Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Family Camping

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In this time of economic recession, many Texas families are looking for low cost vacations and inexpensive ways to relax and forget, at least for a time, about money problems.

One great suggestion is the Texas Outdoor Family workshop camping adventure sponsored by Texas Parks and Wildlife. For only $55, a family of six can sign up for these overnight, 2 day trips held in state parks all over the state of Texas operating from late February through mid July.

Families are taught fun and valuable outdoor skills by a group of outdoor specialists and trained volunteers through hands on experience. Learning together how to set up and break down camp, start a campfire, how to use a GPS, and how to cook outdoors will create happy memories. Campers also get help and advice in nature watching and kayaking.

Families do not even have to own their own camping gear for these overnight trips as a six person tent, lantern, tableware, air mattresses, camping stove with cookware, and a coffee maker are all furnished. The only thing not furnished is food and campers are encouraged to take their own picnic fare or groceries to cook outdoors or plan to dine at a restaurant off site.

Pets are not allowed but children of all ages can take part in these workshops although TPW reminds that children under the age of 5 need maximum supervision in the outdoor setting.

Campers are provided with a list of personal items to take, such as sturdy shoes, swimwear, charcoal, insect repellant, and linens. Of course they can also take things like bicycles, binoculars, and folding chairs but these are optional. Some of the state parks have bicycle rental available and most have hot showers and toilets available.

There’s just something about nature that relaxes and refreshes the soul. Children find magic in exploring for different kinds of rocks and leaves. Kids love visiting and learning about the birds, deer, squirrels, and other wildlife in their natural environment. The whole family will love cooking over an open fire. The smell of smoke curling from a campfire and the taste of hot dogs roasted over charcoal is a memory not easily rivaled.

After an exciting day of learning and exploring, kids will love sleeping outdoors. Fresh air and the sound of crickets and hoot owls lull campers to sleep, and depending on which state park campers choose, waves from a lake may lap the banks with soothing splashes.

Keeping expenses down without compromising family fun is important. Visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife website to find the Family Outdoor workshop nearest you and consider signing up.…

Creating for a Cause: Environmental Floating Cube Exhibit

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Since being home, I have had the pleasure of going to art events around town. Out of all the exhibits I saw in Coral Gables, Florida there was one that really stood out among the rest of them: the PIAG Museum’s exhibit entitled “Earth & Water, our planet, our life.”

There were several things that made this exhibit so unique. First, there was the message behind it all. The theme is the environment

t. The purpose is to create awareness. Secondly, the medium which the artists use is very original. Each artist that enters is required to paint on a cube (made of non toxic material of course) that is 12″x12″x12″. The cube is painted on 5 sides and will float in the water on the dates and locations that are chosen by the PIAG Museum.

The most amazing part about the exhibit is that it is meant to bring together artists from around the world united in their commitment to take action to save our planet. The PIAG Museum is requesting thousands of artists of all respects to participate in this event. Whether you are a writer, painter, singer, photographer, or a designer the PIAG Museum wants your talent for this exhibition.

This exhibition has been hosted at several locations across South Florida such as Fair Child Tropical Gardens and the Miami Dade Cultural Center. The exhibit was also hosted by Disney World in which floating cubes were spread out across the waters of Epcot Center. Eventually the PAIG Museum hopes to take this exhibit to Washington D.C.

If you are interested in participating in this one of a kind event, or if you just want to find an exhibit near you, you can find all of the information you need at the PIAG Museum website. This truly is an amazing opportunity to show your love for the arts as well as the planet.…

Looking to See Wildlife? Check Out the MacKenzie Environmental Center

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Each fall, my wife, my daughter and I make a trip to Poynette, WI to see animals. We aren’t going to a zoo. Instead, we visit the MacKenzie Environmental Education Center.

If you want to see exotic animals like lions and elephants, the MacKenzie Center isn’t going to be the place for you. All they specialize in are animals native to Wisconsin. But, if you want a place to go to get your kids plenty of fresh air and exercise while looking at animals you might not normally see, the center is the place to visit. And, more importantly, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg since there’s no admission price, just a suggested donation of $1 per person.

There are two things I like about the MacKenzie Center. First, unlike zoos, they haven’t gone commercial. You are able to view the animals without the distraction of ice cream and hot dog vendors and gift shops. The center is set in the middle of the country about a mile outside of Poynette and most of the trails are carved out of a wooded area. So, not only will you see the animals they have on display, you might see additional wildlife too. The last time we visited, for example, we had to stop and wait for a grass snake to cross the trail.

