Marathon Oil: Fostering Resilient Communities by Planting 100 Trees at a South Texas School

Category Archive: Business Partner

  1. Marathon Oil: Fostering Resilient Communities by Planting 100 Trees at a South Texas School

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    Trees provide a wealth of environmental, social, and economic benefits to our homes, neighborhoods, schools, and communities. Marathon Oil, TxN Catalyst Member, understands the impact trees have on the communities they operate in, leading them to partner with Texan by Nature and Trees for Houston to plant one hundred trees across the Kenedy ISD campus, a South Texas district with 700+ elementary, middle, and high school students. Learn how this project aligned with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with MRO’s Return on Conservation Index here.

    25 Marathon Oil volunteers and local school officials put boots on the ground and got their hands dirty to plant trees and build a pollinator garden. Aside from the aesthetics, how does planting trees on school grounds benefit students and the community?

    1. Promoting Health: Trees are nature’s superheroes! They purify the air by absorbing harmful pollutants and releasing fresh oxygen for us to breathe. By planting 100 trees, students, teachers, and community members visiting the school grounds can enjoy improved air quality.
    2. Enhancing Biodiversity: Trees are not just beautiful; they’re also vital for supporting diverse ecosystems. Planting trees at schools provides a safe haven for birds, insects, and other wildlife, fostering biodiversity right in our own backyard.
    3. Cooling Effect: As we all know, Texas heat is no joke. But guess what? Trees are natural air conditioners! TxN and TFH planned tree placement around the school grounds to create refreshing shade and lower ambient temperatures.
    4. Improving Water Quantity and Quality: Trees act as natural filters by intercepting and absorbing rainwater. Their leaves, branches, and roots, minimize pollutants and increase the amount of water stored in the ground, supporting clean and healthy water ecosystems.
    5. Boosting Mental Well-being: Nature has a remarkable ability to soothe and uplift our spirits. By bringing more greenery to schools, students can experience a calming and peaceful environment that enhances mental well-being and student achievement.

    The partnership between Marathon Oil, Texan by Nature, and Trees for Houston to plant trees at Kenedy ISD will have a lasting impact on students and the environment. To learn more about Texan by Nature Membership, custom projects, and how to get involved visit https://texanbynature.org/programs/business-partners/ 

    About Marathon Oil

    Marathon Oil (NYSE: MRO) is an independent oil and gas exploration and production (E&P) company focused on four of the most competitive resource plays in the U.S. – Eagle Ford, Texas; Bakken, North Dakota; STACK and SCOOP in Oklahoma and Permian in New Mexico and Texas, complemented by a world-class integrated gas business in Equatorial Guinea. The Company’s Framework for Success is founded in a strong balance sheet, ESG excellence and the competitive advantages of a high-quality multi-basin portfolio. For more information, please visit www.marathonoil.com.

  2. NRG Dewey Prairie Garden Ribbon Cutting

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    Located on 10 acres of a reclaimed lignite mine near Jewett, Texas, the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden will provide 10,000 pounds of fresh produce annually to help alleviate food insecurity in Leon, Freestone, and Limestone Counties. NRG, Texan by Nature (TxN), and community partners officially unveiled the garden with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 2, 2022, where 80+ individuals gathered to celebrate the opening.

    The garden, which includes a wetland area, pollinator habitat, and a future orchard is an initiative of positiveNRG, NRG Energy’s philanthropic arm, and is managed by Texan by Nature. Additional garden partners include Texas Master Gardeners, Texas A&M Agriculture Extension, and the local food pantry coalition. 

    Leon County 4-H students presented the flags and lead attendees in the US and Texas pledges.

    According to the USDA, the tri-county area surrounding the garden is considered a food desert. Many residents live over ten miles from the nearest grocery store. Food insecurity rates in the region are 51% higher than the national average. The garden will provide produce to local food pantries, supplying healthy food for up to an estimated 3,000 people every year. Garden managers surveyed and collaborated with local food pantry leaders to determine foods of highest need, including potatoes, beans, green leafy vegetables, carrots, peppers, peaches, plums, pears, strawberries, and blueberries.  

