Category Archive: Culture of Conservation

  1. What Makes Me Texan by Nature – Ella Ip

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    By Ella Ip, Texan by Nature Intern 

    All my life, I’ve never had a place to solidly lay my roots down and call my singular “home.” My mom and dad left England for the United States so that my mom could pursue her dreams of becoming a doctor. After landing in California, my older brother and I began the arduous process of learning English and integrating with the children. This was only the beginning of my many journeys across America.

    In total, I’ve lived in five different places. I was too young to remember California but old enough to remember Pennsylvania. My earliest memory in Narberth, Pennsylvania, was eating onigiris at the local Japanese grocery store, squishing the roasted salmon and sticky rice between my small hands. For dessert, my grandmother and I would hurry to the French bakery across from my school and buy a packaged chocolate crepe to enjoy on the walk home. Then, I would watch as the sky turned from being completely clear and littered with clouds to being replaced with darkness and speckled with stars.

    Most recently, I moved to Austin as a sophomore in high school. At first, I was skeptical. I had lived in the Northeast for almost all of my foundational years, and I wasn’t used to the intense heat of the Texas sun. Although, once I saw Lady Bird Lake and the dozens of paddle boarders openly gliding across the glimmering water, I was mesmerized. My dad loved the beach, so our vacations usually entailed living in a cottage near the water and waking up every day to the sounds of the deep blue sea. I loved how the coolness of the water protected me from feeling the scorching heat and that I could float effortlessly on the top. Simply put, I fell in love with the water. 

    I spent my high school years traveling between Austin and New Haven, Connecticut. Both places were vastly different, but their common thread was the lovely bodies of water each city offered me. I could walk around the many rock pools in Connecticut, finding small crabs and starfish nestled within. In Austin, I could splash around in the vast lakes with my friends and feel the mossy rocks beneath our feet as we sat down to rest from swimming. I knew my attachment to water and what lives within it would push me towards a specific trajectory in my future professional career. 

    Now, another place I call home is Waterville, Maine. Although extremely small and isolated, Maine also has scenic sites and relaxing streams of water. At Colby College, I hope to weave my interest in conservation with business to figure out how companies can move their operations to support and foster sustainable growth. Even though I am often far removed from Texas, what makes me Texan by Nature is my ability to create a piece of home in every place I settle. From California to Maine, I’ve created meaningful memories with each home and carried them with me to the present day. So no matter where I go, Texas will always be a piece of the puzzle I fondly call home.

     

  2. PET Recycling in Texas

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    Don’t Throw Away That Strawberry Container –– Here’s Why!

    Fresh strawberries, star-spangled cookies, and everyone’s favorite drinks. Summer is full of occasions that call for get-togethers and treats, and plastic is part of the package, literally – we purchase produce and baked goods that come in PET thermoforms that are discarded after a single use.This plastic adds up: how can we move toward circularity by putting plastic packaging back into use?

    Circularity: the creation and use of products with the product’s end-of-life (what happens to the product after use) taken into account. In a circular economy, once the user is finished with the product, it goes back into the supply chain instead of the landfill. 

    PET Plastics can be found in your household and are marked with the PET 1 identification code

    What are PET thermoforms?

    PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is a type of clear plastic that is strong, lightweight, and typically used for food packaging.PET thermoforms are sheets of PET plastic that have been molded by heat into packaging such as:

    • Clamshells to package produce
    • Trays
    • Tubs
    • Clear egg cartons
    • Lids
    • Cups

    According to Green Impact plastics, 1.6 billion lbs of PET are discarded each year in North America alone – but PET is completely recyclable! Despite its widespread use and recyclability, lagging PET recycling infrastructure means that some material recovery facilities (MRFs) send PET thermoforms to landfills. 

    Why should I recycle PET thermoforms?

    PET thermoforms that aren’t recycled become part of the 400,000 tons of trash and litter that are produced annually in Texas. Litter like PET threatens wildlife and the more than 190,000 miles of waterways that provide habitat, drinking water, and keep Texas industries running. 

