Start saving batteries for the Village Recycling Challenge!

3R Bazaar 2019: Reduce, Recharge, Recycle

Save your batteries - 3r bazaar blog

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. But their convenience comes at a cost. Did you know that batteries make up almost 20% of all household hazardous materials sent to landfills? This presents a problem as the elements a battery uses to create power – mercury, lead, cadmium, or nickel – leach out when the battery inevitably breaks down inside the landfill, potentially contaminating the surrounding water table.

Recycling batteries protects our water supply by keeping heavy metals at bay, while simultaneously saving resources.

Batteries – like numerous items – are recyclable, but not accepted at the sorting facility where our residential recycling ends up. To empower residents to recycle beyond our curbside carts, 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 The Woodlands Farmer’s Market.

If you don’t already have a stash of used batteries start saving them now! The village that collects the most will receive a donation to its scholarship fund from The Woodlands G.R.E.E.N.. Encourage neighbors, friends and family to save their batteries too. You can further support your village by helping collect and weigh incoming batteries  at 3R Bazaar; if you are interested in volunteering contact Environmental Services at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov.

 Can’t make it to 3R Bazaar? That’s ok! The Precinct 3 Recycling Center (1122 Pruitt Road in Spring) and Batteries Plus accept alkaline and rechargeable batteries all year. For a comprehensive list of where to take other oddities such as Styrofoam, electronics, lightbulbs, paints, pharmaceuticals, and more check out the Recycle More Guide.

Reduce by buying rechargeable! Rechargeable batteries cost more up front, but each rechargeable battery saves money in the long run, substituting 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.

For more information about other items collected at the 3R Bazaar, visit www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/3rbazaar.

How mosquitoes find you

As weather warms, mosquitoes seemingly come out of the woodwork. How is it that they are always able to find you?

Aeae biting

Keen senses

Mosquitoes use a highly tuned sensory system to zero in on their next blood meal. About 200 feet away, mosquitoes get the first whiffs of carbon dioxide we exhale as we enjoy a bit of gardening or a jog down the pathway. Following the plume – whether it is emitted by us, our furry companions, or a mockingbird up in the trees – brings them closer to the potential host.

Once the carbon dioxide has drawn her within sight, she is further attracted by dark colors and high-contrast patterns. Remember this the next time you reach for something to wear to the neighborhood picnic. Long, loose, light-colored clothing with a tight weave is a good first defense against the piercing mouthparts of the female mosquito. She seeks a blood meal, not to feed herself, but in pursuit of protein to make eggs.  You might be surprised to know that mosquitoes drink plant nectar to fuel their bodies, and pollinate plants in the process.

Getting warmer

Cues

When within three feet the mosquito can sense the heat signature of your body, differentiating you from say, a park bench. Investigating further, she hones in on a specific area to land using “smells” she picks up through her antennae. Lactic acid, uric acid, and ammonia in sweat, as well as the scent of fabric softeners, perfumes and colognes can all attract mosquitoes.

Cloaking spray

DSC_0024

Mosquito repellants can employ a couple different mechanisms in your defense. One is to jam chemical signals from reaching a mosquito’s antennae. The other is to be offensive to the mosquito once she lands and can “taste” it with her feet.  Repellents may use one or both mechanisms – termed primary and secondary repellency.

As we each have a unique chemical signature, try a few repellents to find the one that’s most effective for you. Look past the brand name on the front of the bottle to the bottom. There you’ll find one of the active ingredients the CDC recommends: Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, DEET, or IR3535. What works best for you might be different from your partner or kids.

Sensory Trickery

Mosquito_Trap with Lure

The Mosquito Surveillance & Education Program of The Woodlands Township uses the mosquito’s keen sensory perception to our advantage. We use a variety of lures and baits to attract mosquitoes into traps for weekly monitoring throughout the Township. For example, the Biogents Sentinel trap uses a lure that smells a lot like stinky gym socks. It also has a high-contrast color pattern and can be made more appealing by the addition of dry ice to emit carbon dioxide. These three features mimic a human host, drawing the mosquitoes close enough to be sucked into a net by a battery-powered fan. The captured mosquitoes are collected the next morning and sent to a laboratory for identification and disease testing. Tracking changes in the number of mosquitoes caught, species present, and disease trends over time provides the foundation for mosquito control activities in The Woodlands.

