TxN 20 Highlights — Energy Industry

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  1. TxN 20 Highlights — Energy Industry

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    2022 TxN 20: Texan-led leadership in conservation for a sustainable future in Energy.

    The Texan by Nature team is excited to present the fourth annual list of Texan by Nature 20 (TxN 20) Honorees. TxN 20 recognizes outstanding work in conservation and sustainability from Texas-based businesses.

    It’s an opportunity to showcase innovation, commitment to conservation, and best practices from the industries keep Texas running: Agriculture, Architecture, Financial Services, Food, Beverage, & Grocery,Technology, Energy, Healthcare, Municipal Services, Retail, Transportation, and Construction & Manufacturing. 

    Meet the 2022 TxN 20 Honorees leading sustainability in Energy: NRG Energy and Vistra Corp.

    Solar and energy storage projects in Texas totaling ~850MW — 2022 Honoree Vistra Corp

    Who is Vistra Corp?

    Vistra is a leading Fortune 500 integrated retail electricity and power generation company based in Irving, Texas, providing essential resources for customers, commerce, and communities. Vistra combines an innovative, customer-centric approach to retail with safe, reliable, diverse, and efficient power generation.

    How does Vistra Corp set the standard?

    Since 2002, Vistra Corp’s Trees for Growth has provided 300K trees through their Trees for Growth program and helped generate environmental savings and health benefits for municipalities and residents valued at ~$37 million annually during the life of the trees. Vistra’s largest financial investment in sustainability is the transformation of its generation portfolio toward low-to-no carbon-emitting resources by responsibly retiring coal assets and investing in transformational growth investments such as solar and energy storage. On. Sept. 29, Vistra announced Phase 1 of its solar and energy storage projects in Texas, a total of ~850MW, which represent a capital investment of approximately $850 million

    Vistra also saved 4 billion gallons of water this year — since 2010, Vistra has reduced the total water withdrawn by 42%. 98% of water withdrawn is discharged. While the use of water is imperative to producing electricity from thermal generation, Vistra understands that water is a limited, expensive, and shared resource that is essential to life. In addition to strong stewardship, conservation is a primary focus at each of Vistra’s generation facilities.

    Fresh produce for ≈ 3,000 people annually through NRG Dewey Prairie Garden — 2022 Honoree NRG Energy

    Who is NRG Energy?

    NRG Energy is a Fortune 200 energy company that provides stable energy through traditional and renewable sources. NRG is paving the way to a brighter, sustainable future and more options for getting there with data, technology, and convenience.

    How does NRG Energy set the standard?

    The NRG Dewey Prairie Garden is a reclamation project of 10 acres of lignite mine near Jewett, Texas; the service garden was created by NRG Energy in partnership with Texan by Nature. The reclaimed land, which was formerly a lignite mine, includes a wetland area, pollinator habitat, and future orchard that will provide 10,000 lbs of fresh produce annually and fresh produce for ≈ 3,000 people annually to alleviate food insecurity in Leon, Freestone, and Limestone Counties. 

    Reliantgives, NRG retail brand Reliant’s charitable program, contributed over $5.5 million dollars and 4,000 volunteer hours to 150 local causes. Reliantgives partners with sustainability and conservation-focused non-profits, including EarthShare, Dallas Zoo, Central and West Texas Zoo, Texas State Aquarium, Galveston Bay Foundation, and the Dallas Arboretum. Additionally, as one of Dallas Zoo’s corporate partners, Reliant has contributed $650K+ to Dallas Zoo over 4 years and provides critical general operating support and support of conservation efforts in 32 countries and 4 continents around the world. The largest part of their conservation spending is on Texas Wildlife conservation efforts.

    Why Forward Thinking Leaders in Energy Matter

    Energy is a key industry in facing the climate crisis. As a national energy leader, models of environmental sustainability by Texas companies set the standard for other states and the globe. Last year, Texas produced more net energy than any other state in the country, and produced 26% of the nation’s wind power. The leadership of Energy companies like NRG and Vistra are driving the positive change needed to ensure Texas can sustainably meet energy needs in the future.

    How TxN20 Honorees Are Selected Each Year

    To select the 2022 TxN 20 Honorees, the TxN Team evaluated submissions and conducted independent research across 2,000+ of Texas’ publicly traded and private companies in 12 key industry sectors. 

    All companies were evaluated on a 17-point scoring system, from which the top 60 highest-scoring companies moved on to the final round of TxN 20. A selection committee of top industry leaders and experts was then formed to evaluate the top 60 companies and select the final 20 businesses recognized as TxN 20 Honorees.

    Honorable Mentions: Standouts in Sustainability

    In addition to this year’s TxN 20 honorees, here are three industry standouts for best practices in conservation and sustainability coming from companies across the agriculture industry.

    Industry Innovator: Pioneer Natural Resources

    Pioneer Natural Resources, an oil and gas exploration and production company, taps into the pioneer spirit of West Texas to bring innovation to the oil and gas sector. Pioneer has invested $134 million in The City of Midland’s wastewater treatment facility with the goal of using the reclaimed water that will be generated by the facility for operations in place of scarce groundwater in the Permian Basin. Pioneer is also contributing to efforts to protect the Lesser Prairie Chicken through a Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CAA) with US Fish and Wildlife Services to mitigate the impact of operations on Lesser Prairie Chicken Habitat.  

