events, and get tips about best water use. You will see:

  • education and information about water use and conservation
  • how to reduce contamination in local waterways
  • notices about presentations on these and other vital topics

You will also receive information on other helpful topics such as Recycling, Native Plants, Holiday trash schedules, and more. For more water-specific information visit HERE!

If you have questions, call Environmental Services at 281-210-3800.

Click HERE to view the entire Water Survey.

Give a hoot

Mysterious, spooky, wise, lovable. Depending on who you ask, owls have quite the reputation. With four of the 19 North American species found in our area – Eastern Screech, Great Horned, Barred and Barn – , it’s likely there are a few living in the woods near you. But what do we really know about these birds of prey? Here are 10 fun facts to unravel some of the mystery surrounding these amazing creatures.

Hunting Facts

Fact #1 Incredible hunters, owls have super-powered hearing that allows them to track prey under leaves, dirt and snow. Their hearing is especially sensitive to high-frequency sounds, like rodent squeaks. Studies have shown that Barn Owls are able to catch their prey in absolute darkness just by picking up the sound of rustling leaves.

Fact #2 Owls can turn their neck up to 135 degrees in either direction – 270 degrees of rotation! 14 neck bones – 7 more than humans – allow owls to swivel back and forth effortlessly. Most mammals would be hindered by the lack of blood flow to the brain and eyes, if they were able to rotate that far. However, owls have a unique type of reservoir system at the base of their head which prevents damage to blood vessels while rotating.

Fact #3 Owls make virtually no noise when they fly. Their wing feathers have comb-like serrations that break turbulence into smaller currents and reduce sound. The soft down feathers also help to muffle noise.

Fact #4 An owl’s eye is not a true eye “ball”. Instead, its tube-shaped and doesn’t move which requires them to rotate their entire head to look to the side. This inconvenience comes with an advantage, though. The binocular vision helps them focus on their prey and boosts their depth perception. Owls may have the most efficient vision of any animal. Depending on the species, their vision is 35 to 100 times greater than humans.

Watch this video to see why owls are such excellent hunters

Food Facts

Fact #5 Owls swallow their food whole and then cough up the carcass. Using their strong talons to crush their prey, owls swallow small animals whole. If too large, they use their beaks and talons to rip prey into smaller pieces. Nourishing parts are digested and parts that can’t be digested, like fur and bones, become compacted into a pellet which the owl later regurgitates

Fact #6

Great at pest control. A single barn owl family will eat up to 3000 rodents within 4 months. A single owl can eat 50 pounds of gophers in a year. Farmers frequently install owl nesting boxes to help with pest control. It’s cheaper and safer than poison, which kills many owls and other predators each year as the poison passes on from the prey.

Fact #7 Rodents aren’t the only thing on the menu. Owls eat insects, earthworms, fish, crawfish, amphibians, other birds and small animals. Occasionally, owls will attack and eat smaller owls. Larger owls, like the Great Horned Owl will attack a Barred Owl, which have been known to attack the Western Screech Owl.

For more ways to help owls, visit here

Fun Facts

Fact #8 Owls have been depicted throughout history, from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs to the 30,000 year old cave paintings in France. Ancient Greece recognized owls as a symbol of learning and knowledge and were often seen as a companion to Athena – goddess of wisdom. Unfortunately, owls were seen by many cultures throughout history as a symbol of impending death or evil and affiliated with witches or the unnatural. This fear led many cultures to attempt to rid themselves of nearby owl populations.

Fact #9 Not all owls hoot. Barn Owls make hissing sounds, Eastern Screech Owls whinny like a horse and Saw-Whet Owls are named after the sound they make which is similar to the sound of a whetstone sharpening a saw. To hear the various sounds and calls from owls across North America, check out the Audubon Owls Guide for your phone and I.D. owls on the go.

