Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cardo's Farm Project, Other Local Produce, and Local Businesses Big Draw at Denton Community Market

Yesterday, the Denton Community Market had an exceptional turnout, with 23 vendors and hundreds of attendees.  It is increasingly becoming a weekly event to meet friends, buy local produce, and visit booths of local businesses and community organizations. There is also local music; with bands, musicians, and singers from the thriving Denton music scene.  The Market is a sustainable source of local food and products as well as an economic incubator for new businesses since it offers relatively low start-up costs and affordable vendor fees.  It is also in the downtown area and helps draw customers to the area as well as benefit from other activities, such as downtown festivals.

This Market is an example of how a farmers/artisan market can be a planning tool and economic development catalyst for downtown areas.

The Market is also getting publicity within the DFW area.

Edible Dallas and Fort Worth, in its Summer 2012 edition has a feature article on a farmer vendor, Cardo's Farm Project, from the Denton Community Market.  The Denton Juice Company is also mentioned in the article.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sustainability Efforts Highlighted at a Seminar in Denton, Texas

The City of Denton just held the first preliminary public meeting last week on May 24th, 2012 to start the update of its Comprehensive Plan. The Plan update will be done in the context of recent sustainability efforts that are placing Denton on the forefront of sustainability and environmental stewardship.

On May 18th, the Midwest Texas Section of the Texas American Planning Association held a seminar at the University of North Texas on the City's sustainability initiatives. Sustainability is a major goal of the University of North Texas (UNT), the DCTA, and the City of Denton.

University of North Texas, Office of Sustainability

Planners from across DFW heard about UNT's Office of Sustainability's efforts on the Denton campus, with recent LEED buildings, wind turbines, recycling efforts, new vegan cafeteria, energy efficiency, office certifications, community outreach, and catalyst projects across the campus. The goal is not only to promote sustainability on campus and practice what researchers are finding, as related to the economic, social, and environmental benefits of sustainability, but to also create leaders on a world stage, as graduating students enter the workforce and bring sustainability to their jobs in a variety of fields.

The most visible UNT effort in campus is the Apogee Stadium, the first LEED Platinum stadium in the United States, just opened this year. Three large wind turbines power about one third of the stadium's power for 31,000 seats at capacity. There is also energy efficient lighting, low VOC materials, permeable paving, recycled construction materials, and a large effort for recycling of waste from stadium events.

One of the most interesting efforts by UNT is the Schneider Electric performance contract. Over a ten-year period, Scheider Electric guarantees that UNT will save 14 million dollars from energy-saving technologies. If UNT does not get the savings, they will receive a refund. Some of the energy technologies include replacements of the central plant chillers, lighting controls, and new HVAC systems.

UNT is also actively coordinating with national and local organizations and efforts, include AASHE (college and university organization), U.G. Green Building Council (LEED), Arbor Day Foundation (Tree Campus USA), and other local efforts.

The Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA)

The DCTA, founded in 2001-2002, recently opened the A-train regional rail line in June which now serves the I-35 corridor from Downton Denton to Trinity Mills in Carrollton and connecting to DART's Green Line. The DCTA, including a bus system which connects to the train stations, provides another transportation choice for commuting to work or traveling to activities in the DFW Metroplex.

Although ridership on the system has been increasing since the opening, the long-term population and ridership growth projections show corridors not currently served by the system, including East to Frisco, to a Carrollton transit hub, to Alliance Airport, the 380 corridor, McKinney, and Flower Mound.  There is a "doughnut" hole in connectivity among the transit services in the DFW area, and the DCTA will continue to plan for expansion. The UNT staff, faculty, and students currently make up about 75% of the ridership.
As new cities want to join that have not been contributing local taxes to fund the system, there will be challenges in how to address new cities versus "legacy" cities, those cities that paid over years into the initial development of the system.

The DCTA has promoted Transit Oriented Development, with the continued improvements and growth of Downtown Denton, the Hebron Station TOD, Old Town Station TOD, and Highland Village/Lewisville Lake TOD, all in different stages of design and development.

The City of Denton

The City of Denton currently has two major sustainability initiatives: the Downtown Implementation Plan (DTIP) and the passage of its sustainability plan, "Simply Sustainable."

