Take Care of Texas News: Kevin Fowler PSAs, Smart Irrigation, and UV Safety

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Kevin Fowler continues his Take Care of Texas campaign

Country music star Kevin Fowler has new summer radio and TV public service announcements (PSAs) encouraging all Texans to conserve our natural resources and get outside to enjoy them.

Watch Kevin Fowler's PSA for a chance to win a SAMSUNG GALAZY TAB 4 provided by H-E-B!  

Watch Kevin's video and email us the color of the dog in the video. One person who emails us the correct answer will be chosen at random to win. See contest details.

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Smart Irrigation Month: Don't Let the Recent Rains Fool You

Even though parts of Texas have received a lot of rain lately, reservoir levels in South and West Texas are still low. We need to continue to use our resources wisely to protect against future dry spells. Since lawn and garden watering make up 30 to 50 percent of total household water use during the summer, you can dramatically reduce water use by improving your irrigation system.

Low-volume irrigation systems, also known as drip or trickle irrigation, are an effective way to conserve water, improve plant growth, and save money. Low-volume systems reduce water waste by applying water to meet specific plant needs. Water is directed exactly where needed and not wasted on patios, sidewalks, and streets. Plus, the rate of application is close to the soil’s infiltration rate, so a low-volume system reduces loss caused by evaporation. You can also reduce evaporation by watering in the morning.

A soaker hose is one of the most basic means of low-volume irrigation. It connects to an outdoor faucet, garden hose, or rain barrel and has small holes that provide enough water to slowly soak the soil. A soaker hose can be moved to various locations as needed but is best for small areas.

If you use an above ground irrigation system, try programming it to split runtimes into shorter cycles. This method allows more time for water to soak into the soil than if you apply water all at once. Cycle watering is especially beneficial on compacted or clay soils. Also be sure to check your sprinkler heads regularly for clogs and leaks, and repair as needed.

No matter what system you use, make sure to comply with your local water system’s water-use restrictions. For more information, download or order free copies of the Take Care of Texas Guide to Landscape Irrigation.

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Treated Wood - Rustic or Risky?

While we encourage you to reuse and repurpose materials to reduce waste, be cautious of reusing wood in and around your home. If you are buying or building a new home, deck, or furniture, find out about the wood’s origins and preservatives. You might be surprised.

Since insects and mold can damage wood over time, wood is often treated with chemicals to preserve it. Treated wood is commonly used for telephone poles, railroad ties, decks, play structures, and raised garden beds and is sold with end-tags or stamps that identify the type of preservatives used on the wood. If you don’t see a label or stamp, ask the retailer or builder. Some wooden pallets have been treated with chemicals, so DIY-ers should pay attention to the wood source. Even if not chemically treated, the pallets may have transported food or materials sprayed with pesticides or other toxins.

For decades prior to 2004, Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) was the primary wood preservative for most residential and general consumer construction. CCA can irritate your skin, affect your health, and leach into soil. Avoid growing edible plants in soil near treated wood, and keep children and pets from playing near the treated wood.

CCA is now being phased out and replaced by arsenic-free alternatives such as Alkaline Copper Quaternary (ACQ), Borates, and Copper Azole. These arsenic-free alternatives are still chemicals with potential adverse effects, so the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers alternative building materials to avoid treated wood entirely.

If you already have treated wood in and around your home, and depending on the chemicals used to treat it, consider using oil-based, semi-transparent stains on the treated wood that can act as a barrier between the chemical and the surrounding environment. Nonpenetrating stains are not recommended for outdoor surfaces, because subsequent flaking and peeling may expose preservatives. You should always wear protective gloves when applying sealant, and never burn treated wood. Toxic chemicals can be released in the smoke.

You can find more information in the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s article on CCA-Pressure Treated Wood and general pesticide information at the National Pesticide Information Center website.

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New composting video from Take Care of Texas

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Warm summer weather can be hard on your garden and backyard, but composting is a great way to not only nourish your soil but reduce waste and save a little money. Watch this brand new video featuring a Travis County Master Gardener to see how you can start composting in your own backyard.

For detailed compost recipes and troubleshooting, see the Take Care of Texas Guide to Mulching and Composting. You may order free copies of this and other landscaping guides on the publications page of Take Care of Texas website.

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What's Your UV IQ?

July is UV Safety Month

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You can check the UV index daily to learn expected risk of sun exposure in your area. Ozone depletion, as well as seasonal and weather variations, cause different amounts of UV radiation to reach the Earth at any given time. Taking these factors into account, the UV Index predicts the level of solar UV radiation and  indicates the risk of overexposure on a scale from 0 (low) to 11 or more (extremely high). The UV Index also tells you the approximate amount of time out in the sun before skin damage occurs. On highest exposure days, that time can be less than ten minutes.

On the go? Look for the UV Index smartphone app to download on your phone.

Staying in the shade and wearing protective clothing are the first lines of defense against sun damage, but you also need to know how to use sunscreen properly:

- Most people apply only 25 to 50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen. It is advised you put on sunscreen 30 minutes prior to going outdoors and then reapply every two hours.

- Look for sunscreen that protects your skin against both ultraviolet A and B (UVA and UVB) rays. The rays associated with sunburn are not the same rays associated with premature aging of skin and skin cancer.

- There is no evidence for additional benefits of using products with Sun Protection Factor (SPF) values over 50. It is more important to apply often than to apply a higher SPF.

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Spotlight on Outdoor Education

This year’s Texas Environmental Excellence Award Winner in the education category is the nonprofit Variety of Texas’ Peaceable Kingdom, a 120 acre outdoor retreat in central Texas. The environmental education program supports both the individualized education plans of special-needs students and is TEKS-aligned for mainstream students. Watch their YouTube video to see more.

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Get assistance with your outdoor community projects

The National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program is accepting applications through August 1 for help with a wide range of community-led projects.

National Park Service staff can help local leaders:

- Develop close-to-home parks and greenways

- Engage youth through outdoor recreation skill-building

- Plan for trails, landscape conservation, river restoration, and green transportation

Visit the National Park Service’s website to apply and to see current Texas projects.

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Thank you to our newest Proud Partners:

- Blackshare Environmental Solutions

- City of Brady

- City of Harlingen Recycle Center

- City of South Padre Island

- CompuCycle, Inc.

- Gruene Environmental Companies

- Hub City Waste

- KC Cottrell Inc./Lodge Cottrell

- Keep South Padre Island Beautiful

- Keep Tyler Beautiful

- LCA Environmental, Inc.

- Magna Flow Environmental

- Martin-Brower-Conroe

- Missouri City Green

- Property Services

- Sam Rayburn Memorial Veterans Center

-  SAPEC-ECO 

- SOS Liquid Waste Haulers, Ltd Co.

- Steinhauser Strategies

- United Electronic Recycling, LLC

- Walter P. Moore

- West Central Texas Council of Governments

To learn how your organization or business can become a Proud Partner, visit Take Care of Texas website.

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