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Austin EcoNetwork by Amy Stansbury - 1d ago

Free leadership training, mountain biking, backpacking, fishing, and the opportunity to represent your favorite Texas park. That’s what’s included in the Texas State Park Ambassador program… and better yet, it’s now accepting applications. 

The Texas State Park Ambassador program is open to Texans ages 18 to 30. Each ambassador is assigned to represent a state park for the summer and fall, helping to inspire a love for our state’s parks amongst other young people.

Here’s what the program entails:

  • An intensive 5-day overnight leadership training course at South Llano River State Park
  • 40 volunteer hours, dedicated to encouraging the use and protection of state parks amongst fellow young Texans
  • Social media work in promoting the park you’ve been assigned to
Applications are selected for interviews on a rolling basis until June 1st so early submission is encouraged. You can submit your application here. Happy exploring!

The post Calling All Park Lovers!! appeared first on Austin EcoNetwork.

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The eco-friendly home improvement store, TreeHouse, is closing its Austin location. 

“After two successful openings in Dallas and PlanoTreeHouse has made the difficult decision to close our Austin location. The Austin store has been invaluable for operational learnings, but is not in an ideal location for long term success. However, we love Austin, and will be exploring other Austin locationsthat fit our growth strategy.

Our Austin team will complete all active installation projects and continue retail sales for the next 90 days. Related to this closure, we will be moving the TreeHouse home office closer to our current center of operations, in the Dallas area. We want to thank our Austin family and community for their continued support of our mission over the years – helping make all homes beautiful, healthy, and sustainable.”

In opening its two other locations, TreeHouse is shifting its focus from pure retail to project-based sales (ie – customers wanting a complete kitchen renovation, as opposed to simply buying one or two items at a time). Although TreeHouse technically has 90 days left in its current location, the Austin retail store will likely close next month. In-store events that were scheduled for this week have also been canceled.

The post Austin’s Eco-Friendly Home Improvement Store Is Closing appeared first on Austin EcoNetwork.

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3.12 percent. That’s the voter turnout so far for primary runoff elections in Travis County (where most of Austin is located).

Wait, there’s an election going on right now? 
You’re not the only one who’s asking that question. Voter turnout for primary elections is notoriously low, especially when the elections go to a runoff. This is despite the fact that in many places in Texas (which are dominated by either Republicans or Democrats), primary elections are actually where our future legislators and representatives are ultimately chosen.

But the truth is, our election system can be a bit complicated (which makes it difficult for people to vote). So here’s a breakdown of exactly what’s going on right now, so that you can go out there and help to boost that 3.12 percent voter turnout number

Sow what exactly is a primary runoff election?
As you might remember, primary elections for the Democratic and Republican parties were held in March. Primary elections decide which candidates will represent each party on the ballot during the general election in November.

However, in order for a candidate to advance to the general election, they must receive more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary. Especially in districts where an incumbent candidate has just retired and many people are running to fill the seat, reaching this 50 percent threshold can be difficult. If no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote during the primary election, then the top two vote-getters advance to a runoff. This is where we’re at now.

(Wondering where the Green Party, independent candidates, or Libertarians are? During these primaries, only Democrats and Republicans are on the ballot. The Green Party for example, selects candidates through a convention process. You’ll hear more about these independent or third party candidates closer to the general election in November.)

Who can vote in the runoff election?
In Texas, you do not need to register as a member of any particular party in order to vote in primary elections. All you need to do is show up at the polls on Election Day and select which party’s primary you’d like to vote in. The only rule is that you can’t vote in multiple parties’ primary elections in the same year. You have to pick one.

This means that if you voted in the Democratic primary in March, you can’t vote in the Republican runoff and vice versa. However, if you didn’t vote at all in March, you’re still able to vote in whichever party’s primary runoff you’d like to.

How can you participate?
Early voting for the primary runoff ends Friday, May 18th at 7pm. Election Day is on Tuesday, May 22nd. Polls will be open from 7am to 7pm.

In Travis County, you can cast your vote at any available polling station. (You don’t have the pick the one closest to your house). More information about polling locations and voter ID requirements is available here.

