More Oil, 3D Printed Houses, Food Waste, Goodall, And More!

This week I have another environmental news wrap up for you.

Let’s start with the crazy yet predictable. Exxon is expanding it’s oil refineries in Texas. Beaumont could have the largest crude oil processing plant in the United States after the expansion is done. Exxon is considering investing $50 billion into their United States operations over the next five years. Imagine if they invested that in sustainable energy. They could begin to the lead the world on alternative energy sources beyond oil and natural gas. Why not shoot for bigger and more long term than oil?!

Why? Because the short term is still extremely profitable for them. The oil market in the U.S. is still on the rise.  Oil and natural gas from shale production is expected to double the nation’s oil output from 5.6 million bpd in 20011 to 11 million bpd by the end of this year. Apparently we must dig it all up, now.

Nearby in Houston, they are seeing a surge of electric cars and are planning on installing 1700 charging stations over the next decade. Texans want sustainable energy sources to charge our electric vehicles. Some of us are still waiting to be gifted an electric vehicle, cough cough.

South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin is about to wrap up. If you haven’t caught the memo, it’s more than music. This year a few new companies pitched radically awesome sustainable ideas. The most impressive is a 3D printed house. Yes, you read that right. The 600-800 square foot home can be printed in less than 24 hours and designs start at $4000! The first one is now up and on display in Austin. Browsing their website, I saw a familiar face in one of their co-founders. Remember TreeHouse, the awesome new sustainable home improvement store in Dallas? Their founder Jason Ballard, is part of the Icon team, making 3D printed homes.

Another company out of SXSW that caught my eye was GrubTubs. They are turning restaurant food waste into nutrient rich animal feed for local farmers. Instead of food going to a landfill to emit methane (powerful greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere, the immense amount of waste can be turned into useful nutrition. This also saves restaurants money on their trash disposal!

Which brings me to locally here in Dallas. Did you know Recycle Revolution has a composting program for businesses? Get your restaurant, office, or school to get involved. And a recent Facebook post by them suggests they are trying to revive their home compost pickup program. They need to know you’re interested! Email them at info@recyclerevolutiondallas.com to let them know you want to reduce your trash and start composting without all the backyard hassle.

I must mention a conservation legend coming to the DFW area. I already got my tickets too, so I’m not worried about them selling out and me sitting at home depressed. Jane Goodall, one of my conservation heroes, is coming to UNT for their distinguished lecture series. You may know her from her work with chimpanzees but she’s gone on to do so much more. Books, lectures, activism, and really the face of hope for combating climate change in today’s world. See you there on April 7th.

Have you found your local farmer’s market yet? Many are opening this week around the metroplex. Or you can sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Get your veggies directly from the farmers on a weekly or biweekly basis. Many deliver straight to your door, or to a nearby drop off location. I’m giving jbgorganic.com a try for the next four weeks. There are plenty to choose from in the area! Find one that suits your fancy and support our farmers directly.

Exciting environmentalism happening all over Dallas, Texas, the U.S., and the world. You can be part of it with every decision you make. What will you do this week?

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Quick Fire Environmental News Round-Up March 7, 2018

Holy moly there is so much going on in environmental news this week. Are you ready for a quick roundup to get yourself up to speed? Here it comes, the quick fire environmental news you should be aware of that connects to our local Texas community:

First, the fun stuff.
Have you seen the beautiful photos created by Las Vegas based artist, Benjamin Von Wong? Last year, he spent days with several volunteers in a large room at Wistron GreenTech in McKinney to breakdown 4,100 pounds of e-waste (the approximate amount an American uses in their lifetime). Old monitors, laptops, circuit boards, wires, and keyboards were used to build an imaginative set design. Standing in the middle of the creative set, is a body painted model showcasing the beauty that can come from our trash. The social project is meant to encourage people to participate in Dell’s e-waste recycling program. Keep your eyes out for the viral behind the scenes video with already over 1 million views online. Snap a picture of you recycling your e-waste (You can drop it off at our Goodwill stores!) and post it online with #RethinkRecycleRevive to get a post card direct from the artist. RethinkandRecyle.com for more!

