Monthly Archive for March, 2009

How to make rain barrels

I recently did a public presentation on rain barrels at an environmental education event sponsored by North Richland Hills.


Instructions (revised 5/31/09)

Parts list (revised 5/31/09)

Here’s a video of an alternative design that is simpler. I like the design except that I find the overflow a bit obtrusive without the elbow.

And a video of a third design. Few details given, but the overall picture is instructive.

University calls for lights out, March 28

The university administration is calling for students, faculty, and staff to participate in Earth Hour. The announcement included in today’s issue of UT Arlington Today says: “Simply switch off your lights for one hour, from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday March 28, and join the world for Earth Hour. The event began in Sydney in 2007, where 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. In 2008, the message grew to a global movement. In 2009, Earth Hour is being taken to the next level, with the goal of 1 billion people switching off their lights as part of a global vote.”

Earth Hour web page

Lecture on ocean acidification, March 27

Dr. Richard Zeebe, who is from the Department of Oceanography at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, will discuss ocean acidification targets, based on carbon cycle modeling efforts, at noon Friday, March 27, in Room 100 of the Geosciences Building. 500 Yates St. Global warming is in the news daily, but there is less awareness that the oceans have absorbed 40 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted by humans over the past two centuries. Moreover, ocean acidification is accelerating and expected to have detrimental consequences for a variety of marine organisms. If fluctuations of ocean chemistry beyond certain threshold values are to be avoided in the future, specific CO2 emission targets will be required. The presentation, which is free and open to the public, is part of the Frontiers in Science series of informal presentations on popular science topics sponsored by the College of Science. Brown bag lunches are welcome, and cookies and soft drinks will be provided. Call 817-272-3491 for more information.

The Big Event, April 11

The university’s annual Big Event, a “day of community service and outreach [involving]students, administrators, faculty and staff in an effort to engage and mobilize volunteers throughout the community,” includes opportunities for planting, mulching, and picking up litter.

Sign-up and further info

Lecture on American environmental history, March 27

The Friends of the UT Arlington Library will host Dr. Jeff Crane as their guest speaker on Friday, March 27, 2009 at 7:30 p.m.  The program will be held in the 6th floor Central Library Parlor. 

Crane joined the faculty of Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, in fall 2006 and is currently an assistant professor of history.  He earned his Ph.D. in history from Washington State University in 2004.  His research and writings focus on western and environmental history.

Crane will be discussing the book he and Michael Egan edited entitled Natural Protest:  Essays in American Environmental History, published by Routledge Press in November 2008.  The book presents a cutting-edge perspective on American environmentalism and environmental history.  It is the first collection of original essays to offer a cohesive social and political examination of environmental awareness, activism, and justice throughout U. S. history.  Copies of the book will be available for sale during the reception following Crane’s presentation to the Friends.       

The Central Library is located at 702 Planetarium Place.  If you need a special accommodation to fully participate in this program, please contact Betty Wood at or 817-272-7421.

The Friends’ meeting is open to the public at no charge.  Please RSVP by March 26. For questions or to RSVP, contact Betty Wood at 817-272-7421 or

Tour of Colleyville Eco House, March 28

UTA’s Student Planning Association (SPA) has organized a tour of the Colleyville Eco House for this Saturday

SPA members AND non-members WELCOME.

The group will meet on campus and carpool to the Eco House.  Please arrive at the Davis Hall parking lot by 10:15a.m. on Saturday.  The tour will last 30-45 minutes, and we should be back at UTA by 1:00p.m.

The Colleyville Eco House started construction in May, 2008. This luxury home is another project by award-winning architect William Peck, (William Peck & Associates) and award-winning builder Chris Miles (GreenCraft Builders LLC).

The house is a demonstration project for the US Department of Energy’s “Building America” program to encourage homeowners and builders to live and build in a more fiscally and environmentally sensible manner. The Building Science Consortium has included this home as one of their national projects for 2008. Additional certifications will include:

  • Dallas HBA Green Built North Texas
  • NAHB Green
  • Energy Star

This is the last weekend the house will be open to the public!

More information about the Colleyville Eco House

For more information about the  tour and carpooling, contact Brooke Kapur

More information about SPA

Recyclemania The Final Week

This is the final week for Recyclemania and we need everyone to make that extra push to put the right item in the right container.  The month of February, being a short month, we recycled 73,040 lbs. or a little over 36 tons of material.  We have 292 schools participating in our division and we rank 221.  We are above UNT at 252 and UT San Antonio at 270.  We need to send out kudos to two schools “taking it out of the ballpark”.  UT Medical Branch in Galveston is ranked 19 and UT Dallas is ranked 32.  The final results will be out April 17. 