    “Most of our clients are unable to regularly buy fresh fruits and vegetables, due to the cost. Thanks to the support of NRG and Texan by Nature, the garden will be a true blessing for all of us,”

    -Kathleen Buchanan of Lord’s Pantry of Leon County

    The project’s roots go back to 2019 when NRG approached Texan by Nature to collaborate on ways to enhance the conservation mission of its lignite mine reclamation project for the benefit of the communities around Jewett, Texas. This conversation resulted in extensive research by the TxN team and ultimately a recommendation to use the land to alleviate food insecurity in the area.

    Cilantro is one of the many fresh food items the garden provides.

    “Beyond our standard reclamation practices, we wanted to find a way to benefit the community over the long term. We’re excited to partner with Texan by Nature to realize this vision in a special community that’s been part of the NRG family for 40 years,”

    -Chris Moser, executive vice president of operations of NRG Energy

    Although the ground was first broken on the NRG garden in May of 2021, the land has been at work through the reclamation process for over a decade. In 2013, the Jewett Mine site was awarded the coveted Texas Lone Star Land Steward Award for reclamation activities at the site before being purchased by NRG in 2020. Reclamation accomplishments at the mine include planting 3,500 acres of native bunch-grasses and constructing 700 acres of wetlands, which provide habitat and water to native wildlife and pollinators. The garden’s design also incorporates native pollinator plants to attract bees, butterflies, and support a healthy ecosystem for the garden and surrounding areas. The NRG mine staff also used their ingenuity to reuse materials no longer in use at the mine, such as PVC pipes, tanks, and a solar array that were repurposed for use in the garden. 

    The garden team manages crops in orderly rows with labels at each end.

    In addition to the benefits for people and natural resources, the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden will be an educational field trip and project site for local K-12 schools, 4-H, and FFA programs. Students will learn about agriculture, ecosystems, and nutrition through hands-on opportunities at the garden. 

    “The NRG Dewey Prairie Garden is an excellent – and replicable – example of a diverse set of partners coming together for big impact. This project creates an immense, multi-community impact for years to come, and we’re proud to act as the central connector to achieve the vision of this garden.”

    – Amy Snelgrove of Texan by Nature

    Fresh vegetables like broccoli are a priority item for local food pantries.

    TxN is proud to be working with NRG, the Dewey Prairie Garden partners, and members of the community who made this project possible. Rooted in purpose, we wait for the first harvest and look forward to seeing the positive impact the garden will have on people, prosperity, and natural resources in the community for years to come. 

    Learn more about the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden here: https://texanbynature.org/projects/nrg-dewey-prairie-garden/ 

     

  3. Tackling Food Insecurity: From Garden to Food Pantry

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    According to the USDA and Feeding America, the three-county area surrounding Jewett is a food desert, with many residents living over 10 miles from the nearest grocery store. Food insecurity rates here are an estimated 51% higher than the national average. Texan by Nature is partnering with NRG Energy to build a garden to address food insecurity in the Leon, Freestone, Limestone tri-county area.

    The garden is located at the NRG Energy lignite mine reclamation project near Jewett, Texas. An initial one acre plot that includes row crops, raised beds, and butterfly gardens is currently under construction and will provide produce to local food pantries, supplying healthy food for up to an estimated 3,000 people every year.

    Upon completion, the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden will provide up to 10,000 pounds of fresh produce annually to local community food pantries. We recently spoke with a few of the local food pantries to better understand the needs and community impact the garden will have on the three counties.

    Q: Tell us a little your organization.

    Oakwood Community Food Pantry– This food pantry started in 2013. We were serving a few clients; most of our clients are senior citizens. We have progressed through the years and our numbers are growing. During the height of the pandemic, our numbers almost tripled. We are housed in the old Dunbar School. The Dunbar Alumni allows us to use the building at no cost to us. Many of our clients are also volunteers which helps a great bit. Our board is very active and meets monthly. Our board members also serve as volunteers.

