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Our Green Column

The Kingwood Observer features a monthly column written by our volunteers. Opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not reflect an official position of Keep Kingwood Green. If you would like to join the writing committee or just write an article for the newspaper, please contact us.

Articles About Keep Kingwood Green

Hal OppermanRecycling News You Can Use
By Hal Opperman (June 2017)

         In my last column I mentioned that it is important to Recycle Right!  Most of us take our trash pickup (and recycling if we have it) services for granted.  We put the trash and recyclable materials out and it disappears!  Some of us have to pay an invoice for the service.  Generally speaking if you live in a neighborhood with an HOA, the HOA board decides which private company or if the City of Houston will be your service provider.  If you are not happy with the services you receive or the price you pay, your first call should be to your HOA.  Most private companies are flexible with the amount of service they offer.  However, the more service you get the more you will typically pay.
          Back to the Recycle Right statement.  What you put into your curbside bin or in the bins in school parking lots or at the Kingwood Metro lot is important.  If the materials are not what is listed on the bin or in the instructions you have received for curbside pick up, it costs more to recycle the materials.  Trash (items that are not supposed to be in the bin) will most likely be sorted out and sent to the landfill by the MRF (multiple recycling facility).  This costs money and eventually you will have to pay more for the service or with the City of Houston, your taxes will go up. So, learn what you can and cannot recycle in the bins that you use.  Never put film plastic in any of the bins including the trash bags in which you collect and transport your items!
          You can always get tips on recycling, what goes in the bin, and learn about upcoming events by going to: www.keepkingwoodgreen.org.  We are an all volunteer non- profit organization working to improve recycling options and educating about recycling in the Lake Houston area.
          If you live in one of the few neighborhoods that still does not have curbside recycling, we would like to hear from you. info@keepkingwoodgreen.org   As mentioned above, your HOA controls this process.  We have worked with HOA’s all over the area to bring curbside to many neighborhoods.  We are willing to speak at a neighborhood meeting or to the board of your HOA but must be invited by them.  There are alternative places to take your recyclables if you don’t have curbside recycling, but we know that most residents will not drive somewhere to do that.  Curbside Recycling saves tons of materials from the landfill. 
Comments or questions?  hal@keepkingwoodgreen.org  


HerlindaKeep Kingwood Green Answers Recycling Questions
By Herlinda Gonzalez (June 2017)

Summer begins and the big 4th of July celebration will be the highlight. Have you seen our recycling bins at local events? We hope they remind you to recycle at your family and church events too.

Q: Hal O:  Keep Kingwood Green helped promote the DEA Drug Take Back day out here in Kingwood on April 29.  Could you provide statistics on how much was collected? 
A: The Kingwood location gathered 756 pounds of pharmaceuticals. The next take back has been set for October 28, 2017 from 10am to 2pm.  I am sure we will be working with you again. (Shannon Martin U.S. DEA).

Q: Lauri A: I've been carrying around a bag full of packing peanuts. The local UPS store says they no longer accept them. Where can I take them? Also, where can I recycle the plastic film?
A: The film plastic is easy.  There are bins in the front of Lowes, Walmart, HEB, Kroger, and Randalls. Probably some other stores also have bins for film plastic. Just drop them in those bins. Sometimes the bins are a bit hidden, so ask if you don’t see it. 

The peanuts are another story.  UPS sometimes takes them and then suddenly stops. Sometimes the other pack and ship services like Post Net or FedEX also takes them. 

Q: John H: Where do I recycle wood?
A:  It depends on how much wood and its condition. If it is in good condition, give it away on Freecycle: trashnothing.com/houston-freecycle. There is also a Kingwood   Bookoo: kingwood.bookoo.com that you might check out. The City of Houston, too, has a reuse warehouse where good building products may be dropped off. They are then offered to non profit organizations by the City: houstontx.gov/solidwaste/reuse.

If the wood is no longer usable there are several companies that will grind it up for mulch.  Generally, it must be untreated and unpainted. Living Earth Technology in New Caney is a good example.  That company also receives branches, trees and green waste from the City of Houston. 

Q: Donna R.: I always put items in plastic bags in order to keep everything orderly for recycling.  If this is not correct, please let me know.
A: Please empty the recycling and take your bag to use again or recycle at a grocery store. No plastic bags or film plastic, as it is called in the business, should go into any of the recycling bins. Plastic bags cause equipment damage and shut down of the whole recycling line. The MRF’s put crews at the beginning of the line to rip open the bags and to pull the film plastic out as well as anything else that is not recyclable. This crew, film plastic, and garbage add costs and can make the whole recycling operation unprofitable. Helping the MRF’s helps protect our community and our kid’s health.

Thanks for your questions and for recycling!  Comment or ask questions by visiting our website: keepkingwoodgreen.org, or e-mail: info@keepkingwoodgreen.org, or call us at 713-206-0558 and leave a message. A volunteer will get back to you. 

Keep Kingwood Green is a 501(c)(3) non- profit, all volunteer organization working in the Lake Houston area educating and advocating for recycling.


Hal OppermanRecycling News You Can Use
By Hal Opperman (May 2017)

          Recycle Right or Don’t Recycle at All!  That is a pretty bold statement for someone from Keep Kingwood Green to make.  After all, we are all about increasing the amount of recycling in the Lake Houston area.  Recycling though is a very thin margin business.  What does that mean?  It means that any extra costs incurred in the recycling process may make the whole business unprofitable.  We all know from news media reports that the City of Houston has a budget crisis.  If recycling costs them money they may decide some day to stop doing it. Wouldn’t that be awful if the thousands of tons that are now being saved started going to the Atascocita landfill?
          The City puts ten huge recycling bins at the Kingwood Metro lot every weekend.  There are separate bins for cardboard, colored glass, clear glass, metal cans, plastic bottles, and paper.  The advantage of designated bins is that the materials can be processed straight into bales and be shipped back to a factory where they are quickly made into new recycled materials.  If unacceptable items are mixed in the bins, then at the MRF (multiple recycling facility) they must be sorted out and most likely will be trashed.  This costs extra money and may be the difference between making a few dollars or losing money.    
          Last week while I was recycling at the Metro lot, I saw a woman putting cardboard boxes into the paper bin.  I mentioned to her the bin was only for paper.  Her reply was that it didn’t make any difference since it all goes to the same place.  The process is different though.  Paper does not make good cardboard, and cardboard does not make good paper.  Sorting it out does cost money.  If it made no difference, why would the City go to the expense of bring separate bins for the two different commodities?
          Another thing you can do to help the economics of recycling is to stop putting film plastic in any of the bins.  This includes the trash bag you bring the items in.  Dump the contents in the bin and take the trash bag home for another use.  Almost all grocery stores, Lowes, Target and Walmart collect this type of plastic at their front doors.  By dumping the contents, more of the proper commodity fits into the big bins reducing transportation costs, no one has to empty the trash bag at the MRF, and the film plastic does not get stuck in the machines that sort the materials.
          If you are lucky enough to have curbside recycling you can mix all contents into one bin; however, you still should never put any film plastic bags in the bin.  They are death to the sorting equipment at the MRF.
Hopefully this gives you something to think about.  Are you recycling right?
          Comments or questions?  hal@keepkingwoodgreen.org  


HerlindaKeep Kingwood Green Answers Recycling Questions
By Herlinda Gonzalez (May 2017)

Congratulations to the community for recycling!We had outstanding participationon April 29 at the Spring BOPA. Here are the statistic of what we kept out of the Atascocita landfill:    
BATTERIES                        2347 LBS.
USED MOTOR OIL            3650 LBS.
COOKING OIL                      925 LBS
LATEX PAINT                   20100 LBS.
ANTIFREEZE                       450 LBS.
SCRAP METAL                   4600 LBS. 
TOTAL   POUNDS            32072 LBS.
            CUSTOMERS                      601
            POUNDS PER HOME       53.4 LBS.
Just to let you compare how outstanding this collection is, Clear Lake which also conducted a BOPA event had 60 customers.Thank you Kingwood for caring!

Additionally, the DEA collected expired and unused medications.  We have not received our results but we saw hundreds of residents come through the collection site. The DEA website reports that Texas collected over 40 tons and was number 1 in amount collected. Proper disposal keeps medication out of the landfill, our waterways and our food chain.

Special thanks to Keep Kingwood Green volunteers, Kingwood High School National Honor Society volunteers, Q-ENVIRONMENTAL, Pete at Junky Business, Kingwood Chick-fil-A, a team from the City Solid Waste Department headed up by Larry Stockham, the two DEA agents as well as the Houston Police Department for their service.

Now to the questions:
Q: Gerri: Please let me know what time the electronics recycling at the Metro Park and Ride will be?  I'd like to drop off a printer.
A: The first Saturday of every month Compucycle will be at the Metro lot from 9 to 3. You can go to their website at Compucycle.net to get a complete list of what they take. 

Q: John:  Do you know of a place I could dispose of some medical waste/items. We got a bunch of expired medical stuff (Needles, medication (non-pill) , used catheters, and contaminated items such as used gauze, bandages, and  iodine wipes).
A:  Some of the items you mention are definitely medical waste and it is difficult to dispose of Medial Waste without sending it to a licensed facility that collects if from hospitals and doctor's offices.  There are a number of private firms that do that but they do charge for the services.  They can be found in the Yellow Pages or via web search under the heading "Waste Disposal - Medical.” The City has no provisions to take that kind of waste.  In a web search I saw a non-profit organization, Medical Bridges 713-748-8131, that takes medical supplies. We have not vetted them. You might try your family doctor or a local medical clinic and ask if they will take it for you as they all have to use one of these paid services. 

Q: Chet: How/where do I properly dispose of paints not accepted at BOPA, construction items (glues, caulk, fillers, etc) and pesticides?
A.  The City operates two Environmental Service Centers (ESC). Unfortunately they are not convenient to Kingwood but they will take the items you have mentioned.  The Westpark Consumer Recycling Center at 5900 West Park, Houston, (713) 837-0311, also takes a number of items that they cannot take at the BOPA.  If you visit this link to Westpark, you can see what they do take:  http://www.houstontx.gov/solidwaste/westpark.html.  At the bottom of that page there are links to the two ESC's .Those links show what they take and their hours of operation.  You should call them about the itemsyou have. 

Thanks for your questions and for recycling! You may comments or ask questions by visiting our website: keepkingwoodgreen.org. or send e-mail to: info@keepkingwoodgreen.org, or call us at 713-206-0558 and leave a message. One of our volunteers will get back to you. 

Keep Kingwood Green is a 501(c)(3) non profit volunteer organization working in the Lake Houston area educating about and advocating for more and better recycling opportunities for residents and businesses. 


Hal OppermanRecycling News You Can Use
By Hal Opperman (April 2017)

Almost everyone knows they should recycle.  Unfortunately many of us can think of excuses why we don’t.  Or, maybe there is simply no easy way for us to recycle.  In this and future columns the crew at Keep Kingwood Green (www.keepkingwoodgreen.org) will help you make decisions that will make it easier for you to become a “more green” member of the Lake Houston community.  Why is that important?  Think future generations---our kids and their kids and on and on.  If we continue to throw away valuable resources someone down the road will have to pay the price!

When we think of recycling, most of us envision a stack of newspapers or maybe wine or beer bottles, the disposable plastic water bottle we drink from each day, or the aluminum soda can which we throw in our trash.  However, recycling goes way beyond those items.  Perhaps if you don’t recycle those items now, that is a place to start. Virtually everything is recyclable and that has brought about the idea of Zero Waste.  Many cities across the county and the world have already planned for a day when there will be virtually nothing in the waste stream going to the landfill.  Here in the Houston area we are a long way from achieving that.  It will happen eventually though.

So, here is a start.  You may have to break a habit and I know that is not easy but certainly can be done.  Pick an item.  The soda can is a good one if you drink a soft drink daily.  Consider a stack of 365 aluminum cans.  It takes about 32 empty cans to weigh a pound.  If you are not recycling that can, you are throwing away over 11 pounds of aluminum each year.  If two other members of your family do the same, now 33 pounds are being buried at the bottom of the Atascocita landfill, never to be used again. 

Take action!  Break the habit!  Crush the can after you drink the contents.  Carry a bag in your purse or briefcase you can put it into.  Take it home and place it in your curbside recycling bin or accumulate them until the next time you drive by a collection bin where they are accepted.  In Kingwood, the bins are at the Metro lot every weekend.  How easy is that to save just one valuable resource?
Comments or questions?  hal@keepkingwoodgreen.org  


Hal OppermanRecycling News You Can Use
By Hal Opperman (March 2017)

Keep Kingwood Green has been advocating for and educating about recycling in the Lake Houston Area for over ten years.  We have been a 501-c-3 non-profit all volunteer organization since 2008.  We do not have an office location and don’t physically recycle anything ourselves; however, we do publicize events and help to facilitate recycling around the community. 

Many of the activities we promote are in cooperation with the City of Houston.  We also work with Humble ISD to promote recycling within the schools.  One program we have worked pretty hard the past few years is to bring curb side recycling to many of the community associations in the area.  Generally each HOA controls the trash pick-up process in their neighborhood.  They sign contracts with a company such as Waste Management, Republic, Best Trash, or the City of Houston to pick up trash.  In many HOA’s they also contract for curbside recycling. Our group has given presentations to many HOA boards and meetings to advocate for curbside recycling service.  All companies offer it but your HOA must contract for it! 

Our organization is directed by a seven person board of directors with the help of lots of volunteers.  We can always use more help and, of course, more funding to increase the amount of recycling in the Lake Houston Area.  You can contact us at:  info@keepkingwoodgreen.org and check out our website and Facebook pages for more information. 

In future articles for the Tribune, Keep Kingwood Green members will offer tips on how you can take steps towards “ZERO WASTE”!  A number of cities have already found ways to stop sending so many things to the landfill.  As we watch the Atascocita landfill grow we have to know that at some point it will be full and a new landfill somewhere will have to be built.  It seems no one really wants that to happen in their backyard!  So we do need to learn to reduce, repurpose, and recycle many things that we currently put in our trash cans.

We hope you will interact with us.  Try some of our suggestions!  Give us tips on how you are saving things from going to the landfill.  Ask us questions.  Just remember to think “is there another” alternative before you put something in the trash can. We can all help to Keep the Lake Houston Area Green!

HerlindaKeep Kingwood Green Answers Recycling Questions
By Herlinda Gonzalez (March 2017)

ANNOUNCEMENT: Spring B.O.P.A. April 29th.The B.O.P.A -Batteries, Oil, Paint and Antifreeze- and Major Appliance, Scrap Metal collection event is coming to Kingwood METRO Park and Ride, Saturday April 29th, from 9 AM to 1 PM.  

Q: Candice P:  Do you know when the next free shredding day will be?
A: The City has discontinued the free shredding events.  They say they were too expensive.  Occasionally some bank or realtor offers a free shredding event.  We don't always find out about them but if we do we list it on our web site or in our monthly newsletter.  Local Print Solutions in Kingwood offers a shredding service for about 79 cents a pound.  The Village Learning and Achievement Center just off North Park also offers the service for a donation.

Q: Dennis M:  Where or what is the proper way to dispose of an old window AC unit?
A: Bring it to BOPA on April 29 at the Metro/Kingwood Park and Ride.
Junky Business is always there to collect major appliances and scrap metal for recycling. The service is free.  While the BOPA is for City of Houston residents there is no restriction on outside residents bringing things to Junky Business.  He will be there from 9 AM to 1 PM.  If you are not able to drop your unit off on that day, he does pick ups but may charge for that service. 

Q: Xavier H:  Hi, I have about 20 gallons of old Paint that I need to dispose, do you have any solution for me ?
A: Most governmental units will accept and recycle paint for residents.  That said, if you live in the City of Houston they have several locations you can take it to and they also will have a team here in Kingwood on April 29 from 9 am to 1 pm to collect latex and water based paints.  They can not take other types of paints in Kingwood. If you go to our web site, www.keepkingwoodgreen.org, you will find a section on the home page with links to the City and Harris County websites for those facilities.

Q: Jesse M: Should I recycle reciepts made on thermal paper?
A: Thermal paper, the slightly shiny paper you’ll see most often in the form of receipts, contains bisphenol A, or BPA, which has caused health concerns and may disrupt the endocrine system. Yet thermal paper is the most common paper used for receipt printing nowadays. Because BPA may be tough to remove during the paper recycling process, we recommend that you keep your receipts out of the recycling bin. If paperless e-receipts are an option, consider having one emailed to you instead of getting a printout.

Thanks for your questions and for recycling! How Can You Give Feedback or Ask Questions? Visit our web site: keepkingwoodgreen.org.  Like us or Follow us on Facebook. Call us 713-206-0558 and leave a message. One of our volunteers will get back to you. 

Keep Kingwood Green is a 501(c)(3) non profit volunteer organization working in the Lake Houston area educating about and advocating for more and better recycling opportunities for residents and businesses.  Send you recycling questions to keepkingwoodgreen.org or call 713-206-0558.


HerlindaKeep Kingwood Green Answers Recycling Questions
By Herlinda Gonzalez (January 2017)

Wow!  The New Year started with an overwhelming demand for recycling. Hundreds of residents recycled their Christmas trees at the City provided bins near the library.  The bins at the Metro Park and Ride Lot overflowed. The situation is under control. The City quickly responded to the demand. Also, based on our questions, everyone is ready for the bi-annual BOPA: Batteries, Oil, Paint and Antifreeze collection. The date will be forthcoming. Stay posted and keep recycling!

Now for Questions and Answers: 

Question from Nicky: Where can I recycle cooking oil? 
Answer:  Cooking oil will clog drains and sewers and also contaminate waterways if improperly disposed. The City sends a mobile recycling crew out to Kingwood twice a year. This collection event is called BOPA:  Batteries, Oils, Paint and Anti- Freeze. The next one will be this Spring.  Look for the announcement at: keepkingwoodgreen.org

As an alternative, take it to one of the City’s permanent recycling facilities. The Westpark Consumer Recycling Center has the best hours and accepts other difficult to recycle items. http://www.houstontx.gov/solidwaste/westpark.htm

Questions From Susan B:  Why didn’t they take the Christmas lights at the January electronics recycling?
Answer: Our apologies. We are uncertain whether it was miscommunication or a last minute change. Luckily, Pete at Junky Business definitely will recycle Christmas lights for the copper wire at the BOPA this Spring.

Question From Anne M:  What can you tell me about volunteering for Keep Kingwood Green?
Answer: We are a 501(c)(3 ) volunteer, non-profit organization working on improving recycling in the Lake Houston area and educating residents and businesses about recycling. We do a lot of foot work to coordinate and publicize the City’s recycling events including weekend recycling, monthly electronic recycling, and twice a year BOPA recycling, which all take place at the Metro Park and Ride. We work with Humble ISD to promote recycling within the schools. We provide recycling information at the KKG web site, KKG monthly newsletter and  the KKG Facebook page. Of course KKG answers questions sent to our website and hotline and shares them in the local newspaper. You will also see us and our business sponsored recycle bins at the Bridge Fest and the 4th of July in the Park.  If you would like to join us contact us at keepkingwoodgreen.org or call 713-206-0558.

Question from Jean D:  Where can one dispose of alkaline batteries? 
Answer:  They are hazardous waste and should be kept out of landfills. The City tells residents to put them into the trash. Harris County, on the other hand, collects them at their hazardous waste center on Hahl Road.  http://eng.hctx.net/watershed/hhw_facility.html.
KKG collected about 400 pounds of alkaline batteries at the Fall BOPA, which cost over $400 to send to the recycling plant in Ohio. Even with donations to offset costs, KKG cannot sustain this effort.  We advocate that battery manufacturers include the cost of recycling in the price of the batteries or that Texas legislators make recycling mandatory as in other states.

Keep Kingwood Green is a 501(c)(3) non profit volunteer organization working in the Lake Houston area educating about and advocating for more and better recycling opportunities for residents and businesses.  Send you recycling questions to keepkingwoodgreen.org or call 713-206-0558.


HerlindaKeep Kingwood Green Answers Recycling Questions
By Herlinda Gonzalez (December 2016)

Holiday Recycling At the Kingwood Metro Park and Ride

Well by now you have passed the Thanksgiving day ceremonies and celebrations and are preparing for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year or some other special end of year, first of year event. Along with all the family, friends, and fun, Keep Kingwood Green wishes you peace during this holiday season. 

You probably have more recycling than usual. If you have never used the weekend recycling services at the Kingwood Metro Park and Ride lot, give it a try.  It is free and used by hundreds of residents every weekend. Please note there will be no recycling bins at the Metro Lot on Christmas Weekend because Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are on a Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Here are some questions and answers from local residents that may be helpful to you. 

Question from Cris: I've recently heard you have to be a Kingwood resident to drop off electronics. Could you please confirm this? What proof, if any, do I need to provide if I'm a Kingwood resident? What if someone lives in Atascocita?  

Answer: Electronics contain hazardous materials that should never be permitted to enter the soil or air.  The City of Houston pays Compucycle a subsidy for the TV's and computer monitors they collect in Kingwood.  The City of Houston budget constraints restricts Compucycle to only take TV's from City of Houston residents. 

If you live in  Atascocita, the county should offer a recycling event or a facility that would accept TV's, and electronics but unfortunately they do not. Most Atascocita residents do pay some City of Houston taxes through their water district and sales taxes.  Keep Kingwood Green President  has advocated the case that for the taxes you pay, you all should be provided some City recycling services. We will keep working on this and ask Atascocita residents to join in the request for electronics recycling services. For now,  Best Buy in Atascocita will normally take old TV's. Call them if you have a very large one.  Goodwill also will sometimes take used electronics. 

As far as proof of residency, it appears that they just ask you but this is not to say something more could be requested. 

Question from Margie: Hello KKG! Has the 4 month grace period for recycling glass expired? I don't want to contaminate my household recycling bin!

Answer: Unfortunately the City still is not taking glass in the curbside recycling bins. City Council is supposed to look into this again after the beginning of 2017.   Make your wishes known to Councilman, Martin and the other at large council members.

The City does offer glass recycling at the Kingwood Metro lot each weekend.  There is a bin for clear glass and another for brown or green glass.  Since it is sorted, it costs the City much less to collect the glass.  Glass is a valuable resource. 

Question from Haydon: Are cartons recycled at the Metro Park and Ride? 

Answer:  Yes! Cartons are recyclable. In fact, the paper fiber contained in cartons is extremely valuable and useful to make new products. Cartons are easy to recognize and are available in two types—1) shelf-stable cartons  2) refrigerated cartons. Here in Houston they are recycled with paper so just put them in the paper bin. Be sure the cartons are empty and please replace the plastic cap. 

Thanks for contacting Keep KIngwood Green.  Thanks, too for recycling.  
Keep Kingwood Green is a 501-c-3 non profit volunteer organization working in the Lake Houston area educating about and advocating for more and better recycling opportunities for residents and businesses.  Send you recycling questions to keepkingwoodgreen.org or call 713-206-0558.


 

Hal OppermanKingwood Recycle 30% of City Total
By Hal Opperman (May 2016)

Saturday, April 30tlh started out stormy with lightening, wind, and heavy rain.  The threat was enough for the City’s Solid Waste Department to postpone the BOPA which had been scheduled to take place at the Kingwood Metro lot that morning. It is not good to have stacks of hazardous materials in an open parking lot with lightening.   Nevertheless, the DEA was scheduled to hold their annual Drug and Medication Take Back collection, also, and since that is a nationwide program they proceeded to brave the elements. 

We are proud of you, Kingwood, for caring and taking your expired or unused medications to this event!  In spite of the bad weather, residents brought 650 pounds of pills to this event.  That is a lot of pills!  Of the seven collection sites in the City, Kingwood had by far the greatest amount recycled with over 30% of the City total. You kept these out of the landfill and out of the sewers where they potentially can contaminate drinking water and the environment.

The BOPA, collection of batteries, oils, water based paints, and anti freeze has been rescheduled for May 21 from 9 to 1 PM.  Scrap metals, car parts, appliances, and large appliances including refrigerators, freezers, stoves, air conditioners, washers and dryers can also be dropped off.  The Keep Kingwood Crew will be there to answer your recycling questions.  Donate your old cell or smart phones to us then if you wish.

Since the electronic waste pick-ups have resumed on the first Saturday of every month, you have been dropping off over 19,000 pounds per month.  Another great job by the community!

You can find more recycling information at www.keepkingwoodgreen.org or ask your recycling questions on that website.  Your question is probably also on the minds of many other people in the community.  We will get back to you with an answer and periodically do answer those questions here in the Observer. 


Katrin McManisKeep Kingwood Green Answers Recycling Questions
By Katrin McManis (April 2016)

Question from Lillian M: I read in the newspaper that we can’t put glass with our recyclables anymore. Is that true? I live in Trailwood Village and Waste Management picks up our trash and recycling.

KKG answers: That is a very good question. A lot of residents in Kingwood are confused and are wondering the same.

Because you live in Trailwood Village, you are not affected by the removal of glass in curbside recycling bins. Your homeowners association (HOA) negotiated a contract covering trash and recycling services directly with Waste Management. They plan to honor their contract until it expires, at which point Waste Management may negotiate to raise the fees for accepting glass or drop it altogether. Please let your HOA board know, that you support keeping glass in your curbside recycling.

But thousand of residents in Kingwood did lose the option to put glass in their curbside recycling bin – they live in villages and subdivision where the City of Houston Solid Waste Department picks up their garbage and recyclables. These homes do not have backdoor pickup and have to roll all their containers to the curb and they also do not pay for the service.

The city will, however, continue to bring glass recycling bins to the weekend recycling at the Kingwood Metro Park and Ride lot. Anyone affected can still recycle glass containers at the Metro lot. And there are other locations throughout Houston.

Forest Cove, Elm Grove, Sherwood Trail and Woodspring Forest, and a few other nearby neighborhoods, are all affected by this new contract as well as most incorporated areas in Huffman and Summerwood. Keep Kingwood Green still encourages all residents to collect their glass containers and bring them to the weekend recycling. It must be sorted into either a clear bin or a colored glass bin there.

Remember, if your trash service is handled by some other company, (Waste Management, Best Trash, Republic, others), and not the City, your contract was negotiated by your local HOA. That contract may or may not include curbside recycling and what is to be put into the bins. Most private companies have agreed to keep taking glass at curbside at least until their contract with the HOA expires. So, you should see no change in service at this time.

Why recycle glass?

Glass can be recycled again and again without ever losing its clarity or purity. It never decomposes, making it the worst candidate for landfill entombment. Experts suggest that it would take 1 million years for a simple glass bottle to completely break down under normal landfill conditions. Ten gallons of oil is saved with every ton of recycled glass collected thus reducing air pollution by as much as 20 percent. Recycled glass can transition from the recycling facility back into a new container in as little as one month.

BOPA, Scrap Metal, Major Appliance and Drug Take Back coming on April 30

On another note, Keep Kingwood Green would like to alert all residents of the upcoming B.O.P.A. (Batteries, Oil, Paint & Antifreeze) collection event, which will take place Saturday, April 30, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Metro Park & Ride lot off West Lake Houston Parkway. You can also recycle scrap metal and appliances. There will also be an opportunity to get rid of unused or expired drugs at the National Drug Take-Back collection event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the same date and same location. Check our website for more information,


Katrin McManisKeep Kingwood Green Answers Recycling Questions
By Katrin McManis (January 2016)

Question from Debbie S.: Some of the recycling bins at the schools (Paper Retriever) say “No Cardboard.” Some of them say “Please Flatten Cardboard.” So do the school recycling bins take cardboard or not? I notice that a lot of the schools themselves put cardboard in their recycling bins. Is that a waste of a recycling product?

KKG answers: That is a good question. The Paper Retriever bins at the schools are actually operated now by Global Waste Services. On their website they list newspapers, magazines, catalogs, office paper, notebooks, junk mail and cardboard as acceptable items.

Their Paper Retriever program is an award winning recycling program provided to schools and churches. Beginning in 1994, the program has grown to serve nearly every school district in the Houston area and is at over 1,500 sites throughout the city.

Since paper is more dense than cardboard they probably prefer that they get paper, which for them, is more valuable and takes up less space in the bins.

We also reached out to Humble ISD and they assured us that cardboard is OK in their bins, if it is flattened. The reason they have the signs on some of the bins is because of the large un-flattened boxes. The school is paid by the tons it receives. If there is less than a specified amount in the bin they get nothing. Boxes full of air don’t weigh very much!

Unfortunately some people dump items, which cannot be easily recycled, in the school Paper Retriever bins. We recently observed an uncrushed un-flattened bicycle box with all the plastic and Styrofoam materials still inside in a school bin. Not only did this uncaring person put contamination in the bin, but also took up valuable space that could have been used for hundreds of pounds of paper. In addition they left the top of the bin open, which allows rain to soak all the contents again causing some degradation of the items inside.

Another alternative to the Paper Retriever recycling bins is to take flattened cardboard to the weekend recycling at the Kingwood Metro lot. There, since only cardboard is in the bins, the sorting and baling process is much simpler and cheaper. If you have curbside recycling, all the services will also take cardboard with the other recyclables.

So, we would say do what is most convenient for you and if you want to save up the paper and junk mail and drop it in a school Paper Retriever, that will help them a bit.

Thanks for your question. And, thanks for being a conscientious recycler


Katrin McManisKeep Kingwood Green Answers Recycling Questions
By Katrin McManis (December 2015)

Question from Michael S.: Will you take old mattresses at the (BOPA) collection event?

KKG answers: Unfortunately, the city of Houston is not accepting mattresses at the local BOPA collection events here in Kingwood. And if you put one out with your regular bulk trash collection curbside, it will end up in the landfill.

The only places where you can drop off your mattresses for recycling, are the city’s six Neighborhood Depository / Recycling Centers. The closest to us is the Northeast location at 5565 Kirkpatrick Boulevard, Houston, TX 77028. 713-675-3208. Current Hours: Wednesday – Sunday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (non- Daylight Savings Time). It’s a few miles east of U.S. Hwy. 59, off Loop 610.

Citizens may use these depositories four times per month and they are encouraged to arrive at least 30 minutes before closing time to allow adequate time to unload. Each user must provide the following as proof of residency: Texas driver’s license or ID and a current utility bill or city property tax receipt. Please see our website or the city’s with addresses and direction to the other five locations.

Granted, while none of these locations are very convenient for Kingwood residents, this is your best option to recycle a mattress. In addition, there are also services that will pick up at your home for a fee. You can find them listed online or in the yellow pages under Mattress Recycling Houston.

Each year in the Houston Metro area, almost 600,000 mattresses are discarded. If none are recycled, they would fill 15 million cubic feet of landfill space or the equivalent of two Reliant Stadiums.

However — 90 percent of a mattress can actually be recycled!

Thankfully, the city partnered with the Houston Furniture Bank and will transport all collected mattresses to their facility, where they prepare, sort, bale, and sell used mattress components and other recyclable items. The Houston Furniture Bank Mattress Recycling program helps build sustainable revenue for their operating costs, avoid millions of cubic feet of landfill trash and create job opportunities for people with limited skills. They truly recycle mattresses that have stains, tears, are sagging, have odor, pet hair and been treated for bed bugs.

The Houston Furniture Bank will also take mattresses that are delivered to them, but charges a $5 fee. They also will pick them up for $25. This is an option for people living outside the Houston City limits.

On a final note we would like to thank all the residents of Kingwood who came to the local BOPA event December 5th. There was record community participation (thanks for your patience) and we diverted a record 36,846 pounds of batteries, oil, paint, anti-freeze, and scrap metal from the landfill!

Thank you so much for recycling and we want to wish you all Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and a blessed 2016.


Katrin McManisKeep Kingwood Green Answers Recycling Questions
By Katrin McManis (November(2), 2015)

Question from Mark S.: I was told that there is going to be a “paint” recycling day at the Park & Ride in Kingwood, is this true? Also, if it is true, what are the times to drop off old paint?

KKG answers: Thanks for contacting Keep Kingwood Green. Thanks, too, for recycling.
Yes, it’s true, there is going to be a “paint” recycling day: The Fall B.O.P.A. (batteries, oil, paint and antifreeze) collection event. It was originally scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 7, but was canceled because of bad weather. It has been rescheduled to Saturday, Dec. 5, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Twice yearly, the city of Houston offers the collection of latex and water based paint, oils (motor and cooking oil, 15 gallon limit), batteries (lead acid, automotive, NiCad, lithium ion and rechargeable batteries only. No alkaline!) and antifreeze for the residents of the city here in Kingwood. A valid Texas driver’s license or other proof of residency will be required.
So bring your latex paint cans (there is also a 15 gallon limit) to this convenient collection event at the Kingwood Metro Park and Ride lot.
And no need to bring empty Latex paint cans or those that have hardened. These can be thrown away with your household garbage.
Also, for your convenience, Junky Business will be there to collect appliances both large and small and scrap metal. This is a great opportunity to clean out the garage and get rid of some materials that should not be sent to the landfill.
Due to federal regulations the BOPA trucks cannot transport other hazardous waste materials. You can however, take them to one of the City’s Environmental Service Centers for proper disposal. And yes, they do take most electronics at the city ESC’s.
Not accepted at BOPA: Any electronic waste! Any oil-based paint, paint cans without labels, solvents, flammables, pesticides, herbicides and other similar hazardous materials. Household hazardous waste/chemicals, business waste, medical waste, radioactive waste, PCBs, dioxins, ammunition, explosives, compressed gas cylinders, smoke detectors, household trash or tires.
Finally, KKG can recycle your cell or smart phone. Remember to bring those along, if you have old or broken ones not being used. Look for KKG volunteers at BOPA and stop by to say hello.


Katrin McManisKeep Kingwood Green Answers Recycling Questions
By Katrin McManis (November, 2015)

Question from Ellen V.: Help! Where can I recycle batteries from flashlights, toys, etc.? Best Buy only takes rechargeable batteries. I’m at a loss.

KKG answers: Thanks for contacting Keep Kingwood Green. And, thank you for recycling.

Unfortunately at this time, there is no easy and free way to recycle those alkaline batteries in the Houston area. A few options do exist luckily. There are some mail-in programs; however, they do charge for the service.

Also, if you live in Harris County and don’t mind driving a bit, you could take them to the Harris County Hazardous Waste Facility near Jersey Village. 6900 Hahl Road, Houston Texas 77040, Phone - 713-290-3000.

Recovery of the materials in alkaline batteries costs more than a recycling company is able to recoup, so in most cases they are sent to the landfill. And yes, the City of Houston and the EPA classify alkaline batteries as non-hazardous and therefore “safe” for disposal with municipal trash.

About three billion non-rechargeable batteries are sold each year in the U.S. Thanks to the “Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act of 1996“, mercury in alkaline batteries has been phased out – making them safer for disposal. Most alkaline batteries are now primarily composed of common metals like steel, zinc and manganese, which are all naturally occurring metals that do not pose a significant health or environmental risk during normal use or disposal.

Although the health and environmental risks are relatively low, it is important not to burn these batteries or dispose of a large amount of them in a group. If not properly segregated, batteries that are not completely “dead” can generate power when they are in contact with each other, creating a safety risk.

Another alternative for you in the future is to buy rechargeable batteries, which can be fully recycled. Because of their cost, most people do not bother to do that but over time this may be more economical.

Most types of batteries can be recycled. However, some batteries are recycled more readily than others, such as lead-acid automotive batteries (nearly 90 percent are recycled) and button cells (because of the value and toxicity of their chemicals).

Finally, remember you can bring all your rechargeable batteries to the upcoming BOPA collection event at the Kingwood P&R, Saturday, Nov. 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Houston residents can also dispose of latex paints, oils, antifreeze, large and small appliances, and scrap metal there, too. No electronics at BOPA other than cell and smart phones which you can donate to our organization.


Katrin McManisKeep Kingwood Green Answers Recycling Questions
By Katrin McManis (October 2015)

Question from Michael M.: I have a Kenmore canister vacuum cleaner I would like to recycle. What are my options?

KKG answers: Thanks for contacting Keep Kingwood Green and thanks for recycling. You have several options for your old vacuum cleaner.

Our local monthly E-Waste recycling service from the city of Houston is still on hold. Unfortunately, some people have started to dump their old electronics at the Park & Ride lot. This is illegal dumping and costs a lot to clean it up. If caught, the dumpers can be fined and even be subject to jail time. We do hope the city can find the money to write a new contract with CompuCycle that will pay for the costs to recycle those old TVs and other electronic waste.

If your vacuum cleaner is still useable, we always recommend that you try to give it to a thrift shop or offer if for free on Freecycle.com or Kingwood Yard Sale (Kingwood.BooKoo.com) in the “free” section. Or, you might donate it to Goodwill or the local HAAM store. (See our website for Web links)

If it does not work anymore, you could bring it to the Best Buy stores in Atascacita or Humble. They accept most household electronics and appliances for free and easy recycling.