Credit: Benjamin Von Wong

Quick politics.
Avid backpacker, Beto O’Rourke won the Democratic primary and is set to face off against Ted Cruz later this year. Democrats showed up in hordes at the primary polls with over 830,000 voting. Beto has a history of protecting our environment and pushing for sustainable development. He received Environment Texas’  Environmental Champion Award for his environmental legislative work such as creating a National Monument that protects Castner Range in El Paso, home to the beautiful springtime poppies.

Movement on the number one environmental issue in Texas… Water.
Officials are in a tizzy (and rightfully so) worried about the number of people immigrating to the DFW area, and the lack of water that will hit our state over the years to come. A project brought up in the 1980s is being resurrected to hold more water for our area. Ninety miles north east of Dallas we’re building our first reservoir in about 30 years. Here’s the thing, we have to clear land to do it, a lot of land. More than 300 acres will be cleared, and the next three summers will be spent digging to create yet another reservoir for us to draw from to water our lawns.

Dreamy Development.
Humphreys and Partners, a Dallas based architect firm is in the news for their dramatic design of the new age of apartment buildings claiming to be 100 percent sustainable. Renderings display two high rises that look like they came straight out of the Jetson’s cartoon show. Boasting environmental on site applications of wind turbines, green walls, Tesla Powerwall energy, vertical farming, and green spaces. Sounds awesome right? Oh, I forgot to tell you, it’s going to be on the waterfront of Manhattan, NYC. Damn.

The future is coming.
The new wave of transportation may be in place by 2024. This week, the last of 11 public comment hearings about the Dallas-Houston bullet train were held in all of the counties that could be effected by the train. Although critics voiced their opinions, several proponents were on site too. The train will be on elevated tracks, electric powered and reduce your travel time to 90 minutes between Dallas and Houston. The transportation will be nice, but the $18 billion cost is heavy. Arguments continue about environmental impacts – will it ease environmental issues, or will the build outweigh the benefits?

Spring buzz.
Have you noticed the pops of color around you? It’s starting! Nature is also about ready for a fresh start. Spring season is upon us and every environmental group, outdoor company, and everyone are hosting events. Get yourself outside and involved!

Alright, you are all caught up – see ya next week!

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Unique Tips To Be More Green In 2018

I have some new ideas for you. If you can’t give up the occasional Starbucks, (me neither), it’s ok. Caring for our environment is not about being perfect it’s about doing all you can to reduce your ecological impact. I’m always finding new ways in everyday life to reduce my footprint on the planet. Living in the United States has incredible privileges we take for granted that lead to over consumption of resources. Because of this zest for daily resources there are also more ways to reduce our impact. I’ve been getting creative on my quest to be green, but, remember I’m not perfect, and you don’t have to be either.

Here’s my new green ideas I’ve picked up in the last few months. Give them a try!

One thing eating at my sustainability focused mind and my wallet has been razors. They are incredibly expensive, dull quick, and are not recyclable. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates Americans throw out about two billion razors each year.  Is our need for shaved legs worth it? I’ve gone back in time and purchased a straight safety razor. It gives the shave of a straight razor but is designed to carry over your skin similar to a current traditional razor. I’m still in the process of getting used to this new shaving style but I love that the blades last longer and are recyclable. Replace the blades when needed and rest easy, they are far cheaper than what you’re paying now. And if you decide to get rid of your full razor, the handle itself is recyclable too!

I prioritize toilet paper and always buy the 100 percent recycled content from stores. But, I’ve gone a step more sustainable. I shifted to shopping in bulk and found a toilet paper made from a sustainable raw material, bamboo. I order my bum paper from WhoGivesACrap.Org and they donate 50 percent of their profits to help build toilets for those in need. I’m a sucker for a good cause and a company that uses no trees in their products. PS: The toilet paper works just fine, thanks.