    Industry Innovator: NextEra Energy

    NextEra Energy is an energy and infrastructure company that invests in making infrastructure and energy production more efficient and mitigating the impact of energy production on wildlife. Since 2012, NextEra has invested nearly $40 billion in renewable energy generation and battery storage advancement and is the world’s largest generator of sun and wind energy. To advance wind energy while protecting birds like eagles, NextEra is piloting an emerging technology called IdentiFlight to track and protect eagles in real time. 

    Industry Innovator: Shell

    Shell is one of the world’s leading energy companies, and they are using their leadership position in the global market to promote innovation in energy. The Shell Eco-Marathon is a competition in which students engineer energy efficient, low emissions vehicles to drive progress in transportation. Shell also administers the Accelerate to Zero program, which offers support to companies decarbonizing their business fleet. 

    Get Involved:

    Is your company at the forefront of sustainability in Texas? Share your work with Texan by Nature by submitting Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) data that showcases how your company benefits people, prosperity, and natural resources to programs@texanbynature.org.

    To be considered for the official TxN 20 list, companies must:

    • Have operations and employees based in Texas;
    • Share a demonstrated commitment to conservation & sustainability;
    • Showcase tangible efforts, impact, and data in conservation;
    • NOT be a conservation-based nonprofit (501c3).
  2. TxN 20 Industry Highlights — Agriculture

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    2022 TxN 20: Texan-led leadership in conservation for a sustainable future in Agriculture.

    The Texan by Nature team is excited to present the fourth annual list of Texan by Nature 20 (TxN 20) Honorees. TxN 20 recognizes outstanding work in conservation and sustainability from Texas-based businesses.

    It’s an opportunity to showcase innovation, commitment to conservation, and best practices from the industries that keep Texas running: Agriculture, Architecture, Financial Services, Food, Beverage, & Grocery, Technology, Energy, Healthcare, Municipal Services, Retail, Transportation, and Construction & Manufacturing. 

    Meet the 2022 TxN 20 Honorees leading sustainability in agriculture, Darling Ingredients, and Sanderson Farms.

    Nearly $10 million invested in energy and water efficiency improvements last year — 2022 TxN 20 Honoree Darling Ingredients

    Who is Darling Ingredients?

    Darling Ingredients is the largest publicly traded company turning edible by-products and food waste into sustainable products and is a leading producer of renewable energy.

    How does Darling Ingredients set the standard?

    Darling Ingredients invested nearly $10 million in water and energy efficiency in 2021. Their most substantial sustainable energy investment has been with Diamond Green Diesel, a renewable diesel that reduces emissions up to 85% compared to traditional diesel. Diamond Green Diesel is produced in partnership with Valero Energy Corporation, also headquartered in Texas. All of Darling Ingredients’ plants engage in primary water reduction practices limiting the demand for freshwater supplies across Darling operations resulting in 11 billion gallons of water returned to the environment per year. Darling Ingredients’ employees organized a recycling drive, collecting over 6,000 units of solid waste. In November of 2020, that same team planted 234 trees in the Mosquito River Basin region where their facility is located. 

    226,466 kWh of electricity saved in the calendar year 2021- 2022 — 2022 TxN 20 Honoree: Sanderson Farms

    Who is Sanderson Farms?

    Sanderson Farms is a Fortune 1000 company engaged in the production, processing, marketing, and distribution of fresh and frozen chicken and other prepared food items. Through efforts in conservation, recyclability, renewable energy, and fuel efficiency, Sanderson Farms demonstrates they are dedicated to producing quality, affordable chicken that is not only good for our customers but also good for the environment.

    How does Sanderson Farms set the standard?

    The company has 58 full-time employees company-wide dedicated to environmental and conservation efforts. The environmental services department consists of three managers of environmental services and an environmental coordinator, who are all responsible for monitoring the company’s usage of natural resources such as natural gas and electricity. Sanderson Farms utilizes energy-efficient LED lighting in select processing facilities resulting in 226,466 kWh of electricity saved in the calendar year 2021. Sanderson Farms generated 309,561 MMBTUs of renewable energy or biogas, which reduced the volume of natural gas purchased in their facilities. Sanderson Farms has reduced its water use intensity by 44% since 2008 and saves 1.3+ billion gallons of water annually.

    8,400 acres of land restored naturally — 2022 TxN 20 Honoree: Vital Farms

    Who is Vital Farms?

    Vital Farms’ purpose is rooted in a commitment to Conscious Capitalism, which prioritizes the long-term benefits to each of their stakeholders – farmers and suppliers, customers and consumers, communities and the environment, crew members, and stockholders. Today Vital Farms partners with over 275 small family farms. Every hen is humanely treated, every egg is pasture-raised, and they continue to elevate their own, and the industry’s, standards.

    How does Vital Farms set the standard?

    Approximately 200 family farms commit to Vital Farms exacting standards and the pasture-raised practices they believe are best for hens, cows, and land, resulting in 8,400 acres of natural land restoration. 