One other thing you might try is calling a local vacuum repair shop to see if they would want it for spare parts.

Hope this helps. Thanks again for recycling.


Katrin McManisKeep Kingwood Green Answers Recycling Questions
By Katrin McManis (September (2)2015)

Question from Kathy R.: What should we do with shredded paper? Is it recyclable?

KKG answers: Thanks for contacting Keep Kingwood Green and thanks for recycling. The answer is: unfortunately shredded paper is a bit of a problem. Isn’t that a surprise? But it’s true and let me explain why.

As you know, no recyclables should ever be put into plastic bags and then put into the bins. Film plastic causes all kinds of problems with the sorting equipment.

Shredded paper while recyclable, should not be placed in big recycle bins even if in a paper bag. In the pick up and sorting process it tends to fly around and due to its small size winds up contaminating other products as they are sorted and baled for future use. Shredded paper also has shorter fibers and is of less value, if recycled, than normal paper.

Commercial shredding companies use a process where they are able to bale shredded paper and sell it for limited uses. Unfortunately, we are not aware of any way you can deliver a small amount to any of these companies. Occasionally the city or county offer shredding service for residents. A local nonprofit is studying offering the service, too, but so far that is just a study. Local Print Solutions offers the service but does charge a small fee based on how many pounds you bring in.

But that doesn’t mean shredded paper is a total waste! So, what to do with shredded paper generated in your household?

First, decrease the amount of shredding you do. Try this if you have a few sheets of paper from a credit card company with a bit of personal information on them. Just rip out the personal information, shred that and recycle the rest intact. Second, if you maintain an active compost pile at your home you may be able to compost shredded paper and turn it into nutrients for your outdoor plants. Paper is made from wood pulp and sometimes cotton fibers, both of these will turn to compost in short order in an active compost pile. Finally, the trash can is always an option. While we hate sending things to the landfill, this is a better option than forcing it into a system that is not equipped to handle shredded paper.


Katrin McManisKeep Kingwood Green Answers Recycling Questions
By Katrin McManis (September, 2015)

Question from Judy L.: Could you please suggest a place to drop off prescription drugs. My mother just died and we have a box of drugs we would like to dispose of properly.

KKG answers: Sorry to hear about the loss of your mother. Thanks for contacting Keep Kingwood Green and asking about prescription drug disposal. We get that question a lot and since prescriptions drugs are a controlled substance their disposal is administered by the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency. For a number of years the DEA and the Houston Police Department held pick ups here in Kingwood. That was suspended in 2013.

But because of the great demand to dispose of prescription medication, the DEA just announced another National Drug Take-Back Day. On Saturday, Sept. 26 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. you can bring all expired and unused prescription drugs to the Kingwood Park & Ride, located at 3915 Rustic Woods Drive.

If no medicine take-back programs or DEA-authorized collectors are available in your area, you can also follow these simple steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash: Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, kitty litter, or used coffee grounds. Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag. Throw the container in your household trash. Scratch out all personal information on the prescription label of your empty pill bottle or empty medicine packaging to make it unreadable, then dispose of the container.

Do not flush expired or unwanted prescription and over-the-counter drugs down the toilet or drain unless the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs you to do so. Please check the FDA website for a list of drugs recommended to dispose of by flushing.

Prescription and over-the-counter drugs poured down the sink or flushed down the toilet can pass through the water treatment system and enter rivers and lakes. Water treatment plants are generally not equipped to routinely remove medicines.


Katrin McManisKeep Kingwood Green Answers Recycling Questions
By Katrin McManis (August 2015)

Question from Leslie F. -- “I will be moving in a few months and am trying to figure out what to do with about 50 VHS tapes. Any suggestions? It is all movies that were purchased.”

KKG answers: Good question. Normally we would suggest you drop them off at the monthly e-waste recycling; however, the City has suspended that for the past few months and we are not sure when it will return. VHS tapes are not of much value from a recycling standpoint and there are millions of them out there in closets and attics that need to be disposed of. They do have a bit of hazardous material in them so just putting them in a dumpster is not a good alternative.

Your first attempt might be to offer them free on Freecycle.com or Kingwood.Bookoo.com. Visit our website for more information. There are people that still use the tapes and they might come by and pick them up if you offer them for free. Those sites are really good ways to get rid of all sorts of things that still have value to someone.

Also, the Purple Heart trailer in the front of Kingwood near Bill’s Café, is taking e-waste for CompuCycle while the collection in Kingwood is on hold. If in a pinch, take them there and ask them to put with the items for CompuCycle.


Katrin McManisKeep Kingwood Green Answers Questions From The Community
By Katrin McManis (July 2015)

We get a lot of different recycling questions from our fellow residents in the Lake Houston Area. Some are tough to answer and others are stuff all of us should know.

Either way, we hope you enjoy a little question and answer session about all things recycling.

Please email us your question at: info@keepkingwoodgreen.org, or post one on our Facebook page or leave us at 713-206-0558. We will give you a quick answer and maybe and maybe you will see your question in a future Observer column.

Question from Rodney W.:“Why is it that the bins at the Kingwood Park & Ride lot require glass color separation… but the Waste Management pickup in front of your house throws everything (glass, plastics, cans, etc.) into one big batch. Separation color in glass is important to the city… but not to WM?”

KKG answers: At the Park and Ride lot, the color separation of glass is a means of upgrading the value of the recycled product. The City tells us that clear glass is the most valuable when they go to sell it. If mostly uncontaminated, it brings the highest value.

Since they are collecting it in a large bin, if they can deliver that to their vendor with little contamination it brings them the best return. The others are of less value but still more valuable than mixed. Waste Management has no real good way of sorting the colors with their curbside pickups so they allow it all to be mixed together.

Question from Agnes C.I was wondering if cleaned Styrofoam (from a restaurant) or packaging peanuts need to go into the recycle bin? What about the plastic wrap from a case of water bottles that has the recycle logo on it?

KKG answers: While Styrofoam in general can be recycled – it will most likely be trashed, if it is put into a bin at your curb, at the Metro lot, or at a school recycling bin. Because of its light nature, it cannot be easily sorted at the automated recycling plants. In most cases it will be either sorted out as trash or accidently mixed with the paper or cardboard causing contamination of that product.

The only places that will take clean Styrofoam food containers and also blocks of Styrofoam are the City of Houston Westpark Consumer Recycling Center or the two Environmental Service Center. They do not take packaging peanuts, though. Local UPS stores do accept those packaging peanuts, but may not accept blocks and bigger piece at this time. Please check with your local "pack and ship store" before driving all the way to Westpark. Also try the PostAnnex+ store on Northpark.

Plastic film such as those from a case of water bottles, film plastic shopping bags from groceries and other stores, and things like dry cleaner bags should never go into a recycling bin with other items.

Unfortunately at the recycling plant these types of plastic, wrap around the sorting machinery and can cause lots of damage and stoppage of the whole sorting process. They are recyclable, but must be kept separate from other plastics.

Most large grocery stores, HEB, Kroger, Randall’s, Walmart, Target, Lowes and Home Depot have bins in the front of their stores where these film plastic bags are collected. Only if you drop them at one of these special bins will they be recycled.


Hal OppermanThe Spirit of Kleenwood
By Hal Opperman (April 2015)

The 12th annual Travis McCormick Kleenwood Day in Kingwood has passed this year with little fanfare.

In years past, boosted by the Kingwood Chamber of Commerce, this was a BIG community event. This year, the day was marked with heavy rain all day which certainly cut down participation and ultimately on the amount of litter picked up along our roads, parks and greenbelts.

As they have for the past five years, a team of ExxonMobil employees, spouses, and retirees did show up to participate and joined the Keep Kingwood Green team. Great community spirit!

My wife and I chose to pick up along Kingwood Drive near our neighborhood. We have done that stretch for several years so know that everything there has been “deposited” in the past year.

We decided to do a quick analysis of what we picked up in a long one block stretch. In total, we found two fairly large trash bags full of “trash” — probably 50 pounds. Much of it should have been recycled but obviously none of it should have been thrown out the window onto the median.

Every fast food establishment was represented either with wrappers, bags or Styrofoam cups. Red Bull, Monster, Gatorade, Ocean Spray, Coke and Pepsi were all represented.

Beer cans and bottles were the winners with the most units and one beer can was even unopened. There were four water bottles, an antifreeze can and car parts. We found whiskey bottles, Skoal cans and lots of cigarette packs.

There was a large piece of wire, a part of a chair, a shirt, several balls and several plastic toys. Finally, there were untold numbers of plastic bags, paper and plastic wrappers and cigarette butts — all in less than a half mile.

Who is it that dumps this stuff out of their vehicles? Do our sons and daughters do this? Is it the lawn service or other contractors that we hire to do some of the work we don’t want to do?

Trash along our streets and greenbelts reflects on us all. Are we so immune to the sight of all this trash that we seem not to notice it any longer? We like to think that most Kingwood residents have some pride of place, so why do we need events such as Kleenwood to pick up what careless residents or workers leave behind? If everyone made an effort to not litter and recycle what can be recycled, the Livable Forest would be a cleaner and more beautiful place!

Keep Kingwood Green has been working for years to increase recycling in Kingwood. Along the same lines, we need to work to make sure all residents and visitors to Kingwood respect our streets and public areas. Let’s all lead by example, stoop over pick up trash and make sure those who throw it out their windows know we don’t appreciate it. Hopefully the spirit of Kleenwood will live on rain or shine.


Curbside Recycling Discontinued in 13 Kingwood Neighborhoods
By Kevin McManis (December 2014)


On December 1st, Waste Management stopped subscriptions for curbside recycling in 13 Kingwood villages. That decision means families in these unlucky 13 villages had their curbside recycling cut off. Their only option now is to save, sort and transport recyclables to the weekend recycling service at the Kingwood Park n Ride lot. 
Kingwood services are getting worse instead of better? This loss is a community travesty that should embarrass us all.  
However, it also gives us an opportunity to shift that direction for affected villages.  We can instead expand recycling to the entire village - by updating the Waste Management contract to include that service for everyone.  And why shouldn’t we?
To be honest, while Kingwood recycling has improved over the years, we are way behind the curve.  The Houston city council recently voted to expand recycling to all city neighborhoods.  The exception to ‘all’ neighborhoods is Kingwood.  
The City pays our neighborhood Community Associations (CA) $6 per household/month NOT to pick up trash and recycling here.  (A concession as part of our annexation deal years ago.)  If the City picked up trash and recycling here, our cost would be FREE. And we would all have curbside recycling service. Servicing Kingwood would be more costly for Houston, so the City is happy to pay us a modest fee (of our own tax dollars) towards finding our own trash and recycling services instead. 
The problem is that many of these private contracts do not include standard curbside recycling services. And when a mega-corporation like Waste Management decides to reduce services, we take the hit anyway.  
So now, many Kingwood residents literally pay taxes but do not get the trash and recycling services other city (and Kingwood) residents do.  Huh? 
But it doesn’t have to be like that. Kingwood can accelerate the trend towards greater recycling and sustainability by improving services instead of reducing them. 
So what are our options?
• Renegotiate existing contracts with Waste Management and require standard curbside recycling be included. Most of our villages already have this service. The 13 villages that lost service can negotiate its return for all.
• Change to City of Houston services for NO COST recycling and trash removal.  The City even takes grass clippings and leaves to recycle into mulch instead of sending them to the landfill. 
If we do nothing, most villages will continue sending 10 to 20 tons of valuable resources to the landfill each month.  And when the Atascocita landfill gets filled up, do you want the next one down the street from you?
How can you help? 
• Contact your local CA and tell them to include recycling in the monthly service! The CA board members are your neighbors.  Talk to them. Tell them this is unacceptable. 
ethel@kingwoodassociationmanagement.com or call 281-359-1102
kingwood@sterlingasi.com or call 281-359-4247
contactus.tx@fsresidential.com or call 281-358-9090 
• Contact your neighbors and ask them to join you at the next CA meeting to demand curbside recycling is included in the contract, or change to City services.  At least three neighborhoods have switched to the City and now pay no monthly fees for refuse service.  
• Invite Keep Kingwood Green to come out and give a presentation to your local CA about recycling services. We can also supply you with materials to present and hand out yourself. 
info@keepkingwoodgreen.org. or call 713-206-0558 
This is the 21st century.This is the proud Kingwood area. Together we can Keep Kingwood Green!


Mayor Award 2014Keep Kingwood Green chosen to receive Mayor’s Proud Partner Award
Press Release November 2014


At a luncheon on October 27, Keep Kingwood Green, a non-profit organization operating in the Kingwood area, was honored by Mayor Anise Parker as a Houston Proud Partner.  The luncheon at the Hilton of the Americas was attended by several hundred Houston leaders and other honorees.  This celebration is held each year and sponsored by Keep Houston Beautiful.  This was the 35th year this event has been held.  Sixteen Proud Partner Awards were given this year and an additional 28 organizations were honored with certificates of recognition.  Six other organizations or individuals were given special awards including J. Howard Rambin, lll, founder of Keep Houston Beautiful. 

Accepting the award for Keep Kingwood Green was Hal Opperman, President of the Board of the organization.   Opperman has been president of Keep Kingwood Green since it was incorporated as a 501-c-3 in 2008.  The goal of the organization is to advocate for more and better recycling options in the Kingwood/Lake Houston area and to educate residents, students, and businesses about the need to recycle.  The movement was founded in Kingwood about 15 years ago as a web site by Brigitte Collee who was appalled at the dismal recycling rate in Kingwood.   Prior to that, an organization, Keep Kingwood Beautiful, did offer recycling services in Kingwood but that organization became inactive after the City annexed Kingwood. 

The Mayor’s Proud Partner Award for 2014 was earned by Keep Kingwood Green for their hard work in increasing both the number of items and the number of ways residents and businesses can recycle.  Keep Kingwood Green has been forceful in lobbying for and getting additional services from the City, waste and recycling companies, and the Humble ISD. 

Kingwood is a bit different than other areas of the City where the City of Houston Solid Waste Department collects trash and recyclables.  In Kingwood each Community Association chooses which company will handle waste services.  Keep Kingwood Green has worked hard to educate and advocate for curbside recycling in all the neighborhoods.  About half of the neighborhoods now have this service.

 Other areas where Keep Kingwood Green has helped to make great improvements are the weekend recycling program at the Metro Park and Ride lot which is now offered weekly and with added capacity, the monthly first Saturday electronic waste collection event, the success of the twice a year BOPA (Battery, Oil, Paint, Anti Freeze) collection of hazardous waste, and the many other educational programs the organization sponsors.   The organization has a comprehensive web site with information about recycling locations and suggestions about how to recycle.  They maintain a telephone a hot line (713-206-0558) and a web site where residents can ask questions.  A new service they provide is a monthly newsletter which lists all upcoming recycling and other “green” events.   For more information go to www.keepkingwoodgreen.org


Hal OppermanWhen Will You Have Curbside Recycling?
By Hal Opperman (August 2014)

The recycling rate in Houston is pretty dismal compared to many other large cities and even worse than Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin.  The City has been running hard to catch up and get out of the cellar, so to speak, in this statistic.  Recently the City of Houston Solid Waste Department added 700,000 houses to their curbside recycling program.  All the neighborhoods in Kingwood that are serviced for trash by the City now have a large bin for all recycled materials which is picked up once every two weeks.  Most families can fit two week’s worth of paper, plastic, cardboard, glass, and metal cans into this large 96 gallon closed container. 

So, as they roll this program out to the rest of the City, perhaps they will catch up.  Here in Kingwood and most of the Lake Houston area the City of Houston does not control trash pick-up.  Most HOA’s have that authority.  Most HOA’s have chosen to contract with a private company to handle trash within their neighborhood.  You see a Waste Management, a Republic, or a Best Trash truck collecting your trash in most neighborhoods.  All these companies offer curb side recycling but many HOA’s have not agreed to allow it in their jurisdiction.  Congratulations to the boards of Oakhurst, Sand Creek, and Mills Branch for recently beginning a curbside program.

What are the merits of offering curbside?   Let’s say a neighborhood has 1000 homes.  Assume each home has about 2.5 people in it.  Statistically each US citizen generates about 4.6 pounds of trash per day.  At least 50% of trash can be easily recycled and turned back into new products and jobs.  Some cities recycle more than 75% of their trash stream.  So, do the math to figure out how much “good stuff” is going to the landfill each month from your neighborhood if little recycling is now being done.  In the neighborhood I live in, I calculate about 35 tons a month go to the Atascocita landfill and I know lots of my neighbors take lots of stuff to the weekend recycling at the Metro lot, but lots still goes into the trash can. 

How long can we afford to bury these valuable resources in a landfill?  While the owners of the landfill work hard to capture methane gas and run off from the site, will those measures still work 50 years from now?  Will that company still be in business?

Next problem:  About half the homes in Kingwood now have a curbside program available to them.  On recycling day a drive down the street reveals that in some neighborhoods only about 50% are participating.  Why?  Lots of reasons, but probably the most important is that there is no incentive to recycle or disincentive to put out lots of trash.  We are all on our honor to be as “green” as we want to be.  The City may change that.  There is talk of starting to charge for the service.  Keep tuned!

Get all the latest recycling news in the Lake Houston area by going to www.keepkingwoodgreen.org or “like” us on Facebook


Susan PollardKeeping our Waterways Clean
By Susan Pollard (Jul 2014)

Texas has 367 miles of coastline, so clean waterways are important to us all on a personal level.   Where does water pollution come from?   Although we are all aware of the recent oil spills here in the Gulf Coast region, these types of occurrences are actually not the major source of water pollution.  These are specific sources of pollution and the companies involved work to contain and remediate the damage.  Did you know that this type of accident only accounts for about 20% of water pollution?   The other 80 % of the pollution comes from “nonpoint source pollution (NPS).”  NPS is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground.  As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and ground waters.  
What kind of pollutants wind up heading into our water?  Excess fertilizers, litter, herbicides, pesticides, oil, grease, toxic chemicals, pet waste, sediment from construction and eroding stream beds all contribute to NPS.  Pollution damages sea life and leaves less clean water available.  While we know that 75% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, we have to remember that is only a relatively thin layer of water.  In fact, if you put all the world’s accessible freshwater together it would make a ball of water about 35 miles high and 34.9 miles wide.  That sounds big, but remember this is for our whole planet.  While there is more water, most of it is in the ground, in ice or salt water so it is not immediately available for our use.  We need to take care of the water we have.
What can we do to help?  Remember what goes down the storm drain winds up in the Gulf of Mexico.  Put more plants and less concrete and asphalt in your yard so water can be filtered by the vegetation.  Plant native plants that need less water and use natural fertilizers.  Don’t overwater!  Generally, one inch per week is all that lawns need.  Make sure it soaks in and does not just run off into the sewer.  Use non toxic cleaners in your home whenever possible as the extra goes down the drain too.  Pick up after your pet and dispose of the waste in the trash.  Pet waste can contaminate local streams and add to algae blooming in our waters.   Never put hazardous waste like, paint, motor oil, cooking oil, insecticides or pool chemicals down the drain or into a storm sewer.   Kingwood has a hazardous waste collection twice a year and items can also be taken to various City of Houston Environmental Service Centers or the Westpark Consumer Recycling Center (http://www.houstontx.gov/solidwaste/westpark.html).   The Keep Kingwood Green website has more information about where to recycle these items.  Don’t forget to pick up litter.  As you walk or bike along Lake Houston you will notice there is often way too much litter in the water.  Please put litter where it belongs – recycle it when possible or put it in the trash.  Let’s keep our water clean!
If you have any questions or want more information visit Keep Kingwood Green at www.keepkingwoodgreen.org or give us a call at 713-206-0558. You can also “like” us on Facebook.


Katrin McManisRecycling Plastic Wherever You Are
By Katrin McManis (May 2014)

We all know plastic is a problem for our environment. It litters our curbs and parks.  It penetrates the food chain on land and in the ocean. It piles up in our landfills forever.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can recycle plastic wherever you are.  Let us help you count the ways!

It starts at home

Don’t throw everything out. Never. Sort and recycle your plasticsinstead.Any plastic that has the little triangle symbol with a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or a 7 on it. Check the bottom of the item. The things you can probably recycle the most are plastic drink bottles. Or food tubs for butter, margarine, or condiments.

Collect all your recyclables at home in a big tub, crate or plastic bags and use your curbside recycling, if it’s available in your neighborhood. Or take all the items to Kingwood Park & Ride on the weekends.

I don’t have recycling services at home

If you would like to have curbside recycling at home, talk to your HOA board or your landlord to encourage themto start offering (or expanding) recycling services. Only about one third of all Kingwood subdivisions have currently curbside recycling included in residential waste pick-up services. You can change this.  Make a phone call.  Send an email. You can do it!

At school

To be honest, compared to other schools across the country, there is lots of room for improvement here in our local schools.Our children learn how to be a good steward of the earth in our elementary schools. The majority of them know what can be recycled, but we as adults need to give them the opportunity to do so. Making recycling bins available through out the schools and especially at lunch is a good start.  Ask your local teachers or principals about how to make it happen, no matter what grade your children are in.

Many schools have their recycle bins in their parking lots. Does your school?

In your neighborhood

We are lucky to have a huge local recycling center at the Park & Ride parking lot off West Lake Houston Parkway.Many surrounding communities don’t have one.It’s pretty busy on the weekend and families very much appreciate its availability.

Gather those plastic items you collected, along with other recyclable, like paper, glass and metal and take them down there.  It’s open each weekend, Saturday and Sunday from 8AM to 6PM.

It’s a short trip and you will feel good on the drive home, guaranteed!

Shopping

Did you know that an astounding 500 billion plastic bags are produced annually and more than a million bags are used every minute? Think we have too many making a mess around us?

If you use them, save and recycle all your plastic bags at your local grocery store or re-use the bags for picking up after your pets.Instead of using plastic shopping bags, bring reusable cloth or plastic bags to the store with you. It’s easy to do.  You can just leave them in your trunk and use them the next trip to the grocery store.

At work

If you pack your own lunch use reusable containers, actual silverware and a cloth napkin. Or you can take your recyclable items home with you. If your employer doesn’t have a recycling bin or two at work, ask them why not?  They should! Ask your employer to invest in recycling services. It doesn’t cost much andbusinesses produce millions of tons of plastic waste per year! Responsible businesses want to be part of the solution, not the problem. Ask them about it!  It’s easy to do.

Be a Force for Good

As you can see, we can recycle plastic (or reduce its use) nearly everywhere in our daily lives. Think of those little things like those yogurt cups. Or crunchy plastic water bottles.Or those adorable but puzzled faces on our kids who ask us, Mommy how come we throw so much away?

For more recycling information pick up a “Keep Kingwood Green” recycling guide at the library or select local businesses or check out our website at www.keepkingwoodgreen.org.


Uma RajendranBOPA - FAQ
By Uma Rajendran (April 2014)

It is time for our next BOPA recycling event which is on April 26th, 2014 from 9 am to 1 pm at the Kingwood Metro Park & Ride. These FAQs are designed to give you a better understanding of this exciting community event.

What is BOPA?
BOPA (Batteries, Motor and Cooking Oil, Latex Paint, Antifreeze and Scrap Metal)is the City of Houston sponsored event to recycle unwantedbatteries, oil, paint, and anti-freezefor Houston residents. This gives residents an opportunity to recycle many unwanted house hold itemsinstead of disposing them of in the trash and sewer.

What items are accepted?
Lead Acid batteries, those found in cars and boats as well as other motorized vehicles and equipment are accepted. Rechargeable batteries, lithium - ion (Li-ION), nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH) and nickel cadmium (Ni-CD) are also accepted. All other batteries including alkaline batteries (AA, AAA, C, D)are NOT accepted. They can safely be disposed of in your normal trash. Used motor oil as well as cooking oil is accepted but there is a maximum limit of 15 gallons. Only latex based paint is recycled and oil based paint is NOT accepted. There is a limit of 10 gallons for paint. Both used and unused antifreeze can be recycled but there is a limit of 5 gallons.

There will be an area at the event where you can recycle your scrap metal and unwanted small appliances by Junky Business. You may also bring your large appliances including those that contain Freon, such as old refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners. Items NOTaccepted are tires, business waste, medical waste, PCB's, dioxins, ammunition, explosives, compressed gas cylinders, smoke detector or household trash.Also note that electronic recycling is NOT available on this date; it is held on the first Saturday of every month at Kingwood Park and Ride from 9.00A to 3.00P.
There is also a Drug Take-Back event on April 26th, 2014 from 10 am to 2 pm at the Kingwood Metro Park & Ride. The DEA and Houston Police will take back any unused medication and/or drugs. Please note that this event starts at 10 am.
And finally do not forget to bring your old and unwanted cell phones to the KeepKingwoodGreen volunteers who will be at the facility to assist you and answer any recycling related questions you may have.You will also receive a reusable grocery tote bag as a thank you gift. Your old phone has value and will be responsibly recycled by KKG as a fund raiser.
Who can participate in BOPA?
BOPA is for Houston residents only. Please bring your driver’s license or utility bill as proof of residence. Please visit www.keepkingwoodgreen.org for other options if you live outside Houston city limits.
Why participate in BOPA?
Spring is already here and it is time for springcleaning! This event gives an excellent opportunity to get rid of many of the unwanted items from your garage and home in a more responsible and eco-friendly way.It is calculated that the average household generates around 15 pounds of hazardous waste a year. When disposed of in trash or sewer it results in contamination of water.This can affect the eco system in a detrimental way. This also has an economic impact by increasing the cost of water treatment.

What are my other alternatives?
Keep Kingwood Green’s website (www.keepkingwoodgreen.org) is an excellent place for learning more on recycling related topics. The Houston City Environmental Service Centers (http://www.houstontx.gov/solidwaste/esc.html) is where Houston residents can recycle all hazardous waste not accepted at the BOPA. The Harris County Collection facility (http://www.eng.hctx.net/watershed/hhw_facility.html)is an option for county residents.
How to prepare for BOPA?
Please note that the event is only for 4 hours; so get your items ready before the BOPA day. Make sure your items are in tight and stable containers. The City will not accept leaking itemsor unmarked items. Caution must be exercised while transporting the items to the facility. Be prepared to be in line for 10 to 15 minutes.
Keep Kingwood Green volunteers will be available for answering all your questions and to control the traffic.  Go to our web site now for more details.  www.keepkingwoodgreen.org.
Thank you in advance for being a part of the recycling community in Kingwood. See you all on April 26th.


Hal OppermanWhat Happened to Keep Kingwood Green?
By Hal Opperman (March 2014)

Several people have asked me that question recently and I was sort of amazed because in my mind, our group has been as active as ever.  So, here is where we are and where we are headed.  I know that not everyone believes it is important to recycle and then there are others who simply don’t want to take the time or effort to do the task.  Keep Kingwood Green has been advocating for better recycling options and educating about the reasons for recycling in the Kingwood and Lake Houston area for over ten years. 
          Advocacy- Over these ten years the options to recycle have increased dramatically in our part of Houston.  Lots of people will take credit for that, but we believe that without our advocacy at least some of this would not have happened.  So, while our work is not yet done along, most people who want to recycle now have multiple options to do so.  Yes, some materials and some places are not yet adequately served.  We are working on it!  We could use your help!  Bottom line:  Much more is being recycled now than ten years ago. 
          Education- Over the years, our education director, Candy Bowman, has done a great job of educating residents and especially children about the importance of recycling.  Candy’s enthusiasm and excitement about recycling is certainly contagious.  Each year she and her helpers have touched hundreds, probably thousands of school children, telling them about recycling.  Have you ever had one of your children come home and ask you why you aren’t recycling something?  Chances are he or she heard a presentation by Candy and realized the Soda can that was thrown away yesterday could have become part of a new airplane tomorrow instead of being buried in the Atascocita landfill forever.  In her recycling costume, she always draws attention from the students.
          Candy, too, has worked hard to bring recycling to the Humble ISD schools.  After Waste Management and Tom Duffee, of the school district, agreed to begin single stream recycling in all the schools, Candy introduced an essay contest for all the students.  Candy and her team spent untold hours “grading” these essays and awarding prizes to the students.  This awareness project helped to “kick off” recycling in the schools. We know that most schools fill their giant bin each week with items that previously were going to the landfill.  Yes, most schools have taken the program and run with it while a few others still have a ways to go.  There is always more work to do and you can help by asking your individual school to “up their game.”
          Like most non-profit, all volunteer organizations, Keep Kingwood Green relies on volunteers like Candy to carry our message and do our work.  We will sadly be bidding Candy farewell as she and her family are moving to the Wimberley area.  Our loss will be their gain.   Katrin McManis will be taking Candy’s position.  She knows she has big shoes to fill.  We wish Candy and Bill lots of happiness as they move on.  If you have been touched by Candy over the years, you can tell her by e-mailing her at:  candy@keepkingwoodgreen.org

Perhaps we have been a bit quieter about what we have been doing recently.  Over the years our members have written dozens of articles for the Observer.  We appreciate the opportunity the editors of the Observer have given us to tell you about our organization.  We will plan to give you, through the Observer, more frequent updates on our organization and ways that you, too, can contribute to the recycling revolution in the Lake Houston area.  We would love to have your feedback, suggestions and help. You can reach us anytime by e-mailing info@keepkingwoodgreen.org or going to our web site: www.keepkingwoodgreen.org

Candy BowmanRecycling Resolutions from Keep Kingwood Green
By Candy Bowman (February 2014)

                                  What are your New Year’s Resolutions this year?  At Keep Kingwood Green, we’ve made our “Recycling Resolutions,” and hope that this will give you some good ideas, too!
      First, we would like to see single-stream recycling available for all homes here in the Lake Houston area.  Those of you who already have this know how easy it is to recycle almost everything that would otherwise go in the trash----plastics, aluminum and bi-metal cans, paper, cardboard, and glass.  If you would like to see this happen, contact your community association to let them know.  We will be happy to give a presentation at your CA meeting if you like!  Do you know that based on US averages, a neighborhood with 500 homes that switches to single-stream recycling saves approximately 32 tons of recyclable resources from going to the landfill each month?
      Second, we would like to find a way for businesses in the community to recycle more easily.  Some businesses are not aware that a recycle bin may actually cost less each month than a trash bin from their waste provider.  With several single-stream recycling plants now in operation in Houston, many businesses may be able to save money by recycling!  Some are also renting or purchasing cardboard balers and saving money and resources this way.  Those who would like more ideas can obtain our pamphlet, “How to Be a Green Business.”  Just E-mail us.
      Third, our Humble I.S.D. schools have made some great strides in recycling and teaching children to save our natural resources.   In the last few years, Dr. Guy Sconzo and Mr. Tom Duffee have worked with Waste Management to implement programs in which students are now able to recycle aluminum cans,  plastic bottles, and cardboard in addition to the paper recycled with Abitibi.  One more step for all of us would be to encourage students to bring waste-free lunches, using lunch kits, containers and utensils from home that can be reused each day.  For those who buy lunch, we should work toward compostable trays instead of Styrofoam, which can’t be recycled, or trays which can be cleaned at school.  In some schools, fruit and vegetable scraps from the cafeteria are now being composted for use in school gardens.  This would be a great goal to work toward!
      Fourth, we hope to spread the news to everyone that Kingwood is one of three locations in the City of Houston for monthly Electronics Recycling!  Mark your calendar for the first Saturday of each month from 9 to 3 at the Kingwood Metro Park and Ride.  The City partners with Compucycle, who take computers, monitors, printers, small to medium-sized TV’s, phones, and almost any small appliance that plugs in.   Compucycle is an R-2 certified recycler and will shred your hard drive on the spot or remove the information from it responsibly and repurpose it.  In the past 2 years of this collection, 228 tons of potentially toxic electronics have been kept from going to the landfill with this recycling effort!
      Fifth, we are working on the details for this year’s “B.O.P.A.” pick-up of household waste, which will be held at the Metro Park and Ride lot on April 26th.  B.O.P.A. stands for Batteries (rechargeable), Oil, Paint (latex), and Antifreeze.  Pete Hess will also take your scrap metal and large appliances that day. If your garage needs cleaning out, be sure to put this date on your calendar.  Last year our Councilman, Dave Martin, arranged for a second pick-up, which was held in October.  That was a great help to residents, and we hope that will be possible again this year.  The National Drug Take Back Program is also scheduled for that date.  Watch our web site for more details. 
      Sixth, did you know you can save money by composting your fruit and vegetable scraps with leaves and grass at home?  You have all the components there to make mulch/compost that will nourish your plants and trees.  And,  it’s free!    See our website for lots of good tips on composting:  www.keepkingwoodgreen.org
      Seventh, and very important is Kleenwood---Our community has scheduled this terrific yearly clean-up for Saturday, March 22nd at 9 A.M.   It begins at your local community pool, where bags will be handed out by leaders.  Sparky Nolan, with the Kingwood Chamber, has announced that the celebration after Kleenwood will be held this year at the Pines Montessori School in Kingwood.  This is a great opportunity for organizations and families to help clean up our roadways, greenbelts and parks, and also to enjoy good fellowship afterwards with food and fun.   As a recycling goal, we suggest that you separate plastic and aluminum/metal items from trash into a second (clear or white) bag.   Please put this date on your calendar---you’ll be glad you did!
      Eighth, we would like to encourage you to join our email list or “Like” us on Facebook for information about upcoming recycling events in our area.  We post dates and times as soon as we find out the news and would like the opportunity to let everyone know about all of the recycling opportunities in our area!   Let’s make 2014 the year when we resolve to turn “waste” into “resources” for the future of our beautiful community!   


Press Release: Keep Kingwood Green presents to Houston-Galveston Area Council
(December 2013)

On November 20th, the Houston – Galveston Area Council asked Keep Kingwood Green and the City of West University Place to give presentations to the Recycling Roundtable about their efforts and successes to improve recycling in their areas.  The stories were quite different since West U. is a city of about 15,000 residents and operates their recycling facilities as part of their city services.  Keep Kingwood Green (KKG) is an all volunteer 501-c-3 non-profit working in the Kingwood and Lake Houston area to advocate for and educate about recycling and other “green initiatives”.  The KKG organization operates without tax funding and actually doesn’t do any physical recycling of materials.  They only work with others to improve opportunities for their residents. 

Brigitte Collee, who began the predecessor to KKG almost fourteen years ago with a web site that told residents of Kingwood where and how they could recycle, presented the current situation to the Roundtable.  Over the years, the group has become a non profit, added a board of directors, and educated thousands about recycling.  Too, they have influenced trash service providers, the City of Houston, the Humble ISD, and numerous homeowners’ associations to improve recycling for the residents of the Lake Houston area. 

According to Erin Livingston of the H-GAC, Keep Kingwood Green was chosen to present their story so that other areas of the region could hear about the ways that a “grassroots volunteer organization” can influence and improve recycling in their local community.  Collee says “Yes, you can just let things happen, or you can go out and make something happen.  That is what we have done.”  You can see the whole presentation by going to the Keep Kingwood Green web site and clicking on the story on the home page.  www.keepkingwoodgreen.org 


Candy BowmanCity Recycling Expands in Kingwood
By Candy Bowman (October 2013)

                              Good news for Kingwood!   Thanks to Councilman Dave Martin and the City of Houston Solid Waste Department, Elm Grove Village and Sherwood Trails soon will receive full single-stream curb side recycling!  The residents of these two community associations will receive a green 96-gallon bin for their recyclables, similar to the black 96-gallon trash bin which they now use.  These bins have wheels, which make them easy to roll out to the street, and a lid to keep contents dry.  All recyclables can be thrown into the bin mixed, which is very simple for busy families to do. 
      Residents will continue to receive one trash pick-up each week and one recycling pick-up every other week.   Also, every week, they have a separate green waste pick-up of grass and leaves.  This will be composted by the City at a Living Earth facility located in the New Caney area.  The resulting compost is sold with the Houston brand name.  You can buy it at stores like Lowes Home Improvement Centers.  The City’s income from the product is re-invested into recycling. 
      At this time, the City is adding 70,000 homes to their existing single stream  recycling program.  This includes 1424 homes in Elm Grove Village and 946 homes in Sherwood Trails.  The new bins will be delivered to residents starting on Oct. 28th and the recycling program is scheduled to begin during the week of November 25th. 
           A plus for all residents served by the City of Houston Solid Waste Department is that this program is free for them!   That is right, there is no cost to residents if your waste provider is the City of Houston!   Many community associations in Kingwood have opted to find their own waste provider, but residents are paying nearly $200 per year or more for this service, and often paying extra for recycling.  Leaves and grass are being sent to the landfill, frequently in bags that will not decompose.  Methane gas is released into our air, however in some cases this may be captured for use.
      A huge thank-you to the hundreds of Kingwood Park High School students who wrote to and called Councilman Martin last spring to request this recycling pick-up for these two neighborhoods around the school!  Recycling will provide a brighter, cleaner future for our children and grandchildren, and their efforts are much appreciated!  A special thanks to principal, Belinda Zoet-King for her efforts at the school. 

