How Does Conservation Work With City Dwelling? (Joni Carswell)

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In the U.S., creating space for conservation and outdoor use is directly tied to public lands. But what do you do when most land is privately held? And how do you encourage conservation and nature appreciation in major cities like Dallas? For Joni Carswell and Texan By Nature, an organization founded by former First Lady Laura Bush, the answer comes down to everyone – businesses, nonprofits and citizens – working together to focus on what we share around the outdoors.

Catch Joni’s beliefs around conservation, her love of Texas, tips for encouraging conservation in your own backyard, plus the inside scoop on why, exactly, it always looks a little bit like the George W. Bush Presidential Library’s lawn is getting out of hand.

Some of the good stuff:

[5:05] Texas eco-regions
[6:00] About Texan By Nature
[10:06] Why businesses take care of natural resources
[13:34] Extracting resources, and then leaving it better than you found it
[17:30] Conservation and the George W. Bush Presidential Center
[21:13] Why it looks like former Pres. Bush forgot to mow his lawn
[23:33] Joni’s outdoor story
[30:00] Conservation meets city living
[33:00] Upcoming Texan By Nature project
[35:27] Tips for conservation in your own backyard
[38:09] Joni’s favorite outdoor gear
[38:46] Joni’s most essential outdoor gear
[39:00] Joni’s most favorite outdoor moment ever

Connect with this episode:

Austin, Texas
El Paso, Texas
Laura Bush
National Parks
Bird Watching
Texan By Nature
West Texas
US Fish and Wildlife
Natural Resource Management
Land restoration
Biodiverse habitat pollinators
Ogallala, Texas
George W Bush Presidential Center
Dallas, Texas
Blackland Prairie 
Rainwater capture
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Crawford Texas
Texas State Parks
Texas Bee Keepers Association
Health benefits of going outside
Texas Parks and Wildlife
Texas Children in Nature
Conservation Wranglers 
Texas Monthly Magazine
Texan By Nature 20 
Guadalupe Peak, Texas

Favorite Gear: Icebreaker Gloves 
Most Essential Gear: Polarized sunglasses

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Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast. Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

AB: If there’s one thing we all know about Texans, it’s that they are proud, really, really proud. They’re proud of their heritage. They’re proud of their land. They are proud of their boots. I’m pretty sure they’re also proud of their humidity and their big hair. One organization is using that pride to encourage a Texas-focused conservation effort aimed at restoring and keeping Texas lands natural while encouraging Texans to get outside and lead nature-centric lives. Texan By Nature, founded by former first lady Laura Bush, is doing incredible work across the nation’s second largest state. And Joni Carswell is leading the charge. Joni, welcome to the Humans Outside Podcast.

JC: Thank you. I’m excited to be here.

AB: So we like to start our podcast by imagining ourselves in our guest’s favorite outdoor space. Where are we with you today?

JC: Well, considering the lead in, I am now forced to choose a space in Texas, just to show the Texas pride. But in all seriousness, I think that that’s a really hard question. It’s almost like choosing your favorite child because there are so many favorite – I know that doesn’t jive with the word favorite – but so many amazing outdoor spots around the world. But I will go with one close to home that I visit often on my runs. So I like to trail run. I live in Austin. And there’s some great single track that is right in the middle of neighborhoods in Austin. About two miles from my house, there is a spot where really rough rocky technical single track actually opens into a springfed pool area and my husband and I call it the reflecting pool. The rock has been carved around it into almost like seating areas and just this beautiful, peaceful, serene, carved rock and then a little creek that trickles through into about a 10 foot deep hole. And no matter how dry it gets in Texas, this is a springfed pool that always has water in it and there’s always running water. And so when I run, occasionally I will stop and sit on the ledge and just look at the pool and take in the surroundings. It’s surrounded by beautiful oak trees and in the springtime there are wild flowers. There’s a Texas mountain laurel that is beside this pond and it is just an amazing spot. Even though you’re in the middle of a neighborhood that homes thousands of people, you feel like there’s no one else around because you’re there all by yourself. All you hear are the insects chirping and the beautiful water running. So that is my favorite spot on, you know, a few times a week on my runs and hikes.