    Through Vital Farms’ conservation-minded pasture rotation practice, the land is naturally restored, and herbicides and pesticides are avoided in 300 farms. ZERO waste facilities: all excess egg product is used for other purposes, such as pet food. In addition, Vital Farms utilizes bio-retention features that clean and cool rainwater, provide for the recharge of local aquifers rather than runoff into storm sewers, and conserve over 700,000 gallons of water per year. 

    Why forward-thinking leaders in Agriculture matter

    80% of groundwater in Texas is used for irrigating crops, and according to the State Water Development Board’s 2022 Water Plan, Texas’ population is expected to grow by 70% by 2070. This increase in population means natural resources, including water and the agricultural products that put food on the table, will need to stretch further. To meet these needs while protecting the environment, it’s critical that the agriculture industry in Texas weaves environmental sustainability into its business model. Texas ingenuity in agriculture is helping produce more with less and increase environmental stewardship along the way.

    How TxN20 Honorees Are Selected Each Year
    To select the 2022 TxN 20 Honorees, the TxN Team evaluated submissions and conducted independent research across 2,000+ of Texas’ publicly traded and private companies in 12 key industry sectors.
    All companies were evaluated on a 17-point scoring system, from which the top 60 highest-scoring companies moved on to the final round of TxN 20. A selection committee of top industry leaders and experts was then formed to evaluate the top 60 companies and select the final 20 businesses recognized as TxN 20 Honorees.

    Honorable Mentions: Standouts in Sustainability

    In addition to this year’s TxN 20 honorees, here are three industry standouts for best practices in conservation and sustainability coming from companies across the agriculture industry.

    Industry Innovator: DOW Inc

    DOW Inc. is a leader in sustainability with its various initiatives to preserve natural resources. Notable efforts include executing optimization projects that have saved approximately 400,000 mT CO2 annually. Additionally, their efforts in renewable power surpassed their 2025 goals by obtaining 740 MV from renewable sources.

    Industry Innovator: Bayer & Bayer Crop Science

    Bayer & Bayer Crop Science incorporates sustainable practices into their business. Their unique efforts include using plant biotechnology to create herbicide-tolerant plants that reduce the release of GHG from the soil. The company also participates in purchasing electricity from renewable energies. In 2021, 24.7% of their electricity was sourced renewably as they are working towards 100% by 2029.

    Industry Innovator: Dairy Farmers of America

    Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) prioritizes sustainable efforts by aligning with UN SDG goals. DFA has approximately 200 on-farm renewable energy projects with plans to utilize more than 50 anaerobic digesters to convert dairy waste products into green energy. Additionally, DFA focuses greatly on soil health and regenerative agriculture to increase the longevity of soil life and health.

    Get Involved:
    Is your company at the forefront of conservation and environmental sustainability in Texas? Do you want to be recognized for your efforts? Contact Texan by Nature at programs@texanbynature.org.

    To be considered for the official TxN 20 list, companies must:

    • Have operations and employees based in Texas;
    • Share a demonstrated commitment to conservation & sustainability;
    • Showcase tangible efforts, impact, and data in conservation;
    • NOT be a conservation-based nonprofit (501c3).

     

     

  3. Get Paid to Recycle in El Paso!

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    See a Need, Fill a Need: PET Recycling in El Paso

    Crinkle, crackle, crunch… The sounds of plastic are all around us in the modern world, from your supermarket container lunch to the tub of dog treats. Plastic products are widely recyclable, but 85% of all US plastics end up in a landfill or as litter on streets and in waterways, according to a recent study.

    Factors that contribute to low recycling rates include a lack of public awareness of the importance of recycling, limited materials sorting capabilities, and lack of access to recycling infrastructure. PET thermoforms – which are thermally molded sheets of PET plastics used in clamshell containers, tubs, and bottles –  are completely recyclable, but often end up discarded, where they pose a threat to wildlife and pollute Texas’ 190,000 miles of waterways.

    That’s why Texan by Nature and Texans for Clean Water teamed up with El Paso Sam’s Club to launch a 6-month PET thermoform recycling pilot project with the goal of incentivizing thermoform recycling at the community level. Learn more here about how #TxNsRecycle.

     

     

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    More Cash, Less Waste

    Pilot participants receive 10 cents for each item deposited for recycling at participating Sam’s Clubs locations. Since the PET Recycling Pilot launched in El Paso on July 6, 2022, over 5,500 PET #1 plastic items have been dropped off for recycling. Pilot participants also have the option to donate their incentives back to community partners in El Paso or claim their incentives through Venmo.

    The Pilot also generated interest from beverage bottler and retailer BlueTriton Brands, which manages well-known water bottle brands like Ozarka and PureLife. In late August, Blue Triton approached Texans for Clean Water with funding support to expand the Pilot to accept PET #1 plastic bottles, in addition to PET #1 thermoforms. Starting September 14, all PET Recycling Pilot locations will accept plastic water bottles for recycling!