      Keep Kingwood Green is working with many of the community associations in the Lake Houston area  to obtain better recycling opportunities, both through the City and with other waste providers.   Each Community Association determines who will be the waste provider to serve their village.  Congratulations to those who have already added recycling as part of their regular service.  When will the others join the movement to save our resources?   If you would like to learn about these options for your neighborhood, contact us at info@keepkingwoodgreen.org or call 713-206-0558.   Please join us in working to provide this benefit for all of the Lake Houston area!  www.keepkingwoodgreen.org

Hal OppermanHow about that Green Waste?
By Hal Opperman (September 2013)

Those of you who know me, know that I am pretty serious about recycling everything I can.  Some years ago some friends and I started Keep Kingwood Green with a mission of increasing recycling opportunities in the Lake Houston Area and educating residents and students about recycling.  I am lucky enough to be retired, so I do have more time to pursue my avocations (recycling and gardening) than my younger friends. 
One easy way to recycle is to keep your green waste out of the landfill.  What is green waste?  Well, it is mostly anything that grows in your yard and plant scraps from the kitchen that you no longer want.  Most people put all this in a garbage bag and put it out for the trash.  Unless you live in the City of Houston and have green waste pick up from the City Department of Solid Waste, your discard will end up in the Atascocita landfill.  There it will be buried forever and all that fertilizer and water you used to grow the grass, leaves, and plants will be locked up under that huge mound of dirt.  Some of it is recovered as methane as it rots in the landfill, but other than enlarging “Atascocita Mountain”, it is rendered useless. 
There is an alternative.  Recently in another of my volunteer jobs I was helping to renew the hummingbird and butterfly beds in front of Oak Forest Elementary School.  The volunteers there have a big presence on campus with what we call “outdoor classrooms”.  The butterfly beds are beautiful but after a long hot summer they were looking tired and over grown.  A team of volunteers quickly cut and bagged six huge trash bags of “green waste”.  Most commercial and public buildings simply put this type of waste in a big dumpster and forget about it. 
Oak Forest though is a special place where every 5th grader spends time in the science garden where they learn to compost as part of the decomposition and nitrogen cycle.  On the south side of the school, near the vegetable garden, are three large compost bins.  Each year, the 5th graders make and use over a ton of compost in these bins.  It takes lots of green waste to make a ton of compost. The compost made by the 5th graders is not just any old compost.  It is rich in nutrients and also teaming with microbes; just the type of food any plant needs!  Over time all green waste will decompose and eventually be a good soil amendment.  The key to a good compost bin, however, is that it speeds the process.  So, in this case, the 5th graders see the whole process during the 9 months they are in school.  To do this we need to mix materials (a nitrogen source and a carbon source), keep them moist, and allow air to be available to the decomposers (microbes) that are working in the pile to turn it into compost. And if 5th graders can do it, you should consider doing the same.

Here is a simple process that anyone can do in their back yard.  Follow the pictures nearby. (Remember the six bags of green waste?)  First we dumped the bags of green waste on a section a grass.  Then we used a rake to spread the plant material into a thin layer.  Next we used our mulching lawnmower with its grass catcher to mulch and pick up much of the material.  We emptied the material into the wheelbarrow as we continued to pass over the plant material.  After mulching most of the material we raked what was left into a few small piles. You can continue to pass over the material until it is all picked up.  In this case that took about 20 minutes.  Then it is off to the compost bin where it goes into bin 1.  In a few days as the microbes go into full decomposition mode, they will heat the pile up to about 150 degrees, killing weed seeds and any pathogens that might have been included with diseased plants.  Eventually the students will turn the material twice more into bins 2 and 3. 
Using a mulching lawnmower on your grass is one of the best things that you can do to your lawn.  The cut grass is injected down into the grass layer where it will compost.  Compost is the best fertilizer we can give our grass.  Within a few weeks and after some rain or irrigation this grass will look better than it has ever looked before.  And, all that great raw material is not lost in the landfill.
So, give it a try!  Your plants will love the compost.  Even if you don’t put it in a compost pile, the mulched material is wonderful to spread around your trees and bushes.  It will do so much more good in your yard than it will ever do in the landfill.  Oh, and one more benefit, the half hour of exercise you get doing this in the great outdoors is at least as good as a half hour workout at the gym!  And it does not involve a membership fee!
And remember, even a 5th grader can do it!  Stop at the school and take a look at the great compost in bin number 3.  For more tips on recycling and composting, go to www.keepkingwoodgreen.org


Hal OppermanAre You Recycling Yet?
By Hal Opperman (July 2013)

Almost everyone recycles some.  Most of us recycle a lot more than we did just a few years ago.  That’s the good news.  The bad news!  We could do much more. 

Many of us in the Lake Houston area also live in the City of Houston.  The City was embarrassed several years ago by being called the trashiest city in the US by “USA Today”.  Mayor White and Mayor Parker have worked hard to increase recycling within the City.  The results are starting to show.  Several neighborhoods in our area are now served by the Houston Solid Waste Department.  Those neighborhoods all have green waste pick up.  No leaves, grass, dead plants or branches go to the dump.  All are transported to a compost/mulch making facility.  Neighborhoods including Forest Cove already receive curbside recycling.  The City promises more areas will soon be getting this service.

Many of us do live in the City but live in neighborhoods where the board of the neighborhood association has contracted with an outside service to handle trash pick up.  All major trash services do offer recycling services but many associations have been slow to sign up for those services.  Congratulations to the boards in Kingspoint, Greentree, Riverchase, and South Woodland Hills for including curbside recycling in their recent contracts. Their actions are saving tons of plastic, aluminum, metal, paper, glass, and cardboard from being buried at the Atascocita landfill each day. 

We are often asked why the City’s weekend recycling bins at the Metro lot is not enough.  The City has done a good job of providing this outlet for our recyclables.  They tell us they collect about 82 tons per month there.  We know that one private hauler collects 32 tons per month from just one neighborhood where he provides curbside recycling.  You can quickly calculate that many tons of resources are still going to the landfill each month from the rest of our area.  Many residents don’t want to take the time or expense of sorting and delivering their recyclables to a central location.  So they just toss it in with their trash.  But, most will place them into one container for single stream recycling when it is offered. 

Most residents do want to do the right thing!  Compucycle began their First Saturday of the month e-waste collection in Kingwood over a year ago.  For six collections this year they have picked up over 110,000 pounds.  That is a lot of computers, printers, TVs, small appliances, and the like.  We all know there are valuable and hazardous parts in these discards.  We are doing a good job to make sure they are responsibly recycled.  If you haven’t taken advantage of that service, they are there like clockwork from 9 to 3 every first Saturday.  No cost---everyone is welcome!

We applauded Humble ISD, Waste Management, and Abitibi Paper Retrievers for their collection programs within our schools.  Too much trash still goes into these bins. But, with education we hope that residents learn to stop contaminating the bins.

Keep Kingwood Green is an all volunteer 501-c-3 non-profit, operating in the Lake Houston area.  We are funded by your donation of cell phones to us---which we recycle.  We also get occasional grants from ExxonMobil.  We can always use volunteers to help spread the word about recycling and to advocate for more and better recycling services. Let us know if you have questions or want to help.  www.keepkingwoodgreen.org  


Candy BowmanWater Saving Tips for Summer
By Candy Bowman (June 2013)

                          Recent bouts with drought have made all of us more aware of the need to save water.  Here are some ways to help conserve water and lower your water bill, too! 
Indoors, install more efficient appliances and plumbing fixtures.  A low-flow showerhead can reduce water use by 25 to 60%, saving up to $145 a year.  It helps to take shorter showers and use less water for baths, too.  Shut off the water while soaping up and shampooing.  If you run water to get it hot,  catch the cold water in a bucket for later use.


Aerators (devices that mix air with water) can cut usage on faucets by half.  Check for leaks in faucets and pipes and replace washers or repair or replace fixtures, if needed.
Low-flow toilets can save a lot of water from being wasted.  If you don’t have these, you can use a displacement device in older toilets.  Avoid extra flushes for disposing of trash.
Brushing your teeth with the water running wastes up to 2 gallons of water.  It’s easy to apply toothpaste, wet the toothbrush, brush, then turn on the water to rinse.
You can lower your water and energy bills in the laundry room by choosing an energy-saving model if you need to replace your washing machine.  Use the load selector to match the water level to the size of the load.  Presoak the heavily soiled items.
In the kitchen, if you use a dishwasher, wash only full loads, using the shortest time setting that will efficiently clean the dishes.  Use a brush and bowl of water to clean food instead of letting the water run, and thaw frozen food in the refrigerator or microwave, not under running water.
Fix leaky faucets.  A faucet that leaks at a rate of one drop per second can waste up to 3,000 gallons of water a year.
Outdoors, water infrequently, yet thoroughly, to conserve water and keep your lawn and plants healthy.  Watering in the morning will keep water from being evaporated by the midday heat.   Consider using a rain barrel to collect water for the yard.  Let grass grow taller in hot weather and mulch grass back into lawn.   Using mulch in the garden and around shrubs will save moisture, too.   Plant shrubs and other plants that don’t need a lot of watering.
For pools, don’t overfill to avoid splashing and spilling.  Use a cover to slow evaporation, and check walls, filtration systems and inlets and repair when needed.
To check your water system for leaks, locate your water meter.  Read the meter first at night, after water use for the day has ended, and again in the morning before any water is used.  Subtract the first reading from the second reading to tell how much water (if any) has leaked out. 
Please go to www.keepkingwoodgreen.org  or like us on Facebook for tips on recycling.   Water we conserve today can save our natural resources and help us save money at home, too!


Candy BowmanThank You For Recycling
By Candy Bowman (January 2013)

                          Sometimes we ask people to help with things, but right now we would just like to say a big “Thank You” to all of you in the Lake Houston area --- thank you for recycling this past year!
      You have made it a year of amazing gains in recycling for our community, not just in one area, but in homes, schools, and even in businesses.  We are moving forward because you have risen to the challenge when presented with an opportunity to help others and help save our natural resources.
      In October and November, the e-waste collection by CompuCycle on the first Saturday of the month were dedicated to the establishment of a program to provide training and jobs in the electronics recycling industry for individuals with disabilities.  This was a joint effort by CompuCycle and Easter Seals Greater Houston with lots of publicity by Keep Kingwood Green.   From an average collection of about 15,000 pounds per month, our community responded with an October collection of 29,682 pounds and a November collection of 42,189 pounds, almost 3 times the usual amount!  You were listening, and helped out, and it was much appreciated!
      Many more residents are now beginning to recycle at home.  The City of Houston collected 986 tons of recyclables at the Kingwood Park and Ride lot last year.  The bins, which are now located at the back of the lot, always need to be changed out several times during the weekend.  That is almost a thousand tons that didn’t go to the landfill!  What we hear from families is that the more they recycle at home, the less trash there is to throw away.  Many people have only a half-full garbage can each week! 
      Recently, several communities in our area have obtained single stream curbside recycling, and are finding it very easy to simply place all recyclables in one bin and have them picked up at home.  We would like to see single stream curbside recycling come to all of the homes in our area.  If you think this would be a good thing for your family, let your community association know that you would like to have this.  With 3 new single stream recycling plants in Houston, this could become possible for all of us soon, but we will need to ask for it.   The pieces are in place for this;   we just need to let our waste providers and community association leaders know that we want it!
      Many thanks go to Humble I.S.D. and to Waste Management for working together to establish a way for students and staff to recycle aluminum, plastics, and cardboard in all of our schools.  This system is teaching our students valuable lessons about the importance of recycling, while saving the District money with reduced trash pick-ups. 
      Thanks to those who support our neighborhood schools by dropping off their paper in the Abitibi bins located at each school.  Schools receive payment from the paper collection, funds which can be used for needed supplies and equipment!
      Thanks to all the students who wrote essays last year in our Recycling Essay Contest, and to the teachers who helped to inspire them.  These students and their essays may be seen at: www.keepkingwoodgreen.org/EssayContest.html.   Reading these essays will give you a good feeling about the next generation and their concern for saving our natural resources.
      Congratulations to the 5th graders at Oak Forest Elementary, who have learned how to compost kitchen waste with leaves and grass clippings to produce several tons of compost in the past year.  The compost is used for their vegetable and butterfly gardens and they also use leaves and yard clippings donated by the community to mulch trees in their outdoor “forest” study area, fruit tree orchard, and surrounding wooded areas.   Parents and neighborhood residents have donated and dropped off over 2,000 bags of leaves and pine needles at the school each of the past 2 years! 
      Composting is becoming better understood as an answer to the question, “What do I do with all the leaves and grass my yard produces?”  In the past, we just allowed it to be hauled off with our other trash to the landfill.  There, it sent methane into the atmosphere as it decomposed.  More and more people have now realized that they can reclaim valuable nutrients by setting up a compost pile in their back yard.  Adding fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds to this mixture of grass clippings and leaves will make the compost even richer, and will reduce your trash even more!  It will save you money when you need mulch for plants, save room in the landfill, and leave our air cleaner.  Thanks, too, to the City of Houston for picking up green waste separately and taking it to a composting facility.  Most residents in the Lake Houston area do not get trash service from the City, but they are leading the way and perhaps other companies will follow! 
      Thanks to those who helped by picking up trash on Kleenwood Day!  Many, young and old, were spotted carrying a black bag for trash and a white bag for items to recycle.  Good idea!
       Also noted recently are the collection bins that have been set up for recycling bottles and cans at local events.   When thoughtful event planners provide this service, our community responds by using them.   Thanks to those who have offered this opportunity for local meetings, games, concerts, fairs, and other events!
       From students to senior citizens, we are learning new ways to give a second life to items and materials that previously were destined for the landfill.  Our Lake Houston community has done an excellent job of recycling more, not only at home, but in our schools and places of work.  Your efforts are truly appreciated and will make a tremendous difference in the years to come.
Finally, each year the collection of paints and other hazardous materials by the City is awaited by many residents.  Last year over 500 residents took advantage by dropping off 28,000 pounds in four hours. This year the date has been set for March 23 from 9 AM to 1 PM.  Check our web site for more details. 
     Join us in educating about and advocating for more and better recycling options.  Join our mailing list at www.keepkingwoodgreen.org or like us on Facebook.  THANK YOU FOR RECYCLING!


Candy BowmanWhat If” You Could Recycle E-waste and Create Jobs
By Candy Bowman (October 2012)

                    Here’s an event that you won’t want to pass up!  ON SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 3rd FROM 9 A.M. TO 3 P.M., CompuCycle will be holding a very special pick-up of electronic waste at the Kingwood Metro Park and Ride on West Lake Houston Parkway. 
       CompuCycle, in partnership with Easter Seals Greater Houston, UHY Advisors LLC (an accounting firm), and The Council for Corporate Responsibility,  has put together a program that will see the net proceeds from all pick-ups from September 15th to November 15th be used to establish a training program for individuals with disabilities.  This training will lead to employment in the electronics recycling industry. 
       The program - called "What If" - asks the question “What If” businesses could protect the environment and contribute to the community at the same time?  “What If” a recycling program could keep electronic waste out of the landfill and put people to work? 
      For the past year, CompuCycle has provided our community with an e-waste pick-up on the first Saturday of every month.  This pick-up has been very successful, with some monthly totals exceeding 15,000 pounds.  For the 8 weeks of the “What If” campaign, they have set a goal of collecting 500,000 pounds of e-waste in and around Houston.  That e-waste will directly benefit the newly created program and allow for training courses to be developed for future expansion. 
      Who can take part in this pick-up?  Keep Kingwood Green is encouraging all residents, businesses, and organizations of Humble, Kingwood, Atascocita, Summerwood, Fall Creek, Eagle Creek, New Caney, Porter, Splendora, and other local communities to clean out their closets and garages of e-waste and bring it to the NOV. 3rd event.  CompuCycle will have a large crew of workers ready to handle what they hope will be the largest e-waste collection ever held in our area.  YOUR HELP IS NEEDED FOR THIS DRIVE TO BE A SUCCESS!
      Businesses can be a great help in this campaign by bringing in all their unneeded and outdated equipment to the NOV. 3rd pick-up or by taking it to the CompuCycle building at 7700 Kempwood Drive in Houston on any Friday before Nov. 15th between 8 A.M. and 5 P.M.   If any company anticipates a donation of 40 or more computers or laptops, they may wish to contact CompuCycle to arrange for an e-waste drive for their company with a pick-up on that day by CompuCycle.  For these special collections, companies may receive a tax receipt for their donations.  Contact Kelly Hess at khess@compucycle.net if you would like to arrange an e-waste drive for your company. 
       As a recycling event for Texas Recycles month in November, schools and churches may wish to hold a   recycling drive to collect e-waste.  With one in five Americans currently affected with a disability, this is a great way to clean out items that are no longer needed and help individuals with disabilities find employment in the growing recycling industry here in Houston! 
      Why is it important to recycle e-waste?  An EPA report from 2009 indicates that more than 6.6 billion pounds of e-waste was generated in the U.S. that year, and only 18% or 1.2 billion pounds of electronics were recycled.  If electronic waste is sent to the landfill, toxic chemicals may leak into our soil, rivers, lakes and the water supply.  When e-waste is burned, toxic fumes are sent into the air causing pollution and health problems.    The best option is to reuse all of the materials and parts that can be repurposed, and recycle all of the materials responsibly.  Often electronic items are replaced even though they still have “life”.  Compucycle often is able to send them to non-profits and others to live out their “life”.
      CompuCycle - Houston’s first R2 certified electronic solutions provider - guarantees that all data will be permanently destroyed and that electronic items will not end up in our landfills.   If parts of the equipment can be reused, they will make sure that this is accomplished, and no parts will be sent to Asia or Africa. 
      What items can be recycled in the “What If” campaign?   Gather your outdated PC’s and servers, keyboards and mice, switches, game consoles, small kitchen appliances, memory chips, hubs and routers, printers and copiers, fax machines, projectors, rechargeable batteries, car batteries, telephones and cell phones, PDA’s, tape drives, hard drives, cords and cables, cameras, smaller televisions, toner cartridges, stereo equipment, CD’s, floppy drives, VHS tapes, hair dryers, curling irons and straighteners, alarm clocks, irons, radios, and electric fans.   Any small appliance with a plug can be donated!
      Keep Kingwood Green supports the "What If" plan and would like to commend CompuCycle, Easters Seals Greater Houston, and UHY for working together to establish a program that will provide sustainable, ongoing job creation and training for the disabled while saving our natural resources.  This partnership is a fine example of business and non-profit organizations working together to create a better community and a healthier environment.   
      If you would like to know more about the “What If” program, please write to Keep Kingwood Green at info@keepkingwoodgreen.org or “Like” us on Facebook and leave your question there.   Please remember:  NOVEMBER 3rd will be “RECYCLE YOUR E-WASTE DAY” at the Kingwood Park and Ride!  We’ll see you there!


Jan Zaremba-SmithA Shopping Necessity?
By Jan Zaremba-Smith (October 2012)

So, we are getting back to a new semester of activities.  While most back to school shopping is behind us, there is still never ending grocery shopping!   I want to ask everyone to consider taking the challenge to use cloth/reusable shopping bags instead of paper or plastic (whether it’s for groceries or other shopping).  I know most of you have these bags in your closet or even on your car’s backseat. But, many times we forget about them when entering the store.  It just takes a second and persistence to develop that habit.  So what’s the big deal and why are reusable bags a “shopping necessity”?  If I recycle those plastic bags at the grocery store, what’s the problem?  Well one reason is that recycling them is a big “IF”.  Although Kingwood has made great strides in recycling, statics show that typically only 1-2% of plastic shopping bags are recycled annually.  While Humble ISD has become a major recycling player for most materials and there are first of the month electronic collections along with the regular weekend recycling at the Metro Park & Ride lot, we still need to keep taking steps towards doing better.  Virtually everyone in our community shops and everyone can make a difference by using reusable shopping bags. Here’s the reason why it’s such a big deal:

Other interesting facts:

One good thing to note is that some plastic shopping bags today have less plastic than they use to, as do other plastic bag items like trash bags, so look for those items when shopping.  Decreasing the amount of trash you make by buying items that use less to make or package them is a great step to help our environment.  Recycling everything you can is the next course of action.  Certainly if you don’t use the weekend recycling center or subscribe to a curbside recycling collection service, now would be a great time to start.  So, stop the waste and try using reusable grocery bags.  It is one small step you can take to lesson the impact of our daily routines upon the environment. 

You can always find more recycling ideas or information by checking the web site for our organization.  www.keepkingwoodgreen.org.  You can also “like” us on Facebook to find the latest news about “green issues” in the Lake Houston area.  If you wish to comment on this article, you can reach me at Jan@keepkingwoodgreen.org


Hal OppermanUpdate on Recycling Changes in the Lake Houston Area
By Hal Opperman (July 2012)

One thing that is a constant is change.  There is always change and no matter how much we don’t like change, we do have to accept it or do something to change it to something we do like. The battle over health care is a good example.  The election this fall will determine if we like the situation we now find ourselves in or if we want to change it.  One candidate says he will implement the Affordable Health Care Act and one says he will eliminate it.  Many of us will take sides and “fight” for what we consider the right answer.

Not as important, but still very important to those of us involved with Keep Kingwood Green in the Lake Houston Area is the status of recycling.  Over the past five or six years there have been lots of changes in our ability to recycle and even our knowledge of the need for recycling.  Each American generates about five pounds of trash per day.  Most of it could be recycled.  That said, almost all of it was going to the Atascocita landfill six years ago and the mountain over on Atascocita road was growing exponentially.  Fast forward to today and lots of progress in diverting those potential resources has occurred.  The mountain is not growing nearly as fast!  Everyone (well almost everyone) has done their part to improve our recycling rate.  The City of Houston has implemented curbside recycling in some of the villages in Kingwood where they pick up trash.  They have also begun to recycle “green waste”, all the leaves, plant debris, and grass that some of us put into the trash.  The Humble ISD school system has become proactive in recycling at all their campuses with paper bins provided by Abitibi and mixed recyclable bins provided by Waste Management.  Even some businesses have gotten into the recycling spirit, even though it costs them more to recycle than just throwing everything into the trash.  Insperity, one of the bigger employers in our area, is now recycling in their facility.

Most important though are the residents of the Lake Houston area.  You have demanded and used the new facilities that have been provided for recycling. The City of Houston has done a great job of providing collection bins and other recycling opportunities mostly at the Kingwood Metro Park and Ride lot.  Every weekend you take thousands of pounds of resources there to be recycled. About 120 tons were collected there last year.  That is a lot of aluminum cans, plastic bottles, glass, and cardboard boxes!  The first Saturday of every month you have been taking about seven tons/month of electronics there to be responsibly recycled by Compucycle.  If you haven’t yet cleaned out your garage and closets of those old computers, TV’s, small appliances, etc. use the service.  It is free and open to everyone.

Now the changes:  Recycling unlike our new health care law is not mandated by the government.  It is voluntary!  Yes, it would be better for all of us and future generations if it was mandated.  One Houston City councilman recently proposed that plastic bags be banned.   If you don’t like to recycle, you will really hate “bans”.  Until that happens some day we all need to be responsible and do the right thing. 

Most recycling is done by private industry and even the City of Houston tries to make recycling self sustaining.  So, the profitability of the business itself is determined by the price of commodities.  When the aluminum cans, for instance, are sorted, baled, and come out of the end of the recycling plant to be sent back to a manufacturer, they have a value.  When there is a shortage of a product the value goes up.  Currently, due to the global slow down of business, commodity prices are low.  That means recycling companies are hurting financially.  The last time this happened some of them went out of business and some went bankrupt.   We all should hope that will not happen this time around.  We sure don’t want to see any of the opportunities we have been given go away.

So, the changes we must make to help them out:  Make sure we follow the recycling rules.  Only recycle the items that are called for in a particular bin.  Do not put trash or garbage in the bins.  Crush the cans, bottles and cardboard boxes so more can be fit into the bins and transportation is less expensive. Take film plastic to the grocery store for recycling instead of mixing it with other items. Plastic bags really mess up the sorting machinery.   Finally, help educate your friends and fellow recyclers if you see they are doing something wrong.  If everyone who recycles started taking these simple steps it would really help.  Of course, there are still probably 40 to 50% of the residents of the Lake Houston area that don’t recycle anything.  Just think how much we could slow the growth of “Atascocita Mountain” if we could get them to join us. 

You can find more information about recycling in the Lake Houston Area by going to our web site:  www.keepkingwoodgreen.org or join us on Facebook where we will let you know about recycling events in the area.  We really want to be your recycling resource in the Lake Houston Area.


Keep Kingwood Green Announces Essay Winners
April 18, 2012

 KINGWOOD—Winners of a  Keep Kingwood Green- sponsored essay contest were announced today.  The winners are from schools in Kingwood, Humble and Atascocita.
The essay contest was kicked off in January by Keep Kingwood Green, in partnership with the Humble Independent School District.  The essays were focused on the three “Rs” – reduce, recycle, reuse – and the students were encouraged to write about what they mean to them  and asked to offer suggestions on how they could be put in place at home, at school or in the community.
 Hundreds of students were vying for prizes of $100 for 1st place winners; $75 for second; $50 for third and $25 for Honorable Mention .  Five “Special Recognition” awards of $25 were also presented to students for outstanding essays in addition to the other awards.  Teachers of first place winners received a cash award as well.  Prizes distributed totaled over $1,000.  The winning students also received certificates of recognition, donated by Ken Beard of Rapid Refill Ink.
The competition was divided by levels with contests for high school, middle, and elementary levels. 
In an interesting twist, two sets of brothers won and the Humble Middle School Applied Skills class was singled out for Special Recognition for their creation of a skit showing how students can reduce, reuse, and recycle at school and at home.   
 “The essays were so creative and expressive and some of the accompanying artwork was really wonderful.  There were so many good ones it was really difficult to pick the winners,” said Candy Bowman, Education Chairman for Keep Kingwood Green.  The essays were judged by a team of volunteers from Keep Kingwood Green and the community.
The winning students and their teachers were presented with their prizes in a special ceremony at each of their schools.  
“This was a great opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of recycling and we couldn’t have done it without the help of Tom Duffee at Humble I.S.D.,” said Hal Opperman, President of Keep Kingwood Green.  “We very much appreciate the partnership we have with Humble I.S.D. and Dr. Guy Sconzo and his team.  Without them much of the work we are trying to do to encourage children to begin recycling at an early age, would not happen.  So we are doubly grateful for their assistance in making this contest a success,” he said.


Bill Bowman Are you Ready for B.O.P.A?
By Bill Bowman(April 2012)

      Hooray!  Hooray!  The B.O.P.A. is almost here!  Well, that might be going overboard just a bit, but I am definitely excited.  For those of you who haven't heard, B.O.P.A. stands for the city-sponsored pick-up of batteries, oil, paint, and anti-freeze and it's a great chance to recycle some of the hazardous items that you have around your home.  It will be here soon and on behalf of Keep Kingwood Green, I would like to thank both the city and our local councilman, Mike Sullivan, for putting on such a complex, but important, event for us here in Kingwood.  The City of Houston B.O.P.A. is going to be held at the METRO Park-and-Ride here in Kingwood on Saturday, April 28th, 2012.  The pick-up will be held from 9:00 A.M. until 1:00 P.M.  Please bring a driver's license or a recent utility bill showing your address as proof of City of Houston residency.
      In the past, there has been some confusion as to exactly what items will be accepted by the city during the B.O.P.A.  Any rechargeable batteries including car and boat batteries will be taken at the B.O.P.A. event.  Both used motor oil and cooking oil will be collected, but remember there will be a five gallon limit on each type of oil.  Another thing to remember is to only bring latex paint to the B.O.P.A.  The city will only take latex-based paints in amounts of ten gallons or less.  Oil-based paints will not be taken.  The final letter in B.O.P.A., "A," stands for anti-freeze.  It seems like almost every garage around town has a container of old anti-freeze lying around on a back shelf and this is a great opportunity to finally get rid of it.  Just keep in mind that like the motor and cooking oils, there is a five gallon limit on anti-freeze.
      Another big change this year is that there will not be an e-waste pick-up for used electronics.  Since the city is now offering a monthly e-waste pick-up at the METRO Park-and-Ride, there was no need to include it along with the B.O.P.A. this year.  Hopefully, this change will alleviate some of the traffic that was present at last year's event.  Don't worry, though, if you have old electronic devices that you need to get rid of, the city will continue to offer the e-waste pick-up on the first Saturday of every month between 9:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M.  If you have any old televisions, computers, or stereo equipment ready for disposal, the next e-waste pick-up will be on Saturday, May 5th, 2012.
      In addition to the above-mentioned items, there are several other things that you may want to take note of.  There will be an area at the B.O.P.A. where old scrap metal and car parts will be accepted.  There will also be an area set up for taking large appliances including those that contain Freon, such as old refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners.  The city will also be offering document-shredding services on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Finally, our organization, Keep Kingwood Green (KKG) will be accepting any old cell phones that you are ready to get rid of.
      Household items that will not be taken are old tires, household chemicals, business and medical waste, radioactive waste, PCB's, dioxins, ammunition and explosives, compressed gas cylinders, and smoke detectors.
      When you're packing up for the trip to the B.O.P.A. it's important to observe some safety tips.  Make sure your containers are sealed and in the original packaging because the city will not take leaking containers.  When transporting the containers, place them in an upright position in a box or plastic container to keep them from spilling.  Place the B.O.P.A recyclables in your trunk, if possible, to avoid breathing in unhealthy fumes.
      Again, I hope to see a lot of you out at the B.O.P.A.  It is a credit to our community, city, and local representatives that many tons of hazardous materials will be successfully recovered and recycled at this event instead of winding up in our environment or water supply.  So head on out to the garage this week and see what you might have to bring to the B.O.P.A.!  


Hal OppermanThe Etiquette of Recycling
By Hal Opperman (March 2012)

At the last Keep Kingwood Green board meeting, I was asked to write an article for the Observer to discuss the etiquette of recycling!  So, what does that mean?  It is as simple as “do you recycle something or put it in the trash?”  Of course, nothing is ever simple!   There are always rules and guidelines and then finally a decision. So, if you will “stick” with me for a few minutes, I will tell you my thoughts on this trashy matter.
The first decision you must make is “should I recycle at all?”  Only you can answer that question.  We all know the landfills are filling quickly and no one wants a new landfill in their back yard.  We also know that oil and raw materials for new products are finite resources and as they deplete and get harder to produce, the cost of the raw product increases.  These two compelling reasons are why we should save everything we can and not bury it away somewhere in a landfill where it will never be accessible again.  The final decision you have to make is “am I willing to go to the extra bother and maybe even extra expense of recycling?”  Unless some government unit passes a law, only you can decide this.  If you are not willing to take the time to recycle or think you can not afford to recycle, you might as well stop reading now.
As mentioned above there is always the chance that some governmental unit will decree that you take some sort of action to save resources or recycle some of your trash.  Here in the Lake Houston area we have not yet been forced to do much along these lines.  Although the City, if they are your trash provider, does require that you put green waste in compostable bags.  There were initially lots of complaints about that but most people now comply.  Recently the Austin city council passed an ordinance outlawing single use plastic grocery/shopping bags.  Also, there is a group in Texas working diligently to pass a state law requiring, like in many other states, a beverage bottle/can deposit fee.  You pay an extra 10 cents, for example, when you buy a Coke and then get the 10 cents back when you take the container back to some designated return facility.  
Across America most areas are going to a curbside recycling program where almost all recyclable products are put into a single bin for weekly collection by the trash service.  This has been made possible by new technology that allows machines to sort the items once they are taken to the recycling facility, called a MRF.  Three of these facilities are now on stream in Houston.  So, the first order of business is for all of us to ask and require that those who make trash decisions for our neighborhoods require the waste companies to provide this curbside service.  There are at least five trash companies in the Lake Houston area that will provide this service if your Community Association asks for it.  If you live in the City of Houston, there is no cost for this service other than the taxes you already pay but your CA has the final word. 
For those of us who do not have this curbside service we do have a good alternative.  We typically call it the weekend recycling option at the Kingwood Metro Park and Ride lot.  Last year, residents dropped off well over 1100 tons at this facility.   The City and our District E Councilman, Mike Sullivan, keep improving the service at this site. So, our final etiquette decision must be, what can we all do to help to improve the efficiency and cut expenses for this operation?  Here are some quick guidelines:  1) Eliminate air in containers.  A non-flattened box takes up lots of space and contains only air.  This causes extra trips for the recycling truck---a waste of fuel and manpower.  Take the lid off a plastic container and crush the container.  Recycle the lid, too. The machines at the MRF will sort it out. 2)  Eliminate as much film plastic as possible when dropping items into the bins.  The machines at the MRF hate film plastic---it gets all wrapped up in the rollers causing the machines to shut down.  Eliminate single use plastic bags or take them back to the grocery or other store where you got them.  If you collect your recyclables in plastic trash bags dump the contents into the bins and take the bags back home for another use.  3)  Don’t try to recycle real trash.  Food-soiled paper, pizza boxes, etc. don’t make for good recycled materials.  Food residues also attract rats and other undesirable creatures.   4)  If the packer truck is at the lot when you drop off your items, you can know that your items will go to the same facility and be recycled just like the items in the bins.  The City saves fuel and manpower by crushing the contents and eliminating trips to the MRF. Glass, however, should not go into the packer truck.  5)  If it is a windy day, please make sure all items are in the bins and not blowing all over the lot.  We not only want to keep Kingwood Green, we also want to keep Kingwood clean!
For more information you can call us at 713-206-0558 or check out our web site at: www.keepkingwoodgreen.org  or like us on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/KeepKingwoodGreen   We want to be your Recycling Resource in the Lake Houston Area. 


Susan PollardHosting a Green Event
By Susan Pollard (Feb 2012)

What do outdoor concerts at King’s Harbor, Bridge Fest, the LHA Home and Garden Show, and holiday celebrations like the 4th of July Parade have in common?  They are all times when we come together as a community to have a good time and also times when we generate a lot of trash. The Lake Houston Area is making great strides in recycling.  Some CA’s are beginning to offer curbside pickup of recycling (though we would love to see even more). Our schools now recycle plastics, aluminum, metal, paper, and cardboard, the City of Houston provides weekly recycling pick up for residents at the Kingwood Metro lot.  Several months ago, they began offering monthly electronic waste recycling on the first Saturday of every month.  Already in the first four months their vendor, Compucycle, has collected 66,967 pounds of old electronics that would have otherwise gone to the landfill. 
You may be wondering what more can we do?  One thing would be to offer recycling at public events.  After attending an outdoor concert in the area recently, I noticed there was no place to recycle the water bottles and soda cans that people had emptied.  It was all going into the trash. 
What would it take to have a “green event” and provide a place to recycle aluminum and plastic? Planning is the key to making any event successful and that is true with hosting a green event as well.  You need recycling bins for the public to use and a way to pick up the bins and process the recycling after the event is over.  It is similar to what we do in our homes---just on a larger scale. The benefits at a public event are great since much of the waste that is generated is from bottles and cans.
When getting ready to host an event, as you plan your trash pickup, just add in a recycling component.  This can be cost effective as well as the right thing to do.  If you collect recyclables you will have less trash, so along with the recycling dumpster you can use a smaller trash dumpster.  The cost should stay about the same.  At least 75% of all trash can be easily recycled according to the EPA.  Recycling at events would be a great way to move closer to this goal.
How to put this plan in place you ask? When planning for recycling, choose your bin(s).  There are lots of options.  If you will be hosting events regularly get sturdy bins that can be reused. Recycling bins made with clear plastic makes it easy to see where the recycling goes.  You can recover your initial cost through the savings on decreased trash costs.  You may also be able to get temporary cardboard bins donated from your waste service provider.  The key is that the recycling bins are handy and look different from the trash containers.  People must recognize them.
Making recycling easy and clear for those attending is the next step.    Place recycling bins next to the trash cans and label them well.  When beginning to use recycling bins in a public place, it is helpful to make announcements and have signs to remind people. You can involve volunteers and have them standing by to help remind and clarify as we build new recycling habits.  As you involve concessionaires and volunteers you can educate them about what can be recycled at the event and where to recycle.  You can also educate them about the benefits of recycling. 
Most of the local trash companies offer recycling.  When making a trash contract, just ask about adding recycling and adjusting the size of the bins used.  The companies may have recycling bins you can borrow or contract for, if you have not invested in your own bins.  Volunteers can help set out the bins and collect them afterwards.  Even if you are paying someone now to empty trash bins, the amount of refuse to handle is still the same after beginning recycling. 
Why is it worthwhile to do this?  Statistics show Americans currently recycle less than1/3 of the all the plastic bottles used, which means about 1853 thousand tons of plastic bottles go into our landfills yearly.   It takes 1/3 the energy to make materials from recycled bottles.  So, there is a huge savings in energy and raw materials. Aluminum cans are one of the most recycled items at about 58%.  This is good, but still leaves more than 40% of all aluminum cans going into a landfill.  It takes 95% less energy to make a can out of recycled material.  The saved energy from recycling one aluminum can is enough to run a television for 2 hours. If it goes to the landfill it will be there forever!  Talk about a waste of energy and resources!
Recycling at community events is a logical next step in our area.  Since you probably won’t be planning these events what can you do to encourage more community recycling?  Make your voice heard!  Let the event organizers know you want recycling offered. Corporations, Government, and people respond when they know the public is interested.  Our community is doing a wonderful job and clearly we are taking advantage of the recycling that exists. Let’s carry it a step further. If you would like more information about recycling or you would like to join us in our efforts to increase recycling in the Lake Houston Area, check out our website at: www.Keepkingwoodgreen.org   We would love to hear from you. 
Save the date:  City of Houston BOPA to be held at Kingwood Park and Ride on April 28th.  See our website for more information.    


