Category Archives: In Your Community

Energy News in Your Texas Community – Summer 2014

Good morning! Welcome to the first installment of “Energy News in Your Texas Community” for First Choice Power. We hope to provide this quarterly recap of all things energy occurring across Texas so you can stay informed on important events and developments that might interest you or impact your life in the Lone Star State.

Wiring The Wind

CREZ April 2014 Map

Image CREZ April 2014 Map.jpg image courtesy of ERCOT.

For a price tag of $7 billion, Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) work (ironically) to reduce energy prices. The Energy Information Agency (EIA) reported in late June that the CREZ transmission project has reduced instances of curtailments and negative pricing. Curtailments occur when there’s too much electricity for the transmission lines to handle. Negative pricing occurs when local generators are willing to pay for the opportunity to continue generating electricity.

While CREZ does add dollars to Texan’s monthly electric bill, the project brings more reliability to the ERCOT grid, and this means LESS chance for line congestion — electric demand outstripping the capacity of the grid to send power to meet that demand. It also means that West Texas wind power can be transmitted from Amarillo eastwards to meet high demand for cooling in Dallas, Waco, and San Antonio. This keeps your Texas electricity prices lower.

On June 16, wind supplied over 7,000 MW of power. Spot power prices across ERCOT fell 48 cents, or 1 percent, to average $46.09 a megawatt-hour during the 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. trading period.While 7,000 MW was about 10%, it shows that wind power does reduce the wholesale price.

More Wind Farms Coming to Lubbock and Amarillo

windmills 2CREZ has also fanned investment in more wind farms. Two major projects (about 200 MW capacity each) are in the works: one by Tri Global Energy in Crosby County northeast of Lubbock and the other by General Electric and the German company E.ON in Carson County just a few miles east of Amarillo. Tri Global Energy’s Crosby County Wind Farm will build the Pleasant Hill Wind Energy project, a 20 MW addition, that apart from power will bring in $6.0 million in landowner and community royalties as well as tax revenues to the county and school district. GE’s Grandview Phase I project near Amarillo will create about 250-300 construction jobs and 10-12 permanent positions.

More Natural Gas Powered Generation To Fire Up

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Image PA222237.jpg By mconnors courtesy of Morguefile.com.

Current natural gas prices make investment in natural gas generation more attractive for investment in Texas. These past few weeks have seen announcements for five new natural gas generation plants: three by Navasota Energy and two by FGE Power and Starwood Energy Group. Navasota Energy plans on building three identical 543-megawatt, natural gas-fired, peaking power plants. Peaking plants are called in to generate power to fill in peak demand. Of the three plants, one will be located in Grayson County near Dallas, and the other two in Guadalupe County and Wilson County, both outside of San Antonio.

The two plants by FGE Power and Starwood Energy Group are planned as two identical 747MW combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) facilities near the communities of Westbrook and Colorado City in Mitchell County, Texas. Combined-cycle gas turbines generate electricity first with a gas turbine and then the waste heat is used to make steam for a steam turbine. Both projects will come online in 2017 and will be capable of generating up to 3,000 MW of electricity.

Austin’s Smartest Homes

iStock_000011995165SmallTime Magazine has called it, “America’s Smartest City“. Well, they weren’t talking about all of Austin. Instead they were talking about the energy smart homes in the Mueller neighborhood, a planned urban redevelopment on the grounds of Austin’s former municipal airport. Homes here have a yearly energy bill that totals about $600. Not too shabby at all. But it’s not just the extra insulation, distributed (rooftop) solar cells, electric vehicle use, and home energy management that’s making a big difference – it’s the usage data.

The Pecan Street Organization, a University of Texas-based research organization, tracks Mueller residents’ electricity usage at the “granular level.” Data is kept anonymous, but every milliwatt used is tracked in relation to time of day, weather patterns, and fluctuations in power price. Some of the results are surprising – for example, solar panels facing west catch the most sunlight and generate the most electricity during late afternoon when power usage for cooling is highest and most expensive. Pecan Street plans on bringing what it learns about energy efficiency and locally generated renewable energy to more Texas towns by expanding its operations.

Recycling is Finally in the Bag!

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Image kr051308_011.jpg By krossee courtesy of Morguefile.com

Back in November 2013, Ziploc announced that their bags were recyclable. But it seems to be taking a while to get people to recycle their waste polypropylene film – other wise known as plastic wrap. Fortunately, www.plasticfilmrecycling.org can tell you the convenient places (like Target and Walmart) in your part of Texas that accept clean and dry plastic baggies and wrapping.

What happens to recycled plastic baggies? They are turned into composite lumber that can be used for decks and fences, as well as energy efficient windows and doors. Yes, by recycling, you can have home energy efficiency in the bag!

