Friday, March 30, 2012

Let's Not Waste Our Water!

We have been very fortunate to have had the rainfall that we did over the last few weeks, resulting in Lake Lavon rising an astonishing 5 feet in one week. We have also done a terrific job as a community in conserving our resources during the period that water restrictions have gone into effect, resulting in a decrease from 107 million gallons per day of usage in the city down to just over 46 million gallons per day since the middle of August, 2011. As a result of the recent rainfall and our conservation efforts, the City of Plano changed the Stage 3 Watering Restrictions.

Effective April 1, Plano residents are allowed to water landscapes once a week. The watering schedule is an even/odd system based upon the last digit of the service address. Under the new watering schedule, odd addresses can operate irrigation watering (such as sprinklers) on Tuesdays and even addresses can do so on Thursdays. No watering with sprinklers is allowed between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Foundations, new landscaping, first year plantings of shrubs and trees may be watered within a 10-feet radius of their trunk for up to two hours any day by a hand-held hose, a soaker hose or a dedicated zone using a low-flow irrigation system.

However, let's not lose sight of the fact that we must still do all we can to protect one of our most precious resources in North Texas. Inspect your sprinkler system to ensure that the sprinkler heads are functioning properly and are aligned where they should be. During the weeks we have rain, please turn off sprinkler systems. Repair any leaking faucets and any other signs of water leaks around the home. Reduce the amount of water consumed by using more efficient flow control methods in shower stalls and toilets. Maximize the loads of dishware and laundry in your dishwashers and washing machines, respectively.

Let's learn from the experiences over the last several months and continue to treat water as the priceless substance it truly is.


The Sustainability Steward

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spread the Word

This past week, I was off from school on our spring break and I got to spend it in Hawaii. Now obviously, going to Hawaii was an amazing experience by itself, but I also learned a lot from the people of the island. My family and I went to the island of Maui, which is a windy place year round. I know of many places that are windy because of their proximity to the ocean, but never have I seen so many wind turbines placed on every area that had a high elevation. Not only that, but because of the high amount of sun that Maui receives, they have solar energy panels everywhere. I saw them on the streetlights, the houses, the stores - almost every time I turned my head, my eyes would be greeted by yet another solar panel (well I may be exaggerating just a little bit).

Upon arriving at the island, my sister and I cruised through the radio stations. Instead of hearing the normal pop music with the occasional commercial mixed in, we heard older songs and different commercials. This fact in itself may not be astounding, but what really struck me was that during every commercial break, the radio show hosts mentioned an eco-friendly tip that they encouraged their listeners to follow as well. When I heard this, I really got thinking: If the people in Hawaii can do it, then so can we!

So my challenge for all of you this week is this - share two tips with friends and family this week, and see if you can get them to follow it too! We may not be able to get our radio show hosts to do this yet, but we can share tips with the people we know and keep the challenge going! Your challenge can be face-to-face or even on social networking sites. What better way to go green than with a “green grass” roots campaign?

Until next time,
greengirl (:

Solar Energy in Texas

Did you know the amount of solar energy reaching the Earth in one hour is approximately the same as the total energy used by everyone on the planet for an entire year? Imagine the abundant amount of sunshine in Texas alone!

Texas continues to grow, and so is the demand for energy. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) recently released (Dec. 2011) their 10-year energy outlook which indicated the need for additional energy generation - in particular, the need for additional energy to handle peak demands in the summer.


Wouldn't it be great to meet some of our growing energy needs by tapping the HUGE potential of energy from the sun? Generating electricity from solar panels (photovoltaic or PV panels) installed on homes and businesses have the following key benefits:

1. Electricity generation is generally aligned with the time of day demand. So, while our air conditioners are in heavy, almost continuous use during Texas summers, this is also when the sun shines brightest and solar panels generate the most electricity!

2. Solar energy installed costs are already lower than other existing peak demand generation sources.

3. Electricity generated by distributed solar panels on homes and businesses is located where the demand is consumed (our house/business), thus eliminating electricity transmission losses.