Learn more about mosquitoes and how to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne disease at http://www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/MosquitoInfo. To report a mosquito concern email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or call 281-210-3800.

Water-Wise Village Challenge – the results are in!

WWVC Results - FB (2)

The greatest number of households yet took the pledge to turn off automated sprinklers for the winter. Friends and neighbors spurred each other to pledge and shared the benefit of conservation, while Village Associations promoted the Challenge in the hopes of adding to their scholarship funds.

Many thanks to a record 649 households who pledged and congratulations to the following Villages with the most participation:

  • First Place: College Park
  • Second Place: Creekside Park
  • Third Place: Sterling Ridge

Did you pledge to turn off your automated sprinkler system this year? Not only did you save water, you were also a part of accelerating the transformation of thinking about water conservation in our community.

Now that spring is here and hot summer months are just around the corner, consider this: it’s estimated that as much as half of the water homeowners use outdoors is wasted due to evaporation, wind, or runoff, all factors of inefficient irrigation. Take time for a springtime spruce up of your sprinkler system before you set it and forget it.

Sprinkler Spruce Up

  1. Inspect your system for clogged, broken, or missing sprinkler heads that could be water wasters.
  2. Look where the sprinkler heads connect to pipes and hoses—if you find even small leaks, they can waste thousands of gallons of water per month.
  3. Direct your sprinklers to apply water only to the landscape, not driveways and sidewalks.
  4. Select a WaterSense labeled irrigation controller to automatically align your system’s schedule with local conditions and avoid watering during wet weather.

How much more water can you save this summer? Try these suggestions:

summer-infographic

2019 SMARTER ABOUT WATER SEMINAR

Mark your calendars for Saturday, May 11, where we’ll focus on ways to safeguard our watershed – strategies to employ at home, and actions part of the West Fork San Jacinto Watershed Protection Plan. The seminar is free but registration is required. Go to The Woodlands Township calendar page to learn more.

Smarter About Water.png

What is your plastic footprint?

Earth Day 2019 It's in your hands

Ever feel like you need a PhD to recycle correctly? Here’s a trick for the next time you are about to put plastic in the curbside cart: look for a neck and a number. Accepted plastics are easily identified by their narrow “neck” as seen on a bottle of water, shampoo or detergent. Look closely and you’ll see a number printed on the bottom too – ensure that it’s not #6 and you can confidently recycle that plastic curbside.

Recyclable plastic bottles

What about all the other plastics without a neck or a number? Plastic bags, packaging, case wraps, disposable cutlery, straws, plates and cups cannot be put in the recycle cart. Avoid the temptation to “wishcycle” them – placing them in the recycling bin in the hope that they’ll magically be recycled. Limited markets and sorting technology for recyclables dictate which items are accepted.

Instead seek out a special local recycling opportunity for these other items. Plastic bags and films get tangled in the sorting machinery at the recycling facility, but they CAN be recycled at local grocery stores. Check out all the kinds of film that can be recycled this way – chances are if it stretches it can be recycled.

WRAP_TipCard

Although very important, recycling isn’t the only tool we have to fight plastic pollution. When it comes to disposable items, reducing dependence on single-use plastics and packaging is the key.

Tips to reduce plastic waste:

  • Bring your own reusable tote bags, produce or bulk bags, travel mugs, stainless steel straws, reusable cutlery and water bottles.
  • Purchase products with less packaging such as loose produce and bulk dry goods.
  • Recycle right. Get familiar with what is accepted in your curbside cart and local opportunities for other items.

In the spirit of Earth Day, consider taking an inventory of how much single-use plastic you generate and choose to reduce. EarthDay.org has plastic pollution footprint calculators and an action guide to get you started. For an interesting look at the rise and proliferation of plastics check out this article in the April edition of The Woodlands Community Magazine.

For more information on recycling and waste minimization, contact The Woodlands Township Environmental Services at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or 281-210-3800.

Monarchs on the move

The amazing monarch!

mxc-blog-monarch-g

Outweighed by a penny and powered by wings no wider than a toddler’s hand, the iconic monarch (Danaus plexippus) is right now embarking on the first stage of a migration that will cover upwards of 3000 miles, with some individuals traveling over 200 miles in a single day! They will wind their way across mountains, deserts, and cities, through multiple seasons and weather extremes, in a round-trip effort that will span five generations.