AB: Sounds like the perfect spot. So I can’t help but get my Texas jabs out of the way. Because of course Alaska is the most forgotten, but also the largest state in the Union by far. And it also, however, has the lowest population density and lowest private land ownership. So over 95% of Alaska is publicly owned land, which is interesting because I saw on the Texan by Nature site that that is almost the exact opposite of Texas.

JC: That is correct. Over 95% of Texas is actually privately owned.

AB: That’s an incredible statistic. When you think about the vastness of the state, anyone who’s ever driven across Texas has surely noted how large it is.

JC: That is correct. When we take road trips, it takes 11 hours for us, from the center of Texas – so we’re in Austin – to get to get to El Paso. So that’s not even from one side of the state to the other. And, you know I’m a Texan when I’m talking about driving in terms of hours, which Alaskans probably do too.

AB: As do Californians, which is where I’m originally from. It’s hard to fathom that, especially if you live in, say, New England or on the eastern seaboard where you hop between states, well, traffic notwithstanding, within even a couple of hours, you can visit several states. And so it really is mind blowing to people that you visit a place and you’re still there after a long time.

JC: Absolutely. The longest part of the drive from here to California is just getting out of Texas. 

AB: But Texans are okay with that. 

JC: We are! There’s a lot to see. Texas has 10 different ecoregions. We have everything from mountainous areas to coastal areas to desert, which people are most familiar with and associate with Texas. But we actually have every type of landscape you can imagine, from tropical to the arid that I mentioned. We have over 38 peaks that are taller than a mile high that people don’t actually associate, you know, Texas is having that type of landscape. But you know, Texans are very proud of it. And it gives us the opportunity to visit a whole lot of flora and fauna and different outdoor activities all while staying in Texas.

AB: Absolutely. And that’s a huge part of who Texan By Nature is and why you got started. That and the private ownership of so much of the land. So tell us about the organization, its history, and your goals.

JC: Sure. So, as you mentioned, Texan By Nature was founded in 2011 by former first lady Laura Bush. For those who are familiar with Mrs. Bush, they might know the type of work that she did while she was in office and working with the National Parks and her general love of the outdoors. She’s an avid birdwatcher. She really picked up the love of nature from her grandmother and from her mother, and talks about growing up out in West Texas and just the endless dome of sky that you see out in the flat West Texas area. You can see stars forever and ever and ever at nighttime. It’s amazing, if you haven’t been out there. And when she came back from Washington, she was really deciding where she wanted to focus her platform and her ability to make change. And she’s inspired by Lady Bird Johnson and Lady Bird’s initiatives throughout Texas and beyond to fill the roadways with wild flowers and to care for our land and really wanted to build on that First Lady legacy. And so Texan by Nature was formed to really make conservation matter to everyone. And in Texas, you mentioned the business aspect, we have a unique opportunity. You know, not only do we have a land that’s unique and being 95% privately owned, but we have a major, major amount of land that is farmed and rural. And then some of the biggest cities in the entire United States. And we have business leadership in oil and gas and solar energy and wind energy and technology. Texas would be the 10th largest economy in the world if we were a standalone country, and so Texan by Nature was formed to really bring all of those things together. 

And the state of Texas, we’re really really proud of the outdoors in our heritage. And at last count there were over 150 conservation organizations operating across the state of Texas. And these organizations range in size, from large global organizations like nature conservancy to national organizations like U.S. Fish and Wildlife, to small single biologist teams who are focused on a particular reptile. Texan by Nature wanted to lift up the science based work that could be replicated across the state to make true impact. And so Texan by Nature was formed to bring community and conservation and corporations together to benefit our natural resources long term and to also benefit our health and our economic prosperity long term. All of us at Texan by Nature believe that if we do well for our natural resources, we will do well for our future in terms of people and prosperity. And so the work that we do is collaborative in nature. We believe very deeply that bringing all of those 150 organizations together with the business leadership across the state, we can form a new model of collaborative conservation that is impactful and beneficial to businesses’ bottom line, and to our food systems and to our health and to the longevity of our natural resources moving forward. And all of our programs point to that they all have a collaborative and a partnership aspect of building on the best projects that are out there the best data and science that’s out there to create impact.

