Our Pet Waste Problem

Man’s best friend is causing a problem that is too big to ignore. With an average waste output of .7 pounds per day, dogs in The Woodlands create about 23 tons of waste daily! Responsible pet owners know the importance of picking up after Fido at the park or along the pathway. But have you ever wondered what happens if you leave it behind?

If you think it’s a natural fertilizer that will decompose with little impact to the environment, just take a look at our contaminated waterways. They tell a different story. According to the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s 2020 Basin Report, almost 65 percent of Spring Creek is listed as impaired because of high bacteria levels. The tributaries within the Township that flow into Lake Woodlands and Spring Creek; Upper and Lower Panther Branch Creek, Willow Creek and Bear Branch Creek, are all included on the list of impaired waterways because of bacteria. The truth is, pet waste is endangering the health of our watereways.

The issue

Left on the ground, bacteria, viruses and parasites in dog waste can transfer to humans and animals. A single gram of feces contains over 23 million bacteria, including harmful pathogens like e coli, giardia and salmonella. And you don’t have to step in a pile of waste for it to be a problem. The pathogens live on long after the pile has dissolved, spreading through the soil and eventually into the nearest waterbody (including your favorite fishing spot).

Not all poop is equal

So why is pet waste more harmful than deer or other wildlife scat? According to the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, waste left behind by wild animals actually benefits the ecosystem because those animals consume resources and nutrients from the ecosystem. Our pets’ diet, while healthy and balanced for them, creates excess nitrogen and phosphorus in their waste that leads to unstable conditions when it enters our waterways. Pet waste also introduces fecal coliform bacteria into waterways and is known to cause serious health problems in humans, like intestinal illness and kidney disorders. These water-born pathogens make it dangerous for swimming and other recreational water activities.

Coyote scat, pictured above with berry seeds, is visibly different from our pet’s waste and reflects the differences between wild and domesticated diets. Resources consumed in the wild are returned to the wild when waste is left behind.

Good news

The solution is simple. Do your ‘doody’ to pick up pet waste and place it in the trash. Bagging pet waste and leaving it behind only delays the inevitable – contamination still occurs once the bag breaks apart, and it creates a litter issue, to boot.

Here’s a simple way to make bagging and tossing your dog’s waste a part of your daily walk: 1) attach a carabiner to the handle of your dog’s leash; 2) hang a plastic grocery bag from the carabiner; 3) place bagged waste into the grocery bag. Voila! A hands-free option for carrying bagged waste to the nearest trash can.

By simply carrying your pet’s waste home, you can prevent contamination in our neighborhoods and waterways. Photo credit: ZKillian

Spread the word

Disposing of your pet’s waste properly is an important first step, but the work doesn’t stop there. Get the message out to your neighbors that putting pet waste in the trash prevents pollution. If you’re a dog owner, model the solution for others. If you’re not a pet owner consider taking action to protect our waterways by joining one of our many volunteer projects.

Volunteers are needed to help install markers on storm drains in your neighborhood. Markers remind residents that anything going in storm drains (dog waste, lawn chemicals, litter) will be washed into a nearby waterway – unfiltered and untreated. To be notified about the next training and volunteering day, email Environmental Services at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov with Storm Drain Project in the subject line.

GreenUp: Fall Sweep

Every litter bit counts! Help keep The Woodlands clean by joining the next community litter cleanup day.

Gather family, friends, and neighbors for the next community litter cleanup day, GreenUp: Fall Sweep on Saturday, September 4, 2021. GreenUp: Fall Sweep is a self-guided 1-day volunteer opportunity that targest litter along pathways, waterways, and natural areas. No registration is required. Bags, gloves, and trash grabbers are available by appointment only.

How Fall Sweep Works

  1. Gather your group and ready your gloves, bags, and outdoor gear for an hour or two of community beautification (the amount of time you spend is up to you).
  2. Cleanup litter at any location you like.  The link below offers some suggested sites.
  3. Report large or hazardous items to the Township through the 311 App or by calling 281-210-3800 during normal business hours.
  4. Dispose of full bags at home or in a park trash can. Tie your trash bags tightly to protect sanitation workers. Please avoid causing more litter by not overstuffing park trash cans.
  5. Share your success by posting a photo on social media using #GreenUpFallSweep

For suggested cleanup sites and safety tips or to schedule equipment pickup, visit www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/fallsweep

http://www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/adoptapath

How To Help Migrating Birds This Fall

Thousands of birds migrate through The Woodlands every fall. The reason – food. As days grow shorter, birds begin to head south in search of abundant food and warmer temperatures. Lucky for us, The Woodlands happens to lie right along the path that many species take on their journey south. Our warm climate and dense vegetation provides an ideal rest stop for swifts, swallows, hummingbirds, hawks, flycatchers, warblers and more. Our parks, yards and preserves are heavy with greenery, berries and flowers throughout the fall, but are they providing the food these migrating birds need?

