News You Can Use - October 2013

October 2013

Vampires, Ghosts, and Warts


There's a vampire on the loose and it’s taking a bite out of your wallet. But, there's no need to stock up on garlic. This vampire works entirely though your electrical outlets, and stopping it can be as easy as flipping a switch.

Vampire power is also known as phantom load, wall warts, ghost load, standby loss, idle current, and vampire load. These spooky terms refer to the electricity that many gadgets and appliances waste (even if they're switched off) just by being plugged into a socket.

The average U.S. household spends $100 per year to power devices while they are off or in standby mode. Appliances like televisions, computer monitors, and DVD players can also drain power whenever they're plugged into an outlet. Altogether, phantom energy can account for about 10 percent of an individual home's electricity use. It might sound insignificant, until you consider that cutting out that 10 percent may amount to more than a month of “free” electricity every year.  

To slay the vampires and phantoms, enable the power management settings on your computer and monitor. You may also want to unplug your devices when they aren't in use. To avoid the hassle of having to crawl behind the computer or TV every night, plug your bundled devices (TV, DVD player, and DVR) into the same power strip and then switch off the power strip. Find more money-saving tips at our Take Care of Texas animated house and website.

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Clear the Air — Avoid Outdoor Burning

To protect the quality of our Texas air, the TCEQ rules prohibit outdoor burning anywhere in the state. However, some exceptions exist:

  • Ceremonial or recreational fires (as long as they do not cause nuisance smoke or traffic hazards);
  • Fires in certain areas of the state where there is no residential trash pick-up; and,
  • Under certain conditions, brush burning from on-site land clearing.

There are some items you should never burn, under any circumstances, because such burning would pose a safety or health threat. NEVER burn the following:

  • Electrical insulation
  • Tires
  • Treated lumber (from construction or demolition waste)
  • Heavy oils or asphalt materials
  • Potentially explosive materials or chemicals

Alternatives to burning include:

  • Recycling
  • Composting
  • Mulching
  • Disposal in local landfills

Call your local officials (city or county code enforcement office, fire department, or your city or county environmental health department) to make sure burning is permitted under local law or city ordinance. Prevent wildfires by making sure that a burn ban is not in place for your area. For more information and a complete list of dos and don’ts for outdoor burning, download or order Answers to Some Burning Questions.

Did You Know?

There’s a new FREE app available — Galveston Bay Drive & Discover Guide.  The interactive mobile app blends both human and natural history at more than 55 sites in seven geographic areas around Galveston Bay. Full descriptions and driving directions are available along with helpful maps. The app is now available on iTunes and Google Play.

Pledge to BACK The BAY and find tips on everyday actions you can take to help keep Galveston Bay healthy.

Free Publications Highlight:


NEW Take Care of Texas  (GI-430) This informational brochure highlights Take Care of Texas resources such as: the interactive website, free publications and educational materials, available videos and PSAs, and our electronic newsletter. Inspire Texans to take everyday measures to help maintain environmental quality and conserve Texas’ natural resources. Order FREE copies of this brochure while supplies last. Send an e-mail to with GI-430 as the subject line. In the e-mail, include the quantity and your street mailing address. We cannot ship to a P.O. Box.

Answers to Some Burning Questions: This brochure provides general information to  help people in Texas be aware of the basic rules and recommendations regarding outdoor burning in a residential setting. Order FREE copies of this brochure while supplies last. Send an e-mail to with GI-415 as the subject line. In the e-mail, include the quantity and your street mailing address. We cannot ship to a P.O. Box.

This Fall, Hold the Water!

 With the winding down of summer and beginning of fall, the weather becomes more pleasant, and it’s easy to forget about the serious drought affecting much of the state.

 Fall is an important season to embrace water conservation, and here are some tips to help:

  • Be aware that plants (including grass) need dramatically less water in the fall. Overwatering can lead to plant disease.*
  • Avoid watering in the evening if possible. Fungal problems are more likely if plants are wet all night during cool fall months.*
  • Install aerators to cut in half the amount of water used by each faucet, and install water-efficient showerheads.
  • Wash only full loads of laundry to save an average of more than 3,400 gallons of water each year.

*Please, always comply with your water system’s water-use restrictions.

Learn more about the Texas drought and tips to help save water by visiting Take Care of Texas.

CSB logo

We are now accepting grant applications to fund retrofits on eligible diesel-powered school buses with emissions-reduction technology. While a school district may apply for any amount of funding, the TCEQ has limited funds and will review applications on a first-come, first-served basis. The deadline for application is Dec. 6.

Our grants have retrofitted more than 6,900 buses across the state since the beginning of the Texas Clean School Bus Program in 2008. For detailed information, please visit the Clean School Bus Web page or call 512-239-3100.

Deadline Extended!

We have extended the deadline for applications for the 2014 Texas Environmental Excellence Awards to October 11, 2013! There is still time to apply and have your environmental project recognized. There are nine award categories, including water conservation and education. Check out to learn more and apply!


Oct 1st–7th:

Monarch Butterfly Week —

Texas’ State Insect!

(Photo courtesy of Texas Parks & Wildlife)

Oct 20 – 26: 

TX Native Plant Week.

Help the monarchs by planting Milkweed. Save money and water by planting drought-tolerant native plants. Visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for more information. 

Oct 17th – 19th:

Texas Master Gardeners Conference

Experience the blooms, birds and butterflies of South Texas at this annual event.

Recycle-Bowl Keep America Beautiful’s school recycling competition is back. Register your school, and compete to recycle the most.


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