AB: A lot of people might see a disconnect between business and nature, that there might be a push-pull there or a cognitive dissonance, especially when it comes to resource extraction or wind energy or anything like that. But why do you think that partnership actually makes sense? What are people missing, who only see the cognitive dissonance there?

JC: Well, they’re missing the fact that these businesses need natural resources to exist. And if they’re not taking care of those natural resources, they don’t have a sustainable business model. And so it really truly matters for the longevity of these businesses, personal prosperity, and the economic vitality of the business itself, for natural resources to be cared for. And we’re actually seeing that in leadership in industries that you would not normally associate with taking care of the land and the resources, namely, in Texas – oil and gas. You’re seeing that acknowledgement that we have to take care of this because this is our business. You know, we have, speaking for oil and gas right now, but they have some of the brightest geologists and scientists on earth working within that industry. And we need to channel those minds towards innovation that sustains our natural resources. And so saying that these two groups should not interact or that you know, if you’re for business, you’re against natural resources, it just doesn’t make sense. For our long term health and ability to be innovative in product development and processes, we all work together. And, you know, creating an ethic and an ethos around caring for natural resources is what we’re trying to do through all of our programming. And every single business leader that we engage has been very open and receptive to that, contrary to what we might read in popular media.

AB: Yeah, it’s interesting because up here in Alaska, obviously this is a very big topic. You know, we have a robust, we would like it to continue to be robust, oil industry. Alaskans hunt, Alaskans fish, Alaskans mine, right? But when we talk about making sure those things are done in such a way that they can continue to be done, right, that’s quote unquote, sustainability. And it’s not about not doing it. For most people, I would say – I’m sure that, you know, there are outliers there – but for most Alaskans, it’s about doing so in a way that can make it be done in the future. And, you know, when I think about this concept of I mean, the show title Humans Outside, I’m thinking about humans doing things outside, which means that we are using those natural resources in a variety of ways, whether that’s by experiencing them, or, you know, the word extraction, right? That’s a very sort of harsh sounding word, but what it really means is that we’re using the things around us. When I go for a hike and my shoes hit a trail that is well used, I am extracting a resource from that trail. I’m extracting a resource from the area in which I’m recreating just the same way that somebody who is fishing is extracting a fish from a river. But we would never sit here and say — don’t do that. We would, however, sit here and say — do it responsibly. And so I just love that idea of collaboration and working together to make sure that this is something that we can all continue to enjoy, no matter the resource we are, quote unquote, extracting.

JC: Right? Absolutely, and even the concept of leaving areas better that you tangentially touch through that extraction. And an example I’ll give here in Texas – I’ll give two examples actually – the oil and gas industry who’s known for extraction, maybe more than anyone else. Along the Eagle Ford Shale here in Texas – that’s actually part of the monarch flyway. And the monarchs overwinter in Mexico and then they migrate up to Canada. And they have this five generation cycle where they go all the way up to Canada and they come all the way back to Mexico. And it’s really an amazing insect. But it’s almost like the canary for all of our pollinators. And as a lot of people know, these monarchs, their population has been declining. And we have seen many of the oil and gas industry and operators start to get involved in the land that they operate on. So in Texas, they partner with private landowners. They sign a lease agreement to extract natural resources, so oil and gas from the land, and then they restore the land when that extraction is complete. And in past history, some of that restoration hasn’t been native restoration. It’s been more invasive species and grasses that aren’t necessarily great for pollinators. 

