Houston Environmental News Update November 18, 2020

World Toilet Day, Protect Our Pipes, Deeper Dive with Buffalo Bayou, Equity in Climate Action, Coastal Barrier Public Forum, Keep Houston Beautiful Fall Sweep, Net Zero Home Tour, Green Jobs, and more

Hurricane Harvey flooding wastewater facilities

Happy World Toilet Day!

Climate change is getting worse.

Flood, drought and rising sea levels are threatening sanitation systems – from toilets to septic tanks to treatment plants. These incidents, which are becoming more frequent as climate change worsens, cause public health emergencies and degrade the environment.

Everyone must have sustainable sanitation that can withstand climate change and keep communities healthy and functioning.

World Toilet Day is a United Nations Observance that celebrates toilets and raises awareness of the 4.2 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation. It is about taking action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.

Floods happen more frequently than we might want in the Houston region (learn more in the City of Houston’s Climate Impact Assessment), resulting in less-than-clean water. However, problems with our sanitation systems–from toilets to treatment plants–happen all too routinely. You can make a difference!

Houston Public Works Need Public’s Help in Preventing Sewer Overflows

The main cause of sanitary sewer overflows in Houston is clogged pipes from fats, oils and grease poured down sinks and wipes flushed down toilets. These items block our wastewater lines and cause overflows into our streets and homes that harm our environment and health. City of Houston is launching its new “Protect Our Pipes” campaign to remind the community to dispose of fats, oils, and grease in the trash and to only flush the “3 Ps”. You can dispose of leftover cooking waste with these easy steps: pour it in a jar, can, or bag, cool it, and once full, toss it in the trash. Houston Public Works also reminds residents that only the Three P’s – pee, poo, and (toilet) paper belong in the toilet. Everything else should go in the trash. Learn more at ProtectOurPipes.org.

In case you want to recycle all the fats and grease from Thanksgiving (fried turkey, anyone?) rather than tossing, you can find a grease repository near you on Galveston Bay Foundation’s Cease the Grease page or the City of Houston’s Solid Waste Department’s grease page.

For extra credit on World Toilet Day, learn more about toilet troubles from Patty Potty, who wants no wipes in the pipes.

Please scroll down to read about public engagement opportunities and notes from our member organizations and the community.


Wild About Houston Green Film Festival

The CEC was proud to host the third annual Wild About Houston Green Film Festival. You can watch all the films again, and then vote for the Fan Favorite! Watch the 2020 October and November programs on the CEC YouTube page. Then, vote for your favorite film to be included in the CEC virtual presentation of the Wild and Scenic Film Festival on Tour on January 29, 2021. Vote via Google Forms by #GivingTuesday (December 1), and remember to renew your support for CEC.

Environmental Educators Virtual Meet-Ups

Environmental educators (EEvengers) are invited to connect, collaborate, and share in these upcoming meet-ups: Nov. 20 with Sarah Coles (Texas Children in Nature) and Jacey Tosh (Texas Forest Service). Join us from 9 – 9:30 a.m. with this Google Meet Link (or email Alicia Mein-Johnson to be added to the reoccurring Google Calendar invitation). This is a partnership with the Texas Association for Environmental Education and Texas Children in Nature.

Houston Climate Action Plan Educational Outreach Partners Workshop

On Dec. 11, 2020, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., join CEC and the City of Houston to leverage community resources and create strategic opportunities for Houston-area youth to engage in civic conversations and actions around climate resilience. This virtual, collaborative planning workshop is for all Houston informal educators and community engagement coordinators. Details and free registration via eventbrite.com.

Virtually Wild! Field Trips

CEC is excited to partner with Houston Community Partnerships & Engagement and the National Park Foundation to deliver Virtually WILD! Join Student Conservation Association intern Emma Wilson every Tuesday and Urban Ranger Felice Yarbough every Wednesday from a different regional location. Meet the wildlife that live there, and the people working to protect them. Corresponding activities and videos for students, as well as a full schedule, are available at hereinhouston.org.

