“Water for All” matters world wide – we can do our part in Waco too!

By Melissa Mullins

The theme for this year’s World Water Day (celebrated annually on March 22) is  Water for All .      What does this mean?  Access to clean water and sanitation is a basic human right and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 establishes 2030 as a target for achieving this (which is right around the corner). 2.1 billion people live without safe water at home.   In many parts of the world, people cannot simply turn on the faucet and have water come out.  If water is not supplied to households or easily accessible central locations, how do people get water?  Securing the family’s basic water needs daily often falls mainly to women and girls, and can take up such a large amount of time that it affects their ability to obtain education or thrive in other ways.  Similarly, many people cannot simply flush their toilets to dispose of human wastes.  On a global scale, more than 700 children under 5 die each day from diarrhea related to unsafe water and sanitation

Here in the U.S., communities struggle with issues such as lead-contamination of drinking water – we’ve all heard of the on-going struggles in Flint, Michigan.  But getting concerned about  Water for All on a global scale for may be difficult because, after all, we can turn on a faucet and flush a toilet pretty much anywhere we go.  What about water issues closer to home?

Water for people can be water for fish and wildlife too, although there may be competing demands for water.  Balancing these demands to try to ensure adequate water for all, especially in places subject to drought (sound familiar?) or water scarcity is one of the major things that natural resource and other public agencies deal with.  If you want to learn about, help protect, or just experience and enjoy our water resources in the Waco Community, there are so many opportunities do so and they are growing all the time!  Here’s a few suggestions:

Learn:  Where does your water comes from and how does it get to you?  Where does it go when you flush the toilet and how is it treated?  If you don’t know the answer to these questions (and it will be different depending on where you are in the Greater Waco area), I challenge you to figure it out!

Keep it Clean and Conserve:  Join Keep Waco Beautiful for the quarterly Brazos River Cleanup  coming up on April 13th, or for one of their rainwater harvesting classes.  Group W Bench litter patrol non-profit regularly plans clean-ups around our community.  Everyone’s probably seen the upsetting picture of the  sea turtle with the plastic straw up its nose .  Did you know that 80% of ocean pollution begins on land (including plastics, but also other pollution)?  That means that Whataburger cup and non-trash pollution that starts here in Waco can end up in the Gulf of Mexico (yes- Waco Creek flows to the Brazos River, and the Brazos River flows to the Gulf!)

Check yourself and ask local businesses and governments what they are doing:  Being a good steward of water means more than turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth or taking shorter showers.   Could we reduce the need for so many river clean-ups if we didn’t use disposable water bottles and straws in the first place?  Could we support businesses that provide better alternatives to the waste generated with our “convenience lifestyle”? 

Many people don’t realize that energy production is a major user of water in the U.S.  Can you carpool some places you don’t already or even walk?  Can you attend public meetings (such as have been occurring recently in Waco) regarding setting community-wide goals for transitioning to sustainable energy sources?  The City of Waco’s long-term goals include improved public transportation and improvements to our city’s walkability and bikability , but there’s still a lot of work to be done, and your voice and energy as a community member are valuable.

Enjoy our water resources:  Take a walk on the Waco Riverwalk that links Cameron Park, Downtown, and the Baylor campus, on both sides of the river (free!).  Or, get out on the water- did you know that we have not one but two Texas paddling trails in downtown Waco?  There are two paddling companies where you can rent canoes or kayaks, and for those with their own boats the Waco Paddle Club organizes outings on local water bodies.  There’s a pontoon boat tour that is fun for residents as well as Waco visitors. Want to head out to the lake?  You can purchase an annual pass from the US Army Corps of Engineers that gives you access to all the parks around Lake Waco.  Want your kids to be safe while at the lake?  The Corps offers water safety programs  designed to reduce water-related fatalities;  in addition to always wearing a life jacket, swimming lessons are one of the best things you can do to ensure your family’s safety around water, and swimming lessons are available through the YMCA of Central Texas (including financial assistance).  Take your dogs on a hike or practice your nature photography or birdwatching skills at the beautiful Lake Waco Wetlands – or join Cameron Park Zoo staff for National Frog Month to explore and search for frogs at the Wetlands every weekend in April

Celebrate: There are many community events that are affordable or free and have water-related connections.  Of course, Act Locally Waco keeps us up to date on all the happenings.  Keep the “Water for All” celebration going throughout the year!