But what we’re seeing from the industry now is actually going in after land has been disturbed and they’re working with seed researchers and growers across the state of Texas and putting back in biodiverse habitat for pollinators, which then helps our food systems which ends up being food sources for the birds, which is food sources for the larger mammals, which is supporting the entire ecocycle here in the state of Texas and beyond, with the work they’re doing. They’re putting in this habitat, not only on the land they’re disturbing, but helping to do that all along the flyway, so any of that land that they are tangentially touching. So we’re seeing not necessarily something that’s part of their natural process, but that this industry is getting involved with helping just because they’re working in the area where these pollinators typically are. They’re also doing the same type of work in the panhandle area of Texas where the majority of water comes from the Ogallala Aquifer. There’s some restoration work going on there for playas, which are basically shallow pits that when it rains, water goes through the silt bottom, and filters back down to recharge the Ogallala. After centuries of overgrazing and filling in pits, the majority of these pits no longer operate as they should. And we’re seeing local landowners again go back and restore these pits to the former way that they operate, so taking out the fill and softening the bottom so that they can begin to recharge. And we’re seeing the oil and gas companies, once they learned about this, understand that they have these playas on lands that they’re leasing, and volunteer at their own cost to restore those playas back to where they need to be. So we’re seeing that collaboration not only just in the innovation around extraction processes and and trying to reuse water and and you know, do a better job there, but also in partnering with landowners in the surrounding land to take care of all of the land across Texas. You mentioned it, it’s that collaboration that has to take place between the scientists and researchers, between the landowners, and between industry for all of this to sustain moving forward.

AB: You mentioned Mrs. Bush’s involvement in conservation. I think actually, a lot of people don’t know that she was very into the National Park scene, if you will. It’s my favorite scene. I think a lot of people don’t know about her conservation efforts. And so I think it’s probably surprising that your organization is so closely tied to her because she’s the founder, and also to the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. So I know you guys have worked with the Presidential Center to create a conservation landscape there. 

For people who haven’t been there, which is probably most listeners, it looks almost like an office building in some ways. It’s very similar to a lot of different Presidential Library buildings, if you’ve ever been to one of those. It houses the National Archives items from the Bush presidency, there’s a museum there, and then there’s the George W. Bush Presidential Institute there, which hosts leadership fellowships like the one I was in, but also classes and tours and that kind of thing. But this particular Presidential Center is located on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas,Texas. You walk onto the campus and it’s right on the corner. It’s right across the street from some development, office buildings, a shopping center. And if you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen my pictures from that area because I spent a lot of time there. So I joke that, you know you’re in Dallas when your beautiful sunrise is blocked by a giant office building. But, you know, when you enter this campus area, this little corner of the campus, the first thing you’re likely to notice is that the president needs to cut his grass. But the reality is that this is very much on purpose, and that this is a particular kind of grass and that is native to Texas, and it’s a particular type of seed. So can you tell us about the Presidential Center’s landscape and the grass that’s grown there and why the casual observer might think of donating a lawn mower?

JC: Absolutely. So the area surrounding the Bush Center is a restored native prairie. Many many, many years ago before the Dallas area was settled, it was blackland prairie. And so the area that is there, it’s amazing. So they’ve restored it to blackland prairie; they worked with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to identify the grasses and some of the flowers and all of the species to put there. And they actually have demonstrated to other ecoregions of Texas that are closest to blackland prairie. So you can go, it’s open to public sunup to sundown. You can go and run and enjoy and there’s signage. And you can actually get a docent from the George W. Bush Presidential Center to walk you through and tell you more about that native prairie. And it’s, there’s zero irrigation, so they do rainwater capture, but it’s also a great example of how using native species uses less water and it thrives naturally. And so it’s a fabulous example of a beautiful landscape that is using all natives to thrive. 

And it’s funny that you bring up the mowing piece you may have heard Mrs. Bush tell the story of the gentleman who lives across the street from SMU after the native prairie was put in place. And you know, there was no mowing going on. There’s a big SMU donor who lives across the street who’s used to the more manicured golf course look, and he would call the president of SMU and say — when are you going to mow that grass? Finally, the SMU president was telling President and Mrs. Bush about it — like you know, do you guys want to give this guy a call and explain what you’re doing here? But now it’s the running joke that they need to mow their grass. So I know it’s so cute, but even beyond the Bush Center, the Bushes actually own a ranch in Crawford, Texas, which is near Waco. And they spent 10 years removing invasive species and restoring that land back to its native grassland. And it is just an amazing place that they have spent a lot of time and resources to restore. And it’s just a great example of restoration success. So not only does Mrs. Bush talk about it and start organizations to care for our natural resources, but she does it in her own spaces as well.

