Take Care of Texas News: Summer Fuel Economy, Light Bulb Technology, and Teacher Resources

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Fuel Economy Suffers in the Heat

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It’s probably not a surprise that using your car's air conditioning (A/C) is the main contributor to reduced fuel economy in hot weather. How great of an impact it has depends on a number of factors such as the outside temperature, humidity, and intensity of the sun. During hot summers, air conditioning use can reduce a conventional vehicle's fuel economy by more than 25 percent.

Driving with your windows down can also reduce fuel economy. Open windows increase aerodynamic drag (wind resistance), so your vehicle requires more energy to push through the air. This effect is quite small at low speeds but increases at highway speeds.

To improve fuel economy in hot weather:

  • Park in the shade or use a sunshade so that the cabin doesn't get as hot.
  • Drive with the windows open for a short time before using your A/C. Letting hot air out of the cabin first will put less demand on the system and help your vehicle cool faster.
  • Don't idle with the A/C running before driving. Turn the A/C on after you begin to drive or after briefly airing out the cabin. Most A/C systems will cool the vehicle faster while driving.

What Light Bulbs Should I Buy?

Light bulb

An average home uses about 15 percent of its electricity for lighting, but there are easy ways to reduce this energy consumption and save money.

Review the Lighting Facts label on light bulbs before purchasing them. These labels are required by law to help consumers choose the most efficient bulb for their needs. The labels provide helpful information about the bulb, including information on brightness, color, energy usage, estimated operating cost, life expectancy, and mercury content.

You can also look for the ENERGY STAR label when choosing your bulbs. Light bulbs with this label have been proven to meet energy-efficiency standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). ENERGY STAR certified bulbs use 70-90 percent  less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and over their lifetime can save you between $30 and $80 in electricity cost for each bulb.

Different light bulb technologies exist with varying levels of efficiency:

  • Incandescent bulbs, which are based on older technology, convert most of their energy to heat and not light.
  • Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are more energy efficient and last longer than incandescent bulbs. They are now available in a wider range of colors and not just the blue tones of early models. However, CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, so they should be carefully disposed of or recycled whenever possible.
  • Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are an emerging light bulb technology. LEDs are long-lasting, efficient, and do not contain mercury, and unlike CFLs or incandescents, they are cool to the touch.

Since light bulbs can contain mercury and heavy metals, they should be disposed of carefully.  Residents are encouraged to take advantage of their local recycling or household hazardous waste programs, if available. Visit Earth911.com to find an appropriate recycling center near you. Light bulbs used in homes can be thrown away with regular trash; however, the EPA recommends used or broken CFLs be sealed in a plastic bag.

Another way to save money and electricity is to use natural sunlight as much as possible. You can do this using mirrors and light colors to reflect light within your home. Also, removing obstacles blocking light from your home, such as windowsill clutter, can bring in more sunlight. Other options include adding skylights and window shades that can easily be adjusted to let a maximum amount of light in.


Tell Us How You Take Care of Texas for a Chance to Win a $50 H-E-B Gift Card

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Have you made your office greener? Did you update your sprinkler system with the latest technology? Do you recycle bottles into art or home décor? Share your story of how you Take Care of Texas. Top entries will be added to the website, and one entry will be selected at random to win a $50 H-E-B gift card. Contest ends Tuesday, Aug. 11 at noon. Complete Contest Rules


Texas Agriculture Foundation Improves Watershed and Soil Health


The ranches of the Dixon Water Foundation feature an innovative use of an old “technology”: livestock. Using planned grazing strategies to aggressively graze defined fields before moving the herd, they mimic the natural grazing of migratory bison, which inhabited much of this area in the distant past. This strategy actually improves the health of soil, strengthening the root systems of vegetation, and contributes to healthier watersheds and improved biodiversity on the property. 

The livestock feed intensely on small plots for short amounts of time. Their waste is left on the land and serves as natural fertilizer for the grasses. Ranch managers typically allow six months or more as a recovery period for the plants and soil.  Management at the Dixon Water Foundation admits more planning is required than if livestock were allowed to graze openly, but once the plan is in place it actually streamlines daily work for the ranch managers. Watch the video for more information and to see the land.

Know of another great environmental project? Applications for the Texas Environmental Excellence Awards, the highest environmental honor in the state, are open now through September 25, 2015. Dixon Water Foundation is past winner in the agriculture category.


Need help finding healthy recipes for dinner?

Since cooking at home is usually healthier and cheaper than eating out, Texas A&M AgriLife’s Dinner Tonight! program hopes to inspire the inner chef in all of us. On their website you will find a catalog of recipes complete with nutritional information and cooking demonstration videos. You can sign up for weekly email updates, subscribe to their YouTube channel, or like their Facebook page to stay motivated. You don’t even have to figure out one-third of two and a half cups. For each recipe you can type in the number of servings you want, and the ingredient portions automatically change for you. So what’s for dinner? How about Cajun Grilled Fish Tacos or Blackberry Chili Chicken?

Celebrate Farmers Market Week this week by shopping at a local farmers market for all those fruits and veggies you will need. Buying local helps both the environment and your community. The GO TEXAN website has local listings of all certified farmers markets and a list of produce in season.


Take Care of Texas has a variety of FREE environmental education materials. You may download or order free copies of posters, activity books, stickers, and bookmarks. The Air Activity Poster and Water Recycles Poster are educational posters that have activities on the back such as crossword, word search, and maze.

WasteInPlace.org was created by Keep America Beautiful. The guide is used to help students learn about litter prevention, beautification and community greening, recycling, and managing solid waste. (Pre-K-6)

EPA Teaching Center offers background information, lesson plans, and activities on a variety of topics, including air, water, energy, and waste. (K-12) 

The Energy.gov Education Toolbox has lesson plans, articles, and videos on energy sources, energy efficiency, and science and innovation. The Energy Literacy video series demonstrates energy’s role across the natural and social sciences. The videos are available in Spanish and have corresponding student worksheets and teacher guides. (K-12)

Project WILD from Texas Parks and Wildlife is a hands-on environmental and conservation education program emphasizing awareness, appreciation, and understanding of wildlife and natural resources. The activities are TEKS aligned. (K-12)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides nutrition lesson plans for high school students using an online tracker of diet and physical activity.  They also have Serving Up My Plate curriculum for elementary students. (K-5, 9-12)

Texas Aquatic Science provides curriculum on aquatic ecosystems written for middle school and high school students with 14 online video chapters and an accompanying teacher guide, including 78 lesson plans.  (6-12)

Visit the Take Care of Texas Teacher’s page for many more resource recommendations.

Find water planning data for your area


The Texas Water Development Board has launched a new interactive website that gives data on existing water supplies, projected demands, and potential shortfalls. You can sort by county or region to see specific data. You can also see the breakdown of how water is used in that area by county or by use. For example, in central Texas, irrigation is the second largest use after municipal, but in the Houston area, manufacturing is the second largest use.



- American Enviro-Remediation LLC

- City of New Braunfels

- Frisco WaterWise


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