April 28, 2016

Earth Day Texas 2016 showcases innovation and conservation

The world’s largest public exhibition devoted to environmental stewardship, 771 environmental nonprofit groups and 1,731 exhibit spaces filled… Yeah, Earth Day Texas has become a pretty big deal since it got the globe rolling in 2011.

Dallas’ Fair Park hosted the 2016 version of the event April 22-24, and just hearing about Earth Day Texas secondhand does not do it justice.

“Unless you go to Earth Day Texas, most people are unaware of how big and impressive it is,” said Warren Lewis, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center director of marketing. “We’ve participated in it over the last three years, and it has certainly grown exponentially from the days of being held in just one building.”

Fossil Rim volunteers
Despite being nearly 80 miles from Fossil Rim, wildlife center volunteers Trich Zaitoon (left), Catherine Huey (right), Robert McAuley and Bob Coleman provided help throughout the three-day event. They highlighted some of Fossil Rim’s animals and facilities, as well as answered questions.

Lewis understands why the event is gaining momentum.

“There is a lot of information out there about how you can get involved in Earth Day, including tips as well as details on interesting people, products and evidence of how far technology has come,” he said. “The nice thing is a lot of that technology is becoming more affordable, plus we’re seeing some people having success reclaiming materials that have typically been thrown away.”

Fair Park has been an effective facilitator, and after all it does have a strong track record with a little thing known as the State Fair of Texas.

Texas Honeybee Guild
Bees and honey were very popular features at Earth Day Texas 2016, as Texas Honeybee Guild was one of two exhibitors with an actual display of live bees.
trash ball
One of the most memorable sights at Earth Day Texas 2016 was this trash ball created by the Texas Department of Transportation. It was comprised entirely of trash collected from the roadside in Central Texas.

“If you’ve ever been to the State Fair and seen the number of people and the things going on, this event is like that, but it’s all people who are being good stewards of the earth,” Lewis said. “There were a lot more attendees (this year) than in the past, and it was pretty packed, which is significant. Because of the quality of the speakers and exhibitors, I believe next year could be even bigger, and it will be interesting to see how Fair Park handles the number of people who come out (in 2017).”

Experiencing the gathering of those “good stewards” is appreciated by many.

Austin Rubber
Austin Rubber converts recycled tires and other scrap rubber compounds into a virgin rubber compound substitute it patented called APX. APX is sold to a variety of customers, including the footwear company TREDAGAIN. Austin Rubber President Fitz Lee is shown with crumb rubber, APX and a TREDAGAIN sandal.
DFW Truck Farm
The bed of this drivable Ford Ranger has become a garden, courtesy of DFW Truck Farm. One of 25 in the United States, this truck farm is meant to illustrate how effectively a person can garden in a small space.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Lewis said. “One thing that always comes up is climate change and the earth getting warmer. On that topic, one of the speakers said even if some people believe that humans don’t impact the earth in a negative way, just being smart about recycling and caring about the environment – every little thing adds up. Being around that collective attitude at Earth Day was inspirational to me.”

It is no coincidence Earth Day has grown as its scope has broadened.

“The focus was initially water for Earth Day, and it’s great to see the diversity of the event now,” he said. “At Fossil Rim, we are working really hard to keep species from going extinct, which helps maintain the biodiversity in an environment and keep it from collapsing. Earth Day is now about all aspects of our planet.”

future city by JH kids
Ten seventh and eighth graders from The Westwood School (Dallas) created Qaniqak Legvekar, a fictitious city existing more than 100 years in the future. It is highlighted by improved waste management, as their elaborate chart revealed a plasma converter to be the primary component converting the waste to fuel.
Elio Motors
One of the event’s top attractions, this Elio Motors creation is targeting mass production in 2017. The three-wheeled vehicle seats two, has a targeted base price of $6,800 and can get up to 84 miles per gallon.

Many visitors who approached the Fossil Rim exhibit space had never heard of the wildlife center before.

“People continue to be very receptive to what we’re about, because we’re impacting these species in a positive way,” Lewis said. “That encourages people to visit, and part of our mission is education. It makes perfect sense for us to be there. People who don’t know about us are surprised, especially when they hear about topics like animal reintroductions.

“It’s refreshing to realize there is someone out there working to raise these animals in natural herds and flocks and return them to their native range. There’s a fun side to Fossil Rim, but also a serious side.”

Solsource 1
The SolSource Solar Cooker, created by One Earth Designs, is 100-percent powered by the sun and its parabolic design focuses sunlight’s “invisible flame.”
Shine Runner Mark 4
The Shine Runner Mark 4, created by Mansfield ISD students, is 100-percent solar powered and has a top speed of 60 mph. The students are gearing up for a July race in Minneapolis.