Monarchs in the United States are split into two populations, one east of the Rockies and the other west, along the Pacific Coast. The western monarchs spend their winter in California. Those to the east winter in the mountainous oyamel fir forests of southern Mexico.

It’s now in early spring when the eastern monarchs descend from the oyamel firs and move northward through Texas, allowing us to re-appreciate their beauty and marvel at their incredible stamina, navigational abilities, and the unique spectacle that is the monarch migration.

An epic journey

As temperatures warm and days lengthen, monarchs finish their development which was suspended over the winter, become reproductive and begin mating with fervor. Once mating completes, around February and March, the females leave the males behind in Mexico and head for the milkweed that is now sprouting across Texas.

And so the migration back to the United States and Canada begins.

MonarchMap-NatureServe-10.20

Used with the permission of the Xerces Society  https://xerces.org/monarchs/

The energy expended to complete this first leg of the journey is tremendous. After six weeks or so, now March and April, the female monarchs must find a milkweed leaf on which to deposit their eggs before they die. Once laid, four days will pass before the eggs hatch into voracious eating machines – baby monarch caterpillars.

Monarch caterpillars feast night and day on the leaves of their host plant and, incredibly, will gain 200 times their body weight in just two weeks. When the feasting ends they form their chrysalis and spend the next 10 days metamorphosing into an adult butterfly, vibrating with color and ready to renew the march north. This is generation 1, the offspring of the butterflies that overwintered in Mexico.

chrysalis

Monarch chrysalis

Several more generations will live and die over the summer, travelling further afield, but just one generation will make the entire journey back to the oyamel firs beginning in October.

The fall migration is even more dramatic than the spring, after reproduction has bolstered the population, dozens and even hundreds can be spotted hourly.

Creating safe havens for pollinators in our yards and communities provides vital waystations during spring and fall migrations.

The migration in crisis

Once 700 million strong, monarch populations have now crashed. It’s estimated the eastern population has plummeted by more than 85% while the western population is suffering even more – only 28,000 were counted this winter. Multiple issues are to blame:

Habitat loss and fragmentation. Over 160 million acres of monarch habitat has been lost to development since 1996.  Illegal logging of the overwintering sites in Mexico is also taking a toll.

Climate change. The increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events can devastate migrating populations. Because of the incredible density of monarchs in the overwintering grounds, severe freezes there are catastrophic.

Pesticides and herbicides. Milkweed used to grow throughout corn and soybean crops across the south and midwest. But herbicides have driven milkweed to near extinction in these agricultural landscapes and depleted monarch populations along the way.  Monarchs are also being impacted by neonicotinoids, a new class of insecticides that spread their toxins through the plant’s tissues. Caterpillars that dine on these plants quickly perish.

OE. Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) is a parasite that infects monarchs, causing them to die in the pupal stage or emerge deformed. Milder infections result in shorter life spans and an inability to fly properly. OE pervades in our area as non-native tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) continues to grow through the cooler months, after native milkweeds have died back. Follow these important steps if you choose to grow tropical milkweed.

24868875674_c46b79454c_b

Monarchs overwintering in the oyamel fir forest of Mexico

What You Can Do

Join The Woodlands Township Plant for Pollinators Program. Through this program you can…

Learn

  • Get notified of upcoming lectures, classes and workshops by signing up for the Township’s Environmental Services blog and calendar updates. These free events focus on pollinators, native plants, invasives removal, organic gardening, no-chemical pest control and more.
  • Ask for a presentation on the Plant for Pollinators program and how to create habitat from the Township’s team of Environmental Education Specialists.
  • Follow the monarch migration with Journey North, check out the Pollinator Partnership’s Million Garden Challenge and more with these partner links.

Grow

Choose a sunny spot

Volunteer

  • Volunteers are needed for larger community planting projects. Help to weed, seed and spread habitat for all types of pollinators. Contact enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov if you or your group can lend a hand.

Observe

  • Download the easy-to-use iNaturalist app on your phone and monitor your habitat for monarchs and other pollinators. Your findings will support the Plant for Pollinators Project. It’s also a great way to learn more about nature!

 

Spiderwort is stunning color for shade

Native Plant Focus: Spiderwort

Tradescantia virginiana

 

Spiderwort (1)

An easy to grow clump-forming perennial, spiderwort is a Texas native which thrives in nearly any growing conditions—including shade. This plant’s deep blue to violet purple flowers with their contrasting yellow stamens bloom continuously for several months beginning in March in southeast Texas. Although each blossom lasts only about one half day, the numerous buds contained in each flower cluster provide new flowers each day. Spiderwort is a member of the iris family with long narrow bright green leaves that offset the unusual, slightly fragrant blue flowers.