This is really nice because it’s a good outdoor setting for a picnic lunch and is very relaxing.

I also like the fact you don’t have a huge crowd there. The last couple times we visited, there were maybe five other people there too. In fact, the only time you have a lot of people there is if you happen to go at the same time some school is having a field trip.

The displays themselves are pretty neat. The MacKenzie Center goes out of its way to make sure the animals are comfortable. The wolves have plenty of room to run around. The deer have plenty of hiding spots and the bob cats have plenty of places to climb.

You’re also able to get pretty close to the animals. They have barricades up but they are close enough where you can get a good view of the animals while still keeping you out of arms reach of them. In fact, when we were taking a break by the mountain lions, we could hear every breath they took.

If you’re driving near Poynette, Wisconsin with your kids, this is a place you should visit.…

Ways Your Family Can Stop Climate Change

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Turn on the news or the radio, or open up an internet browser, and you will be overrun with news about climate change and the disastrous effects that human activity is producing on the environment. We have all enjoyed the music of the Live Earth concerts as the artists strove to spread the message of climate change and how we all can reduce our carbon footprints on the world. By now, everyone realizes that the choices we make every day will have lasting impacts on generations to come. We can admire at Al Gore as he warns about climate change and tells us about how he is installing solar panels on his house or marvel at George Clooney as he speeds by in his Prius; but, what can the average, middle income American family reasonably do to reduce its carbon intake and help our environment?

A 5 person family will be squished in a subcompact car, and besides, that family is probably not done paying for its minivan… A mom with kids would love to buy a more efficient washer and dryer, but she cannot afford to buy a new set, and besides, the one she has is perfectly capable… An environmentally-conscious dad wishes he could install solar panels on his house, but gasps at the costs for such an endeavor (and besides, he lives in an area with inadequate sunlight for solar panels!)… What is the average family to do? Following are some simple suggestions for lowering your family’s pollutants that are fairly easy to institute, yet can substantially reduce your environmental impact.

Turn your thermostat down (or up) one degree

If you do not honestly think that your family can completely turn your air conditioner (or heater) completely off, try a minor adjustment. As our summers get hotter and hotter, you may be tempted to turn the air down more and more… Take a step back and realize that it is the pollutants that come from appliances-such as the air conditioner-that are changing our climate. So, turn that air up (or the heater down), and dress accordingly. In the summer, wear lightweight clothing as much as possible, and take the blankets off of the bed. Have salads and fruit for meals so that you do not heat your home up with your oven. In the winter, layer up-both yourself and your beds. Your family will eventually adjust to not having your home constantly at the most ideal comfort level. Remind everyone that it was only about 2 generations ago that no home had air conditioners and heaters…

Change your light bulbs to fluorescent

This is probably one of the easiest things you can do to begin to make your home more environmentally-friendly. However, fluorescent bulbs can be a bit costly, so you may have to slowly save up to purchase them; perhaps by buying them a few at a time instead of for your entire home at once. While these bulbs have a higher initial cost, they will last you several years, so you save money in the long run.

Stop using paper plates and napkins

For working parents, paper plates have become a staple of meals. However, using paper plates and napkins greatly increases your trash contribution, in addition to contributing to the power used to make such conveniences. Invest some money in a good everyday set of plates and cloth napkins and use them for every meal. The minor inconvenience of washing the plates and napkins can become a fun family tradition, especially if everyone helps clean up after the meal.

Find a neighbor and carpool

Save Money and the Environment with Free Moving Boxes+

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So, you are getting ready to move and are at that dreaded place where you have to start meticulously wrapping and packing all of your belongings for transport to your new digs. You know you need boxes – lots of boxes – and, if you are like me, you are cringing at the thought of dropping a couple hundred bucks on cardboard. And, also if you are like me, you are already thinking about the environmental impact of buying and then recycling all of those boxes after one use. But, if you can reuse some boxes that are already in circulation, you can save money and help out good old planet Earth at the same time. Recycling requires water, energy and transportation, so the more uses we can get out of items before they are recycled, the better it is for the environment. Not to mention that finding used moving boxes for free will save quite a bit of money, and moving is expensive enough as it is.