    Community Driven

    El Paso community partners not only benefit from the PET Recycling Pilot in terms of reduced pollution and cash donations, but have also been instrumental in spreading the word on the ground about the pilot. Frontera Land Alliance, the Green Hope Project, the Paso del Norte Community Foundation, Better Business Bureau Paso del Norte, and the El Paso Community Foundation support the pilot through sharing information on social media and have helped us connect students to the pilot through the PET Pilot Video Contest. So far, over 20 students in El Paso County have submitted videos promoting awareness about the PET Recycling Pilot and the importance of recycling in general – stay-tuned for the winning videos in October!

    We are grateful for the enthusiasm of the El Paso community and look forward to seeing the impact of the pilot over the coming months.

    Get Involved

    How many pounds of plastic can we keep out of the Rio Grande, off El Paso streets, and out of landfills? How much money can you earn from recycling incentives? As much as you and your neighbors can carry! Get paid to recycle: https://texanbynature.org/projects/mecycle-el-paso-pet-recycling-pilot/ 

  4. TxWAC: Tackling Water Conservation in Texas

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    TxWAC: Increasing Investments in Water Conservation

    Spanning 5 of Texas’ 10 ecoregions and 7% of the state’s total land area, the Trinity River is a defining feature of the East Texas landscape. In addition to providing shade and wildlife habitat, including areas of urban forest in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, 5.5 million Texans depend on the Trinity as their primary water source, and 7.5 million people in the DFW area depend on the Trinity River water supply for domestic, industrial, and agricultural use. 

    Like many river systems across the state and country, water quality and quantity in the Trinity river system is under pressure from human activity such as population growth: Texas’ population of 29 million people is expected to double by 2050, further stretching water supplies that are already under pressure in some areas. Water conservation in Texas can be tough, as 95% of Texas lands are privately owned –– collaboration is needed to move the needle in the right direction. 

    We thank our lucky Lone Star there’s a collaborative solution laying the groundwork for water conservation in Texas: Texas Water Action Collaborative, or TxWAC. 

    A Collaborative Solution

    Facilitated by Texan by Nature in collaboration with businesses, nonprofits, and governmental organizations, TxWAC launched the upper Trinity River Basin on World Water Day 2021. The collaborative began with a pilot program focused on Trinity River as a river system that is representative of both the threats facing water supplies and the opportunities for uniting conservation and industry across Texas. 

    55% of the Trinity River Basin is made up of agricultural lands used for crop cultivation or cattle ranching, both important economic activities in Texas. These water-intensive activities, along with population growth, groundwater depletion, and drought in the state, mean that Texas needs to take action now, with our water supplies being under greater pressure than ever. 

    Expanding Business Support for Conservation

    The TxWAC works by matching project funders from the business and philanthropic sectors to water conservation projects that need funding. One or more business partners may fund projects at any given time to meet their environmental, social, and goverance goals. In 2021, TxWAC members PepsiCo, Meta, and Bonneville Environmental Foundation funded Ducks Unlimited’s restoration of 206 acres of wetland at the Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area along the Trinity. The project creates wetland habitat for wildlife, including migratory birds, and improves overall water quality in the Trinity by reconditioning 200 million gallons of water each year. Lean more about this investment.

    Through piloting TxWAC in the Trinity River Basin, Texan by Nature is developing a roadmap to effect positive change in river systems by accelerating the rate of funding for water conservation projects, which are an important piece to protecting water supplies across the state. With investment from the energy corporation Hess Corporation, TxWAC expanded to the lower Trinity River Basin in March 2022. Through the end of 2022 and beginning of 2023, Texan by Nature is scoping the expansion of TxWAC to an additional river basin in Texas. 

    “Clean, healthy waterways are important to the state of Texas, as well as the Gulf of Mexico. This partnership with Texan by Nature on the TxWAC project is a great addition to the other water programs Hess is involved in and aligns with the commitment Hess has to clean water and addressing marine debris. We are excited to see the opportunities this brings forward.” – Brock Hajdik, Vice President for Gulf of Mexico at Hess Corporation.

    The TxWAC Planning Team includes representatives from the following businesses and organizations:

    For a complete list of TxWAC business and conservation members, see the TxWAC page.

    Get Involved 

    TxWAC’s mission is simple: benefit water resources in Texas through collaboration between conservation and business. Interested businesses and organizations may become TxWAC members at no cost. By becoming a member, you’re expressing interest in achieving TxWAC’s collaboration goals of improved water quality and quantity and joining the conversation about how to achieve those goals. 

    If you are interested in learning more about TxWAC, please contact Taylor Keys at taylor@texanbynature.org

    You can also get involved with TxWAC by attending the next bimonthly meeting this September 27, 2022 at 10 AM CT.  REGISTER HERE or email taylor@texanbynature.org for the calendar invite.

    Come on in, the water’s fine!

    Visit https://texanbynature.org/projects/texas-water-action-collaborative/ for the latest!

  5. TenXTen: Hike Ten Texas Ecoregions

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    The Lonestar State is not only big, it’s diverse: Texas is made up of 10 ecoregions that range from the arid High Planes to the lush Gulf Coast. How many ecoregions of Texas have you explored? Whether you’re a seasoned Texas traveler or new to the state, TenXTen highlights hikes from each ecoregion of Texas for inspiration about where to explore. 

    Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Photo: Houston Zoo

    1. The Piney Woods – El Camino Real de los Tejas: Mission Tejas State Park near Grapeland displays the state’s natural and social history on the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail. Hike in the shade of towering longleaf and loblolly pine forests that provide habitat for endangered species like the Red Cockaded Woodpecker, and pay a visit to the site of the first Spanish mission in Texas, Mission San Francisco de los Tejas, established in 1690. To get involved with conservation in the Piney Woods region, follow @texaslongleaf

    Great Egret, Photo: Mark Doing

    2. Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes – Heron’s Walk Trail: Galveston Island State Park offers many different habitat types to explore, from dunes to grasslands and from freshwater to bayside habitats. The Heron’s Walk Trail goes through the bayous, marshes, and salt flats that make this region so unique, offering hikers the chance to see wading birds like herons, cranes, and egrets. At 1.4 miles round trip, the Heron’s Walk Trail leaves time and energy to explore the park’s freshwater ponds, a popular hangout for alligators.

    3. Post-Oak Savannah – Lake Fayette Trail: Historically dominated by oaks, the Post Oak Savannah ecoregion was shaped by wildfires and bison migration. As conditions changed, the ecoregion’s flora and fauna shifted to include cedar elm and sugarberry, which hikers can enjoy just outside of Fayetteville at the Lake Fayette Trail. This trail connects several parks along the lake shore, affording the opportunity to see wildlife like Armadillos and a variety of native Texas birds.

    Post Oak Savannah

     

    4. The Blackland Prairies- Connemara Meadow Nature Preserve: Texas is home to the endangered Blackland Prairie ecosystem, only 1% of which is intact globally. The Connemara Meadow Nature Preserve outside Allen is one place to see preserved and restored Blackland Prairie habitat and the wildlife that its rich variety of soils supports. 

    Check out Connemara’s network of trails to see flora and fauna like the Texas state bird the Northern Mockingbird, Blazing Star wildflowers, and raccoon relative the ringtail, and more which you can identify with this field guide from the North Texas Master Naturalists.

    Photo: LLELA

     

    5. The Cross Timbers- Bittern Marsh Trail: The Cross Timbers ecoregion contrasts the grassy expanse of nearby prairie habitat with its forests of blackjack and post oaks. The trail network at Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area (LLELA) is a great place to see the mixed wetland and forest habitat of the ecoregion. LLELA includes the Bittern Marsh Trail, which starts at the shore of Lewisville Lake and takes hikers through a hardwood forest to a marsh. Wetland animals hikers are likely to see include frogs, turtles, Green Heron, Great Blue Heron, and ducks.

    6. The South Texas Plains – Estero Llano Grande Trail: Rare plants like the black lace cactus and regional species like the Rio Grande Frog can be found in the South Texas Plains ecoregion. 

    Rio Grande Frog, Photo: Don Champlin

    Scout for these natural beauties and more at Estero Llano State Park, where you can also visit a World Birding Center location for field guides and birding information. At certain times of the year, you can see colorful migratory birds like the Roseate Spoonbill alongside the thorny beauty of cactus and mesquite.

    7. The Edwards Plateau- Flint Rock Loop Trail : The Edwards Plateau region is famous for its rocky limestone terrain, creeks and rivers, and sweeping Hill Country views. These are prominent features of the Flint Rock Loop Trail at McKinney Falls State Park. This moderate trail takes hikers across Onion creek and into a forested area, and leaves time and energy to enjoy the park’s waterfalls, swimming, and fishing.

     

    McKinney Falls, Photo: Jim Nix, Nomadic Pursuits

    8. The Rolling Plains- River Bend Nature Center: The spacious geography of The Rolling Plains provides views of wide open spaces and a variety of habitats for native Texas species like the prairie dog and Bobwhite Quail.

    Prairie Dogs, Photo: River Bend Nature Center

    River Bend Nature Center in Wichita Falls offers trails through its 15 acres of preserved forest and wetland habitat, a live butterfly enclosure, and the Ruby N. Priddy Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, where visitors can see over 100 native species in recreated Rolling Plains ecosystems.

    9. The High Plains – Rock Gardens Trail: While Palo Duro Canyon is known for the iconic Lighthouse rock formation at the end of the Lighthouse Trail, the canyon has more than one rock worth seeing.

    The Rock Gardens Trail gets its name from the boulders scattered over nearby hillsides where lizards and snakes enjoy basking, and this trail takes hikers to the rim of the canyon for a spectacular overview of the country’s second-largest canyon.

    10. The Trans-Pecos- Paso del Norte Trail: As part of the Chihuahua Desert, the Trans-Pecos region is distinctive in its landscape and ecology. Spanning 68 miles, The Paso del Norte Trail puts the region’s desert landscape and wildlife like Burrowing Owls on display, and benefits the binational community of El Paso through access to biking and hiking trails as well as paved trails through urban sections.

    The ten Texas ecoregions support a biodiverse state flora and fauna population and offer something for everyone to connect with through exploration and conservation. Where will you start? 

     

  6. 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.

     

  7. Local Conservation’s Role in COP26

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    2022 Q1 Conservation Partner Meeting – COP 26 from Texan by Nature on Vimeo.