Spiderwort’s scientific name, Tradescantia virginiana, is in honor of John Tradescant who served as the gardener to King Charles I of England. The plant’s common name, Spiderwort, has its origin in the angular arrangement of the leaves which suggest the shape of a squatting spider.

Easy care & adaptable

This highly adaptable plant will thrive in nearly any conditions although it prefers slightly moist soil in an area of dappled shade. When planted in drier areas, the plant adapts. Included in spiderwort’s many assets are its ability to grow in any soil as well as in light conditions ranging from shade to full sun.  In addition, Spiderwort has no known disease or pest issues.

Attract pollinators

In the home landscape, Spiderwort is a beautiful addition to a native plant garden, pollinator garden, shade garden or natural area. Spiderwort also adapts to containers. Many types of bees are attracted to the deep blue color of the spiderwort blossoms.  Bumble bees are the plant’s major pollinator although honeybees, small carpenter bees and halictine bees also provide pollination. Butterflies enjoy the nectar of this plant while syrphid flies feed on the pollen.

spiderwort-1347209

The distinctive and beautiful flower of Spiderwort adds color to shady spots in the landscape through spring and into summer.

Missouri Plants has some wonderful close-up photographs of this wide-ranging native.

For those interested in foraging, both spiderwort leaves and flowers are edible. The leaves are useful in salads, soups or teas while the flowers can also be used in salads or can be candied.

Where to find it

Obtaining spiderwort is easy since many on-line retailers offer both the seeds and the plants. Spring is a perfect time for shipping these plants before the Texas heat arrives. April is an ideal planting time for either Spiderwort transplants or seeds. Since Spiderwort grows quickly, planting it now will provide for pollinators in only a few short weeks.

 

More Texas Wildflowers

To learn about more native Texas wildflowers, join Anita Tiller from Mercer Arboretum on April 4 at HARC. Anita will lead an exploration of HARC’s grounds, which is bursting with spring color and will explain many of the sustainable landscape practices HARC has put in place. The walk is followed by an indoor presentation on wildflowers native to our region. Space is limited register here – walk-ups welcome as space permits.

ES_3.28_WITW Wildflowers

Remodeling? Plan for water efficiency

A home remodeling project is a perfect time to consider how to maximize your home’s water efficiency. Bathrooms are where most of our water is used, accounting for more than 50% of all indoor water use.

When it comes to water use, the American mindset is shifting from one less mindful and therefore wasteful, to one more aware that water is a valuable resource to conserve.  We are fortunate to have easy access to some of the safest water in the world and it may be that very ease that results in our taking water for granted. Just how much water do we use? On average, an American family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day at home.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Water Pie Chart

In a 2014 Government Accountability Report, it’s noted that 40 out of 50 state water managers expect water shortages under average conditions in some portions of their states over the next decade. So it just makes sense to replace old or inefficient appliances and hardware with new, more efficient products.

That’s where WaterSense comes in. WaterSense is a partnership program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). WaterSense labeled products meet EPA’s specification for water efficiency and performance, and are backed by independent, third-party certification.

WaterSense label

The WaterSense label on a product certifies that it is 20 percent more water efficient than average products in that category. There are WaterSense Products in many categories, including:

  • Faucets
  • Showerheads
  • Toilets
  • Irrigation controllers
  • Irrigation sprinklers

Stop by the Environmental Services office and receive a free faucet aerator or a replacement showerhead while supplies last. Both meet high water efficiency standards.

Environmental Services Department
8203 Millennium Forest Drive

 

Fix a leak

You don’t have to take on a remodeling project to conserve water. That annoying dripping faucet is more than annoying; five to 10 percent of U.S. homes have easy-to-fix leaks that drip away 90 gallons of water a day.

EPA’s annual Fix a Leak Week is March 18 through 24. You can learn more about how to locate leaks on the EPA  Fix a Leak Week webpage.

Leaks Graphic

Demonstration home

Check out the WaterSense demonstration home at Water University at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension in Dallas. To be WaterSense certified, homes must meet standard criteria in three areas: indoor water use, including plumbing, plumbing fixtures and fittings, and appliances; outdoor water use, including landscape design and any installed irrigation systems (which are optional); and homeowner education.