The first place to look is Craig’s List. Most major cities and lots of smaller towns around the world have a dedicated section on Craig’s List with classified ads just for that area. Look under the “free” section for moving boxes and packing materials that you can conveniently pick up at no expense to you (except for the gas to drive to the location). The key to getting free moving boxes on Craig’s List is to check early and often and to get to the address right away – moving boxes are a hot commodity on this site and will disappear quickly. Your best bet is to check right around the 1st and 15th of the month when most people are moving.

Doctors, dentists, veterinarians and other healthcare providers regularly receive medical and office supplies in nice, sturdy boxes that are perfect for moving. For the most part, these boxes are going to go right to the recycling bin once they’ve been unpacked, so call or go by your doc’s or vet’s office and ask them if they have any boxes that you can take. It will save them from having to break them down and lug them around and, if you ask them a few weeks before your move, you might even be able to get them to call you whenever they unpack a shipment so you can stop by and pick and the boxes up, then stash them until you are ready to start packing.

If you work in an office, speak to whoever is in charge of office supplies and see if you can take the boxes once they’ve been unpacked. Copy paper boxes are particularly great for moving – they are a great size for stacking and carrying, they are sturdy and they have those convenient lids that make them perfect for moving. Again, if you have a place where you can stash boxes before your move, start collecting boxes early so you will be sure to have plenty when it comes time for your move.

Another great place to find moving boxes is by doing a bit of dumpster diving, and sometimes, if you are lucky, the boxes will just be waiting for you beside the dumpster instead of having to actually jump inside. Check out dumpsters in alleys behind grocery stores, strip malls and apartment complexes and, while you are there, go in the grocery stores and ask someone in the produce department if they have any boxes you can take. Produce boxes are thick and are a convenient size, which makes them great …

Structured Environments

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A little construction does wonders for outdoor settings, says Carla Jordan.

You could have a ground-level tree house for grown-ups, for instance.

When it comes to arches, arbors, and pergolas and you’re on a budget give these a try.

I’ve always liked Gazebos, the free-standing roofed structures open on all sides. The newest trend is to house outdoor spas in them, said Jordan.

You could also have a garden house, little homes that imitate their full-grown partners with solid roofs, walls, floor and customized features like copper covers and operable divided-light windows.

Or go with conservatories from the 19th-century Victorian England age, considered the ultimate room with a view.

Although traditionally chosen for cooler regions they are working their way in the other direction and made for warm climates.

“Whether you start with a simple arch or plunk down the bucks for a magnificent conservatory, experts offer the same tip: Buy for the long term,” stated Jordan. “Quality counts.”

To shop and compare without using time or gas go online to find a growing number of these items which are also featured in catalogs to save merchants brick-and-mortar store space.

The Western Red Cedar Lumber Association’s web site, wrcla.org, has information about these kinds of structures including design ideas for arbors, trellises, pergolas, fences, gates, and Gazebos.…

High-Tech Kite Used to Fight Changing Climate

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Thousands of merchant ships transport 90% of the world’s oil, gas, coal, grains, and other goods across the high seas and around the globe. With this being said; the burning of fossil fuels to keep the merchant ships going are one of the major contributors to the increase of carbon dioxide levels into the atmosphere and adding to the rapidly changing climates. A German company called SkySails has finally had enough and developed a propulsion kite that will use wind as power and hopefully help to save the planet.

The first of these kites is over 400 feet long and cost $725,000. Flying three hundred meters above the water, it will haul the ship MV Beluga SkySails forward. By using this new high tech kite system, it will cause the ships to maintain use of their diesel engines and cut the use of fuel by at least 20%. Their current theory is the bigger the kite, the bigger the cut of fuel usage.

Skysails’ is looking to prepare over a thousand ships with these kites by 2015, but why wait so long to do that? Climate change is rapidly approaching and we need to act now and we need to act quickly. The maiden voyage of the original SkySails kite will be sometime this month across the Atlantic Ocean with its destination being Venezula. Well, it’s the first month of 2008 and this first voyage will give the developers a chance to find the kinks and bugs and develop a way to repair them, which of course can take time. But, if there are no problems and everything is a go, then why wait seven years to add them to ships? Seven years could be a great deal of help to our climate’s condition.

Even though Skysails’ have a great product that will greatly help our lives, money is still what fuels the world. Within the upcoming years, many companies are threatening that businesses will have to cut their emissions or will have to pay some type of fine or fee. Yes, this high tech kite will save merchant ship companies a lot of money, however when the future of our planet is concerned, I really think money should be thrown out the window.

