Zachary Thibodeaux is currently a senior in the Academy of Science and Technology at The Woodlands College Park High School. He is also a dedicated environmentalist who wanted to pursue an internship where he could make a difference in the community. This summer he did just that, lending his talents and passion to The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department’s education programs.
One large role Zachary played was taking the Wrap Recycling Action Program (WRAP) on the road to local grocery stores. There he engaged with residents, providing information about recycling plastic bags and film at the store and helping to reduce single-use plastics by handing out over 234 reusable produce bags. Using a data sheet he created, Zachary collected information on how many residents knew that plastic film was accepted at the store, and other metrics that will help improve WRAP education and outreach.
He stated, “The most valuable thing I learned is that community involvement is vital to achieving environmental goals.” He believes the Environmental Services internship inspired him to live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle. For example, working on the WRAP Program has helped him to remember to bring reusable bags to the grocery store to reduce plastic waste. The WRAP Program also motivated him to check all plastic film to see if it can be recycled before he throws it away. He feels this internship helped him prepare for studying environmental engineering in college because it helped expand his knowledge of several environmental issues, including litter/pollution, recycling, and native vs. invasive species, all of which environmental engineers might focus on. He also acquired more experience working with data, such as determining what data to collect, analyzing it, and reporting his results, which is especially important for fields related to science or engineering.
Zachary assisted the Environmental Services Department with several other projects including the Bioblitz BioBooth, where he shared information about the importance of native plants alongside a prospective Eagle Scout working on Invasive Species Removal. A Texas Waters Specialist, Zachary also attended litter audits as part of the department’s Watershed Project. He participated in the Waterway Cleanups and analyzed data from past litter audits to determine what types of litter were of the greatest concern in The Woodlands, and compare the debris found at various locations within The Woodlands to inform future messaging.
From day one, Zachary had a positive attitude and came in with an open mind and motivation to learn. Seeing Zachary grow professionally and academically this summer was inspiring, and a reminder that the next generation of professionals will surely make a positive impact on society. We’re grateful for all the work Zachary has put into his internship with Environmental Services and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors! We have no doubt he has a bright future ahead.
You may have noticed volunteers working in green spaces and along pathways near your home. They are helping with a serious problem that is damaging our forest community – the spread of invasive plants.
Many times, plants that are not native to our region are introduced to our pathways from residential landscapes. When an aggressively growing non-native plant, such as Air Potato Vine, escapes from yards and overgrows our native trees and shrubs, we lose valuable habitat for butterflies, birds, and beneficial insects. Over time the trees and shrubs can die from lack of sunlight and losing nutrients these invasives remove from the soil.
You can help with this problem by reducing or eliminating non-native invasive plants in your landscape, or by carefully controlling their growth to keep them within the yard. Not sure which plants you see are bad guys? Check out the “most unwanted” plants or learn more with this helpful guide
Warning: Japanese honeysuckle, nandina, Asian jasmine, and other invasive species are available for purchase at many plant nurseries; shop in the native plant section to avoid them. If invasive plants are already in your landscape, consider replacing them with a native one. Not only will you prevent further invasion, but get to enjoy the butterflies and birds that native plants invite into your yard.
Join the fight to save our forests! You are invited to help remove these culprits from our pathways and green spaces. Attend the next training on August 19 to learn more about our worst non-natives, then register to join The Woodlands’ Invasives Task Force to receive notices about workdays and classes.
Thank you for your interest in helping the Township maintain the forested reserve that benefits our native trees, plants, and wildlife! For questions, contact Environmental Services: firstname.lastname@example.org
By now, you’ve certainly heard all the locals talk about waterway pollution. What’s being done about it? Actually, quite a lot!
You may have seen volunteers in their blue safety vests on your street. Maybe they were installing markers on storm drain inlets, or going house to house leaving information on doors. Did someone approach you at a dog park or along a pathway to offer you a pet waste bag dispenser?
The storm drain inlet markers help raise awareness that anything (anything!) that goes down a storm drain ends up flowing directly into the nearest waterway. When leaves are blown into the drains, they reduce the level of dissolved oxygen for aquatic organisms living in the water as they decompose. This makes the water uninhabitable for fish and other key predators, causing mosquitoes and leeches to flourish.
