While San Antonio's subtropical climate typically encourages people to crank up the air conditioning and look for ways to stay out of the heat and humidity, it also provides a great opportunity to find ways to save energy and live greener.
Here are six environmentally-friendly activities for San Antonians to try this summer:
Volunteer at a park
The San Antonio Missions National Historic Park volunteer program offers a wide range of green opportunities, from conducting wildlife surveys to leading tours. Volunteer-in-Parks (VIPs) can also help restore and preserve acequias at Mission San José and the nearby Spanish Missions on the South Side.
Farm with the food bank
Volunteer farming contributes to a greener community by reducing waste and our city's overall carbon footprint. Help cultivate fresh produce with the San Antonio Food Bank at its 40-plus-acre Urban Farm or at the Mission San Juan Farm.
Visit a farmers market
Alamo City is home to many farmers markets, where you can shop for local produce, meat, eggs, baked goods, cheeses, olive oils, and more. Some of our favorites include the Pearl Weekend Market (open Saturdays, 9 am to 1 pm, and Sundays, 10 am to 2 pm), the 78209 Farmers Market (opens Sundays, 10 am to 2 pm), and the San Antonio Food Bank farmers market (open at various times and locations around town). Here's a complete list of certified markets from the Texas Department of Agriculture.
Check in with your garden
Summer is a great time to prune perennials, sages, and lantanas; "deadhead" spent rose flowers and foliage; and mulch your garden, says Mark Peterson, conservation project coordinator for the San Antonio Water System. Trees will also need some extra attention during the hotter months.
"Trees don't like a lot of water, but they prefer infrequent and deep water," Peterson says. "I like to take the third or fourth week of every month and soak the root system of the tree. Take a soaker hose and do it around the canopy ends at the drip line."
Patio pots, hanging baskets, and other containers are perfect for the summer. Gardeners may also want to try xeriscaping, but they should ensure they are planting on the right mixture of soil and gravel for cacti and succulents.
Participate in a medicine drop
Prescription and over-the-counter medicines can pose a risk to the environment when flushed down the toilet or dumped in a landfill. The San Antonio River Authority offers a safe and easy way to dispose of unwanted, expired meds through MedDropSA. Participants simply bring unwanted medicine, along with other household, hazardous waste items, to mobile collection sites. The next drop will be held September 16 at Alamo City Church.
Consider alternative forms of transportation
Don't have your own set of wheels? More than 500 bicycles are available on-demand through San Antonio B-cycle's 60-station network across the city's urban core. The public bike share program, the first to launch in Texas, has a new app that enables users to easily check out bikes on their mobile device.
"Since we have put our wheels down, we have helped contribute to over 1.7 million pounds of carbon offset," says Angel Whitley, business development and community engagement manager with San Antonio B-cycle. "If we all ride a B-cycle every now and then instead of using our cars, we can really make a big difference in our energy consumption and carbon emissions."
If you have the money and want to travel greener, consider using an electric car or hybrid vehicle. With zero carbon emissions, you'll save money on gas, oil, transmission costs, even brake pads.
We test-drove the new Chevrolet Bolt EV, an all-electric car that's exciting to drive and offers a very smooth, elevated ride. The car has a 60-kilowatt hour battery pack built into the floor, which takes about nine hours to charge using a standard 110-volt outlet (less if you use an electric car charging station, which can be found via Chargepoint).
"In its 238-mile range, the [Bolt EV] is easily able to accommodate the vast majority of daily driving," says Chevrolet Bolt EV communications coordinator Fred Ligouri. "For the majority of folks who are going 40 to 50 miles round-trip each day, they're rarely going to be putting that much energy back into it when they recharge at home."
The Bolt EV will be available nationwide in August with a starting price of $37,495. Bonus? You can qualify for a $7,500 federal tax incentive.