Support the environment through workplace giving

If you work for employers such as the City of Houston, the State of Texas, or HISD, among many other public and private workplaces, remember that the fall is campaign season for most employee workplace giving programs. Employees are offered the chance to select from many charitable organizations to support through payroll contributions. You can give to CEC via EarthShare of Texas, as one of 60 local, regional and national environmental organizations supported by EarthShare of Texas. You can designate individual organizations or let EarthShare of Texas divide it equally among their participating organizations. A complete list of participating workplaces is available at www.earthshare-texas.org. For more information about EarthShare of Texas, including information about how your organization can offer workplace giving, please visit www.earthshare-texas.org or call 800-GREENTX. Look for the the CEC’s code number under the EarthShare of Texas heading in workplace giving campaign literature at all state agencies (035569), at HISD (0111) and at the City of Houston (1413). Please consider CEC in your workplace giving program!

Old CEC Newsletters?

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, CEC does not currently have access to our archive of old newsletters, which are maintained at the University of Houston and the Houston Public Library. Until we are able to access our archives, we are looking for copies of newsletters from 1970-1985, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006. Our records are incomplete in 1994, 1996, 2002-2004, 2007, 2008. If you have any newsletters from these years, please email [email protected]


Learn more about public participation opportunities at cechouston.org/public-participation-opportunities/.

Extended through Nov. 20, 2020: Buffalo Bayou and Tributaries Resiliency Study Interim Feasibility Report

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston District, along with the Harris County Flood Control District, has released an Interim Feasibility Report for the Buffalo Bayou and Tributaries Resiliency Study. The purpose of the study is to evaluate alternatives with the goal of helping to reduce flooding under a range of flood events. The deadline for public comment has been extended to Nov. 20, 2020. Learn more at usace.army.mil.

Through Dec. 9, 2020: North Houston (I-45) Highway Improvement Project MOU

The Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Policy Council is seeking feedback on the Memorandum of Understanding between the key cooperating entities on the proposed North Houston (I-45) Highway Improvement Project. For more information, visit ih45northandmore.com or h-gac.com. Comments will be accepted until Dec. 9, 2020.

Public Meetings on Coastal Texas Study

The United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Texas General Land Office recently released plans for the Draft Feasibility Report and Draft Environmental Impact Statement of the Coastal Texas Protection and Restoration Study, also known as the Coastal Texas Study. Public meetings are scheduled on Dec. 3, and Dec. 8, 2020 (beginning at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. each day). The 45-day public review period continues through Dec. 14, 2020. Find the documents and information on how to access the public meetings at swg.usace.army.mil. NOTE: Several area environmental groups have created a petition to extend the public comment period. Find the petition at seaturtles.org.

Dec. 3, 2020: H-GAC Public Meeting on Regional Transportation Issues

H-GAC will hold a virtual public meeting to discuss important new updates affecting transportation in our region. Experts will present on proposed amendments to the 2045 Regional Transportation Plan that would add 27 regionally significant projects to help improve air quality in the region and better align transit projects with the MetroNext Plan. They will also discuss updates to our agency’s process to mitigate congestion in the region and updating the Public Participation Plan to include virtual engagement as a component. The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2020.. H-GAC experts will present on the meeting topics, after which attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and make public comments. The public comment period for these topics opens on Nov. 23 and will close on Jan. 7, 2021. The meeting can be accessed through this Zoom link. Meeting ID: 971 2022 6719 Passcode: 099178


We have endeavored to confirm the opportunities listed below. Please consider confirming directly with the hosts, particularly in light of concerns about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Giving Byproducts a Second Life Through Entrepreneurship

On Nov. 19, 2020, from noon-1 p.m., the Texas Association of Environmental Professionals will host a virtual brown bag luncheon featuring a presentation by Madelyn Morgan, the City of Austin’s Conservation Program Coordinator, called “[Re]Verse Pitch: Giving Byproducts a Second Life Through Entrepreneurship.” For more information and to register, visit taep.memberclicks.net.

Deeper Dive with Buffalo Bayou Parntership

On Nov. 19, 2020, beginning at 1:30 p.m., Buffalo Bayou Partnership will hold a webinar with BBP Board Members Gaynell Floyd Drexler and Gloria Zenteno and Vice President of External Affairs Karen Farber, who will discuss BBP’s commitment to celebrating the history and cultures of Buffalo Bayou East neighborhoods in its Buffalo Bayou East Master Plan. For more information and to register, visit buffalobayou.org.