Keep Kingwood Green encourages students to recycle (January 20, 2012)

Kicking off the New Year, Keep Kingwood Green in conjunction with Tom Duffee of the Operation and Grounds Department at Humble ISD, announce a student writing contest for all students in Humble ISD.  The purpose of the contest is to raise awareness of the importance of recycling and to highlight the new single stream recycling program recently implemented by the school district and Waste Management.  Teachers, as part of their normal curriculum, are being urged to assign an essay of less than 750 words on a recycling topic. 

Prior to March 7th, each teacher has the option of submitting up to three essays to Mr. Duffee to be included in judging for the contest.  A committee from Keep Kingwood Green headed up by Education Chairman, Candy Bowman, will choose the winning essays from those submitted.  Keep Kingwood Green will be solely responsible for deciding the winners. 

Competition is divided by school level with separate contests for High School, Middle School, and Elementary levels.  Within the District at each level a total of four prizes will be awarded.  First place winners will receive $100.  Runners up will receive prizes of $75, $50, and $25.   Teachers, too, can receive a prize of $50 by submitting a students’ first place winning essay.

In 2011 Waste Management provided Single Stream recycling bins for the outside of each school as well as hundreds of collection containers for the inside of the schools.   In these bins, school personnel and students collect and dispose of cardboard, recyclable plastic bottles and steel and aluminum cans.  By removing these items from the waste stream, the school district is saving these resources as well as cutting their trash disposal costs.  As part of this effort, called the Dream Machine Recycle Rally, schools that recycle the greatest amount of material per student can also win prizes for their school.  Nationwide, out of thousands of schools, The Pines Montessori in Kingwood is in 26th place, Willow Creek Elementary in Kingwood is in 44th place and Summerwood Elementary is in 85th place.  They are all optimistic they can win the top prize of $50,000.

The new single stream recycling program within Humble ISD is in addition to the long standing program of furnishing Abitibi Paper Retrievers on all campuses.  In these bins the schools and the public recycle thousands of tons of paper each year. 

Keep Kingwood Green is happy to support all efforts to increase recycling in the Lake Houston Area.  You can find out more about this non-profit organization by going to their web site at www.keepkingwoodgreen.org 

Contacts:  Tom Duffee at HISD  281-641-8751
Hal Opperman, for KKG, 281-360-8092


Candy BowmanJoin the Recycling Dream Team!
By Candy Bowman (December 2011)

              On Texas Recycles Day, students at Foster Elementary School cheered for the new recycling program which is beginning in December at their school.  Enthusiasm at Foster Elementary is high for recycling aluminum cans and plastic bottles in a new Humble I.S.D. program called the “Dream Machine Recycle Rally.” 
      Through a grant from Waste Management, all schools in Humble I.S.D. have been provided with a special computer, scanner, and scales to track the progress of recycling in the school.  Schools have also been provided with collection bins for the inside of the school, and a large metal collection bin for the outside of the school, which will be picked up by Waste Management when filled. 
      For each plastic bottle or aluminum can recycled, the school will receive one point.  When the school has 100 points, they can begin to redeem points for rewards, which include gift cards, sporting goods, music, books, videos, and possible cash prizes.  The more a school recycles, the more rewards they can earn!
      According to Ms. Brent, a teacher who is the Recycling Coordinator at Foster Elementary, the new program will begins there in December.  Students are collecting clean (non-alcoholic) plastic bottles and cans and placing them in the green bins in the halls, classrooms, and cafeteria.  Student Green Team members then weigh the items and place them in the outside bin for Waste Management to collect.  They are hoping to earn many great prizes for their school!
      At River Pines Elementary, Ms. Argueta, Recycling Coordinator and science teacher, says that older students are encouraging younger students to recycle.  Fifth graders have created a power point program to teach students in the early grades to recycle, and are helping out with the collection of paper, plastic, and aluminum at the school.
      Fifth graders at Deerwood Elementary School are helping to carry out a new program announced as “Trashy Tuesday” on the Deerwood sign in front of the school.  Students and parents are encouraged to bring separate bags of plastic bottles and aluminum cans to the student drop-off area every Tuesday morning in a system established by Ms. Adkins, a science teacher who is Recycling Coordinator for the school.   A team of fifth graders collects the bags and takes them to a location where they weigh and record the amounts recycled.  The fifth graders are also continuing to recycle paper from the classrooms in the school on Fridays.
       Many other schools in the district are implementing the new recycling program with great success, and we would love to hear the information about the recycling program at your school.  Please write to let us know at Info@keepkingwoodgreen.org.  For more information on recycling, please go to our web site at www.keepkingwoodgreen.org 
      You can be a part of this program, too!  If you have a child or a grandchild in Humble I.S.D., be sure to check for your school’s collection dates, and send your empty aluminum cans and plastic bottles to school with them. 
      If you don’t have a child in the schools, you might have a neighbor who has a student who will take them, or check with the school to see if there is a drop-off zone available on certain days. 
      Many of our schools have earned over a thousand dollars a year collecting paper in the Abitibi  bins, which are well supported by the community.  Now with the new aluminum and plastic collection program, the schools can also work towards earning educational materials and cash prizes that will benefit all students in the school.
      Tom Duffee, who is in charge of the program of “Turning Waste into Resources” for Humble I.S.D., notes that the new recycling program is saving money for the school system, in addition to saving our natural resources and teaching good habits of recycling to our students.  With the new recycling program, there are less pick-ups of trash, and students and staff are enthusiastically making the switch to aiming for “Zero Waste” in our schools!
      So if you live in the Lake Houston Area, let’s all join in to support Humble I.S.D.’s new recycling program.  This is our chance to be on the “Dream Team” to help our schools and save our natural resources at the same time!


Jan Zaremba-SmithElectronic Waste - Monthly Collection
By Jan Zaremba-Smith (October 2011)

Hurrah!  We are making recycling progress, Houston!  Starting November 5th at the Kingwood Park & Ride lot, the City Of Houston will start a monthly collection of electronic waste every first Saturday.  An R2 certified Houston company, CompuCycle, will be collecting and responsibly recycling electronics between the hours of 9am-3pm on the first Saturday of each month. All data containing equipment will be treated securely and shredded beyond retrieval.  What does R2 certification mean?  According to the EPA website, an e-waste recycler is certified by demonstrating to an accredited, independent third-party auditor that they meet specific standards to safely recycle and manage electronics.  You can read more about this rating on the EPA web site or at: www.r2solutions.org   
We know Kingwood desperately needs this service!  In March of last year when the City last held a BOPA and E-Waste event in Kingwood, the drop off line was out the gate of the Park & Ride and down to Kingwood Drive!  Over 24 tons of E-Waste was collected in four short hours.  Now, with a monthly E-Waste drop off, we don’t expect such traffic next spring when the BOPA event will only be for Batteries, Oil, Paint and Antifreeze!  One of the most asked questions on the KKG website and our hot line (713-206-0558) is “where can I dispose of my ____?”  Usually the blank is an e-waste item. 
 A number of states have designated E-Waste as a hazardous waste due to the toxic chemicals that can seep out into the ground or escape into the air when they are put into the trash, crushed by the compactor truck, and trucked to landfills.  Electronic products frequently contain ingredients such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, copper, beryllium, barium, chromium, nickel, zinc, silver and gold.  The glass in CRTs from computer screens and TVs can contain as much as 5 lbs of lead.  So, to sum this up, electronic recycling is definitely a great thing!  Local E-Waste recycling will make it so convenient all residents will be able to participate easily. Please use this new City provided service to clean out your closets and garage; and make sure to tell your neighbors who may not be reading this article!  And the really nice thing, if you can’t do it this coming Saturday you can next month or any month on the first Saturday. 
The list of some of the items being collected include: PC’s and anything that hooks up to them!   (See www.KeepKIngwoodGreen.org for a complete list.)   TV’s larger than 27 inches can not be accepted at the Park and Ride, but can by taken to the Compucycle business address at 7700 Kempwood Drive.  You can contact them or check out their website for more details.  www.compucycle.net.  You can also take your items to their location any weekday during business hours and every Saturday from 9 am to 3 pm, if that is more convenient.  Businesses, too, can contact this company and dispose of large amounts of electronics at their warehouse.   
They will take your old cell phones; however, we hope you will continue to donate them to Keep Kingwood Green by dropping them at Alspaughs Hardware to support our efforts to increase recycling and recycling awareness in our community.
 Finally, a big “thank you” to the City of Houston, the Solid Waste Department, Councilman, Mike Sullivan’s office, Compucycle, and everyone who is bringing this new service to Kingwood.  The City of Houston is quickly becoming a recycling leader as opposed to once being named one of the country’s trashiest cities only a few years ago.  Keep up the great work!  We as residents need to do our part, too.  If something can be recycled, or reused, make the effort to dispose of it responsibly and don’t put it in the trash!



Candy BowmanLet's Make it Waste Free Lunch This Year!
By Candy Bowman (September 2011)

        These are exciting times for recycling in our Humble I.S.D. schools!  Thanks to a grant from Waste Management Company and Pepsi Cola, all of our schools will now be able to recycle plastic bottles, aluminum and steel cans, and cardboard.  Up to this point, they were able to recycle paper in the Abitibi bins, and this will continue as a good source of funds for the schools.
      There is a new bin at each school, placed by Waste Management, which will make it possible for students and staff to recycle almost all of the other recyclable materials in the schools.  It should save the school district money in trash hauling fees as the new service begins, in addition to saving our natural resources from being sent to the landfill.  This is surely a “win-win” situation for everyone!
      This new recycling program, called “Turning Waste into Resources,” has been introduced in the District by Tom Duffee, Asst. Director of Operations and Grounds for Humble I.S.D.   Mr. Duffee and his staff researched and obtained the recycling grant, and are working closely with Waste Management and Pepsi Cola to establish the program of recycling among all students and staff.  Through the grant, a computer has been provided to each school to scan all plastic bottles and aluminum cans, for which the school can earn rewards.  Waste Management also has provided our school system with 1,000 recycling containers to be used within the schools, which will help greatly to get the program underway.
      One of the benefits of the new recycling program will be the opportunity to begin “Waste-Free Lunch” in our schools.  A waste-free lunch is one that has the least possible trash to be thrown away.  While we are not yet at the stage of composting food waste in our schools, we will now be able to recycle all of the plastic bottles, aluminum and steel cans, and (non-food-soiled) cardboard containers that are generated in the cafeteria, in lounges, and at athletic events. 
      How can you start a Waste-Free Lunch program in your school?  First, those students eating the school lunch will need help in learning how to recycle all clean paper items, bottles, and cans when they have finished their lunch.  Parent volunteers and the staff can be a great help with this in the early stages of learning these new habits.  Sometimes rewards and incentives can be provided that will encourage students to adopt these new procedures.  They can also make posters and participate in contests to see which class can have the highest percentage of “Waste-Free Lunches” that day.
      For students who bring their lunch, there will be several essential items:  First, they will need reusable containers instead of throw-away materials like sandwich bags and aluminum foil.  Containers may be needed for a sandwich, for fruits and vegetables, and for snacks.  Instead of drink pouches or single-use juice boxes, it is best to use a refillable container for their drink each day.  They will also need a lunch box or bag that is reusable and easy to clean.  Be sure to write names on all containers!
      Bringing lunch from home, students will need an ice pack that can be placed in the freezer the night before if their lunch requires refrigeration.  A cloth napkin taken home each day will eliminate the need for a paper napkin that would be thrown away.  Finally, it is best to send stainless steel forks and spoons rather than plastic.   They are easier to clean at home, and won’t be tossed away. 
      Much of the trash we generate comes from packaging on food.  It is estimated that on the average, a school-age child makes 67 pounds of waste each school year.  That adds up to 20 tons per year of lunch waste for one average-size elementary school.   You can reduce packaging when packing lunches by purchasing fresh produce and bulk bin items, and by avoiding plastic bags, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and prepackaged foods whenever possible.  With less packaging and buying in bulk, lunches may also be more economical.  Students will benefit from a lunch that contains fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, dried fruit, and other nutritious foods that are easy to pack into their lunch box!
      For ideas on how to jump-start a Waste-Free Lunch at your school, see the website WasteFreeLunches.org.  You will find all the materials you need for your school to get started on saying goodbye to waste at lunch and snack time!  This site has a slide show on how to begin, a pamphlet that can be given out, ideas for packing lunches and setting up recycling containers, and many other helpful hints. 
      Remember, Waste-Free Lunch doesn’t have to be limited to schools.  You can use this plan when going to the park, on car trips, picnics, work, or air travel.   And even if your school does not participate it does not mean that your student(s) can’t participate individually. 
      Congratulations to Humble I.S.D. on their new recycling program and many thanks to Waste Management and the Pepsi Cola Company for making this major step possible for our schools.  Keep Kingwood Green is proud to have one of the best school recycling programs in the state of Texas right here in the Lake Houston Area!  You rock!!


Hal OppermanLeaf Thief
By Hal Opperman (August 2011)

I admit to being a pine needle, grass clipping, and leaf thief.  Today with the temperature at 101 degrees my wife and I headed out in my trusty old pickup truck to pick up our bounty.  In most parts of the Lake Houston area the trash pick-up companies have always encouraged us to just throw everything in the trash.  For one monthly fee we can put out a half can of garbage or fifty bags of leaves and pine needles.  They take it all, big or small! 

With the heat and drought this summer the “take” has been diminished.  However, after about 15 minutes of searching we had filled the truck and headed home.  (The neighbors, peering from their windows, probably were making jokes about us as we pulled into the driveway).  My wife is invaluable in the process.  Even though she does not pick up bags along the way, she is an excellent spotter---being able to tell what is inside a black plastic trash bag from fifty feet away.  Well, yes, once in a while there is a surprise in a bag, but mostly it is good organic material. 

Today, as I stole three bags from in front of a house, I was challenged by the owner.  She wanted to know why I took her trash.  We had a good discussion about the use of the green waste.  I told her about the school where I volunteer and how last school year the 5th graders in the gardening program made over 1.7 tons of compost from just such “trash” for their organic vegetable garden.  In addition over 1500 bags of leaves and pine needles were used around the trees on campus as natural mulch.  Hopefully that thick layer of organic material will help those trees make it through this drought.  We know that the thousands of bags we have spread there over the years have enriched the sandy soil aiding the growth of the trees immensely.

You might be surprised to know there are a number of us around who compete for your trash.  I understand that one of the Texas AgriLife Extension Agents competes for this bounty in Austin.  So, if you are really smart, you will use this green waste yourself, or maybe even try to sell it to the highest bidder.  So far, though, there is no reason to pay, because believe it or not, it is still free for the taking every trash day.  Amazingly there are still lots of unenlightened folks in the Lake Houston area who throw it away and then rush to the nurseries or home improvement stores where they pay plenty for mulch and compost.  Many landscapers, too, are happy to take the debris you pay them to clean up.  They will turn it around and sell it to you later in the year in the form of mulch or compost.

So, this fall, as you rake and mow and blow all those leaves around, consider bagging them and dropping them off at Oak Forest Elementary.  We love pine needles but can use any leaves.  Run them over with your lawnmower if you can, as that reduces the volume and aids in their decomposition---and your ability to transport them further than your curb.  The school is at 6400 Kingwood Glen just off of Kings Parkway in Atascocita.  Please drop your bags behind the split rail fence along the east property line.  Volunteers will spread them where needed.  Please no trash or brush

Well, there you have it.  I confess!  Guilty as charged.  Obviously if you deliver (or use them yourself) and keep them from going to the landfill, I won’t have to steal your green waste. 

You can contact the Leaf Thief at:  Hal@keepkingwoodgreen.org

Jan Zaremba-SmithDrought Opportuniy
By Jan Zaremba-Smith (July 2011)

I’m sure a lot of residents have noticed the effects the drought has had along Lake Houston and nearby streams and riverbeds.  The amount that Lake Houston and the San Jacinto River have receded is amazing.  Anyone driving downtown on US59 can see how narrow the San Jacinto River looks below the bridge.  Or, if you drive over the Lake Houston Bridge, you can see all the new land masses as well as the dry areas in front of the restaurants at Kings Harbor.  If you have been on one of the greenbelts that go by the lake, or visited River Grove or East End Parks, you can get a close up view of just how bad it is.  Hundreds of feet of new “shoreline” have appeared along with numerous clam shells, some dead fish and lots of trash
Herein lies the opportunity!   It is easy to collect that trash right now.  Since I regularly walk past a lakefront area, I get to see remnants from others’ outings; either walks, fishing activities, parties, or different types of boating adventures.  The loose fishing lines are the most distressing as they can do so much damage.  Luckily there doesn’t seem to be too much of that.  But there are plenty of plastic bottles and assorted cans.  A few odd tires too.  I remember on Kleenwood Day it was an effort to “fish” some of this trash out of the muddy water’s edge and now it is so easy to just pick it up---all dried out.   
So my suggestion to the residents of Kingwood and the whole Lake Houston area:  Take a walk around one of these lake or river front areas, or in East End or River Grove Park.   A lot of us don’t get out enough to appreciate what we have here in our community in the base case.  I recommend early morning or evening to beat the heat.  Just wear bug spray and bring a trash bag.  Better yet, bring a recycling bag and a trash bag.  You can drop the recyclables off at the Park and Ride lot some weekend when you go by there and put the trash with your regular trash.  Don’t wait for Kleenwood Day, the opportunity is now!  Even with the rain some of us received recently, the drought effects are still very obvious along our shorelines.   It can be a fun family outing and a good opportunity to teach an important value about making a positive contribution to our community and our environment.  Or it can be just an interesting outing if you haven’t seen the vast changes to the waterfront areas.  As a bonus, there are plenty of deer and other wildlife to be seen. 
I’ve seen a number of teens out there having fun.  Give them a mission to collect the trash and recyclables instead of leaving it.  Don’t forget to wear gloves, comfortable old shoes, and most importantly, be careful.    Thanks for caring and getting involved.


Gudrun OppermanSave Your Valuable Water
By Gudrun Opperman (June 2011)

It has been said that we do not value water until the well has run dry, or in our case, the faucet has been turned off.  At least 26 percent of homes in Texas are experiencing “exceptional” drought (the highest level of drought) and all Texans are experiencing at least some level of drought stress.
               We certainly understand the value of water in a very real sense these days when our water bill arrives.  On top of paying for the water we use, in the City of Houston, we now pay a “drainage utility charge”, based on the amount of impervious surface each homeowner has.  Long story short, in order to keep Kingwood green, we are paying exorbitant water bills.  While many folks complain about the price of water, they do nothing to conserve water.  We see over and over again homeowners raking all organic material from their planting areas, catching their grass when mowing, watering during the heat of the day with the wind blowing, and watering every day for short periods of time.
               Let’s talk some common sense about watering enough while still conserving water.  First of all, determine what the water needs of the plants in your landscape are.  Don’t assume all plants need the same amount of water.  If you need help in determining the best plants for our area, go to: http://earthkind.tamu.edu/drought.   Here you can learn how to get good landscape performance from plants with a minimum of water and chemical usage.
               So how much water is enough for your yard or garden?  Generally speaking, most of our flowers, lawns and vegetables need about an inch of water per week.  During periods of high wind, this may need to be increased, as wind saps even more moisture from the soil.  An easy way to measure how much water your sprinkler system is delivering, is to place several cans around various areas covered by your system and let it run for 15 minutes.  Measure the amount of water in the cans and multiply by four.  That tells you how much is put out in an hour.  It also lets you know what areas are not being covered as well as you might have thought.  Use short cans when measuring the output of soaker hoses.  Then, set your sprinklers for appropriate time periods.  Check your system’s sprinkler heads to make sure they are pointed in the appropriate direction and that they are not leaking at the base or otherwise malfunctioning.  Watering the sidewalk or street is a real waste of water.
               St. Augustine lawns require more water than Bermuda grass lawns, but they do not need the excessive amounts that some people pour on them.  St. Augustine grass blades will curl inward when they need a drink.  Watering grass less frequently but more deeply is so much healthier for it.  Mow high, three to four inches, and less often.  Don’t over fertilize with synthetic fertilizers.  These just make the grass grow too fast, need more water and become weak, which makes it prone to more disease.  All these measures will save you water and money.
               Consider using soaker hoses or drip irrigation in your flower, vegetable or shrub beds.  They put water where it is needed, at the ground, not up in the air where it evaporates quickly.  These types of irrigation don’t put water on leaves of plants keeping some diseases at bay.  Watering can be done at any time of day or night using drip methods.  Soaker hoses are cheap and available at local hardwares.  Placing the soaker or drip lines under mulch is even better.  The covering of mulch makes the moisture stay put where you want it and it won’t evaporate as quickly.
               Trees, depending on their type and their size, need different quantities of water to stay healthy.  Newly planted trees should be watered near the trunk.  Use enough water until you get run-off and then quit watering.  This should hold the young tree for approximately five days.  Of course, if the soil around the tree is very dry, water may simply sheet off.  If that is the case, and this holds for any watering situation, wet the ground first, and then go back later and water more deeply.  Most of the water will sink into the soil if you follow the above strategy.  Alternatively, a five-gallon bucket, with a ¼ inch hole drilled in its side near the bottom, placed next to a tree trunk and filled with water, will water a newly planted tree well enough to hold it for about a week.
               Watering a mature tree is slightly different.  Here you want to provide water to the feeder roots which are out at the drip line of the tree, not the trunk.  If you were to draw a straight line down from the outermost branches to the ground, the whole circumference of the tree, you would define its drip line.  Mature trees need many gallons of water.  Here again it is good to know the tree’s needs.  Soaking the drip line area until you get run-off (see above) should see the tree through for about a week or so.  Mulching a tree out to the drip line in a well-like trough is beneficial, but never pile mulch against the trunk of a tree!
               As you can see, mulching your planting areas is so important.  Not only does this practice conserve water, it also keeps the roots cool, important on these hot summer days.  Nature’s mulch is leaves and needles from trees and dead plant material.  Most homeowners rake these out of planting areas and replace all those valuable nutrients with some purchased bark product.  Leaving leaves and grass clippings where they fall greatly augments the soil’s ability to hold moisture.  When these break down, they feed your plants.  If leaves in your planting beds look too messy to suit you, cover them up with a thin layer of purchased mulch.  This saves you money, is better for the environment, and saves landfill space for truly unrecyclable wastes.  Covering bare soil with mulch also cuts down on weeds that drain extra moisture from valuable plant material.  Use compost when planting to further enhance the soil’s ability to retain precious water.
               Taking some simple, common sense steps can really save you money and one of our most valuable resources, water.  Don’t take a steady supply of water for granted.  Conserve it and use it wisely!
               For more information about ways to conserve our natural resources go to: www.keepkingwoodgreen.org


Hal OppermanTo Compost or Not to Compost---that is the question!
By Hal Opperman (May 2011)

Did you know that the first week in May is compost awareness week!  I bet you missed that celebration. This spring, Keep Kingwood Green spent four weeks at the Kingwood Farmer’s Market.  The objective was to talk with the community about recycling and the need for our community to offer more recycling and make it easier for everyone to participate.  At one time Houston ranked last in the nation in recycling attainment.  The City has greatly improved their recycling rates over the past five years.   Now in the Kingwood Villages (and all areas) where the City of Houston picks up trash, they pick up all green waste separately and send it to a Living Earth Technology facility where it is turned into mulch or compost.  Unfortunately in most of Kingwood and almost all the Lake Houston area since we use private waste companies, that is not the case.  Green waste (grass, leaves, plants, branches) put out for our trash haulers goes directly to the landfill.  With our large lawns and many trees that can add up to 40% of our trash.

At the Farmers Market we had a demonstration area showing how easy it is to compost green waste right in your own back yard.  Doing this does require setting up a designated area where you can be messier and it gives you a little moderate physical exercise.   Most of us do have an out of the way area behind the garage or in a back corner of our yard that could be a perfect spot for a compost heap.  Many of us also get in a car to drive 10 or 15 minutes to the gym to get our exercise.  So, do you still have a good excuse for not having a compost area and maintaining an active compost pile?

At the Market, the most frequent problem discussed by people who had tried a compost heap was that they never got good compost from their pile or that it was too slow.  The answer to that is that it does require a bit of discipline.  You can not bake a cake without following a recipe.  You can not make good compost quickly without following a recipe either and tending it almost daily.  Don’t get me wrong, every bit of organic matter will eventually compost, but the function of a compost heap is to turn your green waste into compost more quickly so you will have room for the next batch of green waste your yard provides.  A compost heap works because of the billions of microorganisms in it that decompose all the plant material.  They do need to be fed properly with the right ratio of carbon, nitrogen, and water just like any living organism.  And, because your compost comes from your own yard and plants, it is the best possible fertilizer for your yard and plants.  Yes, even better than the leading advertised brand!

How long does it take to tend a compost heap?   Like any routine, the amount of time is not as critical as changing a habit and making it part of a daily routine.  I probably average 15 minutes a day tending four compost heaps.  (I must admit, I am a compost junkie turning out tons of the stuff each year.)  But, as mentioned earlier, 15 minutes may be less than your present commute to the gym.  It is also a whole lot less time than most people spend watching TV commercials each day.  So, most of us could find the time!

They say that knowledge is power!  So, with the internet, books, and other means you certainly can gain the knowledge.  Here is a good starting point.  Go to the KKG web site:  http://www.keepkingwoodgreen.org/GreenWaste.html. Read the page and take a look at an attractive compost system behind the garage of a Kingwood home.  Then, click on the link on that page that takes you to “choosing a compost system.”  Here you can look at various methods you can use to save your green waste from the landfill.  You may find you want to use a variety of methods.  Once you have made this decision, your next decision is what “recipe” you will use.  Just like baking a cake, there are lots of recipes for making compost.  Some experimentation is always necessary to find out what works best in your situation. 

So, please consider saving all your green waste from going to the dump!  I made that decision a number of years ago.  Over time, I believe it has saved me money, saved lots of water, improved my health, improved the health of my yard and garden plants, provided me with healthy organic vegetables, and kept tons of waste from going to the landfill.  Or, I could have just watched 15 minutes of commercials on TV every day!  How would that have turned out?

It was fun talking to all that stopped by at the Farmers Market.  We plan to do it again in the coming months.  The important thing for all of us to remember is that our resources are limited.  Yes, most of us are affluent enough that we can afford to toss things in the trash after we use them.  Nevertheless, most of us can do a better job of protecting our environment and saving our resources.  Recycle one aluminum can and you save enough electricity to power a TV for three hours.   Ask yourself this: is it OK to toss that can and deprive the next generation of its use and the resources it takes to make a ne

Jan Zaremba-SmithDid You Get Stuck In The Recycling Traffic Jam ?
By Jan Zaremba-Smith (April 2011)

Some of you may have noticed a traffic jam overflowing from West Lake Houston onto Kingwood Drive on Saturday March 26th.  This was due to so many of our community members taking advantage of a special recycling event.  Difficult to recycle items such as Batteries, Oil, Paint, and Antifreeze, as well as electronic waste items, metals and appliances were all being collected at the Kingwood Park & Ride that day.  These kinds of items cause all kinds of unhealthy problems when they are trashed.   Over 1000 cars participated in the 4 hour time frame from 10am -2pm.  Nearly 48 tons of waste was diverted from the landfill due to this four hour event.  This was 70% more than last year.

The City of Houston hosted this event, which was sponsored by Councilman Mike Sullivan.  KeepKingwoodGreen, a local volunteer group, worked with the City and Councilman Sullivan to coordinate and support this event with advertising, recruiting and organizing volunteers, free lunch and drinks. 

Last year this event was well attended also, there were over 600 cars but very few volunteers.  Many lessons were learned on what to do better.  Manpower and efficiency improved greatly from last year, but since participation increased over 70%, it was just difficult to process cars any faster.

There’s no doubt we need more frequent and full day events like this but let’s acknowledge that we did get a valuable service from the City for our community.  Unfortunately, there was a long line and a long wait causing some to think it wasn’t worth it.  To me it was heartening to see how many people in our community want to do the right thing and recycle everything they can.  Everyone who participated in this event deserves a hearty thank you.  I encourage people to recognize that because of the efforts of those involved, many harmful materials were prevented from eventually getting into our soil, air, and water. 

Since it is not likely that the City will be able to provide our community with more frequent or longer such events, everyone in the community should look for other ways to recycle these difficult to recycle items all year long.

The good news is that there are other easy and convenient ways to recycle some of the same materials that were collected at the BOPA/E-waste event as listed below:

All items above can also be dropped at the Westpark Consumer Recycling Center (for City residents only) at 5900 Westpark located at Hwy. 59S between Chimney Rock & Fountain View (Galleria Area) : www.houstontx.gov/solidwaste/westpark.html or the Harris County facility if you live in Harris County but not in the City of Houston at 6900 Hahl Rd @ 290 & N. Gessner, 281-560-6200. Check for operating times. http://www.eng.hctx.net/watershed/hhw_facility.html

All other Hazardous Waste (fuel, pesticides, chemicals, etc.) can be brought to the North Environmental Service Center (713)837-9137, located at 5614 Neches, Building C. It is open to Houston residents only, every 2nd Thursday of the month from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.  Harris County residents can take them to the Harris County site listed above.

Check out our website at:  www.keepkingwoodgreen.org  for more places to recycle and to give us feedback on how we can help the City do even better with their next BOPA/E-waste event.  Thank you for caring and supporting the local recycling efforts! 

If you want to do even more to help the recycling efforts in our community, come join our group or just come talk to us!  We will be hosting a booth at the Kingwood Farmer’s Market on Thursdays from 3-7pm the first 3 weeks i

Susan PollardSpring Into Recycling
By Susan Pollard (March 2011)

Recycling opportunities are “springing up” more often these days.  The practice of recycling to save our natural resources, to save energy, and to keep things out of the landfill has picked up tremendous momentum over the past year.   In Kingwood we have a number of exciting Spring of Recycling events planned and we invite you to join in.  Keep Kingwood Green has been educating children and adults about the benefits of recycling and advocating for more opportunities for over five years.  We work with local businesses to increase recycling and with the schools as well.  This month and next we will participate in several events between March 24th and Earth Day on April 22nd.
The biggest event is the BOPA (Batteries, Oil, Paint- latex only, and Antifreeze) and Electronic Waste Recycling collection on Saturday, March 26th from 10am to 2pm at the Metro Park and Ride lot.  You can also recycle your large appliances, scrap metal, and Styrofoam. As an added plus Keep Kingwood Green is sponsoring a recycling education fair with participation from our Kingwood area recycling companies including Waste Management, Greenstar, Republic, Best Trash, Living Earth Technology, 1-800-Got-Junk, and Edible Earth Resources.  At our display, we will have games for the kids and information for everyone about local recycling and what happens to all the things we recycle.  Check out our website at: www.keepkingwoodgreen.org.  for more information. Last year you and your neighbors dropped over 28 tons of recyclable items at this event. 
Look for us at the Kingwood Farmer’s Market from 3 PM to 7 PM on March 24th, April 7th, April 14th and April 21st.  Come by our table and learn things you may not know about recycling such as:  Is aluminum foil recyclable?  (It is not). Should you take off the top to a plastic bottle before recycling it or leave the top on? (It does not matter, but the top can be recycled).  Do you have to wash out the bottles before you recycle them? (No, but you do need to empty the bottles). Should you take paper off a can?  (No, it is not necessary).  There will be a display, too, on how to recycle green waste on your own property---composting.  We will have all sorts of information about what you can recycle and where to recycle.  We would love to talk to you about your recycling challenges and successes and hear what you are doing.  If you are interested in learning more about curbside recycling in our community, let’s talk about it.
Just received!  Be one of the first to have a Keep Kingwood Green reusable shopping bag.  They will be available at our table at all six events and we only ask for a donation to cover their cost. Stop clogging up our streams, sewers, and landfill with wayward plastic bags.  You can make a big difference just by saying “no” to plastic and bringing your own totes to the store.  I bet you already have a few other reusable bags you can use, too.
 Ever wonder what we do with donations?  We are an all volunteer organization so our overhead is very low.  We provide brochures about local recycling to our community and we offer an educational website and hot-line phone (713-206-0558) to answer your questions.  We go into the community to educate groups about the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling and how to start recycling. We work with local businesses, recycling companies, schools, and government officials to increase the amount of recycling available in our community.  We promote recycling and green events in the Lake Houston area.
If you miss us at the Farmer’s Market we will be at the YMCA Healthy Kids Day on Saturday, April 16th.  Lastly, Friday, April 22nd is Earth Day and we encourage you to celebrate by joining Keep Kingwood Green in Springing into Recycling.  If you are already recycling (and we know many of you are) add something new to what you are doing.  Look on our website for some good ideas and inspirations.  Check out: www.freecycle.org  for a place to pass along things that are difficult to recycle such as broken lawn mowers.  Look to see if you can buy something with less packaging to reduce what you bring home. Save those unwanted CDs and DVDs and recycle them at Best Buy.  Get that old cell phone out of the drawer and drop it at our booth or at Alspaugh’s Ace Hardware.  We can get a few dollars from it to further our cause. Let’s remember the Native American Proverb--- we don’t inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.  Happy Spring and Happy Recycling!


Candy BowmanSpecial Recycling Collection & Display Event
By Candy Bowman (February 2011)

     Do you have leftover latex paint taking up space in your garage?  Is there antifreeze or used motor oil stored there and cluttering your shelves?  How about large appliances, batteries, and electronic items that need to be moved out and recycled?  Well, now is the time to start that spring cleaning!   Mark the date of Saturday, March 26th on your calendar for an easy opportunity to recycle all of these items at the Kingwood Metro Park and Ride lot.  From 10 A.M. to 2 P.M., you will be able to drop off any and all these items, entering the Park and Ride lot from the Lake Houston Drive entrance.  This is the City’s big BOPA (batteries, oil, paint & antifreeze) & Electronic Waste Event for our area. The City asks that you have available your drivers license or water bill to prove residency.
The Houston Solid Waste Department, Keep Kingwood Green, and Council Member, Mike Sullivan, are working together to provide this opportunity for our area, and we hope that you will take advantage of it to clean out your home of waste that is often difficult to dispose of properly.  These items do need to be recycled because it is especially bad for our environment to put it in the regular trash which then goes to the landfill.  Due to budget constraints, this will probably be the only City sponsored event like this in 2011.
An added bonus to the event will be an educational display area, Spring Into Recycling, Display Area, organized by Keep Kingwood Green.  Your children will enjoy a trip through Greenstar’s recycling trailer and educational materials provided by Republic Waste and other recycling companies.   If you are hoping to have single stream recycling available in your neighborhood, come and find out how to help make this happen!  We also plan to have a composting display since green waste makes up to 40% of the waste stream in the Lake Houston area.   Find out how easy it is to turn green waste into ”Black Gold.”
Recycle Bank currently works with two neighborhoods in the area giving coupons based on the amount of recycling collected from each home.  The value of these coupons can add up to $400 per year, redeemable for goods and services from over 1200 businesses.  Recycle Bank services the villages that use the City of Houston for their trash collectors. We plan to have them available to answer your questions about how that program works.

