Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Renewable Energy

Interested in learning about, using, and promoting renewable energy?

Interested in learning about solar energy?

Interested in learning about the vast wind energy in Texas that is already being utilized?

A really good way is to get involved locally.

A really good way to get involved locally is to attend a NTREG meeting?

Which leads to the question --- What is NTREG?

NTREG is the North Texas Renewable Energy Group. It was established in 2001 with the primary goal of educating North Texans about the power of renewable energy ("RE"). As the NTREG webpage states - "NTREG members come quite literally from all walks of life. You need not be an engineer or the proverbial rocket scientist to be an active and productive participant with us." NTREG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit volunteer organization, and is the local chapter of the Texas Solar Energy Society (TXSES), which is the state chapter of the American Solar Energy Society (ASES). NTREG monthly meetings are currently being held at the REI store in Dallas on LBJ Freeway. Information about upcoming meetings is available at their website - http://www.txses.org/NTREG/events.htm

At the most recent meeting on Saturday, February 11, the presentation "Denton Municipal Electric's Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Initiatives" was lead by Lisa A. Lemons. Lisa is the Energy Efficiency & Sustainability Manager for Denton Municipal Electric. This was a very informative presentation and interactive discussion about Denton's initiative to become the "Greenest City in Texas" which began in earnest in 2007. Denton's municipal electric utility now obtains 40% of its electricity from renewable sources, which is one of the highest, if not the highest percentage in Texas. Most of this renewable energy in Denton is coming from the Wolf Ridge Wind Farm, which sits in rural Cooke County, north of Muenster, Texas, only about 30 miles from Denton.

Denton has also recently issued a request for proposal (RFP) for a purchase power agreement for 10-20MW of solar generation. The responses for the RFP are due February 21, 2012 (VERY SOON). If the responses are within the financial objectives of the project, the objective is to have the system online by June 2013. Denton's RFP was modeled after the recent RFPs that San Antonio, Texas has issued for larger solar generation systems (up to 400MW).

As we know, the sun shines a lot in Texas! And, we also know that we generally have the biggest demand for electricity when the sun shines a lot in the summer. So spend some time to learn about solar energy and other renewable energy - come to the next NTREG meeting!

Larry Howe
Plano Solar Energy Advocate

Monday, February 27, 2012

Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair

This past weekend, I had the honor of being a judge at the annual Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair held at Fair Park. There, over 1000 middle and high school students from across the metropliex congregated to show their projects, with the winners in the competition advancing to the state competition that will be held in San Antonio, with the top seniors advancing to the international science fair.

I asked to be a judge in the environmental management division among the middle school students, and was extremely impressed with all of the submissions I judged.

The first place went to Katrina Druffner at All Saints Catholic School, who demonstrated a filtration method for removing copper and other heavy metals out of water using banana peels and lemon rinds. In many developing countries, particularly around areas with metal mines, potable water is difficult to find that isn't contaminated with heavy metal content. Her project demonstrated the effect of the negative ion charges from fruit that could be found in those regions as a way to help filter out those contaminants. In addition, Katrina won the junior division in the United States Naval Science Award.

Among the other projects that I assessed that would be of interest to those who follow Live 2 Live Green here in Plano:

- What type of human hair is most efficient in cleaning up automobile oil spills? (Wavy brunette hair is three times as effective as straight black hair and superior to blond hair). This project garnered an honorable mention and was won by Yingyan Ho and Jerry Liu, two students from Rice Middle School here in our own Plano, Texas.

- Are water turbine blades that are straight generate more power than turbine blades with individual cups? (Blades with cups generate twice the power than straight turbine blades). This project was also an honorable mention awardee from Reagan Cantrell at Schimelpfenning Middle School.

- Which types of worms were more efficient in creating the most compost? (It turns out that red worms were superior to earthworms, creating twice as much compost per weight).

- Which types of commercial mulch retained the most water among 30 different brands (Scott'sbrand Deep Forest Brown), although Texas Pure was also ranked high for it's water retention properties as well!

In all, I was very impressed to see the ingenuity among the student submissions I judged and was glad to see the interest among our youth in trying to find ways to help protect our environment.

Good luck to those who advance to the state competition, and for those who want to see more details on the science fair, please go to the following link:


The Sustainability Steward

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Monthly Goals

Hi everyone, it's me again and I hope you all had an amazing Valentine's Day! First off, I'd like to thank Deb Bliss for taking the time to come to the Environmental Club meeting at my school yesterday. We all loved having you there, and all the tips have given us a lot to think about, so thank you very much! Now moving on to this week's topic, we're going to be talking about being green generally around the house. There is one for each month, so hopefully, you can try to keep a goal set for each one.

Laundry tips: In homes, washing machines are the second largest consumer of water- toilets are first. So run full loads as often as possible you do fewer loads. For electricity, 90% of a washer's use can be to heat the water, so use cold water for a majority of your laundry. Thinking of upgrading? High efficiency models can use 40-50% less water and 50-65% less electricity.

Protect the water supply: Clean water is often taken for granted-just turn on the faucet and out comes drinkable water. However, water supplies can easily become contaminated from air and ground pollutants. One gallon of motor oil can potentially contaminate 1 million gallons of drinking water, according to the EPA. Take motor oil to a recycling center. Reduce the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and household chemicals that can end up in the water supply through runoff.

A greener clean: Many household chemicals contain harmful chemicals. Look for products that have no ammonia, chlorine, petrochemicals, sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate, and that are dye and fragrance free.Never mix products or reuse bottles, as many chemicals can react with each other. Buy products in bulk packaging and in packages made of post-consumer recycled plastic.

Sustainable wood: Sustainability refers to the balance between resource consumption and replenishment time. Because of fast growth rates, some trees and grasses, such as bamboo, can and maples, are more sustainable than other slower growing trees, such as oaks and redwoods. Look for products that are responsibly harvested.

