Houston Environmental News Update March 2, 2016

Ahh, March. The trees are budding, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the environmental community in Houston is in high gear (e.g., the Greater Houston Environmental Summit). Take advantage, and get out!

With apologies to our readers that live outside the City of Houston… Houston’s City Council will be considering whether to trash its recycling contract at one of the next two council meetings. While councilmembers have expressed support for recycling, they have indicated financial and contractual concerns that might lead them to discontinue the curbside recycling program. Several CEC member groups were represented at the council meeting, either observing or speaking to the Council. If you’d like to learn more, read this op-ed that was printed in today’s Houston Chronicle, written by Melanie Scruggs, the Houston Program Director for Texas Campaign for the Environment: “Our environment pays if Houston doesn’t recycle.”

On an mostly unrelated note, did anyone watch the Oscars? Normally, not a topic for an environmental newsletter, but this time climate change got prime coverage, courtesy of Leonardo DiCaprio (YouTube has many videos, including this one).

CEC NOTES

  • CEC’s Greater Houston Environmental Summit
    Our annual summit will be on Thursday, March 24, 2016, from 9:00 am to 3:15 pm. In addition to excellent networking opportunities, the event will feature a keynote address by Dr. John Crompton, a panel to discuss local impacts of the Paris climate conference, and opportunities to talk in a small group setting with experts on environmental issues and on ways to increase the capacity of our environmental community. If you haven’t seen Dr. Crompton speak, you are in for a treat–and if you have already seen him speak, you already know that! Registration is now available at https://cecsummit2016.eventbrite.com. If you are interested in sponsoring the event, please contact [email protected]
  • New Subscribers Thank you to our new subscribers: Myra, Kelly, Robbie, and Tiffany. We hope you enjoy our emails. Please consider liking us on facebook.
  • CEC is Hiring! Know a great college student looking for a meaningful summer internship? The CEC is hiring! In addition to providing an opportunity to connect our environmental community and save the world, CEC offers flexible hours, bicycle-chic dress code, and chocolate (or organic raisins). Visit the green jobs page to learn about some of the paid and unpaid summer internships being offered by the CEC and its member groups.