    The Lord’s Pantry of Leon County– This food pantry was started by a group of area churches in 1995 & has recently expanded in order to be able to offer clients choice of food products & the ability to store more food on-site. We currently have 50 volunteers & serve the community 2 days a week.

    NRG Garden Glass

    Q: Tell us a little about the Leon, Freestone, Limestone tri-county area around the garden.

    It is beautiful country, with most of the land devoted to agriculture. Towns are small and life moves at a comfortable pace. However, the down side of this pastoral lifestyle is the limited opportunities for employment, limited commerce, and limited healthcare.

    “Statistics show that Leon, Limestone, and Freestone Counties are three of the least healthy counties in the state, with high obesity and diabetes numbers. Being able to offer fresh fruits and vegetables on a regular basis will help our clients make choices for better health.”

    –Kristy Vandegriff from the Leon Community Food Pantry and Clothes Closet in Jewett, Texas.

    Q: What food and grocery options are available to residents in the area?

    Oakwood Community Food Pantry– We are a very rural area, with no “big-box stores” in Leon County. There is only one chain grocery in our county. Many people here rely on dollar stores for many of their food purchases, so fresh vegetables are often absent from their shopping list.

    The Lord’s Pantry of Leon County– In our city of Buffalo, TX, there is a Brookshire Bros Grocery store, a gas station convenience store & our pantry. The Leon Food pantry is 15 miles from Buffalo and the Oakwood Food pantry is 25 miles from Buffalo.

    Q: How do residents rely on area food pantries and what do you provide to them?

    Oakwood Community Food Pantry– We provide a quantity of food equivalent to about a week’s worth of groceries for two people. We provide dry and canned non perishable items, frozen foods, bread, and one vegetable item to our clients.

    The Lord’s Pantry of Leon County-To supplement the food our residents are able to buy, we provide a choice of protein(meats), canned vegetables & fruits, cereals, pasta/rice/flour/beans, toiletries & laundry detergents.

    Q: How will the garden affect the fresh produce you can deliver to residents?

    Oakwood Community Food Pantry– It will provide residents with farm fresh vegetables. We hope it will also create a greater variety in what we can provide.

    The Lord’s Pantry of Leon County– It would greatly benefit the health of our community. Our Pantry does not offer fresh produce at this time.

    “Most of our clients are unable to regularly buy fresh fruits and vegetables, due to the cost. Thanks to the support of NRG and Texan by Nature, the garden will be a true blessing for all of us.”

    –Kathleen Buchanan of The Lord’s Pantry of Leon County.

    NRG Dewey Prairie Garden Carrot

    Q: What types of fruits and vegetables are in highest demand in your community?

    Potatoes, beans/peas, green leafy vegetables, onions, carrots, peppers, peaches, plums, pears, oranges, strawberries, blueberries

    Q: What are you most looking forward to about the garden?

    Being able to provide the clients with farm fresh, quality local produce, and hopefully work towards improving the health of our clients.

    Q: Are residents aware of the garden, and what do they think about it?

    Oakwood Community Food Pantry– Most are not, but we hope that as the garden progresses more residents will get excited about it.

    The Lord’s Pantry of Leon County– Yes!! There is a lot of excitement & anticipation.

    Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

    There has been a lot of community interest in volunteering to help with the harvesting & delivering of the produce.

    The NRG Dewey Prairie Garden is set to open Spring 2022! Sign up for the newsletter below, to keep up to date on all garden progress. Learn more about the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden and the unique partnership of TxN here: https://texanbynature.org/projects/nrg-dewey-prairie-garden/



  4. Gardening with Texan by Nature and NRG

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    Texan by Nature is partnering with NRG Energy to build a garden to address food insecurity in the Leon, Freestone, Limestone tri-county area. The garden is located at the NRG Energy lignite mine reclamation project near Jewett, Texas. An initial one acre plot that includes row crops, raised beds, and butterfly gardens is currently under construction. Upon completion, the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden will provide up to 10,000 pounds of fresh produce annually to local community food pantries.

    We recently spoke to our NRG Dewey Prairie Garden design partners, Patrick Dickinson and Daniel Cunningham of Rooted In (RI) about the project. Learn more about the vision for the garden and download the project’s garden plant guide below.