Items that will be accepted at this BOPA, E-Waste event include:
Electronics: computers, monitors, printers, keyboards, microwaves, VCR’s, TV’s 
Cell Phones:  (KKG fundraiser to help defray our costs)
Appliances (including those with Freon) refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners
Scrap metal (including car parts for recycling)
Paint (latex ONLY & it must have readable a label), no leaky containers - 10 gallon limit
Batteries (lead acid automotive batteries, NiCad, Lithium and Rechargeable ONLY)  Alkaline batteries can be disposed of in your regular trash
Styrofoam - large blocks & wedges ONLY.  (No packing peanuts, cups, or containers)
Normal Weekend Recycling (paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, metal or aluminum cans)

Items that will NOT be accepted at this BOPA, E-Waste event include:

As an Added Bonus, You Can---
Pick Up FREE PAINT (mixed colors) will be available free-of-charge from 12 noon to 2 P.M.

Volunteers are needed to help with this event!  If you would like to be a part of the team, please e-mail Info@keepkingwoodgreen.org  to volunteer.  Community members, college students, Girl and Boy Scout groups (aged 12 & up) and high school groups all can take part on the day of the event.
Help publicize the event! Contact us at the e-mail address above if you want a flier to post or circulate to your group. Please help us spread the word. 
It is easy!
You can combine a trip to the B.O.P.A. event and Recycling Display Fair with your regular recycling drop-off on that day.  Just follow the signs to reach both of these collections and the Recycling Display Fair.  The event will be held rain or shine unless a bad lightening storm happens during the event.   Take note, the gates will close promptly at 2 P.M.  If you are in line by that time, your items will be accepted.    For more information about recycling, visit:  www.houstonsolidwaste.org or call 3-1-1.
This Recycling Event, including the Recycling Display Fair, will be the beginning of a “Spring Into Recycling” month for the Lake Houston Area.  Keep Kingwood Green will also be hosting a booth at the Farmer’s Market in Town Square in Kingwood to help promote recycling on Thursday, April 7th, 14th, and 21st from 3 to 7 P.M.  They will also have a composting display to help residents learn how easy it is to start a compost pile to recycle all of those leaves, grass, and kitchen scraps in your own back yard.  In a few months, you’ll have a free supply of rich compost or mulch for your plants and trees!  Finally, Earth Day is officially celebrated on April 22nd. 
Remember, the B.O.P.A. collection is a great opportunity for all of us to clean out our houses and garages as we move into Spring!  Don’t send it to the landfill---recycle it on March 26th and help the environment!   Your family, your community, and future generations will thank you!  Even if you have nothing to recycle that day, stop by to see the Recycling Displays.  For more information on upcoming recycling events and activities in our area, go to: www.keepkingwoodgreen.org.


Bill Bowman Make Reycling a New Year's Resolution
By Bill Bowman(January 2011)

As much as I love the Holiday Season, I am always glad when January arrives and things get back to normal.  The New Year is a great time for changing-up old habits and routines.  Keep Kingwood Green is urging all Lake Houston area residents to continue and strengthen their recycling efforts in 2011. 

2010 may go down as a watershed year for recycling and environmental progress here in the Lake Houston area.  The weekly recycling effort by the City of Houston at the Metro lot continues to be a tremendous success.   In May of last year 110 tons of normal recycling was taken along with another 28 tons of BOPA and e-waste.  That is a lot of “stuff” going back to be reused. 

Several of the village HOA’s in Kingwood have now decided to provide curbside recycling.  In addition, the City of Houston is now delivering large green recycling bins to some Lake Houston area neighborhoods.  The lucky residents in these areas are now able to take advantage of curbside recycling as well as being able to take advantage of the city’s Recycle Bank program.  The Recycle Bank program will gives participating residents the ability to earn up to $400 per year in financial rewards for their recycling efforts. 

Even with all this recent success, the recycling battle has only just begun.  Keep Kingwood Green is revving-up to have a great spring season.  Kingwood’s yearly Kleenwood sponsored by the Kingwood Chamber of Commerce will be held on January 29th.  Make plans to bundle-up and join your neighbors picking up trash around our villages.  I always have fun whenever I go, and I usually find at least a couple of interesting articles along the way.  A good idea is to carry one bag for trash and one bag for plastic and aluminum items that can be recycled.  Meet at your neighborhood pool at 9 AM for supplies and instructions. 

 Kingwood Green will be promoting the time from March 26th through Earth Day (April 22) as “Spring into Recycling.”  We’re excited to be taking the recycling message into the community like never before.  You can help by taking advantage of our great Houston spring weather to clean out your garage.  Look for recyclable plastics and cardboard that are just taking up space and collecting dust.  Get the kids involved as well; you’ll be surprised at how much they like to help out.

Keep an eye out for old water based paint cans too.  The City of Houston has announced that there will be a BOPA (Batteries, Oil, Water based Paint, and Anti-freeze) and e-waste collection event on Saturday, March 26th.  Recycling hazardous wastes eliminates the chance that these harmful substances could end up in our local environment or drinking water supply.  As the father of two young girls this is really important to me and I’m sure it is to you as well.  Stay tuned to the Kingwood Observer and the Keep Kingwood Green website (www.keepkingwoodgreen.org.) for more information on this and future BOPA events.

Remember, any time you recycle, you’re saving valuable landfill space around our community and saving some of our planet’s finite resources.  You’re also most likely decreasing air pollution and limiting the potential effects of global warming.  Just think!  The energy you save by recycling only one aluminum can will power a home television for up to six hours.  Seems like a reasonable thing we all should be doing!  Along with your other New Year’s Resolutions try making recycling part of your 2011 daily routine!  It is easy, you just have to change your habits.

Bill Bowman is a teacher in the Houston ISD, a Kingwood resident, a graduate of Baylor University, the South Texas College of Law, Bar Certified, a US Navy Veteran, and a member of Keep Kingwood Green.  You can reach Bill at:  Bill@Keepkingwoodgreen.org
  


Jan Zaremba-SmithLess Is More During The Holidays!
By Jan Zaremba-Smith (December 2010)

Americans generate over 25% more trash during the holidays and it’s easy to see why.  To start with, everyone gets about a “bazillion” gift catalogues in the mail.  Then there’s all the extra shopping which means extra bags coming home along with the additional food and the presents.  There are tons of extra UPS, FedEx and US Postal shipments, also adding to the mountains of boxes, bubble wrap, and Styrofoam each home takes in.  Many of us send and receive holiday cards by mail too.  And then there’s the decorating---it seems there’s always something that needs to be replaced or added.  If replaced, then the old stuff needs to go.  My annual challenge with the light strings has already begun, but what to do with the broken lights?
And all this is just the preparatory activities.  Once we get to the holidays, for most households, there is a huge wave of in with the new and out with the old; whether it is video games, toys, clothes, electronics or you name it.  Don’t even mention the wrapping that all the new stuff came in---boxes, paper, ribbons, bows, tags, etc.  Frankly, I’m surprised it’s only a 25% increase in trash.  Then consider the statistic “more than 3 in 4 Americans wish holidays were less materialistic while nearly 9 in 10 believe holidays should be more about family and caring for others, not giving and receiving gifts”.
With this in mind, here are some ideas for having a meaningful, waste free (or reduced) holiday season:
Decrease the “stuff” – include gifts of creating memories and doing things together.   Start a favorite annual activity or try to do something new or different with the family this holiday season. 
Give gifts of your time and/or talent- sewing, babysitting, knitting, cooking, gardening, crafts, etc.
Send gift cards not packages - or contribute to a good cause in your loved one’s name.  It’s difficult to know what someone at a distance truly wants or needs in the base case but gift cards are always appreciated.
 Reuse wrapping paper, name tags and gift bags - use cloth and newspaper comics to wrap.  Try colorful sheets or towels for the big items or maybe a scavenger hunt to find something unwrapped outside or in a closet. Tissue paper can last for years, too, if folded for next time.  Make saving and folding paper a part of the unwrapping activities.
Buy second hand - shop at Game Stop, Goodwill, or other used “stuff” outlets.   Young kids won’t know the difference and older kids can learn about the value of reusing.
Donate - old toys, games, clothes, electronics, and holiday decorations to your favorite charity.
Use Reusable Cloth bags - to shop for presents as well as groceries.
Broken or old Christmas lights:  (Replacing your old lights with new LED lights can save up to 80% in your holiday energy light usage!)   Working lights can be donated to almost any local charity.  Non-working lights should be recycled - there are several places to which you can mail them and get rebates for new ones (see our website).  This season, Junky Business will pick them up, along with any other metal recyclables, (it’s the wire inside that gets taken out and reused---Call 832-377-JUNK to see when they will be in your area)
Stop the catalogs!  I have received 3 or 4 catalogues from the same 5 or 6 vendors in the past month!  Call the number on the back or inside the catalog and either elect to get emails or just stop them!  Be sure to at least recycle the ones you do get!
Boxes, paper, cans, glass and plastic can all be recycled at the Kingwood Park & Ride Lot each weekend.  Try to compress them so the bins are not full of air and there is room for those that follow you. 
Electronics- take to Best Buy or hold them until the next Kingwood BOPA/E-waste Event- anticipated later this winter.  (Watch our web site or ask for our e-mail alert about this event)
Cell Phones:  donate them at Alspaugh’s’ Ace for KKG or any number of other organizations who recycle them.
Batteries:  buy rechargeable batteries not disposable ones when you can.  Recycle all rechargeable batteries at Alspaugh’s, Radio Shack, Sears, Lowes, or Home Depot (to name a few); other types of batteries should be disposed of at the next BOPA (Batteries, Oil, Paint & Antifreeze) event in Kingwood.
Styrofoam peanuts and blocks and bubble wrap - can be recycled at the UPS Mail Store (behind La Madeleine’s) or try your closest “pack and ship” retail store.  They reuse them to ship packages year round.
Old VCR tapes ,CDs & DVDs - donate these items to a non-profit, or use freecycle (http://freecycle.org/) or Kingwood Yard Sales (www.kingwoodyardsales.com ). They will take your homemade media too!
Christmas Trees – please be sure to recycle your cut tree. Those using the City of Houston waste service can drop them at the cub and they will be recycled.  Others must bring them to yet to be determined place(s).  Last year this was where the new library is now so the City is looking for a new location.  Please be sure to check our website when the time comes to recycle your tree!   We will have details. 

We wish you a wonderful Holiday and we anxiously look forward to the New Year in the Lake Houston area.  We hope to see curbside recycling in more of our neighborhoods, but we should all think about reducing our waste in the base case, too.  Tell your Community Association leaders that you want curbside recycling.  Two large new recycling facilities are opening soon in the Houston area.  Waste companies should be eager to renegotiate contracts since recycled goods will be easier to handle with single stream recycling and there should be a bit of competition for the recycled goods.    Meanwhile, help decrease the holiday trash and don’t stress, having things aren’t as important as sharing your time with your loved ones!   Enjoy your holidays and take pride in helping our environment.  That makes you feel good, too! Check out our website for more ideas and places to recycle www.keepkingwoodgreen.org  or call us at 713-206-0558 if you have questions.


One Man’s Trash is All Plant’s Treasure
By Scott Snodgrass

With today’s focus on sustainability nearly all of us have heard of compost. However, there are still many misconceptions out there. Too often compost is considered a fertilizer or just a mulch.  Many people consider it an eyesore, too odorous or a rodent attractant. For today’s homeowner, compost can be so much more: a valuable tool for improving all of our different growing system’s soils and an easy way to reduce waste.

Compost is the rotted remains of organic material and the biology responsible for such decay. The style of composting that best suits homeowners is one that uses easily accessible feedstocks, requires as little attention as possible, has no unpleasant side effects, and delivers the end results hoped for.

What cannot be stressed enough about compost is that its true value comes from the biology that exists within it. It is the microbes (bacteria, fungus, protozoa and microarthropods) that are doing the work. Compost without beneficial microbes has very little value to the healthy garden.

Using compost to heal lawns, gardens, trees and native areas is an attempt to restart Nature’s own nutrient cycle. The very simplified version of the cycle is as follows: A tree dies, insects begin tearing the material apart, microarthropods (mites and very small insects) shred the material even smaller, fungi and bacteria begin to feast on the remaining scraps, then predatory beings (nematodes,  mites, amoeboids, ciliates, flagellates) begin eating the fungi and bacteria. It is only when the fungi and bacteria are consumed that nutrients are released in a plant available form.

This biological cycle must be present in the soil for plants to receive the nutrients they need (unless they are supplied in a synthetic fashion, which leads to disease and pest problems, and further damages soil, animal and human health). Using compost and discontinuing the use of synthetic products is the solution to the problem of poor soil health.

So how do we create this black garden gold? You might choose a ready-to-use model from a store, have a company set your system up for you, or just maintain the correct conditions in a trash can (or no bin at all!). Many variables must be maintained in order to create this type of biologically active compost. The best systems for home composting take all of these into consideration and streamline them.

Moisture should be maintained at around 40%.  This is the level of moisture where a good hand-squeeze of the compost will just produce a drop or two of water. If you are able to squeeze more water from the compost it should be turned every day until correct. In Houston you must have a well draining compost system. Often it is best to build your system under partial cover (eave of house or trees) from rain.
Temperature should range between 60 and 150 degrees as the microbes in the materials begin to feed. If the temperature nears the maximum the materials should be turned in order to introduce cooling air. If you are not generating any heat then your recipe of feedstocks should be reviewed. In winter you should expect your compost to take longer to finish as the biology slows down in colder temperatures.
Oxygenation problems are the reason for the failure of most home composting systems. Microbes need near-constant access to oxygen. Constructing your bin from a porous material (wire, perforated metal/plastic), occasional turning of the material, and a mixture of particle sizes can help maintain oxygen levels. If you find your compost becomes malodorous, slimy or hard then adding pure mulch to the mixture and turning it can often help aerate it. Compost that has any foul odor or slime has become contaminated and might contain substances toxic to plants. Re-oxygenating the material can return it to healthy status. You should only have to turn the material once or twice to ensure even decomposition of the materials.
Inoculation can be accomplished by adding a shovelful of native soil or the previously finished compost batch (or purchased high quality compost). There are many microbes naturally prevalent in our environment and many will enter the pile through the materials you introduce to it. Microbes will migrate from the soil below your pile naturally as well as through the aid of earthworms.
Feedstocks are the materials you use to start your compost pile. In general you do not want any feedstock materials to have a particle size of over two inches. Upon starting or adding to a compost pile you should always cover the pile with 1-2 inches of brown material to discourage pests. You are attempting to achieve a ratio of 35 parts Carbon for every part Nitrogen. The simplest way to understand this concept is to separate feedstocks into two categories: green and brown. Green materials are comparatively high in Nitrogen. Their ratios are 10-30 C:N. Brown materials are higher in Carbon, ranging from 30-400 C:N. Below is a chart of the most readily available feedstocks. You should use one part brown for every three parts green.

Brown
Green
Leaves
Chopped up Twigs
Shredded Cardboard/Paper
Mulch
Vegetable Scraps
Coffee Grounds
Grass Clippings

A Note on Feedstocks:

Selection of feedstock is very important as quality and contamination vary so much between sources. Paper with glossy ink is not acceptable as the inks may contain chemicals which inhibit microbial growth. Dyed mulches often also contain similar products and therefore are not acceptable for compost or using in your landscaped areas. Grass clippings are always best mulched back into the lawn to create its own natural compost at the soil level. However, there are appropriate times to remove the clippings, such as when your grass has become too long to mulch back into the soil. Grass clippings from lawns where fungicide, insecticide, or “Weed ‘n’ Feed” fertilizers are used should never be added to compost. It is best only to use grass clippings from yards of which you have a detailed knowledge regarding the maintenance techniques.

The process requires some knowledge in order to produce a high quality product, but the labor involved is slight and the benefits are endless. Biologically active compost reduces water use 50-75%, nearly eliminates fungal problems, greatly reduces insect infestations, creates healthier plants, and produces vegetables higher in nutrition.

KeepKingwoodGreen is a non profit organization in the Lake Houston area that advocates and educates about recycling. www.keepkingwoodgreen.org 

Scott Snodgrass is owner of Edible Earth Resources, a Houston edible landscaping and biological gardening firm based in Kingwood. He is happy to answer questions at: Scott@EdibleEarthResources.com.


Gudrun OppermanLearn From Your Weeds. Then Go Green!
By Gudrun Opperman (October 2010)

Garden Centers around the area are being besieged by people seeking advice on creating a lush weed-free lawn.  As an employee of a local garden center, I have dealt with customers bringing baggies and many a fistful of various weeds in for identification. So, I have been really thinking about weeds quite a bit.  That led me to a great article titled, “Read your Weeds – A simple Guide to Creating a Healthy lawn”.  It was published by the National Coalition for Pesticide-free Lawns.
Basically the emphasis of this article is that you can determine what is wrong with your soil and the conditions in which you are trying to grow a lawn by the weeds found growing there. Of course, you can extrapolate, to include your whole yard.  Read your “weeds” for what they indicate about your lawn care practices and soil conditions, and you’ll be on your way to creating a healthy lawn that will be less work in the long run and better for you and your neighbors.

You need to know that weeds thrive where soils are in poor condition, compacted, poorly fertilized, and not pH balanced. The weed strewn lawn may be improperly watered, mowed, or planted.  In short, weeds thrive where more pampered plants will fail!  They are Nature’s soil fixers, and groundcovers.

Synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides often lead to undesirable conditions, which restrict water and air movement in the soil. High nitrogen fertilizers can disrupt the nutrient balance, accelerate turf growth, increase the need for mowing and contribute to thatch buildup. Heavy fertilization also tends to cause turf to grow green grass but neglect its root system. Grass will become weak as a result, and be more susceptible to diseases.  Pesticides and fungicides harm the necessary beneficial microorganisms, beneficial insects and earthworms that are essential to maintaining healthy soil, and therefore, healthy turf.

Here are a few specifics about what some weeds will indicate about the conditions in which they are growing.  Take Hawkweed for example. Its presence indicates the soil has a low pH, low in calcium, nitrogen, soil bacteria, phosphorus, and humus.  Dandelions tell you that the soil is low in calcium, has a low pH, is too high in potassium, and is very compacted.  Henbit is an indicator of low calcium, humus, soil bacteria and high moisture. Then there is Indian strawberry, which loves soil in poor condition that lacks humus.  It also likes damp and shady conditions.  Clover means that the soil has a low pH, low nitrogen, and is highly compacted. The presence of clover also shows that the soils were allowed to dry out excessively and then were overwatered. Knotweed loves poor drainage, grows in compacted soils that are low in calcium and high in potassium and magnesium.  Ground Ivy shows that the soil is too wet.  The presence of crabgrass and plantains tell us that the grass is mowed too short.

A great resource for growing healthy lawns without all these synthetic fertilizers and pesticides is a book by the name of The Organic Lawn Care Manual by Paul Tukey.  You can find it in the Kingwood library or on Amazon.
Many weeds really do have beneficial properties, especially in other cultures.  One of the weeds that I battle in my own garden is Phyllanthus urinarius, or Leaf flower or Chamber bitter.  As it turns out, this weed is very common to many of the gardens around here.  It is native to Indonesia and India where it is highly prized in medicine as a very potent ally in fighting liver and viral diseases as well as being useful in treating urinary diseases (hence its species name).  In fact, it is sold in the trade of these countries as seeds and dried plant material for teas.  Who knew that this frustrating weed could be so valuable to so many?  Actually, many weeds are used as nutrient rich food sources, such as purselane, chickweed, and dandelions.  Many weeds also work hard trying to improve the soil in which they are growing.  Dandelions actually add nutrients to the soil with their deep taproots, and clovers add valuable nitrogen to the soil.

Learn to identify your weeds.  They are not necessarily the villains that they are made out to be.  And, where in the greater scheme of things does it say you can’t have a weed in your yard?  Develop a certain amount of tolerance for weeds, if they do not choke out valuable plants.  Perhaps a few weeds are better for everyone in our communities than the toxic chemicals used to eradicate them.  Some of these can leach through the soil to our water table and eventually to our streams, rivers, and Galveston Bay.  Take good care of the soil, and you will be rewarded with healthy, weed-free lawns and gardens.

For more “green” ideas go to www.keepkingwoodgreen.org  and join us at the Kingwood Library at 10:30 AM on November 6th for a public meeting to discuss more ways you can be green.


Jan Zaremba-SmithBusinesses Of Lake Houston - Unite!
By Jan Zaremba-Smith (September 2010)

Most residents of our community have to go through special efforts to do the right thing, but the businesses in this area have little to no support when it comes to being environmentally responsible.  What I am referring to is the ability for businesses to recycle waste.  You may know, the Houston area is a “dinosaur” when it comes to recycling.  Sure, landfills in Texas are cheap but that hasn’t stopped Austin, Dallas or San Antonio from being progressive with their recycling programs, or in Boulder CO where landfill fees are half of ours.  Still they boast a 60% recycling rate versus our paltry 5%.  But I digress.  Kingwood does have a weekend recycling center, thanks to the City of Houston, and some residents even have the option for curbside recycling.  But the businesses of the area have almost no options.  If they want to do the right thing with their recyclables, the majority of them must make special efforts above and beyond just taking out the trash.  Since there is no pick up service for business recyclables, the owners need to bring items home or to the weekend recycle center or make assorted trips to various places in order to recycle their printer cartridges, packing materials, boxes, and paper.   Apartment dwellers are in this same boat. 

When I joined the board of KeepKingwoodGreen a year ago, I knew that there was a long way to go to help residents become a part of the 21st Century with our waste collection services such that recycling becomes a natural way of life for all.  Helping educate groups about the importance of recycling in classrooms, cub-scout dens, girl-scout troops, and summer camps has been rewarding but is only one step.  Working to educate the Community Associations about the importance of offering recycling as a standard service and the options that exist for them to do this is another good step.  But one segment of our community that is essentially unsupported in recycling efforts is our local businesses community.  Recently, as an initial step to appreciate the issues for this group, in cooperation with the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce, I developed a survey for area businesses.  It is available on our website, www.keepkingwoodgreen.org.  It is short and to the point.  If you had a recycling bin close to your dumpster, would you use it?  Does your landlord know of your interest?  What would it take it have recycling for your business facility?  If you own or manage a local business, please take this survey so we can better understand how we at KeepKingwoodGreen and the Chamber can advocate for you.  In this survey, you will also have the option to take the challenge to be a Green Business.
 
Being a green business, like being an environmentally responsible individual, is easier than you think.  It is likely to decrease your operating costs and most certainly is something you can take pride in.  We know that recycling may be challenging, but being green also includes product manufacturing and package design, eliminating and decreasing waste in your business, and being energy efficient and conservative in how you operate.  Some recycling may be more convenient than you realize since local businesses already accept recyclables such as ink cartridges, Styrofoam, and electronics.  Other environmentally friendly practices are both easy and cost efficient. The United States, in general, is notoriously inefficient in its energy utilization.  We can all make improvements to our environment in easy, simple ways that have major impacts! That’s another article for another time. 

KeepKingwoodGreen started polling businesses last spring and we continue to reach out in an attempt to better understand the needs of local businesses.  We also will tell the community which businesses take the Green Business Pledge.  The volume of recyclables at the Kingwood Park & Ride recycling center on weekends shows that recycling is an important value to many residents.  I am proud to be a part of a community that cares.  I believe local businesses are an extension of the people who live here and that we should all support them.  We welcome any volunteers who are interested in helping in any small or large way with our efforts to improve recycling and other green practices in the Lake Houston area.  Small businesses owners, apartment managers, and landlords may be able to lend insight into how we can work with them to get the support they need to have recycling become a part of their business practices. 

Please contact me with offers or insights at jan@keepkingwoodgreen.org.  Once we find out what you as a small businesses owner or manager or a business landlord need and want to become recyclers, we can all unite to get it done. 


Susan PollardRecycling - Did you know...?
By Susan Pollard (August 2010)

Recycling impacts our daily lives and our future resources.  Despite the fact that Houston was ranked fairly low in recycling with a rate of recycling at about 5%, many are working to increase that rate. The more we make recycling available the more participation we will get.  We know there are many people in the Lake Houston area that are interested in recycling. What follows is information about recycling, why it is worth making the effort and how to go about recycling in your home more easily.
Did you know…. about landfills and recycling:

Did you know….about what we can recycle

Did you know….about green waste

Did you know….how to recycle in your area.

Did you know….what you can do.

Did you know… the average Texan generates 7.5 pounds of trash every day.
I live in one of the neighborhoods with Single Stream Recycling. In Riverchase and Greentree we had about 33 tons of recyclables picked up in our neighborhoods in one month!  That is a terrific start to what we can do with improved curbside recycling.  In my family of 5 we only fill 1 trash can per week and sometimes we don’t even fill the can to the top.  Recycling has reduced our trash that much. 
We can all do something to make a difference and cut down on the 7.5 pounds of trash we send to the landfill. 
If you would like to help increase and improve curbside recycling be sure to call your Community Association Board and let them know.   To find more information on recycling check the Keep Kingwood Green website at www.keepkingwoodgreen.org. If you have any questions or comments feel free to e-mail me at Susan@keepkingwoodgreen.org.



Hal OppermanMid-Year Report Card on Recycling in the Lake Houston Area.
By Hal Opperman (July 2010)

The headline above promises to tell you how we are doing in recycling.  Well, the short answer is “a bit better” but “still lots of room for improvement”.  In a national newspaper earlier this year Houston was ranked as the worst recycling city of the 20 largest cities in the nation.  That is pretty poor and frankly, outright embarrassing!  Estimates are that we recycle only about 5% of our trash stream.  The best city recycles about 75%.  I know that in Kingwood we do a lot better than 5% but in some areas around Lake Houston and Humble the percentage is probably even less than 5%.  Much of the difference is the availability of places to recycle.  You can be a “squeaky wheel” and tell your elected officials you want to be able to recycle.

Curbside:  Obviously there is no more convenient way to recycle than having your trash company pick up your recyclable items at the back door or on the street.  Several Community associations have recently opted for trash services with mandatory curbside recycling.  Good job, Greentree, Riverchase, and Eagle Springs. Others offer curbside as an added service at an added cost.  Some offer no recycling service at all.  Let your village directors know that you want recycling as a regular part of the trash service and when they renew a contract there are options that include recycling at little or no added cost to you.  (Lot’s of room for improvement)

At the City of Houston drop off bins, which operate each weekend from Friday noon until dusk on Sunday at the Kingwood Metro Park and Ride lot,  the May drop off total was a record amount.  In addition the City ran a four hour event in May where they picked up 16 tons of electronic waste and 12 tons of hazardous materials (paint, batteries, motor oil, and anti freeze).  And, the City now picks up “green waste” in the four villages where they provide trash service in the area.  Our only question is:  why not curbside in those villages for other recyclable materials since it is offered in other areas in the City of Houston?  (We are thankful for any City services we get, but still room for improvement)

Paper Retrievers:  The paper bins that you find in the parking lots of most churches and schools are a convenient way for residents to recycle their newspapers and magazines. Abitibi provides these bins for non profits and paid $3.8 million dollars to these organizations last year.  This is a great service by Abitibi and a real benefit to those non profits that share the donations.  Still, lots of paper goes into trash cans, wasting this valuable resource.  And, regrettably, some people are still placing trash or non-flattened cardboard boxes in the bins.   This contaminates the recycle materials or fills the bin with air instead of paper.  (Some room for improvement by users)  

Commercial Business Recycling: The large food stores in the area all have compactors in their back rooms to recycle cardboard.  Wal-Mart has taken a zero waste pledge and is well on its way to achieving that goal. Some other businesses do a good job of recycling, too.  Unfortunately many, since they are in leased space, have no good option other than to fill their dumpsters with everything; however, if there is a will there is a way.  Some businesses in the area have taken the green business pledge to be more environmentally friendly.  Please be sure to support them. If you own a business take the “challenge”.  http://www.keepkingwoodgreen.org    (We feel lots of area businesses could do better) 

Humble ISD Schools: Our schools do a great job overall in most areas but unfortunately practicing and encouraging recycling is not one of them.  All campuses have the paper retriever program, but on most campuses it is a fixture and not an actively promoted program.  The District tells us they have not been able to find a company to pick up and recycle drink bottles and cans at individual schools.  Tons of those items go to the landfill each month along with all the cardboard that is sent to the schools and their cafeterias each day.  Like last school year, our group stands ready to give a recycling presentation to any teacher or classroom where it is requested, but the District needs to lead by example. (Good first step with the paper, but come on Humble ISD, let’s really go green!)

Lone Star College Kingwood:  Our local college is a shining example of what can be done when there is the “will”.  Dr. Persson has implemented campus wide recycling of all products.(along with many other “green” projects)   She has not only declared that is should happen she has ensured that it does happen by appointing a sustainability coordinator and staff who are responsible for making it happen. http://www.lonestar.edu/9583.htm  (They get an “A” from me) 

Green Waste (grass clippings, leaves and yard waste):  Residents are doing a better job of eliminating green waste by composting and mulching grass clippings.  The City is picking up green waste in four villages but in all other villages it goes to the landfill.  As much as 40% of trash in our area is green waste. Residents have the power to reduce this element of their trash significantly.  (Improving but still lots of bags of green waste out for the trash)

Harris County and City of Humble:  Probably the best that can be said is that each resident and business is on their own.  Little encouragement or help is given by either of these governmental units.  Residents can make their voices heard by contacting their elected officials. (A huge need to set priorities to support recycling)
 
So, as you can see we are making progress!  Our report card is improving but collectively we can do better.  Participation in recycling is largely based on understanding the significance of how important it is to our environment and conservation of natural resources.  Knowing how to do it correctly and as a way of life is of key importance. Please join us in working to improve our performance and to reach our recycling potential.  If you are doing all you can, thanks.  If not, take another or your first step. Change a habit.  Recycling is easy and it is one thing you can do each day that makes you feel good.  It is the right thing to do!  Give it a try! 

If you would like to help us spread the recycling message or comment on any “green” issue in the Lake Houston Area, please log onto our web site at: http://www.keepkingwoodgreen.org/ContactUs.html.  We would love to hear from you. 


Candy BowmanZero Waste: What Can One Person Do ?(Part four of a four parts serie)
By Candy Bowman (May 2010)

                      What is zero waste?  Zero waste is considered to be the recycling or reuse of 90% or more of the waste that would otherwise be sent to a landfill or incinerator.  Some cities have reached a 30% recycling rate in recent years, and San Francisco is now recycling 72% of its waste.
      In U.S.A. Today, Houston was recently ranked last among major cities for its recycling efforts.  We are only recycling about 5% of our waste at present, and as we have seen in past articles, we can do a lot better than this by taking a few simple steps. 
      What can one person do to help achieve the goal of zero waste?  A lot! Here are ten things we can begin to do today.

  1. Work to bring full single-stream recycling to your neighborhood.  Where this type of recycling is in place, much more of the waste is recycled.  Go to your community association meetings and let them know you want this service.  A recycling and trash pick-up is now available through the Best Trash Company that is comparable in price to the trash pick-up alone for many community associations in our area.  It includes paper, cardboard, plastics #1-7, aluminum and steel cans, and glass.  Any size recycling container may be used, and all recyclables can be mixed together. Trash is picked up twice a week and recycling once a week.  Some community associations offer limited curbside recycling pick-up for an extra fee.  You may also take these items to the Kingwood Metro Park and Ride on Friday afternoon through Sunday for recycling by the City of Houston.  Recycling has increased at the Park and Ride from a fall monthly pickup of 60 tons to a total of 91 tons in March.  This represents a 50% increase, thanks to you!  You may also take your paper recycling to the bins at local schools to help them earn funds. 
  2. Start a compost pile in your yard and place all leaves, some grass clippings, and fruit and vegetable kitchen waste in it.  This single step will divert 30% of the waste that now goes into the landfill and creates methane gas.  These resources will be returned to the soil in your yard to fertilize and protect your plants.  You will also save the money that would be spent on bags for green waste.  See the keepkingwoodgreen.org website for photos and directions to build a compost pile.
  3. Try grasscycling.  Set your mower to cut a little long, and leave clippings on the lawn.  There will be no bags to empty when you mow, and it will reduce the water needed on your lawn.  It will also reduce the need to fertilize.  Alternately, compost grass clippings in the compost pile.
  4. Buy products made with recycled items and those that are recyclable.  Look for products that use less wrapping material and consider whether the wrappings of products are recyclable when making a purchase.
  5. Repair and reuse items as much as possible.
  6. Donate items no longer needed to local charities.  Clothes and shoes are always needed.  If you have an item you think no one else will take, try offering it on www.freecycle.org, or the free section of www.kingwoodyardsales.com.   The library welcomes used books and magazines for resale.
  7. Bring cloth bags to the grocery store for shopping.  Plastic bags are not a good option, because they will last a thousand years in a landfill.  Paper bags are not a good choice, either, because one tree will provide 700 paper bags, which could be gone in an hour in a busy store.  If you have extra plastic bags, they now can be recycled at the entrance to all of our local grocery stores.
  8. If you have a business, work toward recycling all waste, including packing materials.  Waste Management will provide recycling bins and pick-up for paper, cans, and plastic at less cost than trash pickup.  Tell your landlord you are interested in this service.  Work toward selling products that are recyclable or biodegradable and non-toxic.  Take the Green Business Pledge offered by the Lake Houston Chamber of Commerce and Keep Kingwood Green.  This will identify your company as a green business and let your customers know that you do your part to help take care of our environment.
  9. Try to eliminate the use of polystyrene foam containers, cups, trays, and packing materials.  It is currently not economical to recycle Styrofoam, and most of it finds its way to the landfill.  Extra packing peanuts can be recycled at local mailing centers.
  10. Take used batteries, oil, paint, and electronic waste to be recycled at a BOPA event sponsored by the City of Houston.  At a recent pick-up held at the Metro Park and Ride, 60,000 pounds of e-waste were brought in by local residents, saving 4 large trucks full of e-waste from going to the landfill. At this same event, over 25,000 pounds of paint, oil, anti freeze and batteries were collected.  These pickups are held several times a year, and dates may be found on the www.keepkingwoodgreen.org  website.  Electronics may also be recycled at Kingwood Computer and Best Buy.  Rechargeable batteries may be taken to most department stores, hardware, and electronic stores, including Alspaugh’s, Best Buy, and Sears.  Used motor oil can be recycled at O’Reilly Auto Parts.  If you missed the recent BOPA event, you can take these items to the North Environmental Service Center every second Thursday from 9 A.M. to 3 P.M. at 5614 Neches, Building C, in Houston.

      With the recent increases in the amount of recycling taking place in the Lake Houston area, it is clear that our community is working hard to find the best ways to recycle.  If we each take these ten steps, we will be well on our way to achieving zero waste.  By setting this as a goal, we will save our natural resources, save energy, and make the environment cleaner and healthier for the future of our children!  



Hal OppermanRandom Thoughts About Recycling
By Hal Opperman (April 2010)

Earth Day was officially held on April 22 and International Composting Awareness Week begins on May 2nd.  Both of these days will pass with not too much notice by most of us here in the Lake Houston area. Trash is a by-product of our daily living and over time we have come to expect that it will just disappear without much bother or expense by us.  Recently an article in the April 17th addition of USA today pointed out how automatic this has become in the Houston area. Their survey says we are the most wasteful of the 25 largest cities in the country.  We hate it when the Astros, the Rockets, or the Texans are last, shouldn’t we hate being at the bottom of this list, too?

Biodegradable Trash Bags---There have been complaints from residents about the City’s new policy of requiring these expensive bags where the City of Houston picks up trash.  The intent is good even if the implementation may be somewhat clumsy.  Most of us can compost or mulch our grass and leaves without sending much of it to the landfill.  We just need to learn how to do it.  The City will save millions of dollars by doing this and more importantly they will slow down the “fill up” of the landfill on Atascocita road.  None of us want the next landfill in our back yard.  The private trash services have not taken this step yet, but they should!  Green waste like this amounts to as much as 40% of total trash.

Noise and mess at the Park and Ride lot---In an article in the April 21st Observer a local doctor complained about the loud noise caused by all the recycling activity.  The City says it is collecting 60 tons of recyclables there per month. That is a lot of coke cans and milk jugs.  Many of us have looked for a better spot to move this operation but convenience is the key.  It can’t be ten miles from where people live or it will not be used.  Yes, there are other spots that would work, but they are not convenient or they have the same “not in my backyard” issues. The City does a good job of maintaining this operation and it is monitored closely by City leaders and community volunteers.  Sure, occasionally some uncaring user makes a mess.

There is a better way to recycle---Recycling in Houston is well behind that of most cities across the country.  Austin, Dallas, San Antonio all have curbside recycling programs.  Houston has test programs for it in some neighborhoods but not in the Lake Houston area.  Most residents of Harris and nearby counties do not even have a drop off point for “weekend recycling” let alone a curbside option.  Perhaps that is changing.  The Greentree and Riverchase Community associations recently “hired” a new trash service.  This company is offering weekly curbside single stream recycling to all of its customers at no additional cost.  Single stream means the resident does not have to sort the items and this company takes all plastics, glass, and cardboard.  The company that services my CA does offer curbside but charges an extra $5 a month to recycle and will not take all plastics, no glass, and everything has to fit in a small bin so lots of cardboard is excluded. They pick up every two weeks.  Not a very good incentive to recycle.  

