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Green in the Desert: Local Business Turns to Animal Manure to Fight Climate Change

It’s half past 8 a.m. on a cloudy morning when Carlos Huerta fires up his 15-ton loader and swings it into the yard. Three mounds of manure and organic material stand before him, heaped like giant, stinky haystacks.

His tractor’s blade sinks into the first. A rich, sweet odor lifts into the air, and the mound begins to let off steam.

“That means it’s cooking,” Huerta shouts from the cab.

To the untrained eye, these mounds might amount to little more than refuse. But Huerta, owner of New Green Organics, thinks of them as productive. Not only has he built his business around them, but, in his eyes, they also represent an opportunity for the community to tackle serious problems related to excessive waste, methane-gas emissions and land degradation.

Steam rises from a mound of compost as Carlos Huerta turns it with his loader at the New Green Organics yard in Vinton, Texas.

The answer, he says, is evident in the steam.  “That right there is really powerful in terms of waste reduction,” Huerta says of the steam. “It’s a sign that the pile is active. That means it’s breaking down, creating compost, and that compost is a world of difference from landfilling.”

Method behind the methane

Currently, the vast majority of organic waste in the El Paso area is dumped into local landfills. This material—such as food waste—decomposes over time, releasing methane gas into the atmosphere, said John Garza, City of El Paso Environmental Services deputy director.

“Methane is a greenhouse gas that contributes to the trapping of more heat in the earth’s atmosphere and affects climate change,” Garza wrote in an email.

“This climate change brings adverse weather conditions (droughts and floods) that ultimately impact agricultural production.”

Nationally, methane accounts for about 11 percent of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. By reducing organic waste in local landfills, communities can play a role in taking a bite out of such emissions—an important step for combating climate change.

Composting, according to Huerta, offers a beneficial alternative to landfilling, a way to divert organic material and to put it to good use

Mounds of compost await turning at the New Green Organics yard in Vinton, Texas.

elsewhere. “When you compost, the material goes back into the earth,” he said, “which is the most interesting thing to me. In a certain way, this material has been taken from the earth. But if you do this [composting] in a respectful way, it can return to the land at a great benefit.”

From zoo animals to soil amendments

So far this year, Huerta has diverted more than 3,000 cubic yards of organic waste from landfills.

At the New Green Organics site in Vinton, Texas, that material is piled, watered and turned in a complex process that eventually converts it into compost. Huerta then sells the finished product to local gardeners, ranchers, farmers and other clients in the area.

In 2014, he struck a deal with the El Paso Zoo to launch a pilot project that would divert large amounts of animal waste from landfills. Each month, Huerta receives manure shipments from the zoo, including output from zebras, elephants, giraffes, tapirs and antelopes.

Since its start, the project has diverted roughly 150 tons of animal manure each year from the landfill, turning what would be methane-producing waste into Zoo Doo, a locally available compost that builds healthy soils.

“I always say with compost, ‘the finished product is only as good as what you put into it,’” Huerta said. “The manure from the zoo’s animals offers biodiversity. It’s like an injection of nitrogen, which is crucial for good compost.”

Creating carbon sinks

Not only does the process reduce the material in terms of sheer volume, but it also adds to soil fertility, Huerta said, and ensures that food thrown away is not completely wasted.

Additionally, composting is a key ingredient to regenerative agriculture and carbon farming, methods which tap the power of photosynthesizing plants to sink carbon into organic soils. Applying compost to the land creates healthier topsoil, Huerta said, which in turn reduces erosion, sequesters greenhouse gases, and helps local farmers grow food.

The El Paso area faces considerable challenges with respect to encouraging waste diversion, Garza said.

The cost to bury waste here—where land is relatively abundant—is cheaper than on the east coast, where cities often have more robust composting programs. Cheap land tends to deflate the political will it might take to put such programs in place.

Nevertheless, from an economic perspective, there is still good reason to consider diverting as much material from local landfills as possible.

“This helps reduce costs because it delays the need to construct landfill cells,” Garza wrote. For Huerta, the benefits of composting go beyond economics.“I love everything about nature—the trees and soil and plants—and I’ve always liked physical work,” he said. “The notion that this is something positive and constructive—that’s what drives me. It’s a win-win for everybody: for the community and for the environment.”


Editor’s Note: Green in the Desert is a new column exploring sustainability and conservation efforts in the El Paso/Juarez area.  Previous Columns can be read HERE.

Writer Chilton Tippin is project manager and communications coordinator for Wondor Eco:Nomics. He likes to write, bike, ski, climb and explore. In 2015, he walked across America.

Village of Vinton Receives Recognition for Transparency Efforts from Texas Comptroller

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced Village of Vinton is the latest local government entity to achieve specific transparency goals through the Comptroller’s Transparency Stars program.

The Village of Vinton received a star in the area of Traditional Finances, which recognizes entities for their outstanding efforts in making their spending and revenue information available.

Transparency Stars recognizes local government entities that provide easy online access to important financial data.

“By providing meaningful financial data in addition to visual tools and analysis of its revenues and expenditures, Village of Vinton has shown a true commitment to Texas taxpayers. This effort achieves the goals set by my office’s Transparency Stars program,” Hegar said. “I am pleased to award Village of Vinton a star for its accomplishments.”