    What was your initial reaction to hearing about the Texan by Nature NRG garden project?

    RI: We were certainly intrigued! We were familiar with NRG but were unaware of the potential for a service garden at a mining facility. As horticulturists, we love all plants, but projects that help provide food for both people and pollinators are really near and dear to our hearts. What was really exciting was visiting with our new friends at NRG and learning that they have a shared passion for helping their community in a way that emphasizes stewardship of the land.

    What was your approach to the project, and how is designing a farm different from a normal landscape?

    NRG Dewey Prairie Garden StrawberriesRI: One thing we like to do with every project is to dig into it with a holistic mindset. It’s really critical to get an understanding of the common underlying goals and how they are connected with each stakeholder group. In this case, NRG and Texan by Nature were very helpful with providing their vision, along with the needs and desires of each local food pantry and community group. In that respect, it’s more intricate of a project when compared to creating a garden for a single entity or a design that focuses solely on aesthetics.

    Rooted In has worked on a number of food garden projects over the years that incorporate edible plants in one form or fashion. While they offer their own set of challenges, food gardens offer so many ways to give back to the community: nutritious fruits and vegetables, teaching folks how to garden, and a place to bring people together to break bread.

    Including environmentally sustainable practices to better manage natural resources like water and soil along with native plantings that provide habitat for pollinators are also important elements of the garden. They are not only sound from a conservation standpoint, but they also add resiliency, which sets up the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden for long term success.

    From a food production standpoint, we worked with Texan by Nature to tailor the farm to focus on vegetables that are of highest need for the partnering food pantries.

    Tell us about the plants that were selected for both the farm and the butterfly garden.

    RI: We are really intentional with plant selection, making sure each species is adaptable to the unique challenges of the Texas soil and the harsh, sometimes unpredictable, climate. From a food production standpoint, we worked with Texan by Nature to tailor the farm to focus on vegetables that are of highest need for the partnering food pantries. We also needed to balance that with crop diversity to build resiliency from pests and disease problems while at the same time increasing productivity. The four-year food crop rotation we created has the potential to improve yields, limit weed pressure, break disease cycles, and limit pest infestations, while at the same time reducing soil erosion and improving soil health.

    Some of the edible plants selected for the garden
    Some of the edible plants selected for the garden

    For the butterfly garden we also used similar principles to build resilience through diversity—focusing on native species that are heat and drought tolerant, adapted to the local soil, and provide a nectar source for beneficial insects. In Texas, our beneficial pollinators are really in need of improved habitat, and it’s inspiring for people of all ages to visit and interact with these species in a garden setting. Another advantage of an adjacent pollinator garden is that the beneficial insects they attract actually have the potential to help production on the farm by pollinating crops and controlling pest outbreaks.

    Can you tell us about some of the sustainability features that are being implemented in the garden?

    RI: Conservation is of growing concern in Texas, and we want to make sure that we are using our natural resources as efficiently as possible. To that end, we’ve utilized drip irrigation, which ensures the water we are using is being distributed as effectively as possible. It reduces nearly all waste in the form of evaporation or runoff. This can help us preserve our groundwater resources as well as protecting the adjacent creek. The solar well pump, which was repurposed by NRG from the mine, helps with energy efficiency but also helps build resiliency into the irrigation system by having two potential power sources. The garden also employs a rainwater harvesting system that will reduce the need to pump groundwater at all.

    What is your favorite part of the garden design and why?

    RI: I think one of the most exciting aspects is that there’s something for everyone. If someone really loves traditional fruits and vegetables, they can find them at the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden. And then there is the pollinator garden, which is designed to greet garden guests and volunteers. The plants we chose for that garden are some of the best performers when it comes to blooming. Every time I see a pollinator in one of our gardens getting tipsy with the abundance of nectar and pollen, we feel a little bit of peace and accomplishment.

    Some of the pollinator plants selected for the garden
    Some of the pollinator plants selected for the garden

    What can home gardeners learn from this design?