What can we do?  Demand more from the city, county, and schools in our area.  If your Community Association contracts for your trash pick up, ask them to include recycling as part of the service.  It might not cost any more.  Use the reusable grocery bags at the super market.  We use enough plastic shopping bags in a year to shrink wrap the whole state of Texas.  If your trash service is still picking up 10 bags of green waste from your house, give composting and mulching a try.  You might find your lawn and grass are happier.  Ask area businesses if they recycle and encourage them to do so.  Check out our web site for ways that you can recycle other items and join the mailing list at www.keepkingwoodgreen.org.  We send periodic e-mails letting you know about recycling activities and events in the community. 

We can do a better job of saving our resources and we certainly can work our way out of last place as the most wasteful city in America. 


Candy BowmanZero Waste: Single Stream Recycling Has Arrived ! (Part three of a four parts serie)
By Candy Bowman (March 2010)

                 One of the key elements in achieving zero waste in the Lake Houston area will be the establishment of single stream recycling for all residents.  With events that have occurred in the last few weeks, it appears that this may be possible soon!
      Single stream recycling is much easier for families to accomplish, because all paper, cardboard, aluminum and steel cans, most plastics, and glass can be combined into one large bin.  Where it has been instituted, it has increased recycling rates tremendously, and saved many of our natural resources from going to the landfill. 
      In the first two parts of this series, we looked at the importance of composting of green and kitchen waste, and the impact of recycling efforts by businesses to eliminate as much waste as possible.  The final article will describe some strategies that individuals and families can use to recycle waste generated at home.
In this article, we will discover how the adoption of single stream recycling in our area will bring the opportunity for homes and businesses to greatly increase the amount of resources that can be recycled, while saving money in the process.
      The recycling opportunities vary in our neighborhoods from limited curbside recycling to none at all.  Those that have curbside recycling have a small bin that takes aluminum, paper, limited cardboard, some plastics, and no glass.  A few have this service as a part of their regular collection, but some must pay extra.
      Currently the City of Houston provides recycling through pick-up from bins at the Metro Park and Ride in Kingwood every weekend, Friday afternoon through Sunday evening.  Paper, cardboard, plastics #1-5 and 7, aluminum and steel cans, and glass can be recycled there. Some residents in the Atascocita, Summerwood, and Humble areas drive to Kingwood to recycle if they have no recycling pick-up available.  Residents have shown great support for this effort, and amounts recycled have been as high as 50 to 60 tons per month.
      This has been a great step forward, but we will be able to achieve an even higher rate of recycling with single stream recycling for all households.  First of all, it is easier for families because you don’t have to sort the recyclables.  You just throw them into one large bin.  Secondly, you save energy by not having to drive anywhere to deliver them to another location.  They are picked up at your home just as your trash is picked up.
      San Antonio, Austin, and the Dallas/Fort Worth areas have all found that recycling increased when they adopted single stream recycling.  San Antonio has experienced a 40% increase since the program began, and Austin has achieved a 47% rise in the amount of materials recycled.
      The City of Houston has also begun a very successful program of single stream recycling.  The program began with 10,000 homes in early 2009, and was expanded to 20,000 in October.  It will soon be increased to 70,000 homes receiving single stream recycling, with these families receiving large 96 gallon bins.  These containers will replace the small 18-gallon bins which the city now uses.  The new pick-up will also include glass.  Partnering with RecycleBank, the city has a rewards program which awards points for recycling weight for each residence served, redeemable for coupons, discounts, groceries, and products.
      Houston has also begun a green waste pick-up from residences which is recycled into compost by the Living Earth Company.  The savings from landfill fees and a small amount earned from the compost will save the city 1.5 million dollars a year, according to Marina Joseph of Solid Waste Management.  This pick-up serves several Kingwood communities that have contracted with Houston for trash pick- up.
     Could we obtain the type of single stream recycling now being provided by the City of Houston here in the Lake Houston area?  Best Trash, owned by Matthew and Rick May, offers single stream recycling collecting all plastics, #1-#7, glass,  aluminum and steel cans, paper, and cardboard.  This includes a weekly pick-up of recyclables, and 2 weekly back door pick-ups of trash.  The cost is comparable to what many community associations are now paying for trash pick-up alone.  This company is already providing pickup in Eagle Springs and several other communities in the Houston Area, and recently made a 3 year contract with the community association that serves Greentree, Greentree Manor, and Riverchase in Kingwood. The recycling is taken to a Greenstar processing plant here in Houston.  Eighteen gallon bins are provided at no additional charge, but customers may use their own larger bin if they prefer.
      Waste Management, which currently handles much of the waste collection in the Lake Houston area, is also moving toward single stream recycling, according to Alan Bachrach.  They recently acquired several facilities which will be refitted to handle single stream recycling.  He feels that full single stream recycling will be available within a short time, including the recycling of glass.
      For businesses, Waste Management has a plan in which it is more economical to recycle than to throw materials away.  Leanne Woods explains that area businesses can save between $10 and $25 per month by choosing single stream recycling over trash services.  This seems like a great opportunity for businesses to recycle and save money at the same time!
      At present, most community associations in our area have contracts which expire at different times.  If a coordinated agreement could be reached by a group of associations to put together a contract for recycling and trash pick-up, this might be achieved at a better rate with better service for homeowners.
      Keep Kingwood Green recently met with the Kingwood Service Association to see if the community associations would consider working together to formulate a plan to achieve better service.  There are several recycling waste companies that provide service in our area.  By working together, the community associations can determine which of these companies will provide the best recycling services for their residents at the most reasonable price.  As contracts expire, new contracts can be made for a comparable fee that will include single stream recycling. Talk to your local CA representative.
            Keep Kingwood Green is happy to meet with any other community or civic associations in the Lake Houston area to work toward the goal of achieving single stream recycling for all.  This will be a great step toward reaching the goal of zero waste!  Contact:  www.keepkingwoodgreen.org


Candy BowmanZero Waste: What Can Businesses Do ? (Part two of a four parts serie)
By Candy Bowman (February 2010)

           The Lake Houston area can be a leader in moving toward the goal of zero waste.  In Part 1 of this series on zero waste, composting of food items and green waste was presented as an important step forward in eliminating waste that might otherwise be sent to our landfills.  Future articles will discuss the importance of single-stream recycling and what individuals can do to work toward this goal.  At this time, we ask the question, “What Can Businesses Do?”
      For businesses to take this step, they will first have to consider ways to recycle as much as possible of the waste they produce.  What can be recycled, reused, or repaired?  Can the waste that goes to the landfill be reduced or eliminated?  Another important consideration is that the materials used in production will be safe for the environment, both during the life of the product and afterwards.  If these concerns are met, the business will be well on the way to zero waste. 
      In the Lake Houston area, some businesses have set zero waste as a goal.  According to Sandra Hibbits, Store Manager for the Northpark Neighborhood Wal-Mart, their goal in Houston is to be 100% waste free.  Packing waste is handled with on-site cardboard bailers, and even the plastic outer wrappers and shrink-wrap are recycled.  The pharmacy recycles plastic bottles.  All cooking oil and shredded office paper is recycled.  Containers for recycling aluminum and plastic are at the entrance to the store, as well as in the staff lounge.  The staff has traded Styrofoam cups which are not recyclable for individual coffee mugs in the lounge.  Beginning in March, food that is still edible, such as day-old bread, will go to a food bank and to other uses, such as feed for animals, further eliminating waste.
      Other grocery stores in the area also recycle cardboard and collect plastic bags at the entrance to be recycled.  All are now offering cloth shopping bags for a small fee.  These bags will eliminate the need for plastic bags, which can last a thousand years in our landfills.   To encourage patrons to use cloth bags, H.E.B. has a program for all customers using cloth bags to fill out a slip at the check-out counter for a monthly drawing for a $50 gift certificate.  This provides an incentive for customers to remember to bring in cloth bags on shopping day!
       Many other stores in our area have worked to recycle the by-products of their businesses.  Quick Copy Printing sends its extra paper to local daycare centers for use.  Rapid Refill Ink recycles both inkjet and laser toner cartridges, and gives discounts on new cartridges for recycling.  They also recycle all waste paper and cardboard packaging.
      Vision Source collects used pairs of glasses to deliver free of charge to those in need.  The glasses are cleaned, organized, and prescriptions are read on them.  Dr. Glenn Ellisor has taken them to Africa, Indonesia, and Mexico on “Sight Ministries” missions.  Alspaugh’s Ace Hardware, Kingwood Computer, Wal-Mart in Humble, and the Lion’s Club also help to put used glasses to good use instead of sending them to the landfill.
      Schools in the area are all recycling paper, and some churches now have recycling bins, as well.  Lone Star College – Kingwood has placed indoor and outdoor combination bins for plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and trash, in addition to the paper recycling system which has been in place for many years.
      The Lake Houston Family YMCA has a system in place for recycling paper and has begun collecting plastic bottles for recycling, too.
       Restaurants are taking measures to eliminate waste, as well. The Chez Nous  Restaurant in Humble is recycling all cans, bottles, paper, and glass, in addition they compost food waste.  Ruggles Green restaurant, one of only two in the Houston area certified by the Green Restaurant Association, recycles all glass, cardboard, paper, aluminum, and metal waste.  They also recycle fryer oil for use in the local BioFuel program.
      Many businesses in the area offer opportunities to recycle items which are related to their business.  Electronics may be recycled at Kingwood Computer, and also at Best Buy.  Nursery pots and trays are accepted for recycling at Kingwood Garden Center, and packaging peanuts and bubble wrap will be reused at Mail & More and most mailing stores in the area. 
      Rechargeable batteries may be brought to most hardware, electronic and department stores, including Alspaugh’s, Sears, and Best Buy.  Used motor oil can be recycled at O’Reilly Auto Parts. Alspaugh’s also accepts used cell phones and printer cartridges to be recycled.
      In the future, zero waste will involve not only planning for the recovery of discards, but careful design to produce non-toxic and recyclable or compostable products.  Nike is a leader in zero waste product design.  They use recyclable polymers, water-based solvents, and fabric woven from used soda bottles.
      As business owners have discovered, going green is profitable for them in many ways.  Xerox Corporation in Rochester, New York, has had a waste-free environmental goal since the early 1990’s, including reductions in solid and hazardous waste emissions, energy consumption, and increased recycling.  Savings have been $45 million.  Interface, Inc. in Atlanta, GA, has saved over $90 million through waste elimination.
      In the auto industry, manufacturers are working toward the elimination of trash dumpsters by recycling everything possible and reusing other items.  At eight of its North American plants, Honda’s planning for recycling has allowed them to get rid of trash dumpsters altogether.
      General Motors has confirmed their plans to make approximately half of its 181 plants worldwide “landfill free” by the end of 2010.  The goal of General Motors is finding ways to recycle or reuse more than 90% of materials by selling scrap materials, adopting reusable parts boxes to replace cardboard, and even recycling used work gloves.  Subaru and Toyota are producing landfill-free plants, too.
      With the help of the business community, zero waste is an achievable goal.  It will take some thought to find ways to recycle or reuse the items that are left over in all businesses, but it is being done today in our community by many resourceful people. Those who have tried it have found that it not only saves resources, but is profitable, too.  In a forward-thinking community like ours, people will appreciate the effort to slow the building of new landfills and to preserve our natural resources. 
      We have mentioned several local businesses that are using “green initiatives.”    Please tell us what your business is doing so we can share the knowledge of the steps you have taken, which may possibly be of help to others.  You can contact me at Candy@keepkingwoodgreen.org.  By working together to problem-solve ideas to address this issue, the Lake Houston area can be a leader in the zero waste movement!         


Candy BowmanNew Year's Resolution: Zero Waste ! (Part one of a four parts serie)
By Candy Bowman (January 2010)

      Have you heard of “zero waste”?  It’s an expression that is new to many of us, but a concept that is catching on from coast to coast.  “Zero-waste” is a strategy that aims at eliminating garbage from filling up our landfills, and it is rapidly taking hold in restaurants, school cafeterias, stadiums, national parks, corporations, and homes across the country.  Making “zero waste” a goal this year would be a great New Year’s Resolution!
      Many of us have begun to recycle items that used to go to the landfill.  We take our cans, glass, plastics #1-5 and 7, paper, and cardboard to the Metro lot containers on weekends, and also take paper to the recycling bins at our schools. The concept of “zero waste” goes a step further—to look for ways to eliminate almost all trash that would otherwise end up in our landfills.  The movement is simple in concept: produce less waste; shun polystyrene foam containers and any other packaging that is not biodegradable; recycle or compost whatever you can.
      The success of zero waste requires that we redefine the concept of “waste” in our society.  In the past, waste was considered a natural byproduct of our culture.  Now, it is time to recognize that proper “resource management,” not “waste management,” is at the heart of reducing waste sent to the landfills.
      Could we accomplish “zero waste” in the Lake Houston area?  Absolutely!  Here are some ideas on how we can work toward this goal.  With a move toward composting of all food items and green waste, single-stream recycling, and efforts by businesses and individuals to recycle or reuse everything possible, we will be well on our way to zero waste.
       In this first of four articles, we will look first at recycling food waste and green waste into compost.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food waste accounts for about 13% of the total trash nationally. In our community, which has plenty of green waste, we could add our fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and egg shells to leaves and grass clippings to make compost that enriches the soil and makes wonderful mulch.
      When leftovers, apple cores, and stale bread go to landfills, they do not return the nutrients they pulled from the soil when growing.  Sealed in landfills without oxygen, the organic materials release methane, a heat-trapping gas, as they decompose.  However, if they are composted, the food can be broken down and returned to earth to restore the soil with no methane produced as a by-product.
      Is it possible to do this and include all the food waste from our homes, school cafeterias, grocery stores, and restaurants?  Some of our local restaurants and schools are beginning to do this now.  In Humble, the Chez Nous restaurant has begun to recycle all fruit and vegetable waste into compost for the garden beds in back of the restaurant.  Stacy Simonson noted that they raise herbs, organic field greens, concord grapes, and have fig and lemon trees which make use of their compost. 
      The Ruggles Green restaurant in Houston collects fryer oil and coffee grounds for recycling each week, and uses no Styrofoam products.  Starbucks recycles coffee grounds by making them available to local gardeners.
     The newest school under construction in Humble I.S.D., Elementary #26, will provide a model for other Texas districts to follow in eliminating waste.  Plans for this campus include a decomposer and pulper, machines that will convert food waste and other kitchen recyclables into mulch.  This mulch will be used on the school grounds, enriching the soil and saving garbage collection fees.  This is a giant step toward zero waste, while saving tax dollars and reducing the cost of transporting waste. 
      In San Francisco, the city has recently begun a special process to compost all food scraps, including meat and dairy items and food-soiled waste.  With many homes and businesses participating, they are able to recycle 72% of their waste, and their goal is zero waste by 2020.  Seattle, Boulder, Longmont, Atlanta, and many other cities are also recycling food waste for composting. 
      Zero waste is the goal of the campus at the University of North Carolina, which now composts all food waste from the main dining hall.  Middlebury College and the University of Vermont have also begun to compost food waste from their cafeterias.
      Another new development in food service recycling is the replacement of plastic utensils with biodegradable ones.  At Yellowstone National Park, the clear soda cups and white utensils are not typical café-counter garbage.  They are made of plant-based plastics, and will dissolve when heated for a few minutes. 
      The U.S. Capitol has switched from styrofoam and disposable plastics to compostable cups, plates, and utensils, which are processed along with food scraps.  Then the locally-produced compost comes back full circle for use in landscaping at the National Mall.
      Beginning this month, several villages in Kingwood served by the City of Houston Solid Waste Department will have waste pick-up that includes green waste, which will be composted.  The trash bags, too, will be a special type that will compost.
      All of these recent developments in food and green waste composting are tools that may be of help to us in the future in eliminating waste that currently fills our landfills and wastes our natural resources.  In future articles, we will take a closer look at obtaining single-stream recycling for all of the Lake Houston area, and at the steps that may be taken by businesses and individuals to move toward a waste-free community.
      The current rate of waste recycling in the Houston area has been estimated at about 5%, and the Mayor has set a goal of 30% for next year.  Here in the Lake Houston area, let’s aim for the Texas-sized goal of “zero waste” in the New Year, with 100% of our recyclables being kept out of our landfills. 
      Larry Chalfan, of the Zero Waste Alliance, noted the greatest motivation for moving toward zero waste in our society is our children and grandchildren: “We do so much to prepare our children for the future, but are we doing enough to prepare the future for our children?”  Let’s do it!

(Candy is a retired teacher, contact her at:  Candy@keepkingwoodgreen.org )


Susan PollardFor the Holidays: Enjoy, but reuse and recycle
By Susan Pollard (November 2009)

It’s that time of year; time to begin planning for the holiday season. You are looking forward to finding those special gifts to share with those you care about.  As you start holiday preparations, consider that during the holiday season household waste increases by about 25% and close to half the paper consumed is used to decorate and wrap consumer gifts (this information is from the Recycler’s Handbook).  In making the holidays special, let’s consider how to share it with our environment by making it easier on the earth too.
There are some simple ways to make the holidays more sustainable with just a little planning and flexibility. As you shop for food and gifts, bring your own shopping bags to cut down on the amount of plastic bags you use.  When you buy gifts, choose those that are made from recycled materials.  If you are buying batteries to go with a gift, pick rechargeable batteries.  Buy good quality, durable items that are more likely to last longer and reduce the amount of waste going to the landfill.  If you normally bring flowers as you go visiting take a plant instead.
Give the gift of time and yourself instead of material goods.  You can give special food items –brownies from an old family recipe or homemade hot chocolate mix. Give a gift certificate (printed on recycled paper of course) for something unique such as an hour of babysitting time, washing the car or cooking dinner. 
When it comes to wrapping gifts, get creative!  Use colorful comics, old maps or magazines.  If you are giving food, use a decorative tin or jar that can be used again.  According to RecycleWorks if every family reused just 2 feet of holiday ribbon the amount of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet (about 38,000 miles of ribbon).  Quite a present for the earth! Save ribbon and bows that are in good shape to reuse next year.  Gift bags can be used several times.
Everyone loves to receive holiday cards (though we don’t all love writing them).  Consider sending e-cards to save on paper or choose cards made from recycled paper.  Keep your old cards and use them to make holiday decorations.  Another way to reuse holiday cards is to turn them in to new cards.  Cut the front, decorative part off and paste it onto construction paper.  You can make these new cards as a holiday craft project and give them to those in hospitals.  This is a great project for kids to do. 
If you have a Christmas tree, recycle it.  The City of Houston hosts a tree drop off site in Kingwood until about mid-January.   If you want to keep that holiday spirit going buy a live tree in a pot and plant it in your yard or buy a (reusable) artificial tree.
After the holidays, reuse items that you don’t need.  If you have toys and clothes that have been outgrown donate them to a local charity.  If you receive gifts from far away save the plastic peanuts and bubble wrap and recycle them at the local private postal stores in Kingwood. You can drop off a bag or box of the loose fill peanuts anytime the stores are open. 
When considering your New Year’s Resolution add reducing, reusing and recycling to your list!  Happy Holidays.


David BurkeCollege Sustainability
By David Burke -Program Manager, College Sustainability at Lone Star College-Kingwood (October 2009)

The dictionary defines sustained as “maintain at length without interruption, weakening or losing in power or quality”.  The definition we use at LSC-Kingwood is, “Sustainability is the responsible and beneficial use of resources so as to maximize the availability and quality of the resources for future generations”.
Recycling is certainly a responsible use of resources.  LSC-Kingwood has been recycling paper in the Abitibi Paper Retriever dumpsters for a long time.  Last year the 32 tons of paper recycled represented 550 trees that were not cut for pulp and saved over 117 cubic yards of landfill space, not to mention the cost savings for trash removal.
We have recently begun to recycle plastic bottles and aluminum cans.  We purchased 29 remanufactured plastic recycling containers made from 5,500 recycled gallon milk jugs.  They are placed around campus along with temporary cardboard collection boxes.  The collection of segregated bags of trash, bottles and cans has been a logistic problem for the college custodial staff that forced the hiring of a full time recycle custodian.  Even though the three compartment slots and boxes are clearly labeled, “plastic, cans and trash”, we still have a problem keeping trash out of the recycle compartments, further adding to the custodial work-load.
To help the campus “Recycle Right”, the campus television produced a humorous, instructional video entitled “Keeping Kingwood Green” which is posted on You Tube on the internet.  The You Tube address is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ME9d9gVWCyY and a link is on the www.lonestar.edu/kingwood home page.  Take a look; I think you will enjoy it.
Not “Recycling Right” by separating trash and recyclables, along with a weak market for plastics are two reasons the recycling containers were removed from the HEB parking lot in Kingwood and we were forced to change our recycle vendor in order to continue recycling plastics.
Gardening is the ultimate sustainable practice and one of the most beneficial uses of resources.  It meets our most basic need yet conserves resources for the future.  Homegrown produce is more nutritional, flavorful and less expensive than store bought produce that is transported from distant farms.  Commercial produce is grown more for ease of shipping, shelf life and appearance than for nutrition and taste by genetic selection and engineering.   Energy is consumed by transportation, fertilizers, pesticides and packaging, and the drive to the grocery for more carryout bags.  Home gardeners can choose plants for their food value and heirloom varieties to preserve the biodiversity of the past.  They can practice organic gardening to recycle spent organic matter, crop rotation to prevent depleting soil nutrients and companion planting to naturally increase yield and discourage pests.   
A Learning Garden has been established at LSC-Kingwood in partnership with Humble ISD Project Connection students as a venue to demonstrate sustainable practices.  Vegetables and butterfly plants have been planted and tended by an all volunteer gardening effort.  The habitat garden attracts butterflies, birds and bees which consume undesirable insects and pollinate the vegetables.  While the vegetables are the practical part of the garden, the flowers add color, activity, and interest.   The garden feeds the body and provides enjoyment for the soul while creating a balanced and sustainable environment.   
Because of a late start, the first season’s vegetable harvest was limited and some crops were lost due to heat and lack of moisture.  The butterfly flowers, however, flourished and only one of the plants was lost.  Lessons have been taught by nature in the Learning Garden and a grassy field became a productive resource. 
LSC-Kingwood is practicing the responsible and beneficial use of resources as an example of  College Sustainability through commitment and investment. 


Gudrun OppermanWhat's in Your Food
By Gudrun Opperman (September 2009)

As a family we are big into recycling, but are particularly keen on composting our green wastes, and those of many neighbors who throw lawn clippings, leaves and yard wastes out with the trash.  We regularly collect neighborhood green trash and compost it or use it as mulch.  The resulting compost is our gold mine!  The compost feeds the plants and the soil in our garden and yard.  Used as mulch, the “wastes” reduce our water usage and eventually enrich the soil.  We don’t need to use chemical pesticides, fungicides, or chemical fertilizers.  This saves a tremendous amount of money, but has an even greater benefit to us.  These practices produce a healthy environment for us and the creatures that share our place on earth.  Our half acre lot in Kingwood, also a certified wildlife habitat, produces much of the green produce, herbs, and some of the citrus that we eat.  We eat what is in season in our garden, preserve the excess, and forgo many of the things that are not in season.  This has become the rhythm in our lives.

As an employee of Alspaugh’s Garden Center, I have noticed a trend in more families wanting to grow some of their own food.  This may be a national trend, similar to the old Victory Gardens of the past, or it may just be that people are catching on to something that is good for them in many ways.  Growing some of one’s own food is a satisfying pastime that is good exercise, it can be healthy for the land, and the results can be very healthy for the gardener.  However, how this food is grown is the crux of this article.

The number one vegetable that is grown nationwide is the tomato.  Why is this?  Well, when is the last time you waxed poetic about a tomato purchased in the local grocery store?  Typically the flavor can be compared to eating red colored cardboard.  Most of us older folks can remember a time when we had delicious tomatoes grown locally.  Have you had a juicy, dripping with sweet juice, strawberry lately?  Typically, the taste of a store-purchased strawberry lives up to its name - straw.  Why, you say, do fruits and vegetables have so little flavor?  Ah, let me tell you how these things are grown commercially.

Our winter produced tomatoes and many other vegetables and berries are grown in soil that has been fumigated with a powerful insecticide, methyl bromide, to kill off all soil organisms.  It also is extremely toxic to humans, and is a major factor in ozone depletion of the atmosphere. The federal government has mandated that methyl bromide be replaced by methyl iodide due to pressures from the Montreal Protocol.  But guess what?  This chemical is a potent carcinogen!  Its use has been met by serious outcry from many scientists and doctors.  The politics behind this move is unbelievable! 

After the soil is sterilized, the crops are then grown with massive doses of chemical fertilizers.  The use of chemical fertilizers exploded after WWII. Since then, a sharp rise in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and Type 2 diabetes has been noted.  It’s now generally accepted that higher nitrogen levels in our food supply can result in nitrogen compounds in our intestines. This may be the cause of the increases of the illnesses listed above.

Chemical fertilizers also have a detrimental effect on natural soil microbes. The following insights from British scientist, Sir Albert Howard, gleaned from his book The Soil and Health are still very relevant.  He stated that an artificial fertilizer could replace key elements, but it could not replenish the vibrant, healthy topsoil, or humus, required to grow health-giving food. Humus isn't an inert substance composed of separable elements, but rather a complex ecosystem teeming with diverse microorganisms. Only by carefully composting animal and plant waste and returning it to the land, he argued, could topsoil be replaced. For Howard, agriculture wasn't a process sustained by isolated inputs and outputs; rather, it functions as a cycle governed by the "Law of Return": what comes from the soil must be returned to the soil. Farmers who violate the "Law of Return," Howard claimed, are "bandits" stealing soil fertility from future generations.  The type of soil that Howard describes is rich in microbes and trace elements.  The link between healthy soil and good-for-you fruits and vegetables is generally accepted.  Plants grown organically have more taste and disease fighting properties.  Healthy soil equals healthy food and healthier people.

How long this food takes to get to your local grocery store and how it is treated along the way is also of importance in its nutrient quality.  Fresh picked ripe produce has the optimum nutritional quality. 

Organically produced food takes a bit more effort on the farmer’s part; consequently it costs more at the store.  Cheap food is considered almost a birthright in this country.  Most commercial food production uses the Henry Ford or the Wal-mart principle.  We can grow quality food for an honest profit for the farmer, or we can grow poor quality food for a cheap price.  Organic farmers’ markets are a way of getting locally grown organic food to consumers.  The Houston area now boasts nine such markets.  On October 7, we will see the first such market in the Humble area.  It will be open every Wednesday from 4 – 8 p.m. at Main Street and Avenue G.  We hope our area will support this effort so it can survive. 

Have I made my point for using organically grown produce yet?  As you can see, produce grown by you in your own garden, fed by compost that you have made from plants that lived on your land, results in the best possible food for you.  Going out to your garden to pick the produce for your evening meal is not only a satisfying pastime, but is so good for you.  The antioxidants, antiviral, antibacterial, heart and cancer disease fighting properties of the fresh produce from your own garden, not to mention a healthy complement of minerals and vitamins, is a tremendous asset.  Of course, this presumes that you have developed healthy soil.  Everyone with a sunny spot can grow some of their own produce.  Reducing the load on the landfills by composting your kitchen and garden scraps (or those of your neighbors) can boost your growing power.  Anyone can compost, even in an apartment. (See our website, www.keepkingwoodgreen.org. for composting help.)  Creating healthy soil will cut your dependence on chemicals needed to control plant diseases and insect pests.  So, grow healthy and be healthy.  Start with seeds or transplants.  Involve the whole family in the endeavor.  You’ll be glad you did!

Want to learn more about this topic, look up The Soil and Health by Albert Howard, Empty Harvest by Jensen and Anderson, The Fatal Harvest with essays from 30 authors, the Organic Center’s transcript of the 2009 AAAS Symposium on “Living Soil, Food Quality, and the Future of Foods”, and Michael Pollan’s  In Defense of Food.  Many other sources exist as well.



Hal OppermanWhere Can We Recycle
By Hal Opperman (August 2009)

“Where can environmentally conscious people take their recyclable items in Kingwood at any time they want, 24/7? Nowhere, at the moment.”  Those were the first lines in an article in the Observer on September 24th, 2007.  The article goes on to discuss the lack of recycling opportunities in the Kingwood and the Lake Houston area.
While some things have changed in the almost two years since that article, it is a case of one step forward and sometimes two steps back when it comes to recycling. Keep Kingwood Green is a non profit group that was founded several years ago to work to improve recycling opportunities and to help educate and inform people in the Lake Houston area about recycling.  The group maintains a web site at www.keepkingwoodgreen.org with dozens of ways you can recycle rather than landfill most of the things that would otherwise go out to the curb.
Currently, their education committee, headed up by Candy Bowman, is preparing to take the recycling story to schools and other groups in the area.  Candy has a program called “Ten Things Kids Can Do to Help the Earth.”  Candy says that if we can encourage kids in the 4th or 5th grade to begin recycling, we can often influence them for life as well as their families.
The group also puts out a free recycling brochure that you can pick up at Rapid Refill Ink on Lake Houston Parkway and other retailers in the area. The guide gives lots of information on how and where you can recycle. 
The progress: The City of Houston and Councilman Michael Sullivan have expanded the services at the Park & Ride lot to include bins being placed there every weekend for paper, cardboard, plastic, cans, and glass.  The City, too, has done a good job of managing the bins and changing them out during the weekends when they are full. A project that would have made them available 24/7 was opposed by some nearby residents who feared there would be too much noise and traffic.  
Two Steps Back: 1) HEB recently removed the recycling bins at their Atascocita and Kingwood stores.  These bins were emptied every day by the recycling company, Abitibi; however there were some in the community who felt they were unsightly and had complained to HEB.  More importantly, according to HEB, some of the material deposited inside the bins was trash that could not be recycled. The combination of extra trips to pick up the full bins and the time it took to sort out the trash made the service uneconomical. Unfortunately a few “careless/thoughtless” people have caused much disruption basically ruining the program for the rest of us by mixing and dumping trash including tires and glass which contaminated the rest of the items.  For almost two years these bins have been available 24/7.  This move alone will cause tons of additional recyclable materials to go to the landfill each day.
2) Humble ISD has lost their vendor who began picking up recyclable materials at schools last year.  Unless they are able to find another service to do this, many more tons of water bottles and soda cans will go to the landfill this year. The paper retrievers are still available at most schools.  Please make sure you flatten your cardboard, though, or it will cost more to transport air to the recycling facility than the material is worth. Let HISD know that you feel it is important that they continue to recycle.

            What else can you do?  Call your trash service and see if they offer curbside recycling.  If not, why not?  Waste Management tells us that it is an option in most neighborhoods.  Or, set up a system in your garage to sort and store your materials.  Step on the plastic containers to conserve space. When you have filled your bags or boxes, make a trip to the Park and Ride.  It is easy!  Typically I only have to go once a month.  Call your local elected officials and ask them to find us a permanent place to recycle.  Call HEB and ask them to return the bins. And finally, realize that almost all resources are limited.  Think twice before you throw any item in the trash.  Reduce, Reuse or Recycle.  It is the right thing to do for you, your children, and your grandchildren!

Candy BowmanHumble ISD - The Cleanest Greenest School in Houston
By Candy Bowman (July 2009)

           Several weeks ago I noticed that my six-year-old granddaughter was wearing a blue paper tiara home from school.  The tiara was not a “princess” crown, but proudly proclaimed, “I’m a Water Watcher.”  On the back, it encouraged us to “Fix leaky faucets.”  She was excited about the knowledge learned in her first grade class at Deerwood Elementary that she could save water and help the Earth.  She also told us about many ways we could recycle at home and offered to help us out.
      A lot of good things like this are happening around Kingwood and Humble.  Students are learning about recycling in their classrooms and bringing this enthusiasm home to parents and brothers and sisters.  Here are just a few of the good things that have happened recently.  I’m sure that you could add many more to this list.
      Kingwood Park High School has been recycling paper from all classrooms and workrooms for two years. With the help of the Student Council and P.T.S.A., they have purchased large “bottle” shaped containers to begin the recycling of plastic and aluminum next fall.  Kingwood Park also has an “Adopt a Green Space” program in which school groups and teams can choose an area of the campus for beautification and care during the year.  Many groups participate in Kingwood Kleenwood Day each year, and batteries and ink cartridges are recycled at the school, as well.
      Oak Forest Elementary has an ongoing organic gardening program for fifth grade students in which they learn about and participate in composting food waste from the school cafeteria with green waste from the school yard. They grow vegetables in this rich compost and harvest them, learning much about good gardening practices in this way.  All plastic, paper, and cans are also recycled at this school. Over 1000 bags of leaves and pine needles were used as mulch on the grounds this past year around new trees that were planted.
      Maplebrook Elementary and Humble Elementary have had “Go Green” programs for all fourth grade students this year, with students helping to collect and recycle paper and other items.  Enthusiastic teachers have inspired students to be good energy savers and recyclers.
      Kingwood High School’s Environmental Club is active in encouraging recycling within the school and also sends a large group of students to participate in Kingwood Kleenwood Day each year.  Many other high schools participate in this project, as well.
      Twelve schools in our District are returning used ink cartridges to Rapid Refill Ink, which provides compensation to school groups and special coupons for recycling these reusable items.
      Many schools are also recycling “Capri-Sun” types of containers with a company called Terracycle.  These containers are saved and sent to the company with no cost to the school, and they are remade into purses and bags.  The school receives money for each item sent.
      Quest High School has established a recycling program and many students are actively learning about new alternative energy sources.
      The Village Learning and Achievement Center has begun teaching students how to recycle paper, plastic, and aluminum, and has recently established a compost pile and a large organic garden which has produced many vegetables this spring. 
      Atascocita High School students have produced a terrific magazine with information on many green ideas, from alternative energy sources to hybrid cars to building your own compost bins.
      Local Scout Troops are working on special awards based on recycling and energy saving projects.  Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and even “Daisy” Troops were seen picking up litter on Kingwood Kleenwood Day. Girl Scout Troop #9169 earned their bronze award for studying about recycling and teaching the public about it by setting up a booth with fun recycling activities at two school fairs this spring.
      Humble High School had many students who were active leaders on the “Go Green” committee last year, providing ideas for environmental projects within the schools.  They also began many environmental activities within the school.
       As an outgrowth of the Humble I.S.D.’s “Go Green” committee, the goal will be for the entire district to work toward recycling paper, plastic, and aluminum next year.  Hopefully, this opportunity to recycle at the schools will be extended to the communities nearby soon, with the funds generated going to the individual schools. 
      These are just some of the exciting things happening in our schools.  If you would like to be a part of helping your local school to recycle, there are many ways to help.  You can offer to help your child’s teacher set up a recycling area in the classroom or work with the P.T.A. and Administration to encourage recycling on a schoolwide level.  If you have special knowledge of recycling, composting, water quality, or other environmental topics, you can offer to present programs to students in the schools. 
      The Keep Kingwood Green organization offers programs on recycling to schools and can use your help.  Please check the www.keepkingwoodgreen.org website for programs available or to volunteer to help with these programs in your local school.  Current recycling information for our community may also be found at this website.
      We are fortunate to have a school district which has set environmental education and recycling in our schools as a top priority.  With a little help from all of us, we can have the cleanest, greenest schools in the Houston area soon!  