Do you have any other big energy industry news from Texas to share? Please let us know in the comments!

Reviewing 5 Top Parks in East Texas

Texas abounds with vast amounts of parks for families to enjoy throughout the year. In this series, we’re going to look at some of the best parks the Lone Star State has to offer, from small local parks to sprawling state and national park facilities. Let’s get out and explore this great state of ours. First up: East Texas!

The Children's Park in Tyler Texas. JUNE 9-10, 2011. Photo by Jill Johnson

The Children’s Park in Tyler Texas. JUNE 9-10, 2011. Photo by Jill Johnson

1) The Children’s Park of Tyler

“There is no foot so small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world.” After the death of their middle child at birth, the Carson family helped create a place of both peace and fun for others in memory of their son, Braden. The park was completed in 2004 without raising a single tax dollar and was generously donated to the city of Tyler.

Today, The Children’s Park not only offers a place of solace for those that seek comfort but also gives a place of celebration from family picnics to bigger events such as weddings. Every year The Children’s Park hosts an annual Teddy Bear Picnic where families enjoy face-painting, music, story time, and of course a picnic complete with their favorite teddy bear. Mrs. Carson holds a Day of Remembrance celebration once a year, and once a month holds a support group called Glory Babies at The Children’s Park.

One thing noticeable at first is the lack of playground equipment. The Carsons believe that natural play is a lost art, and that children need to be given an opportunity to explore and use their imagination.

The park has grown so much since 2004 that the City of Tyler has donated additional land as well as matched funds to help with the park’s expansion. The new expansion of the park features a secluded meditation garden, an additional play place, and an additional indoor and outdoor space that will allow the community to hosts larger events. Even if it isn’t on their annual Teddy Bear Picnic, you and your family can always enjoy an impromptu teddy bear picnic or tea party of your own!

Canoeing on Caddo Lack image courtesy of http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/caddo-lake

Canoeing on Caddo Lack image courtesy of http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/caddo-lake

2) Caddo Lake State Park

This hidden gem nestled in Karnack, TX was the only natural lake in the state until it was artificially dammed in the early 1900s. Visitors can now enjoy an array of outdoor activities from boating, fishing, and camping, to hiking, general nature study, and enjoying the rich history of the area at the park’s headquarters.

Caddo Lake covers over 26,000 acres of swampland. The natural inhabitants that call Caddo Lake home include 71 different species of fish, making this a top vacation spot for your avid fisherman. The naturalist in your family will enjoy being able to spot beavers, minks, white-tailed deer, raccoons, snakes, alligators, and many other wildlife. The cabins, originally built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, make camping easy and fun for the whole family. While the park is open daily, the busiest time of the year is March through November. The cost for adults is $3 a day, while children 12 and under are free.

Park Playground image courtesy of Michael Cavazos.

Park Playground image courtesy of Michael Cavazos.

3) Spring Hill / Neal McCoy / AMBUCS Too Universally Accessible Playground in Longview

Country music and playgrounds don’t normally go hand in hand unless you are Neal McCoy. As the founder of East Texas Angel Network, McCoy picked Longview to build a new playground, after winning the Home Depot Humanitarian Award in 2005. AMBUCS Too Longview, a local group, raised more than $350,000 to help expand the Neal McCoy Park. The expansion makes the park one of the largest approved by the Americans with Disabilities Act in East Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. The 5,605 square foot playground allows all children to play together with a fully accessible playground. The Spring Hill Park also includes a splash pad and pavilion for the family to enjoy.

Playground image courtesy of www.victoriachamber.org.

Playground image courtesy of www.victoriachamber.org.

4) Riverside Park & Rose Garden in Victoria

Enjoy a multitude of outdoor activities at the 562-acre park that shares its borders with over 4 miles of the Guadalupe River. Riverside Park is a great choice for a small family outing or a much larger gathering since they offer 200 picnic areas.

At Riverside Park you can spend the day playing baseball, disc golf, or just wandering the trails. If those aren’t up your alley, you can use one of the canoe or kayak paddling trails instead. See over 1,000 rose bushes at the Rose Garden weaving around a gazebo and water fountain. The smaller members of the family will enjoy the duck pond and the adventurous playground.

Splash Pad image courtesy of http://parks.longviewtexas.gov/spray-pads.

Splash Pad image courtesy of http://parks.longviewtexas.gov/spray-pads.

5) Jack Mann Splash Pad in Longview

During the summer months of Texas, there is only one way to get relief from the sweltering heat: splash pads! Jack Mann Splash Pad is a Texas-sized pad at 10,000 sq. ft.  of summer wonder, and it’s the largest splash pad in East Texas! The park boasts two pavilions, tons of water spouts, restrooms, parking lot, and 3 themed areas.  It costs $1 per child and $2 per adult for Longview residents to enter, and $1 more for non-residents. What says Texas more then getting water dumped on you by a giant Dr. Pepper water sprayer?