European researchers have concluded that the emissions of carbon dioxide by shipping are double that of aviation, making their harsh contribution at a global total of 5% and rising. In October 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered shipping companies to order them to lower pollution caused by their ships. Many people never took this seriously and underestimated the actual effects that ships are causing onto our climate, until recently.

Scientists have confirmed that half of all of the carbon dioxide that is man made is absorbed by our oceans. As the absorption of carbon dioxide in our oceans climb, the thriving marine life decline.

In conclusion, with the shipping industry throwing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and oceans by the hundreds of millions of tons, at the rate we are going the number will enter the billions in the next few years and we shouldn’t have to wait until the price is right for shipping companies to start contributing in the safety of our planet, because at the rate we are going there may not be one left.…

Zebras at Wildlife Safari

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Ever had a zebra try to chew on the back of your head? Well I have, and let me tell you it was really something. It all started when my family went to Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch during spring break in Texas. This is where you drive through a park in your car, and the animals roam around and most of these animals were abandoned exotic animals that were given up to these reserves. Well, the last time we went the zebras wouldn’t go near any of the cars even though we can feed them.

Well this time it wasn’t the case. In fact they started sticking their heads in the car, which is what you are seeing in the picture. Well right after this picture was taken the zebra knocked the food out of my hand all over the floor of the car. Without thinking I bent over and started to pick up the mess when I started to feel something pull at my hair. I thought it was my daughter because she was right next to me and loved to play with hair. Instead she and everyone else were laughing, and then I realize that something was not right.

I tried to sit up, but something was weighing me down. It was the head of this zebra that was enjoying chewing on my hair so much. After I was able to distract the zebra it started eating out of my hand again until all the food was gone. It then went for my 2-year-old daughter, who quickly jumped in the back seat where the windows were rolled up.

So there we were in the middle of this trail surrounded by zebras, and without any food to give them. They wouldn’t move and made it impossible to drive away as you can see. We had to wait until another car came by for them to notice. Apparently they realized that these cars that had just showed up had food with them, so they quickly ran towards those cars and surrounded them, which let us make a break for it. Only problem was I had a cowlick sticking out of my head the rest of the day.…

Using Eco-Friendly Appliances In Your Home – How Does It Help?

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Many countries introduced new laws and programs designed to help individuals and families to save energy, and to live in homes having a smaller carbon print. With the increasing worries about global warming and energy consumption, people are more and more interested about the subject.

 

The effects of uncontrolled increasing energy consumption might threaten the existence of humankind, especially in large cities and areas of the world that are heavily industrialized. In the past, these matters were of no major concern. Today, the increased rhythm of development imposed new qualitative requests from modern people.

Eco-Friendly houses – houses of the future

A building is considered green if by design, construction materials used, and technologies, reduce energy consumption and the negative impact on the environment. The concept does not apply only to buildings that integrate nature, but it has to be expanded to the old buildings and building concepts as well.

A greenhouse can be one build of eco-friendly materials, but old buildings are just as suited for being renovated to integrate environment-friendly elements. It has many advantages, including the faster building time and the reduced costs with energy consumption on the long term. The main characteristics of these houses are the natural materials that they are built of and the capacity to obtain solar energy for electricity and heating. However, a green house is a lot more than an eco-friendly passive house. Modern eco-friendly houses and appliances like microwaves and ovens are almost intelligent, with efficient insulation and recycling capacities such as a system to reuse rain water.

Even if the materials used to build such homes are sometimes cheaper, the overall costs which include highly skilled labor are higher. However, considering the lower thermal exchange coefficient these houses have with the exterior environment, they will save money on the long term. Plus, the capacity of self-ventilation of these houses makes them a lot more pleasant to live in.

The eco-friendly qualities of a house are measured by its capacity to protect natural resources and to satisfy high demands of its inhabitants in terms of comfort and health:

  • Saves natural resources: energy, water, soil
  • Reduces pollution of water and soil
  • Reduces the production of non-recyclable waste

Building an eco-house

While a common house consumes natural resources and throws waste in the environment, an eco-house protects the environment and it integrates in it perfectly. It means efficient lighting and unconventional building materials used, such as solar panels, heating pumps and wind turbines. However, it also depends on where the house is built. For the eco-houses built in areas where sun shines across the year, it is easier to use solar panels. In countries where sun is sparser, the energy of the wind can be used with the same efficiency.

Energy can also be saved though a smart design of the house and this is why the architecture of these houses is usually unique. The cost of designing the house is sometimes the biggest if you are planning to contract someone to build such a house for you.…