Fact #10 Owls come in all sizes. The largest owl in North America is the Great Gray Owl which can grow as tall as 32“. The smallest is the Elf Owl – 5-6” tall and about a mere 1 ½ ounces in weight. Here in east Texas, you may come across one of the largest owls in North America, the Great Horned Owl. At almost 2’ tall, the Great Horned Owl is adaptable to many habitats, including city neighborhoods, forested areas, coastal areas, deserts and mountains. Listen for the deep, low hoo, hoohoo, hoo that sounds similar to a dove’s call but is deeper in tone.

To contact Environmental Services Department, email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or call 281-210-3800

Recycle beyond the curb at 3R Bazaar

Reduce, reuse, recycle and re-imagine waste at the annual 3R Bazaar! Bring select items for recycling, shop the market for crafts featuring recycled materials, and discover new opportunities to recycle beyond the curb. It all happens on November 9 at The Woodlands Farmers Market at Grogan’s Mill 8 a.m. to noon.

Reduce

Americans make up roughly 5% of the world’s population but generate nearly 40% of the world’s total waste. Learn tips and tricks to reduce waste on the go and at home.

Reuse

The U.S. produces 4.6 million lbs. of wrapping paper each year. Half of it is sent to landfills. Many wrapping papers are foiled which means they cannot be recycled. Visit the Reuse Workshop and learn how to create eco-friendly gift boxes and bags from newspaper and vinyl record sleeves. They can even be reused or recycled after the holiday!

Recycle

Bring select, hard-to-recycle items for free recycling and learn about year-round collection opportunities.  Participate in the 2019 Village Challenge! Earn scholarship funds for your village by bringing Alkaline AA, AAA, C, D, 9V batteries for recycling.

Free Recycling

  • Alkaline Batteries
    • AA, AAA, C, D and 9 volt
    • Residential only, no businesses
  • Textiles
    • Clothing in unusable condition
  • Eyeglasses
  • Oral Care Products
    • Collected by Girl Scout Cadette Troop 11953
    • Used toothbrushes, empty toothpaste tubes, and floss containers

3R Bazaar is hosted by The Woodlands Township Environmental Services with sponsorship from Waste Management, Woodlands Water, Southern Shred and The Woodlands G.R.E.E.N. For more information, please visit www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/3rbazaar or contact the Environmental Services Department at 281-210-3800.



Secure Document Shredding by Southern Shred

  • Boxed or bagged personal documents
  • Residential Only
  • 5 cans of food or $5 per box benefits Interfaith Food Pantry
  • No limit

Milkweed for Monarchs

On the move

It’s peak migration season in Texas.  Millions of monarchs have made their way along the Eastern United States, funneling into Texas, on the way to their winter site in central Mexico.  This migratory generation will be making stops all across the Houston area in search of food and shelter over the next few weeks.  Guided by an internal compass, monarchs are on a mission to reach their small mountain side retreat by early November.

In early October, monarchs made national news as they rode a cold front through Oklahoma City in numbers large enough to be captured by the National Weather Service Doppler radar.

Good news!

Researchers tracking the monarch population in Mexico recorded a 144% increase in numbers during the 2018-2019 wintering season. Many reports this year are already boasting record numbers, as well. Encouraging news, as monarchs have seen an overwhelming decline in the past two decades. Most information is recorded through citizen science efforts like Monarch Watch. Increased efforts to protect and restore habitats have played a large role in the population growth and offer simple ways for everyone to help.

Data collected by personnel of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve of the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas in Mexico.

For more information on the fall migration, be sure to read The Environmental Services Blog: ‘A Wonderous Journey’.

How to help

Cut back tropical milkweed

Tropical milkweed is a popular choice for many gardeners. With a long bloom season, adaptability to our region and availability in nurseries around town, it is an easy-to-maintain, monarch-friendly plant. This Mexican native can be a much-needed resource for monarchs to lay their eggs. However, there are also concerns with this plant.