It takes a village, and fortunately the Fossil Rim team at Earth Day Texas was comprised of more than Lewis and Tye Chandler, marketing associate. They were boosted by the presence of volunteers Trich Zaitoon, Catherine Huey, Robert McAuley and Bob Coleman, as there were two volunteers on hand for the majority of all three event days.

“Trich invited them to participate, and since it was a busy time at Fossil Rim it would’ve been nice to have even one or two volunteers come out,” Lewis said. “This was significant, because it enabled (Chandler and me) to go around and make connections with other organizations, plus get a break here and there. Those people are really enthusiastic when it comes to Fossil Rim.”

With more than 1,700 exhibitors, it was not easy to stand out among the crowd.

Space Plants in NASA exhibit
In the NASA exhibit, “VEGGIE” is a growth chamber for plants in space because it functions in microgravity.
Tiny House
The Little Fish House, one of 10 various structures in the Earth Day Texas Tiny House Village, is 210-square feet and costs $29,500. A man and his two dogs currently live in it.

“In one word, the memorable exhibits were about ‘passion,’” Lewis said. “There were people so passionate about what they do, just as we are at Fossil Rim. I think of the guy (from Austin Rubber) who recycles and repurposes tires. People who do these things because they want to – not because they have to – that’s part of why they are very successful at it.”

The Austin Rubber exhibit obviously struck a chord with Lewis.

“I was very impressed with them and the significant work done with rubber,” he said regarding his favorite exhibits. “Also, the Texas Trees Foundation typically hands out about 3,000-7,000 trees every year, and it’s always fun to see people walking around with that leafy antenna sticking out of their backpack. At this event in 2015, Texas Trees Foundation gave me two Mexican white oaks, and they are currently growing on my property. This year, I picked up two elms from them and will plant them at home, too.”

Rainspot garden
This Rainspot Garden, built by Rain Ranchers Creator Ken Davis, is self-sustaining and can run for 40 days on 110 gallons of water. Using organic soil, the garden’s attachment on the left connects to a large building’s gutter system. One inch of rain on 1,000 square feet produces 600 gallons.
Resource Recovery Station
Found throughout the event inside and out, Resource Recovery Stations presented superior alternatives to the standard trash can.

As for Chandler, it was his first time to attend Earth Day Texas.

“I definitely didn’t expect it to be on such a grand scale,” Chandler said. “On the second day, I walked around for five hours trying to survey the entire scene and cherry-pick what pictures I wanted to take, but I’m sure there were still some exhibits that I didn’t see. Noticing how excited the children at the event were to learn and realize the value of protecting their environment, it was very encouraging in regard to our long-term future.

“As Warren said, there were some very engaging guest speakers, and I particularly enjoyed a presentation by marine scientist Ellen Prager. I have to agree that Austin Rubber and the shoe company TREDAGAIN associated with it were very memorable, as was the display by DFW Truck Farm and the three-wheeled car created by Elio Motors. I’d be remiss not to concur that our volunteers were awesome and gave me the freedom to go explore what this event had to offer.”

Greenhill Green Team
The Greenhill Green Team turns t-shirts into reusable bags and the t-shirt scraps into rugs.
Gyres Institute camel bags
The 5 Gyres Institute exhibited this 45-pound mass of plastic bags found in the stomach of a deceased camel in Dubai.

Better late than never when it comes to experiencing all that is Earth Day Texas, according to Lewis.

“If you want to be surprised, it’s well worth going to see Earth Day Texas,” Lewis said. “A great example is a company (One Earth Designs) that’s developed a grill (SolSource) which uses a concave mirrored surface to create a focal point for heating. It’s 100-percent solar and works incredibly well. If you really want to meet people thinking hard and intelligently about doing things in an innovative way, whether that’s energy efficiency or repurposing materials, this is the place to do it.”