 

OE and tropical milkweed

The relative virtues and problems associated with tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica, continue to be a hot topic within the monarch conservation community, but the disparity between the two is becoming more and more clear. Scientific research suggests that its problems, namely its link to the spread of the Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) disease, far out-weigh its virtues. In fact, it’s those very virtues—availability, adaptability, and long bloom season—that multiply its negative effects relative to the health and sustainability of the monarch butterfly species.

What is OE?

OE is a protozoan parasite that infects butterflies that host on milkweed. Its life cycle starts as a microscopic spore that breaks open when ingested by a caterpillar. Within the caterpillar, it grows and multiplies. Because a parasite depends on its host for its own life, OE rarely kills the caterpillar.

scales and spores

OE spores are only visible under a microscope.

But the disease affects the development of the adult butterfly while pupating, and adults emerge weak and often with crippled wings. While many monarchs may carry OE as spores attached to its wings and thorax, the size of the spore-carrying population and the heavy level of spores within that population in the Gulf Coast region—especially Texas and Florida—is cause for alarm. Visit Project Monarch Health for more about OE.

oemonarchemergetwo6

An adult butterfly with OE has no chance of survival when wings are malformed.

Recent studies corroborate earlier studies and tighten the link between tropical milkweed and an increase of OE. Gardening to help conserve monarchs requires an understanding of the risks associated with tropical milkweed as well as the steps to take to minimize its ill effects.

The introduction of tropical milkweed in the U.S.

Monarch enthusiasts with the best intentions were thrilled when local nurseries began to offer tropical milkweed for sale and embraced the Mexican native with gusto. It didn’t take long to discover that aside from being very easy to grow, monarch butterflies love this variety of milkweed. It seemed that a solution was in hand to help restore milkweed habitat for the Eastern migratory monarch population. As a result, tropical milkweed has been well established in parts the southern states—especially southeast Texas and southern Florida.

Then research began to emerge that showed an increase in monarch disease caused by OE was linked to tropical milkweed grown in the southern states.

What the research shows is particularly troubling for the monarch migration that passes through Texas gardens to feed and breed.

The effects of tropical milkweed

Research by Karen Oberhauser, Dara Satterfield, and others has and continues to demonstrate that OE in monarchs increases where tropical milkweed flourishes. (See links to studies at the end of this blog.)

What’s been determined is that the proliferation of tropical milkweed (in the southeastern parts of Texas and south Florida in particular), coupled with its near year-round foliage and flower production does two things:

It interferes with the monarch’s migratory cycle. Tropical milkweed encourages them to linger in the southern states and continue breeding and laying eggs, “trapping” them here where they cannot survive temperatures that drop toward the freezing mark. Possibly more important is the effect of milder winters. Given a non-stop supply of milkweed, interference with normal migratory behavior produces populations of monarchs that overwinter in Texas and Florida instead of completing their migration to the oyamel fir tree forests of central Mexico.

Monarchs who stay in the southern states for the winter are five to nine times more likely to be infected with OE than migrating butterflies.

It significantly increases the rate monarchs are infected by the debilitating OE protozoan pathogen. If mild winters don’t produce a freeze, infected milkweed continues to thrive, not dying back like native milkweed species. This means infected plants persist. Infected plants in Texas are especially harmful because they sit in the gateway for the spring and fall monarch migrations.

Migrant butterflies at sites with overwintering residents were 13 times more likely to have infections compared to migrant populations that don’t come in contact with residents.

Adult monarchs migrating from Mexico in the spring that visit infected plants pick up hundreds of OE spores and carry them to other plants—increasing the number of infected plants and as a result butterflies, exponentially.

What to do?

If there’s any good news in this it could be that originally, most of the tropical milkweed planted was done so in gardens. By definition, gardens are tended. Gardeners should consider taking one of two actions.

Replace tropical milkweed with native species. While native varieties are more challenging to start, the effort would help minimize the spread of OE. Try these native species:

  • Asclepias incarnate, Swamp milkweed
  • Asclepias perennis, Aquatic milkweed
  • Asclepias tuberosa, Butterflyweed
  • Asclepias verticillata, Whorled Milkweed
  • Asclepias viridi, Green milkweed

Or, be diligent about cutting it back every winter. Cut tropical milkweed plants to within four to six inches of the ground each October.

