Leaving Green Footprints: Texas

Sorry for the lapse in posting! It’s been a busy time up in Colorado, getting some much needed work done on Turtle and taking care of mundane necessities such as license plate renewals. Green Footprints is currently on a brief hiatus to finish out fundraising so that the project can be finished out for the 13 remaining states. Check out the latest blog below to catch up with the project!

Everything is definitely bigger in Texas.

Wide open spaces in every direction, as far as the eye can see, for hundreds of miles at a time. Just a little ways over the border from Louisiana I came into a massive city with towering buildings and gridlocked traffic: Houston. Just west of the city I was meeting with Mrs. Hess’s Environmental Science students at Waller High School. Although the campus was undergoing quite a bit of construction, they did have a greenhouse that was perfect for getting the fifty Longleaf Pine seedlings a couple year’s head start of growth. We planted each seedling in its own pot, arranged with the school’s other plants in the irrigated and regulated greenhouse. In a few years, the dusty brown dirt around the campus will be transformed by these little trees!

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My next stop was Austin, Texas (which I’ve been told is NOT my namesake, it just happens to be the same name… spelled different, after all). I’ve always heard how outdoorsy, progressive and fun the city is, but I hIMG_7989ad my doubts; this was Texas, after all. I’m happy to say that these descriptions don’t even do it justice. With miles of trails through the thickly forested valley running through the city, parks dotting the landscape every couple of miles and innumerable spring-fed swimming holes, it was reminiscent of other go-to outdoor meccas like Asheville and Boulder. Lady Bird lake was jam-packed with kayakers and SUPer’s in the blazing sunshine, and runners of every shape and size crisscrossed the trails through the parks and city. As it turns out, Austin also boasts one of the largest bat colonies in North America. Every night around sunset, tens of thousands of them fly out from their roost under the Congress Avenue Bridge, a living, undulating tunnel of fur and leathery wings zooming through the air in their nightly feeding frenzy. It was quite a sight to behold.

The human impact on Texas’ ecology is one of the more odd and fascinating situations in the country. With enormous swaths of arid scrubland, much of the state has been historically used for cattle ranching; today, some of that grazing land has been utilized for more exotic fauna. Texas boasts a larger population of privately-owned captive tigers than all other tigers anywhere else on earth—combined. Additionally, for various uses including consumption, fenced hunting operations and attractions, species from all over the world can be seen throughout the state. As I motored along the highway, I passed everything from standard cattle to wildebeest to impala to zebras. It brought back memories of studying wildlife management practices in the Rift Valley in Tanzania as an undergraduate.

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Over the next couple days I made my way up through New Mexico and Colorado, heading for Boulder, where Turtle’s tags were due to expire in a few weeks and needed to be renewed. With giant gashes in the exhaust manifold, the pesky #3 cylinder down to 60 psi and needing new rings, and crap in the gas tank periodically jamming the fuel pump and stalling out the van, it was time for some serious TLC. For the last few weeks I’ve been up in Boulder tinkering, running, and brainstorming on how to raise the remaining $1,800 to finish out Green Footprints and spread the message of sustainability all over the country. I’d love to hear from everyone! Please feel free to comment below or on our Facebook page.

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This week I challenge you to pick one errand that is within a few miles from your home and rather than driving, walk or bike. This may sound a little hypocritical coming from a project that involves driving between states, but I do my utmost best to minimize my driving whenever possible, whether that means walking to the grocery store a few miles away or running around to explore whatever new surroundings I find myself in that day. So whether it’s a trip to the bank, a quick jaunt to the store for some milk, or a get-together with friends, find one that you can travel on foot or bike. The more you get into this habit, the more you’ll realize how nice it is to get outside and turn your errands into a nice small heart-rate-increasing break from your busy day! Wishing everyone a happy and green May! (As the snow comes down in a thick blanket outside my window right now in Boulder… but that’s Colorado for you, after all.)

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