-Tye Chandler, Marketing Associate

All Electric Coach
This is the world’s first long-range, all-electric road coach – capable of traveling more than 190 miles on a single charge.
Urban Chicken Ranching
Urban Chicken Ranching strives to provide citizens with the knowledge and tools to successfully raise backyard chickens and enjoy the fresh eggs.
Tree Climbers International
There was no shortage of interest among young visitors to get a lesson from Tree Climbers International and then apply their new skills.
Trashbusters asks residents to fill up these blue bags that are picked up weekly by a recycling truck. All recyclable materials go in the same bag, and some of the creative ways Trashbusters employees utilize recyclables were shown on the table.
TPWD alligator gar
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department exhibited several animals, including these alligator gar.
Tiny Houses crowd
The Earth Day Texas Tiny House Village, which included 10 homes, was a huge hit with visitors.
The Gorilla
The Gorilla, a creation by Prince Lorenzo De’ Medici, was primarily composed of recycled rusty construction steel bars.
The CT Columbian red tailed boa
This little girl embraced a Columbian red-tailed boa from The Creature Teacher, LLC.
The CT Chilean rose tarantula
A girl gets acquainted with a Chilean rose tarantula provided by The Creature Teacher, LLC.
SGP Robotics catapult
The robotics team from South Grand Prairie High School showcased its pneumatic catapult.
Royal Empress
Royal Empress trees were available for purchase. The world’s fastest growing tree, it has large leaves that act as air filters to absorb pollution and release high levels of oxygen.
Robotex in BEST
The homeschool Robotex team raised money while building a robot over six weeks to present to judges at a Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology (BEST) competition. The goal of the competition is for youth to run a business utilizing marketing, fundraising, designing and testing.
Power To Save Texas contest
These were a couple of the winning entries in the school program contest held by the Power To Save Texas.
Plano West Mind Cuber
Created by Plano West High School students, the “Mind Cuber” solves a Rubik’s Cube using a color sensor to read every square before its program unravels the necessary algorithm to finish the process in 2-3 minutes.
owl at Audubon Texas
This owl captivated visitors inside the tent for Audubon Texas.
Mother Earth
“Mother Earth” added some color to the Earth Day Texas 2016 festivities.
Morph Speakers
The all-wood Morph Speakers simply required the insertion of a smartphone to double the device’s audio output.
The Softub provides an alternative to acrylic tubs and is superior in aspects like energy consumption.
Mobile Learning Barn
On one side of the Mobile Learning Barn, there were displays detailing corn, beef and wheat.
Mad Science slime
At the Mad Science exhibition space, it was an attention-grabber to see two liquids rapidly converted into “slime.”
making Lego buildings
On these tables, children constructed their individual contributions to the city for the Lego Build The Change station.
Lego Build The Change
A city was in the process of being constructed at the Lego Build The Change station. Each youth created his or her own design on a green square base that was combined with other squares.
lounge area in Centennial Hall
This was a lounge area in Centennial Hall, the building where Fossil Rim exhibited.
Ireland Elementary newspaper dress
This Ireland Elementary (Dallas) student and her classmates made dresses out of newspaper.
Justin Wren
Justin Wren, a former Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter, got serious when discussing the modern slavery of the Mbuti Pygmy people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
International Paper deer mount
The exhibit space for International Paper was a bit more eye-catching thanks to this corrugated cardboard deer mount.
Hydro Fuel Cell Bus
This hydrogen fuel cell bus produces zero emissions.
Green Stuff
Green Stuff is a non-mineral, phenolic resin absorbent that will absorb one gallon of liquid with 1.25 pounds of Green Stuff. It has a wide variety of uses on more than 400 chemicals and compounds in situations like fire/hazmat response, military operations, industrial waste management and hospitals.
Gardenuity provides the opportunity for urban gardening right out of this black bag.
Forest Nation tree growing kits
ForestNation provided tree growing kits for a $5 donation to the Green Schools Alliance, which focuses on empowering youth and adults to create healthy and sustainable schools.
Not to be confused with a cinder block, this Faswall organic building material is created through the mineralization of recycled wood fiber chips.
Earth Day Texas 2016 was held at Fair Park in Dallas, a location highlighted by its picturesque esplanade.
diver talks coral reef
During one of the event’s numerous speaking presentations, this diver discusses the impact of climate change on coral reefs and the damage he has witnessed.
City of Dallas EEI
The City of Dallas Environmental Education Initiative specializes in outreach for community events and schools while using displays like this one about water conservation.
Chihuly style bowls
This Ireland Elementary (Dallas) student created one of the Chihuly glass bowls on display.
Cedar Hill P and R
The City of Cedar Hill had a diverse series of exhibit spaces explaining its nature offerings.
Build Your City
Hosted by the Dallas Center for Architecture, “Build Your City” allowed each child to construct their own building (left) and add to the virtual city on the table (right).
Audubon guests draw birds
Audubon Texas, which focuses on bird conservation, had youngsters drawing birds they saw on video.
GMO debate
The conversation got contentious regarding the pros and cons of genetically modified organisms during “The GMO Debate.”



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