AB: So you have so much passion for your work and for Texas. I noticed while reading your bio on the Texan by Nature site and some things you’ve written that there’s no shortage of Texan pride within you. Where does that come from? And what is your outdoor story?

JC: So where does that come from? You know, all of my non-Texas friends laugh when I talk about taking Texas history in middle school. And they say that’s not normal. A lot of other states’ curriculum – you don’t actually have years of your own state history. So I think it’s something that is really indoctrinated. If that’s the right term for, you know, all Texans going through the school system. And there’s just a braggadocio with it, you know, it’s a whole mentality of — I’m a Texan, I’m independent. I’m strong. And that starts from even the characterization of Texans by Hollywood, down to others, how other states talk about us and you know, Texans just embrace it. It’s funny, you hear people like Conrad Hilton, actually started Hilton in Cisco, Texas, which is about two hours from Dallas. And he talks about there being just an expansiveness in Texas, that there’s nothing that can hem in the thoughts and the dreams, and that really does permeate the culture. 

But beyond that, I come from generations of Texans. I was born in Dallas. I grew up in West Texas. I moved out there when I was eight years old, and all of my formative years we spent going to state parks across Texas and then national parks across the West. So we tent camped, you know, the majority of amazing sites in Texas and I think that just formed a love of the diversity that we have here in terms of landscape and natural resources, and just the peace that you get from being outside. And so that paired with the fact that I went to Texas A&M, which is another place that just hammers pride, love of school and stayed into you. I think it was, you know, kind of sealed from the start that I would be a proud Texan. 

But my outdoor story, as I mentioned a second ago, you know, grew up doing a lot of camping and hiking. My parents laugh now because I go on a lot of hiking adventures and they talk about when I was five and I think we were in Colorado at the time. We were doing another hiking trip and I just looked at my dad and I was like — we keep walking and walking and walking. Now I make my own children walk and walk and walk. Because there’s just so much joy in it. But you know, my mother and my father taught us to love and care for our surroundings and to take peace and joy from being in them, to really appreciate the stillness of a sunrise and a sunset. And just the immense beauty of breathing in cool mountain air, or even being in a dry arid desert and being able to see forever without anything hindering your view. And that was just how we talked in my family. 

And I would say beyond that, I was born in Dallas and my dad, probably before I was born, really got the bug of gardening and being very healthy. He started running marathons. And we lived on about an acre in a suburb there in Dallas and he had already converted the back third and was keeping bees – honeybees – and doing a lot of gardening. He had planted fruit trees and he was an engineering manager at the time in the semiconductor industry. And he just decided that he wanted to take his gardening hobby – he had already been elected the president of the Texas Beekeepers Association – and he’s like — you know, want to take this, and I want this to be my job in my life. And so we moved out to West Texas and he bought some land and spent about 18 months researching and ultimately built four commercial size greenhouses. And so from the age of eight until I left home from college, I actually worked in the field and developed an intense love of organic farming and a great organic produce and eating and having that lifestyle. We had tomatoes and onions and squash and cantaloupe and watermelon, and all of these things that thrive in that Sandy West Texas soil. And we sold to HDB, which is a beloved Texas grocery chain, and they do a lot to support local farmers. And that was way back in the 80s, before it was the thing to do. They were already supporting local farmers and providing that in grocery stores close to those farms. And so being part of that, I like to say my family was granola before granola was cool. And then my staff says — well, Joni, granola still isn’t cool. Alright, right, whatever. 

