Look again to see the wonders growing in the desert

EL PASO – Is that scrappy plant on the side of the road a weed or a wonder? Desert landscapers say there’s often more to the Borderland’s flora than meets the eye. The term weed is usually meant for a plant that is considered a nuisance, growing where it isn’t always wanted, says John White, curator of the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens at UT El Paso. But where some people see weeds, others see wildflowers, healing herbs and critical sustenance for desert wildlife and other helpful uses. “Some of the weeds are actually good, some of the weeds can be edible, and some of them can be used for different purposes,” White says.

El Pasoans can get native plants, gardening tips at the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens Florafest

Gardening in El Paso can go far beyond the the gravel and cactus that so many people believe is their only choice. A walk through the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens at UTEP is a good place to find inspiration. More than 700 native plants make up the lush and colorful landscape nestled like a secret oasis next to the Centennial Museum. Bursting in blues, pinks and magenta, Salvia Greggi or Autumn Sage dwell in the deep dark corners of the gardens. Constantly in bloom, the Angelita Daisy’s seize the light and your eyes.

Where is El Paso on energy sustainability?


EL PASO — As the world heats up and the threat of rising sea levels becomes more pressing, unconcerned humans continue to pump dangerous levels of greenhouse gasses into our fragile atmosphere, putting 7.3 billion people at risk of extinction. But some El Paso officials are determined to reduce carbon emissions here and improve the quality of life for all who live in the Sun City. The Office of Resilience and Sustainability was created in 2007 to develop sustainability goals for the city and to plan initiatives that support the entire community while helping to reduce the carbon footprint created by day to day living. “The resilience initiative looks at things through different lenses,” said Nicole Ferrini, Chief Resilience officer for the City of El Paso. “We are looking at the energy question with a triple bottom line: people, planet and profit.”

All procedures city-wide must follow strict guidelines defined in the “Livable City Sustainability Plan” to address the environmental, economic and social impact of future policies and programs.

There are a few programs that are making progress in the city that adhere to these principles and also help to improve the quality of life for all El Pasoans.

About 25 people participate in the Huerto Amistad garden on Beverly Ann in San Elizario. The garden was started in 2013. (Kirstie Hettinga/Borderzine.com)

Water, commitment are challenges for sustainable gardens in El Paso

EL PASO — San Elizario, Texas is a newborn city with a long history. The area was established in the mid-18th century as part of the Spanish colonial mission trail, but it’s only been officially incorporated since November 2013 and its first mayor took office on May 22, 2014. The rich history of San Elizario is largely agricultural and according to Mayor Maya Sanchez, honoring those roots and protecting the rural community is critical. “My family goes back five generations in San Elizario. It’s an agricultural community, historically has been.

Carlo Mendo, co-founder of EPPG, explains the basics of permaculture to students of Somerset Charter School. (Josue Moreno/Borderzine.com)

Volunteers hope to transform urban blight into green gardens

EL PASO – A once destroyed alleyway covered in syringes and broken bottles in downtown El Paso was turned into a thriving garden by a group of volunteers brought together by the El Paso Permaculture Group (EPPG). “Permaculture is a way of life that helps everyone, and teaches you to respect the earth,” said Claudia Paolla, a volunteer with EPPG. “It teaches the children to learn about their food sources and to appreciate the environment.” EPPG invested staff time and money to set up the garden for nearby families and taught them how to tend the crops. Created about a year ago with the help of various activists and volunteers, EPPG continues to reach out to the community, creating gardens in local schools and unexpected places. Permaculture is a growing movement that examines the issues and problems brought up by the way human beings relate to the earth.

(Raymundo Aguirre/Borderzine.com)

El Paso tops Newsweek’s List of “Can-do Capitals,” but can it really do?

EL PASO – It’s a tale of one city with three different stories. There are three contrasting viewpoints on the placement of El Paso at the top the list of “Can-do Capitals” published by Newsweek Magazine last month. Based on data from the federal government and Moody’s (an economic research company), the border city was named America’s Can-do capital, first on a list of 200 U.S. cities. The recent Moody’s study rated the cities in four different  categories –sustainability, transportation & infrastructure, business development and livability. Each index was graded on a scale of 0-25 points, with all four aspects totaling 100 points.

Planet Forward: Emergency on Planet Earth

EL PASO, Texas — The University of Texas at El Paso is “walking the walk and not just talking the talk.”

A famous quote by Henry David Thoreau states : “Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.”

When it comes to concern about the environment; UTEP’s answer:  build three new multi-million dollar construction projects. UTEP’s ongoing construction projects all have green initiatives, including locations for cyclists to come and relax, take a shower, and place their personal belongings in new lockers. This supports the concept that students should ride their bike to UTEP instead of driving their car. Ed Soltero, UTEP’s director of planning and construction promises, “one day UTEP will eventually be off limits to cars, it will become strictly students.”

Currently, UTEP proposes to be in the vanguard in helping to preserve the environment in the southwest. “UTEP has most certainly been at the forefront of these sustainability issues,” according to Soltero.