Given the ability to grow year-round, tropical milkweed may interfere with the monarch migration causing more butterflies to linger later in the season when they should be on the way to their wintering sites. If butterflies delay travel plans for too long, they will run into temperatures too cold for them to survive. In addition to delaying monarchs late in the season, tropical milkweed may increase the risk of infecting monarchs with the OE protozoan pathogen. OE, ophryocystis elektroscirrha, is a protozoan parasite that is ingested by caterpillars.  The disease affects the development of a caterpillar during its transformation into an adult butterfly.  When adults emerge, they are often too weak to fly.  A mild winter without a freeze, results in tropical milkweed that is unlikely to die back. This allows infected plants to continue to grow and be available year-round for caterpillars to ingest; continuing the spread the OE parasite. The best thing for a strong migration and disease-free plants is to cut back your tropical milkweed and watch healthy monarchs continue south.

Cut back tropical milkweed plants to within four to six inches off the ground each October

Plant for spring. Plant natives.

If you don’t have milkweed in your garden, tropical or native, now is the time to plant for spring. Milkweed is the only plant that monarchs will lay eggs on and the only food source for their caterpillars. Monarch caterpillars can eat an entire plant in one day so be sure to plant at least 4-5 milkweed plants to provide adequate food next spring and summer. The Native Plant Society of Texas has a great article on native milkweed varieties for reference.

Not sure where to find native milkweed?  The Woodlands Township has milkweed seedlings to give away this fall.  In partnership with Nature’s Way Resources and the Heartwood Chapter of Master Naturalists, more than 13,000 milkweed seedlings were propagated over the summer.  Many residents, churches, schools and community organizations have already picked up milkweed to plant in gardens across the community.  If you are interested in receiving free milkweed, you are in luck.  4” pots of orange, common and green milkweed are still available at Nature’s Way Resources. These seedlings need to be planted by mid-November so be sure to pick some up before it’s too late!

In addition to planting milkweed, native nectar-rich plants are a much-needed food source for adult monarchs. Monarchs will travel North, through Texas from March to May looking for nutrients along the way. Planting in the fall allows native plants to establish a strong root system over winter, creating a more drought tolerant and robust plant for monarchs and other pollinators to visit the following year. 

Whatever plants you decide to add to your garden, be aware that insecticides and herbicides can be harmful to monarchs.  Plants can absorb chemicals providing leaves and nectar that is toxic to pollinators. Help protect monarchs and other pollinators by avoiding the use of chemicals in and around your garden.

For more information on Plant for Pollinators and the Milkweed for Monarchs programs, email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Are you Kevin?

Kevin’s a Water Hero!

One hot August Saturday at the Grogan’s Mill Farmers Market, Kevin Currey walked up to me and said, “Last year you told me to turn off my sprinkler system for the winter and I haven’t turned it back on since then. I’ve saved so much water!”

Kevin’s been using only a sprinkler or spray nozzle to hand water where needed, and his yard looks great, even during the hot months. He’s so happy that he’s considering leaving the system off indefinitely, except for occasional one-time watering needs.

My water hero, Kevin, asked me to give you a gift: a spray nozzle to encourage you to water by hand this winter. Just come by The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department (8203 Millennium Forest Drive), Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and say, “Kevin sent me,” and it’s yours.

Kevin is not the only Township resident with a water-saving success story. More and more residents are turning off their systems and improving their lawns.

You could be a water hero, too! So why aren’t you? The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department is looking for a few more water heroes. Take the Water Wise Village Challenge Pledge now to turn off your system until April. You get benefits for your yard, and your Village gets a point for your pledge that could become a donation for their scholarship fund. For more details and to complete the pledge form, visit here.

Already have a success story to tell? Share how you have taken action to avoid over-watering your lawn. Are you a water hero who only turns on your sprinkler system when the lawn needs a quarter inch or more of water? Do you use compost to strengthen your lawn and reduce watering needs? Send in your story. We want to hear from you.

For more information, contact Teri MacArthur, Water Education Specialist at tmacarthur@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or call 281-210-3928.

Home Pollinator Gardening Class

If you weren’t able to join us for a Pollinator Garden Class at Woodlands Landscaping Solutions last month, don’t worry! Lauren Simpson, area pollinator gardening expert, is coming back this month and is offering a deep dive into how she transformed her own yard into a beautiful space for pollinators. 

