Houston Environmental News Update July 8, 2020

VOTE! The Story of Plastic Film Screening, Trivia Night, Wildlife 2020, Gulf Coast Green, Texas Water 2020, Heat Mapping, Green Jobs, and more

Unless you live under a rock–which is especially difficult in the gumbo ‘soil’ in much of our region–you know the importance of voting. However, even die-hard voters might not have caught wind of the primary runoff election that is happening on Tuesday, July 14, 2020 (with early voting happening this week).

Not sure whether you are registered or how to register? Not sure about what is on the ballot? You can visit votetexas.gov or contact the election official for your county (listed below).

As always, we encourage you to visit the League of Women Voters of Houston to learn more about candidates. The League, which is celebrating 100 years of service, is nonpartisan organization that believes in the power of every person to create a more perfect democracy–and they have a great voters guide.

We find inspiration in the Environmental Voter Project and the Climate Reality Action Fund campaigns, as well as the report on civic engagement completed by the Greater Houston Community Foundation with the Kinder Institute at Rice University. We encourage you to learn more.

If you are getting excited about the upcoming Texas legislative session, you might be interested in this recent post by CEC intern Hannah Guyton about the State’s budgeting process, which is in progress.

Please scroll down to read notes from our member organizations and the community.


CEC NOTES

Workshops: Tech Tools for Virtual Environmental Engagement

Want to make virtual meetings more fun and interactive? Learn how to use Kahoot, Doodle Poll, Nearpad, Padlet, Animaker, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams to have more engaging. Sign up for a free class and learn general features of the applications, see a demonstration of how to use it, and have the opportunity to practice. Meant to be interactive, and open to anyone. Sign up on this Google Form (https://forms.gle/DUjQsgbKRP2rUHU27). Different classes on various platforms are scheduled from July 13 – July 24. Led by employees of HP as part of HP’s 40 Days of Doing Good program, in partnership with Citizens’ Environmental Coalition.

The Story of Plastic Film Screenings & Panels

The documentary film The Story of Plastic takes a sweeping look at the man-made crisis of plastic pollution and the worldwide effect it has on the health of our planet and its people (see the trailer). CEC invites you to screen the film at home, and then participate in one of two online Q&A sessions with several distinguished panelists. The two Q&As are on July 23, one at 12-12:30 p.m. (Amy Reed, Keep Houston Beautiful; Theresa Morris, Turtle Island Restoration Network; Steve Steltzer, Houston Green Building Resource Center); and the second at 6-6:30 p.m. (Sahar Hamzah, UH Valenti School of Communication; Charlotte Cisneros, Galveston Bay Foundation; Siri Kore, BASF Corporation). If interested, visit our Houston Green Films & Festivals website where you can find more information and register for the event. We hope this film inspires you to take action, and to consider attending or submitting a film to our virtual Wild About Houston Film Festival in October.


Trivia Night: Plastic Free July

Would you like to test your knowledge of plastics during Plastic Free July? Join us for our trivia night on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Google Meet. It will be a fun night to learn and socialize using Kahoot Trivia as we encourage you to reduce your use of plastic. If you are interested in participating, you can register on our Houston Green Films & Festivals website. We hope to see you there, and visit us on Twitter (@CEChouston) for question teasers that will potentially be asked during our trivia night!


Call for submissions: Wild About Houston Green Film Festival

The CEC is proud to host the third annual Wild About Houston Green Film Festival on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. CEC hopes to use this festival to tell local environmental stories, highlight the work of CEC’s member organizations, and to inspire our residents and visitors to make a difference in the environment and our quality of life. The festival will be held virtually to protect the health and safety of our community in these times. We invite you to submit a film for consideration. Films should be specific to the environment in the Houston/Gulf Coast Region, should be no more than seven minutes long, and must be of suitable quality to be shown publicly. Find the Submission Guidelines here, and make submissions here.


Environmental Candidate Forum video available

On June 24, 2020, CEC and other members of the Houston environmental community hosted a virtual candidate forum with Diana Martinez Alexander and Michael Moore, the two Democrats in the July 14 run-off to be their party’s candidate for Harris County Commissioner, Precinct 3. (Republican Tom Ramsey will meet the run-off winner in the general election. Mr. Ramsey has agreed to participate in a general election Environmental Forum–watch for that information later.) The video of the June 24 forum can be viewed here, the Spanish audio translation can be found here, and a copy of the questions asked in English and Spanish and be found here.


COALITION & COMMUNITY NOTES

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).

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Texas State Officials Require 2020-21 Budget Cuts, Potential 2022-23 Cuts

Texas Capitol with Trees by Austin Hill. https://flic.kr/p/69PhEo

As the COVID-19 pandemic ravages Texas, agencies and institutions have been called upon to reduce their spending. On May 20, top Texas officials published a memo directing agencies and institutions of higher education to plan a 5% decrease in their budgets for the current, 2020-2021 biennium which was originally approved as $250.7 billion in June of 2019. The 2020-21 budget was a 6.3% increase from the 2018-19 biennium budget of about $217 billion.

Officials cited the economic losses and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and a resulting need for smooth economic recovery as drivers of the required 5% decrease. Some agencies and programs are exempt, the majority of which have a role in COVID-19 response. 

