Not so green

New report lands Texas among 10 worst states for the environment

Texas has one of the worst environmental records in the U.S., a new study finds. Photo courtesy of Union of Concerned Scientists

Everything is bigger in Texas, even the negative impact it has on the environment, a new study finds.

Ahead of Earth Day (April 22), personal finance site WalletHub analyzed all 50 states, looking at 27 metrics across three categories: environmental quality, eco-friendly behaviors, and climate-change contributions.

Texas' overall ranking is an abysmal No. 41, making it one of the least green places in America.

The Lone Star State comes in at No. 48 in environmental quality, No. 28 in eco-friendly behaviors, and No. 37 in climate-change contributions. Under climate-change contributions, WalletHub analyzed carbon-dioxide, methane, nitrous-oxide, and fluorinated greenhouse-gas emissions per capita. The higher the number, the worse a state performs in that category.

Despite an overall poor showing, Texas claims a few top spots in individual metrics, performing best in renewable portfolio standards (No. 1), states with electronic waste recycling programs (No. 1), and corporate clean energy procurement index score (No. 5). On the other side of the spectrum, Texas performs worst in the number of alternative-fuel stations per capita (No. 40), air quality (No. 41), water quality (No. 44), and energy consumption per capita (No. 45).

So why exactly is this a WalletHub story? What does this have to do with your money?

"Eco-friendliness and personal finance are related," the report says. "Our environmental and financial needs are the same in many areas: providing ourselves with sustainable, clean drinking water and food, for example. We also spend money through our own consumption and taxes in support of environmental security."

Vermont ranks first in environmentally friendliness, landing at No. 1 in environmental quality, No. 3 in eco-friendly behaviors, and No. 25 climate-change contributions.

Eight states have worse records than Texas: Oklahoma, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, North Dakota, Wyoming, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Louisiana.

While not so green right now, Texas has made great strides in wind energy in recent years. The American Wind Energy Association's annual report for 2018 shows the Lone Star State is home to roughly one-fourth of all U.S. wind power production. If Texas were a country, the wind energy group says, it would rank fifth in the world for wind power capacity, with nearly 25,000 megawatts installed. And with nearly 7,000 megawatts of wind energy projects under construction or development at the end of 2018, Texas is adding more wind energy capacity than what all but two other states actually have installed.

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This story originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

For over a year now, scientists have been testing wastewater for COVID-19. Now, the public can access that information. Photo via Getty Images

In 2020, a group of researchers began testing Houston's wastewater to collect data to help identify trends at the community level. Now, the team's work has been rounded up to use as an online resource.

The Houston Health Department and Rice University launched the dashboard on September 22. The information comes from samples collected from the city's 39 wastewater treatment plants and many HISD schools.

"This new dashboard is another tool Houstonians can use to gauge the situation and make informed decisions to protect their families," says Dr. Loren Hopkins, chief environmental science officer for the health department and professor in the practice of statistics at Rice University, in a news release. "A high level of virus in your neighborhood's wastewater means virus is spreading locally and you should be even more stringent about masking up when visiting public places."

The health department, Houston Water, Rice University, and Baylor College of Medicine originally collaborated on the wastewater testing. Baylor microbiologist Dr. Anthony Maresso, director of BCM TAILOR Labs, led a part of the research.

"This is not Houston's first infectious disease crisis," Maresso says in an earlier news release. "Wastewater sampling was pioneered by Joseph Melnick, the first chair of Baylor's Department of Molecular Virology and Microbiology, to get ahead of polio outbreaks in Houston in the 1960s. This work essentially ushered in the field of environmental virology, and it began here at Baylor. TAILOR Labs is just continuing that tradition by providing advanced science measures to support local public health intervention."

It's an affordable way to track the virus, says experts. People with COVID-19 shed viral particles in their feces, according to the release, and by testing the wastewater, the health department can measure important infection rate changes.

The dashboard, which is accessible online now, is color-coded by the level of viral load in wastewater samples, as well as labeled with any recent trend changes. Houstonians can find the interactive COVID-19 wastewater monitoring dashboard, vaccination sites, testing sites, and more information at houstonemergency.org/covid19.

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