Denton's Downtown has seen considerable growth of commercial developments and multifamily apartments over the past few years. The DTIP plan considers further improvements and incentives to promote more downtown development, particularly on the Hickory Street corridor from the Courthouse on the Square to the DCTA train station and eventually to the Denton County Courthouse on McKinney Avenue.

The City is focusing on street improvements on Hickory Street, with angled parking and eventually street trees, and shared bike lane, and further streetscape improvements. At the same time, staff in currently writing a Form Based Code for the area, which is expected to be completed later this summer and probably approved in the fall.

Parking availability has been a particular concern of local businesses, and the City expects to develop a parking garage or facility on city-owned property in the City. The City has been taking a proactive role in developing Solid Wast Pilot Project to talk with business owners and reduce the number of dumpsters in the downtown as well as increase recycling. Dumpsters currently are throughout the downtown, and there will be further efforts to consolidate and screen those that are needed.

In February, after a year-long process, the City of Denton approved its sustainability plan, "Simply Sustainable."  The plan will not be static, but will be a living document that will be monitored and improved through data provided by City departments to track indicators.  A unique tracking system is being developed with CDM to provide the City and the community a report card on plan's progress. 

The City held two community meetings with the public as well as conducted a survey with over 200 respondents to create a master list of 500 strategies to consider. Out of the 500 strategies, 70 were selected for review by the Advisory Committee (UNT, the Chamber of Commerce, DCTA, the League of Women Voters, Citizen Groups, and others) and the City Council's Committee on the Environment. These items were ranked by the financial implications, implementation time frame, and the sustainability of the item. Some particular items, such as bike lanes and the tree code, were added to the list as community priorities.  Six years of baseline data is available for every element being tracked. The sustainability plan will be considered in the update of the Comprehensive Plan, a two-year process that just started this month.

Presenters:  Nicole Cocco (UNT Office of Sustainability); Dee Leggett (DCTA), Ron Menguita (City of Denton, Planning), and Katherine Barnett (City of Denton, Environmental Services and Sustainability)

Friday, April 20, 2012

University of North Texas Zero Energy Research Laboratory Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, Denton Texas

I attended the ribbon cutting ceremony today for the exciting new net-zero laboratory at UNT's Discovery Park. I am honored to have had a small role in this project, in assisting H2Options with design services for the rainwater harvesting system on the building.

From the brochure:

"Students and faculty will use the lab as a testing ground for present and future sustainable technologies, such as structure integrated insulation, building integrated solar panels, energy efficient windows, energy storage and energy monitoring systems for smart grid, as well as the energy efficiency strategies involving user behaviors and social impacts" 

It appears this is the first building of more to come, since it was mentioned that UNT plans to eventually build a village of net-zero buildings at Discovery Park in Denton.

A variety of VIPs were there for the ceremony, including Representative Myra Crownover, UNT President V. Lane Rawlins, Dr. Yong Tao, Chair of the Mechanical and Energy Engineering Department, and two Denton City Council Members, Dalton Gregory and Pete Kamp, and Jacobs Engineering (architects).

Steven Sweeney and Jeremy Delost of H2Options (now Rainwater Harvesting Systems)

Dr. Yong Tao talking with Steven Sweeney and Jeremy Delost
Councilmember Pete Kamp

Monday, September 5, 2011

Cardo's Farm Project: Community Agriculture near Denton, Texas

Cardo's farm project provides sustainably-grown and local produce to the Denton Community Market each week, as well as to local restaurants.

They are in the midst of their Kickstarter campaign to raise $15,000 for new farm infrastructure.

Here is the link to donate and support local agriculture and education.

You can also watch this video

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Urban Farm in Denton, Texas: Earthwise Produce Creates Farm for Denton Community Market in Subdivision

Earthwise Produce is currently preparing the soil at a vacant lot between two homes as a future urban farm or garden for produce to be sold at the Denton Community Market.

I was attending a Board meeting of the Denton Community Market, and Ryan Crocker of Earthwise Produce, a current vendor, was talking about his difficulties in finding a vacant lot in Denton for growing local produce. After thinking about it a few minutes, I realized that a vacant lot that I own in my subdivision next to my house could be the perfect spot.