What are your favorite parks to visit in East Texas? Share with us in the comments!

3 Top Texas Vacation Destinations for Summer

Summer is here, and that means hot and humid days for Texans. Rather than spending the summer days stuck indoors, we suggest heading to one of the top destinations in Texas for some fun and excitement. Here are our top 3 recommended Texas vacation destinations for the summer. Enjoy!

3 Top Texas Vacation Destinations for Summer

Photo from Air Padre Kiteboarding.com

1) South Padre Island – This is a great place to spend those hot Texas summer days. South Padre Island offers its visitors pretty beaches and water, a variety of water sports, exciting night life, restaurants, and more. In addition to the beach life, there is the famous Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resort South Padre Island - an indoor-outdoor waterpark that features almost two dozen attractions, 13 fun indoor and outdoor water slides, and floating on one of the multiple river systems.

3 Top Texas Vacation Destinations for Summer

San Antonio River Walk image courtesy of StuSeeger. https://www.flickr.com/photos/stuseeger/

2) San Antonio – San Antonio is one of the most popular vacation destinations in Texas mostly because there is so much to do especially for families.

  • Booking a hotel room overlooking the San Antonio River Walk is a must. It’s a great location, there’s plenty of dining and shopping around it and its fun to stroll along.
  • Next, there is Sea World San Antonio, which has rides, shows, and exhibits sure to keep everyone entertained. Not to mention they have a few water rides to help keep cool as well.
  • Also don’t miss out on Six Flags Fiesta Texas, it’s a theme park and waterpark combo with thrilling rides, rides for the kids, and water rides to keep cool.

In addition to these attractions, San Antonio is great for history buffs too as it’s home to the renowned Alamo.

3 Top Texas Vacation Destinations for Summer

Austin, TX Downtown image courtesy of StuSeeger. https://www.flickr.com/photos/stuseeger/

3) Austin – Deemed “the Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin is one of the hottest places to visit in Texas.

  • Visitors can hear live music almost every night at places like Continental Club, enjoy amazing restaurants that will channel their “inner foodie,” and experience exciting night life.
  • In addition, there are some fun water sports to do like kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding on Town Lake (also known as Lady Bird Lake).
  • Since Austin is the state’s capital, you can tour around the Capitol Building and learn about the state’s history at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.

If that isn’t enough, visitors can enjoy a hike up Mount Bonnell and after, be rewarded with an ice cold beer and a beautiful view at the rustic yet awesome dive bar Dry Creek Saloon (4812 Mt. Bonnell Rd.; 512/453-9244).

Where are your favorite summer vacation destinations across Texas? Share them with us in the comments! We’d love to know what you love about the Lone Star State!

Reviewing Predictions for Texas in the 2014 Hurricane Season

FCP-2014 hurricaneJune 1st marked the beginning of 2014 Hurricane Season, so residents of the Texas Gulf Coast want to know what they can expect. Each year, four different weather and climate institutions issue their predictions, so we want to analyze what they have to say to ensure that Texans are ready for what might happen:

Wind and Cool Water Make Fewer Storms

The main factor hindering the buildup of storms in the 2014 Hurricane Season is the abundance of wind and cold water. Currently, the northern hemisphere is still in a warm or “positive phase” of the North Atlantic Oscillaton (NAO) — in spite of this winter’s polar vortex. Consequently, trade winds coming off North Africa are stronger than average,  which creates wind shearing that makes it harder for cyclone systems to form along the tropical region north of the equator.

The wind stirs up tropical north Atlantic waters and “upwelling” colder water from deeper down. Additionally, the surface sea temperatures off the African coast are colder than average. As a result, the combination of windy and chilly conditions make it difficult for cyclone storm systems to organize.

El Niño Expected

An El Niño wind is also expected to form in the Pacific later this summer. The warm water of an El Niño can affect global winter patterns, including adding more wind shearing of the west coast of Africa. While that reduces the odds of storms hitting Texas, El Niños can also alter the course of the jet stream, bringing cool, wet weather to an already parched Texas.

Be Watchful!

Even though this season’s hurricane activity is expected to be “below-normal,” there’s ALWAYS a chance that a hurricane could form and barrel straight for Texas. Even with the overall chances being low, Colorado State University predicts the possibility that a tropical cyclone will hit Texas is about 20% or around 1 in 5 chances. So, it’s important to be prepared. Plus, there’s always the danger posed by plain old Texas summertime storms to look out for, as well.

Keep your family prepared by visiting the First Choice Power Storm & Hurricane Safety learning center for tips on how to prepare for the big storms, what to do when the lights go out, and more. We also recommend that you visit our friends at the Hurricane Prep Center. You can also keep informed about storm-related emergencies and news by following us on Twitter and our Facebook page.