Springtime is time to ‘Step-Up’!

Hello friends,

How are you? Spring Break is over.. but spring-time has just begun… it is time for ideas, action and challenges. The Environmental Society at UTA calls for volunteers to participate in a campus-wide student initiative: Project ‘Step-Up’.

Keeping in tune with the efforts of the President’s Sustainability Committee, this project is aimed at three parallel benefits obtained by choosing the stairs over the elevator: getting fit with every step we take, reducing electricity costs for UTA (and thus saving money for students, staff and faculty), and reducing carbon footprint of the university. So, let us take one step, upwards and ahead, towards making our campus more sustainable.

In Project ‘Step-Up’, volunteers will identify a group of buildings with high elevator traffic, determine the average electricity consumption due to the elevators and compute carbon dioxide emissions corresponding to that level. The team will also compute the number of calories spent per an equivalent trip on the stairs for the average person.

The team will then design promotional material comprising results from these calculations, appealing to everyone on campus (including visitors) to choose the stairs over the elevators, whenever possible. Most importantly, this is an opportunity to have fun getting fit easily, conserving the resources of our Earth, and adapting to a changing economy by making smart lifestyle choices as individuals, as teams, as a university, and as a nation.

[All comments, ideas, suggestions and criticism welcome at ]

Vinodh Valluri

Grad student and resident contests plan for new parking lot

I post the following letter with the author’s permission.

From: Monica Drake []
Sent: Thursday, March 19, 2009 9:03 AM
To: Howard, Jeff L
Subject: New Parking Lots

Dear Dr. Howard,

My name is Monica Drake and I am a doctoral candidate at UTA and a resident in the immediate University community. I live on S. West Street, which is nearly completely surrounded by UTA. This week completely by accident, we discovered that UTA intends to build a parking lot six feet from our property (location Bessel and S. West Street). We successfully fought this project in 2005 and had been publically assured by John Hall that the University had no intention of re-instating the project. The Master Plan also makes it clear that the area is to remain green. According to Mr. Hall, the lot is necessary to accommodate traffic from the easternmost area of campus (Center) even though the two southern lots most recently constructed enjoy only partial use (i.e. 10-15 cars at any given time). The proposed lot itself runs counter to the stated Master Plan and the open letter Mr. Spaniolo wrote to accompany the public unveiling of the 2020 Master Plan, which states UTA will preserve green space and build parking structures instead of additional lots.

A member of the Arlington Conservation Council suggested I ask the Sustainability Council to weigh in on this issue in an effort to initiate community discussion and spur student involvement. We are fundamentally opposed to the construction on the grounds that it will increase the urban heat pools, increase flooding into Traders’ and ultimately Johnson Creek, that 75+ year old trees (and nesting grounds) will be destroyed, and that students should be encouraged to ride the shuttle–simply put few students will park in the new lot and walk to Center.

Thanks for your time and I look forward to working with you to involve the students and community in what should be a public decision and not a private decision made by Mr. Hall. We believe steadfastly that when the facts are considered, the public and students will decide against building this unnecessary and environmentally dangerous parking lot.

Best Regards,

Monica Drake

Shorthorn story, April 2

HR 2174 and HB 3424

Representative Vicki Truitt has introduced several bills in Austin designed to eliminate/reduce one of the single biggest sources of our poor air quality: the dirty (wet) cement manufacturing process. The dirty (wet) cement kilns of Midlothian burn toxic waste and send the pollution to us via southerly winds (yum!).

There are two pieces of proposed legislation that need your help to get out of committee. The contact information of the key committee members is listed here. You can check the content of the legislation by clicking here and typing in HR 2174 and/or HB 3424.

Give these people a call. They need to hear from you.

Kelly Hancock (512) 463-0599
Ft. Worth (817) 590-9280

Marc Veasey (817) 590-9280
Ft. Worth (512) 463-0716

Jim Dunham (512) 463-0508
Waco (254) 753-8546
(Clinton is leg. aid)

Todd Smith (512) 463-0522
Bedford (817) 283-3131

Linda Harper Brown (512) 463-0641
Irving (972) 401-8825

Yvonne Davis (512) 463-0598
Dallas (214) 941-3895

Wayne Smith (512) 463-0733
Baytown (832) 556-2002