    RI: Most of the principles and goals of the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden can be easily adapted to the home scale! In fact, we would be delighted if people used the information they learn here to plant the seed of an idea for their next gardening project. We hope it will help people back to the root of where their food really comes from and cultivate a mindset that gives back to both people and pollinators.

    Garden Guide Download

    Download the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden Plant Guide

    Learn more about all of the plants selected for the garden and learn how to grow them at home. Download the PDF…

    The ultimate goal is that it will serve as a model for food security and creative reclamation; it’s a goal that’s shared by all of the amazing people that have collaborated on this project to date.

    How do you see this project developing once everything has been planted?

    RI: The ultimate goal is that it will serve as a model for food security and creative reclamation; it’s a goal that’s shared by all of the amazing people that have collaborated on this project to date. With the help of the amazing organizations and community that surround the area, we’d love nothing more than for the garden to grow into a demonstration that encourages folks to make small changes that can collectively have a lasting impact.

    The garden is designed not only as a food source but as an experiential learning tool. From the moment you exit your vehicle you see large rainwater cisterns flanked by beautiful pollinator plants. As you enter the gate you are invited to sit at a table and enjoy the view and sample some of the edible plants in the garden. Every step is designed to inspire and engage each visitor. We continue to learn so much from the people, from the plants, and even from the pollinators with projects like this one. We can’t help but think others will continue to do the same for seasons and seasons to come.

    To start a charitable food garden in your area, contact Texan by Nature at: programs@texanbynature.org

     

     

  5. 5 Unexpected Corporate Partnerships Benefitting Conservation

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    Texas has the world’s 10th largest economy and is home to many of its largest companies. These businesses represent a huge source of state pride—and a huge source of stewardship for the natural world. Texan by Nature helps Texas businesses channel their innovation and pride into conservation, matching it with the expertise of the state’s 150+ conservation organizations. We recognize conservation best practices through our Texan by Nature Certification program, accelerate the intersection of conservation and business through our Conservation Wrangler program, and work with our Catalyst Business Members to create custom projects that help meet their conservation and sustainability goals. Below are some of the creative partnerships that our team has facilitated to benefit the people, prosperity, and natural resources of Texas.

    NRG Dewey Prairie Garden

    NRG Dewey Prairie Garden
    The NRG Dewey Prairie Garden is currently under construction

    NRG Energy is a Houston-based Fortune 500 company that generates electricity and provides energy solutions and natural gas to millions of customers through a diverse portfolio of brands. NRG approached Texan by Nature to collaborate on ways to enhance their conservation mission, particularly at its lignite mine reclamation project for the benefit of the communities around Jewett, Texas. This conversation resulted in extensive research by the TxN team and ultimately a recommendation to use the land to help alleviate food insecurity in the area. Through a custom business membership project, Texan by Nature is now partnering with NRG to build a 10-acre garden on the site. In May of 2021, the project broke ground on an initial one-acre plot, which will yield up to 10,000 pounds of fresh produce per year for the community. Learn more…

    Capital Metro Green Transit Guide

    Capital MetroRail Red Line approaching Lakeline Station, Austin, Texas. Greg Houston / Wikimedia Commons

    CapMetro joined Texan by Nature as a member in 2020. With recent developments surrounding the Project Connect funding approved by voters in November 2020, CapMetro is working to ensure sustainability and environmental conservation exist at the forefront of transit project development.

    Through a custom business membership project, Texan by Nature is developing a “green transit guide” that will focus on the importance of conservation and highlight the possibilities that exist for various transit projects, including metro and bus stops, sidewalks, parking lots, and trails, including general habitat, water management, and dark skies considerations. Additionally, the guide will include a listing of conservation organizations and their areas of expertise, encouraging project managers to reach out to partner organizations for guidance and collaboration whenever possible. This guide will not only allow CapMetro employees and contractors to implement conservation practices throughout the Austin area, but it will also serve as a best practices guide that will be made available to metro areas across the state. Texan by Nature anticipates the completion of this guide by Fall 2021. Learn more…

    BNSF and Friends of RGV Reef

    Friends of RGV Reef
    Concrete rail ties are loaded onto a ship at the Port of Brownsville