Lauren is passionate about educating on pollinators, their conservation and the urban wildscapes that support them. Her own pollinator garden is a Certified Wildlife Habitat, a Monarch Waystation, and a Certified Butterfly Garden. Lauren has observed 48 species of butterfly, 20 species of syrphid fly and around 30 species each of bees and wasps within her home garden. 

Through the success of her garden, Lauren helped create the St. Julian’s Crossing – wildlife habitat, and has received much recognition around the Houston area for her efforts in pollinator conservation. For more information and to see Lauren’s home garden, check out the St. Julian’s Crossing Facebook page.

Register online here. Registration is required. For a complete list of upcoming Environmental Services programs, check out our calendar of events here.

Just in time for Halloween: vampires, zombies and other ghoulish bugs.

Good night, sleep tight; don’t let the bed bugs bite

While this rhyme has been sung to loved ones since the 1880’s, the nocturnal creatures it refers to have been feeding on sound sleepers since the time of the pharaohs.

Sheltering in the nooks and crannies of baseboards, floorboards, or even along the seam of the mattress, bed bugs emerge at night to feed on unsuspecting dreamers. Lured by carbon dioxide and body heat, the little wingless vampires crawl along your body in search of uncovered skin to draw their weekly feast. Ten minutes later, engorged and sated, they return to the shelter of the box spring, or a loose flap of wallpaper, and digest. Take a Deep Look at these bloodsuckers if you dare.

Attack of the body snatchers

The prospect of being fed upon in the dead of night might make your skin crawl, yet it is a far sight better than what can happen to a tomato horn worm in broad daylight.

A teeny, tiny wasp – only an eighth of an inch long – will lay eggs just under the hornworm’s skin. The eggs hatch inside the caterpillar and start eating its insides while it’s still alive! Larvae chew their way to the outside and spin cocoons that look like white insect eggs along the hornworm’s back. Weakened, the hornworm soon dies, unleashing 50 or more wasps to parasitize other tomato-destroying caterpillars. Purdue University has produced a brief look at the “alien encounter” for your viewing displeasure.

Photos used with permission from the Galveston County Master Gardener Association

Superhero bugs to the rescue!

For everything that creeps and crawls, there is another thing that stalks and eats it. Spiders are a formidable foe, ensnaring flies in sticky webs, chasing down crickets, or ambushing ants.

Whatever the method, most spiders end the fight by injecting venom into their hapless prey through fangs at the end of their “jaws”. All spiders are on a liquid diet – that narrow waist makes it impossible for solid food to pass into their abdomen. Just like in Arachnophobia, these eight-legged predators must pump their prey full of enzymes to suck the resulting juices, leaving behind an empty husk. Fortunately, if you are not a fan of spiders, there are even spider-eating spiders such as the cunningly clever, Portia.

For more spectacularly spooky tales from the creepy crawly world of bugs, join us for Walk in the Woods, October 10, 2019. Registration is required for this FREE lecture.  For more information or to register, visit the Walk in the Woods website here.

For more information on programs offered by The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department, visit www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/environment

3R Bazaar: Battery Recycling

Recycle batteries and earn scholarship funds for your village

Power to the world’s most convenient, portable energy source: the battery. They come in all shapes and sizes and we couldn’t live without them. They keep things going in our hospitals and military operations; and at home in our electronics and children’s toys.

Did you know? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, each year, Americans throw away more than 86,000 tons of single-use alkaline batteries.  Batteries make up about 20% of all household hazardous materials in America’s landfills.

Batteries contain two common elements that combine to create power: an electrolyte and a heavy metal such as mercury, lead, cadmium, or nickel. As batteries break down in landfills, they leach mercury and other toxins. These pollutants can eventually make their way into the surrounding water table.

In an effort to reduce hazardous waste, The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department has selected Alkaline AA, AAA, C, D, and 9V Batteries for the annual Village Recycling Challenge held at the 3R Bazaar on Saturday, November 9, 8 a.m.to noon at its new location The Woodlands Farmer’s Market.

Recycling batteries saves resources and keeps heavy metals out of landfills and water.