Melissa Mullins is a water educator who works at Baylor University’s Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research.  The Center celebrated World Water Day by facilitating citizen science water quality testing  in after-school science clubs, at the Mayborn Museum and at Girl Scouts of Central Texas STEMfest.

Sustainability and Social Justice: Why is Being Green So White?

By Melissa Mullins

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has become a day of service in many communities (including Waco), and this year I find myself reflecting on sustainability and issues of social justice.  I’m thinking specifically about  inclusivity and representation in environmental movements.  I’m too young to remember the civil rights movement, but old enough to remember being part of the letter-writing campaign at my public school to ask congress to make MLK Day a national holiday.  It’s natural to wonder at this time of year how far have we come, and how far do we still have to go, in relation to Dr. King’s dream of inclusivity.

Another thing that’s gotten me thinking about this issue is some reading I’ve been doing.  Last spring, I had the great pleasure of participating in a class at Truett Seminary  on the novels, poetry, and essays of Wendell Berry.  Berry has cult-like status as a spiritual farmer, environmentalist, social commentator and I had read some of his works prior to the class (he is, after all, from the same Kentucky county as my grandfather).  But, in addition to Berry, we also read an essay by  bell hooks.  I recognized hooks as a feminist writer (also a Kentuckian) but had never considered her in the context of environmental issues.  The essay made me want to read her 2009 book , Belonging:  A Culture of Place.  Next month, I’m attending the annual conference of the Informal Science Education Association of Texas  in Rockport, TX. The keynote speaker is Dr. Carolyn Finney.  Conference attendees are encouraged to read her book  “Black Faces, White Spaces:  Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors”  (2014) so they can participate in a book discussion with the author.  And I’m slowly (this one is very scholarly and not for the faint of heart) working my way through “The Rise of the American Conservation Movement:  Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection  by Dr. Dorceta E. Taylor

What have I learned from all this reading? Like everything else in our society, gender, race and class matter when it comes to environmentalism, conservation, land ownership, relationship to nature and the great outdoors — but it’s complicated and what we think we know isn’t always true. Poor communities are disproportionately affected by the negative consequences of poor environmental practices, but often have the least voice in environmental decisions made about their own communities. Marginalized people have been instrumental in environmental issues, but their contributions have often been ignored.

The final thing, and maybe the most important, that got me to thinking about this is that I went to the meeting of the Sustainable Resource Practices Advisory Board  this week.  I went for the same reason as pretty much everyone else there–because the Board was considering whether to advise the Waco City Council to adopt a resolution pledging to a goal of 100% green energy sources for City energy use by 2025 and renewable energy in all sectors by 2050. I found the meeting to be both hopeful and frustrating for a variety of reasons (that’s another story, one I’ll continue to follow,  you can read about it yourself in the Trib).  I also noticed that of the ten or so people sitting around the Board table and maybe another 50 in the room, there were definitely people of color, but only a handful. It made me reflect on the diversity (or lack thereof) of other environmental and conservation groups I am involved with or interact with in Waco – Master Naturalists, Master Gardeners, Audubon, etc. In other words, representation and inclusivity in the environmental movement isn’t just an issue in books, or in other places… 

Sustainability is often considered to rest on three main pillars: environmental, economic and social (planet, profit, people). We must move Beyond Recycling:  Reframing Sustainability as a Social Justice Issue and consider that sustainability is not just about picking up trash on MLK day (though I love doing that and it is kind of addictive). I’m generally not comfortable with white people asking why people of color do, or don’t do, some particular thing, but when diverse voices are not included or heard in our discussions of sustainability, this leaves out valuable perspectives that can strengthen decision-making. It is up to all of us to challenge the status quo and move the needle forward on critical issues such as climate change. For our efforts to be successful we must include consideration of topics that might be lacking from a traditional approach to sustainability – such as race and gender inequality, food insecurity, homelessness, and others.

Melissa Mullins is a Kentuckian who, as of next year, will have lived in Waco half her life.  She is an aquatic scientist and environmental educator and co-author of the paper Social and Environmental Justice in the Chemistry Classroom  (Lasker, et al. J. Chem. Educ., 2017, 94 (8), pp 983–987). 

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.

Sustainable Waco: Happy America Recycles Day!

