An Unseen Pollutant

Many people across the world are familiar with light pollution, the pollution that causes the night sky over urban areas to remain dark and starless. However, there’s a secret pollution that’s very similar to light pollution and that not many people know about. Light Pollution has a brother: Noise Pollution.

According to, “noise pollution takes place when there is either excessive amount of noise or an unpleasant sound that causes [a] temporary disruption in the natural balance”. For most human beings, noise pollution seems to be a feature of regular life; whether it’s people talking loudly into their cell phones, distant cars going by or children at play, it all just seems like a feature of the everyday. This feature, however, can be deeply damaging to the natural environment as well as our own health.

There are, fortunately, a few ways you can help reduce  noise pollution:

  1. Avoid using loud machinery, especially at night. This one’s just a given unless you insist on being “that guy” in your local neighborhood. Alternatives to using a leaf blower, for example, include raking the leaves, which also provides more exercise for you.
  2. Plant a Tree! No kidding: trees or other leafy vegetation excel at absorbing noise, with leaves and branches acting the same way as soundproofing walls do in recording studios.
  3. Keep the windows closed. Whether you’re listening to music, watching a movie, or just making a lot of noise in general, make sure you keep the windows shut. The world might be just dying to hear your cleaning playlist from 2007, but unfortunately, it will only add to the noisy pollution in urban areas.

Additionally, if you’re looking to get more involved (as the upstanding-environmental superhero you know you are), Noise Pollution Clearinghouse is an organization dedicated to raising awareness and supporting any activism in the fight against noise damaging the greater environment.


All around the world, deserts seem to be doing something scary– growing. In Sub-Saharan Africa, experts are called in each year to help build greater environmental infrastructure, or help with educating of better farming practices to fight this slowly-increasing problem. In China, the Gobi Desert is slowly creeping Eastward, forcing the government to relocate tens of thousands of people as “ecological migrants”. In our own backyard, California faces serious struggles in the agricultural industry thanks to seemingly ever-scarcer water. defines desertification as “a process of land degradation in arid, semi-arid and sub-humid areas due to various factors including climatic variations and human activities”. It is a process which often debilitates soil and makes the land unsuitable for farming and growth for many years to come.

Since the growth of desertification threatens the use of arable land all across the world, many scientists are searching for ways to reduce desertification around the world. However, this is easier said than done. One Ecologist, Allan Savory, spent decades of his career trying to reduce overgrazing, only to realize later that he had been working against himself all along.

While desertification is challenging to eliminate, there are some ways that it can be reduced. Things you can do include:

One example
is to practice leaving plant residue on drying lands to deteriorate naturally and restore nutrients to the soil. This is something everyone can do in their local garden.
Another way to stop desertification is ensuring that the food you are eating is farmed with healthy practices, and returns nutrients to the soil it’s grown in.

A neat project to check out is the African “Great Green Wall”, a project that aims to revive land that has been wounded by desertification by the replanting of trees and relocation of soil in the area of dying land.

If you’re looking for more ways to get involved, a project in Ethiopia aims to plant 10,000 trees strategically to fight desertification, and the link is here!

Planning A Drought Resistant Lawn & Garden

Summer is almost upon us, and for much of Texas, that means a dreaded dry season for our lawns and gardens. While much of the Southern US deals with an unfortunate dry period, many southerners don’t prepare their lawns or gardens for such a brutal season. How do you maintain a lawn or garden that can truly handle the summers here?
First, while many lawns in Texas use drought-resistant grasses, it’s important to note that not all grasses are created equal. For southern lawns, many professionals recommend grasses such as Bermuda grass, or Zoysia grass, both of which enjoy full sun and can take a lot of traffic.
Secondly, it’s wise to avoid putting your lawn under too much stress during a drought. During a drought, your lawn is likely already under a lot of pressure, and activities such as planting, mowing, or relocating your turf is only going to make your grass have a harder time surviving through a dry period.
Gardens have a different set of needs entirely. Many Texas gardeners know the stress and strain their flowers or other plants endure in summer, but here are a few tips to keep in mind for your garden to have the best chance of surviving and potentially flourishing. During summer it is important to do a good job of weeding your garden, since you don’t have any water to spare for the unwanted neighbors. Additionally, organic litter such as fallen leaves can be crushed and transformed into fertilizer for gardens, so compost those leaves!
While the tips above work well for a garden that has already been planted, planning your garden strategically from the beginning can best help your garden withstand a Texas-sized drought. With this in mind, place plants with similar watering needs together. Another wise decision is to plant using Mediterranean herbs and flowers, since these plants, including lavender and oregano, have grown accustomed to climates with the longer, drier summers in central Texas.
Hopefully these tips can be useful when maintaining a Texas garden or lawn. Happy planting!

A Natural Fallacy

Legally, what does ‘natural’ mean? Nothing. Some companies in the food industry will often claim “all natural” products, but since the FDA doesn’t define this term, many companies are injecting things like sodium or high fructose corn syrup into their foods. Additionally, cosmetics, as seen here, will often advertise having “natural” or “fresh” makeup components, but rarely do these words have any basis in facts, healthy wellbeing, or environmental impact.
Labeling an item as ‘natural’ is perhaps one of the most dangerous pitfalls for the consumer who desires to be environmentally responsible. Additionally, here are a few resources for the misleading claim: “American Shoppers mislead by greenwash”, The FDA on “What is the Meaning of Natural?” and NPR on “What is Natural Food?