At the end of 2017, I ordered a few small glass roller bottles (perfume bottles). The bottles serve as my everyday awesome refillable face “lotion.” Fill the bottles with your favorite oil, I like fractionated coconut oil, and add in a few drops of one or two essential oils. The bottles are perfect for every day use and perfect size for traveling! The bottles can also be used to make home made perfumes great to pop in your purse on the go. Get rid of the lotions filled with 800 ingredients, and simplify your skin regiment.

A few years ago I tried removing traditional shampoo and conditioner from my life. I made it about 3 months with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and baking soda. The idea is, at some point your hair gets used to it, pH of your scalp stabilizes, and you won’t have greasy hair anymore. That did not happen for me. I gave up after 90 days and went back to traditional hair care products. This fall I revisited the hair. Instead of going complete no shampoo/conditioner, these days I wash my hair about every 3-4 days. For my thin hair that is a miracle. In between washes I use a light dry shampoo. Since making this change I’ve noticed a drastic reduction in the amount of shampoo and conditioner used, not to mention a reduction in hot water use.

The last one on my recent list is groceries. A company started by a college student delivers “ugly” fruits and vegetables to your house at a heavily discounted price. Instead of wasting food that doesn’t meet grocery and restaurant size and structure standards, farmers can still sell their perfectly edible and tasty supplies. ImperfectProduce.com hasn’t made it to Dallas yet, but, it must be on the way! In the meantime, have you shopped a grocery discount store yet? If not, you are seriously missing out on so much fresh organic produce at low prices. Twelve cartons of organic raspberries for $6 is a steal – they’re usually $4 per carton! Try your local grocery clearance center now.

Keep the creative juices flowing and come up with more ideas to reduce our daily impact on our environment. Every little bit matters.

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A Little Nudge In The Right Direction

The start of the new year always has a powerful buzz of optimism. There’s plenty around us to nudge us in the right positive direction of improving our personal health and happiness. Our community inside and outside our homes can be designed to subconsciously push us into making better choices for ourselves. These nudges are also better for our environment. For example, if you don’t own a tv (or at least reduce the number of tvs in your house), you will have to choose alternatives to spend your time – read, create, interact with family, etc using less energy and resources from our environment. Changing your habits while living in the same structure takes a ton of will power, that most of us do not have. Instead, we can change our homes and communities to help us make better choices.

What has the Dallas area as a whole done to nudge us into healthier choices?

  1. The walking bridge over Mockingbird station is finally finished. Let’s celebrate this long time coming win. It never should have taken years to build, but, that’s the past now. It’s done. You can now bike from Downtown Dallas to White Rock Lake on trails (minus two strange road intersections). Have you commuted by bike yet?
  2. DART invested $1.7 million into hiring 30 more security guards to keep our public transportation safer. Fear should not keep us from utilizing sustainable public transportation.
  3. Grocery stores are moving in to downtown! One of the main essentials missing from living downtown was having to drive out to get groceries. Tom Thumb is moving in across from The Perot Museum and new plans show Royal Blue Grocery is headed to Ervay street in downtown.
  4. Bike shares allowed to take over our streets. Now four companies offer bikes across our city. There seems to always be a colorful bike within arms distance ready for you to hop on.

Live/work/play neighborhoods are popping up everywhere. The other day I stopped at the new development off of Sylvan and I-30 in amazement. When did all of that happen? There’s large condos/apartments, small grocery store, coffee shop and a few new restaurants including Taco Deli – of course, must have tacos.

In a study done by the Congress for the New Urbanism, “68 percent of Dallas respondents desire to live in a walkable place, while only 4 percent of the supply fits the bill.” Developers are taking notice. Even farther out in DeSoto and north in The Colony small centers that feature housing, restaurants and grocery, and parks are popping up. Now if we could just get all of this connected to one another.

Dallas still emphasizes large houses and extreme size in most of our development, shoot, our slogan is still Dallas BIG. But, there’s a rising push for local entrepreneurs, community building and sustainability. New City Manager, T.C. Broadnax is almost one year on the job and has already done his share of cleaning up the city’s network. Broadnax hails form Tacoma, Washington (with a strong sustainability program!) and says his focus will be on getting knowledgeable people in their subject areas in the right positions. In a quote to D Magazine, Broadnax said, “2018 will shape up to truly be a year of change.” I’m excited!