But all of that really formed my opinion on making a living off the land. And working with the land, collaborating with the land, collaborating with your resources, collaborating with your neighbors, and shaped even how I did business post-graduation from A&M and business school. So my story is a meandering path of loving parks and loving the adventure of hiking and seeing beautiful places, but also of just nature and natural products being part of your everyday life.

AB: So much of Texas’ population center, as you mentioned earlier, is in big cities. And that’s, that’s a lot like other places, right? Every time I visit Dallas, I wonder what people can possibly need with so many stores. But that’s just such a stark contrast here to here in Alaska, where everything is harder, because shipping things here is harder, therefore, the economy is harder, and so on and so forth. But one of the things your organization does is work with Texans, to bring them back to nature and to spending more time outside, you know, as a thread through this conservation effort. So can you talk a little bit about that and why that’s important.

JC: I love that all of the research that’s been coming out over the last few years that shows it’s incredibly important to our health, but physical health, mental health, emotional health. And there are more and more studies showing that reconnecting with nature and being in nature, it drops your heart rate, it drops your stress levels. It helps with mental health. All of the markers that you have for good health improve when you spend time in nature. And so for Texan by Nature, that’s really important because the more that you can link that good health to nature, the more it proves the fact that we need to take care of nature so that it’s here for our own long term health. And we actually have a partnership with Texas A&M University and with Houston Methodist Hospital, where we formed in 2018 the Center for Health in Nature and we are working to push outcome based research that proves that connection between health and nature in all settings. So in the clinical setting, if you can expose patients to nature during treatment, can you have better outcomes in the community setting? If you can make access to nature available for all regardless of what your income level is, regardless of how urban an area you live in, if you can provide a space for nature, and, you know, what does that do to our health and then in the corporate setting, and providing time for employees to get outside during the day providing plants to clean the air inside the buildings — what does that do for our population health as a whole? So that center is certainly pushing that research forward in collaboration with researchers around the world. And you know, for Texan by Nature, it’s our partner organizations, everything from Texas Parks and Wildlife who runs the state parks, to groups like Texas Children and Nature, working with them to promote their programs to get people outside and realize everything that we have here, and beyond the recreational aspect that needs to take care of our working lands, which provide food for our ever growing population.

AB: That goes back to the resource extraction we were talking about earlier, right? When we use our land to feed ourselves, which I think we could all agree is a good thing, that is also the sort of term that makes us uncomfortable – resource.

JC: Absolutely. And just to add on to that, even, you know, you don’t think of some of the food industry, the innovation that they have in grazing practices, to make sure that they’re sustainably farming the land. So moving the cattle and the way that the buffalo used to graze, you know, centuries, centuries ago. There’s just so much work being done in every industry today to understand how to work with the land as we move forward.

AB: What big projects or anything new does Texan by Nature have coming up?

JC: Oh, well, we are actually in the middle of selecting what we call our Conservation Wranglers, which we’re incredibly excited about. Those will be announced April 1 of 2020. We choose six projects each year and assign basically an ancillary team member to help with strategy and marketing and project development and partner development for projects across the state of Texas. Those have ranged from the playa restoration that I mentioned, to Dark Skies initiatives in West Texas to keep the skies dark for research at the UT McDonald Observatory, to reef building in the Gulf of Mexico. So we’ll be announcing this year‘s slate of projects that, you know, will range everywhere from water conservation to broad landscape conservation with prairie restoration, etc. 

Beyond the conservation Wranglers, we announced an initiative last year, the Texan by Nature 20, which is more of an industry focused program, where we highlight the 20 businesses doing the most innovative and impactful work and conservation across the state of Texas. And we highlighted those in Texas Monthly Magazine last December. So we’ll be announcing the revamp, or the 2020 version of that program. And that program is an effort to recognize the great work that’s being done, but also to share best practices. And you know, we’ve laughed about Texas throughout this conversation, but there’s a competitive dynamic to doing anything in Texas and the more that we can really build on that competitive spirit and get folks to come compete when it comes to conservation and innovation in this space, the better we all are. We are so excited to continue the Texan by Nature 20. It was really well received by the industry and we’ll be highlighting some great new initiatives this year, and those will be announced at the end of the year. 