Equity in Climate Action

On Nov. 19, 2020, from 3-4:30 p.m., the U.S. Green Building Council Texas chapter will host a virtual conversation, moderated by David Matiella, chair of the USGBC Texas Advocacy Committee and Associate Dean of Architecture at UT-San Antonio, on how the adopted (and proposed) climate action and adaptations plans of five Texas cities incorporate equity.  Matiella will review the analysis that USGBC Texas has done over the past several months followed by a panel discussion ideally with participants from each of cities. For more information and to register, visit usgbctexas.org.

Coastal Barrier Public Forum

On Nov. 19, 2020, beginning at 6 p.m., Bayou City Waterkeeper, Galveston Bay Foundation, Healthy Gulf, and Turtle Island Restoration Network will host a virtual public forum on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Coastal Texas Study (see item above). The forum will address questions and concerns about the risk to Galveston Bay, the financial and economic cost to our communities, and the effectiveness of its design. NOTE: Several area environmental groups have created a petition to extend the public comment period for the Study. Find the petition at seaturtles.org.

Oil and Gas Air Pollution Webinar

On Nov. 19, 2020, beginning at 6 p.m., several environmental groups will host a webinar on ” what Texas should be doing on flaring, venting and methane emissions and isn’t doing.” The webinar will present information on what other oil and gas states like New Mexico are already doing, and what Texas could be doing as a state from the Sierra Club, Environment Texas, Environmental Defense Fund, and environmentalists in New Mexico. State Rep. Jon Rosenthal, who serves on the Energy Resources Committee of the Texas House of Representatives, will also speak. For more information and to register, visit sierraclub.zoom.us.

Bayou Preservation Association Gala

On Nov. 19, 2020, beginning at 6 p.m., the Bayou Preservation Association presents its first virtual gala, 20 Reasons to Celebrate Our Bayous in 2020. This fundraiser will highlight 20 reasons to celebrate our bayous and look back on 20 years of festive fetes in support of the nonprofit. The evening will feature flashbacks with photos from our archives of 20 years of memorable events at homes on Buffalo Bayou. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit bayoupreservation.org.

Keep Pearland Beautiful Annual Meeting

On Nov. 19, 2020, from 6-7:30 p.m., Keep Pearland Beautiful will hold its Annual Meeting virtually. All are welcome to join virtually as KPB recaps another year of programs, recognizes KPB Board members and begin its Silent Auction Fundraiser. The event is part of Pearland Recycles Week, Nov. 17-21. For more information and to register, visit pearlandrecycles.com.

Native Plant Society of Texas meeting

On Nov. 19, 2020, beginning at 7 p.m., the Houston chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas will hold a virtual meeting, beginning with the election of the chapter’s 2021 board members. The election will be followed by a presentation by Lan Shen, who will discuss her extensive experience gathering native seeds from all over the Texas Gulf Coast and prairies. She will share her practical knowledge about how to ethically and accurately harvest seeds from the wild and at one’s home. For more information and to register, visit npsot.org.

Going Green Lecture: USGS Annual Groundwater Table Data

On Nov. 19, 2020, beginning at 7 p.m., The Woodlands G.R.E.E.N. will present an online lecture by Jason Ramage, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, who will discuss 2020 regional water-level altitude surfaces in the Gulf Coast Aquifer system for the Houston-Galveston region, including Montgomery County. In addition, he will discuss short and long-term changes in water-levels as well as subsidence, as measured by extensometers across the region. For more information, including on how to connect, see this document.

Keep Houston Beautiful Fall Sweep

On Nov. 21, from 9 a.m.-noon, Keep Houston Beautiful will host its annual Fall Sweep. Volunteers may join as an individual or with a group of friends (no more than 10 per site) and help clean up on one of the KHB Team Sites located in Magnolia Park; or they may choose a site of their own, gather a team of any number up to 10 participants. KHB will provide all of the tools and supplies necessary for your clean-up. For more information, see the Facebook event or email [email protected]

Net Zero Home Tour

On Nov. 21, 2020, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., the Green Building Resource Center will host 30-minute walk-through tours of a Net Zero home under construction. Masks will be required. The tours are free and open to the public. For more information and to RSVP, visit codegreenhouston.org.

