A number of Houston area attractions are striving to reduce their carbon footprint. From gardens to museums, these are the places eco-conscious travelers will want to visit.
Bayou Bend, with 14 acres of landscaped gardens and natural woodlands, is Texas' largest all organic public garden.
No pesticides are used in the gardens. A garlic spray is used for mosquitoes, and all of the soil preparation and treatment is organic.
The formal gardens are noted for rare Duchess De Caze Pink Camellias that are no longer available in nurseries, along with varieties of azaleas, gardenias, antique roses, and seasonal plantings that keep the gardens blooming all year.
The gardens are at their peak during March and April.
Beer Can House
Consisting of more than 50,000 beer cans, the Beer Can House is the ultimate recycling project.
John Milkovisch, a retired upholsterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, started his project now known as the Beer Can House in 1968 when he began inlaying thousands of marbles, rocks, brass figures and metal pieces into concrete and redwood to form unique landscaping features. He then turned to the house itself and began adding aluminum siding—aluminum beer can siding, that is. Over the next 18 years the house disappeared under a cover of flattened beer cans for both practical and decorative reasons. Garlands made of cut beer cans hanging from the roof edges not only made the house sing in the wind, but also lowered the family's energy bills. Ripley's Believe It or Not estimated that over 50,000 cans adorn this monument to recycling.
Children's Museum of Houston
Single stream recycling bins are located throughout the galleries of the Children's Museum
Kids' Cafe has switched to biopolymer containers which break down and are suitable for composting.
Environmental outdoor exhibit, EcoStation, is powered almost entirely by solar panels. This one-of-a-kind exhibit enables kids to explore first-hand how their actions impact the environment every day.
Giant solar panels on the museum's parking garage produces 11,000 kWh of electricity annually and prevents more than 22,880 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions each year—the equivalent of planting 912 trees or keeping 768 cars of Houston streets for a day every year.
Eliminated styrofum cups and water bottles for staff.
The Heritage Society
The Heritage Society's nine historic structures have been rescued from potential demolition. These structures are restored in accordance to standards using reclaimed materials when obtainable.
Several of the structures rely on natural light only.
The grounds consisting of 13 acres in Sam Houston Park are maintained by the Houston Parks & Recreation Department and organic products are used for fertilizing and pest control.
The grounds are watered in the early morning to minimize evaporation and several native planting beds have been introduced to the park to conserve water.
The Astros were the first sports team in Houston to launch a recycling campaign, with 125 recycling bins around Minute Maid Park. The Astros recycle an average of three tons of cardboard, plastic and aluminum per game.
Only "green" fluorescent light bulbs are used, and all light bulbs used in the ballpark are recycled.
Astros groundskeepers use only eco-safe chemicals on the field, including seaweed-based fertilizer.
The club composts ballpark infield and outfield grass cuttings to use as fertilizer.
Sales collateral and other paper products such as season-ticket brochures, napkins, paper towels and pocket schedules are printed on partial post-consumer recycled materials.
More than four years ago, the Houston Zoo went from paper to electronic filing of daily reports from the animal care staff. This change alone allows the Zoo to save 25,000 sheets of legal-size paper annually, the equivalent of four trees each year.
Items like cardboard boxes, telephone books, shredded paper, 2 liter plastic bottles, paper feed bags, newspaper, and even used clothing are used for animal enrichment and husbandry purposes rather than being discarded and sent to landfills. Eligible, unusable items are now being taken to recycling centers every other week with mixed paper and glass by members of the Zoo's Green Practices Committee.
The Greater Houston Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (GHCAAZK) earns money to support world-wide conservation programs by recycling aluminum cans and printer cartridges collected by Zoo employees and volunteers.
The Houston Zoo has a recycling bin in their Natural Selections Gift Shop for collection of unwanted cell phones, batteries and chargers.
The Concessionaire has reduced consumption of paper and plastic products significantly by virtually eliminating distribution of straws and cup lids. They no longer use Styrofoam products.
The Horticulture Department is experimenting with rain barrels in staff areas to collect rain water for irrigation purposes. They are also testing organic fertilizers that are kinder to the environment.
Increased efforts are now being made during construction and renovation projects to use resource-conserving materials and equipment whenever possible. For example, sleeping platforms in the new Spectacled Bear exhibit are made from plastic lumber, a wood alternative made from 100% recycled plastic and wood products.
Information is distributed to Zoo employees and volunteers regularly about green practices they can adopt at home.
The Menil Collection
Major recycling initiative throughout The Menil Collection's campus (the museum and separate bungalow offices): paper, plastic, metal etc.
The organization has switched, where possible, to fluorescent and other low-energy lighting, including exterior bungalow lighting.
Printing all materials — brochures, gallery guides, membership bulletin, catalogues on recycled paper, and using environmentally friendly soy-based dyes.