Stay safe this summer, Texas!

6 Great Gifts for Mother’s Day – Texas Style

6 Great Gifts for Mother’s Day - Texas StyleWith our state motto “Don’t Mess with Texas” plastered on bumper stickers and t-shirts, any newcomers to Texas will quickly see how much Texans love the Lone Star State. But we just might love our mothers even more. So, with Mother’s Day this weekend, we thought it appropriate to provide some great gift ideas for your special mom – Texas style. These gifts will keep you at the top of her list and make you the envy of all your siblings.

    • Mother’s Day Tea - One thing we know, Texans love their sweet tea. So for an elegant twist on sweet tea, treat your mom to a special Mother’s Day tea. Various hotels like the St. Regis in Houston or The Adolphus in Dallas host morning and afternoon teas with an assortment of teas, tea sandwiches, scones and sweets.
  • 6 Great Gifts for Mother’s Day - Texas Style

    Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Spa Day – Whether you live in Texas or anywhere for that matter, a spa day is a great gift for mom. She works hard keeping the house and the kids in line so a nice massage or pedicure will help relieve the stress of everyday life. Note: For all you spouses out there – make sure you take the kids so she can actually use the spa day.

  • Mother’s Day Hand Print Apron – This is perfect for those looking to give something from the grandkids. Not only is it an excellent DIY project, but it gets the grandkids involved too, which adds a special touch. It’s a simple and sweet keepsake to remember when the kids were small. Click here for supplies and directions.
  • Mother Day Gift Basket – Baskets are special because you have to put thought and effort into creating them. For your mom, find what she likes and gear the basket towards her interests. If she likes wine, fill it with wine, crackers, and cheeses. If she’s into gardening then, fill a watering can with gardening items. If she’s a baker, place baking supplies in a mixing bowl. Whatever you choose for Mom, make sure it’s creative and heartfelt.

    6 Great Gifts for Mother’s Day - Texas Style

    Texas Cutting Board

  • Personalized Texas Cutting Board – If your mom loves to cook, this personalized Texas shaped cutting board is the perfect gift. It’s made from sustainable bamboo and comes with a custom engraving.
  • Flowers/plants – Flowers tend to be very popular for Mother’s Day. However, this year rather than giving her long stem red roses – opt for yellow roses symbolizing The Yellow Rose of Texas. It puts a unique spin on an otherwise traditional gift. In addition to flowers, another Texas style gift would be to give a packet of bluebonnet seeds (the Texas State Flower) with some gardening tools. Nothing says Texas like bluebonnets.

What sort of Texas-style gift ideas do you have for Mother’s Day? Feel free to share in the comments!

How Enjoying Texas Sunshine Benefits Your Body and Mind

How Enjoying Texas Sunshine Benefits Your Body and MindI distinctly remember wanting to get out into the sunlight all the time as a child. And it’s a feeling that has carried with me all of my life, particularly in the summertime. The feeling of euphoria I get from stepping out in the warm embrace of sun is not simply nostalgia: it is my body letting me know that I am doing something right.

Throughout the evolution of mankind, we have developed a physical and psychological kinship with the warm yellow orb making its way across the daytime sky. However, over the last century, we have crept further and further away from time spent in the sun. Beginning in the first half of the 20th century with the discovery of a link between sun exposure and skin cancer, and culminating in recent decades with a more sedentary lifestyle and office-oriented workplace, we have shunned, avoided, and even forgotten about the joy of soaking up some rays on a warm sunny day.

There is an important word in that last sentence – “rays.” Ultraviolet radiation and its detrimental effects on our health have been well documented. Overexposure to UVA and UVB “rays” is known to cause sunburns, skin cancer, and degradation of folic acid in our bodies. Yes, overexposure to the sun can be harmful, but underexposure to sunlight can be equally detrimental.

In light of our busy modern lifestyles and the persistent warning we get about exposure to UV radiation, it’s easy to forget that we need time in the sun in order to function and feel good. More and more we are turning to third-party solutions to common ailments when a little bit of nature can provide us with exactly what we need to look and feel good. Thus, let’s revisit what we know about the sun and then examine the positive effects that Texas sunshine has on our mind and our bodies.

Gimme that Vitamin D

First and foremost, sunshine enables our bodies to produce vitamin D. This is the only vitamin our body can synthesize on its own without having to absorb it through our diet. Vitamin D allows the body to absorb calcium and a host of other minerals, but also helps muscles to move, nerves to transmit, and your immune system to fight off sickness. In recent years Americans have been showing an increasing level of vitamin D deficiency, in part due to our modern lifestyle choices. So, yes, I’m saying that a little R&R in the sun is good for your physical health.