Native Prairies Association of Texas meeting

On Nov. 22, 2020, beginning at 4 p.m. the Native Prairies Association of Texas will hold its first virtual statewide membership meeting. Organizers will replay the presentations from a recent in-person event in Mount Vernon. It will be an opportunity to interact with officers and staff about the past year at NPAT. For more information and to register, visit texasprairie.org.

Woodland Park Fall Cleanup

Through Nov. 29, 2020, the Friends of Woodland Park are hosting self-organized, socially-distanced, come-when-you-like park cleanup! Woodland Park is home to diverse wildlife and is a unique hiking and recreation oasis open to all, but it suffers from excess debris, particularly during rainy periods. Learn more about prizes, guidelines, safety, and this jewel of a park near the intersection of I-45 and I-10 at friendsofwoodlandpark.org.

Take Care of Texas Student Video Contest

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) invites students in 6th through 12th grades to enter the annual Take Care of Texas Video Contest. Student videos should be 30 seconds long and portray positive ways Texans can help keep air and water clean, conserve water and energy, or reduce waste. The contest deadline is Dec. 4, 2020, and the public will have the opportunity to pick their favorite videos Jan. 18-29, 2021. There will be six winners. Waste Management of Texas, Inc. will provide prizes–GoPro cameras and scholarships. The middle and high school students who win first place will be recognized by the TCEQ Commissioners and representatives from Waste Management of Texas, Inc.

Texas Environmental Literacy Series

The Children’s Environmental Literacy Program is offering its Texas Environmental Literacy Series, which explores sustainability through the lens of the environment, equity and economics. Guest teachers will share “bright spots” that model best practices to leverage these 3E’s into virtual and/or hybrid K-12 classrooms. Participants will walk away from each session with ready-to-use student activities focusing on the foundations of sustainability. Remaining sessions will be held on Dec. 1, 2020, and Jan. 9, 2021. For more information and to register, visit celfeducation.org.

Social Change Scientists Video Competition

Enter the McMac Cx, Air Champions – Social Change Scientists Video Competition. Simply create a 30 to 90 second video about air quality using provided prompts, and enter using this Google form . A winner will be announced at the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition’s Green Film Series events on Nov. 18, 2020 and Jan. 29, 2021. The winner will receive a state-of-the-art Flow Personal Pollution Monitor (PPM) valued at $150.00 from McMac Cx. Questions? Want to be on the selection committee? Want to learn more about Air Champions? Contact David McLean at david.maclea[email protected] or read the details on the Google form.

Region 4 Science Conference

The Region 4 Education Service Center will hold the 13th Annual Region 4 Science Conference virtually on December 2, 2020. “The Future of Science in Texas” will explore K–12 instructional strategies, assessment, and technology applications in science. Participate in research-based student learning strategies that integrate inquiry investigation with hands-on activities, collaborative and cooperative methods, and the 5 E instructional model. For more information about the conference and to register, visit esc4.net.

Houston Audubon Young Professionals Advisory Council applications through Dec. 4

Houston Audubon is seeking young professionals who are natural leaders, hard workers, and passionate about conservation for its 2021 Young Professionals Advisory Council. The goal of the YPAC is to engage the next generation of conservationists and to build awareness of Houston Audubon’s mission among young professionals. Applicants do not necessarily need to be birders or knowledgeable about birds. For more information and to apply, visit houstonaudubon.org. Applicants may also send an email to [email protected]. Applications are being accepted through Dec. 4, 2020.

Submit your Ideas for Texas Restoration Area Planning

The Texas Trustee Implementation Group is beginning the process of considering restoration activities that will address injuries caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Through Dec. 10, 2020, the Implementation Group is seeking restoration project ideas that benefit wetland, coastal, and nearshore habitats, and living coastal and marine resources, and restore water quality through nonpoint source nutrient reduction in the Texas Restoration Area. In our next restoration plan, a range of projects will be considered to address injuries to these restoration types: wetlands, coastal, and nearshore habitats; nutrient reduction (nonpoint source); oysters; sea turtles; and birds. Additional information on these restoration types is available in Chapter 5 of the Trustee Council’s Programmatic Restoration Plan, and the Strategic Frameworks for birds, oysters, and sea turtles.

NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest

The NOAA Marine Debris Program’s annual art contest, designed to reach K-8 students and help raise awareness about marine debris, is now open for entries. The resulting calendar, featuring the winning artwork, provides a daily reminder of how important it is for us to be responsible stewards of the ocean. All students in kindergarten through eighth grade from all U.S. states and territories in recognized public, private, and home schools are eligible to participate. The deadline for submissions is Dec. 15, 2020. For more information, visit marinedebris.noaa.gov.

Citizen Science Program for Bird Observation

The Audubon Society’s Texas Estuarine Resource Network (TERN) and the Harris County Department of Education are collaborating to bring a community-based citizen science program to prepare teachers and students in grades 5-12 as field researchers for bird observations. Participation in the project comes with field guides, binoculars, and a birding expert to help you learn the observation protocol.  If your school is within walking distance of a waterway (pond, bayou, creek, ditch) please contact Lisa Felske ([email protected]) to inquire about the program.

S.P.L.A.Sh Marine Debris Education Program

S.P.L.A.Sh.(Stopping Plastic Litter Along Shorelines) is creating and sharing educational programming about marine debris, the effects it has on our environment, and how we can help stop it. With its curriculum of lessons, data collection, and beach cleanups, it aims to clean up Texas shorelines while also teaching children about science and nature. They are now looking for teachers and schools who would be interested in teaming up to give these lessons and experiences to students. Contact Celeste Silling at [email protected] for information.

Lazy Gardener & Friends Houston Garden Newsletter

The “Lazy Gardner & Friends Houston Garden Newsletter”, produced by Brenda Beust Smith, John Ferguson, and Mark Bowen (along with a supporting cast of contributing writers and technical specialists), offers gardening tips, spotlights on local experts, and a calendar of events and announcements. To sign up for this free newsletter, visit constantcontact.com. Find back issues at natureswayresource.com.

Recurring Events with Changing Content

Virtually WILD! field trips

Virtually WILD! offers the community a chance to interact with conservationists and wildlife live every week. In the next program, Fresh Life Organic (FLO) founder Jeremy Peaches will discuss how they work to promote urban organic gardening and community gardens in diverse areas of Houston. Corresponding activities and archived videos, as well as registration details, are available at hereinhouston.org.

ABNC “Nature as Nature” blog

The Armand Bayou Nature Center offers its “Nature as Normal” blog as a means to “remember that things are still happening as normal in the bigger picture, and that we’ll all be back to normal soon too.” Photographs by award-winning kayaking photographer Gary Seloff and ABNC Volunteer Photo Walk Leader Lyman Brown, with commentary by ABNC’s Conservation Director and Chief Naturalist, Mark Kramer. The latest entry is titled “Kingfishers“. Find all of the blog entries at abnc.org.

“Houston and Nature” podcast

In the latest “Houston and Nature” podcast, Nivien Saleh speaks with Jerry Hamby, a lead volunteer at Exploration Green in Clear Lake. He tells us how the park has come about, why it means so much to him, and why he will leave it in just a short period of time. Hear the latest episode at houstonnature.com.

TV: Texas Parks & Wildlife

Broadcast on KUHT Channel 8 at 3 p.m. each Saturday and on municipal access cable channels in Baytown, Deer Park, Houston, Texas City, Galveston, Nassau Bay, Pasadena, Seabrook, Sugar Land, and on HCC TV. More info on the TPWD website (* indicates a segment about the Houston area). For a preview, visit TPWD’s YouTube Page.

  • Sea Center Texas is the largest redfish hatchery in the world. Now biologists hope to replicate that success with spotted seatrout
  • Heralded for their awe-inspiring jumps and tenacious power, tarpon are the stuff from which fish tales are spun. But over the last couple decades, their populations have taken a serious dive. Today, a group of scientists are trying to learn about the biology of this secretive fish in hopes of raising its’ presence in the Gulf
  • Postcard from Texas: Enjoy the end of the day at Jamaica Beach

Additional Upcoming Events

Check out the latest Green Jobs at cechouston.org/green-jobs/.