The property is about 1/4th of an acre and has not had any application of chemicals since at least 1995. Ryan plans on producing chemical-free salad greens and other produce this fall to sell at the Market. This will be the most local produce that the Market will have, being a "farm" within the Denton City limits.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

DFW Solar House Tour: Denton, Texas Home

I visited one home on the North Texas Renewable Energy Group's DFW Solar Home Tour. After hearing about their home about 1 year ago, I was pleased to be able to visit the Soph Residence in Denton, Texas.

Their system, installed by North Texas Renewable Energy, is directly tied into the energy grid, without the use of storage batteries. In fact, if there is ever a power outage, the Sophs or Denton Municipal Electric (DME) must shut off their system to avoid injury to workers restoring the power. A meter shows how much energy they are generating or sending back to the grid at any time.

Denton Municipal Electric created the GreenSense Program and a $15,000 rebate for future solar installations as a result of the Soph House. Over time, the Sophs hope other residents will take advantage of these incentives and provide a home-grown source of renewable energy. Since DME gets 40% of the electricity from wind energy, the Sophs have a nearly zero impact on the environment from their home energy use.

For lower-cost solutions, they suggest purchasing energy-star appliances and installing a timer on the whole-house water heater to reduce the time that the heater is utilizing energy.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cascadian Farm® Instructions on Canning

If you have fresh vegetables and fruits from your early fall garden (hopefully chemical-free) or farmers market, here is a useful blog post on the basic steps to canning.

Cascadian Farm® Step-By-Step Canning Basics.

Photo: September Day at the Denton Community Market

Saturday, September 18, 2010

No Impact Week: The Green Lifestyle Challenge

What's Your Tree, created by Julia Butterfly Hill, has organized a No Impact Week based upon the No Impact Project. On a conference call with Julia, she discussed the importance of really thinking about what one really needs in life. As we get rid of items and aspects of our lives that we don't need, we make rooms for new things in our life. This concept can apply to anything that we buy. Though it's not possible to have "no impact," we can strive to have less of an impact on the environment and be mindful of what we use and purchase.

The No Impact Week for What's Your Tree is from September 19th to September 25th, 2010.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sustainability Plans: Greening Entire Cities

I am very excited about the current trends in urban planning. Many cities across the United States are creating plans to promote energy efficiency, sustainable practices at the local government level, and sustainability in the private sector as well. Only a limited number of cities had sustainability plans prior to this, with some setting city-wide goals or reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Cities are now striving to overlay their comprehensive plans with these new sustainability goals. The implementation of these plans are in the initial stages and there is a great opportunity to make significant gains in green practices, green buildings, energy reduction, reuse of materials, environmental goals, and economic viability in the new economy. ICLEI is one organization promoting standards and training in this field. There are many other organizations as well, including ISO, USGBC (US Green Building Council), the American Planning Association, and others.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Go Organic, Go Co-op

I recently joined an organic produce co-op. Every two weeks, I receive a large box of fruits and vegetables, some from a local organic farm and other items from an organic produce distributor. It's a great way to meet people also interested in organic food and the environment as well as save money on your grocery bill. I still shop at the local health food store for other items, but it's fun to see what will be in my "goodie box" with every co-op shipment.

I had to pay a membership fee, and I do not get to choose what I get each order. Each co-op is different, however, so check on membership fees and rules.

Here are some website links to find co-ops near you.

Local Harvest

Coop Directory Service

Organic Consumers Association Food Coops and Health Food Stores

Friday, May 1, 2009

Live Green and Save Money: Coupons and Other Saving Ideas

In these economic times, most people are trying to find ways to save money. It is also possible to live "green" on a budget as well.

I generally buy organic and natural foods as well as biodegradable and recycled-material household products. These are some strategies I have used to save money and live green:

1. Watch for coupons in newspaper inserts as well as other sources, such as health food store flyers and advertisements.
2. Contact companies of your favorite organic food, natural food, or green product. Most companies have email "contact us" links that can be used to request coupons or discounts. Make sure you include your name and address with inquiries.
3. Buy in bulk when products are on sale, at health food stores or even grocery stores that have health food or natural products.
4. Green products from are available at deep discounts and in bulk.
5.Check out this Organic and Natural Foods blog for a list of organic grocery companies with online coupons as well as contact information.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Find Green Living Books on Library Thing

I just started using the website Library Thing to catalog my personal library as well as leave reviews for books. As with blogs, members can tag books in their library.