By Anna Dunbar

America Recycles Day (ARD) has its 21st anniversary this year. What many don’t know is that ARD has its roots in Texas, central Texas in fact. Texas Recycles Day began in 1994 as the idea of two Texas Commission on Environmental Quality employees, Kevin Tuerff and Valerie Davis. I met them while I was at the agency and have always been impressed with their creativity. They came up with the concept of designating a day to promote recycling in Texas, but then of course they had to wrestle with the question of what day. They wanted a day that was far enough away from Earth Day (April 22nd), but they did not want it to get mixed up in all the media in the run up to Election Day.  They picked November 15th .

Eventually, Texas Recycles Day was transformed into America Recycles Day. The first national America Recycles Day was held November 15th, 1997 and it has been celebrated annually ever since.

What about America Recycles Day in Waco? There is a lot of energy behind recycling in Waco because our Waco Landfill is running out of space for trash. If you want to recycle in and around Waco, here’s what you can do:

Do you want to get started recycling in your home?  First, Waco residents should note that up to 2 blue carts for curbside recycling and 1 green yard waste cart are available for no extra fee. Please call (254) 299-2612 with questions or to request a blue or green cart on Monday through Friday from 8 AM until 5 PM.  Para informacion en Espanol: (254) 299-2612.  You can also go to the City of Waco Recycling Service Website and complete a request form.  On the website you will find information about the recycling program including a calendar with “blue cart weeks” and “green cart weeks”.  You can also request a printed calendar be mailed to you.

Visit the Cobbs Convenience Center to recycle! Anyone from anywhere can bring the following items at no charge regardless of residency.   Please rinse items which have contained food or drink.

  • Plastics #1 – #7, all colors. We cannot accept Styrofoam.
  • Glass bottles and jars, clear, brown, blue and green.
  • Metal, including steel or “tin” cans, aluminum cans, and aluminum pie plates.
  • Paper, such as magazines, phone books, cardboard, junk mail, printer paper, envelopes with windows and stapled paper.
  • Cooking oil (liquid only, please no solid grease)
  • Household batteries

Waco residents can also recycle big items (such as scrap tires, appliances with Freon and electronics) at Cobbs. Some items may have a fee.

Become a part of the “blue bucket brigade!” – Mission Waco is asking the public to donate food waste for composting and is making buckets available for the process. One can obtain a blue bucket at the greenhouse, located on the corner of North 15th Street and Colcord Avenue, next to Jubilee Food Market. Instructions and sawdust are available to help you with diversion of your organics for composting.

Do you plan to fry a turkey for the holidays? Small quantities of cooking oil can be mixed with kitty litter, doubled bagged, and placed in your trash cart. Please do not pour cooking oil or grease down the drain; it can clog pipes and the City’s sewer system. You can properly dispose of the cooking oil or grease at 5 stations located around the city; go to Waco-texas.com or call 254-299-2612.

Recycle your live Christmas tree at the Chipping of the Green on January 6 at Paul Tyson field from 10 AM until 3 PM. Keep Waco Beautiful partners with City of Waco Parks and Recreation to turn your tree into mulch. See Keep Waco Beautiful’s Facebook page to learn more.

Replace your alkaline batteries with rechargeable ones. Newer models can charge in as little as 15 minutes! It saves you money and helps the environment at the same time.

Instead of disposable plates and utensils, serve food on real dishware. Get those dishes out and use them! Your mom and grandma will be so proud! Also, prevent food waste: Ask friends to bring containers for leftovers or get that blue bucket from Mission Waco!

Electronics and appliances: Waco residents can take electronics and appliances to the Cobbs Recycling Center with proof of residency. There will be a fee for appliances containing Freon. If you are not a Waco resident, you can take appliances without Freon to one of Waco’s metal recyclers. Appliances with Freon can be taken to the Waco landfill; again there will be a fee. Many electronics (except TV’s) can go to Goodwill. Best Buy accepts electronics for recycling; Best Buy will charge a fee.

Why all of this discussion of recycling during the holidays, you might wonder. It’s because Americans produce more trash during the holidays than any other time of year! It’s estimated to be 25% more. Between the wrapping paper, disposable plates and cups, Christmas advertisements and cards, and plastic shopping bags – it’s hard to keep track of everything we dispose of during those busy months. And, we pile it all in a bag, tie the bag, and put it in the grey cart to be set out and “disappear” forever.  But, it doesn’t really disappear, does it?  With some effort, we can all do a better job of recycling. The future generations will thank us!