    As Texas’ population continues to grow, responsible disposal practices are an essential part of preparing for the future. According to Texans for Clean Water, Texas’ four largest population centers will start to run out of landfill space in 2030. Unmanaged litter and trash harm the health of communities and are burdens to city infrastructure. Each year, 10 Texas cities spend more than $75M on mitigating the impact of litter and illegal dumping, including $6M per year in costs to the City of El Paso.

     

    Moving toward a more circular disposal economy – one in which waste materials are recycled and re-enter the economy as new packaging or products –  would allow that funding to be spent elsewhere. Recycling when possible puts less pressure on landfill capacity and protects Texas wildlife, natural resources, and communities from the negative impacts of litter on health and the environment.

    You can get cash back for recycling PET in El Paso this summer!

    As part of the effort to keep our roadways and waterways clean, a Texan-led and science-based conservation project has emerged. Studies show that there was 50% less litter on roadways and 30% less litter in waterways in 10 U.S. states with deposit/return policies that provide 5-10 cents for containers returned for recycling.

    Texan by Nature and Texans for Clean Water have partnered with Sam’s Club for a proof of concept, 6-month PET thermoform recycling pilot that is expected to launch at  four locations in El Paso, Texas starting July 2022.

    The pilot will provide 670,000 El Paso residents and the binational community of people who commute from Juarez, Mexico, with monetary incentives to recycle PET thermoforms.Together, with the community of El Paso, the pilot is expected to recycle 110,000 lbs of PET Thermoforms in 6 months! 

    For packaging other than PET thermoforms, The City of El Paso offers both curbside recycling and recycling drop-off locations. Access information about curbside recycling, recycling drop-off locations, and search for where to recycle particular materials here. See the complete list of recyclable materials that the City of El Paso accepts.

    This collaboration seeks to build a community movement around recycling and conservation and is exploring ways to integrate the PET thermoforms recycled through the pilot back into the supply chains of Sam’s Club. Additionally, all data, best practices, and lessons learned will be captured and reported to share with other retailers as a model for replication.

    If You Live in Other Parts of Texas…

    Not in the El Paso area? You can still be part of moving Texas toward a circular economy by recycling PET thermoforms and other household materials. Here are some options for recycling near you:

    Panhandle:

    Lubbock 

    Amarillo 

    Central Texas:

    Austin

    DFW

    East Texas:

    Houston

    Tyler

    Additional Resources

     

  3. Webinar: Spring Into Conservation

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    Texan by Nature (TxN) and North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) have launched a complimentary, four-part webinar series to increase education and awareness of the top natural resource conservation practices in the Lone Star State. The series will provide new data, ideas, actionable next steps and resources for individuals and businesses to get involved. You can watch the first webinar, “Conserve Today, Water Tomorrow” here and the second webinar, “State of Texas’ Natural Resources” here.

    The third webinar in the series, “Spring Into Conservation,” featured the following speakers:

    • Randall Rush, Senior Policy Advisor – Agriculture, EPA
    • Dr. Chrissie Segars, Assistant Professor and Extension Turfgrass Specialist, Texas A&M University
    • Linda Dunn, Education Manager, John Bunker Sands Wetland Center
    • Kim Conrow, Past President, Native Plant Society of Texas

    Watch the full webinar recording here:

    During the presentations, the following questions were asked via chat. All of the questions and answers can be viewed below, along with additional resources:

    NTMWD Webinar Q&A

  4. 2021 Conservation Holiday Events and Activities

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    Happy Holidays from Texan by Nature! While critters across Texas settle in for a long Winter’s nap, there are still plenty of events and activities in the great outdoors and in conservation to participate in.  

    In the spirit of gratitude and conservation, here are a few ways to take part in, learn about, and enjoy conservation and the wild spaces it protects this holiday season. TxN is grateful for all the conservation community does and we hope you enjoy these opportunities to stay engaged.