This site is a good way to find new books on green living, healthy homes, and the environment as well as read reviews by its members. Do a search of "tags" for any topic that interests you.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Minimize Mold Exposure in Your Home

From personal experience, I believe many people do not often understand the potential health effects of mold. Not only can mold cause allergic reactions in many individuals, but also the mytoxins produced by mold can cause immune system dysfunction and serious neurological problems.

There have been many recent cases of sick buildings with "black mold" as well as other types of mold that thrive on wet drywall and other materials. Severe mold contamination may require a mold remediation company to clean up the property and remove mold. In some cases, the property may be uninhabitable.

On a daily basis, however, there are some basic steps to avoid mold in your home:

1. Immediately address any leaks, no matter how small, in your roof, bathrooms, kitchens, or any other part of the home. Replace any drywall or wood that shows signs of mold.

2. If you have a central ventilation system, have the vents cleaned periodically (I have them cleaned about every 3 years) to remove any mold-spores as well as dust and particulate build-up.

3. In humid climates, use a dehumidifier, especially in basements.

4. Use vents in bathrooms or other areas where there is regular moisture.

5. Use bathroom squeegees after each shower to remove excess water from the shower stall to prevent mildew.

6. Make sure water drains away from the house at least several feet during rainstorms. A properly installed gutter system will help prevent standing water from accumulating around the foundation.

7. Opt for smooth floor surfaces, such as tile, rather than carpeting that can accumulate mold spores.

8. Use HEPA air filters in your home.

Some useful links:

American Environmental Health Foundation article

Common Molds in Home, Office, or School article by American Environmental Health Foundation

EPA links on Mold

Thursday, May 8, 2008

New Basic Book on Green Living: Green Chic

Green Chic: Saving the Earth in Style is an easy-to-read guide for people who want to start living green without sacrificing their quality of life or personal style.

Christie Matheson, a food and fashion critic, writes this green guide for the masses because she believes everyone needs to take steps to save the planet. She is concerned about carbon dioxide levels, general pollution, and the waste of valuable natural resources.

She begins the book with relatively easy steps the reader can take to start living green, from taking shorter showers to replacing bottled water with refillable, stainless steel containers. She advocates that everyone replace items as needed, rather than running out and immediately replacing everything with green items.

She offers seven other detailed chapters on green homes, food, beauty products, fashion, daily transportation, occasions and holidays, as well as the "big green things" to do. She also includes an appendix of her favorite green things. Each chapter is a very good introduction to taking steps in every aspect of the the reader's life. She advocates using natural cleaning products, opting for organic clothing, driving the speed limit to save gas, as well as other smart tips for green living.

A few links from her favorite green things appendix are:

Gomi NYC: an ecofriendly boutique in New York City

Stewart and Brown: eco-friendly clothes

White Dog: cafe in Philadelphia prepares food with sustainable ingredients

This book is definitely a great addition to any library on green living.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Green Living Getting a lot of Attention for Earth Day: NBC on toxic living test and NY Times on Green Living

Green living is in the news more than ever before tomorrow's upcoming Earth Day. Over the weekend, the New York Times Magazine featured a Green Issue . The issue focused on steps everyone can take to reduce their carbon footprints. Solar energy, walking, green building, and organic clothing were among the topics discussed.

Also Dateline NBC compared toxins in two families, one living green and one that does not. Both families took a body burdern blood test. Both families had over 40 chemicals out of 76 tested, but the levels were different for each family.

The non-green did not do well in terms of levels of chemicals for daily products: PFCs from cookware were very high in the non-green family (3X), parabens from body products (4X) in the women, phthalates from plastics very high in the boys of the non-green family, and triclosan (anti-bacterial) was much higher for the non-green family as a whole.

The green family did not do well in two catogories: bisphenol A (metal cans and baby items) as well as lead. It was higher in the parents, possibly from their childhoods.

Links for further information on product ingredients:

toxic ingredients links from Dateline