    As part of our mission to uplift conservation efforts across Texas, Texan by Nature hosts quarterly meetings exclusive to over 110 organizations in our Conservation Partner network. Our goal with these meetings is to provide educational resources, best practices, and lessons learned to develop deeper partnerships and collaboration opportunities that drive conservation action.

    We kicked off our first Conservation Partner quarterly meeting in 2022 with two COP26 delegates and experts in corporate environmental affairs, Robert Horton, Vice President of Environmental Affairs for Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and Kris Russell, Senior Manager of ESG at Armanino LLP, to explore what we can do at a local level to support the outcomes and global goals of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).

    Hosted in Glasgow, last October 31st – November 12th, COP26 focuses on uniting the world to tackle climate change and accelerate action toward the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on climate change.

    The goals* of COP 26 are:

    • Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach.
    • Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats.
    • Mobilize finance.
    • Work together to deliver.

    *Read COP26 Goals explained

    What does COP26 mean for local conservation and for the state of Texas?

    COP26 conference in Glasgow
    Robert Horton and Kris Russell at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland.

    Kris and Robert presented important highlights of COP26 that are key to conservation efforts in Texas. Currently, Texas sustains the 9th largest economy in the world, making our state’s businesses global leaders and models for sustainable growth.

    “Businesses aren’t waiting around for policy to catch up. They see this as an imperative to operate. The issue of climate change is material, and it is something we need to address whether for-profit or non-profit organizations. This is on the radar and on the priority list at the executive level.”

    – Kris Russell

    While legislative action around environmental affairs and climate change may take years to change, conservation organizations and corporate businesses can work together to collaborate on science-based and metrics-focused projects. It is in this space that Texan by Nature plays a pivotal role. By acting as a strategic partner for industry and an accelerator for conservation, we convene the connections that catalyze action and create measurable impact in our state. As part of our Conservation Partner network, we provide our partners with an array of resources and opportunities to amplify and uplift their efforts.

    “Sustainability and conservation, these are fields where you really have to have thick skin, because you hear ‘no’ quite often. And it’s really the creative minds that we have had the opportunity to work with that are making it more of a priority within the corporate agenda in today’s society, and it’s because you are showing that there’s a need to do something, there’s a need to be aware of your impact on the rest of the world.”

    – Robert Horton

    It is through our extensive network of conservation partners and business members that we continue to drive change. Collaboration between a broad range of stakeholders is key to the future of land, wildlife, natural resources, and the prosperity of Texans statewide.

    If you’re interested in joining our mission, click the links below to get started.

    For Conservation Partners.

    For Business Members.


    Robert Horton, Vice President of Environmental Affairs for Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. DFW International Airport is the first airport in North America and the largest in the world to achieve carbon-neutral accreditation. In addition, Robert Horton also serves as the Airport Board Environmental and Sustainability Officer and manages and directs DFW’s Noise Compatibility Program.

    Kris Russell, Senior Manager of ESG at Armanino LLP is an experienced environmental consultant recognized globally for implementing sustainability solutions that reduce costs, increase access to capital, improve resilience enrich employee and community engagement, and protect natural resources. As the former Environmental Program Manager of the Dallas Fort Worth Airport, Kris led DFW to become the first carbon-neutral airport in North America and won the 2020 United Nations Global Climate Action Award.

  8. Measuring Return on Conservation

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    “One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions” – Grace Murray Hopper

    Each year at our annual Conservation Summit we gather leaders from conservation, community, and industry to discuss the future of conservation in terms of our natural resources, people, and economic growth. We’ve looked at how collaboration, new models, creative problem solving, and macro trends are shaping the future. One topic that is always top of mind is the way returns are measured and reported.

    Most in these discussions agree that the future of conservation depends on returns realized – the traditional business aspect, if you will. Agreement becomes murkier as we dive into the definition of return and what this means regarding conservation. Discussion circles on whether it’s a traditional business ROI of straight currency value, a resource return measured in acres, gallons, tonnes, etc., a people return measured in the number of people impacted, or a combination of all three. The conversation is even more convoluted as leaders discuss and question tools and resources to evaluate return. To date, there is no standard tool or measure across industries, states, or nations, though the UN Sustainable Development Goals act as a rallying point and we look forward to thoughts on standardization coming from #COP26 workgroups.

    Texas is an interesting place to host discussions on conservation and its expected return. Texas is home to seven of the 15 fastest growing cities in the U.S. and Texas’s population has increased over 48% in the last decade alone. Pairing this mass growth and urbanization with the fact that less than 1% of Texans are landowners results in an increasingly diminished connection to nature and our natural resources. Adding Texas’s business leadership in multiple industries makes this picture even more complex. Leaders working in this space are bridging backgrounds, knowledge levels, short-term and long-term goals.

    Given the level of interest in measuring and realizing return, it’s somewhat surprising that tools and methodologies are not more standard or utilized. In our work with conservation partners (501c3 organizations), we hear that lack of time, expertise, and resources to gather and monitor the data industry seeks in justifying conservation projects hinders funding and progress. There’s a gap in vocabulary and a lack of a universally accepted approach. Funding is not readily available for the evaluation and measurement aspect of a project. There’s an inability to show that conservation is indeed a profitable endeavor be it measured in currency, people, natural resources, or all of the above.