Anna Dunbar is the Environmental Programs Manager for the City of Waco Public Works Department. She has been working with the City of Waco since August, 2012. Anna has a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science from the University of Texas at Dallas.  She and her husband live in Woodway, where she recycles as much as she can! She is also active in the Central Texas Audubon Society and Waco Rotary.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.



Sustainable Waco: Growing Green

By Melissa Mullins

Anyone who’s been around Waco for very long has no doubt noticed the remarkable growth and development occurring, with everything from home construction to hotel revenue on the rise.  All the new construction I see around me daily got me to wondering:  how do cities around Texas and around the country encourage “green” infrastructure and what’s planned for Waco?

Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is loosely defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability to meet future needs.  It is often discussed in terms of the ubiquitous “three-legged stool” metaphor with strong economic, environmental and social legs (people, planet, profit) all required if you don’t want a wobbly stool.  Since my background is in biology (and not economics or social sciences), I wonder most about interactions of the natural and the built environment when communities grow.

In my neighborhood and around Texas

So, for instance, as the city block (pictured) that I pass by daily was converted from older houses to a new shopping center this year, what changes will take place in terms of water movement, soil, and plants?  How can we capitalize on the new structures that are in place (such as rooftops)?  Waco has lots of great outdoor green spaces- but are there things we can do to promote linkages and greenbelts in our community?  I don’t claim to know the answers to these questions, but I do think we all should be a part of the conversation.  And it’s a conversation that is not unique to Waco.  About 85% of Texans currently live in urban areas, and the population of Texas’ cities is expected to double in the next 40 years, with metropolitan counties (including ours) accounting for nearly all the growth that will occur in the state.

Waco City Plan

There is certainly no shortage of information on the internet about “greening cities” around the country and around the world.  Closer to home, The Waco City Council adopted the City Plan, Waco Comprehensive Plan 2040 a couple of years ago, and this plan discusses specifics for Waco related to economic development, growth management, transportation, community livability and the environment.  In addition to outlining broad goals and objectives for Waco, specific implementation strategies are identified related to sustainable growth.  For instance, City Ordinances could be adopted such as a parkland ordinance that would require developers to contribute to construction of parks, and creek beds could be developed as linear parks that could link neighborhoods to the Brazos River Corridor.  There are recommendations to adopt stormwater utility fees that would encourage green infrastructure.  The section of the plan on the Environment contains implementation strategies aimed at reducing impervious cover, conserving water, and encouraging sustainable planting practices using native plants.  Some of the most exciting implementation strategies are related to energy and encourage considering the adoption of a green building code, promoting the use of solar power in residential, commercial, and industrial development, and taking specific actions to decrease the urban heat island effect.

What can I do?

A city plan is only a starting point of course, and only as good as the action that comes from it.  There are other entities besides government (such as non-profits) that play an integral part in advocating for all three legs of sustainable growth in Waco and surrounding communities.  How can interested citizens be involved?  We are often given lists of individual actions we can take that are sustainable (recycling, taking our own bags to the grocery store, etc.) and while these are all great ideas, our real strength and ability to promote sustainability is as a community, which is more than a loose affiliation of individuals doing their own “green” thing.  So maybe for me that means forcing myself to go to public meetings (though I hate them) where issues I care about are on the agenda.  What does it mean for you?  Some places to look for inspiration might include:  Keep Waco Beautiful, the Waco Sustainable Resource Practices Advisory Board, Sustainable Waco Facebook group, Heart of Texas Master Naturalists, McLennan County Master Gardeners – feel free to share others you know about in the comments section!

Melissa Mullins coordinates water education and outreach at Baylor’s Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research.  She’s lived in various neighborhoods in Waco and McLennan Co over the last 25 years, loves spending time outside, and is a library patron.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.



Sustainable Waco: 10 Steps to Renew Your Commitment to Recycling

By Anna Dunbar

  1. Half is better than none.

You may be new to Waco curbside recycling. Start with paper and plastic water, soda, and juice bottles!  Once you establish a habit, start adding other recyclables such as shampoo and detergent bottles, flattened cardboard, magazines, and aluminum and tin cans.

  1. You can recycle glass in Waco.

Glass bottles and jars (as well as other recyclables) can be taken to the Cobbs Citizen Convenience Center (Recycling Center) by anyone, regardless of residency. The center is open on Tuesday – Saturday from 8 AM until 5 PM.