COALITION NOTES

  1. City Efficiency Leaders Workshop for Houston-Galveston Communities. This workshop, open to all cities and towns in the Houston-Galveston region, will present the findings from two years of research and engagement with Texas cities working to identify best practices in energy and water efficiency. This workshop will provide an opportunity to share this material with cities across the Houston-Galveston region with the intent of driving greater understanding of energy and water efficiency opportunities. Workshop participants will have the opportunity to learn from city experts and implementers that have successfully implemented projects across the state. The free workshop will be held on March 3, 2016, 10am-2pm. www.eventbrite.com
  2. Lunch Supporting The Mercer Society. Enjoy delicious food in a fun atmosphere along with your family and friends while earning funds in support of The Mercer Society on behalf of Mercer Botanic Gardens. On March 3, 2016, 11am-11pm, present the flyer at BJ’s, and the restaurant will donate 15% of food and soft beverage sales to The Mercer Society. The participating BJ’s is located at 7637 FM 1960 West. Find the flyer at http://themercersociety.org.
  3. NatureFest. Enjoy a fun, educational day as noted speakers discuss birds, native plants, nature photography, and more. Guided nature walks, pontoon boat tours, live animals, and nature-related educational booths will be available. NatureFest will be held on March 5, 2016, 9am-3:30pm at Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center.
  4. GBF Rain Barrel Workshop. It’s that time of year again– so start gearing up for Rain Barrel Workshop Season! Galveston Bay Foundation’s Rain Barrel Program works to conserve water and reduce stormwater runoff, pollution, and bacteria entering Galveston Bay. Each workshop is a unique and personal experience hosted by GBF’s Water Quality Team in partnership with local organizations and cities. Workshops consist of a presentation on the environmental benefits of collecting rainwater and proper rain barrel installation instructions and tips. Galveston Bay Foundation’s first rain barrel workshop of the year will be in Baytown, TX at the Eddie V. Gray Wetlands and Education Center on March 5, 2016. The cost is $35 which includes workshop admission, a recycled 35-gallon barrel (a $75 value), and a RainRecycle connector kit (a $25 value). Workshop registrees can purchase a maximum of 2 barrels + 2 kits. Learn more and register at http://galvbay.org.
  5. Hermann Park Dog Walk. Come out for the Hermann Park Dog Walk on Saturday, March 5, 2016, at 8am, sponsored by the Houston Rockets. The Dog Walk will feature a picturesque, one-mile walk around McGovern Lake and the Jones Reflection Pool. Participants will receive a giveaway bag, a doggie bandana, a T-shirt for the walker and one Rockets ticket. Stay for an after-the-walk party on Lake Plaza. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Hermann Park Conservancy. The cost is $35 and includes registration for one canine and one walker, a giveaway bag, a doggy bandana, a t-shirt for the walker, and 1 ticket to your choice of Rockets vs. Grizzlies on March 14th, Rockets vs. Jazz* on March 23rd, or Rockets vs. Suns on April 7th at Toyota Center (*based on availability). Register at www.nba.com.
  6. Native Plant ID Classes. Houston Arboretum & Nature Center will be hosting two Native Plant ID Classes in March. The first workshop will be held on March 5, 2016. This beginning plant course will cover some of your most pressing questions in identifying plants: What type of pubescence is on that plant? Hirsute or pilose? Which of your common backyard fruits is a hesperidium? This plant identification course will help you learn some of the basic characteristics to help you understand plants and how to identify them. We will go over leaves, stems, roots, flowers and fruits to help you recognize the common features. The second workshop will be held on March 12, 2016. Having trouble with dichotomous keys? Using the knowledge you gained in the first course (or your own plant knowledge – you do not have to take Part I to benefit from this class), participants will explore the common plant families in the Houston area and characteristics that will help you identify them. Hands on plant identification will give you confidence in keying out the plants in your neighborhood. Learn more at http://houstonarboretum.org.
  7. The Messenger: Imagine a World Without Birdsong. Su Rynard’s wide-ranging and contemplative documentary THE MESSENGER explores our deep-seated connection to birds and warns that the uncertain fate of songbirds might mirror our own. Moving from the northern reaches of the Boreal Forest to the base of Mount Ararat in Turkey to the streets of NewYork,THE MESSENGER brings us face-to-face with a remarkable variety of human made perils that have devastated thrushes, warblers, orioles, tanagers, grosbeaks and many other airborne music-makers. This film is being shown as part of the University of Houston Clear Lake on March 5, 2016, at 7:00 pm, with support from the Environmental Institute of Houston and Armand Bayou Nature Center. Mark Kramer will be speaking in conjunction with the event.