Other than that, we’ll have our annual Health and Nature Symposium on October 7 in Houston. And we’ll have our Annual Conservation Summit that brings together corporate leaders, conservation leaders, community leaders, and that will be at the George W. Bush Presidential Center on October 27, in Dallas.

AB: So conservation isn’t just something for a big organization or business to do like we’ve been talking about. And it’s not just for Texas, of course. It’s for everybody, right? For the folks listening to this, can you offer two or three pieces of advice for conservation in their own backyards? Maybe how to get involved in doing this kind of work? 

JC: Absolutely. So I would say one, know your local organizations. There are great organizations everywhere. You can look at master naturalists and master gardeners throughout the United States and they’ll have projects going on in local communities and that’s a great space to understand more about your local area and what might be needed, whether it’s pollinator habitat or planting the right grasses. And you can also go to your local nurseries if you’re looking at something to do truly in your own backyard or even on your balcony, if you have an apartment and you’re wanting to do something. Those local nurseries are typically going to have native plants, they’re going to be able to tell you what they need from water and even fertilization, like what thrives in the environment in which you live and what they’re going to do for the local ecosystem. So you know, we hear “shop local” when it comes to retail and not putting a strain on shipping channels and all of that we hear “shop local” when it comes to food, but really when it comes to plants and nurseries, those folks are some of your best resources. And then you can look at some of the national sites like Monarch Joint Venture and Monarch Watch. And even some of the US Fish and Wildlife, government run sites to see of anything that’s going on in your area where you can get involved. Because we see local groups, they need volunteers for cleanup days, or for replant days, or even for brush clear out days throughout the United States. But even more, you can take part in the activities that you’re doing outside by understanding from your local nurseries, what’s best for your area. And then inside by choosing water conservation methods, turning out the lights, all of these things that leave less of an imprint and a usage of our natural resources and just being aware of those and modifying your habits slightly.

AB: So we’ve come to the part of our show that I like to call the leftovers round where we sort of squeeze in the things that I want to know, but didn’t have a chance to ask earlier. So you mentioned you’re a runner. I know you spend a lot of time outside you like to backpack. So maybe this falls into that category. Maybe it doesn’t. But talk to us about your favorite outdoor gear. 

JC: That would be my icebreaker gloves. Don’t laugh at me using gloves in Texas.

But they’re the perfect weight and I find – actually I use them no matter where I am for backpacking, etc. I don’t lose dexterity, and they keep my hands warm, which keeps the rest of my body warm. So my icebreaker gloves

AB: We are pro warm hands here and when I went on a run in Texas recently though, it was 55, I absolutely started out in gloves. No shame.

JC: There you go. I appreciate that. 

AB: Talk to us about your most essential gear. Might be the same thing, might be different.

JC: Polarized sunglasses, because no matter what time of year, I need the sunglasses no matter where I am.

AB: All right. And finally, if you close your eyes and remember your most favorite outdoor moment ever, something that just gives you joy and just something that you harken back to – where are you and what are you doing?

JC: This one’s a really hard one. Because I have been blessed to feel joy on different continents in different countries and different states. But I think that the one that tops the mind would be being at the summit of Guadalupe Peak in Guadalupe National Park here in Texas. So Guadalupe Peak is the tallest point in Texas and American Airlines put a pinnacle marker there. And it’s not a difficult hike. It’s not a particularly long hike. But the moment that I remember, I was actually 12 weeks pregnant with my first child. And so we got to the summit, and I just remember feeling like — man, this is beautiful. We’re at the top of Texas and we’re gonna raise our son –I actually at that point, we weren’t sure it was a boy. But we’re gonna raise our child to love the outdoors and have all of these experiences and to be part of this crazy wild world and landscape. And I just remember feeling joy that, you know, we had that capability to be there and to experience it and that we would be welcoming him to the same. 

AB: Thank you so much for being on the Humans Outside Podcast. 

JC: Thank you so much. It was truly a pleasure.

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