Gail of Green Living

FREE Downtown Houston Transportation

Greenlink – Free Downtown Houston Transportation

We now have FREE and convenient downtown transportation in Houston!  The Greenlink bus is made in the U.S.A.(!)  by Gillig, LLC., and their plant is energy-efficient using a sustainable process, which includes recycling oil, water and packaging waste, reducing solvent use, using low VOC paint, and using zero-emission machinery.  The structure is made from recycled aluminum with a stainless steel understructure that combats corrosion, which will make the parts last longer.  The seven buses are fueled by compressed natural gas, and produce much less emissions and waste than comparable buses.

Let’s get to the fun part!   Greenlink runs east and west between City Hall and the George R. Brown, and north and south to Pease by way of Smith and Louisiana Streets.  This includes 18 stops near the Theatre District, Minute Maid Park, hotels, office buildings, shops (including Macy’s), restaurants, Discovery Green Park, Toyota Center…oh, my!  This covers the heart of downtown!  Buses run from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday-Friday, and you should not ever have to wait more than 7-10 minutes for a bus to come by.

I’ve been telling people they could ride the Metro Rail from their new home to downtown to go to a ball game at Minute Maid Park, or they could go to see a Broadway show at The Hobby Center.  I could tell by their response that they are not willing to walk that far in the heat, rain, or whatever weather, and now, there is an air conditioned solution…and FREE!

Now who wants to help me talk them into weekend service?  Check out the map below for route details:


The $5 Impact: The Burnt Orange goes GREEN

University of Texas at Austin

When I think of “green cities“, I think first of Seattle or Austin, Texas.  Their city governments have done a lot to green their communities.  But The University of Texas at Austin had not done so much.  And with over 50,000 students, its population is the size of a small town at least.  The University opened its Office of Sustainability in 2009, but the costs of carrying out the mission were expensive.  In 2011, the student body voted in a “green fee” of $5 per semester and $2.50 for a summer session, added to their fees.  This fee adds over half million dollars for projects.  Here are some examples of campus and campus life changes taking place:

  • Added gooseneck water fountains at high-traffic spots on campus to encourage students to fill their own water bottle.
  • Invasive plants removed from Waller Creek, so that student groups can enjoy the creek as well as monitor it through an Adopt-A-Stream program.
  • The Perry Castaneda Library has installed paper recycling bins inside and outside the library where more than 5,000 students use the facility each day.
  • A vacant lot in East Campus has been transformed into an organic micro-farm to grow fruits and vegetables to serve in campus dining rooms.
  • Students and faculty from the LBJ School of Public Affairs are now recycling and composting at their weekly luncheons.  More than 2,000 pounds of waste have been kept from landfills since this project began.
  • You’ve seen car charging stations; UT has installed a charging station outside the Perry Castaneda Library where students can charge their electronic devices, including electric scooters.
  • Additional bicycle parking has been installed across campus
  • The first large-scale tree nursery has been established for reforestation purposes.  It is located at the Pickle Research Campus.  The student-operated facility has the capacity for over 300,000 seedlings!

These are campus projects and do not reflect any efforts toward sustainability that classrooms, dorms and other campus groups and facilities are implementing on their own.  I can imagine there is a visual impact on the students and faculty that causes them to have a more responsible, sustainable lifestyle when they leave campus.

I think the students must feel they are getting a good return on their $5 investment in a greener campus.  HOOK ‘EM!

Information from the Alcalde, July/August 2012

GREEN Medical Center Home for Sale: Principles for the U.S. Gulf Coast Home

3703 Drummond

The United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Homes (LEED-H) program looks at home building from a broad view.  This program looks at where the home is built, (Braes Heights near the Texas Medical Center in Houston, TX), and how, and with what materials it is built.  The LEED certification process requires site management, recycling and waste management during construction.  Credits are given for energy efficiency, water conservation, air quality, product choice, etc.  The top rating is Platinum.  The guiding principles for a U.S. Gulf Coast home involve “what makes sense” in regard to the following features:

Strength and Durability:  This basically means “hurricane resistant”.  The storms bring wind water and utility failure.  Walls, windows and the roof are the core of the strength of the system.  Utility failure, which lasted up to three weeks after Hurricane Ike in 2008, dictated they include backup electric power and water.  Durability also applies to a longer term without maintenance issues.  The builder pursued the “Fortified” rating from the Institute for Building and Home Safety.  This is awarded to homes of exceptional strength and threat resistance.  This home was engineered to withstand winds 20 miles/hour over the FEMA wind speed zone designation for this location.

Efficiency:  This is in regard to energy in vs. energy out.  “Energy in” means solar electric and solar thermal.  “Energy out” is the sealed building envelope, immense insulation, and radiant barriers.

Security:  Keep out the boogie man and keep your stuff in!

Livability/Health/Comfort:  This category addresses air quality, humidity level, choice of appliances, lighting and finishes, and even the bathroom exhaust fan.

Affordability:  Understand there is a cost to buy and a cost to operate.  This is where “what makes sense” makes sense!  The owner shared with me that this home’s costs were about 20% higher than a traditional home, and I think much of that extra cost is recovered in energy savings, longer lived appliances, especially those with water that is pure as this system provides.