If you have tropical milkweed in your garden and didn’t cut it back in October, do it now.

Milkweed for habitats

Milkweed used for non-gardening purposes poses a more clear guideline. Dara Satterfield  recommends, “that habitat restoration for monarchs focus on native species of milkweed, which are synchronized with the monarch’s natural migratory cycle and do not enable the year-round breeding that can lead to high parasitism rates.”

The spring migration approaches

Tracking the spring monarch migration starts on February 14. Visit Journey North to learn how you can enter your own monarch sightings and track the migration real time.

Delve in and learn more about tropical milkweed and its effect on the health of monarchs with these recent studies:

Patterns of parasitism in monarch butterflies during the breeding season in eastern North America, Ecological Entomology, 2018

Migratory monarchs that encounter resident monarchs how life-history differences and higher rates of parasite infection, Ecology Letters, 2018

Monarch butterfly migration and parasite transmission in eastern North America, Ecological Society of America, 2011

Loss of migratory behaviour increases infection risk for a butterfly host, The Royal Society Publishing, 2015

Learn more about native milkweed species at these resources:

Native Plant Society of Texas

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center Plant Database

PDF of Identification of Milkweed in Texas, by Texas Parks & Wildlife

Resolution for a greener year

This New Year, while fine-tuning your list of personal resolutions, how about including a few goals to help the environment? Changing habits can take effort. One theory of behavior change is the Fogg Behavior Model (FBM). This model posits that motivation, ability, and triggers are the three key factors for any behavior change—the higher the motivation, the greater the ability to perform the new behavior and the presence of a trigger drive how well one can make a change.

BFM.svg

The Fogg Behavior Model. The different levels of ability and motivation define whether triggers for behavior change will succeed or fail.

Here are ten “triggers” for resolutions that can make for a healthier earth.

Who’s in?

Use reusable shopping bags. Plastic bags are the second most prevalent form of litter, with over 4 billion bags getting carried by wind, clogging storm drains and littering our forests, rivers, and oceans every year. According to Plastic Oceans, eight million tons of plastic end up in our waters each year harming marine life. Carry a tote or two and forgo the plastic bag.

Turn off the water while you brush. It can save up to 200 gallons of water a month. That’s good for your water bill and the environment. Learn more ways you can conserve water in your home at Sustainability.ncsu.edu.

Reduce your lawn. Lawns are water hogs that also are often chemically dependent. Cut back on turf grass and plant natives instead. This single step helps conserve water, reduces polluted water runoff, and enriches biodiversity.

drink-3211172_1920

Compost kitchen waste. Organic waste in landfills generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas. By composting wasted food and other organics, methane emissions are significantly reduced. So refrain from dumping those nitrogen-rich coffee grounds or calcium-loaded egg shells and other organic kitchen waste. Enrich the soil instead. Learn more about the environmental benefits to composting at EPA.gov.

787-best-vintage-tea-towel-time-images-on-pinterest-with-regard-to-cat-kitchen-towels

Ditch paper towels. They may be easier, but in one year alone, Americans use 13 billion pounds of paper towels. That’s about 45 pounds per person. If everyone used just one paper towel less, 570 million pounds of paper waste would be eliminated per year. In case that’s not enough motivation to make a change, it goes without saying that paper towels simply can’t rival the charm of a vintage tea towel.

Eliminate phantom power usage. When household devices are left plugged in they still use energy—even those chargers with no phone or tablet attached. The draw may be small, but collectively and over time it adds up. Unplug. Or, use a smart power strip that reduces your power usage by shutting down power to products that go into standby mode. Doing so may save you some cash. Statistics vary, but experts say standby power consumption ranges from 5 to 10 percent of total household energy consumption on average.

spaghetti-2931846_1920

Cook from scratch. In a busy household, this may be challenging but the benefits are manifold. Processed foods come with loads of packaging that ends up in landfills yet deliver little nutritional value. Cut down on waste and improve health with some good old home cooking.

Bring your own water bottle. Not only do all the plastic water bottles we use require 17 million barrels of oil to be produced, in 86% of the time they end up in landfills. You’ve seen some of the neat reusable water bottles on the market—consider buying one and using filtered tap water instead. A Bottled Water Report by the World Wildlife Fund points out that there are more standards in regulating tap water in the U.S. and Europe than in the bottled water industry.

woman-1245961_1920

Walk, bike, use public transportation. Bikes have been hailed as the most efficient transportation ever invented. Why not bike for those short trips? While helping to reduce emissions and saving on gas, you’ll be helping yourself stay fit at the same time.