Don’t live in Travis County? You can check out the voting information for surrounding counties here:
So what exactly is on the ballot? What are the big races I should be looking out for?
Depending on where you live and in which party’s primary you’re voting, some or none of the following races will be on your ballot. To find out exactly which races you’re eligible to vote in, you can look at a preview of your personal ballot here.

Governor – On the Republican side, incumbent Greg Abbott has already won his party’s primary to run for reelection in November. On the Democratic side,  Lupe Valdez (the former sheriff of Dallas County) and Andrew White (the son of former Texas Governor Mark White) are facing off in a hotly contested race for their party’s nomination.

State Representative (District 46) – The Democratic race for Texas House District 46 (which includes East Austin) has turned into a contentious one. The incumbent 12-term Democrat Dawnna Dukes was officially ousted from her seat during the primary (in large part over ethics concerns and complaints over frequent absences from the Legislature).

Now,  Sheryl Cole (a former Austin City Council person) and Jose “Chito” Vela (an immigration attorney) are facing off in an extremely tight race. Just over 200 votes separated them in the first primary election. 

Why this matters District 46 is a solidly Democratic district, which means that whoever wins this runoff will also likely win the general election in November and begin representing Austin in the Texas Legislature.

US Representative (District 21) – One of the Austin area’s long-serving US Representatives (Republican Lamar Smith) announced his retirement in November, opening the door for a big election for Texas’s 21 US Congressional District seat. On the Republican side, Chip Roy (former chief of staff for Texas Senator Ted Cruz) and Matt McCall (business owner) are facing off to replace Smith with an even more conservative representative. 

On the Democratic side, the race between Joseph Kopser (Army veteran and local entrepreneur) and Mary Wilson (a former math teacher and a pastor) has been generating a bit of buzz after a close primary race. Wilson actually received the most amount of votes during the primary, despite the fact that she raised significantly less money than Kopser and had a relatively low media profile.

459th District Judge – This race is actually for a new court, which was recently created by the Legislature and will be tasked with dealing with civil cases. In this solidly Democratic district, no Republican candidate is running. On the Democratic side, Aurora Martinez Jones (Associate Judge in Travis County) and Maya Guerra Gamble (lawyer specializing in Child Protective Services) are facing off for the job.

Want to learn more about all of these candidates? Check out the League of Women Voters Guide for more information.

The post Yes, There’s An Election Going On appeared first on Austin EcoNetwork.

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Sponsored Post – from It’s Cleaning Time!

What do you do when you want to make your home smell great, but you don’t want to resort to using harsh chemical sprays and air fresheners? There are a lot of simple things you can do to keep your space smelling fresh and clean every time you walk through the door! Here are some tips from Austin cleaning company, It’s Cleaning Time!

Essential oils ​

Essential oils are a great, natural way to make any room smell amazing. You can add a few drops to a diffuser, a bowl of potpourri, or even your natural cleaners to add some extra oomph. Citrus is wonderful for the kitchen, while relaxing scents like lavender and vanilla are great for creating a soothing environment in the bedroom.

Dust​

Dusting is oftentimes lamented as an unnecessary chore – especially for those surfaces too high to see the top of, such as ceiling fans, light fixtures, air vents, and above the refrigerator. What many people don’t realize however, is that dust contains and absorbs odors. Not only can it make your home smell, it can also irritate your lungs, and contribute to asthma and allergies. It’s Cleaning Time! offers high dusting services, so you don’t even have to lug out your stepladder – just your phone!

Mop and vacuum​

Floors tend to be the dirtiest surfaces in our homes. People and pets track in dirt and debris multiple times a day. Be sure to clean your floors often, especially if you have pets. If you notice that pet odors tend to linger on your carpeted floors, try sprinkling some baking soda on them (you can mix it in a bowl with your favorite essential oil first, if you like), wait for 10 to 15 minutes, then vacuum. The baking soda will absorb the odors.

Candles​

Eco-friendly candles are a perfect finishing touch for any room, They create ambiance, make a space feel welcoming, and are a wonderful source of fragrance. For people worried about the risk of a fire, there are many types of candle and wax warmers available that still allow you to have the look and scent of candles, without the open flame.