Our physical surroundings can help us be healthier, happier and more environmentally friendly but so can our personal connections. Studies have found that people who interact socially everyday live longer and report being happier. Combine socializing with a healthy activity and you’re getting a double whammy. After recently reading two books by Dan Buettner talking about his research into longevity and happiness, I decided to take up the author’s suggestion to join a walking group. I got online… and could not find one! What?! There were hiking groups, running groups but nothing about a casual walking group meetup. So, I made one. Come join me at Meetup.com/dallas-walking-meetup for a no stress, with or without dogs, get to know your neighbors and live a better life walk! If you don’t live near me and want help starting your own, email me (naimajeannette@gmail.com)!

Let the buzz of the new year push our city and ourselves into a more sustainable happier future.

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Let’s Fix This

My heart sinks quick, the efforts I tried weren’t working, and all I can do is drive off feeling guilty, angry, and sad. That’s the overwhelming feeling I get when I find a loose dog, which happens too often in Dallas.

I get the same feeling when I scroll past the Dowdy Ferry Animal Commission Facebook videos or photos displaying the horrid acts done to dogs and then their bodies left on the side of the road in South Dallas. The same feelings erupt when the media picks up the city’s videos of people blatantly discarding their furry friends on a deserted street. Most recently, the man who pulls up on camera, opens his back door, and lets out a leashed dog to now fend for itself. Or the photos of the dramatic rescue of a pup left in a locked crate on small cliffside.

These same emotions flood in when I rehash the news of Antoinette Brown who succumbed to her injuries from a stray dog attack in May 2016. I see the sense of justifiable fear of dogs in many faces because of witnessed attacks or scary dog interactions. While walking my dogs, in true Jason Bourne fashion, I’m on high alert and continually go over a plan of what I would do if a stray dog popped out of here, or there, or the next spot. There’s usually a lot of yelling involved, panic, and extreme uncertainty.

I am also on high emotional alert when it comes to Dallas Animal Services. The amount of dogs they service is staggering. In FY 2017 14,836 dogs were impounded from the streets and 9,466 dogs were surrendered in shelter. That’s on average, 66 dog intakes per day! This past year 30 percent of shelter animals were adopted, 24 percent euthanized, 24 percent transferred and 12 percent returned to owner. Adopting dogs helps, but it’s not solving the stray dog public health issue.

Let’s Fix This. Literally, “Let’s Fix This” kicked off in April 2017 with a mission in public safety by ending dog bites and attacks. The program offers free spay/neuter clinics in 23 zip codes focused in South Dallas. According to city data, districts 4 and 5 have the highest number of dog related incidents. One study found 84.4 percent of dog attacks are from intact animals. Spaying and neutering dogs can help reduce the number of unwanted breeding events leading to less dogs on the streets. Fixing the issue at it’s core, and not after the fact.

In their first six months, Let’s Fix This has completed 6,233 dog surgeries and is on pace to do about 18,000 in their first complete year. Thanks to big donor dollars from W.W. Caruth Foundation, The Rees-Jones Foundation and the Dallas Foundation, Let’s Fix This utilizes a new brick and mortar facility in south Dallas and several mobile units through collaboration with the SPCA of Texas and the Spay Neuter Network. Residents in the 23 zip codes can book their dog or cat’s appointment online at lets-fix-this.org.

The stray dog issue is emotional on so many levels. After the awful loss of Antoinette Brown, it did spark our community and city leaders to push forward to solve the stray dog issue. Ms. Brown’s death made national news and the entire nation is watching what we will do to keep our community safe, reduce the amount of stray dogs, and continue to be leaders in our adoption programs.

“What Dallas should be proud of, is the very strong commitment from a city perspective and city-wide for it’s community and animals” said Aaron Asmus, Project Manager for Let’s Fix This.