    Decades of trawl fishing in the Gulf of Mexico have resulted in the loss of low-relief reef material that is vital to sustaining juvenile fish and other marine species’ survivorship and recruitment. Historically, this low-relief nursery reef was composed of loosely cemented sandstone, clay, caliche, and associated soft coral cover, and formed the base for a significant portion of the bottom of the Gulf food chain. 2019 Conservation Wrangler, Friends of RGV Reef (FoRGVR) has been combating reef loss by deploying artificial reefing materials of different concentrations and sizes that act as graduated stepping stones of habitat for marine species. RGV Reef now contains the first industrial-scale nursery reef in the world.

    FoRGVR secured a donation from BNSF of 16,000 recycled concrete rail ties, creating graduated stepping stones of habitat for Gulf marine species. With the help of partners such as Bryant Industrial Services and EMR International Shipbreaking, FoRGVR was able to load up the ship and deploy the reef materials. The concrete was used to create 54 patches of nursery reef across 400 acres. This installment will increase red snapper juvenile survivability, double the number of snapper the reef can raise, and provide the substrate for microorganisms like plankton to thrive that in turn feed many species in the Gulf. Learn more…

    Apache, WPX Energy, and Diamondback Dark Skies Efforts

    Apache Dark Skies Program
    Apache Corporation’s dark skies friendly lighting

    In recent years, the increase of oil and gas activity in the Permian Basin and all the development that comes along with that has resulted in an increase in light pollution. The McDonald Observatory’s Dark Skies Initiative staff educates oil and gas companies, businesses, and homeowners in local communities on the benefits of dark skies friendly lighting – reduction in glare, improved safety, energy savings, benefit wildlife, and more. Texan by Nature selected the Observatory as a Conservation Wrangler in 2018 to amplify the awareness and benefit of dark skies-friendly lighting best practices for the energy industry. Through our TxN Certification program we have highlighted industry-leading examples set by Apache Corporation, Diamondback Energy, and WPX. These companies have implemented a number of important modifications, including installing shielding on certain lights, experimenting with different fixtures, and adjusting their lighting to point downward rather than up toward the night sky. Facility upgrades included the installation of warm white LED lightbulbs and redirection of lighting fixtures to point downward to help safeguard dark skies.

    EOG Resources Pollinator Habitat

    Monarch pollinator habitat
    Monarch butterfly

    EOG Resources is working in partnership with Texan by Nature and landowners in the Eagle Ford Shale, with support from National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Still Water Foundation to restore native grassland and nectar-producing forbs on pad sites and pipeline right of ways (ROW). The EOG pollinator project will restore 350+ acres of pollinator habitat and set the standard for future operating procedures for their ROW restoration that can be shared industry-wide. Re-seeding native plants on oil well sites, ROW, and other energy infrastructure creates the potential for wildlife food plots over thousands of acres. Monarch butterflies must pass through our state during both phases of their migration each year. This happens every spring and fall and makes Texas a crucial place for monarch habitat. Well pads, pipelines, and ROWs are a significant opportunity for critical habitat, especially because they represent food plots that transect the state, connecting existing blocks of habitat along the migratory path. For the second phase of this project we are comparing soil carbon storage of native vegetation to non-native vegetation, along with the benefits to water and biodiversity in an effort to quantify holistic impact of the work EOG is doing in their ROWs. Learn more…

    To learn more about becoming a Catalyst Business member, visit our Membership page.

  6. Green Transformation: From Mine to Garden

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    Texan by Nature is partnering with NRG Energy to build a garden on the site of their former lignite coal mine near Jewett, Texas. An initial one acre plot is currently under construction, with the opportunity for the garden to expand up to 10 acres. Upon completion, the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden will provide up to 10,000 pounds of fresh produce annually to local community food pantries.

    We recently asked the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden team about the history of the site and their vision for the future of this unique reclamation project.

    Tell us a little about the history of the Jewett mine and the reclamation process.