Hal OppermanAre you Living in the Disappearing Forest ?
By Hal Opperman (June 2009)

Many of us moved to the Lake Houston Area because of the trees and the lush green appearance of the communities. However, it seems that many residents of the area are on a mission to rid the area of its trees.  Sometimes it is the City, a Community or Trail Association, or a developer that are the guilty parties, but often it is the individual homeowner who is to blame for the excessive felling of trees.
Consider the benefits of trees around your home.  It is well known statistic that trees around a home can boost its value by as much as fifteen percent.  Shade trees planted on the east and west sides of a house can reduce cooling bills by 15 to 35 percent.  Heating bills can be lowered in a home by planting a windbreak on the side of the prevailing winds.  Trees remove carbon dioxide and other pollutants from our air.  Their roots absorb rain and reduce the incidence of flooding. Masses of trees reduce noise pollution.  And if this were not enough, being able to view trees in your surroundings reduces stress. 
Last fall Hurricane Ike cleared more trees in a day than all of the above in a year.  Other guilty parties are the hordes of tree service companies that frequently knock on our doors telling us we have “dangerous trees” that should be trimmed or cut down.  Just say “no”.  You are responsible for your half or quarter acre, don’t let some guy with a chain saw undo what it took nature years to grow. Instead, plant a tree to replace the one Ike knocked down.  Most Community Associations require you to obtain approval to cut a mature tree.
After Ike, tons of trees and brush were removed along our major roads.  Did we really need to haul it all away to some distant composting operation?  Thankfully the City of Houston did insist on mulching or composting this biomass.  Unfortunately the bulldozers and trucks that drove across the medians and forested areas to pick up all the debris did more damage to our ecosystems than if the logs and brush had been left in place to decay. That would have been more aesthetically pleasing than the gouges that were left after all this organic material was removed and many young trees and bushes were crushed.  Yes, maybe FEMA paid the bill, but all of us are taxpayers who have to pay for FEMA. What a waste of taxpayer dollars and natural resources!
The Harris County Flood Control District routinely cuts all the drainage ditches in our areas. Obviously the streambeds do need to be free flowing and some management of the vegetation is necessary to attain that. However, large swaths of land are mowed adjacent to the drainage ditches.  Couldn’t we allow some of this land to return to forest? Couldn’t the streambed be managed by cutting it once a year instead of three times a year? Is this the best use of our tax dollars and natural resources?
Finally, as you head out on the interstate highways this summer, notice all the areas that the highway department mows right down to the bare soil.  For safety purposes, it makes sense to mow a strip adjacent to the roadway, but do we need to have the vast roadsides cut all the way to the right of way fence?  How much money could the State save by only cutting what is necessary?  Why not leave trees and underbrush?  That would be visually pleasing and better for the environment than dead grass and roadside litter. 
            At Keep Kingwood Green we typically focus on recycling and saving our natural resources.  Our green spaces are precious natural resources.  Please join us in protecting the beauty and health of our green spaces, neighborhoods and backyards.  Check out our web site at www.keepkingwoodgreen.org


Ellen DelapGreen Organizing for our Community
By Ellen Delap (April 2009)

Our world is a small place and we all want to contribute to our global wellness. “Green organizing” is an environmentally focused organizing strategy emphasizing principles of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Reduce
We have a choice for conscious consumption by thinking through the purchases we make. We can choose to reduce the volume of items coming into our home by having an awareness of the effects of our purchases. These purchases can become clutter and create a log jam in the flow of items in our home. With large quantity comes the need to find storage so that these do not become clutter. In the Depression the saying “use it up, wear it out, make do or do without” was how each home was run. Currently, we choose to focus on relationships and experiences rather than “stuff”. With our economy, reducing means frugality as well. Think through your purchases on many levels to reduce the volume entering your home.

Re-use
With all we have in our homes, re-use can be an important focus. See what you have already that can create order in your home as well as be of value in new spaces. Be creative and use conventional items in unconventional ways. Empty shoes boxes are great general sorters, ice cube trays can sort jewelry and shallow plastic ware can hold categorized office supplies in a desk drawer. When purchasing, use recycled and/or biodegradable products where possible and feasible. More of these products are easily available. Choose green organizing textile bags with sturdy handles for your shopping. Keep them handy in your car or at your landing strip.

Recycle
As we are deciding and decluttering, let’s limit the amount of unwanted items going to landfills by donating, free-cycling, selling and recycling as much as possible. We can follow green disposal practices with recycling centers, finding individuals or organizations needing unusual items and safely and legally disposing of toxic items. There are many local resources for this.

Hazardous Waste Disposal www.cleanwaterways.org
Recycling database www.earth911.org
Houston Recycling www.greenhoustontx.gov
Craig's List www.craigslist.com
Free items to share of take www.freecycle.org
Habitat for Humanity ReStore (713) 671-9993
Recycling Phone Line 311
Keep Kingwood Green and Recycling www.keepkingwoodgreen.org

Set up an effective and efficient recycling center in your home as a start. Choose an easy access spot with a bin for small amounts of recycling of paper where you sort the mail and have a larger area designated in the garage or by the back door. Many of us have backdoor recycling so this is as easy as putting out the trash. If not, create a routine that brings the recycling once a week to a recycling center. Examples of acceptable paper and cardboard are grocery bags, corrugated boxes, cereal boxes, cracker boxes, and Kleenex. Pizza boxes or other boxes with grease or food residue are not accepted. Plastic with 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 are generally accepted. Glass is accepted when sorted by color. Have your family be a part of the process too with different responsibilities in the process. The easiest recycling is at our local school bins (paper) and at the Kingwood Metro Park and Ride on the weekend  !

Green organizing is what we do for our family and our community. Together we can make a difference for ourselves and the next generation.


Gudrun OppermanGreen Growing
By Gudrun Opperman (March 2009)

Going green doesn’t just mean taking your cans, paper and plastics to a recycling center.  It starts in your own backyard, so to speak.  Even if you recycle everything that you possibly can, you may still be lacking when it comes to your gardening practices.  Do you grind your kitchen green scraps in your disposal?  Do you reach for the chemical lawn fertilizers?  Is more than half of your yard in grass?  Do you use plants that come from other parts of the world and need special care to thrive here?  Do you use the same 24 plants that everyone else has planted in their yards? Is your water bill astronomical in the summer?  Do your plants have all sorts of insect and disease problems?  And, do you reach for the chemicals to treat those problems?  If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you have room for improvement. 
So, start by composting those kitchen scraps.  There are many sites you can access that make composting a snap. Check out www.keepkingwoodgreen.org , to see an attractive composting operation right here in Kingwood.  Composting, if done correctly, is easy, does not have an unpleasant odor, and does not need to offend anyone.  Make it your business to develop a small composting area behind your garage, and then use the resulting compost to fertilize your yard plants and lawn.
Homeowners with yards are some of the worst polluters in the nation.  Chemical fertilizers are “junk food” for your plants.  Yes, they satisfy an immediate need, but do nothing for the long-term health of the soil.  Fertile soil is the mainstay of healthy plants.  Soil that is healthy has billions of microorganisms in it.  These actually feed the plants.  Chemical fertilizers are very detrimental to these organisms.  So, reach for organic fertilizers or make your own compost.   There are many choices out there, so there is no excuse not to use these organic products. As with most products, cheapest is probably not the best.
Using the appropriate plant material can reduce much of your stress in keeping plants good looking without using fertilizers, insecticides, and fungicides.  Go native!  Using native plants in your landscape reduces water and chemical usage tremendously.  Learning what plants grow here naturally and then incorporating them into your landscape can save you lots of money and effort down the road.  Plants that have evolved in this climate and in relation to the insects and diseases found here are superior in surviving here.  They don’t need much interference from the homeowner.  They also benefit the local fauna.  Imagine beautiful butterflies and birds gracing your garden because you offer them the plants with which they have evolved.  The handful of landscape plants that are used by most landscapers, are boring and overused.  They typically are native to other parts of the world.  Overuse of any plant material leaves it open to attacks by disease or insects, especially those whose defenses are not matched with the local diseases and insects.
            Native plants also thrive with the amount of rain that this region typically receives.  So, your water bills can be reduced.  Speaking of water, you can catch rainwater in a number of different ways to supplement during dry periods.  Rainwater lacks the chemicals found in treated water.  When you think about this, it is a no-brainer.  Our tap water contains chlorine and fluoride, both meant to kill microorganisms.  That same treated water kills the beneficial microorganisms that plants depend upon for their well being.
Cut down on the size of your lawn.  Add a natural area. Lawns consume tremendous amounts of energy.  First there is the manufacturing of chemical fertilizers, and then the gas and oil to cut the lawn.  Finally we bag up the grass and weeds and send them many miles on a truck to a landfill.  Lawns are a monoculture.  Nature abhors a monoculture.  Landscapes need diversity to be healthy.  Homeowners want deep green lawns when the prevailing grass, St. Augustine, is really a yellow green color.  So high nitrogen fertilizers are over used and the result is a grass that has been pushed to a point of being very weak.  Weak grass blades invite insect and disease.  When these occur, the homeowner reaches for another chemical to kill the disease, which in turn also kills the beneficial microbes that the plants so desperately need.  And the vicious cycle is set into motion, with the winners are the companies that manufacture all these synthetic chemicals.
Do your part to become a savvy gardener this spring.  Be a green gardener and save yourself lots of work and money in the process. 


Candy BowmanFood Recycling: What Do You Think?
By Candy Bowman (February 2009)

      Recently the City of Houston held a contest to find new ideas to make use of the green waste generated by Hurricane Ike.  The statistics are staggering:  the tree and ground debris produced by Hurricane Ike would fill the Astrodome up to the ceiling three times over.  Keep Kingwood Green entered the contest with an idea that involves combining green waste with kitchen waste to make a rich compost that could then be sold to homes and businesses in the Houston area.
      In our proposal, we suggested that the City of Houston set up six composting centers, which would be called “Houston’s Green Machines.” We proposed that one of these would be in the Humble-Kingwood area. It would provide a drop-off site for trucks, which would pick up green waste and kitchen waste from all homes and businesses in our area.  These pick-ups would be scheduled on a regular basis, with special containers or biodegradable bags provided.   At these centers, the green waste would be mixed with fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds from our kitchens to produce a compost rich in nutrients.
      Currently many of us send our leaves, grass clippings, and kitchen waste to the landfill in plastic bags.  These bags will not decompose for many years, possibly even hundreds of years.   When the yard and kitchen waste inside them does begin to decompose, greenhouse gases will be released into the atmosphere. 
      If we were to turn this kitchen and yard waste into compost, it would not only help to save our natural resources and recycle them, but it would also save space in the landfill by greatly reducing the amount of trash that we produce from our homes and businesses.
      It has been estimated that Houston recycles only about 3% of its trash at present.  Mayor White has announced that he would like to have that number increase to 30% by next year.  This would be a good way to begin!
      Looking into the future, there may be other options available in kitchen waste recycling.  A new process is being used in some parts of the country in which not only fruit and vegetable scraps, but also meat, poultry, seafood, shellfish, bones, rice, beans, pasta, bread, and cheese may be included in the refuse pick-up for composting. 
      In addition to these food items, a new category known as “food-soiled paper” could be added to the kitchen and green waste pick-up.  “Food-soiled paper” may include used napkins, paper towels, paper plates, tea bags, coffee grounds and filters, used pizza boxes, wooden crates, and sawdust.  In San Francisco, these items are ground up and added to the compost mixture, further boosting the nutrient content.  The resulting mixture has been called “Four-Course Compost” and is in great demand by the local vineyards.  In Texas, we could call this compost “Houston’s Green Gold.”
      The process by which this new compost is created involves the production of heat and methane gas.  The Jepson Company in San Francisco has tented the composting area in order to harvest the methane gas, which is then used to power the composting facilities.  In the future, they hope to make the extra gas available for sale to utility companies. 
      An added bonus for those participating in the “Clean Plate, Clean Environment Plan” has been a reduction in waste collection fees for both homes and businesses.  Jonathan Cook, supervisor of operations at the Metreon, an entertainment complex  with eight restaurants supplying compost fodder, says “We love the program --- People feel they’re not throwing things out, they’re doing something good for the environment.”  Along with helping the environment, the Metreon restaurants save about $1,600 in garbage pick-up fees every month because of reduced volume.  At present, more than 2,200 restaurant or food businesses and 75,000 households are involved in this program, and San Francisco now recycles 70% of its trash.
      Houston’s Brown Convention Center already is composting much of its “food soiled paper” and cutlery.  They claim that within 45 to 90 days it can be used as soil or compost.  Hopefully their next step will be food waste. 
      While we didn’t win the “Recycle Ike” contest, (first prize went to a group of scientists and students from Rice University!), we feel that the idea of composting centers may be one that would work well for our area, where so much green waste is produced each year.  Many families in Kingwood are already composting their yard and kitchen waste, but for those who cannot and for the restaurants, super markets, and other businesses that produce food waste, this might be a good idea to think about.  It certainly provides some “food for thought”!


Allen RindWhat does it mean to be “green”?
By Allen Rind (January 2009)

To me, it is the way in which we live which is more benefit to the environment than harm.  By looking into every action, the good and bad, minimizing the negative consequence of our actions in our daily life, making truly moral decisions that have a positive impact on the world around us, we can live green.
This is not to say that we need to give up every thing in our lives that impacts the environment in negative ways but to minimize them. I recommend questioning every thing, then taking action to change the world around you. Know that every moment matters.

I’ll begin by looking at what we need to survive.

Water- it is the lifeblood of our world. The ways in which water is brought to you is of huge importance. You may think that water from a bottle is better for you and that it may have little consequence to the world. But if you think about it more broadly you may realize that the bottle may have to travel around the world, using a massive amount of energy to get to your lips. Enormous amounts of energy are used in the production and distribution of water that may be no better for you than simple tap water, perhaps even more harmful than local water.

Food is also essential to our survival, however the food that we consume these days can be very harmful to us. Processed and genetically altered foods not only harm the environment but can be the cause of much of the health problems we face today. Our bodies are designed to process natural foods, but when we introduce foods that are altered we then alter our bodies in unseen and perhaps harmful ways. I tend to live by a few simple rules, which I have picked up while educating myself on the finer points of REAL good food.  Essentially, we need to SLOW Down i.e.: Seasonal foods, Local foods, Organic foods, and very importantly Whole foods.  S.L.O.W. Avoid at all cost, the processed foods!  Not to cause a panic at the disco but this seems like common sense.

The Air we breathe in our home is more toxic than most of us realize. The chemicals we use to “clean” our homes are very toxic and long lasting. I believe in filtered air cleaners for the home. HEPA filters work wonders. We also need to do more outdoor activities where the air is at least circulated. Getting outside leads to my next need.

Exercise is vital to our health; we all know this. By getting the body in motion we can not only get the much-needed blood flowing, but also keep circulation going to help clean out the body in other ways.

Rest is probably the most overlooked need. The only time that the body really recovers is in time of true rest. The body is an amazing tool, which has the capability to function and repair itself to great ends if given the proper tools to do its job. A good sleep system and rest is vital to a healthy lifestyle.

Keep a journal of what you eat. Where you purchase it. What are you throwing out? What is recyclable? Ask the tough questions that matter. Get the answers that work best for the world and you will find out that it may work better for you in return.


Alberto AntenangeliSo… What exactly is “Carbon Exchange?”
By Alberto Antenangeli (October 2008)

I was talking to a friend on our bus ride back home and I was surprised to find out that he didn’t quite understand how Carbon Exchanges work. After explaining it to him, I thought it would be an interesting theme for an article, so here we go…

The idea behind a carbon exchange is to create a marketplace where polluters can “buy” carbon credits to offset their emissions. Bottom line, polluters are buying the right to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide. The buyers on this equation can be large entities, such as governments or corporations, or individuals like you and me.

Why would you do something like that? Basically for two reasons – either because you are forced to, or because you want to.

A corporation or a government may need to buy carbon credits if it pollutes more than an agreed upon emission cap. The flip side of this story is that if that company or government does a good job limiting emissions, those can be sold in the exchange.

An individual may decide to do so to offset his or her own carbon footprint. For example, a few rock bands buy credits to offset their emissions when they go on a tour. And companies like Continental let you buy credits to offset your emissions when you fly with them. You can do that when you buy your ticket online, and they are not expensive at all – a round trip between Houston and New York can become “carbon-free” for a little over $5. Think about it next time you book your flight…

The interesting part of the carbon exchange market is when the money is used to finance projects to reduce carbon emissions and, at the same time, improve the lives of people living in poor countries. One example is more efficient stoves. In poor countries, most of the cooking is done using wood on an open fire. Not only this is inefficient, but the smoke also causes health problems, particularly for children. Through a carbon exchange program, you may help a family get an efficient ecostove, cheap, and locally made, that reduces wood consumption by 50%. Think about it – it’s a double win-win. Other examples include financing of renewable energy projects, such as collection of methane from animal farms, landfills or other industrial waste. Methane has a global warming potential 23 times that of carbon dioxide – instead of letting it go to the atmosphere, why not collect it and use it to produce electricity? Sounds good to me.

How big is the carbon trading market? In 2007, it was $64 billion, $50 billion of which from European countries. Just to give you an idea of its importance, this year carbon trading will likely exceed cotton trading. Unfortunately, as you probably know, the US is not a leader when it comes to emission cap regulations. In my personal opinion, a cap program here would create the incentives to develop new technologies that we could sell to the rest of the world, not to mention the creation of a completely new market place for us.

What can you do? If you feel strongly about capping emissions, there are several climate change bills being discussed in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Write to your representative, and tell him or her what you think.
You can also look for ways to reduce your carbon footprint. If you Google “carbon footprint calculator,” you will find several sites that let you estimate how much you or your household emit, and suggest what you can do to reduce it. I guarantee you will be surprised.

To end on a positive note, many of the things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint will also help you save money.


Candy BowmanGood News About Plastics!
By Candy Bowman (september 2008)

      When Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie “The Graduate” was unsure of what road to take in life, he was given the advice that the future was in “Plastics.”  That future is here now, and the question may be, “What do we do with them now that we have them?”
The good news is that new ways to recycle plastic are being discovered all the time, and here in Kingwood, we now have the opportunity to recycle not only #1 and #2 plastics, but also  (since July 1st) #3, #4,  #5, and #7.  These items will have a raised or stamped number on the bottom of containers called the resin identification code, which is usually surrounded by a triangular recycling symbol.  If you have as much trouble locating the number as I do, ask you kids or grandchildren.  They seem to spot them much more quickly. 
The next step is to rinse and smash the bigger containers, remove the hard caps, and take them to the Metro Park and Ride lot on the second and fourth weekends of each month to be recycled.  Councilman Mike Sullivan is working hard to obtain recycling every weekend for Kingwood at the Metro lot, which will be a great help to all of us in cleaning out our recycling collection bins at home when they fill up.
Another step forward is the plan by the Humble I.S.D. to place recycling bins for plastic as a test at three schools in the district. With school and community support for plastic recycling, this opportunity can hopefully be extended to other schools in the area so that all children can participate in this effort.  Many children are aware that plastic items may take hundreds of years to biodegrade in our landfills, and are eager to help in the recycling effort.
What do the recycling numbers mean for most of us?  In addition to the plastic milk, water, juice, and soft drink containers that we have been recycling, we can now add plastic bottles, jars, jugs, tubs and flexible lids.  Containers for salad dressing, condiments, cooking oil, sauces, and squeezable bottles and jars may be recycled, too.
Also, we can bring in plastic laundry and dishwashing detergent containers, medicine and mouthwash bottles, and cosmetic and shampoo bottles.  Other acceptable items are cat litter jugs, yogurt containers, butter and margarine tubs, ice cream tubs and lids, and coffee can lids.
Some things that can not be included in this pick-up are:  all #6 plastics, including Styrofoam, packing peanuts, disposable cups, plates, trays, and cutlery, meat and other food trays, and egg cartons.  Any item without a number cannot be recycled. 
Plastic bags are not accepted, but they may be recycled in containers located at the front of many local grocery stores.  Unneeded packaging materials such as packing peanuts may be taken  to most local express mail stores for reuse.
Plastic toys and furniture are not accepted, but can be donated to charitable organizations or advertised on Freecycle. 
What uses have been found for plastics after they are recycled? Plastic lumber has proven to be a sturdy and weather-resistant material for building houses, decks, benches, and tables. Used plastic is also made into garbage cans, playground equipment, and truck cargo liners.  Other uses for recycled plastic are jacket material, buckets, flower pots, highway paving material and even railroad ties.  Bottles can be made into carpeting, and milk jugs may become car bumpers.
Currently only 31 per cent of drink bottles are recycled in this country.  If we can begin to recycle these and the other items now available for recycling, we will not only keep these materials from going to the landfill, but will save the energy and resources that are required to produce them.  There may be a second life in the future for “Plastics” after all!


Brennan CurtisSave the World
By Brennan Curtis - High School Freshman- (August 2008)

      Recycling can help every aspect of your life.  For instance, “if all of our newspapers were recycled, we could save 250,000,000 trees per year!” (Recycling Fun Facts).  Saving trees will help our environment and economy with reusing instead of cutting more trees down.  The popularity of recycling is growing because it saves our natural resources, reduces the landfills, and helps the environment.
The world’s natural resources have a limited supply, and recycling helps extend their supply.  There are numerous ways to conserve our resources.  Used copper pipes and wires can be collected, melted, and remolded into new copper for proper use again.  This process helps save energy by avoiding making copper from scratch in a foundry.  Also, restaurants provide leftover cooking grease for recycling.  The grease is blended into biodiesel fuel for cars and trucks.  This helps expand the amount of diesel fuel in the market.  In fact, cities like Portland, Oregon, have passed laws mandating the use of biodiesel fuel.  Because of the very high cost of copper and diesel fuel, recycling these products is also very cost effective and profitable.  We need to conserve our natural resources before they run out.
Our landfills are massive and filling quickly.  These engineered depressions in the ground are where we hold our trash and have it remain until it decays.  But “just one plastic bottle takes 700 years before it even begins to decompose.” (Recycling Fun Facts).  Soon our cities will be sitting on a dump with leaks taking place that could destroy our homes.  Our air will reek from the rotting garbage and paper.  Recycling is part of the solution.  “75% of every American’s trash is recyclable,” (Recycling Fun Facts).  Recycling is not as widespread or convenient as it should be.  For example, in Kingwood, curbside recycling is only offered for certain products and only one day a week.  Otherwise, residents must transport their recycling materials to a central collection center that is available only two weekends a month.  The government should help make recycling easier for citizens, thereby increasing participation in curbside recycling.  This could make a huge impact on reducing our landfills.
The trash that is filling our landfills is also polluting our land and water.  Litter is killing our environment.  Every year, plastic bags and bottles are “thrown into the ocean and kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures,” (Recycling Fun Facts).  The Pacific Ocean has “a giant field of plastic trash that is twice the size of the continental United States.  This man-made mess is severely affecting the Pacific’s ecosystem.” (Is Plastic Destroying Our Oceans”).  Plastic can be easily recycled and processed into a new element that can be used again.  Some cities have implemented a 5-cent deposit on plastic water bottles to encourage recycling.  The Whole Foods grocery store chain has pledged to stop using plastic shopping bags this year.  Also, parts of cars, electrical components and batteries all contain hazardous materials, which are a major source of pollution when not disposed of properly or recycled.  Recycling may be inconvenient, but it will save our environment for the future.
Recycling can help conserve natural resources, reduce land fill trash, and prevent global pollution.  We all have a crucial role to play.  We must proactively collect our recyclable materials and participate in recycling programs.  The government should increase curbside recycling and encourage other voluntary recycling programs.  Let’s all take part in saving our world by recycling.


Candy BowmanIs Bottled Water Better?
By Candy Bowman (June 2008)

      Bottled or tap water?  Which do you prefer?  Does the current trend toward bottled water result from taste, convenience, or health issues?  Looking into this question, we find that there is much information available that can help us to decide the best alternative for ourselves and our families.
Bottled water producers promote their product as a healthy alternative to soda.  No doubt it is better for people to drink water than soda, and that the trend toward drinking water has been a positive movement in our country.
However, the average American now consumes 166 bottles of water each year, and 8 out of 10 plastic water bottles end up in landfills or incinerators.  It takes approximately 1,000 years for a plastic water bottle to decompose, so those bottles will be there for a long time.
Trucks transport millions of gallons of bottled water a year, which consumes fuel and contributes to air pollution.  Imported brands of water sometimes travel thousands of miles and even across country borders.
To make the water bottles used each year, about 1.5 million barrels of oil, enough to run 100,000 cars for a year are used, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Two gallons of water are wasted in the purification process for each gallon bottled, and millions of gallons are used in the plastic manufacturing process.
If you consider expense to the consumer, most people feel that gasoline is high-priced at $3.00 a gallon.  If you purchase a 20-ounce bottle of water from a vending machine that costs a dollar, you are paying the equivalent of $7.69 a gallon for bottled water. That’s more than the price of gasoline or milk.
Is bottled water better for you to drink than tap water?  It would seem that this is not necessarily true, since the Environmental Protective Agency’s standards for tap water are more stringent than the Food and Drug Administration’s guidelines for bottled water. 
According to Daniel Yeh,  assistant professor of environmental and civil engineering at the University of South Florida, “Tap water is pretty clean as opposed to bottled water.  The quality of bottled water can really vary.  Certain brands could treat it more, some brands less.  And there are some cases where bottled water is really just tap water repackaged.”
In June of 2007, San Francisco joined a growing group of municipalities including Los Angeles and Salt Lake City that have made it illegal to spend city money on bottled water.  Many restaurants have recently switched from bottled water to the local water served in a carafe.
Without question, the trend toward drinking more water has been a boon to the health of Americans in recent times.  Perhaps we can have the best of both worlds by holding on to one of those plastic bottles for a little longer.  We can still take it to work, shopping, workouts, and games, refilling it at home or at water fountains along the way. 
There are worse things than a lonely landfill!


Alberto AntenangeliOne man’s garbage…
By Alberto Antenangeli (May 2008)

It’s time for Spring cleaning, and like many people, you are probably finding things you completely forgot you had – that dusty computer, rags, broken radios… Our first inclination is to simply put all that in the garbage can, and get done and over with it. Ah, that clean garage for sure feels good!
Let’s think about the big picture for a minute – most of us are concerned with our blue planet, how we are using our resources, and what we are giving back in return; however, our industrialized society is based on using energy to transform raw materials in goods that, after some time, are simply thrown away. And we are bombarded every day with messages telling us to buy the latest and greatest car, TV, cell phone, etc. Last year’s computer is never good enough, and the cell phone I just bought has become obsolete: having the new model is a must, not an option.
Before you call me socialist or communist, let me set the record clear by saying that buying new goods certainly helps our economy; however, what you do with the old stuff is what may hurt our planet. If what you don’t need anymore ends up in a landfill, it will likely take a long time to decompose. Recycling certainly represents a step in the right direction, but what to do with things like furniture, computers, TVs, DVD players, and gadgets like that, particularly if they are still in perfectly working condition? Throwing them away represents a waste of not only the raw materials, but also the energy that went into the production of those items. Even if you don’t believe mankind has a hand on global warming, you should think in terms of supply and demand, and reducing demand should help reduce the – very high – energy costs we have been paying lately.
So… Before you simply put stuff in the garbage can, maybe you should remember the old saying – one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.
Most charities accept a variety of items, even rags in case you didn’t know (they sell them for 25 cents a pound). Clothes, electronics, small appliances, furniture – call your charity of choice and ask them. If they don’t accept what you need to get rid of, there is always Freecycle (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Humble-KingwoodTXFreecycle/). It is a very simple concept – if you need something, or want to get rid of something, you just announce it on the site. You are not selling or buying anything, just giving it away or getting it for free. You will be surprised with items that people will take from you – old doors, fences, electronics that no longer work, broken fans…
Since I work with software development, I’d like to dedicate the final paragraph of this article to computers. There are several things you can do with your old computer, but simply throwing it away is not a good option. In case you didn’t know, computers are a major source of toxins and carcinogens. On the other hand, many materials used in the production of computers can be successfully recycled. Some computer manufactures will take your old computer back. The Environment Protection Agency web site has abundant information about places where you can take your old computer (http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/hazwaste/recycle/ecycling/donate.htm). Finally, you can donate your old but still working computer to a variety of charities, which will give them to poor families or children in a third world country. Just google “computer charity donation” for a list of places that will take it, or check with your computer manufacturer, as a few already have programs in place.


Andy BergmanEmerging Trend:  The Future Value of Buildings will be Dependent on Its Energy Efficiency
By:  Andy Bergman, LEED AP, CSI CDT, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Air Zone International (April 2008)


Public, private, government and nonprofit building owners take notice:  The value of your investment is likely to be significantly impacted in the near future because of increasing energy costs, mounting environmental pressures and a chain of events occurring at our local, state and national government.  With Congress exploring methods to reduce carbon emissions through either a cap and trade system or a carbon tax, energy providers will be faced with the challenge of upgrading to cleaner burning technologies, instituting demand reduction programs and utilizing open-market carbon financial instrument contracts.  Although a carbon cap and trade system is not yet established in the United States, the Chicago Climate Exchange was formed in anticipation of the demand to trade carbon and is based on the system already in place in the European Union.
In any event, energy providers will need to act and a demand reduction program will be aimed at all types of buildings, which consume almost 35 percent of the nation’s electricity; second only behind residential homes at 36 percent. Indeed many recent programs have been aimed at reducing electricity demand including Earth Hour – which occurred on March 29th in cities throughout the world where buildings and homes went “dark” for one hour.
Of all building types commercial office buildings consume the most energy at 22% and these owners will quickly become the primary target for demand reduction.  Under this scenario, power companies could offer financial rebates for energy efficient buildings and impose an “energy tax” for those properties exceeding a predetermined energy per square foot commitment.  By any account, the future of business energy contracts is destined to be entirely different than it is today.
This change will create certain winners, including green buildings and purchasers of renewable energy sources.  New green buildings are commonplace in Houston now where over 75% of the new office space under construction is committed to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.  These green buildings typically use 25%-35% less energy than buildings constructed just 10 years ago.  Still, it is existing buildings that represent almost  98% of the building stock (only 2% is new construction) as these buildings consume the most energy and it is this area where we need to focus our energy reduction efforts.
Critics’ site that building owners will never spend money to upgrade their buildings unless it is immediately prior to a major tenant lease renewal.  However, when the following tipping points are considered, those who do nothing and ignore critical factors may come to regret this decision.
Increasing energy costs will cause tenants and building owners to pay more consideration to operating costs than ever before.  Newer green buildings certified to LEED requirements have lower operating costs.  Buildings constructed during the 1980’s era are the most energy inefficient of any era in the last 40 years.
Mounting corporate sentiment towards environmental stewardship appears in every annual report.  Firms of all types want their employees to work in healthy, productive environments and in green buildings – this includes children in our schools!
Initiating carbon taxes is a real possibility for high-energy consuming buildings.  Energy usage taxes and other penalties are a consideration as pressure mounts on coal-fired energy providers.
Unsettled Wall Street REITs will begin to see the energy and global warming question as a major uncertainty.  Managers will look to unload inefficient buildings in their portfolio before the building’s value declines relative to the market.
Intensifying public attitude towards reducing global climate change will be a significant factor in the upcoming political elections.
Commercial brokers and real estate portfolio managers that fail to see this emerging trend will risk their clients asking them five years from now why they didn’t see this coming.
How can building owners prepare?  The good news is that new technologies exist for retro-fitting buildings of all types to reduce energy consumption.  Reflective and green roofs, photo-voltaic (solar) panels, lighting controls, under-floor HVAC systems, window film, chiller efficiencies and better control systems are all technologies with attractive returns on investment.  The bottom line is that this emerging trend will create opportunities and introduce new risks for the real estate market now and well into the future.


Alberto AntenangeliWater conservation – why should you bother?
By Alberto Antenangeli (March 2008)

It was a dark and rainy evening, and I was driving back home from the Park & Ride lot when something caught my attention: despite the fact that it had been raining pretty hard all day long, there were quite a few homes with sprinklers running full throttle, watering a completely saturated soil. I found it interesting that people miss the opportunity to save a few bucks on their water bill, but I also started to think if there were other reasons to turn off your sprinklers when it is raining. I did some research, and if saving money is not a good enough reason for you, maybe the rest of this article will convince you.
Although roughly 2/3 of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, very little of it is actually fit for human use: only 1%. In fact, as Fortune magazine says: "Water promises to be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th century: The precious commodity that determines the wealth of nations." In America we take for granted that all we need to do is to turn the faucet, and water flows. However, we need to keep two things in mind – first, the supply of fresh water is decreasing, and our population is increasing. Second, much of our water-related infrastructure has been in place since the Second World War, and many systems across the US are in disrepair. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that over the next two decades, it will take $1 trillion to repair or replace these worn out pipes.
So, as responsible citizens, what can we do? The answer is simple – water conservation is the most effective way to help. As a side effect of reducing our water consumption, we also reduce our energy demands, since it takes energy to treat and pump water. And reducing energy consumption, in turn, helps reduce our water consumption, as electricity production from fossil fuels and nuclear energy is responsible for 39% of all freshwater withdrawals in the nation. You see, it is a win-win situation.
Water conservation simply requires common sense, and here are some tips for you:
If it is raining, or if there is rain in the forecast, you may want to turn your sprinkler off. If you step on your lawn and the grass springs back when you lift your foot, it doesn’t need water. Use that to gauge how often you need to water your lawn. Also, make sure the heads of your sprinkler system are watering the lawn, not the street… You may be able to save 750 to 1,500 gallons a month.
Fix leaks on your faucets and plumbing. That’s about 20 gallons a month for each leak you fix.
Don’t run the hose while washing your car, use it only when you need it. That’s 150 gallons every time.
Install water-saving shower heads and save up to 800 gallons every month.
Make sure your washing machine and your dishwasher have a full load, and save up to another 800 gallons a month.
Your toilette is not a wastebasket… Also consider replacing it with an ultra-low flush one. You do your own math on this one…
Turn off the water while brushing your teeth or shaving. 3 gallons each time.
Keep a bottle of cold water in the refrigerator, so you don’t have to run the tap water to cool it off. On a side note, stop buying bottled water – you can achieve the same results with a good water filter, while helping reduce plastic consumption.
One quart of oil can contaminate 250,000 gallons of water, eliminating that much from our water supply. Dispose of your hazardous waste properly!
You may be amazed by this, but not wasting food is also a way to help save water. For example, to produce 1 lb of steak requires 2,500 gallons of water; 1lb of bread, 500 gallons; 1 lb of chicken, 660 gallons; 1 egg, 100 gallons. A typical Thanksgiving dinner for 6 people requires 30,000 gallons of water. A quick statistic for you – America throws away enough food to feed the entire population of Canada. But this may be a theme for another article…


Candy BowmanWhat Can One Person Do?
By Candy Bowman (Feb 2008)

When we consider the constant stream of bad news concerning the environment, it can be a little overwhelming.  Huge landfills, recurring drought, rising energy costs, toxic chemicals, and threats of flooding all seem too large to solve by ourselves.  However, the truth is that one person can make a big difference by taking a few simple steps.  Here are some ideas to try in the New Year that will not only help the environment but may also save time and money.

  1. Replace the incandescent bulbs in your home with fluorescent bulbs.  Compact fluorescent bulbs use only one quarter of the electricity and last several years longer than incandescent bulbs.  Each bulb you replace will save 150 pounds of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere each year.
  2. Make it a goal this year to use the Recycling Center at the Metro lot in Kingwood on the second and fourth weekends of each month, where you can recycle paper, plastic, metal cans, and glass.  H.E.B. has placed recycling containers in Kingwood near their store, making it easy to take your items in to recycle when you shop.  Most of our local schools have paper recycling bins which are accessible around the clock.  Why bring these items in?  For every ton of paper that is recycled, 7000 gallons of water, 380 gallons of oil, and enough electricity to power an average house for six months is saved. Last year, Americans recycled 42 million tons of paper, 50% of what they used. Since 900 million trees are used for pulp and paper each year, many more trees could be saved by dropping those papers off.   By recycling one aluminum can, you can run a TV for 6 hours on the amount of electricity saved.  Recycling one glass bottle saves enough electricity to power a 100-watt bulb for four hours. Every time you recycle an item, you are making a difference!
  3. Turning off lights and appliances not in use is a good way to save energy, too.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a computer which is used four hours a day and turned off the rest of the time would save you about $70.00 a year compared to one that is left on 24 hours a day.  The carbon impact would be reduced by 83% to just 63 kilograms per year.  Apparently a screen saver is not an energy saver.
  4. On the same line of thought, if you are in need of new appliances, look for the Energy Star label.  Energy Star is a rating system sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency.  Placing these energy-saving appliances in your home can cut your utility bill by as much as 30%, according to Time magazine.
  5. Bring your own bags to the grocery store.  I confess to not having made this switch yet, but I am going to try it this week.  Why would this help?  Paper bags use up trees, and plastic bags cost the stores more money, which translates into higher costs for all of us.  Also, 500 billion plastic bags are distributed every year with less than 3% being recycled.  These bags are usually made of polyethylene, and can last up to 1000 years in our landfills.  The Sierra Club notes that in New York City alone, one less grocery bag per person per year would reduce waste by five million pounds and save $250,000 in disposal costs.  If you do use the plastic bags at the grocery store, try to reuse them again at home or take them back to the store’s recycling area.
  6. Start a compost pile this year.  Special compost containers are now available at many local hardware stores, along with the material that is sprinkled on top to help break it down into soil.  Fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and egg shells make excellent compost, and will greatly reduce your kitchen garbage.  When the time comes to plant new pots of flowers in the spring, you’ll have all the soil you need.
  7. Are you cleaning out the unused items in your house this time of year? Consider donating them to a charity that will give them another life.  Many organizations will pick up items at your door, or you can drop them off at Good Will, Society of St. Stephens, Purple Heart, HAAM, Family Time, Animal Care, and others locally.  Another possibility is to list your items on Freecycle, where people connect with others who are in need of the items that would otherwise be thrown away.  Go to www.freecycle.org to find out about the Humble-Kingwood Freecycle group.
  8. Do your books seem to multiply all by themselves like ours?  I love books, but I sometimes wonder where this many books could possibly have come from.  Our wonderful Kingwood Library comes to the rescue with a used book sale organized by the F.O.L.K. group four times a year.  Your books can help out the library while you clean out your house. 
  9. Have you noticed the proliferation of bikes in Kingwood recently?  We have some of the best trails in the country, all of which connect up with our shopping areas.  Biking or walking to the store or to visit friends is a great way to save money on gas and fight pollution, too.  For every mile you don’t drive, there will be one pound less of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
  10. If possible, it’s a great idea to ride the Metro bus downtown.  They are clean and quiet, providing a nice time for a nap or the newspaper.  If you drive your car to work, carpooling saves a lot of energy.  According to Time, transportation is responsible for 30% of U.S. carbon emissions.  Public transit  saves an estimated 1.4 billion gallons of gas each year, which accounts for a savings of 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide.