Cut back on meat. This may challenge carnivores, but consider this: industrially farmed corn and soybean that feeds livestock is a major source of greenhouse gasses and air and water pollution. What’s more is that it takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce just 1 pound of meat. Yet, only 25 gallons of water are required to grow 1 pound of wheat. You can save more water by not eating a pound of meat than you can by not showering for six months!

When you crave that steak, only buy meat from grass-fed livestock. Eating less meat can have health benefits too. Check out more information about the benefits of reducing meat in your diet by The Mayo Clinic.

Give new life to old stuff

The “ooo’s” and “ahhh’s” from unwrapping gifts are over. Now it’s time to make room for your new electronics, toys and all those great socks your Aunt gave you. In your excitement to remove the old and put up the new, throwing away your old items may first come to mind. Instead, consider donating them to a local charitable organization. Although an item may have outlived its usefulness for you, it could still be useful to someone else before wasting away in a landfill.

Donate usable items graphic

Donate

Give a second life to your clean, gently-used clothing, housewares, toys, furniture and appliances by donating them to local charitable organizations. Items should be in good, usable condition. Check out The Woodlands Donation Guide for a list of local organizations accepting donations. Some organizations are able to pick up items or offer convenient drop-off locations. If you have an item that is not specified in the guide, call first to assure it is accepted.

Donate More Guide December 2018

Recycle

Not all items are suitable for donation. Sometimes clothing and housewares are past the point of repair such as stained rags, threadbare linens, ripped clothing, worn out shoes, etc. These items shouldn’t be donated as they can’t be used by the organization and end up being thrown away. If you have overly worn items such as these and are a resident of The Woodlands with curbside trash service, you may recycle these items through the Simple Recycling Program. Simply put unusable textiles in the designated orange bag and put them beside your carts for collection on your designated service day.

simple recycling bags

For items that can’t be donated, but can be recycled, consult the Recycle More Guide. Here you’ll find all local recycling opportunities for items such as electronics, paints, batteries, appliances, household chemicals, plastic bags and film, Styrofoam and more. Please note that these items can be recycled through these special collections, not the yellow lid curbside carts.

To learn more about recycling, visit the  Recycling page on the Township website.

 

In with the new, out with the old

Refer to these guidelines and reminders to help you sort through your holiday throwaways.

Trash and recycling curbside service

There will be no trash or recycling service on Tuesday, December 25 or Tuesday,
January 1. All services are affected—trash, recycling, yard trimmings, bulk pick-up, and Simple Recycling (orange textile bags).

Holiday trash day

Regular pick-up schedule will resume Monday, January 7.

The holidays can push your recycle bin to its limit. Put your extra recyclables in a cardboard box or paper bag and set it out with your recycle bin. They’ll be picked-up on the the service day immediately following Christmas.

Follow these guidelines with your recyclables to ensure service:

  • Break down boxes to consolidate into one box.
  • Put extra paper wrappings in a paper bag or small box.
  • Place bags and boxes at the curb next to the recycling cart.
  • Remember, these items are NOT recyclable:

Plastic bags
Styrofoam™
Bubble wrap
Ribbons, decorations, Christmas lights or other tanglers.

Cut, unflocked tree recycling

  • Remove all decorations and lights from tree.
  • Remove tree stand.
  • Place the tree at the curb on your regular service day.
  • Green trees will be picked up by the yard trimming truck as part of your regularly scheduled services.
  • Another Option: Natural trees can be dropped off at The Recreation Center at Rob Fleming Park, 6464 Creekside Forest Drive, between December 26, 2018, and January 7, 2019. Please deposit trees in the Christmas Tree Corral in the parking lot at any time of day.

Flocked tree disposal

  • Schedule as bulk/heavy pick up by calling Waste Management Customer Service at 800-800-5804.
  • Call at least two working days before your regular service day.
  • Flocked Christmas trees are destined for the landfill.

Extra trash

  • Requires purchase of a pink extra service tag for $1.75 per tag.
  • Purchase tags from The Woodlands Township offices, Kroger (Cochran’s Crossing, Alden Bridge and Sterling Ridge) and Randalls (Grogan’s Mill and Panther Creek).
  • Attach one tag per bag.
  • Each bag must weigh less than 40 pounds.