Scientific evidence also suggests that there is a vitamin D trade-off that occurs with lack of sun exposure, and it’s not a good one. Metabolic processes in your body that would otherwise synthesize vitamin D actually move to cholesterol synthesis in absence of sufficient sunlight exposure.

Bask in the Sunlight

How Enjoying Texas Sunshine Benefits Your Body and MindThe physical effects of sunlight are not limited to vitamin D. Sunlight increases your white blood cell production, the workforce of your immune system, as well as increasing red blood cell production, which is the body’s mechanism for carrying oxygen to cells. The cardiovascular effects do not end there, as sunlight helps to lower high blood pressure as well. Studies have shown that moderate exposure to UV radiation causes blood vessels in the skin to expand as nitric oxide is released into the blood stream.

Your skin can also benefit from a reasonable amount of sunlight. While overexposure to the sun should be avoided, moderate exposure can help to elevate persistent problems like acne, eczema, and psoriasis. In addition, UV radiation is widely known for its antiseptic abilities, helping to rid your skin of microbial nasties that contribute to infections and disease.

Sunshine and Sleep

While it may seem counter-intuitive, sunshine contributes to better sleep. Sleep is an essential component to good health and happiness.  Among numerous other benefits, sleep helps to bolster the immune system, flush neurotoxins from the mind, improve cognitive function, aids in maintaining a healthy weight, and helps to manage anxiety. The body produces melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone, in absence of light, but the body needs sunlight to help maintain what is knows as the melatonin rhythm, which is your body’s natural cycle of producing and storing melatonin. By helping to regulate your natural rhythms, sunlight during the day can help you get a better sleep at night. And who among us doesn’t feel better after a good night sleep.

Sunshine Lifts Your Spirits

Sunlight has a direct effect on your mood as well. The feeling of happiness and vigor that accompanies a beautiful sunny day is not a coincidence: it’s a matter of neurochemistry. Sunlight tells the brain to produce a neurotransmitter called serotonin, which tells the body to wake up, and it is involved in many functions including mood, behavior, appetite, memory, and learning.

Sunlight is also thought to increase levels of another neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is a monumental chemical in our brain that effects many aspects of who we are as individuals, and it’s also the major contributor in feeling pleasure and euphoria! Together, serotonin and dopamine get us moving, help us get things done, and help us feel good, and sunlight gets these chemicals going in our brains.

Sun on the Skin

How Enjoying Texas Sunshine Benefits Your Body and MindIt’s important to note that any effect sunlight can have on health with relation to the absorption of UV rays through the skin is inhibited by sunscreen. Now before you run off to your doctor and complain that I’m writing heretical advice on skin health, I want to emphasize the importance of moderation. Experts advise that the positive effects of sunlight can be achieved with only 15-30 minutes of exposure. Like any good thing, there is such a thing as too much.

The evidence is solid for the benefits of a little homegrown phototherapy. In an age where we have engineered good heath in the form of a pill, it’s nice to know that our evolutionary past has built into our physiology the means to use the Texas sunshine to promote a better health and a good mood.

Celebrating Green Initiatives in Texas for Earth Day

Celebrating Green Initiatives in Texas for Earth DayHappy Earth Day from First Choice Power! Earth Day was established to foster environmental awareness and promote preservation of the earth and it’s natural resources. And with today being Earth Day, we thought it would be fitting to showcase how major towns in Texas are supporting green efforts.

Dallas

The City of Dallas developed GreenDallas.net to offer assistance and green knowledge to its citizens through city-wide programs, events, and partnerships. While many of the City’s programs are geared towards water conservation, they have an overall goal to save citizens energy and money too. Here are just a few:

  • Celebrating Green Initiatives in Texas for Earth DayCease the Grease – To prevent citizens from pouring grease down the drains and clogging drains and sewer lines, Dallas created drop off centers for people to drop off their grease filled containers. The City then uses that grease to convert into biodiesel.
  • Minor Plumbing Repair Program  – This program offers assistance to those who need help with minor plumbing problems and fixtures that may cause water waste and higher water bills.
  • Throne for Your Home Toilet Voucher – Citizens can receive up to $90 per toilet from the Dallas Water Utilities to replace older high-flow toilets with high-efficiency low-flow toilets. They also offer rebates if already purchased.

Fort Worth

Across the Metroplex, Fort Worth is doing its part to create green programs for its citizens. Such efforts include:

  • Crud Cruiser – The City of Fort Worth has a mobile collection trailer that travels to neighborhoods to collect household hazardous waste (from March – November).
  • Fort Worth is working on Stormwater Quality and opened up the Environmental Collection Center. It is where you can drop off household hazardous waste such as chemicals, detergents, pesticides, fertilizers, etc. The goal is to dispose of them properly rather than illegally dumping them down the storm drains, which flows directly to the nearest body of water without being treated.
  • Air Quality - The City enforces the federal Clean Air Act, which comes from the EPA. It deals with outdoor air monitoring, permitting, compliance inspection, complaint investigation and enforcement.

