FORT WORTH — They may not want to live off the grid, but two Fort Worth families are going head-to-head in the coming months to see who can be the most “green.”The Parkers and the Watsons will duke it out by recycling, making sustainable home improvements, composting and other innovative ideas to win Fort Worth’s Green-Off Contest. The winning family will receive six months of free trash pickup, a programmable thermostat and a rain barrel, among other things. The runner-up will also win green-centric prizes.To begin the challenge, both families received a $500 gift card to Lowe’s, a recycling container, low-flow aerators for their faucets, litter grabbers, draft busters, compact fluorescent light bulbs, rain gauges, soil moisture meters and composting bins. Dan Parker and his wife Ann say they are ready for the challenge. “Part of it is being conscious of — is our lifestyle causing inconvenience or detriment to someone else?” he said, adding he hopes the competition will teach their 6-year-old son Drew to take care of the Earth. Steve and Ginger Watson, along with their two daughters, 4-year-old Ruby and 7-year-old Lola, live in the Fairmount Historic District and sometimes struggle to live sustainably in their 1920s home, which wasn’t built to “go green.”“We love living in an antique, but we are looking forward to having the experts come over and tell us how we can improve our energy footprint in the house,” Steve Watson said. The Watsons want to share their new knowledge with other people in the neighborhood.Mayor Betsy Price said the competition is needed to push Fort Worth to do better with green initiatives. “One of the things we talk about as mayors is the shortage of water, the shortage of natural resources and how do we make things greener and how do we encourage that. I think that is one of the critical needs of this country,” Price said.Fort Worth falls behind most large cities in Texas and the United States when it comes to sustainability, losing to Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and El Paso, according to a study released in September by the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Out of the 34 largest cities in the United States, Fort Worth ranked No. 26; the study analyzed local government operations, community-wide initiatives, building policies, water and transportation.Brandon Bennett, director of code compliance in Fort Worth, said about 40 percent of the garbage heading to the landfill is material that can be recycled, which is part of the reason the city came up with the Green-Off.Lola Watson, a Girl Scout who already recycles her yogurt cups and school papers, said recycling “helps our Earth look pretty.”Both families say their Christian faith is a large part of why they entered the competition.“As Christians, our obligations is to take care of the Earth. ... And we want to do that in a way that doesn’t leave a mess for others. We don’t leave a mess for others to clean up — that is our rule at home, so that is our rule for being green as well,” Ann Parker said.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984 Twitter: @catyhirst