Let's face it: When it comes to green locales, the oil-drenched, meat-loving state of Texas likely doesn't make the top 10 list. And according to the New York Times, Houston ranks as the "worst recycler among the United States' 30 largest cities," diverting a mere 2.6 percent of its total waste stream to recycling facilities.
But deep in the heart of Houston thrives a budding environmental scene that's set on cleaning up the city's dirty reputation.
Meanwhile, homeowners who want to enhance their property with native plants can contact Nature's Realm Landscaping. The company strives to provide the Houston area with landscape designs that are "both aesthetically beautiful and environmentally sound."
The Houston Farmers Market features more than 25 vendors, offering everything from produce to homemade baked goods, flowers and even a knife-sharpening service. Houston also features two other farmers markets: the Midtown Farmers Market and Bayou City Farmers Market. And while America's favorite natural-foods mega store, Whole Foods, was born three hours away in Austin, Houston boasts the largely volunteer-run Central City Co-op, which offers members their choice of organic produce from a cooperative of local growers.
Nearby in Brenham, Texas, Home Sweet Farm grows organic vegetables and herbs and hosts Market Days — a monthly event that brings together organic growers and artisanal food producers. The farm also delivers its produce once a week to several CSAs, including one hosted at the Jewish Community Center in Houston. In their spare time, farmers Brad and Jenny Stufflebeam also host Home Sweet Farm Radio, which features regular podcasts with sustainable foodies from Texas and beyond.
Houston residents who want to get in on the growing action can check out the Last Organic Outpost, a nonprofit organization founded in 2001 that works to foster urban agriculture throughout Houston.
Curious diners can find many more local and sustainable flavors in the recently published Food Lovers Guide to Houston.
Houstonites feeling a bit more active can volunteer with the Eco-Paddle Association in nearby Galveston. The association surveys the wildlife and habitat of the Galveston Bay, while working to increase public awareness of the bay's natural resources. The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center offers even more opportunities to connect with Texas' wildlife.
Getting around one of the country's most sprawl-friendly cities without a car is certainly a challenge. But through a mix of education, activism and enthusiasm, BikeHouston gives bike lovers and alternative-transportation advocates a leg up.
Grassroots-minded residents can also check out Make it Green Houston, a new virtual and real-life community of individuals committed to exploring and expanding Houston's green resources.
(MNN homepage photo: jonmatthew photography/Flickr)