    NRG: Mining along the lignite belt running across the middle of Texas goes back to the early 1900s. In 1979, Houston Lighting and Power obtained rights for 15 miles of the coal belt near Jewett for a 35-year supply. After that, NRG in 2020 purchased the mine and assumed responsibility for reclamation efforts with the goal of restoring the land to a better condition than before mining started.

    In 2013 the Jewett Mine site was awarded the coveted Texas Lone Star Land Steward Award for reclamation activities at the site. Reclamation accomplishments at the mine include planting 3,500 acres of native bunch-grasses and constructing 700 acres of wetlands. Use of new technologies, software and specialized equipment is helping with stream reclamation that mimics natural processes.

    NRG Garden Glass
    The mine reclamation process included planting 3,500 acres of native bunch-grasses

    TxN: We first visited the Jewett Mine site in fall 2019. We’re quite familiar with rural Texas, but we weren’t sure what to expect of this site given the images you typically see of mining operations. We were blown away by the pristine beauty of the reclamation site. For miles in all directions, all we saw was native prairie grasses waving in the breeze. We had the opportunity to meet with many mine and NRG team members who were passionate about the land, community, and best sustainable options for their operations and reclamation. It was obvious during these discussions that this attention to impact and environmental concern were entrenched in the culture and had been in place for many, many years.

    What was the inspiration for the garden and how did it come to be?

    NRG: An NRG board member was familiar with Texan By Nature’s mission and noticed how well it aligned with the mission of NRG’s philanthropic arm, positiveNRG. We began working together, and the planning firmed up for what became the garden. A reclaimed section of the Jewett mine was a perfect way to bring the idea to life.

    positiveNRG is a central part of our identity – enabling partnering with change-making non-profits like Texan By Nature to positively contribute to the places where we live and serve.

    Positive NRG Volunteers
    positiveNRG Volunteers in Houston

    TxN: We had the wonderful opportunity to get to know one of the NRG board members at a dinner. He talked about how they wanted to take the reclamation of the mine site to the next level and do something more for the community. He asked if we had any ideas. Our team took the question and did a lot of research on the area. We ended up discovering that the food insecurity rate in the area was 50% higher than the national average and the soil and climate is near perfect for growing many fruits and vegetables. After consulting with a few TxN partners, we put a proposal together and outlined a plan for a garden to serve the food pantries in the tri-county area. The more conversations we had, the more excited we became with the vision for the garden and working with positiveNRG to bring the garden to reality.

    How does the project fit in with other sustainability projects that NRG is doing?

    NRG: NRG’s sustainability efforts are wide-ranging – from our employee groups who volunteer countless hours for community efforts to the Dewey Garden to financial goals tied our sustainability efforts. The Dewey Garden effort was a perfect fit.

    TxN: From our perspective and knowledge of NRG, it’s a perfect fit. The passion for sustainability and community is obvious in every conversation we have with NRG team members. From knowing the history of the community to sourcing the project locally to reusing materials from the reclamation in the garden construction efforts, the project implementation has been seamless with the NRG team.

    What is your hope and vision for the future of the garden?

    NRG Dewey Prairie Garden Carrot

    NRG: In this project, the goal is to provide fresh and nutritious produce in a food desert and create a supply for local area food banks. Our goal is to be resilient; to look to the long game. When we refer to sustainability, we want to invest in projects that help people thrive so that we can all achieve our highest potential. The Dewey Garden and Texan By Nature are exactly what we need to assure that hope and vision continues for a long, long time.

    TxN: First and foremost we want to work with the fertile land in the Jewett area to provide consistent, fresh, nutritious produce for this community. We also want the garden to serve as an example of collaboration between industry, community, conservation, and education. One that inspires others to look at their resources and operations and dream of new ways to create long term positive impact.

    Learn more about the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden on the garden project page.

     

  7. American Campus Communities Joins Lights Out Texas

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    American Campus Communities, Inc. (ACC) is the largest owner, manager and developer of high-quality student housing communities in the United States. The student housing company is a fully integrated, self-managed and self-administered equity real estate investment trust (REIT) with expertise in the design, finance, development, construction and operational management of student housing communities. As of March  31, 2021, American Campus Communities owned 166 student housing properties containing approximately 111,900 beds. Pairing its owned and third-party managed properties, ACC’s total managed portfolio consisted of 207 properties with approximately 142,400 beds. 