The community support needs to continue. Let’s Fix This can use your help spreading the word about free spay/neuter options, volunteering at a spay/neuter event, volunteering your time to make appointment reminder phone calls and of course, more dollars will lead to more high quality spay/neuter options to reduce strays. This is how we can fix this problem, get involved.

As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly.

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Green Tips For The Holidays

The mosquitoes are still out but there is a slight crispness in the air. Fall and the holidays are approaching fast. Time flies when you’re writing environmental articles every week! It’s been a while since I’ve done a quick reminder column of things you can do to get your mind thinking about the true cost of your decisions. And you’re about to be inundated with holiday shopping hoopla, family knows best talks and workplaces teaming with water cooler crap. Here’s a list of environmental decisions and some quick tips of how to spread a little sustainable cheer the next few weeks.

First up, Thanksgiving. Where are you headed? How are you getting there? Prep your vehicle in advance. Properly inflate tires, check oil, drive the speed limit and keep your gas tank over one-quarter of a tank. Prep your own fuel for the road, too. Don’t rely on poor quality and high environmental cost fast food to get you to your destination. Pack a small cooler with food for the road. I’ve even packed hot food and used a gas station microwave before to heat up my soup. Delish!

Make real food for Thanksgiving. I feel like Thanksgiving has been taken over by crap food. Stuffing should not come from a pre-made bag full of preservatives that just needs water. Buy the bread, season it and make your own. The quality is better for you and the environment. Check your turkey’s ingredients label. You’ll be surprised. Who knew a whole turkey had ingredients on the ingredient label?! It does and you’ll be shocked. Don’t buy crap.

I’ve already received some invitations for some potlucks and parties. If your work event is a potluck, make something homemade, organic, tasty and healthy. What?! Yes. Just do it. You’re not going to win everyone over but it’s subtle encouragement for people to enjoy the lavish food but not to go completely rogue. There are healthy options. I’ll be making a healthy version of mini pumpkin muffins to replace the piece of pumpkin pie everyone wants. Tweet me for the recipe (@naimajeannette).

The other quick tip about potlucks and work events is to throw a reusable to-go container in your purse or bag. You can use it to eat off of instead of the paper plates or, even worse, styrofoam and then you can pack up some leftovers to take home or leave in your office fridge for the next day! So simple and quite possibly my best tactic for potlucks. Everyone always comments on the genius of it and I hope it secretly plants a seed in their mind.

Alright, let’s talk about the onslaught of consumerism that’s about to occur. Don’t let the marketers and culture fool you. You do not need to buy random crappy gifts for everyone on a huge holiday list. I repeat: you do not need to buy gifts for everyone. Thoughtful moments, experiences and small gestures go a long way instead of a random mug full of candy and Post-it notes. Stop the insanity. Start now.

How will you honor the people around you this holiday season? We usually honor our family with food. Living in Dallas gives us access to a ton of food options that many places simply do not have. We load up on speciality food items like sweet potato noodles (glass noodles), organic cheese and fresh homemade bread and fill our family’s bellies. This year I’m considering making a donation to a nonprofit for both sides of our family. Something that is meaningful for all of us. What could you do that’s out of the box and yet still meaningful?

REI is promoting their #OptOutside campaign this year for Black Friday. Their doors are closed on one of the busiest days of the year to encourage people to think differently and spend time outdoors. Fight the commercials and ads and go outside this Black Friday. I promise, you’ll be happier with yourself at the end of the day.

Bring on fall and bring on the craziness. I’m prepped, ready and going in with a positive mindset to think about how every one of my choices and purchases affects the environment. I’m ready to counter with creative ideas that minimize environmental impacts. I hope you are too.

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Palm Oil Update Fall 2017

Whoever first put chocolate and peanut butter together was a pure genius. It’s the time of the year when candy surrounds us. It’s in huge bags at the stores, in everyone’s office bowls, at friend’s houses and, of course, on our own coffee tables. To me, when I think about candy, I think about milk chocolate and peanut butter but, when I see it, all I see is palm oil. It’s like I have X-ray vision for palm oil.