In the memo, Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Speaker Dennis Bonnen requested savings plans be submitted by each (non-exempt) agency and institution to the Office of the Governor and the Legislative Budget Board no later than June 15, 2020. The memo specifies some of the “cost saving strategies” expected in savings plans and outlines select agencies and programs that are exempted from the new directive. It also came with a warning that further budget adjustments may be necessary as the pandemic develops. 

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Houston Environmental News Update July 1, 2020

Plastic Free EcoChallenge, Nurdle Patrol, Birds Before Twilight, Houston Harris Heat Action Team, Wildlife 2020, Gulf Coast Green, Green Jobs, and more

You’ve probably heard all about the three R’s to save the environment. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. It’s been drilled into our heads since childhood, and these steps are undoubtedly crucial parts to creating a sustainable society. However, this month we are focusing on the lesser-known fourth R: refuse*. Today marks the beginning of Plastic-Free July, a global challenge to decrease the huge amount of plastic pollution around the world. About a truckload of plastic enters the water every minute, warns Greenpeace, and scientists estimate that our oceans will hold more plastic than fish by 2050 if we continue at our current rates. As important as things like recycling are, the very best way to keep single-use plastics out of the landfills and our streets is to have never used them at all.

This Plastic-Free July is quite different than any we have ever experienced. In the midst of a pandemic, it is harder than ever to escape single-use plastics, according to a recent article in The Economist; you’re probably having items delivered from websites instead of risking a trip to the store, or wearing a disposable facemask every time you leave the house. It’s all a part of our new normal. But not only that, the pandemic is also hindering garbage processing, as many waste and recycling workers that would usually deal with all this plastic waste are out of commission. The entire waste industry joins countless others that have been upended by the pandemic, according to Rice University’s Baker Institute, as reported in Forbes.

Our circumstances may make participating in Plastic-Free July harder, but that also makes it even more important. How can you be a part of the challenge? Here are some ideas:

  • Join the Nurdle Patrol! What is a nurdle? Visit nurdlepatrol.org or search the web for “Diane Wilson Nurdle.”
  • Speak up! Voice your support by JULY 3, 2020 for expanding the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico to protect marine life from pollution.
  • Stay informed! The CEC is co-hosting an online viewing of the Story of Plastic, a film that takes a closer look into what happens after plastic enters your trash can. (More info soon!)
  • Invest in reusables! Forgoing disposable spoons, forks, straws, and cups not only saves money and the environment, it allows you to add a personal touch to your everyday routines.
  • Like and follow Zero Waste Houston on Facebook to keep up with the Houston zero waste community.
  • Say no! If you’re ordering takeout, tell the restaurant not to include plastic utensils and plates in your delivery.
  • Attend a local beach or park clean up. Our member organizations organize these regularly. 
  • Vote! Use your ballot to back candidates and policies that are determined to phase out single-use plastics.
  • Plog. Pick up litter while you jog, walk, or paddle. Get outside, exercise, pick up trash, and make the world a better place all at the same time.
  • Take the Interfaith Environmental Network of Houston Plastic Free EcoChallenge that is shared on our calendar

Will you be joining the CEC and millions of others all around the world by taking up the challenge of Plastic-Free July? We sure hope so!

*Refuse, and Rebuy, Reinvent, Rethink, Repair, Rot, ReEngineer…

Please scroll down to read notes from our member organizations and the community.


CEC NOTES

Birds Before Twilight

On July 9, 2020, from 6-7:30 p.m. the CEC, Houston Environmental Resources for Educators, and Mercer Botanic Gardens will host an interactive program with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Urban Ranger Felice Yarbough! In a shaded area tucked in Mercer’s East Side Gardens, participants will learn about native, stellar wildlife in Houston. Watch a locally produced video about wild birds. Then, walk the gardens in search of Birds Before Twilight. Advance registration is required. For more information and to register, see the Facebook event.


Call for submissions: Wild About Houston Green Film Festival

The CEC is proud to host the third annual Wild About Houston Green Film Festival on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. CEC hopes to use this festival to tell local environmental stories, highlight the work of CEC’s member organizations, and to inspire our residents and visitors to make a difference in the environment and our quality of life. The festival will be held virtually to protect the health and safety of our community in these times. We invite you to submit a film for consideration. Films should be specific to the environment in the Houston/Gulf Coast Region, should be no more than seven minutes long, and must be of suitable quality to be shown publicly. Find the Submission Guidelines here, and make submissions here.


Environmental Candidate Forum video available

On June 24, 2020, CEC and other members of the Houston environmental community hosted a virtual candidate forum with Diana Martinez Alexander and Michael Moore, the two Democrats in the July 14 run-off to be their party’s candidate for Harris County Commissioner, Precinct 3. (Republican Tom Ramsey will meet the run-off winner in the general election. Mr. Ramsey has agreed to participate in a general election Environmental Forum–watch for that information later.) The video of the June 24 forum can be viewed here, the Spanish audio translation can be found here, and a copy of the questions asked in English and Spanish and be found here.


COALITION & COMMUNITY NOTES

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).

Continue reading