    In our work with industry, we hear there’s frustratingly little data and a lack of standardized framing necessary to utilize on-the-ground conservation for progress towards long-term ESG goals. We hear that proper metrics and evaluation methods have not been scoped within a project. Whether it’s water quality and quantity, carbon capture or sequestration, air quality, or a myriad of other benefits, projects must show that there’s a business side to the conservation that drives long term, bottom-line benefits for both business and natural resources. 

    Hurdles to Measuring Return

    Conservation View Industry View
    Lack of Time Lack of Data
    Lack of Expertise Lack of Standard
    Lack of Tools Vocabulary Gap
    Lack of Standard Lack of Impact Projection
    Vocabulary Gap Lack of Trust in Data Presented
    Lack of Funding for Analysis and Monitoring Money only approved for project work

    So how do we do this? How do we continue to innovate while also standardizing the way we measure and report returns? How do we close the gap between conservation and industry? Our Summit in November 2021 hosted a panel that provided examples and drove discussion on this topic. 

    The onus is on each of us to engage in dialogue with intent to understand our partners and share best practices for estimating, monitoring, and reporting on the full return of our conservation efforts. Through our work with the Texas Water Action Collaborative and our Conservation Partner network, we’re compiling the resources, tools, and services that are available for us to drive progress. This said, project funding must allow for the capacity and tools needed to deliver desired results metrics. Our conservation partners need to scope this into their funding requests, while our industry and community partners need to expect and allow for capacity and tool building to receive reporting of desired metrics to meet their ESG goals.

    As we continue to grow, it’s critical that conservation and industry work together to share best practices, fund projects in full (including metrics and evaluation), and engage in dialogue that continues our forward momentum. It’s essential that we work together to frame, fund, and execute broad reaching conservation programs and projects. The first step in this is understanding the returns realized in investing in these conservation projects and programs. This understanding will drive further investment and activity.  

    What tools, resources, and services do YOU think should be part of this discussion? What examples do YOU see as best in class that others should follow? Email us your thoughts at info@texanbynature.org!


    Definitions:

    • Return on Conservation: The return realized by investing in conservation encompassing positive financial, people, and natural resource impact.
    • Conservation: The act or process of conserving. The efficient management or restoration of wildlife and of natural resources such as forests, soil, and water.
    • Sustainability: The process of maintaining change in a balanced environment, in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development, and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations.
  9. H20, SDG, ESG, NBS…How Many Letters Does it Take to Impact Water?

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    “Water is the driving force of all nature.” — Leonardo da Vinci 

    Even in the 1400s without the access and knowledge we have today, the importance of water was clear, the relationship to life apparent. Water is the most abundant molecule found in living organisms. About 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is water-covered, and the oceans hold about 96.5 percent of all Earth’s water. Given the abundance of water on earth, some wonder about the growing focus on water conservation and availability across Texas and globally.

    Melissa Alderson, Conservation Education Manager at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department broke it down well in a podcast given in December 2020: “Of all the water found on earth, ninety-seven percent is saltwater. If you’re doing the math, that means just three percent of all water is freshwater. But, eighty percent of that water is frozen in the Polar Ice Caps and unavailable for our use; so what we’re left with, then, is just one half of one percent for our use. And let’s not forget that we have to share that tiny amount of fresh water with nearly eight billion human beings and nearly nine million animal species – how many individual creatures that actually represents is anyone’s guess.”  

    Fresh water is critical AND if we do not adopt a regenerative approach, fresh water will become more scarce as our population continues to grow. 81 million people were added to the planet in 2020. As global, national, state, and local leaders address population growth and resource needs, it’s imperative that we bring corporate, conservation, and community efforts together to adopt proven practices in water management.

    Fortunately, we have many resources available and efforts focused on sustainable water management. The broadest in scope is The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015. The Agenda lays out 17 sustainable development goals known as the UN SDGs. These focus on a global plan for ending poverty and improving health, education, prosperity, and the planet. Water is specifically called out in multiple goals and a critical component to others. These guiding goals can act as a framework for the growing corporate focus on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG). It’s a blueprint for strategists and a common language for leaders across sectors.

    The increased corporate focus on ESG, ushered in by brands like Patagonia, vocal investors, and a changing workforce is changing the sustainability conversation in all industries. Announcements are in the press daily with a wide array of targets, viewpoints, and claims. According to investment-management firm Pimco, “Environmental, social, and governance issues were discussed on about a fifth of earnings calls across the world” in 2021. This is up from ESG mentions on 5% of calls in 2019. Every industry is entering into the conversation from energy to capital markets to agriculture to tourism.  

