Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In the Trenches | ecofabulous

Its raining the proverbial cats and dogs here in LA which means my usually enjoyable evening walk with Mr Murphy (my Shih Tzu) is going to be a soggy and not so pleasant experience. That got me thinking about protective wear and various ways to keep dry without rain gear made from the usual, non-eco-friendly materials. I came across this trench and thought it was super fab. Its made with 100% recycled polyester and still manages to be breathable. (According to the manufacture, anyway). If anyone has personal experience I'd love to hear about it. There is a men's and women's though I think the men's has a bit more style.
In the Trenches | ecofabulous

Though it seems like there should be plenty of water after several days of pouring rain but the truth is we will still have huge shortages. After all, California is nothing more than a well irrigated desert. And if you step back from the local climate and look at the global condition; the picture becomes much more disturbing. The World Bank reports that 80 countries now have water shortages that threaten health and economies while 40 percent of the world — more than 2 billion people — have no access to clean water or sanitation. In this context, we cannot expect water conflicts to always be amenably resolved. That means instead of wars and fighting over oil, water will become the sacred commodity. The Financial Times of London states: "Water, like energy in the late 1970s, will probably become the most critical natural resource issue facing most parts of the world by the start of the next century."

It's easy to feel overwhelmed; I know I do. I found these tips on Gaiam Life website. 10 easy ways to save water. I've added my comments next to each recommendation and welcome your thoughts as well.

1. Install low-flow showerheads, taps, faucets, and toilets. According to the Albuquerque Water Conservation Office, older faucets use between 3 and 7 gallons per minute, while low-flow aerators reduce flow to 1.5 gallons per minute. Likewise, a low-flow toilet can reduce water used per flush by 30 percent, from approximately 5 gallons to 1.6 gallons.
ME: I have older faucets and would agree that they seem to use more water. All the more reason for me to replace them with improved, newer models.

2. Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth, shaving, washing your hands, or rinsing dishes or vegetables. Each minute you have it off saves at least 3 gallons. In the shower, get wet, turn off the water to lather, then turn the water back on to rinse. To make this easy, some low-flow showerheads have levers to temporarily stop the water flow.
ME: I've been doing this my whole life. I don't think my Mom was as concerned with the environment as the water bill when I was a kid but this is etched in my brain. Its a very easy and painless way to save water and money.

3. Fix dripping taps and leaking toilets by replacing washers and worn parts. A faucet drip or invisible leak in the toilet will waste up to 15 gallons of water a day, or 5,475 gallons a year. To check for toilet leaks, add 10 drops of food coloring to the tank. Wait 15 minutes. If color appears in the bowl, you have a leak.
ME: I'll have to take a closer look at my plumbing.

4. Place plastic jugs filled with sand or stones in your toilet tank to reduce the amount of water it uses per flush. Don't use bricks, which can flake off inside the tank and interfere with the toilet's operation.
ME: Good idea. I'll try this and let you know the results.

5. Wash only full loads in both the dishwasher and washing machine, or set the water levels to accommodate smaller loads.
ME: Again, not sure if it was conservation of energy or cash driving this behavior but grew up with this maxim.

6. Use biodegradable (phosphate-free) detergents and soaps and re-use dishwater in the garden. If you want to make an even greater impact, consider plumbing your house to a gray-water system that collects water from your sinks, washing machine, baths, and showers for irrigating (check your local water regulations first).
ME: I have been really good about purchasing phosphate-free laundry detergent. I tried a couple varieties phosphate-free dishwashing detergents but was not thrilled with the performance. I'd be grateful to hear about any you've found that work.

7. Use mulch and shade netting to reduce evaporation in your garden. Mulch helps the soil stay moist, and as an added benefit, reduces weeds, which are water gluttons. Water only when plants wilt or when it's difficult to push a screwdriver into the soil.
ME: I haven't used mulch but do use bark which helps with absorption and evaporation. Not as eco-friendly as mulch but better than nothing

8. Xeriscape. In arid regions, plant trees and shrubs that thrive on normal rainfall. Look for a nursery near you that specializes in native plants.
ME: My garden is about 50/50 with plants that are indigenous to the area, primarily succulents, so require minimal water. I know from the sustainable classes I've taken plus my own personal reading on landscape design; this is a very smart approach for the environment and the success of your garden.

9. Plant densely in your garden. According to Howard-Yana Shapiro in his book Gardening for the Future of the Earth, the denser the vegetation, the more water is stored in what he calls "productive biomass," meaning food plants.
ME: This one is new to me but makes sense. More reasons to visit the nursery. :-)

10. Eat less meat. According to the U.S. Geological survey, it takes 2,607 gallons of water to produce a single serving of steak and 408 gallons for a serving of chicken. A handful of almonds requires only 12 gallons to grow, rice needs 36 gallons, and lettuce and potatoes need only 6 gallons each.
ME: We've all seen this statistic many times. It saves on green house gas emissions, saves water, conserves land plus much more. I know this is a HUGE sacrifice for a lot of people but there are so many non-meat options out there now its less painful now than before. For those net yet hooked on TJ's (i.e. Trader Joe's) you'll find lots of good choices there.

If you want to read more on #10; here is a good article at Vegetarian Guide

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