  1. Look beyond the daily paper.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, paper and cardboard are America’s most recycled materials by weight. The Waco curbside recycling program and Cobbs Recycling Center accept newspaper, corrugated cardboard, cereal and tissue boxes, mail, catalogues, and phone books. The Cobbs Recycling Center accepts those items from anyone, no matter their place of residency.

  1. Close the Loop

The recycling process doesn’t stop at the Waco blue curbside cart! After materials are processed and back on the shelf as new items, it is up to you to buy recycled products. Look for products and packaging with recycled content to do your part as a recycling-conscious consumer.

  1. Recycling: it’s not just in the kitchen.

Don’t trash your detergent and shampoo bottles!  Take a few extra steps to put your empty bottles in your blue Waco curbside recycling cart pr take them to the Cobbs Recycling Center.

  1. Know your limits.

Putting materials in your blue recycling cart that aren’t collected from curbside contaminates the recycling process. Items that are common mistakes in curbside recycling carts include Styrofoam, food contaminated cardboard, such as a pizza boxes, chip bags, ziplock bags, juice boxes, and straws. All of those items go into the grey trash cart.

  1. Answer the call to recycle your wireless phone!

More than 100 million cell phones retire each year to sit in our drawers or closets, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Do you have out-of-use mobile phones in your home? Consider donating them to a local charity or retail outlet that collects cell phones. Before you drop off your old cell phone, make sure that you have terminated your service contract for the phone and erased any data in the phone. Target Greatland has a drop-off box at the door closest to the pharmacy. The Waco Family Abuse Center accepts cell phones at its thrift store, Second Chance. And finally, the Cobbs Recycling Center accepts cell phones from Waco residents only.

  1. Recycling: don’t exclude your leaves and grass clippings!

Waco residents can request a green (yard waste) cart at no extra charge. The yard waste cart is collected every other week on your trash day. To request a cart go to waco-texas.com or call (254) 299-2612.

  1. Recycling: don’t exclude your food.

Start composting your food waste at home. If you aren’t quite ready for a compost bin or pile, consider tossing a few biodegradable items into your garden or window boxes instead of the trash. Egg shells and coffee grounds enrich soil and break down easily. Or you can join the “blue bucket brigade” associated with  Mission Waco’s Urban Renewable Energy & Agriculture Project.  If you would like to donate food waste, mainly plant material, for compost, you can pick up a blue bucket at Mission Waco’s Urban R.E.A.P at 1505 N. 15th Street.

  1. Spread the word.

Now that you’re an expert recycler, consider hosting an educational recycling event in your neighborhood. Keep Waco Beautiful (KWB) or Waco Solid Waste can help with educational materials and assistance. Contact KWB at (254) 723-5714 or Waco Solid Waste Services at (254) 299-2496.

Still have questions? Contact me at [email protected] or call Waco Solid Waste at (254) 299-2612.

Para informacion en Español: (254) 299-2612

Anna Dunbar is the Environmental Program Manager for the City of Waco Public Works. She is responsible for informing Waco residents and businesses about recycling and waste reduction opportunities as well as solid waste services in Waco. Her husband is a Baylor professor and her daughter is a Baylor University alum who works at Horizon Environmental Services, Inc. Anna is an active member of Keep Waco Beautiful and The Central Texas Audubon Society.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.


Got drugs? DEA take-back day offers a safe disposal option

By Anna Dunbar

Have you ever participated in a drug take-back program?  If not, what do you do with leftover medicines after you are over that awful head-cold or find some expired pain medicine?  I was shocked to learn that some folks think it is a good idea to flush unwanted or expired medicine or put them in their trash. When flushed, medicines can end up in our waterways and can ultimately travel to Texas’ coastal ecosystems. It is possible that all the chemicals in the flushed medicines are now in our waterways. Why is that? Because wastewater treatment plants, where the flushed stuff goes, do not remove chemicals; the plants remove organic waste.  So, the treated wastewater, which goes back out to the river may not be as safe and clean as we think. And, the wildlife that live in the water are now swimming in water that contains chemicals.

Obviously, flushing unwanted medications is not a good idea when much safer options are available for no cost.

This Saturday, April 28, residents will have an opportunity to clear their homes of expired or unused medications that drug enforcement officials say may pose a public health threat.