    With an increased focus on ESG and specifically, corporate water goals, the opportunity for corporate + conservation + community collaboration is growing daily. Conservation groups can provide the expertise and communities the land to develop and implement Nature Based Solutions (NBS) to achieve a sustainable state of water use / regeneration. Nature Based Solutions are broadly defined as sustainable solutions that are inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience. Specifically they are actions that involve the protection, restoration or management of natural and semi-natural ecosystems; the sustainable management of aquatic systems and working lands such as croplands or timberlands; or the creation of novel ecosystems in and around cities. These solutions provide improved water flow, water quality, air quality, biodiversity, tourism and sporting benefits, and more for growing communities. As industry and communities set higher goals for water sustainability, local conservation and nature based solutions should be a key piece within ESG strategy. There’s a growing list of replicable examples including constructed wetlands, prairie wetlands, restored playas, and reforestation.

    Constructed wetlands:

    • A constructed wetland is a wastewater treatment system that mimics and improves the effectiveness of the processes that help to purify water similar to naturally occurring wetlands. Constructed wetlands can be used for either secondary or tertiary wastewater treatment.
    • Key benefits: 
      • Provide raw water and improve water quality through natural treatment mechanisms powered by sunlight, wind, plants, and microbes 
      • Remove sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus from the water, provide wildlife habitat, and create areas for education and recreation
      • If location and planning permits, a constructed wetland is a cost-effective alternative to building a new reservoir and pushes back the need to construct additional water supply projects

     

    Constructed Wetlands Graph

    Prairie Wetlands:

    • Of the 254 counties in Texas, 28 along the Texas coast contain hundreds of thousands of acres of crucial natural infrastructure. Often called “Kidneys of the landscape,” Texas’s coastal wetlands take the form of potholes, ponds, swamps, ephemeral lakes, and marshes – some permanent, some seasonal – and they provide crucial habitat to millions of migrating and resident birds each year. Although heavily impacted by development and agriculture, landowners are working with biologists to restore wetlands along the coast, reaping the benefits of stormwater storage, greater water quality, reduced sedimentation, and improved economic outcomes for both agricultural and recreational land uses. Corporate funders and land increase the restoration rate of these wetlands and achieve multiple ESG goals including water impact, biodiversity, and local economic development.
    • Key benefits:
      • Provide critical staging and wintering habitat for thousands of waterfowl and migrating birds
      • Reduce and mitigate the effects of stormwaters, especially during large weather events such as hurricanes
      • Naturally filter water, removing harmful runoff, improving water quality, and reducing sedimentation
      • Support the $4.2B hunting and fishing industry


    A graph depicts how Wetlands Work

     

    Playa Restoration:

    • Across the Texas panhandle, thousands of recharge points for the Ogallala aquifer dot the landscape. Called playas, they are shallow, ephemera pools with clay soil basins that crack as evaporation dries them out. When it rains, these pools fill and water seeps through the clay to recharge the aquifer, until the clay fully saturates, sealing the bottom and filling the pool. When playas are full, they provide water and habitat to wildlife, including millions of migrating birds each year. Playas are critical to maintaining enough aquifer recharge to sustain human life and activity in the Texas Panhandle. Simple restoration techniques – often filling pits or removing built up sediments – allow playas to return to their natural function. Landowners are incentivized by programs such as the Texas Playa Conservation Initiative to restore these playas, generating valuable income and maintaining life-sustaining natural resources. Corporate partners are funding or performing restoration to achieve water reduction goals.   
    • Key playa benefits:
      • Playas provide recharge to the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest aquifer in the United States and the largest water source to residents in the Texas Panhandle
      • Functioning playas natural filter water, ensuring higher quality and quantity in the recharge
      • Whether wet or dry, playas provide thousands of acres of habitat for birds and other wildlife year-round

    A graph depicting how playas work to conserve water in Texas

    Reforestation:

    • Forest land is known to cover 62.42 million acres in Texas, totaling 36 percent of our state’s area. Watersheds are known to be regulated by nearby forests through various hydrological processes such as water infiltration, runoff and erosion reduction, water filtration, and flood control and storm protection through water regulation and disturbance prevention. Due to trees’ large, woody roots and their ability to absorb water in various ways, they are nature’s sponges and help maintain releases of water into streams and rivers, effectively maintaining water quality and quantity. Reforestation globally is a known option for carbon sequestration. Pairing the carbon benefit with water outcomes is an opportunity for many communities and industries to surpass goals.  
    • Key Benefits: 
      • Enhanced water filtration in key riparian buffer zones thus decreasing water treatment costs and enhancing the quality of drinking water 
      • Increased water infiltration and runoff reduction due to afforestation and strategic forest management techniques 
      • Creation of areas for education, wildlife habitat, recreation, and carbon capture through a nature-based solution
      • If location and planning permits, afforestation surrounding riparian buffers can be a cost-effective strategy for water quality management and reduces the need for water treatment

    A graph depicts how Healthy Forests support clean water

    While sustainability and conservation can seem like a confusing alphabet soup of competing frameworks and options, there are many examples of collaborative efforts that address long term goals in water and additional focus areas like carbon and biodiversity. Learning from, replicating, and funding these solutions will increase the trajectory of progress for industry and communities alike. Creating strategies that include this type of  industry, conservation, and community collaboration will lead to truly regenerative practices and address broader ESG and UN SDG frameworks. There’s no better time to start than today. After all, water is the driving force of all nature – our future depends on its care.  

     

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