  8. Down Under, Out Yonder. What are corals?  How do they build reefs?  Why are the coral reefs of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico so special and unique?  What does all this have to do with the National Marine Sanctuary System? These are just a few of the questions that will be answered through this interactive, resource-rich 5-day workshop.  Educators of all levels will walk away from the experience with the means to actively involve their students in the learning process, expose them to scientific research, and share personal experiences about the challenges of field work. Participants will receive a multitude of resources, activities, materials, and ideas for implementation of topics in biology, oceanography, geology, physical science, American government and environmental science. The workshop will be held July 9-13, 2016, at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. However, applications are due by March 5, 2016. Learn more an download the application at http://flowergarden.noaa.gov.
  9. Hats in the Park Luncheon. Come out for Hats in the Park on March 8, 2016, at 11:30am at the McGovern Centennial Gardens. One of Houston’s most colorful springtime events, Hats in the Park is an annual fundraiser benefiting Hermann Park Conservancy. Chairs Joella Mach, Blakely Griggs, and Michelle Foutch are planning a fantastic luncheon in the McGovern Centennial Gardens to honor dedicated Park advocate Linda Hunsaker. Support Hats in the Park buy purchasing a table or tickets, or by making a donation. The event raises funds that help the Conservancy continue to improve and maintain Hermann Park and supports daily volunteer and stewardship programs. Learn more and purchase tickets: www.hermannpark.org.
  10. March Sustainability Meetup. Interested in sustainability issues and want to connect with others who share the same curiosity? Come out for the Sustainability Meetup at 6pm on March 8, 2016, at the University of Houston’s Health & Biomedical Sciences Building, room 186. Featuring a panel of local experts from the City of Houston, Waste Management and more, the meetup will discuss the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in Houston’s waste programs. Vegan and gluten-free food will be served, and the meetup is open to the general public. Attendees are encouraged to take the Metrorail purple line, a bus (25, 80, 29, 4, 9, 54), bike or carpool. If you’re driving to campus, visitor parking is available in the Welcome Center Garage. Learn more at www.uh.edu. RSVP at www.facebook.com.
  11. 350.org Houston Meeting. The next 350.org Houston Meeting will be held on March 8, 2016, at 7pm. Melanie Scruggs from Texas Campaign for the Environment will speak on waste, production consumption cycles and climate change. Steve Krebs from Solarize Houston will speak about his plans to promote cheaper roof top solar here in Houston. For location, email [email protected] http://world.350.org
  12. ABNC Gator Basking Day. Armand Bayou Nature Center will be hosting a Gator Basking Day on March 12, 2016, 2:30-5pm. The American alligator is the largest reptile in North America and occupies much of the southern United States. These animals have made a slow recovery after being listed on the endangered species list for twenty years. As apex predators they play an important role in Armand Bayou and their return has produced a number of unexpected ecological benefits. The afternoon will begin in the nature center auditorium where participants will learn about the biology of these fascinating relics from another era. Participants will also discuss how the return of the alligator has produced interesting predator-prey relationships, initiated the formation of nesting colonies of birds and offers unique wildlife watching opportunities for paddlers in the Armand Bayou Coastal Preserve. Everyone will get a hands on look at some of last year’s hatchling gators and discuss the unique reptilian relationship between hatchling and mother alligators. The day will end with a ride on-board the Bayou Ranger to see the animals in their natural habitat. The cost is $40 per person. www.abnc.org.
  13. Volunteer Stewardship Workdays at the Coastal Heritage Preserve. Artist Boat has many volunteer opportunities in the upcoming months. In each volunteer workday, Artist Boat staff train volunteers in a specific land management task, like identifying and removing invasive fire ants from the Preserve, cutting and spraying invasive McCartney rose bushes, growing native prairie grasses in our outdoor nursery, or just how to identify native plants and animals at the Preserve. Each day is about four hours long, which includes a private, hour-long guided tour of the Preserve and free breakfast or lunch. Also, the first 50 volunteers who attend these workdays will receive a free four hour guided kayak adventure at the Preserve in April! Learn more and sign up at www.artistboat.org.