    • From morning bird walks along the Trinity River to Luminations, a light show highlighting the beauty of the winter landscape at Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, there are a variety of TxN Conservation Partner events across the state. Find an opportunity to engage with or volunteer in conservation near you!
    • Learn new skills or sharpen your knowledge with Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center How-Tos like how to make a seed ball for our feathered friends and how to cultivate native plants with limited space in a container garden.

    Relax and rejuvenate in the outdoors: 

    • Each spring and fall, nearly 2 billion birds migrate through Texas. Enjoy watching them with these observation tips from 2021 Conservation Wrangler and conservation partner Audubon Texas and track your observations with their eBird log, which helps scientists increase their understanding of bird distributions.
    • Our stars at night are truly big and bright — Enjoy stargazing this holiday season.

    Completed your outdoor activities and want to learn more about conservation? Take in a film about nature on your favorite streaming service or check out our virtual series and summit presentations.

    Finally, plan to follow or support best practices where you can in the coming year so natural resources can be the gift that keeps on giving.

    We hope these events and activities not only keep you entertained this holiday season, but are also opportunities to deepen your appreciation for and engagement with conservation. Happy holidays! 

  5. 2021 Sustainable Gifting Guide

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    Generosity comes in all shapes and sizes — from material gifts to experiences with friends and family, there are so many ways to give during the holiday season. Giving sustainably is a great way to add extra meaning to a gift while protecting the natural resources and outdoor spaces that give us so much. 

    We’ve put together this sustainable gifting guide with some ways that you can give meaningfully and sustainably this holiday season by balancing consumer spending with DIY gifts and unforgettable experiences. 

    • Gift a Donation: We’re proud to partner with 105+ conservation organizations that are innovating new approaches in every corner of our great state to take care of the land, water, wildlife, and dark skies. Considering making a donation to support Texas natural resources and the organizations that steward them. You can also gift a Texan by Nature membership!
    • Gift an Experience: Give the gift of a plan by organizing a hike, camping trip, or a movie night for friends and family. This gift replaces the material with the experiential, and in doing so replaces the energy and transportation costs associated with material gifts with memories and a chance to appreciate the outdoors. Check out the best hiking trails in Texas.
    • DIY: One of the easiest ways to reduce your environmental impact as a consumer is to consume less and make more. Gifting a drawing, painting, a kind note, or coupon for a home cooked dinner all help reduce the emissions from product manufacturing and transportation, and make gifting more personalized.
    • Reuse: Cut back not holiday waste by reusing gift bags, boxes, wrapping paper, or even use some scrap fabric or some maps you have lying around.
    • Shop local: Whether it’s the food items for holiday dinners or a gift to put under the tree, buying from locally-owned small businesses is a great way to reduce your environmental impact. Small businesses make more local and nearby purchases than big retailers, meaning their products take less fuel to transport. Buying locally is also an investment in community prosperity: $68 of every $100 spent at a small business stays in the community compared to $43 of every $100 spent at national chains.
    • Shop second hand: According to the United Nations, the fashion industry dumps about a half a million tons of microfibre into the ocean each year. Shopping at second-hand retailers and thrift stores limits the demand of the water-intensive fashion industry, which makes up 10% of global carbon emissions and helps limit pollution associated with clothing and textiles manufacturing.
    • Repair: The average Texan throws away 5 pounds of trash each day. Keep last year’s Christmas present out of the landfill by investing in the repair or refurbishment of items like appliances, furniture, and even shoes and clothes. Combine this sustainable gift with supporting local businesses by choosing local repair services to make a further positive impact.

    However you celebrate the holidays, remember to give back to the environment by choosing to gift sustainably. It won’t just save you money, it can also save the world! Happy holidays from the Texan by Nature team.

  6. 5 Ways to Help Bats

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    Written by Abbey Mesler, Programs Intern, Texan by Nature

    If we didn’t have bats, the world would be a different place. There are more than 1,390 species of bats around the world that fill important roles in their ecosystems. They eat insects, and control pests, their guano makes a great fertilizer, they disperse seeds, and they are pollinators. In fact, more than 500 species of plants rely on bats for pollination. Some of these include bananas, mangoes, guavas, and agave (where we get tequila from!)