Corpus Christi

Down in the Valley, Corpus Christi has developed several initiatives to green its neighborhoods and public spaces.

  • Bike & Hike Plan – the City, County and Regional Transportation Authority have joined forces to create an extensive plan to provide access to cycling, walking and hiking trails around Corpus to get people outdoors and moving and to promote a greener environment.
  • Rewards for Recycling – Ziplock and RecycleBank have teamed up with the City of Corpus Christi to offer a program that uses Smart Carts to track household recycling participation. Each time a household recycles; the amount is recorded and converted into Recyclebank Points, which can be redeemed at www.Recyclebank.com for rewards from thousands of local businesses.
  • Community Go Green initiatives – The City provides residents with two trash receptacles—one for generalized garbage such as food waste and one reserved for recyclable items.

Houston

Space City has made great strides to reduce the levels of pollution in its skies through a collection of excellent programs.

  • Energy Efficiency Incentive Program (EEIP) – The EEIP will provide a financial incentive to help motivate office building owners, property managers, and tenants located in the City of Houston to reduce energy consumption and increase the economic performance of their building.
  • Electric Vehicles – Starting with just two Toyota Prius vehicles in 2002, today the City’s light duty passenger fleet has become over 50% hybrid.
  • Houston Bikeways Program – The City of Houston offers over 300 miles interconnected bikeway network spanning across 500 square miles. The network includes bike lanes, bike routes, signed-shared lanes and shared-use paths.

    Celebrating Green Initiatives in Texas for Earth Day

    Houston Bikeways

San Antonio

San Antonio rounds out our list with a series of protocols created to increase the energy efficiency of city programs and facilities, as well as improving air quality.

  • The City received an Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant (EECBG). The grant is being used to implement energy efficiency and conservation strategies in four program areas: Community Green Projects; Municipal Retrofits; Transportation Enhancements; and Mission Verde Center. Some examples of those are:
  1. The City installed the Airport Solar Installation on the roof of a parking garage at the San Antonio International Airport.
  2. Heat-repelling solar window film was installed on 57,000 square feet of window area at 36 facilities.
  • The City created the Air Quality Health Alert Plan (AQHAP) , which establishes guidelines and procedures for reducing emissions of ozone-forming compounds into the atmosphere, both on “Alert” days as well as throughout the ozone season.

Austin

Austin is one of the leading cities in Texas making green efforts, not only to better their city, but to set an example for other cities as well. In fact, in 2013 the City of Austin was awarded a national 2013 Climate Leadership Award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the work they have done. While they have several eco-friendly programs and initiatives, here are a few to point out:

  • The City of Austin created The Office of Sustainability’s Climate Program to make Austin the leading city in the nation in the fight against climate change. “In 2007, Austin City Council passed a resolution which established a Climate Protection Plan to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  In 2011, Council approved the Austin Energy Resource, Generation, and Climate Protection Plan, which updated goals to more aggressively mitigate emissions through 2020.”
  • Dillo Dirt – Since 1989, the compost made by the City of Austin has been created from collected curbside yard trimmings and treated sewage sludge. According to their city website, the heat generated in composting the “Dillo Dirt” is sufficient to virtually eliminate human and plant pathogens. Dillo Dirt meets all Texas and EPA requirements for “unrestricted” use and is available to purchase.
  • Zero Waste Master Plan – This is a very ambitious plan set for residents, businesses and organizations in Austin. The plan to is to “divert more than 90 percent of waste from disposal to productive reuse and recycling by 2040.”

What sorts of green initiatives has your Texas town created in order to make life more eco-friendly? Share your city’s efforts in the comments!

Earth Day Celebrations in Texas for 2014

Earth Day Celebrations in Texas for 2014

Earth Day Texas in Dallas, TX

Earth Day is on Tuesday, April 22, and cities throughout Texas are celebrating during the month of April. In short, Earth Day is a worldwide event designed to demonstrate united support for environmental protection. So join in the festivities and support Mother Earth by expanding your environmental awareness and having fun while doing it. Here are some of the larger Earth Day Celebrations happening in Texas.

Austin Earth Day Festival 2014
It’s a day for Austin to “rally for the Earth while celebrating our diversity of Austin culture.” Celebrate Earth Day in Austin with live music, exhibits, a kids zone, and more.

  • When: Saturday, April 26th from noon – 6:00 pm
  • Where: 4550 Mueller Austin 78723
  • Cost: FREE

Earth Day East Texas
Come celebrate Earth Day – East Texas style. Brings friends or the family and enjoy activities like canoe rides and zip line rides and learning exhibits by a number of vendors.