  14. 2016 LWV-TX Convention. The LWV-Texas convention comes to Houston for the first time since 1999! The 2016 Convention will be held March 11-13, 2016, in Houston at the Westin Houston, Memorial City. Come out in force to welcome fellow LWV members from 25 leagues across Texas as well as the LWVUS president Elisabeth Mac Namara. You can participate by being a delegate (limited to 20 LWV-HA members), an attendee, or a volunteer (work a 3-4 hour shift, no convention registration fee required). If you can’t attend the convention meetings, consider coming to the social and educational events- Friday workshops, Friday night Port of Houston cruise, Saturday lunch and dinner with special guest speakers. The cost is $140 until March 8th, and $150 until the event. Learn more at http://lwvhouston.org.
  15. 44th Annual Buffalo Bayou Partnership Regatta. The BBP Regatta presented by Gillman Subaru is Texas’ largest canoe and kayak race and one of the top five largest races in the nation! Whether you are entering competitively or paddling for pleasure, join over 500 participants (ages 12 and up) in the 15-mile American Canoe Association-sanctioned race along scenic Buffalo Bayou. The race will be held on March 12, 2016, at 8am. The price is $55 until February 22nd when it increases to $60 ($25 student or military ID). Learn more at http://buffalobayou.org.
  16. HANC Spring Break Camp. Registration is now open for HANC’s Spring Break Camp, March 14-18, 2016, for children ages 5-12. The theme this year is “MicroWorld.” There are more microscopic organisms than all other living things combined. With “MicroWorld,” participants can tunnel down into the forest floor and take a look at the tiny creatures that live in the soil. Dive into a drop of water and find out what swims unseen. Students will learn about the world around us starting with the smallest of the small. Fees for Houston Arboretum members for the week are $145 for a half day (9am-noon) and $275 for a full day (9am-3pm). Non-members will pay $190 for a half day and $340 for a full day. http://houstonarboretum.org.
  17. Kayak Training. Artist Boat is hosting American Canoe Association approved Kayak Instructor Certification Workshops. These courses are designed to teach participants how to instruct others to paddle correctly, perform rescues, maneuver kayaks and practice essential kayaking techniques. Upon successful completion, participants will receive an ACA Instructor Certification.  We also have Instructor Update Workshops available for kayak instructors who would like to update their paddling skills and certification. All workshops are held in Galveston, Texas. The workshops will be held March 12-14, 2016. Learn more at www.artistboat.org.
  18. Earth Hour & Lights Out Houston 2016. This year, Lights Out Houston, a voluntary, Houston-wide commitment to energy efficiency by commercial building owners and their tenants since 2008 is joining Earth Hour, a world-wide movement that started as a lights-off event in 2007. Make flipping the switch your first step in your journey towards energy efficiency. The goal is to establish a sustained reduction in the use of non-essential electricity in buildings by encouraging individuals, households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights and commit to reducing energy consumption. Lights Out Houston will run from March 17-20, 2016, with an Earth Hour spotlight on March 19th from 8:30-9:30pm. Learn more at www.greenhoustontx.gov.
  19. 2nd Annual Bayou Greenway Day. Houston Parks Board is pleased to announce the second annual Bayou Greenway Day, an outdoor festival and celebration of the Bayou Greenways, which connect Houstonians to parks and greenspaces – and each other. All are invited to participate in this free, day-long community event presented by Noble Energy on March 26, 2016, 11am-4pm, along White Oak Bayou Greenway at T.C. Jester Park (4201 TC Jester Blvd). Families will be able to walk, bike, run, stroll, play and paddle along White Oak Bayou Greenway – the star of this year’s event – during the Bayou Greenway Day celebration. Attendees will enjoy free family activities while exploring the hike and bike trails along the bayou. Event programming, provided by a number of nonprofits and neighborhood organizations, will include bike rides; a marching band; coloring stations; interactive children’s activities; kayaking demonstrations and much more. http://houstonparksboard.org
  20. Beyond the Bayou: Connecting Companies + Connecting Communities. Join the Greens Bayou Coalition on March 31, 2016, as they honor volunteers, report achievements and announce future events in the watershed with their seventh annual fundraiser and networking event. There will be a plated lunch, a silent auction and a keynote address. This year the silent auction has been expanded! Sponsorship opportunities and individual tickets are available at GreensBayou.org. The Greens Bayou Coalition is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preservation, stewardship, and quality of life improvements in the Greens Bayou watershed, in Houston, TX. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram @GreensBayou.

