flashback to Days 195-198: YERT Does Dallas – Texas Part 1

Monday, Jan 14th, we drove our way from Arkansas to Texas stopping by a very suspicious looking buffet at a Western Sizzlin’ in Oklahoma for what might qualify as food in some parts of the world, but was terrifying to us – suffice it to say a lot of iceberg lettuce, mashed potatoes, and creepy mac and cheese was consumed in the name of dodging the four-day-old “everything else at the salad bar.” Thankfully we made it safe and sound to our fine hosts in Dallas, Tom and Joy, who had agreed to take us in on spectacularly short notice.

We spent Tuesday playing catch up and running errands – as we must on occasion – enjoying an enthusiastic conversation about YERT and the art of quitting smoking with the manager of a local Chipotle franchise over burritos served on pizza pie tins. It’s always nice to see the no-trash rule bringing people together. That evening, based on a photo of the facade and a quick glance at the menu online, I suggested that we take a chance on a little vegetarian Dallas eatery called the Cosmic Cafe. None of us was prepared for what an absolutely wonderful dining experience this was to be. As we travel, one of the most comforting things for me to find in any town is a local haunt where you know you can find reasonably-priced, freshly prepared, creative, delicious food (preferably vegetarian) served with care in an eclectic and friendly environment. Most city’s worth their salt have at least one and the Cosmic Cafe simply blew us away by almost every criteria – ten seconds poring over the menu at the table and the three of us knew we had hit the jackpot. Generally when we find a place like this, we make repeat visits, and sure enough, the next night saw us back once again for their delectable vegetarian fare – complete with a live accordion concert this time.

Wednesday, we headed to the Fort Worth Stockades for a little Western culture to see the running of the bulls, or, as it turns out in Texas, the walking of the steers. The whole gang there really rolled out the red carpet for us and we had a heck of a time learning all about one of the lone star state’s original “low emissions vehicles” – the Texas longhorn steer. Julie even found herself sitting on top of one for a second.

Then we headed into downtown Fort Worth for an interview with one of our key Texas liaisons and a one-woman eco-dynamo, Haily Summerford, Public Education Specialist for the City of Fort Worth’s Environmental Management Department. Haily taught us all about Fort Worth’s “incredible shrinking garbage” and even introduced us to a real-live cardboard cartoon super hero – Captain Crud (he gave a riveting interview) – who’s helped increase Fort Worth’s recycling diversion rate from 6% to 20%. Haily is truly doing yeoman’s work in North Central Texas.

After Crudding about, we hustled over to the EPA’s Region 6 headquarters in Dallas for a sit-down with three of their experts to find out all about the Sustainable Skylines initiative to improve air quality in the Dallas metro area, a team effort between the City of Dallas, the EPA, and the North Texas Council of Governments. Apparently, Dallas was selected from a pool of several cities as the first in the nation to test-drive this innovative program made up of a number 3-year projects which could serve as a model for programs in other cities. This sounds like good news and bad news – the good news is that it finally looks like there’s a program starting up that might help address some of Dallas’ air quality problems, the bad news is that those air quality problems are so severe in Dallas as to warrant starting the program there first. Oh well, better late than never. And of course, so as to leave no stone unturned in this quest for clean air in North Texas, Thursday morning we had an even larger roundtable discussion with the North Texas Council of Governments’ crack-team of air-quality policy peeps in Arlington, TX to get the skinny on Big D’s dirty air and to probe even further into the Sustainable Skylines initiative.

Then, just for good measure we headed just down the road to tour the AbitibiBowater recycling facility – one of the world’s largest newspaper recyclers – where we watched giant machines do all sorts of cool stuff with all things recyclable – shred, sort, compact, cube, tie. In a word it was…neato. By Thursday afternoon, though we’d already seen a lot in Dallas, we were just getting started in Texas and headed west in search of wind…

Stay tuned for more Texas in the next installment (what can I say, it’s a big state and I’m sleepy).

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