I have the same vision when I see make-up, lotion, soap, milk, cookies, crackers and anything that’s in a box and has a label. Palm oil is in nearly everything — over 50 percent of the products in the grocery store. I am a compulsive checker of labels especially of soap, always on the search for palm oil-free soap. I have found one small soap company that sets up shop at the Dallas Farmers Market that doesn’t use palm oil.

My palm oil vision glasses started years ago when I found out about the palm oil industry in Indonesia. Indonesia has done a very good job at building their palm oil business, but it’s come at the expense of millions of acres of rainforests and a sharp decline in many species including endangered orangutans and tigers. That’s the kind of stuff that trumps a piece of chocolate and peanut butter for me.

I’ve watched as the industry has risen to a worldwide infestation in our products, including baby formula. I followed the journey of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, led by large palm oil executives, who tried to shade their way into promoting sustainable palm oil with questionable ethics. Now, products proudly display “sustainable palm oil” on their labels.

But where are we? Can we trust those labels? Can we eat the candy?!

Earlier this year, the European Union (E.U.) announced plans to ban palm oil in biodiesel and other products. The E.U. is the second largest export destination of palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia. The palm oil industry has been working hard to strengthen their reputation in the E.U., but it’s not working. The palm oil companies are having trouble hiding their environmental issues. The E.U.-commissioned report on energy sources said that the production of palm oil creates more greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels. Not good.

Instead of refining their practices, the palm oil industries in Indonesia and Malaysia are searching for new markets to sell their product. Who will overlook the environmental effects and buy into the product? I have one idea.

Greed still leads the palm oil industry. “Sustainable palm oil” is still not an accurate representation of what we want it to be. Therefore, I can do without the candy that contains palm oil, without the lush soaps that boast about their use of sustainable palm oil and every other damn thing that contains it! Ok, it’s actually nearly impossible to go completely palm oil free because it’s often hidden in your products. But, you can avoid it as much as possible. Get a pair of palm oil glasses and check your labels.

What if we saw the impact of every product we bought listed on the package? What if there was a section on the nutrition facts that listed environmental damage? Would we consume as much? Would we shift our economy to more sustainable methods that factor in people, profit and planet?

Enjoy the Holidays and do me a favor, read your candy labels before you buy. Surprise, surprise! There are still issues with palm oil and sustainable palm oil.

As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly. 

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Wild Film Tour Across Texas

A rare night in Dallas is happening on October 25th. No, it’s not a crazy Halloween bash, it’s a night to view rare short films, three of which are premiering in Dallas. An intimate evening in Oak Cliff to watch short films that highlight wildlife and outdoor adventure.

The Wild Film Tour will tour thirteen Texas cities this Fall. Each stop on the tour will highlight 4-6 short films and host speakers from around the state. In Dallas we will have the opportunity to hear from Donald Beard, Superintendent of Caprock Canyons State Park, home to the Texas state bison herd. We’ll also hear from Ben Master’s the creator of the Wild Film Tour. You may have watched Ben’s popular documentary on Netflix titled, Unbranded in which four men (including Ben) take a herd of mustangs on a journey from Mexico to Canada to inspire adoptions for wild horses and burros.

One of the films premiering on October 25th is from the Texas Living Waters Project (TexasLivingWaters.org). They will be premiering their short film about the beauty and concerns around water in Texas. During droughts in Texas there is not enough water to fulfill the water rights promised to people. We’ve overpromised water that literally doesn’t exist, and as our population continues to grow this issue will be at the head of the table. How will this effect our ecosystems from fresh water rivers to the Gulf of Mexico? How can we manage our water resources to maintain human needs and ecosystem health?  These are important questions of our future.

Another film premiering in Dallas will highlight the concerns of the border wall on wildlife and biodiversity along our Texas/Mexico border. Ben spent a few months along the border filming and speaking with ranchers, biologists, Border Patrol, immigrants and more to gain perspective on what building a wall will mean for all parties involved, including the voiceless. How will genetic diversity continue if same species can not travel across political borderlines? In a dry desert environment, how will species survive without access to the Rio Grande, the only reliable source of water? These questions shape our decisions on whether to extend a border wall that in some places already exists naturally and man made.

Lions of West Texas will also be premiering in Dallas. One of the most charismatic species in Texas is the mountain lion. Part of their charisma and lure is their elusive and hard to spot behavior. Using trail cameras to capture intimate mountain lion moments, this film showcases the big cat’s lifestyle. The film follows scientists from the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI.sulross.edu) as they work to build a better understanding of mountain lion behavior, demographics and overall ecology.

Social hour at the film festival begins at 6:30pm. Come early to mingle with speakers, fellow attendees, and your chance to win prizes from sponsors Yeti, and Epic Provisions. Also on site will be representatives from sponsors Texas Parks and Wildlife, Borderlands Research Institute, Bat Conservation International, and Stewards of the Wild (TPWF.org/SOTW/). Films and official program starts at 7:30pm.

We will see you on October 25th at the historic Texas Theatre for a night of movies, conversation and my favorite… outdoor adventures!

Follow Wild Film Tour on social media for updates: Facebook.com/WildFilmsTour and Instagram.com/WildFilmTour.

2017 Tour Dates: http://www.wildfilmtour.com/dates
Amarillo – Oct 12
Midland – Oct 19
Marfa – Oct 20
Alpine – Oct 22
El Paso – Oct 23
Dallas – Oct 25
Fort Worth – Oct 26
Houston – Nov 10

wild film tour - mountain lion

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Heal Yourself To Heal The World

Every change of season is a reminder of the endless ebb and flow of our lives and to always expect the unexpected. This fall started with drastic changes around the world. Major flooding in SouthEast Asia affected over eight million people, hurricane Harvey hit south Texas destroying homes and businesses that will take years to recover, wildfires are still raging in the north west, floods in Italy, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake hit right off shore from southern Mexico while eastern Mexico was impacted by hurricane Katia, and most recently hurricane Irma devastated the Caribbean and southern Florida. Wow, that’s a lot to handle to kick off our fall season.

As we sit in our cozy offices, homes, and coffee shops reading this column people around the world and right here in our backyards are going through drastic changes. It’s harder for us to empathize with people facing tragedies when we are living in luxury. Empathy starts from within. Take care of yourself, value being a human, and empathy for all other beings stems from making sure you are whole.

Yes, I’m arguing that making sure you are healthy actually makes you empathize not only with humans around the world but the environment. Not where you thought this column was going this week right?

I’ve noticed the people who care so much for others and our environment tend to have an understanding of who they are. So, I dug into some research. It turns out that in neuroscience the part of the brain, the right supramarginal gyrus, is an area that helps us distinguish our own emotional state from that of others and is responsible for empathy and compassion. If that part of our brain is not functioning properly our ability of empathy is reduced.

Research from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences found that doing compassion training led to participants experiencing significantly more positive emotions and increased resilience in stressful situations. Basically, we can shape our emotional reactions and alter the way we feel. As humans, we tend to use our own emotions to project onto others. If we can change the way we feel, we can change the way we relate and understand to other people and situations.

I’m definitely not a neuroscientist, I’m a wildlife biologist. So why am I interested in this idea? Forcing a view onto someone has been shown not to work. But, giving people the tools to understand and figure it out themselves may be the key to changing our current political environment and climate change trajectory.

In all of our western society we value material items – huge houses, big vehicles, high fashion and more. Our political leaders, thought leaders, and people we place high value on (celebrities) emanate these same emotions. In order to shift our culture to not value narcism and material items it’s worth a look inside our own selves. In environmental ethics there are three philosophical approaches. One is anthropocentrism – a human centered philosophy where we first think, how does it benefit me. Second is biocentrism – a life centered approach where we understand all organisms have a value and last is ecocentrism – all organisms and the health of the ecosystem have a value. Most people are very anthropocentric believing humans are the masters of this world. But this view doesn’t serve the health of each other nor the health of our ecosystems.

I think healing your own self and reconnecting to what’s really important will shift more mindsets to a biocentric or ecocentric approach. But how do we take care of ourselves? That’s the gold question right?! Especially when studies have found we don’t take all of our work vacation days, our jobs are our priorities, we want to make money to send our children to college, etc. How do we change this path?

We change our priorities. We value our physical and emotional health above all else. It takes time and the influence at first is subtle, but I’m optimistic it’s one of the ways we can change our world – human and environment. Just think about it.

Let me know your thoughts on social media at @naimajeannette (Facebook.com/NaimaJeannette, Twitter.com/NaimaJeannette, or Instagram.com/NaimaJeannette) or email naimajeannette@gmail.com.

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New Bike Shares In Dallas

To be honest and frank, Dallas is not bike friendly. Our roads are designed for cars with little to no shoulder space, which is often littered with trash, dirt and sharp objects. Our bike lanes are shared spaces with much larger vehicles. Many businesses do not have bike racks for employees and visitors. The city hasn’t had much success moving forward on bike initiatives. Dallas is a culture of big trucks and SUVs, not personal bike transportation … yet. If there is one thing that is constant, it’s change. Nothing stays the same.

The City of Dallas has opened up our streets to new bike share programs. Three new bike share companies are scattered throughout the city. With their bright colors, the bikes themselves attract attention and inherently start a conversation. “What are those?” “Who’s going to use them?” “When did this happen?”

My husband and I set out on a mission to try all three current bike shares available in Dallas. All three use an app to find nearby bikes. We headed to the Katy Trail where there were a plethora of bikes available. All three new systems do not use bike racks. They all lock with a back tire lock system that can be used anywhere.

Katy Trail Dallas

David and Kemosabe trying out Lime Bike on the Katy Trail, Dallas.

I hate to even write a review comparing all three bikes because the reality is, they are all good for the city. Each one of them provides an alternative form of transportation that we are not used to seeing in Dallas. With every ride, it shifts culture, just a smidge.

The rides are all around $1 for 30 minutes. Extremely affordable for a commuter, errands or just for a little bike play time. Each bike share is easy to download the app, find a bike and unlock. Give it a try! If you have a helmet, bring your own. None of the companies offer head safety.

For those that want a bit more detail on each bike share, here’s what I thought of all three bikes:

1. Spin Bike: Bright orange colored, these bikes are easy to spot. The front basket is a nice touch to hold belongings. Spin Bike was super light and easy to lift, but I think that actually made riding it worse. It seemed flimsy. Our seat adjuster was broken and we rode around with a constantly moving seat. The brakes squeaked a high pitch, scaring the crap out of my dog every time I had to slow down. Easy to use the app and links with Apple Pay which means you don’t have to enter your credit card information — major plus for me.

2. Lime Bike: Yellow and green makes these bikes stand out. This was the best riding bike of all three. It felt sturdy, easy to steer, and I was confident in the brakes. But, because of the sturdy, smooth ride, this was the heaviest bike of all three. There’s no way I was lifting this bike much higher than a few inches off the ground. The app worked just as easy at Spin Bike and locking it was a breeze. Easy peasy. I did have to enter my credit card number, but only once and it’s stored.

3. VBikes: I honestly didn’t even know this company was on our streets, but turns out it was the first! As we were pedaling down the trail I noticed a few of the VBikes parked along the side and knew we had to try it. The app downloaded fast but I wasn’t happy with the $99 deposit it made on my account (update on Aug 18 – no more $99 deposit!). And then it works like the Starbucks app – you load your account with money and then apply that to each ride. So I loaded $5, used $1 and will probably never use VBikes again, so I wasted $4. VBikes is the simplest ride of all three, with no adjustable seat and no gears – nothing to mess with. But, way too small and awkward for this 5’8” gal.

Again, all of these are great additions to Dallas. The Spin Bike app allowed me to let the company know that my bike wasn’t working, so hopefully bikes will be in constant repair. I think that will be what gives an edge to one company — who can maintain their bikes the best.

Get out and ride!

Katy Trail Dallas

As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly. 

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