4. Electricity generated from solar panels does not require our scarce Texas water resources for electricity generation like other conventional electricity generation sources.

5. Distributed electricity generation from solar panels is generally a quick deployment - six months versus up to three years for conventional power plants.

For overview information about solar energy, please watch these short introductory videos (about 4 minutes each) at these URLs:

If you would like further information about what you could do to help promote the use of distributed solar power generation in Texas, please send your request to the email address given below:

Plano Solar Energy Advocate

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Natural Beauty

Hello fellow EcoNinjas!

I think that every teenage girl wants to experiment with new trends in makeup, but what they don't realize is that many cosmetics contain ingredients that are harmful to their skin, AND THE ENVIRONMENT!!! I put together a list of foods that could double as make up products because of the amazing effects that they have on your skin... The best part? All of these foods can be found right here, in our wonderful city of Plano!

1- Yogurt- Yogurt is rich in supply of Vitamin A and Vitamin D, making it the ideal food to help you sharpen your eyesight (buh-bye contacts!) and have your daily dose of Calcium. (yogurt can also double as a GREAT facial mask!)

2- Strawberries- Spring is right around a corner, and so is strawberry season! These juicy red fruits are chocked full with many nutrients (phenols, anthocyanins, and ellagitannins) that have been proven to protect cell structures in the body and prevent oxygen damage to the skin. Strawberries are also a healthier option for those of us who like to whiten our teeth- they act like a buffer to take away stains of coffee, tea, and sodas!

3- Salmon- This delicious fish contains many fatty acids that work to keep skin feeling and looking fresh, hydrated, and healthy. Check out grocery stores in Plano to choose from an extensive variety of salmon!

4- Almonds- Vitamin E, magnesium, monounsaturated fat, and protein all in one bite... could we ask for anything more convenient?


Monday, March 12, 2012

A Trip To The MRF

On Wednesday, February 29, I was able to tour the Plano Material Recovery Facility (MRF) located at 4200 East 14th Street in Plano. The MRF is run by Republic Services/Allied Waste, and has a contract with a number of cities throughout Collin County to collect, sort, bundle, and redistribute recycled waste products ranging from paper (including corrugated) and plastics to metals and glass to a variety of industrial customers. The MRF processes over 130 tons of recycled material daily, but has the capacity when running at all three shifts to sort and bundle over 300 tons.

It's a remarkable facility in it's entire operation. Republic Services and Allied Waste recycling trucks drop off products daily at the facility, where huge front loaders scoop up the material and drop it into a hopper which takes it up through the first of many conveyer systems on the first start of the sorting process. The first sorting step involves corrugated paperboard and cardboard, typically the heaviest among the recycled materials. The remaining material then continues to go through the conveyor line as lighter and material with less mass continues to be sorted out. All of the material is eventually bailed and deposited on trucks which weigh the recycled products for the eventual industrial consumer.

One challege that the MRF continues to have to contend with are thin-film plastic shopping bags, the type one finds at discount and grocery stores. Those products, along with Styrofoam, are true waste for the landfill and should never be added to the recycling bin. Not only does this contaminate a recycled load that ultimately ends up being re-diverted to the landfill since the equipment isn't designed to sort out the thinnest film plastics that make up the bags, but the bags themselves get caught in the conveyor systems forcing them to be shut down 2 - 3 times daily in order to have the bags cleared from the rollers. A line shut down costs Republic Services $35/minute; in addition to that, there is limited space to store the unsorted recycled material and the bales of product that are shipped out, so shutting down the sorting line has an almost immediate impact on the amount of material that starts to pile up in queue.

Industrial buyers of the recycled material are global; much of the product is immediately shipped off for eventual use in China. Once the largest product recycled by volume, newsprint has been greatly reduced with glass at nearly the same volume of material being recycled as paper products, followed by plastics and metals.

Hats off to Kim Soto of the City of Plano for arranging the tour and to Tommy Kirk, the MRF manager, for taking us through the facility and explaining the process steps. Every ton that gets sent through there is one less ton that ends up in our muncipal landfills.

The Sustainability Steward