    Unfortunately, many bats are threatened due many factors including habitat loss, bushmeat trade, guano mining, White-nose Syndrome, and wind farms. This is why bat conservation is so important. The good news is there are several things individuals can do to help. At Texan by Nature, we recognize the impact that every single person can make. That’s why we’re kicking off our #TxN5WayFriday series, providing weekly insight on being Texan by Nature. Here are 5 ways to help bats.

    1. Spread Awareness

    Bats get a bad rap. They are seen as spooky and are a symbol of Halloween. In reality, bats are no spookier than any other animal and they are extremely important to the ecosystem and to humans. Bats are also thought to be dirty and rabid. However, only about 6% of bats have rabies. A lot of people also believe that all bats are blood-sucking creatures. Of the 1,390 species, only 3 feed on blood and they are all in Latin America. There are no species that feed on human blood. Another myth is that bats are blind and likely to dive-bomb people. Bats can actually see just as well as people can, and they have no reason to dive-bomb humans. There are a lot of harmful myths about bats out there and you can help by debunking these and spreading the truth.

    2. Put Up a Bat House

    One of the biggest threats to bats is habitat destruction. In areas without many trees or other good roosting sites, bat houses can help. You can build your own or buy one from a certified vendor. In order for these bat houses to work, they should be painted the right color based on climate and they should be placed in a suitable location. Paint bat boxes darker colors in colder places and lighter colors in warmer places. They should be 12 to 20 feet high, with 15-20 feet being ideal. Houses mounted on buildings are the best to avoid predators; however, they can be mounted on poles as well. Bat houses are most likely to be occupied if they are mounted before bats return in the springtime. Not only are you helping bats by doing this, but you are also bringing in natural pest control – bats eat mosquitoes!

    3. Reduce Pesticide Use

    Many species of bats eat insects that are considered pests such as mosquitoes, moths, beetles, flies, and crickets. In fact, one bat can eat thousands of insects in a single night. By reducing your pesticide use you are increasing the food source for bats and allowing bats to become a source of pest control. Not only that, but there is evidence to support that pesticides themselves are directly harmful to bats. Bats are especially susceptible to pesticides for a few reasons. One is that they are small. It does not take large amounts of pesticide to affect small animals. They can also live for up to 30 years. This means there is a long period of time for these bats to accumulate toxins. While it is not proven that pesticides are contributing to bat decline, there is an increasing amount of evidence to suggest so. For that reason, reducing pesticide use is a great way to help bats.

    4. Leave dead trees

    Dead and dying trees provide the perfect habitat for many bat species. They like to roost in the space between the bark and the tree. In fact, one dead tree can support a colony of up to 500 bats. Most bats prefer to roost in trees that are in earlier stages of decay. Therefore, trees that have died fairly recently are especially beneficial. If you have a dead or dying tree in your yard that is not hazardous, consider leaving it up to provide habitat for bats.

    5. Get Involved

    big brown bat texas

    There are many bat organizations around the world. Find a local organization to donate to or volunteer your time. A perfect example of one here in Austin is the Austin Bat Refuge. There are refuges like this all over the country that rescue orphaned and injured bats with the goal of rehabilitation and release. There are many volunteer positions at a place like this to be filled such as feeding and watering bats, orphan care, fundraising, horticulture, data entry, and social media management.

    Bats are essential to their ecosystems and are extremely beneficial for humans. The declining number of bats is concerning and it is important to do what we can to turn that around. These 5 things are just a few easy things you can do to make a difference.

    For more information on bats, visit Texan by Nature Conservation Partner, Bat Conservation International.


     

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    Texan by Nature brings conservation and business together. We amplify projects and activate new investment in conservation which returns real benefits for people, prosperity and natural resources. Learn more…

     

     

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