COMMUNITY NOTES

  1. 2016 TWCA Annual Convention. The annual TWCA Convention will be held March 2-4, 2016, at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel. As in previous years, there will be speaker sessions on Wednesday afternoon, Thursday afternoon, and Friday morning. The Wednesday afternoon sessions will be presented by TWCA’s Water Quality Committee and Water Laws Committee. There will also be panel and committee meetings, as well as the Board meeting, on Thursday morning. As usual, multiple networking opportunities will be included throughout the program, including a luncheon on Thursday, a reception and dinner on Thursday evening, and numerous coffee breaks throughout the conference. More at https://twca.formstack.com.
  2. Application Workshops for RESTORE Funds. Workshops to assist in completing the required application to apply for RESTORE Direct Component (Bucket 1) funds through the Request for Grant Applications (RFGA) will be held on March 3, 2016, from 2:30-4pm and 6:30-8pm at the H-GAC offices. Applications for RESTORE Direct Component (Bucket 1) grants must be submitted at www.restorethetexascoast.org no later than 5:00 pm on Friday, April 15, 2016.
  3. Native Prairie Plant Milkweed Propagation Workshop. Join Mark Morgenstern, of Morningstar Prairie Plants, and Barbara Wily, of Monarch Gateway, as they share their secrets for growing healthy and beautiful native prairie plants including native milkweeds. This class includes both indoor and outdoor sessions and a trip to both Morningstar Prairie Plants nursery and the famous Nash Prairie. The workshop will be held on March 5, 2016, 10am-3pm at Brazos Bend State Park. All participants should wear comfortable clothing suitable for hiking and the outdoors. A hat and long pants are highly recommended. Bring a sack lunch. This event is free. Register at https://events.r20.constantcontact.com.
  4. Texas Trails & Active Transportation Conference. Houston is one of the fastest-improving cities in the United States for trails and active transportation. The TTAT Conference will bring together those involved with bicycle, pedestrian, and other active transportation and recreation modes from around Texas and the world with the goals of sharing current information and examples, and sparking inspiration to continue striving to make things better in each of our communities. The conference will focus on issues of economic development, health, safety, and many other topics relevant to advancing active transportation and trails. This conference will be held March 9-11, 2016 at the Houston Marriott Medical Center. Learn more at http://texastrails.biketexas.org.
  5. FotoFest: An Evening with National Geographic Artists

    As part of its 2016 Biennial, “Changing Circumstances: Looking at the Future of the Planet,” FotoFest Inernational, Inc. presents three renowned photographers who have worked with National Geographic magazine — David Doubilet, David Littschwager and Joel Sartore. They will discuss their combined decades of work to foster public awareness of the dangers facing biodiversity around the globe. The discussion will include images taken by the artists, who are all featured in the Biennial. Audience members will be invited to ask questions after the artists’ presentations. The event, which is free and open to the public, is being presented in collaboration with National Geographic and the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston. Learn more on Facebook.