On April 28, 6 collection sites in Waco and surrounding cities will provide safe disposal of pills, tablets and capsules. There will also be two drive-by locations for easy disposal. One drive-by is at Fire Station #1 located at 100 Peach Street  in Waco and the second is at Waco-McLennan County Health District at 225 W. Waco Dive.  Both drive-by locations will have a peace officer present in the parking area to receive your items. Community members can drop off any controlled or over-the-counter medications anonymously, with no questions asked. Collection sites cannot accept needles and liquids.

What is accepted: Prescriptions/Over-the-counter medications, veterinary medications, vitamins, minerals and drug samples

What is NOT accepted: Oxygen Tanks, Needles or other sharps, Inhalers or thermometers, Nebulizers or IV bags

NEW Waco Drive-by locations (April 28, 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM)

  • Fire Station 1, 100 Peach Street
  • Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, 225 W Waco Dr.

Waco Drop-off location (Starting Friday morning,  April 27 and continuing through Monday morning , April 30)


Other locations (April 28, 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM)

  • HEWITT POLICE DEPARTMENT , 100 Patriot Court

What if you are not available on April 28?

Your best option is to check the extended hours of the Waco Police Department location. If that does not fit in your schedule, hold on to the medicines until the next drug take-back day, which will probably be in the fall of 2018. Another option would be to give your items to a trusted adult for proper disposal at the April 28 event.

Thank you for choosing to do the right thing!

Anna Dunbar is the Operations Administrator for the City of Waco Public Works. She is responsible for informing Waco residents and businesses about recycling and waste reduction opportunities as well as solid waste services in Waco. Her husband is a Baylor professor and her daughter is a graduate student at Baylor University. She is an active member of Keep Waco Beautiful and The Central Texas Audubon Society.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.


Sustainable Waco: World Water Day

by Melissa Mullins

Most people have heard of Earth Day, celebrated on April 22 each year and started in 1970 when millions of Americans demonstrated in protest against deterioration of the environment.  But not as many people are aware of World Water Day, celebrated on March 22 every year.  Every year you can find World Water Day information on worldwaterday.org , including the theme for the year.

This year’s theme is “The Answer is in Nature” and explores issues around how we can reduce floods, droughts, and pollution.  As stated on the website “damaged ecosystems affect the quantity and quality of water available for human consumption.  Today, 2.1 billion people live without safe drinking water at home; affecting their health, education, and livelihoods.”  Communities around the globe, including in Texas, host celebrations for World Water Day.

Don’t limit World Water Day to one day of the year!  Practice conservation and water-friendly living practices throughout the year in your daily life. There are many ways to conserve and protect water.  We’ve probably all heard about tips like fixing leaky faucets, or not over-watering or over-fertilizing our yards, or picking up pet wastes.  But what about “hidden” uses of water?  Baylor University’s Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research offers a monthly virtual classroom visit for schools, and on this month’s visit a student asked “what can I do to conserve water?”  And the CRASR scientist answered “turn off the lights!” –you may not think about it, but electricity generation is a HUGE water user!

In addition to observing water-friendly living practices in our personal lives, citizens can have a voice in decision-making around water issues in our community.  Water planning in Texas is coordinated through a state water planning process, and locally we are in the Brazos G Regional Water Planning Group which meets here in Waco at the Brazos River Authority offices.  Meetings are open to the public and there are opportunities to serve.  The City of Waco has the Sustainable Resource Practices Advisory Board, whose purpose is “to advise the City Council on the development and/or support of ecological and environmentally sound programs and policies within Waco”, which certainly includes water!

The Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research at Baylor University has often supported Citizen Science efforts for monitoring local water bodies by schools as part of the World Water Monitoring Challenge.  If you have ideas about events you’d like to see for World Water Day next year in Waco, let’s talk!

Melissa Mullins is an aquatic scientist who coordinates education and outreach at Baylor’s Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research.  She is a Baylor alum (M.S. Environmental Biology ’95) and is on the Board of the Informal Science Education Association of Texas which focuses on promoting science learning outside the classroom.  She loves goats and yoga and recently visited the Nile River in Uganda as part of a Baylor trip.  She believes that a vibrant scientific community that includes the public in its work is a fundamental underpinning of a democratic society.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.

On your way to 2018, don’t forget to recycle 2017!