      A Native American proverb says that “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”  If we each do our part, the earth will be a better place for the generations to come.  Small changes in our lifestyles can make a big difference, and one person can help tremendously to change things for the better.  Now, let me find those cloth shopping bags for the grocery store.


Hal OppermanWhy Should I Recycle My Green Waste?
By Hal Opperman (January 2008)

It is the beginning of winter in Houston.  If we are lucky we will have a month or two that we do not have to cut our grass.  Unfortunately, if we want to keep our properties looking sharp, we do need to continue to clean up the leaves and pine needles that seem to fall all winter long.  Here is a novel idea!  This winter, instead of raking, consider picking them up with your mulching mower.  The action of the mower will chop them into much smaller pieces which you can then use as a mulch or cover under trees, shrubs, or in your flower beds.  If you don’t like that look and insist on covering every square inch of your property with pine bark mulch, consider saving these mulched up leaves and needles in plastic bags behind your garage until you are ready to mulch. Then spread the needles and leaves prior to covering with the pine bark mulch.  You will be saving all the nutrients that you paid dearly for just a few months ago. With the action of millions of microorganisms, by this time next year, your green waste will have become part of your soil.  

At Keep Kingwood Green, we are all about helping you to find ways to reuse and recycle.  I know that your trash service probably charges the same if you put out one bag of trash per week or twenty.  But, please remember that some day the landfill on Atascocita Road will be full.  When that happens, none of us will want a new landfill close by.  As the distance increases to a new site, we all will have to pay more and it will require more precious fuels to make those longer trips.  Eventually it will cost you more. 

Another advantage to reusing and recycling your green waste on your own property is that you will, over time, find that the health of your plants and trees improves.  As you build rich organic soil in your beds and around your trees, you will see many common plant diseases disappear. Organic gardeners will tell you that after nature has a chance to take back control of a piece of property many of the urban plant problems that require one chemical application after another disappear.  Remember, once ecosystems have been destroyed they will not return overnight.  It does take patience, but it is worth starting now! 

All of us who live in Kingwood pay more for our water than we would like. Consider that a heavy layer of mulch and rich soils will allow you to use less irrigation water and still have an attractive landscape.  While we are talking about water, consider putting a rain barrel or stock tank somewhere in your yard to catch water from your roof.   With a small watering can, you will be able to use fresh rainwater on all your potted plants and on smaller flowerbeds.  Not only is the non-chlorinated water better for plants, but my wife, Gudrun, even says she finds relaxation in the act of tending her plants in this way. And, with the addition of a biological control called Mosquito Dunk, available at places like Alspaugh’s Ace Hardware, you will not have to worry about breeding pesky mosquitoes in your rainwater. 

A compost bin is a must for every organic gardener.  You can build one out of a few fence posts and some screening for less than $25 or you can buy a really fancy one that rotates and promises to make compost in just 14 days.  Other pre-made plastic bins are available starting at about $75. There is a real science to making good compost and while everything organic becomes compost eventually, you may want to do a little research before you start, so that you don’t make too many mistakes.  Check out the composting tab at www.keepkingwoodgreen.org. for tips and techniques. While there, check out the attractive bin that a Kings Point family built in their back yard.  If you want to look at a working compost heap, stop by the Oak Forest Elementary school in Kingwood Glen (across from Walmart on 1960).  The bins are by the vegetable gardens on the south side of the building.  There the school recycles all green waste by using mulching mowers and collecting fruit and vegetable scraps from the cafeteria.

Finally, after your holiday celebrations this month, do flatten your cardboard boxes and recycle them at the Park & Ride bins or at one of the convenient Abitibi bins placed all over the community.  Please do flatten the boxes though as making Abitibi haul bins full of air back to their facility is a real waste of fuel. This is a form of Green recycling, too.  It takes lots of trees to make all those boxes you see sitting along the curb waiting for the trash truck pick up and bury in the landfill. 

Please remember to Keep Kingwood Green this holiday season and all through 2008.


Brian SmaefskyGet Involved: Do Not be an Invisible Citizen
By Dr. Brian Smaefsky (November 2007)

More and more municipalities across the United State are trying to solicit from its citizens any serious public concerns about environmental quality for their regions. However, this interest is not always apparent when cities and counties in Texas host public forums. Usually, only a handful of people show up. It is usually the same people who come to every environmental quality meeting.

This lack of attendance unfortunately sends a variety of signals to the policy makers: people are not too concerned about environmental quality: people are happy with the environmental quality in their region; people are somewhat concerned, but, it is low on their list of priorities; people are moderately concerned, but, do not care to follow up on their convictions.  For the most part in Texas politics, this apathy is interpreted as “environmental quality is not the greatest concern for Texans.”

Politicians and public officials truly value the input of local citizens when discussing policies concerning environmental quality. But, there is a major limitation to how the public “should” be heard. Many legislators have grown somewhat “hard of hearing” to the large environmental organizations who regularly lobby and petition politicians and public officials. They usually view these groups as representing the fringe of the population.

People are best heard when their concerns are aired at public information meetings and made known by directly commenting through individual letters and e-mail.  On September 7, the Harris County Public Heath & Environmental Services agency (HCPHES) held an important stakeholders meeting at the East Harris County Community Center in Pasadena. The meeting was held to bring together people who wanted to improve the environmental quality of Harris County.  As expected, few people attended and many of those at the meeting knew each other from their involvement in other related meetings.

This group of people, however, did a good job representing the concerns of Harris County residents. They helped the HCPHES prioritize the concerns residents have about air quality, hazardous wastes, water quality, and other concerns.  Several people brought up serious environment issues that were unknown to others. The discussions at this meeting are not intended to end up in a filing cabinet for “later consideration”. These concerns are hopefully going to be turned into an action plan funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA grant program is called Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE).  CARE grants are designed to help communities assess local environmental concerns and risks. It also funds a major plan the take action in reducing the risk through a variety of methods ranging from educational programs to remediation projects. Many communities across the United States already developed success plans. These plans were guided by concerned citizens who refused to be invisible; they were willing to learn the issues and take appropriate actions.

Hopefully, the HCPHES will get enough continued citizen involvement to prepare a program for potential funding.  Harris County residents need to be part of the planning. Other stakeholders such as industry representatives and environmental organizations are taking on energetic roles in directing the nature of the grant. Individual citizen voices are needed to balance the representation.  They are also needed to show Texas and the EPA that people are truly concerned and want to make improvements in environmental quality.

There are many resources available for learning about the environmental issues in our area.  In addition, public meetings that solicit community involvement regularly take place throughout the Houston metropolitan area. Find some time to “surf” the websites provided below; they provide many opportunities to citizen invisibility on environmental quality.

The following organizations represent some of the groups that provide direct access to policymakers in the Houston metropolitan region. Plus, they sponsor forums for gathering community input and educating the public about environmental issues. Some good websites include:

Citizens Environmental Coalition: CEC is an information clearinghouse and communications network for environmental issues in the Houston / Galveston, Texas, area. http://www.cechouston.org/
Galveston Bay Foundation: GBF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserve, protect and enhance Galveston Bay. http://www.galvbay.org/
Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services. HCPHES is an organization that promotes a healthy and safe Community and is involved in preventing illness and injury due to a variety of factors. http://www.hcphes.org/
Houston Advanced Research Center: HARC, based in The Woodlands, is dedicated to improving human and ecosystem well-being through the application of sustainability science and principles of sustainable development.  http://www.harc.edu/
Houston-Galveston Area Council: HGAC is a region-wide voluntary association of local governments and local elected officials in the 13-county Gulf Coast Planning region of Texas. http://www.h-gac.com/

Of course, also visit the Keep Kingwood Green website to learn about local happenings.


Alberto AntenangeliWind energy anyone?
By Alberto Antenangeli (October 2007)

When we moved to Kingwood a few years ago, we were nicely surprised by the fact that we could actually choose from whom to buy our electricity. Like most people, we started to compare based on cost; however, once we came across Green Mountain Energy, the choice was very easy – forget the price, 100% wind-based energy is what we picked.
Before you ask, no, I don’t work for Green Mountain, nor do I get any kind of incentive to promote their product.
Back to wind – as a general rule, any place where average wind speed is 10 miles per hour or higher is a potential site for a wind farm. The power in the wind can be extracted by allowing it to blow past moving wings that exert torque on a rotor. The power generated is proportional to the density of the air, the speed of the wind, and the area covered by the wings. From a practical perspective, other factors need to be taken in account, such as how constant the wind flow is throughout the year, turbulence, and, of course, proximity to local demand or transmission capacity. Good sites can be spotted by looking at the local vegetation – whenever you see trees or plants that are permanently deformed by winds, this may be a good place for a wind farm.
2006 studies put the cost of producing electricity from wind very close to coal and natural gas - $55.80, $53.10 and $52.50 per MWh, respectively. Thanks to improvements in technology, wind energy production costs one fifth of what it did 25 years ago, and the expectation is that it should continue to go down as more large turbines are mass produced.
Wind power is still in its infancy, representing only 1% of the total world electricity production. Germany, Spain, United States, India and Denmark are the leaders, with Germany being the top producer, with 32% of the total world capacity. Although only 5th in total installed wind power capacity, Denmark generates 20% of its electricity from wind, with a commitment of eventually producing half of its power by wind.
The United States ranks 3rd in wind power production, with close to 12,000 MW of installed capacity, but unfortunately this is but a speck on our total electricity production. However, the potential is huge – the US Department of Energy studies concluded that wind harvested in only 3 of our 50 states could provide enough electricity to power our entire nation.
Practically speaking, we cannot expect to produce all our electricity from wind – there are several aspects that need to be taken in account, such as intermittency – the wind blows when it blows, not when we want it to blow… Again, technology may provide an answer, with research being conducted on ways to store energy to provide a more constant flow.
Is it worth it? The answer is yes, from two different reasons.
First of all, wind power is clean – it produces no pollutants and no carbon dioxide. And there is no dangerous waste to be disposed as a byproduct, like nuclear plants have.
Second, once a wind turbine is installed, the marginal cost of producing electricity is close to zero, since no fuel is required. Most of the cost associated with wind power is, in fact, the cost of the capital necessary to build the wind farms.
Some people are against wind farms because of noise, safety, or aesthetic reasons. Well, improvements in blade and gear design have reached a point where a normal conversation can be carried underneath a turbine. As for safety, the British Wind and Energy Association has said that in over 20 years of operation and more than 50,000 machines installed all around the world, not a single accident has been recorded. Finally, if your concern is aesthetic – have you ever been close to a coal plant?
If you ask me, the slightly higher price I pay for my electricity is well worth it – I know I’m leaving a cleaner planet for my kids and grandkids, and boy, it feels good…


Alberto AntenangeliEthanol – viable or not?
By Alberto Antenangeli (September 2007)

The energy necessary to grow, harvest, produce and distribute corn-ethanol is greater than the energy yielded by the ethanol itself; therefore, ethanol is not a viable source of energy, and it shouldn’t be considered as a replacement for gas.
True or false?
False.
Vocal critics of ethanol as an alternative source of energy (like David Pimentel from Cornell University) assure that it takes more energy to grow corn and produce ethanol from it than what goes into the ethanol. However, the data used on those claims is fairly old, and it takes in account neither the latest advancements in efficiency, nor the energy value of the animal feed co-products. According to the US Department of Energy, latest studies show that the energy balance is, in fact, 60% positive. In other words, you get 60% more energy from corn-ethanol than you spend producing it.
Is that good or bad? Compared to gasoline, it doesn’t look good – with gasoline, you get 6 times the amount of energy. However, let’s have a look at a very successful implementation of renewable energy – Brazil.
In the late 70s, the Brazilian government decided to invest heavily on a replacement for gasoline, and that’s how the “Pro-Alcohol” program came to existence. The program today is a complete success – all new cars in Brazil are “flex fuel”, i.e., they accept gas, ethanol, or any mixture of both. Bear in mind that Ford and GM are producing those cars in Brazil, so there is nothing new behind this technology. People there fill up with whatever is cheaper at the time – gas or ethanol. Thanks to ethanol, Brazil is energy independent.
How about the energy balance? Brazil uses sugar cane, with a very positive energy balance – 8 to 10 times. This didn’t come for free, though: Brazil had to climb a steep learning curve to get there, and be creative in the process. For example, distilleries there burn the bagasse to produce energy, and use other by-products to fertilize the next crop. Interestingly enough, Brazil in the late 70s was pretty much where we are today with corn-ethanol – they started with a very narrow energy balance.
Of course, we cannot grow sugar cane in large proportions in the continental US. However, there is much research going on around the use of cellulose to produce ethanol. Initial studies show an energy balance for cellulosic ethanol of around 2 to 3 times, and that will probably improve as result of additional research. Think about it – we will be able to produce fuel out of leaves, grass, stalks, yard waste…
So, where is this additional energy coming from? Well, from the sun: that’s what plants do for a living – they convert solar energy into other forms of energy. Even better, they use carbon dioxide in the process, cleaning the byproducts of burning the fuel they will produce. Not to mention that ethanol burns with a much nicer smell when compared to gas.
Raymond Kurzweil has postulated the “Law of Accelerating Returns” – it basically states that whenever a technology approaches some kind of a barrier, a new technology will be invented to allow us to cross that barrier. He predicts that such paradigm shifts will become more and more common as time goes on. Computers are a very good example of this law, packing in a handheld device today the same power of a mainframe of a few years ago.
Ethanol may be just at this crossing point, just waiting for a new technology – be it cellulose, genetically modified plants, or something completely new and creative.
Wouldn’t it be nice to declare energy independence, and simply harvest our own fuel? Just think about it.
Alberto Antenangeli is a Kingwood Green member. For more information, visit www.kingwoodgreeninfo.org


Alberto AntenangeliRenewable Energy – hype and reality
By Alberto Antenangeli (August 2007)

Much discussion has been going on lately around whether renewable energy is a viable option. The hottest topic by far seems to be the use of ethanol as a replacement for gas, but solar and wind are also getting some attention.
There is definitely some hype around the subject, and definitely some exaggeration around the current technology we have available in the US. However, much progress has been made lately, and we may be nearing the tipping point that will make them viable in a not so distant future. So, if you are ready, let’s take a tour and learn more about them.
Since there is more to be said (or written) about the different alternatives than we can cover in our limited space, let’s take a high-level view of what’s available today, leaving the details for upcoming articles.
To make sure we are on the same page, perhaps we should define what renewable energy is – according to the US Department of Energy, it is “energy derived from resources that are regenerative or for all practical purposes cannot be depleted.” From this perspective, they are fundamentally different from fossil fuels.
Water, wind and solar are the most commonly used forms of renewable energy in the US, as they are economically viable. If you haven’t noticed yet, some of the newer traffic signs have a solar panel to power them. You can also use the sun to heat the water at your home. Hydroelectric plants have been around for quite some time, and wind-generated electricity is available in Kingwood through Green Mountain Energy.
However, this is only part of the story. Biofuels – any type of fuel derived from living organisms – are getting much attention lately, with Brazil having the lead on the use of ethanol as an energy-efficient direct replacement for gasoline. All new cars in Brazil are “flex fuel”, i.e., they accept gas, ethanol, or a combination of both, and people fill up with whichever is cheapest. Brazil is also keen on researching a bio-replacement for diesel.
Biogas is also another interesting source of renewable energy, particularly because of its source – sewage, paper byproducts, animal waste, etc.: all those products ferment naturally producing methane. Regular household garbage can be processed as well to produce methane. Regardless of its source, the methane can be upgraded to a quality similar to regular natural gas, and distributed in the same grids.
Waves are another renewable source of energy – ocean surface waves generate enough energy to do useful work, such as generating electricity, pumping water to reservoirs, or desalinizing water. Portugal has the first commercial wave park, operational since 2006. Note that wave power is different than tidal power – the latter captures water in a basin during high tides, discharging it through turbines during low tides to generate electricity.
Although not strictly renewable, geothermal energy is another source of clean energy, basically tapping energy from the core of the earth, which is warmer than its surface. It is not renewable since, after a few decades, the ground naturally cools down. It is also restricted to some areas where the geothermal energy from the core of the Earth is closer to the surface – places like Yellowstone, for example. Doesn’t sound feasible? In Iceland 86% of the houses were heated in the year 2000 through geothermal energy. The hot steam from the ground can also be used to power turbines that generate electricity.
The largest criticism around some of those sources of energy is their intermittency – for example, wind turbines only generate about 1/3 of their capacity due to variations of wind speeds and, of course, if there is no wind, there is no energy. However, this problem can be minimized through the use of a variety of different sources and through storage of energy. Another criticism, particularly around ethanol, is whether they have a positive balance of energy. As we will see, positive balance is achievable with all of them. In addition, the prospect of achieving total energy independence in a not so distant future is very enticing, and we cannot ignore it.
We only skimmed the surface of this fascinating subject. As mentioned, we will cover each one of them in detail in upcoming columns, so stay tuned!


Gudrun OppermanDo you Have Dirt or Soil?
By Gudrun Opperman (July 2007)

You’ve done the spring chores in the yard like fertilizing the grass, treated the yard for weeds, a variety of fungus problems and vicious attacks by a myriad of insects.  Now you can sit back and relax knowing that you have done what is best for your little corner of he world.   But for only one problem, you’ll have to go through the whole drill again, next season.  You are stuck in a vicious cycle!  Let me introduce you to a relatively new concept, now espoused by the USDA, which will get you out of this non-ending cycle of disease and insect problems.  This concept relates to the biological profile of soils, called the soil food web.  What does all this have to do with recycling?  Well, I’ll get to that.

Building a healthy soil is the key to healthy plants.  Plants will resist diseases and attacks by insects if grown in healthy soil.  Remember to feed your soil, and it will feed your plants.
If you consider the biological profile of soils, healthy soil would have over 6 trillion organisms per pound in it, versus most of our urban soils, which typically have only a few million microbes, if any, in it.  The lack of these organisms in our landscapes can be due to various reasons, from mismanagement, over use of toxic chemicals, chlorinated irrigation water, artificial fertilizers, and so on.

Over the last 50 years disturbing trends in agriculture and horticulture have been documented worldwide.  It has been documented that plants growing in natural soils (ones not disturbed by urbanization) do not have the disease and insect problems that plants grown in urban soils suffer.  As more chemicals were applied, the worse the problems became.  These problems increased dramatically after WW II when the factories that made ammonium nitrate for explosives turned to making artificial nitrogen fertilizer.  These large companies mount huge advertising campaigns to get consumers to purchase the artificial fertilizers they produce.  Artificial fertilizers are quick-fix, junk food for plants, but they kill microbes that prevent soil diseases.  Since these fertilizers are also water soluble, they pollute our groundwater, lakes and streams.  Other troubling trends have emerged as well that are even more ominous.

As a result the USDA started looking at why this was occurring.  In 2001 they released a new model of soil fertility and management.  This model is called the “Soil Food Web”.  It is based on the biological makeup of the soil, rather than its chemical and physical properties.  It is focused on our understanding why problems occur, and preventing these problems rather than treating them with dangerous chemicals.  The model explains why good compost works so well, and why compost-teas work better than most fungicides and at a lower cost.  Also, it explains why some mulch types increase problems while other types prevent them.

There are seven major benefits to having a healthy functioning soil food web.  These include disease suppression in plants, improved nutrient retention in the soil, mineralization of nutrients to make them available to plants, improvement of soil structure, decomposition of toxic materials, production of plant growth promoting compounds, and improvement of plant quality, including flavor, nutrients and yield of crops.  You can go to www.soilfoodweb.com or http://soils.usda.gov for further reading.

Now for the link to recycling.  Quit bagging your grass.  Mulch it!  If you bag it, use it in your compost pile.  You do have a compost pile, don’t you?  Hopefully you are not one of these people who have ten bags of leaves and grass out for the trash pick-up every week.  Compost is the best thing that you can do for your garden and for reducing waste going into our over-burdened landfills.  Also, the best mulch you can use is the shredded tree trimmings, pine needles, or shredded leaves from your own neck of the woods.  If you throw these in the landfill, you are losing all the rich nutrients these plants have taken from the soil around you.  Any tree trimmer will gladly leave these for you if asked.

OK, no more excuses.  Turn your dirt into soil!  You can make a difference by recycling your green waste and in the process enrich your soil. See “how to” information on www.keepkingwoodgreen.org and click on composting.  Your plants will need to be watered less, they will be sturdier and will resist diseases and attacks by insect pests.  And, the biggest incentive is that it will cost you less money to garden.


Alberto AntenangeliTired of traffic on 59? Read on…
By Alberto Antenangeli (June 2007)

It was one of those dark, cold and rainy December mornings, and I was exercising my patience driving to work. Like everybody around me, I was sitting in my car, listening to the radio, and wondering whether there was an accident on 59, since we were barely moving. My fate was sealed by the message “Drive time to 610 – 29 min at 7:16AM” on the display by beltway 8.
Since the traffic was bumper-to-bumper, the guy behind me decided to write what seemed to be Christmas cards to save some time. Needless to say, he nearly hit me at one point, but since persistence is a virtue, that didn’t stop him. Oh, dear… Better switch lanes…
At that point, bus 255 passed by me on the HOV lane, sailing smoothly downtown. It was an epiphany to me – and the first thing I did after arriving at the office was to obtain additional information about the bus service between Kingwood and downtown. That very same day, I stopped at the supermarket and bought a metro pass. I have been riding the bus for a few years now.
I live in Fosters Mill, and my commute time is about the same, whether I drive or ride. However, time is not the only important factor – there are several others.
For example, my commute time is now consistent, rain or shine. Unless there is an accident on Kingwood Drive, I know exactly when I’m getting to the office or back home. Having someone doing the driving for me also helped reduce my stress level. While on the bus, I read, listen to the news, catch up on email, or simply take a nice nap when I’m tired. Also, I feel much safer on the bus, and I’m not concerned about people writing cards, shaving, or touching up make up while driving.
Want more? I work in the heart of downtown, and the closest bus stop is only a couple of blocks from the office. However, after some time, I started to get off the bus a few blocks earlier and walk. I kept adding to that walk, and today, I get off by the Minute Maid Park, and take a brisk walk of about a mile or so every day. It doesn’t sound much, but it is an exercise routine I can stick to, and – trust me – it made a huge difference for me.
It doesn’t stop there. Like most people in Kingwood, my commute was a little shy of 30 miles each way, which roughly translated to 3 gallons of gas - $6 during the good times, $9 during the bad ones. On top of that, add $5 a day for parking. If you include the normal wearing of the car, tires, oil changes, etc., I can conservatively say I was spending around $13 a day. The bus is $3.50 each way, but if you buy a stored pass, you get a discount, so each trip costs about $2.75. My company (and most others) offer some sort of incentive to ride the bus. In my case, 10%, which brings the cost down to around $2.50. But it doesn’t stop there – since I pay for the pass pre-tax, my total cost ends up being $2.00 each way. Bottom line, I save $2,000 a year by riding the bus.
Still not convinced? You probably heard the expression “Carbon Footprint” already. It basically measures the amount of CO2 a household emits resulting from combustion of fossil fuels. Regardless of whether you believe in global warming or not, at the end of the day, the CO2 you emit needs to be cleaned up to keep things in balance. I suggest you search for “Carbon Footprint Calculator” using your preferred search engine, and compare how taking the bus can positively affect your footprint. In my case, since we use wind-generated electricity by Green Mountain Energy, the improvement was astonishing – my footprint dropped 90%.
Shall we recap? Since I started riding the bus, I’ve been saving $2,000 a year, my stress level went down, I feel safer, my commute time is consistent, I have an exercise routine I can stick to, and I’m contributing to a cleaner air. I don’t know what you think, but it is a no-brainer to me. To take the first step like I did, simply visit www.ridemetro.org.


Hal OppermanGreen Waste
By Hal Opperman (May 2007)

Almost daily from the news media, we hear about global warming, pollution, increasing commodity prices due to shortages, and environmental problems.  You say to yourself that someone ought to do something about these situations. Here are two small ways you can do your part to be that someone

Many of us moved to Kingwood and the Lake Houston Area for the large well-manicured lawns, landscapes, and the forest.  We all know that the forest is disappearing quickly but did you know that according to the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, each year Texans send four million tons of yard trimmings including grass, leaves, weeds, limbs, and other organic materials to landfills.  The estimated cost to Texans, $250,000,000 yearly.  As landfills fill up and new ones such as the one in east Montgomery County are opposed by nearby residents, there is a better way. 

How many times have you cut your grass and hauled bags of mown grass out to the curb or left them with your trash for pick up?  Maybe your lawn service does it for you. How many times have you raked up your leaves or cut your plants down and bagged them for trash pick up? Again, maybe your lawn service does it for you. 

We live in an affluent community in an affluent country.  We can afford expensive lawn and landscaping services or if we are “do it yourselfers”, we can afford expensive lawn mowing equipment.  Unfortunately we do not always make wise decisions how we use these resources.

The Texas Agricultural Extension Service urges that you consider using “The Don’t Bag It Program”.  The first step you can take is to insist that your lawn service mulches your grass and leaves to the extent they can (or do it yourself).  Today, almost all lawn equipment is built with mulching capabilities.  By mulching your grass and leaves back into the yard you save on water, fertilizer, landfill space, and the energy it takes to transport these items to the landfill.  A mulched lawn is healthier in the long run and requires fewer chemical alternatives to fight diseases and weeds. So, you also save money and pollute the ground water and rivers less with fewer chemicals. Obviously there are times when you can’t mulch everything, so that leads to the next step.

Start a composting area in your yard.  Behind or beside the garage seems to be a favorite place for this operation, although I have seen attractive compost piles hidden away in other places.   With a large back yard, you may want to build an enclosed area where you can segregate this activity and store some of your lawn supplies and equipment.  And, a real composter will tell you that you really need two or three compost heaps to do it right. 

Everything organic composts eventually.  The function of the compost pile is to speed up that process so your organic waste can be quickly returned to your flower or vegetable beds or placed around shrubs and trees as a valuable soil nutrient or mulch.

The compost heap can be as simple as a small wire enclosure held up by a few steel posts or it can be an expensive or moderately priced store or catalog bought tumbler that promises to turn out compost in 14 days.  Mercer Arboretum has a display of various types of composting contraptions for your inspection. Typically, the more you pay the neater the device and the faster the results.

A little chemistry is needed to make the best compost.  If you really want to get into it, there are classes to take, books to be bought or borrowed, and lots of information is available on the Internet.  The Keep Kingwood Green web site has lots of valuable information about making compost under the local recycling guide and green waste tabs as well as pictures of one at a Kings Point Home.  Generally, you want to mix by weight two parts of brown (leaves, dead plants, coffee grounds, etc.) with one part green (cut grass, green plants, kitchen vegetable waste, etc).   Then occasionally add a bit of water if rain does not keep it damp and an occasional shovel or two of garden soil to add soil organisms to the mix.   Give it some time and soon you have compost.  To speed it up and add oxygen, you can turn the compost from one pile to another.  (But, that is hard work, especially in summer, so buy a simple aerating tool.)

Businesses, too, can make a big difference.  Alspaugh’s Garden Center composts all green waste.  Dirt Cheap in Porter accepts all green waste from homeowners or landscapers for composting for a fee.  Executive and Lake Houston lawn care services also compost green waste picked up at their customers. If you hire a lawn service, make sure they compost items picked up from your property. If your business is “green”, stop by our web site to tell us how.  We will let the public know what you are doing.

So, there you have it.  One small step for you or your business, one large step for the environment.  In any case, you won’t be one of those folks that line their driveway with dozens of bags to be hauled off to the dump.  You will be contributing to the solution instead of the problem.  


Brian SmaefskyWe Need A Recycling Ethic in Texas
By Dr. Brian Smaefsky, (April 2007)

            My career as a college professor affords me the privilege to travel across America and throughout the world attending conferences and giving talks at conventions. Each trip provides me with valuable insights about the individual attitudes and practices of people living in the places I visit.

            Many of my colleagues who make the same trips that I do use what little free time they have to sightsee. I use my leisurely moments are for more “nerdy” pursuits. I like to explore how different states and countries deal with their natural resources.  This is not done for mere amusement. Rather, I use the information to help with my work on natural resource conservation in Texas.

            I find it disturbing that the Unites States lags behind many other countries on sustainable resource conservation and recycling initiatives. Unlike many countries in Asia, Europe, and South America, the United States does not mandate recycling or landfill reduction.  Currently, the United States recycles about 28% of its wastes. Most recycling and waste reduction projects are voluntarily carried out by some states or are performed as grass roots efforts by commercial or non-profit entities. Our northern neighbor, Canada, works hard on ensuring the closing of landfills due to lack of use.  

            Many European nations are worse than the Unites States on recycling; however, they are enforcing efforts that are rapidly reducing waste disposal. The United States took almost fifteen years to double the amount of waste being recycled. Much of Europe hopes to double or quadruple its efforts in less than five years.

            Texas takes a somewhat passive approach to recycling. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality runs the Texas Recycled Program. This program “promotes and encourages the public to buy recycled-content products from Texas manufacturers.” However, there is no state legislation that requests municipalities to set up recycling programs or set limits on landfill use. Texas does not really provide any incentives to recycle or reduce resources.  

            I was embarrassed to learn in my travels that recycling is systemic in many cultures outside of Texas. The California Department of Conservation’s Division of Recycling administers the California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act which was enacted in 1986. This regulation gets businesses and households into a mindset of recycling.  In effect, California has promoted a recycling ethic for its citizens.

            The European Union has a variety of regulations that reduce the flow of wastes into landfills. It may not be easy to find recycling bins in many households or on city streets. But, much of the waste collected by commercial and governmental services ends up being recycled. Plus, many people reuse bottles and jars before disposing of them.

            Recycling and reuse is part of the daily life of people in developing nations such as the China, India, and Senegal. Their inadequate supply of natural resources necessitates clever ways of waste reduction.  I noticed comprehensive recycling efforts on a recent trip to Philippines. There were recycling bins outside of various shops and on city streets. These bins collected almost any waste that can be produced. I recently witnessed a machine in China that rapidly separates garbage so that all of it can be recycled or reused. It is already being marketed for much of Asia and is being evaluated by African nations.

            When I was a child forty years ago in New York I recall growing up with a recycling ethic. Thanks to insightful state regulations, I remember eagerly collecting bottles and cans to cash in for spending money. I benefited from several New England states that had similar incentive programs for recycling valuable resources. I wish Texas would be more proactive at passing legislations that build a recycling attitude amongst the public. It would be nice if children growing up in Texas today could rejoice in recycling or at least could assume that recycling was “the thing to do”.


Brian DusablonFive things you can do at work to help the environment.
By Brian Dusablon (March 2007)


There are plenty of lists about things to do in general, and at home, but I haven’t seen much on the little things you can do in the corporate world to help out. I know many companies, especially in Houston, don’t have a recycling program, nor are they very environmentally efficient. But here are a few easy things you can do to make a difference. They may be simple and small, but if even just a few of us did some of these things, we’d be in much better shape. What are some things you do in your business environment to help out?

1. Turn your office light off EVERY time you leave your office.
I know when I’m at home, I am always telling my kids to turn off the lights because they are wasting electricity. Well, it’s the same thing at the office. Don’t just turn your light off when you leave for the day, turn it off when you run to the bathroom, meeting, lunch, etc. I also turn off the light in the bathroom and break room when I leave…it’s not hard to turn it back on, and it saves energy…think about it! If you’re concerned people will think you’re out of the office, establish some new rules. Maybe if the light is off but the door is open, I’m just away from my desk. If the door is closed, I’m out of the office. Be flexible!

2. Recycle/Shred your paper.
We don’t recycle at my office, yet I have tons of paper product every week that would normally just go in the trash. Instead, I keep a small cardboard box under my desk, and at the end of the week I dump it in the shred box, which is taken by a professional company who ends up recycling it in the end.

3. Recycle Cans and/or Drink Water
If your company doesn’t currently recycle cans, you should really push for it. It’s pretty darn easy to put a trash can in the break room with a lid with a hole in it for cans only. If your company won’t allow a recycle bin in your area, bring a bag or box from home to toss your cans in. Better yet, drink water instead! It’s better for you anyways.

4. Shutdown your computer every day.
I know a lot of people like to leave their system running and just turn off the monitor. That used to be a big time-saver because computers used to take a long time to boot up. Nowadays, you’re looking at 30-60 seconds max. So shut it down every night! If you can’t shut it down, at least try to put it on hibernate or standby to save power.

5. Raise Awareness
This post came about because many companies don’t currently offer anything in the way of recycling or any other environmental support. I’m doing something about it by raising awareness, talking to my coworkers about these tips, and trying to get a recycling program started. You can do the same thing at your workplace! The more people you tell, the more people will take part in helping our environment.
All these things are so simple to do! If we all do a little, we can help a LOT!


Alberto AntenangeliWhat’s in a can of soda?
By Alberto Antenangeli (February 2007)

When people think of recycling, they usually think the savings are on the material being recycled only. What few people know is that recycling also helps save energy – sometimes a lot of energy.
Take for example a can of soda. To produce it from bauxite (aluminum ore), you need the energy equivalent of half of that can in gasoline. Just to give you an idea, that’s enough energy to power an average TV for 3 hours. The numbers become even more astonishing if you take in account the number of soda cans produced every year - 100 billion cans in 2004 in the United States alone. Although about two thirds of them were recycled, 30 billion cans ended up in a landfill. And that is a real problem.
First of all, centuries from now, a can of soda will still be a can of soda. It simply won’t go away. We throw away enough aluminum to rebuild our entire commercial aircraft fleet every three months. But let’s talk about energy savings – producing that same can of soda from recycled aluminum requires significantly less energy – only 5%, to be more precise.
Think about this next time you throw a can of soda in the trash – 15 billion cans of gasoline.
But aluminum is only part of the recycling story. Steel cans also require some attention. In 1986, the United States alone had 2.5 million tons of steel sitting in our landfills. That’s a lot of steel. Also, most steel cans have an outer coating of tin, which is very expensive and imported into the U.S. This tin can also be recovered through recycling.
How about energy savings? You can run a 60-watt light bulb for a day on the amount of energy saved by recycling one pound of steel. By recycling steel alone, the United States saves enough energy to heat and light 18 million homes.
How much steel do we recycle? Our rate is about 75%, most of it coming from cars, appliances, and beams used in construction. However, there are always two sides to a coin, so let’s flip it– we waste 25%, which requires additional energy that could power 6 million homes. That’s enough for all homes in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.
How about plastics? They take 32% of the volume of our landfills, and take centuries to decompose. Like aluminum, it takes significantly less energy to recycle than produce plastic from petroleum or natural gas. How much? Only about 10 to 15% compared to producing it from raw material. And how much do we recycle? Only 20% of our plastic bottles…
Do you subscribe to a newspaper and throw it in the garbage can when you are done reading? Well, if you recycled it for a year, you would be saving four trees, 2,200 gallons of water, and fifteen pounds of air pollutants. Extend that to the entire country, we are talking about 250 million trees per year. Are you sure you want to throw this newspaper away when you are done reading it?
Finally, glass… Unfortunately we are not doing so well here either. Only around 22% of glass containers were recycled in 2005, down from 27% in 1995. Like aluminum, glass will not decompose, and stick around for a very long time. Recycling it saves 40% energy compared to producing it from raw material.
The beauty of recycling is that it doesn’t take much effort. You basically need 4 containers in your garage – for paper, plastic, glass and cans, some good will, and a trip to the Park & Ride lot close to the library on the second and fourth weekends every month, where you can find dumpsters to put what you collected.
During times when energy independence is becoming a very hot topic, keep in mind the little things you can do to help.