Take out the trash​

It seems like an obvious contributor to unwanted smells, but can be overlooked. If you notice that there are lingering odors coming from your trash, try switching to smaller trash bags so that you’re able to take it out as needed. You can also add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to a used dryer sheet and place it at the bottom of your trash can.

Don’t let dishes linger​

Another scent offender is the sink full of dishes that is left for the next day. Resist the urge to “let them soak” and try to get everything washed or in the dishwasher each night. Your nose will thank you.

Invest in a cleaning service​

All of us at It’s Cleaning Time! are committed to making our clients’ homes healthy and clean. We would love to talk with you about your specific needs, and have years of experience with green cleaning products and practices.

Please note – editorials and sponsored posts are written by guest writers to inform and educate the community on a variety of different viewpoints, as well as to share information about local eco-friendly businesses and organizations. However, they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Austin EcoNetwork. 

The post How To Make Your Home Smell Great (The Eco-Friendly Way) appeared first on Austin EcoNetwork.

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Guest Post – from the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club

On May 9th, the Lummi Nation began a powerful journey from Bellingham, Washington to Miami, Florida to demand the release of the blackfish (orca whale) Tokitae from the Miami Seaquarium. Tokitae, along with many other orcas, were captured from the Salish Sea off the coast of Washington and shipped around the world to work in parks. As these young whales were lifted out of the water, their pod members below shrieked and today still avoid the area of capture. After 48 years, Tokitae is the sole survivor.

You may know her by her stage name “Lolita,” which was given to her at the Miami Seaquarium. She lives in a tiny swimming pool where she performs for audiences two times a day. Some attribute her survival to her location near the ocean, with all the sounds and smells of her true home.

The Lummi Nation seeks to return Tokitae to her ancestral waters. The House of Tears Carvers of the Lummi Nation will travel from Washington to the Miami Seaquarium with a 16-foot orca Totem Pole in tow. This 9,000 mile, 23 day journey will make stops along the way to share Tokitae’s story and to meet with local indigenous leaders and end at the Seaquarium.

RSVP for Austin or Houston Events Here!

This Totem Pole journey is not the first the Lummi Nation has undertaken. They have worked for generations to protect the Salish Sea from oil and gas drilling and industrial export facilities and in the last five years have traveled thousands of miles with massive custom-carved Totem Poles. With all journeys starting in Washington and traveling to areas ranging from Wyoming to Winnipeg.

This year, the journey will make about twelve stops across many western and southern states on the way to Miami, including two Texas stops in Austin (May 19th) and Houston (May 20th). These important events will tie together environmentalism, animal rights, tribal sovereignty, and will beg us to reconsider the essence of our society. The Totem Pole will be blessed and we will stand in solidarity as we send off the Lummi Nation onto their next stop.

In Texas, we struggle with the same issues that affect the Lummi and the Salish Sea. We are not in equilibrium with our natural world. Our economy is dictated by extraction, transportation, and burning of toxic chemicals for fuel and to create other dangerous materials to feed consumerism.

More specifically, Native peoples are striving to protect their sacred places in Texas. In Eagle Pass, along the border, many tribes are fighting against the Dos Republicas coal mine along with a strong coalition of local activists. In the Lower Rio Grande Valley, South Padre Island, one of the last stretches of Texas coastline untouched by the fossil fuel industry, is threatened by the construction of export facilities for fracked gas.

For countless generations, Pacific Northwest tribes, such as the Lummi Nation, have been courageous stewards of the environment. Texas and the Northwest have been culturally connected for thousands of years. Relatives stretch across these lands. Relatives also stretch beyond nationality, culture, race, and religion. Relatives stretch beyond human, animal, plant, desert, mountain, and ocean. The way we understand the order of our world has profound implications for our actions.

The people of Texas are with the Lummi Nation in their protection of ancestral lands and waters, and welcome the support and inspiration they have shown in their steadfast dedication to the natural world.