Green:  LEED-H Platinum was the target goal.

Next week’s blog will reveal the details of the building envelope, the backbone of the Building System.

If you would like to know more about this home, more pictures and details can be found here.

Brewing Beer the Green Way

My son is a big fan of craft beers.  Because he knows I am interested in supporting green businesses, he recently told me about the Southern Star Brewery  in Conroe, Texas.  For those of you outside of the Houston area, Conroe is about an hour north of Houston, close enough to call “local“.

They began their brewing in 2008 with a corporate model to work with local companies and manufacture in a sustainable manner.   Lee shared with me that this business produces so little trash (that would be what is left after recycling and re-using), that they only fill one dumpster a year.  How amazing!  They source their water from Conroe well water, they buy their cans “down the street” from a local can maker, and their spent grain (That’s the leftover fermented solid grains.), is used to feed local cattle.

Recently they made a new business contact in Conroe.  Let’s Recycle, LLC will allow them to recycle almost 100% of the waste generated at the brewery.  They are excited about working with a local, EPA certified company, and look forward to a long partnership that benefits both the environment and both companies.  This sounds like the perfect partnership!

CHEERS to Southern Star Brewery!

Thank you, Target!

Thank you, Target for being a business encouraging green living!  As I walk into my Knollwood neighborhood Target, near the Medical Center,  I see their recycling bins for (1) cart wipes, (2) trash, (3) glass, plastic and aluminum, (4) plastic bags, and (5) MP3s, cellphones, and ink cartridges.  How handy is that?  If your apartment or neighborhood recycling system does not collect these items, bring them next time you shop.

And if you bring a reusable shopping bag, they will take 5 cents off your shopping total for each bag you bring.

Thanks again, Target!  What stores do you know that encourage green living?


A huge part of green living for me is supporting green businesses.  HEB, a Texas grocery store chain has decided to construct their buildings and run their business with green design features and green business practices.   Recycling containers for plastic bags are set outside more than one entrance to the store.  I put my bags in the same place I keep my re-usable shopping bags–in the trunk of the car, so I have them to turn in every time I shop.

HEB is recognized as one of the best in the U.S. for safety and emission reductions.  Their truck wash saves 1.7 million gallons of water each year.  They have reduced their use of diesel fuel by over 830,000 gallons each year and carbon dioide emissions by more than 8,300 tons annually, which is the same as removing 614,815 cars from the road in one day!

This charging station for electric cars is in the HEB parking lot at Buffalo Market near West University.  eVgo‘s business is based on a network subscription plan where subscribers pay a fixed monthly charge that covers their vehicle charging at home and on the eVgo public charging stations. NRG pays the electricity cost on the public charging stations.

To learn more about this process, visit, where you can find
a wealth of information on eVgo, electric vehicles and public charging stations.

I’m going to cover some of the green architecture of Buffalo Market in a future post.  In the mean time, what green businesses do you support in your community?

Missing my Exercise Already!
Washing your car in your driveway on a summer day, as kids ride by on their bikes and your dog contentedly chews on a tennis ball in the front yard: it’s an idyllic movie scene, but is it the best way to get your car clean?Your car is a major investment, and there’s no question that keeping it clean will help retain its value. Dirt, road salt, acid rain, treesap, bird poop, squashed bugs and general grimeall wear away at your car. They dull the paint, corrode the metal and make your car more vulnerable to rust. Plus, it’s hard to take pride in a grimy car.Everyone loves the look of a car that is clean and new, fresh from the dealership. You can reclaim some of that new-car pride just by scrubbing off the dirt and polishing up the finish. But the question remains: is it better to wash your car yourself or go to the car wash?While you might think you are saving money by washing your car at home, there are many benefits to taking a spin through the car wash. When considering a trip to the car wash, be sure to factor in the following benefits of getting a professional wash.

The Right Tools

It’s easy to spend a small fortune in car wash solution, polish, tire brushes, chamois and other tools when washing your car at home. A professional car wash is specifically designed to efficiently and effectively wash your car.

Water Conservation

While water conservation efforts can become mandatory during a drought, it’s even better to conserve water year-round. Professional car washes often use much less water than at-home washing, particularly if they are recycling and reusing rinse water.

Environmental Safety

When washing your car at home, all the dirt, grime, soap suds and other pollutants get washed into the street and down the storm drain system, affecting local water quality. Because of this, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends commercial car washes over at-home washing.

Time-saving Convenience

There’s no doubt that taking a drive to a nearby car wash is more convenient than lugging out all your car wash supplies, scrubbing down your car, rinsing, drying, cleaning up and packing up all the supplies. When considering the cost of a professional car wash, don’t forget to weigh it against the value of your own time.

Fun for the Family

Face it, there is something just plain fun about a professional car wash. Kids love either riding through the bay in the car or running alongside the windows looking into the bay. You can’t help but smile when your car comes out shiny and clean. It’s fun to feel proud of your car, so don’t
let that feeling get buried under a layer of road grime.

…and I’ve always wanted to wash my own car, because it’s such great exercise!  I’ll just have to walk or bike further, I guess, because I never thought about all the grunge going into the street gutters, drain, off to the bayou and out to the bay–not good!!