  • When: Saturday, April 26th from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Where: Camp Tyler Outdoor School 15143 Camp Tyler Road, Whitehouse 75791
  • Cost: FREE (*rides cost extra)

Earth Day Texas
Formerly known as Earth Day Dallas, this annual Earth Day Texas is a 2-day festival that runs all day on April 26 and 27th. This annual, outdoor festival seeks to elevate environmental awareness and influence the way Texans think, live and work. With 600 exhibitors and 60,000 guests anticipated to attend this year’s event, it’s sure to be a great event for the whole family.

  • When: April 26-27th from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
  • Where: Fair Park
  • Cost: FREE

Earth Day Wonderweek
Since the big Earth Day Houston celebration has passed (it took place on April 12), kids can still participate in Earth Day by heading to the Children’s Museum of Houston for Earth Day Wonderweek. During the week of the 17th, children can make different crafts and participate in on-going activities like planting your own lemon tree, watching how beans grow, and more.

  • When: April 17 – 23 (see website for museum hours)
  • Where: Children’s Museum of Houston 1500 Binz Houston 77004
  • Cost: $9 per person (see website for specials)

El Paso Earth Day Festival
El Paso is embracing the Earth Day spirit with its Earth Day Festival at the Downtown Artist and Farmers Market. This event was organized to foster environmental education and to promote preservation of the environment and natural resources.  There will be arts and crafts vendors, eco-friendly kids activities, bike rides, food trucks , live music and more!

  • When: Saturday, April 19th from 9 am – 1 pm
  • Where: Downtown Artist and Farmers Market 117 Anthony St. El Paso 79901
  • Cost: FREE

How are you commemorating Earth Day in Texas? Share your locations and celebrations in the comments!

6 Popular Easter Egg Hunts Across Texas

FC - Easter Egg HuntsWhen I think of Easter, the first thing that comes to mind is the classic “Easter Egg Hunt.” Whether it’s the thrill of “the hunt” or the mystery of what’s inside the eggs, Easter Egg Hunts seem to bring so much joy and excitement to kids and adults alike. With Easter this weekend, there will be many Easter Egg Hunts happening in communities and churches. Here are 6 popular Easter egg hunts across our great state of Texas.

Coppell
Don’t miss the City of Coppell’s Annual EGGstravaganza at Wagon Wheel Park. In addition to the big Easter Egg Hunt, there will be face painting, bounce houses, pictures with the Easter Bunny, and more! While the events begin at 10:00 am, the Easter Egg Hunt starts at noon sharp, so don’t be late!

  • When: April 19th from 10:00 am – 12:00 p.m. (Hunt begins at 12:00 pm)
  • Where: Wagon Wheel Park, 345 Freeport Parkway Coppell, 75019
  • Cost: FREE

El Paso
We recommend that El Paso residents head out to the annual Giant Easter Egg Hunt and Pageant on April 19th. Your kids won’t want to miss out on 10,000 eggs and candies, plus there will be hot dogs, chips, and punch for everyone!

  • When: April 19th at 1:00 pm
  • Where: Sunrise Park, 3800 Sunrise Dr., El Paso, TX, 79904
  • Cost: FREE

Fort Worth
Everything is bigger in Texas, and that saying holds true for the Fort Worth Stockyards’ Texas Sized Easter Celebration. The day kicks off at 8:30 am with the 8th Annual Easter Run in the Stockyards: Run for the Riders where everyone is invited to hop on down for the 1k, 5k & 10k fun run/walk. Then stick around for the Easter Egg Hunt that begins promptly at noon. Following the hunt there will be an Easter bunny, face painting, a balloon animal maker, and other activities.

  • When: April 19th from 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm
  • Where: Fort Worth Stockyards – 130 East Exchange Ave. Fort Worth, TX 76164
  • Cost: FREE

Galveston
Be on the lookout for one of the mysterious Golden Eggs at the annual Easter in the Gardens at Moody Gardens. In addition to their famous Easter Egg Hunt, there will be face painting and games for prizes, as well as a petting zoo.

Note: Easter Egg Hunts are scheduled throughout the day so check the website for times. Also if you’re hungry, check out the special Easter Day Buffet at the Garden Restaurant from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm.

  • When: Sunday, April 20th from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
  • Where: Moody Gardens – One Hope Blvd. Galveston, TX 77554
  • Cost: FREE

Plano
The Heritage Farmstead Museum in Plano is offering several fun Easter activities for adults and kids. Starting on April 16th at sundown, there will be an Adult Easter Egg Hunt. Feel like a kid again hunting around for hundreds of eggs in the dark. Don’t forget your flashlight! After the hunt, you can enjoy wine and refreshments provided with the price of your ticket.