The Comptroller’s office launched the Transparency Stars program in March 2016 to recognize cities, counties and school districts making important strides to greater government transparency. Local government entities can apply for stars in the areas of:

  • Traditional Finances,
  • Contracts and Procurement,
  • Economic Development,
  • Public Pensions, and
  • Debt Obligations.

After receiving an initial star for Traditional Finances, remaining stars may be awarded in any order. For more information on the program, including specific guidelines and information on how to apply, visit the Comptroller’s Transparency Stars website.

Village Vibes Music Festival Comes to Vinton Saturday

The Village of Vinton, in collaboration with Keep Vinton Beautiful and other great community partners, is proudly hosting the inaugural Village Vibes Music Festival on Saturday, October 08, 2016 from 12 PM to 12 AM at Dr. Applegate Park located at 7966 Quejette Road.

“After months of planning, I am proud to finally be able to present Village Vibes Music Festival to Vinton, El Paso and all our surrounding communities. KVB was looking for resourceful and fun ways to raise money for our community garden and learning center and this was a great opportunity. I would like to thank the Village of Vinton and all of our sponsors for making it possible,” states Mike Ramirez, Keep Vinton Beautiful Chair.

The Village Vibes Music Festival hopes to attract approximately 4,000 guests, of all ages, for a day filled with live music, food trucks and vendors. Village Vibes is an event that will bring together Vinton Residents and the surrounding Paso Del Norte communities for an experience that fuses music, culture and community outreach.

Town officials say that the Village Vibes Music Festival aims to build public awareness of the importance of establishing a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

“As the Mayor of the Village of Vinton, I am elated to be a part of Village Vibes because it brings recognition to our city and more importantly, at its heart, it is an event that further improves Vinton and promotes the culture identity of our residents” states Mayor Madeleine Praino.

Village Vibes is a fundraiser for Vinton’s first community garden and learning center that will sit on 4 acres of land located at Dr. Applegate’s property, the heart of Vinton.

The Village of Vinton’s Community Garden and Learning Center will address the lack of access to fresh, locally sourced produce and provide economic development for local farmers and an educational resource for local residents and elementary students.

Vinton to host 11th Annual Health Fair & Wellness Walk and Farmers Market

The Village of Vinton will host its 11th Annual Health Fair and Wellness Walk on September 10, 2016 from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the West Valley Fire Station, located on 510 E. Vinton Rd.

Vinton is also introducing its Farmers Market on the same day at Dr. Applegate Park next to Vinton City Hall located at 436 E. Vinton Rd. from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

The 11th Annual Health Fair, is co-sponsored by El Paso First Health Plans, will bring more than 30 health vendors to the fair to provide services and educational materials on important health issues that affect the community.

Services include Free Blood Pressure and Health Screening for the entire family, information on diabetes, WIC and dental health, free flu shots, free giveaways and more.

Community members are invited to participate in the Wellness Walk at Dr. Applegate Park. The walk begins at8:00 a.m. and the first 200 participants will receive a free t-shirt and wellness kit.

The Vinton Farmers Market is a community event where growers gather to sell affordable, fresh, and locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables foods directly to consumers. The market will also host art and craft vendors. If interested vendors would like to participate please call (915)886-5104.


Vinton Receives HOME Program Grant from TDHCA

The Village of Vinton has been awarded $194,800 by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) HOME Program to rehabilitate and reconstruct two homes.

The HOME Program funds are utilized to rehabilitate homes to address accessibility, energy efficiency, health and safety deficiencies. Since 2010, when the housing program started in Vinton, the Village has helped more than 30 homes in different levels of assistance from painting the exterior of the home to new construction. “We’ve been able to give keys to brand new homes to five deserving families in Vinton, rehabilitated four and more than 20 homes have been assisted with volunteer work and donations,” states Anibal Olague,

“We are beyond happy with our new home. We are thankful to the Village of Vinton and our council men and women who support programs like the Housing Program. I would like to encourage all Vinton residents to apply because, despite any opposition or rumors, the Housing Program does work. It is a program that has given my family and I a better quality of living and I know it is and will keep working for all of our community,” states new home owner, Abigail Monrreal.

The Village of Vinton has a waiting list of applicants and is currently reviewing applications to select the beneficiaries for the project. For more information on how to join the waiting list please call Vinton City Hall at (915)886-5104.

Keep Vinton Beautiful to host Helping Hands Project

Keep Vinton Beautiful will be hosting Helping Hands, on Saturday, November 21st; it’s a beautification project that assists the elderly, disabled and veterans.  Helping Hands is a biannual project which has helped more than 36 families in Vinton since 2010, not only by painting the exterior of the houses but assisting with minor repairs to the exterior of the homes and cleaning their yards.

This year, Keep Vinton Beautiful has partnered with the Junior League of El Paso to help ten deserving families paint the exterior of their home within the next year and construct accessibility ramps for four homes.

“Helping Hands is one of the most impactful projects that we have because the residents can see the difference volunteers make to their homes that same day. We paint, clean their yards and make small repairs all in one day,” states Michael Ramirez, Keep Vinton Beautiful Chair.

Author: Keep Vinton Beautiful

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