The Woodlands Recycling Center

The Woodlands Recycling Center on Research Forest Drive is not affected by the holiday and is open every Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

To report missed pick-ups, please call Waste Management Customer Service
at 800-800-5804.

A few reminders…

…Your trash and recycling schedule may be impacted by the Thanksgiving holiday

Thanksgivign trash service 2018

…Minimize the risk of freeze damage and winterize your irrigation system

It’s time to drain and turn off irrigation systems. Watch this video for a step-by-step guide.

…Take the Water-Wise Village Challenge

Once you shut off your irrigation system, be sure to take The Woodlands Water-Wise Village Challenge. By doing so, you not only help conserve water, but also help your village earn points toward its scholarship fund.  Pledge to take the challenge here.

Weigh the options for mosquito prevention responsibly

Are you ready to go all out with a backyard pest prevention plan? Before you drop a bunch of cash, consider this…

Searching for help controlling mosquitoes in your backyard yields plenty of available services and products. To help you wade through the sometimes confusing information, we’ve culled the key points to know about mosquito prevention.

Mosquito graphic A

The concept in the above illustration is shown simply, but its message is clear…

     …the most effective way to manage mosquitoes is by         managing their breeding sites.

And the experts* at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M University, and Texas Tech University agree, “The first step in any mosquito control effort is to find and eliminate the mosquito breeding sites from your backyard.”

So, for no to very little cost and the few minutes each week it would take to walk your property to find and remove standing water, you can provide the most effective mosquito prevention to safeguard your family. Nice.

What about other considerations, in addition to eliminating breeding sites? Which home mosquito control methods are most effective? Which have potentially harmful side effects to our environment? Take a look at the chart below for a comparative look at some of the options.

Mosquito graphic B

*Merchant, Swiger, and Presley; Do-It-Yourself Backyard Mosquito Control, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

For more information about mosquitoes and their prevention, visit the Mosquito Control page of the Environmental Services section of The Woodlands Township website.

Orange is the new green

 

Thanks to the Township’s Simple Recycling program

Fashion trends may come and go and when they do, your pile of last season’s cast-offs mount. Conscientious citizens donate these to their favorite charity for a shot at a new life with a new owner. But what to do if your used stuff isn’t up to snuff?

Bypass the landfill and turn your old rags into re-usable textile fibers that just might turn into next season’s must-haves.

Just fill a Simple Recycling orange bag with worn clothes, towels, and bedding—no matter the condition—and they will make this happen. The service is, well, simple to use and takes just three simple steps (see below). When you use it, you help the environment by…

…minimizing landfill footprint

They may be a necessary evil, but landfills are lousy for the environment and a burden to taxpayers. Making room for our trash is expensive—never mind the loss of land set aside for this purpose.

Did you know? In the past year alone, residents of The Woodlands have diverted 85 tons of textiles from the landfill through Simple Recycling.

reducing greenhouse gasses

A landfill is a hotbed of methane and carbon dioxide. According to the EPA, each makes up about half a landfill’s total emissions. Decomposing textiles in them contribute to the level of methane—the most significant contributor to global warming.

Did you know? Every 2000 lbs. of clothing that is kept out of the landfill has the same environmental impact as removing 2 cars from the road. Those 85 tons Woodlands residents diverted from the landfill? That amounts to taking 170 cars off the road.

…conserving water and reducing chemical waste

Nearly every step of textile production depends on water—water that’s loaded with dyes and chemicals. Pair that with a lack of stringent regulations in many countries and the result is waterways used for dumping industrial waste.

Did you know? It takes 2500 gallons of water to produce one pair of jeans and 600 gallons to make that t-shirt you’re wearing.

Do the right thing.
Simple Recycling has made it easy. Just follow these:

Three Simple Steps

  1. Request bags from Simple Recycling at SimpleRecycling.com or call (866) 835-5068. Bags will be delivered free to your doorstep within a week.
  2. Stuff those orange bags with textiles and household goods of any condition.
  3. Set the bags curbside on the morning of your solid waste service day—no need to call for pickup. Your items will be picked up automatically and replacement bags left at your door.

For more information about solid waste and recycling services in The Woodlands, go to the Recycling and Solid Waste page of The Woodlands Township website.