The city of McAllen is developing a reputation. Thanks to a growing number of eco-friendly initiatives, McAllen has become an example of an environmentally aware city.
Many of these initiatives start in the chamber of commerce, says Nancy Millar, vice president and director of the convention and visitors bureau, including a speaker series on the second Tuesday of each month that addresses issues of green living.
"The chamber is also launching a Green Hotel Certification program, to encourage hotels to use greener practices and allow them to market the strides they are taking," she says. "The next steps are to spread the program to other types of businesses."
A green web site is in the works, and soon the chamber will install solar panels (donated by Green Mountain Energy), making their building a model of green practices.
Green Living Festival
This October, the chamber will host its second annual Green Living Festival. Presented by Shell Exploration and Production, the festival brings in experts to discuss subjects such as water conservation, alternative energy sources and green construction materials, and provides tips on how people can incorporate those ideas into their own lives. More than 100 vendors of green products will set up at the festival's trade show.
The McAllen recycling center, a co-sponsor of the festival, is another source of green initiatives. One program, started in 2006, has already earned an award from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Save the Greens takes green waste "“ vegetables, fruits and lawn clippings "“ and creates compost.
"No one else in Texas is doing this, but now a number of cities are wanting to start similar programs," says Ouina Rutledge, renewable resources manager for McAllen Public Works. So far, almost 3,000 tons of green waste have been diverted from the landfill.
The center offers the compost for sale, completing what Rutledge calls a "sustainable loop." The center is creating another one with glass. Rutledge says the city purchased a glass pulverizer with plans to partner with manufacturers to turn the ground glass into building materials.
Among the objectives of the center's Keep McAllen Beautiful program is reducing the number of plastic bags in McAllen. Along with Texas supermarket H.E.B., they distribute reusable bags instead "“ and of course accept the plastic bags for recycling.
Millar offers several reasons for the city's efforts. One is to help stop climate change. Another is economics.
"Most sustainable practices save money," she says. "Also, as America's most popular birding destination, we get a lot of birders here. They're sensitive to the need for environmentally sustainable practices."
Being green makes McAllen a more attractive destination for them, and for businesses as well.
"McAllen has taken a leadership role in Texas in being more environmentally aware," Rutledge says. "It's exciting to be on the cutting edge."
Find out more on living in McAllen, TX.