We hope that you will be able to join us at the events in Austin in Houston on May 19th and 20th, respectively.

RSVP here

Please note – editorials and sponsored posts are written by guest writers to inform and educate the community on a variety of different viewpoints, as well as to share information about local eco-friendly businesses and organizations. However, they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Austin EcoNetwork. 

The post Lummi Nation Totem Pole Journey Coming Through Texas appeared first on Austin EcoNetwork.

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America’s trails, parks, and outdoor spaces are universally beloved… but it takes a lot of work to keep them in tip top shape. That’s where National Trails Day comes into play.

On June 2nd, thousands of Americans will come to together to volunteer their time in improving 2,802 miles of trails. (That’s about the distance from the east to west coast!)

How can you participate?
Several local nonprofit organizations are hosting volunteer events in honor of National Trails Day, including:

You can learn more about National Trails Day here>>

The post You Can Help Improve 2,802 Miles Of Trails appeared first on Austin EcoNetwork.

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Sponsored Post – from Austin Resource Recovery 

Wish you could do more to help reduce the amount of trash that is sent to the landfill in Austin? Now’s your chance to take some real action.

Registration is now open for the next Zero Waste Block Leader Orientation, sponsored by Austin Resource Recovery. Zero Waste Block Leaders are volunteers who help to answer questions and guide their neighbors in reducing, reusing, recycling, and composting materials.

In essence, their mission is to unite the community in promoting environmental issues and to lead the effort in creating a cleaner, greener Austin.

Does this sound like a mission you’d like to take on? You can sign up for Zero Waste Block Leader Orientation here>>

The post How To Become A Zero Waste Block Leader appeared first on Austin EcoNetwork.

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Nature In The City Podcast Episode 4: Discordant Harmony And New Ecology

This year Dr. Kevin Anderson, a geographer and philosopher managing the Environmental Research Center for the City of Austin, will take us on an exploration of “Nature and the American Mind”, examining a complex story that threads throughout our history, and shapes our beliefs, policies, science, and management practices today.

In this month’s lecture Kevin addresses resilient nature in the talk, “Discordant Harmony And New Ecology”.

Want to catch Kevin’s lectures live? A full list of upcoming dates and locations is available here.

Want to watch the video version of this month’s lecture? Check it out below:

Originally recorded in April 2018 at the University of Texas.

This podcast is brought to you by the City of Austin Development Services Department and produced by the Austin EcoNetwork.

The post #4 – Discordant Harmony And New Ecology appeared first on Austin EcoNetwork.

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Sponsored Post – from the City of Austin Office of Sustainability

Meet the Yellow Bike Project — a non-profit bike shop run entirely by volunteers. Yellow Bike Project was created in 1997 with the aim of empowering Austinites to ride bikes. Back then, the shop was releasing painted yellow bikes in the community that were free for anyone to use. Essentially, this was Austin’s first bike share program. You probably haven’t seen any of these bikes around, because the volunteers are now putting their energy into teaching people how to fix their bikes, giving previously-loved bikes to people in need, and keeping bike parts out of the landfill. (And also because we have bike share in Austin now!) The shop is run as a collective, which means that volunteers govern and manage every aspect of the shop, and all decisions are made by consensus.

We spoke with the Yellow Bike Project volunteers about their commitment to Net-Zero, what their toughest challenges have been, and what advice they have for others looking to live Net-Zero. Read more below.

Here in the United States, we’ve got a surplus of bicycles and a shortage of bicyclists. There’s nothing sadder than a bike without a rider, so back in 1997, our founding volunteers went to work trying to put more cyclists on Austin’s streets while saving more bikes from the dump, and we’ve been at it ever since.

Probably the best way to keep bikes out of the trash is through care and repair, and anyone can come learn how to keep their own bike rolling happily during our open shop hours. Folks can also volunteer and learn repair skills while helping us fix up bikes we give away through other great local organizations serving our community such as Caritas, Integral Care, and Refugee Services. During this year’s Earth Day event, we ended up giving away 68 bikes to kids. Also, if you volunteer with Yellow Bike Project, you can even earn a bike of your own!