By Anna Dunbar

Did you know Americans create 25% more trash during the holidays? All of the celebrations, with disposables, create more trash than usual.

This year, take a second out of your busy schedule, and put your gift-packing into your blue recycling cart.

1.  A Cardboard Reminder – It is important to remember that ALMOST ALL corrugated cardboard boxes are recyclable and should ALWAYS be placed at the curb with your blue recycling cart (not with your trash). It is helpful if you break-down boxes as flat as possible.  If you have too much recycling for your curbside cart, put the excess in one of the cardboard boxes!

DON’T FORGET…You can recycle:

  • Large Gift boxes (used for boxing clothing, etc.)
  • Small Gift boxes (used for boxing jewelry, etc.)
  • Any color packing boxes
  • Any color shipping boxes

Do NOT recycle boxes contaminated with food, such as delivery pizza.

2. Electronics – Did you get a new TV or computer and need to dispose of the old one? Take the television or other electronic item, along with your most recent Waco water bill, to the Cobbs Citizen Convenience Center (recycling center).

3. Live Christmas Tree – Don’t throw out your tree just yet! Keep Waco Beautiful has an awesome opportunity to recycle those lovely Christmas trees! Bring them out Saturday, January 6, 2018 from 10 AM – 3 PM to Paul Tyson Football Field and Keep Waco Beautiful, along with Waco Parks and Recreation, will mulch the trees for free! This service is for anyone, no matter where you live. You can also get a bag of mulch to take home with you. Waco residents can also take the tree to the Cobbs Citizen Convenience Center or leave it at the curb during green week.

4.  Need a second recycling cart? –  Waco residents can now have access to two blue curbside carts for no extra cost. Go to Waco-texas.com or call (254) 299-2612 to request a second recycling cart.

5. Glass Containers – Don’t forget that glass food or drink containers can be dropped off at the Cobbs Convenience Center for recycling by anyone, no matter where you live! Please do NOT put glass in your blue curbside recycling cart.

6. Got beautiful bags and bows??  – Have a bag swap with friends! It saves money and reuses a bag that has a lot of cheer left!

Thank you for all you do to Keep Waco Clean and Green!

Anna Dunbar is the Operations Administrator for the City of Waco Public Works. She is responsible for informing Waco residents and businesses about recycling and waste reduction opportunities as well as solid waste services in Waco. Her husband is a Baylor professor and her daughter is a graduate student at Baylor University. She is an active member of Keep Waco Beautiful and The Central Texas Audubon Society. If you would be interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco blog, please email [email protected] .  

What do water, public health, a police station and your medicine chest have in common?

By Melissa Mullins

So what do water, public health, a police station and your medicine chest have in common?  They are all  a part of National Prescription Drug Take-back Day.

There’s an epidemic in this country, and it’s killing people and ruining lives.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) drug overdose deaths in the U.S. have never been higher, and the majority of those involve opioids, including prescription opioids. It’s estimated that nearly half the people who misuse prescription opioid medications obtain them from friends and family members, and that there is a nationwide reservoir of such drugs in our medicine cabinets There are many facets to tackling this complex and critical issue, but you can play a part by ensuring proper disposal of all unused and expired medications in your medicine chest.

Additionally, about 60,000 young kids end up in emergency rooms in the US each year because they got into medicines when no one was looking.  Common over the counter medicines like aspirin, multi-vitamins or other pain relievers and even personal care products like diaper ointment are often culprits.  Keeping medicines up and away from kids is important but so is proper disposal of unused or unwanted medications, including over the counter (OTC) products.

And last but certainly not least, so called down the drain chemicals are part of what scientists, like Dr. Bryan Brooks at Baylor University, call “contaminants of emerging concern” (CEC’s).  When we take medicines, or use products on our bodies, some of it ends up washing down the drain or being flushed down the toilet.  Modern wastewater treatment plants, while true marvels that clean up a lot of nastiness from our water, are not designed to remove these CEC’s and may or may not (depending on the compound) do a good job of it.  What happens when these compounds make their way back to the river?  Researchers have shown that many common compounds can be detected in water and in fish tissue and can have a negative effects on organisms and ecosystems.