    In every community design, ACC prioritizes sustainability not only for operational efficiencies and cost savings but also for the well-being of student residents.

    This spring, ACC is turning out non-essential lights at night at its communities in the following university markets for migratory birds as part of a statewide initiative, Lights Out Texas:

    Texas is globally important for birds. Approximately 1 of every 3 birds migrating through the U.S. in spring, and 1 of every 4 birds migrating through the U.S. in the fall, or nearly two billion birds, pass through Texas. Protecting birds in Texas promotes conservation of bird populations across the Americas.

    “One of our core values is to ‘do the right thing’ and that includes supporting conservation efforts across the country in our student communities,” said Jennifer Beese, chief operating officer at American Campus Communities. “Joining the Lights Out Texas initiative is an immediate action that we can take as a Texas-based business to do our part to ensure millions of birds migrate successfully while also educating our residents on conservation.” 

    What measures is ACC taking to participate in Lights Out Texas?

    At 36 of its communities, ACC will turn out non-essential lights at night from 11pm-6pm to help birds successfully migrate across our region. 

    How is ACC messaging Lights Out Texas to it’s community members? 

    ACC is encouraging residents through social media to turn off all non-essential lights. 

    What advice would ACC provide to another company that is considering joining the Lights Out Texas initiative?

    We believe that the value generated by operational efficiency and sustainable practices benefits us not only as a company but also extends to our shareholders and for generations to come. Sustainability and conservation efforts is an area where we can all take on a leadership role, across multiple industries, to do our part for the environment. 

    The Lights Out Texas effort is led by a coalition of partners that includes conservation non-profits, universities, governmental organizations, and Texans dedicated to the conservation of birds. The initiative is asking all Texans to turn off their non-essential lights at night from 11 PM – 6 AM through the full spring migration of March 1 – June 15. Where conflicts apply, it is suggested to prioritize the peak migration period between April 19 – May 7, when half of the total spring bird migration traffic passes through Texas.

    How you can participate in Lights Out Texas:

    Guidelines for Everyone:

    • Turn off all non-essential lights from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. each night.
    • Do not use landscape lighting to light up trees or gardens where birds may be resting.
    • For essential lights (like security lighting) use the following dark skies friendly lighting practices:
      • Aim lights down
      • Use lighting shields to direct light downwards and to avoid light shining into the sky or trees
      • Use motion detectors and sensors so lights are only on when you need them
      • Close blinds at night to reduce the amount of light being emitted from windows

    Additional Guidelines for Buildings Taller Than 3 Stories:

    • Extinguish or dim: Exterior and decorative lighting (i.e. spotlights, logos, clock faces, greenhouses, and antenna lighting); lobby/atrium lighting; and lighting in perimeter rooms on all levels of the building.
    • Avoid: Floodlights; illuminating interior plants or fountains, and unoccupied floors; scheduling cleaning crews after dark; and blue-rich white light emissions (lighting with a color temperature of over 3000
      Kelvins).
    • Use: Desk lamps or task lighting rather than overhead lights; blinking lighting in place of continuously
      burning lights; and warm light sources (less than 3000 Kelvin) for outdoor lighting.

    Lights Out Texas Recognition Opportunities:

    • If a company is seeking a deeper level of recognition, via a write-up, Texan by Nature can recognize companies through the Texan by Nature Certification program. Certified projects are highlighted on TxN website via a mini case study webpage and on TxN social media channels, newsletter, etc.
    • Your commitment to go lights out is newsworthy, check out this social media toolkit to share on your channels.

    Lights Out Texas Migration Radar & Alerts:

    Learn more about Lights Out Texas here: https://birdcast.info/science-to-action/lights-out/ 

    Learn more about American Campus Communities on their website. Did you know they were also selected as a Texan by Nature 20 honoree in 2019 and 2020 for their commitment to sustainability and conservation?

     

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