When dog waste – bagged or not – is left in the environment, bacteria leach into nearby waters after it rains. Did you know that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has designated waterways in the Township as “Impaired for Contact Recreation?” That means the bacteria level is so high it presents a health hazard for humans and wildlife. By giving away the dispensers, volunteers help remind dog owners to “bag it and trash it”.
Did you pass by when one of the local scout troops was collecting litter and happened to notice trash on a big blue tarp? The group surrounding it was sorting and counting litter to report into the Keep Texas Beautiful Litter Database as part of the Trash Free Waters Program. To date 175 volunteers have added more than a dozen reports with counts of nearly 50 different items. Did you know that that most often littered item in our parks is empty water bottles, followed closely by cigarette butts?
These are some examples of environmental volunteering at its best: a diversity of ways to improve our local water resources! We all get to benefit from their commitment and service to a cleaner community. And what an impact these hard-working residents are making! In the first half of 2023, the litter volunteers plus an additional 146 others reported a total of 573 hours of service on projects highlighted above.
If the health of our community’s environment matters to you, join our corps of volunteers! Help clean up our waterways and inform residents how to avoid unintended polluting. There is still more to do and many different ways to help. Register as a volunteer to get started: YES, I’ll Help! Have a question? Email email@example.com
Did you know a corps of knowledgeable volunteers provides education, outreach, and service to keep our local water bodies healthy through their efforts right here at home? They’re Texas Waters Specialists, certified through a unique program made possible by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) in partnership with The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department. The program is open to adults as well as students in grades 9 – 12.
Classes are free and scheduled throughout the year, and the good news: you can obtain all the needed training hours right here in The Woodlands. You’ll be certified as a Texas Waters Specialist after completing just 8 hours of training based on the Texas Waters curriculum guide (provided by Environmental Services or acquired online). Adults 18 and older receive a certificate and an official pin directly from TPWD designating them as a certified waters specialist. Students under age 18, in grades 9 through 12, register with Environmental Services to report hours and receive your certificate and pin.
Sign up hereif you are interested. You will be notified of classes offered both in person and online, as well as volunteering opportunities. NOTE that Studentsshould onlyuse this link to enroll in the program administered by Environmental Services.
Adults get started by enrolling as TPWD volunteers here. Or find more detailed instructions on how to register with TPWD, by following along with this document.
There are two upcoming in-person Texas Waters Specialist (TWS) Water Labs at the Recreation Center at Rob Fleming Park at 6464 Creekside Forest Drive:
Saturday, June 10 – 8:30 to 12:30pm.
Saturday, July 15 – 8:30 to 11:30am.
Additional or alternative training hours available at the Online Monthly Classes. The 2-Hour TWS Curriculum Class Sessions are on the fourth Monday of every month from 3:30-5:30pm.
Earn your certificate as a Texas Waters Specialist!
Want additional opportunities in water conservation? The Woodlands Township offers many free events, classes, and seminars for residents to learn tips on preserving our waterways like the storm drain marking program, litter cleanup with Keep Texas Beautiful, and more! Learn how to get involved on the Woodlands Township Water Conservation Page. Read all about water conservation in the Woodlands Township online library water conservation articles
Earth Day is an annual celebration on April 22nd to promote environmental awareness. The first Earth Day was in 1970 which started the modern environmental movement. A long-lasting tradition of The Woodlands Township is the annual celebration of Earth Day. This celebration includes the GreenUp litter cleanup event back this past March. This year 611 community volunteers removed over 1,100 lbs of litter!
Coming up on Saturday, May 13th, 2023, from 10 am – 1 pm is the Woodlands Township Earth Day Festival at Northshore Park. Bring your family and friends to celebrate mother earth with fun and educational activities. Enjoy live entertainment, face painting, games, educational displays, and meet organizations that celebrate earth day every day.
Whether you’re outside participating in the Iron Man this weekend or prefer to stay home, The Woodlands Township has many programs and resources to help you celebrate Earth Day. Here are 8 ways to celebrate Earth Day year-round!