Keep in mind: Rechargeable batteries may cost more up front, but each rechargeable battery can substitute for hundreds of single-use batteries. Rechargeables can also be recycled when they’ve outlived their usefulness, preventing unnecessary landfill usage and toxicity to the environment.

If your stash of used batteries runneth over, or if you’ve just started your collection, support your village by bringing Alkaline AA, AAA, C, D, and 9V Batteries to the 3R Bazaar 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 Bazaar? That’s ok! The Precinct 3 Recycling Center (1122 Pruitt Road in Spring), Home Depot, Lowes, Batteries Plus, Best Buy, and some Walmarts accept batteries all year. For a comprehensive list of local recycling opportunities of other oddities such as electronics, light bulbs, paints, pharmaceuticals, and more check out the Recycle More Guide.

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

Woodlands Landscaping Solutions

Join us this Saturday for the 22nd annual Woodlands Landscaping Solutions. More than 30 exhibitors will provide information on native plants, local wildlife, yard care, attracting butterflies, and more! Live music, food vendors and children’s activities are all part of this family-friendly event. 

Free classes offered this year include Home Pollinator Gardening with Lauren Simpson, Lawn care with Tom LeRoy and Backyard Composting led by Montgomery County Master Gardeners. Classes are offered at 9:15, 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. Come learn simple ways to enhance your landscape this fall!

For more event information, visit our website here or email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Volunteers help keep the vision green

George Mitchell established The Woodlands as a community in which we live, work, play and learn in harmony with nature. More than 40 years later his vision remains alive and well. Numerous efforts are made each year to continue this balance of community and nature, with much of the work accomplished by volunteers. In 2018, volunteers logged nearly 5,000 hours on environmental initiatives through The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department. This year volunteers are contributing to the community through two newly established initiatives, Milkweed for Monarchs and the Invasives Task Force.

Milkweed for Monarchs kicked off this summer when Environmental Services partnered with Nature’s Way Resources to grow native milkweed which will enhance pollinator habitats throughout The Woodlands. Native milkweed is critical to the survival of monarch butterflies; it’s the only plant monarchs will lay their eggs on and the sole source of food for monarch caterpillars. Unfortunately, it is in short supply due to habitat loss and growing more from seed is no easy task. But, the Township, Nature’s Way Resources and volunteers from the Heartwood Chapter Texas Master Naturalists have accepted the challenge and have spent more than 300 hours propagating over 13,000 seedlings. These seedlings will be planted this fall in rights-of-way, community gardens, parks and other projects. Additionally, a portion of the volunteer-grown milkweed is available to residents creating their own pollinator gardens. 

If you’re interested in receiving milkweed for your home, church, school, or business garden, pick up a voucher at The Woodlands Landscaping Solutions event on Saturday, September 28 from 9 a.m. to noon. You can also get them at the Environmental Services Department offices at 8203 Millennium Forest Drive, The Woodlands, TX 77381 during business hours as of Monday, September 30, 2019. Redeem your voucher for 6 pots of native milkweed at either Alspaugh’s Ace Hardware or Nature’s Way Resources by November 16, 2019. 


While the effort is underway to reestablish milkweed around The Woodlands, another group of volunteers is taking action to remove plants along pathways and open spaces. Non-native, invasive plants to be exact. Invasives, like air potato vine, Japanese climbing fern and Chinese Privet, crowd out native vegetation, degrade soil health and push out critical food sources that wildlife depend on.

Volunteers in the fight against invasives are a dedicated group who received training provided by The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department. Volunteers work alongside Heartwood Master Naturalists on scheduled days at specific sites throughout town. The most recent training for invasives removal took place in August with forty-two Township residents and master naturalists making the commitment to serve on the ES Invasives Task Force.  Dr. Hans Landel, Invaders Program Director for the UT-Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, provided instruction to the workshop participants. The next training is scheduled for February 2020. 

The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department would like to thank all volunteers for efforts to maintain our environment and for keeping George Mitchell’s vision alive. 

If you are interested in joining the Invasives Task Force, starting a pollinator garden or participating in upcoming volunteer opportunities, email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov