What Hits You At The Core?

As we walked the edge of the levee overlooking the Dallas skyline, I looked out at the Trinity River and thought, oh, are those ducks? Quickly, I realized the objects floating by on the river was consistent and crowding every inch of the water, impossible to be any life form. It was trash.

I called my dog closer to make sure he didn’t make any crazy moves to get in the water, knowing it contained high levels of bacteria.

After the rains hit Dallas, pollutants from across our landscape are picked up and emptied into the Trinity. The river becomes contaminated and the only cure is time … or is it?

The Florida Governor declared a state of emergency for seven counties this week due to red tide. Red tide is caused by our overuse of pesticides and fertilizers, which wash into our watersheds leading to our oceans. The algae use these nutrients to overproduce and the water looks red in color.

The algae produce toxins harmful to sea life and to us. Red tide has killed thousands of fish, sea turtles, sea birds, sharks and manatees! People in Florida this week are warned to not swim in the water and not breathe the air nearby as it can cause respiratory issues, producing a tourism nightmare.

Are we living in denial? I think so. These situations consistently happen around us. We live in a city, built here because of its close proximity to the Trinity River, yet, we do not take pride in keeping its water quality pristine. Far from it — in fact, we let the trash roll by without a second glance. We buy food and products that were grown or made with heavy use of fertilizers or pesticides, leading to this environmental degradation. We don’t connect our actions to what we see. The big companies gain more money, and we’re none the wiser.

Monsanto (now owned by Bayer), the huge agrichemical company, was recently found liable in a lawsuit filed by a groundskeeper who alleged the glyphosate-based weed killers (Roundup) caused his cancer. Monsanto was ordered to pay $289 million in damages and now moves on to more than 5,000 more similar cases.

We don’t do enough to make sure what goes on our land is safe for us, safe for the land, and safe for the water ecosystems it ends up in. This may help the tide turn, pun intended.

In 2017, the concentration of CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere reached 405 parts per million, a level not seen in 800,000 years. Last year was also the hottest year on record without the effects of El Nino. The year 2016 did have El Nino affecting the climate, and is the hottest year on record. The atmosphere is heating up due to our CO2 production, and no major changes have been made. What will it take to make people more aware of how their everyday actions are impacting their lives?

Seeing all this occur in real time and watching the slough of trash clog up the Trinity hits me to the core. I double down on my own efforts to be more sustainable and search for solutions to do more. We have no excuse; we have reminders around us every day. I still have hope that, in the future, I’ll be looking at a row of cute baby ducklings floating down the Trinity overlooking Reunion Tower, not trash.

 Video of trash in the Trinity River from August 2018:

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Garden To Table To Garden With Turn Compost

The must have home service is finally in Dallas, and here to stay! 

It’s time to take over 30 percent of your trash and turn it back into a usable product. Organic waste such as vegetable scraps, egg shells, bread and more release methane when thrown in our unproductive landfills. Methane is a 20-25 times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Instead of “wasting this waste,” we can easily turn that waste into compost! 

Turn Compost launched a few weeks ago and has already expanded to seven zip codes. With their weekly or biweekly subscription your organic waste gets picked up at your doorstep and brought to local farms for animal feed and composting. In return for your waste you receive mulch two times a year and a monthly surprise goody! Next month, is a bottle of liquid gold, aka honey from Bonton Farms. The best part of their service might be that they take the bucket and replace it with a clean and sanitized one! To me, that’s the real gold. You should see my kitchen compost bowl… vomit. 

I currently use a tumbler compost bin in my backyard but, once Turn Compost comes to my neighborhood, I’m in. Composting is a simple process but it’s still a bit of a hassle to turn my tumbler every few days. To properly compost you really need two bins – one that you’re currently filling with organic material and the other that you let sit and work through into compost. For five years, I have not done things this way. I’m a lazy yet still successful composter. Turn Compost will make this process even easier for me… and did I mention the clean bucket!? 

Turn Compost is owned by two local ladies looking to make a difference in the food industry. As graduates of the El Centro Culinary Arts program, Lauren Clarke and Agueda Jacobo are empowered to build a company that focuses on fixing our food waste problem, treating customers how they would want to be treated, and becomes a gardening and cooking resource in our community. 

“We are really passionate about educating people. We are not just a service, it (Turn Compost) is a social advocacy tool promoting garden to table to garden so people understand the whole cycle” said Clarke. 

You may have already seen these ladies around town spreading their work. They’ll be back at White Rock Lake Farmer’s market throughout the summer. You can pick up your compost bucket kit there or order online and they’ll drop it off at your door! If you’re like me these days, if it can be ordered online, I’m all over it. 

If you’re not interested in a weekly or biweekly service they also offer a one time pick up service or you can drop off your own compost at their farmer’s market booth for a smaller fee. Your reasons for not composting are becoming fewer and fewer with this new local service. 

Turn Compost is not just for residential use, they are also partnering with local restaurants and businesses. Wouldn’t it be great to walk into a restaurant and see a sign on their window that boasts all of their organic waste doesn’t go into the landfill, it gets upcycled!? You can count on me to eat there often. If you’re a business interested in making this happen and helping Dallas move forward into a brighter more sustainable future, let me know so I can feature you right here in this column! 

If you’re not in one of these zip codes: 75204, 75206, 75214, 75218, 75223, 75228, 75238, go online to TurnCompost.com and let them know you need them in your zip code soon. I’ll be waiting, but not on the sidelines because this local women owned environmental business needs our community support! 

Photo Credit: Turn Compost

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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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