The Early Bird Catches the Worm

…and the berries, insects, seeds and nuts. The most sought after avian delicacies varies with the season. Research shows that all birds, migrating and resident species, require different nutrition in winter than in warmer months. Summer is breeding season for most species and protein to produce healthy eggs and chicks is in high demand. Protein means insects and lots of them. Consider that a single pair of chickadees must find 6,000-9,000 caterpillars to raise their young!

More than 80% of all bird species rely on insects for part or all of their diet. The native Hackberry (Celtis laevigata) attracts insects for hungry birds, who also enjoy its fruit all summer long.

As breeding season ends, birds shift their diet from protein to fat to help them survive cold nighttime temperatures. Fat intake is extra critical for migrators in preparation for the grueling flight ahead. Produce from Woodlands natives such as American beautyberry, wax myrtle, coral honeysuckle, native dogwoods and viburnums, and yaupon holly are prized. Right now, most of these species are in the early stages of their fall and winter fruit and nut production.

Our native plants (and insects) have co-evolved with birds over the centuries, meaning birds depend on the specific nutrition these species provide. So, not just any seed, nut or berry will do. Consider the popular non-native plant, nandina (heavenly bamboo). It produces a bevy of bright red berries – quite attractive to our eye as well as the bird’s. Unfortunately, nandina berries, like most non-native berries, are sorely lacking in fat and other nutrients. Much like feeding french fries to a marathoner, these imitation foods leave birds depleted, unable to complete their migration route or make it through a cold night.

Just like you and me, birds need the right food. Here’s how to help.

Fall in Love with Natives

Migrating birds face several threats to their continued survival: the greatest being loss of habitat. We often think of habitat loss as a paved over forest. Yet, despite the green appearance, our lawns and landscapes have the same impact if they’re devoid of native plants. Much like a parking lot, they become a food desert for birds and other wildlife.

The simplest yet most impactful action you can take to support our migrating birds this fall is to add native plants to your landscape. Remove non-native or invasive plants to ensure you’re providing only nutrient rich food, not french fries.

Not sure where to begin? use the reference guide below and consider joining our free, online Invasives Species Workshop from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, August 14, 2021, to learn how to identify invasive plants in our community. Register online here to receive more information.

Backyard Feeders

For those who go one step further in helping our feathered friends with backyard feeders, consider that not all seed mixes are the same. Cheap mixes are full of milo, wheat, red millet, and various grains that birds can’t make use of. Most all of these “low cost” seed mixes contain little protein and almost no fat. The same holds for black oil sunflower seed. Cheaper seeds are often those which didn’t fully mature and lack protein and fat. Spend a little more on a quality seed and you’ll be rewarded with more frequent and healthier visitors.


Questions or comments?

Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

3R Bazaar: 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 13, 2021 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 the environment. 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, from The Woodlands G.R.E.E.N., to its scholarship fund.

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/3rbazaar

Smarter About Sustainability Seminar

What a turnout for our two-part seminar on Saturday! Our presenters provided some great resources for residents to save water, support pollinators and be better environmental stewards. You can find these below.  

Please don’t hesitate to contact Bob or Lauren with questions or let them know if you enjoyed their presentation by taking this 3-minute survey.  

Your New Smart Water Meter 

Bob Dailey guided residents through using the WaterSmart Customer Portal. This website allows customers of the Woodlands Water Agency to view their water usage and bill, identify potential leaks, set notifications for excess use and get alerts about freezes or other weather events that may impact your water use. An app is in development and until it’s ready, the WaterSmart Customer Portal can be easily viewed on your phone, desktop or tablet.  

Quick links for Woodlands Water Agency water-saving resources: 

Missed the presentation? View the recorded seminar on our YouTube channel.


Creating a Pollinator Paradise Your Neighbors Will Love 

Lauren has spent her spare time transforming her Houston home gardens into a pollinator-friendly habitat that is beautiful, beneficial to local wildlife AND blends well with her suburban neighborhood. In this presentation, Lauren shared easy steps for creating a pollinator paradise at home that your family can enjoy and will please your neighbors too! 

 

Lauren highlighted the following invasive plants commonly found in our landscapes and  encouraged all of us to remove and replace with natives when creating your pollinator paradise.   

  • Chinese Tallow 
  • Elephant Ears 
  • Nandina (heavenly bamboo) 
  • Bradford Pear 
  • Ligustrum 
  • Pampas Grass 
  • Japanese Honeysuckle 
  • Chinese Privet 

Texasinvasives.org offers a wealth of helpful information on invasive species in our state and region. Learn how to identify key invasives in our area and take action today. 

Missed the presentation? View the recorded seminar on our YouTube channel.


After you’ve created your pollinator paradise, be sure to register your garden. The annual Plant for Pollinators Village Challenge kicks off June 1, 2021.  Register your garden before December 1, 2021 and support your Village Association Scholarship Fund. For more details and to register, visit the Plant for Pollinators webpage. 

Questions or comments?

Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov


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