You may think you probably don’t have much- that’s what I thought too!  A few years ago, I went through my cabinet and removed all expired medications (OTC and prescription) for drug takeback day.  Here’s what I took to the police station:







OK OK you say- I am convinced to clean out the medicines in my cabinet!  Can I just throw them in the trash or flush them down the toilet?  Hopefully you now understand why flushing is a bad idea, but the landfill doesn’t want them either, which is why the City of Waco Solid Waste Services works to help divert them from the waste stream.

Anna Dunbar with the City of Waco shares this information from Spring 2017 regarding the amount of medications diverted from the waste stream during two events:  “the DEA reported that Waco PD had about 1,000 pounds (April 29 Drug Take-back event) and the City of Waco collected about 200 pounds during Household Hazardous Waste Day. Baylor PD had about 80 pounds (a good haul for their first time).  So, that is a lot of materials put into the right hands (the DEA) for safe disposal.”

The next National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day (includes over the counter medications) is coming this Saturday to a police station near you- see locations and times below:

Melissa Mullins coordinates education and outreach for the Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research at Baylor University where she enjoys engaging audiences of all ages around the important topic of water!

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.


How Do We Get There From Here?

By Lucas Land

How do we get there from here?

Not to spoil the rest of the article, but the answer is… together.

The two major party candidates for President have spent precious little time talking about the greatest threat faced by the United States, and the rest of humanity. It’s not ISIS, immigration, health care or the economy. Climate change and environmental degradation threaten the very existence of our species on this planet. The transition away from a fossil-fuel based economy involves rethinking many of the things we take for granted in modern society. There is so much work to do that it can often feel overwhelming and impossible.

That’s when I return to a favorite quote from Wendell Berry for solace:

“The question that must be addressed is not how to care for the planet, but how to care for each of the planet’s millions of human and natural neighborhoods, each of its millions of small pieces and parcels of land, each one of which is in some precious way different from all the others.” [1]

This is why I love local politics. It’s easy to get distracted and become polarized by our national politics. It’s much harder to do that when the issues are local and the debate is with our neighbors, friends, and co-workers. When you have to see each other in the grocery store, there is a greater incentive to find common ground and build relationships across many of the lines that divide us. It’s also harder to care about polar bears than the plants and animals in our own backyard, not to mention we have more control over the latter.

So often we fall into the trap that change only happens by creating an “us versus them” narrative. One side has to be the evil corporation or corrupt government and the other are the righteous, do-gooders who are on the right side of history. This tickles our lizard brains and makes us feel better about ourselves, but in the end it creates and/or perpetuates as many problems as it solves.

I do believe that there are times and places that require us to stand up to injustice and even protest actions that are evil. We should never forget that Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, and others believed non-violent civil disobedience worked, because of the inherent dignity and humanity of those they protested against.

I’ve discovered recently how much can be accomplished in our community by treating people on all sides like human beings that deserve respect, while also speaking up about what I think could make our community better. This is why we need better models and frameworks for making change in our community. One group doing this work in our community is Baylor’s Public Deliberation Initiative.  They gather diverse groups of students and community members to discuss and dialogue around difficult issues (such as racial reconciliation, gun violence, and politics). Their approach to these conversations can help us listen better to each other and work towards solutions rather than deepening the divide. They will host a post-election forum November 14th at the Bobo Spiritual Life Center on “Getting American Politics Working Again.”

On November 9th, regardless of who is elected, we will still have a lot of work to do, and we will have to work with people who did not vote like us. Conversations and actions are already happening in our community about how to make our city more walkable  and bike friendly . Groups in town (http://acecentex.org  and http://friendsofpeacewaco.blogspot.com/ ) are tackling the challenge of a sustainable energy future for our community. Groups such as World Hunger Relief, HOT Urban Gardening Coalition, Baylor’s Campus Kitchen, and many others are working on issues related to local food, food insecurity, and health. You can find more opportunities to get involved in working on sustainability at sustainablewaco.org.

I love this “human and natural neighborhood” we call Waco, McLennan County and the Brazos watershed. Learning to love this place is the task we have been given and the only way to do it… is together.

Lucas LandLucas Land is an eco-theologian, urban farmer, activist, aspiring master naturalist, facilitator, musician, and writer. He is avoiding growing up by constantly learning and trying new things. He also works in Grants Management for Waco ISD. He lives with his wife, three children, flock of chickens, dog, and cat in the Sanger Heights Neighborhood in North Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.

[1] Berry, Wendell. What Are People For?: Essays. San Francisco: North Point, 1990. p. 200.