Of course, not everybody who wants to ride has the time and energy to become a bike mechanic, so during our daytime retail hours, staff are hard at work refurbishing bikes for sale, receiving donations of bikes and parts, and keeping the doors open for regular business hours — kind of like a bicycle thrift store.

When bikes are just too far gone, we pull the good parts for reuse and recycle the rest. Happily, some of those bikes and parts get intercepted on their way to the scrap yard for reuse in art projects, garden trellises, and zany experiments!

  

There are forever more bikes to be fixed, and forever more potential cyclists who need a bike! The work is never-ending, and we can always use all the help we can get.

We’re a community bike shop, and our community is a treasure. We meet people of all ages from all walks of life; people who just moved here yesterday, and people who have been in our neighborhood for generations, people who have never set foot outside Texas, and people who arrive here from all over the world. The stories we’ve heard, the interactions that never would have taken place anywhere else — it all happens because of bikes, but it also goes far beyond bikes.

  

Get together! Making sustainable choices as an individual is great, but we have to work together in order to reach goals like Net-Zero. Look for opportunities in your community, join efforts that are underway, or organize groups of your own. We’ve got some big messes on our hands, and it’s going to take a lot of collective work to create truly sustainable solutions for our society.

>> Yellow Bike Project is a completely volunteer-powered organization. If you’re interested in helping out, you can stop in during any open or volunteer shop and talk to a coordinator. If you have a particular skill or talent you’d like to offer,  or visit one of their collective meetings. Check out more photos of the shop here.

To learn more about Austin’s Net-Zero Goal, view the Community Climate Plan.

Share your Net-Zero contributions with us on Twitter or Facebook and use #NetZeroHero. If you know a Net-Zero Hero (or heroes!) who should be recognized for their efforts, send your nomination to sustainability@austintexas.gov.

Please note – editorials and sponsored posts are written by guest writers to inform and educate the community on a variety of different viewpoints, as well as to share information about local eco-friendly businesses and organizations. However, they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Austin EcoNetwork. 

The post Net-Zero Hero: Yellow Bike Project appeared first on Austin EcoNetwork.

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Sponsored Post – from Texas Disposal Systems

Plastic has been making lives easier since it was first introduced in the early 1900s. From food and beverage containers to product packaging, toys, and electronics, plastic seems ever-present in our daily lives. Despite the convenience it offers, the major downside is the impact plastic has on the environment after we’re done with it. Most trash providers do not have the ability to recycle plastic, meaning much of it ends up in the landfill, or worse, polluting the world’s oceans and coastlines.

According to the UK Government Office for Science, roughly 150 million tons of plastic are currently floating in our oceans – with an additional 8 million tons entering the water each year. By 2050, it’s estimated there will be more plastic than fish by weight if the dumping rate continues. Plastic’s detrimental effects are evidenced by their role in choking and suffocating marine wildlife, as well as releasing toxic chemicals into the water. Marine pollution is also having an increasingly harmful effect on humans as disregarded waste makes its way through marine eco systems and ultimately onto our plates.

One particularly concerning example of waste in the ocean is The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) – a growing mass of about 79,000 metric tons of plastic, which is now twice the size of Texas according to Scientific Reports. The pool of waste has collected in the ocean waters between California and Hawaii with 94 percent of the waste made up of plastic. Unfortunately, pollution in deep water layers and the seafloor beneath the GPGP are not yet known.

In the midst of this “planetary crisis,” as dubbed by the United Nations, here are a few ways to modify behavior in your daily activities to reduce the use of plastic products:

  • Use cloth bags during shopping trips, which can greatly lessen the number of plastic bags in circulation
  • Replace plastic food and drinkware with compostable products
  • Use liquid wood, which looks and feels like plastic but is biodegradable and is a viable alternative to packaging
  • Buy bar soap versus liquid soap, which comes in a plastic container
  • Eat fresh, whole foods devoid of packaging

To learn more about how to lessen your environmental impact, visit www.texasdisposal.com.

References:

The post Why It’s So Important To Reduce Plastic In The Environment appeared first on Austin EcoNetwork.

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