  6. Houston Bike Plan.The Houston Bike Plan team has released the Draft Houston Bike Plan to receive community feedback. The Plan is a big part of the City’s efforts to help make Houston a safer, healthier, and more accessible bicycle-friendly city. The Plan sets out a Vision that by 2026, Houston will be a safer, more accessible, Gold-Level Bicycle Friendly Community. To help accomplish this vision, the Plan recommends short-term opportunities to double City’s safe, comfortable bikeway network. The Bike Plan integrates with the ongoing Bayou Greenways project and identifies additional bike facilities to safely access these attractive bikeway corridors from more neighborhoods. With the Draft Houston Bike Plan complete, the City is seeking your feedback. Visit the website at HoustonBikePlan.org for more information about the draft Plan and to let the City know what you think. The public comment period closes April 11, 2016. The City will then modify the draft Plan based on the feedback received from the community.
  7. Leading with Landscape II: The Houston Transformation Conference. How is the nation’s 4th largest city reshaping its identity through landscape architecture? What are the international implications of Houston’s bold planning and development strategy? What role can public-private partnerships play in urban park stewardship in the 21st-century? Houston—the country’s fourth largest city—is known for being car-centric and zoning-averse. Now, however, it is undergoing a monumental landscape architecture-led transformation whose scale and impact could fundamentally change the city and influence city-shaping around the globe. World-class projects by leading practitioners will be the focus of a daylong conference, accompanied by What’s Out There Weekend Houston, featuring two days of free, expert-led tours. Leading with Landscape II: The Houston Transformation, which features three consecutive moderated panel discussions, will tackle numerous issues, including those that deal with the city’s identity. The roster of speakers includes internationally significant private-sector practitioners working on current and proposed projects in Houston, as well as municipal leaders, academics, and leading critics and thinkers. The first two panels will examine completed projects and ongoing projects, respectively, and will assess the influences of culture, history, and ecology in the evolving Houston cityscape. The final panel will provide a comprehensive appraisal of the projects and issues presented and will consider their implications for city-shaping. This conference will be held March 11-13, 2016. Learn more at http://tclf.org.
  8. Virtual Conference: Climate Science in the Classroom. NSTA, in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), would like to invite you to attend the virtual conference titled: Climate Science in the Classroom. This half-day virtual conference will feature climate scientists and education specialists who will share both their knowledge about climate science as well as classroom-ready resources that educators can use with their students. Explore the evidences for climate change and its impacts. Learn about specific education tools and strategies that educators can use to bring climate science in the classroom​. Ask questions of climate​ experts. Engage in dialogue with science educators from across the country and the world The online conference will be held March 12, 2016, 9am-2pm. The cost is $63 for members and $79 for nonmembers. For more information contact [email protected] http://learningcenter.nsta.org
  9. Spring 2016 Interfaith Environmental Stewardship Event. Calling people of all faiths, or no faith at all, to care for our shared environment on April 3, 2016, from 1:30-4:30pm. Participants will engage in hands-on environmental stewardship by mulching, performing trail maintenance, and conducting a trash bash on the waterways at the Willow Waterhole Conservation Reserve. This event will offer activities for all ages and skill levels, so bring the whole family, your neighbors and your friends. Meet at the park’s main gazebo at 5300 Dryad, Houston 77035 to sign in. Metro bus line 7 stops nearby. Tools/supplies will be provided (including two canoes!). This event is organized by Christ the King Evangelical Lutheran Church, Congregation Brith Shalom, and the Dialogue Institute of the Southwest, in partnership with the Willow Waterhole Greenspace Conservancy. The conservancy requires signing of a waiver to participate. Contact Lisa Brenskelle at [email protected] for more information or to sign up to help (and receive a copy of the waiver form).
  10. Environmental Education Local Grants. The purpose of the
    Environmental Education Local Grants Program is to support locally-focused environmental education projects that increase public awareness and knowledge about environmental issues and provide the skills that participants in its funded projects need to make informed environmental decisions and take responsible actions toward the environment. Proposals are due by April 8, 2016. More at www.epa.gov.
  11. Save the Date! SSPEED Center Conference. Save the date for the upcoming SSPEED Center Conference which will be held April 26-27, 2016, at Rice University. The topic is Avoiding Disaster Conference: How to Reduce Impacts from the Next Big Storm. The first day will be devoted to hurricane modeling, damage assessment and various proposed protection structures, and the second day will be about buying and selling ecological services and primarily about carbon transactions, something we have not talked about very much here in Houston. Registration for both days is $125, whereas registration for a single day is $75. Find out more at http://sspeed.rice.edu.
  12. Additional Dates of Note.
  13. TV: Texas Parks & Wildlife. Broadcast on KUHT Channel 8 at 3:00 PM each Saturday and on municipal access cable channels in Baytown, Deer Park, Houston, Texas City, Galveston, Nassau Bay, Pasadena, Seabrook, Sugar Land, and on HCC TV. More info on the TPWD website (* indicates a segment about the Houston area). For a preview, visit TPWD’s YouTube Page.
    • Parks & Wildlife People: Timothy Birdsong
    • Producer’s Favorites: Epitaph