Mosquito control: From irritating bites to disease, mosquito can make a day outside miserable. Help control them around your house by removing areas where standing water can accumulate. Buckets, tires, rain gutters, planters, and toys are common breeding grounds. Change the water in birdbaths and fountains and empty rain barrels at least once a week. Use insect repellent when outside and make sure windows and doors are tightly closed.

Maintain yard equipment: Lawn mowers, blowers, grass trimmers and chain saws are large sources of pollution. Avoid spilling gas or allowing oil to leak onto the ground. Keep equipment maintained by changing the oil and air filters on a regular basis. Use manual tools where possible , such as manual hedge clippers and rakes instead if gas powered trimmers and blowers.

A Green picnic: When throwing your summer picnic, think green. Send invitations by email or call your guests personally. Have everyone bring something they grew or bought from a local source. Decorate with items from your yard, such as summer flowers in a pretty glass. And, don't forget to have everyone bring their own container for leftovers.

Backyard burning: Backyard burning is common, however it can be dangerous to your health and bad for the environment. Emissions from burning are not filtered so ash and gases are released directly into the atmosphere. Toxic chemicals can be released and can settle on crops and water sources. When considering burning, determine if it can be disposed of in a better manner and contact your local government about burn times and restrictions in your area.

Prescriptions medications: Most medicines should not be flushed down the toilet since they can contaminate the water system. Dispose of unused medications properly. First, take the medicine out of its packaging and mix with something unpleasant, such as used kitty litter. Then place in a sealable container and put it in with your regular garbage. A growing number of areas now have take-back programs. If you are unsure of how to dispose of an medication, contact your pharmacist.

Fall leaves: Collecting fall leaves has become a burden to many local landfills. Mulching the leaves in your yard may be a good option instead of raking and bagging. Mowing over the leaves breaks them down so they can be reclaimed by the ground. Large piles can be mulched up and used in glower beds. Dry leaves are a good 'brown' source for your compost pile. Be careful and do not mow over a pile higher than the mower as this can start a fire.

Driving tips for better gas mileage: You cannot control rising gas prices, but you can decrease your fuel consumption by driving smart. The Department of Energy states that aggressive driving can decrease your gas mileage by up to 33% on the highway and 5% around town. Accelerating steadily and observing the speed limit are two of the best ways to maximize fuel efficiency. Removing excess weight, reducing idling times, and using cruise control and overdrive gears are other good ways to increase fuel economy.

Update your home: Updating your house now will save you money in the long run while helping the environment. Begin with smaller projects, such as adding weather stripping to doors and windows, changing to water-saving shower heads and adding extra insulation. Adding new windows and updating heating systems are larger projects but can make a huge difference. Check with your leader and tax preparer as there are many home improvement loans and rebates now available for 'green' upgrade.

Information from: Better Homes and Gardens Calendar-Greengirl (:

Mass Transit

In yesterday's Dallas Business Journal, a report was release that the metroplex is ranked 148th among US metropolitan areas in usage of mass transit. With 2.9 million workers in the area, just over 1.5% actually commute using public transportation, whether it by through DART or the Ft. Worth Transportation Authority. The city of Arlington, with a population of 380,000, has the distinction of being the largest city in the nation without any public transportation system within it's boundaries. Details of the article can be found below:


As we continue to grow as a region, we need to take steps now to correct this. Try carpooling if mass transportation isn't feasible. But, more importantly, consider taking a bus. If, you're like me, and have never used a DART bus within the city of Plano, try it out and see how it works for you. You may be pleasantly surprised!

The Sustainability Steward

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

When I Get That Feelin, I want NATURAL Healin:

You know the feeling. Pain and pressure right below your eyes, the inability to breathe the slightest bit of air through your nose, and of course the resulting chapped lips from days of “mouth breathing”. Yes, possibly the worst symptom of those pesky pesky viruses. Congestion. Yuck! When you are unable to clear those blocked passages, you will have to inevitably endure another infection. The sinus infection. For years now, I have dealt with sinusitis about 2-6 times per year.

Every time I got a cold, it would turn into a sinus infection. Apparently, my sinuses don’t drain very well. I am happy to say that this year is the first year I have managed to stay free from that obnoxious infection. Even though cold and flu-like viruses swept through my house several times since September, I have managed to avoid getting a sinus infection. How?? I discovered Xylitol.

Some of you may already be using xylitol as an all natural sugar substitute. Xylitol can do more than just sweeten your tea. Many dentists agree that xylitol can help in cavity prevention. According to the California Dental Association, xylitol inhibits the growth of the bacteria that cause tooth decay and over time will decrease the acids that attack the surface of the tooth. In the same way, xylitol helps prevent sinusitis by preventing the bacteria in your nasal passages from growing and making a home in your sinuses. Recent studies have shown that kids chewing xylitol flavored gum had a 40% reduction in middle ear infections. Using a xylitol based nasal spray regularly can decrease the amount of bad bacteria and can stimulate your bodies natural defenses. Sugar alcohols, like xylitol, have demonstrated the ability to prevent bacteria from attaching to your cells decreasing your chances of infection. Unlike sorbitol and other sugar alcohols that feed bacteria and fungi, xylitol prevents the growth of bacteria and can slow the growth of candida albicans.(yeast)

New studies are revealing all sorts of possible benefits of Xylitol. Improving bone density, increasing white blood cell activity, and hormone imbalances are potential benefits of xylitol being discovered. Xylitol is available in many different forms at health and grocery stores. You can find tooth paste, mouth wash, nasal sprays, supplements, chewing gum, breath mints, sodas, and even baked goods. All sweetened with xylitol.

So, go ahead, grab that brownie and enjoy it, guilt free.