1. Conserve Water
Conserving water saves energy, and using less water keeps more in our ecosystems. There are many ways to conserve water from taking shorter showers, turning off the water while you brush your teeth or installing drip irrigation in your garden. Drip irrigation delivers water to your plants right where they need it most- the roots. Learn how to install a simple system yourself at this free workshop Saturday, May 20 from 8 to 11:30 a.m. Register Today to save your place.
2. Plant a Tree
Planting trees has many environmental benefits and can improve the quality of life of the community. Every February, the Woodlands Township hosts an annual community tree planting event. Learn more about the Community Tree Planting Eventon the Woodlands Township website. The Woodlands Township hosts an Annual Arbor Day Tree Giveaway to encourage residents to help reforest our community. If you don’t want to wait until Arbor Day, read the Environmental Services DepartmentNative Trees article to learn the best way to plant a tree and ensure it thrives.
Reducing waste is one of the many things you can do to help lessen your carbon footprint. Read the Recycle-More-Guide to see what and where to recycle beyond the curbside cart! Or save your hard-to-recycle items for the 3R Drive Thru.This special collections day in November gives you the opportunity to drop off items you’re not able to put in your curbside cart.
One way to reduce the amount of waste in landfills is to compost. The Woodlands Township offers free backyard composting classes every year in the spring and fall. If you are interested in trying this at home, you can buy a compost bin from Environmental Services anytime. Learn more about The Woodlands Township Composting Resourceshere.Last October, The Woodlands Township had its firstPumpkin Smash Event. It was a Smashing success and a great way for residents to dispose of their pumpkins in an environmentally friendly manner. Find out details on the Woodlands Township Calendar.
5. Support Wildlife
You can make a difference starting in your own backyard. The Woodlands Township has many programs, workshops, seminars, and volunteer opportunities available to help support your local wildlife. National Pollinator Week is right around the corner, with spring in full bloom there are many ways you can support our native pollinators. Planting native milkweed or nectar-producing plants is a great way to support habitats and encourage pollinators to stop by! Additional resources are in the Environmental Services Blog. Invasive species take over the environment and cause harm to the stability of ecosystems. Join the Woodlands TownshipInvasive Species Task Force to help.
6. Pick Up Litter
Keep the community clean by picking up litter in our public spaces. The Woodlands Township has trash grabbers, gloves, and trash bags available to be picked up by appointment. Also, the Earth Day GreenUp, a community clean-up event takes place every March, and again in September. Both theGreenUp and GreenUp Fall Sweep information can be found on the Woodlands Township website If you’re interested in keeping the Woodlands free of litter Adopt-A-Path is a year-round program that you can apply to join. Additional information can be found on the Adopt-A-Path webpage.
7. Immerse Yourself in Nature
Going outdoors and educating yourself about the wonders of nature is a wonderful way to appreciate the earth. The Woodlands Township has two upcoming events that are great opportunities to learn about nature. The Great Texas Birding Classic will be held on April 29th, at the George Mitchell Nature Preserve. This event is a bird-watching competition across Texas, and the Woodlands Township has a registered team. More information about this event is on the calendar listing. If you can’t attend the Great Texas Birding Classic, we have birding backpacks available to rent year-round for those interested in birding! Make a reservation here
Another event coming up is the Bioblitz during Pollinator Week. It is a two-part event, starting June 19 through June 25 is the week-long community effort to identify as many species as possible through the iNaturalist App. Then join the in-person event on Saturday, June 24th at Rob Flemming to continue the search in person and visit the BioBooth. Read about BioBlitzon The Woodlands Township website.
There are many benefits to gardening, it improves the quality of air in the soil, provides habitat and cover for pollinators, and adds to the aesthetic of the environment. The Woodlands Township provides two home gardening classes, one in the spring and one in the fall which is coming up on August 21st, you can register here. The Woodlands Township administers community gardens, if you’re interested in a garden plot call the Environmental Services department and ask to be connected to the community garden coordinator.
There are many ways to celebrate earth day year-round. Some of those include finding ways to conserve water, planting trees, recycling and composting to reduce waste, supporting local wildlife, picking up litter, and gardening. The Woodlands Township has multiple resources to help you on your journey to becoming more environmentally friendly and connecting with your community. If you have any questions, visitThe Woodlands Township Environmental Services Websiteor search the online library for your favorite topics.