For the kids, there is a Spring Festival at the museum with an Easter Egg Hunt for children 8 and younger and other activities like feeding chickens, milking cows,  wagon rides and more.

  • When: Adult Hunt – April 16th, doors open at 7:15 pm and the hunt begins at 8:00 pm. Kids Hunt – April 19th at 10:00 am
  • Where: Heritage Farmstead Museum – 1900 West 15th Street, Plano, Texas 75075
  • Cost: Adult Hunt – $15 – space is limited, so you must register ahead of time! Kids Hunt – $5

Round Rock
Hunting Easter Eggs is exciting, but hunting them at night brings a whole new level of excitement! At the Flashlight Easter Egg Hunt & Movie in the Park, kids can hunt for eggs in the dark in the designated hunt ring at Old Settlers Park. When it’s over, be sure to stay to watch “Rise of the Guardians” in the park.

Note: Check the website for ages and times and be sure to meet at the Lakeview Pavilion 30 minutes before your hunt check-in.

  • When: April 17th and starts at 7:15 p.m.
  • Where: Old Settlers Park – 3300 E. Palm Valley Blvd. Round Rock, TX 78665
  • Cost: $5 – Must register ahead of time!

Hopefully, one of these wonderful Easter Egg Hunts is in your area, because each of them sounds wonderful!

If you feel we missed an event, please share your suggestions in the comments!

3 Gifts to Buy Your Favorite Texan with Your Tax Return

3 Gifts to Buy Your Favorite Texan with Your Tax ReturnTax Day is here! With any luck, you actually received a little rebate from the government for the taxes you paid in 2013. Many of us use this money to purchase a gift or trip that we wouldn’t usually buy. This year, why don’t you use some of your tax return money to spoil a Texan in your life? Here are a few ideas with a distinctly Texan flair.

1) “Let me root, root, root for the home team!”

There is a small span of time in Texas when the weather is not scorching hot, and luckily it coincides nicely with the beginning of baseball season. The warm sunshine and a fairly good breeze just screams for you to be outside, and what better way to celebrate then in the stands cheering on your local sports team.

3 Gifts to Buy Your Favorite Texan with Your Tax ReturnWhile peanuts and cracker jacks might be normal options for most baseball fans, Texas baseball fans aren’t quite that easy. Texas Rangers fans can find barbecue, tacos, turkey legs, and even a 2 foot hot dog that weighs in at just over a pound as standard baseball fare. Houston Astros fans can snack on Tex-Mex steak fajita nachos, homemade salsa, and chipotle chicken burritos. If Tex-Mex and traditional baseball fare is not up your alley, check out healthier options like salads and even vegetarian entrees.

Avid baseball fans can become a new season ticket holder, or you can just pick up tickets for a game or two. Check the local game schedule for even more fun like firework nights, or games when free bobbleheads are handed out.

2) Cowboy Boots

3 Gifts to Buy Your Favorite Texan with Your Tax Return

The versatility you find with a good pair of cowboy boots is almost endless. Brides hide them beneath big billowing gowns, teen girls complete their ensembles with them, and nearly every little kid in Texas goes through a phase of wanting to be a cowboy or cowgirl. It doesn’t matter what age you are, a good pair of cowboy boots is sure to be a popular gift.

Just as the wearer’s age doesn’t matter, the season isn’t important either. If the weather is warmer, and jeans and boots just sound unbearably hot, skirts and dresses go nicely with a taller pair of boots.

Unsure of what dress would look good with a pair of cowboy boots? Head to Pinterest and find endless options. Pearl-snap shirts, jeans, and cowboy boots do make great outfit choices for the men, but nothing quite compares to a nice suit paired with dress boots. You can find boots for the whole family at various western stores or you can support local artisans throughout the state and purchase boots with more custom tailored options.

3) “Remember the Alamo!”

3 Gifts to Buy Your Favorite Texan with Your Tax Return

The Alamo in San Antonio, TX

Offer your favorite Texan a mini-vacation to San Antonio. One of the most pivotal moments in the Texas War for Independence was the Battle of the Alamo, so there’s plenty of history to absorb. Take a stroll around the Alamo Plaza and see where Davy Crockett, James Bowie, and William B. Travis became legends. The Alamo receives no financial aid from the state to maintain and preserve the site, but is actually operated by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and relies heavily on donations from patrons.

The River Walk, located near the Alamo Plaza, wraps itself around the San Antonio River and features shops, restaurants, hotels, museums, and even a place to get married. You can plan your River Walk visit with the whole family, or make it a romantic vacation for two.

Do you have any ideas of how to spoil your favorite Texas by purchasing a creative gift with your 2014 tax return? Please share them in the comments!