You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Water Conservation’ tag.

Permeable-DrivewayJune 13, 2009–Today’s Way: As we all know, the concrete jungle creates many problems for our environment, and all those paved parking lots, streets, highways and driveways are some of the star offenders.   One major issue with all of that pavement is, when it rains, rain water is diverted into gutters and mixing into sewage systems.   When it rains a lot, all of that extra water overwhelms arcane municipal water management systems which then dump raw sewage and rain water into overflows, also known as the nearest lake, river or ocean — totally untreated.  Another problem is that these ribbons of black asphalt criss-crossing our great lands tend to absorb energy from the sun during the day, gathering up thermal mass, then slowly releasing the heat when the sun sets and raising environmental temperatures in the form of global warming.  Other side effects of our love affair with asphalt is the constant leaching of toxic chemicals into the areas along roadways, including wetlands and vast agricultural landscapes which happen to be located nearby.

Permeable Driveways/Parking Areas are one excellent way to provide clean, beautiful and low maintenance parking and driving surfaces while allowing all of that rain water to naturally trickle down through the ground and back into the water table, where it belongs.  Permeable surfaces come in a dizzying array of options, but the most basic are porous paver bricks which fit together with patterned open holes, which are set into and filled in with pea gravel (as in the photo, above right).  This attractive solution keeps your car protected from mud and dirt, keeps vegetation at bay and at the same time, because of the many lighter color options, does not have to absorb and release heat energy in the same way as asphalt.  Permeable driving surfaces are a beautiful solution for businesses, cities, developers and individuals committed to a greener future.

You can see examples and learn more about permeable driveways or surfaces here, and here.

June 12, 2009–Today’s way: Hey, it’s warm outside.  Drop your socks and grab your sandals!  Or flip flops.  Or Earth Shoes.  Or Uggs.  It may seem trivial, but just as most of the little things we do add up to make an impact over time, going socks-less more often can really make a dent in your energy consumption when you add it all up.  Think about it: a few less loads of laundry, requiring a few gallons less water, which won’t need to be heated first (thereby most likely requiring the burning of fossil fuels to generate the energy to heat the water), and less detergent produced to wash the socks, and fewer fossil fuels burned in order to ship the detergent to your local store…you get the idea.  So remember the little things, and do what you can, when you can.  And show us those naked toes.

June 6, 2009–Today’s Way: Every house, no matter how great or small, contains a plethora of of pipes, traveling from our hot water heater out to our faucets, sometimes quite far away, and usually in a cool basement or crawl space.  However, by insulating your hot water pipes, you’ll reduce heat loss and even raise water temperatures by 2ºF–4ºF over that of uninsulated pipes.  Also, insulating pipes will mean that you won’t have to wait as long for hot water at the faucet or showerhead, whick will help to conserve water at the same time.

For step-by-step instructions on how to insulate your pipes, see this site from diy.

June 5, 2009–Today’s Way: One easy way to conserve water is to not to constantly run the water while rinsing when you’re hand-washing dishes.  You’ll save a lot more water by filling one sink (or basin) with wash water and the other with rinse water.

June 2, 2009–Today’s Way: If you’re considering planting some new trees in your own yard, or looking to expand your gardens, you can save yourself a great deal of money (and likely watering, fertilizing, tending, etc…) by planting natives from your own region.  Native shrubs, plants and trees have evolved over time to withstand the conditions of your area, and as such require little or no care at all from humans.  They are naturally disease resistant, and will be uniquely predisposed to thrive in your climate and soil—such as being drought tolerant, or being able to withstand heavy rains and hard winters.  And natives are beautiful as well as diverse; offering of themselves beautiful flowers and nuts and fruits for humans as well as wildlife to enjoy.  Most importantly, by planting natives, you’ll be helping to preserve and protect ecological diversity among developed areas.  You can obtain low-cost native plants and trees as well as get plenty of information on how to plant and care for them through your local conservation district.

May 29, 2009–Today’s Way: Although it has been established that most ordinary tap water in the United States is actually just as pure as bottled water a lot of folks, for various reasons, still like to filter their water.  The problem with this is that the carbon filter plastic cartridges that come with most of the popular systems must be disposed of every couple of months, and they are not recycled.  A greener option is to choose a water filtering system like our pal, the Big Berkey, that utilizes special ceramic filters made from natural diatomaceous earth, which has pores so small it is able to filter out 99.99% of particulates, including cysts, parasites and pathogenic bacteria (such as E. Coli, Cryptosporidium and Salmonella).  What’s more, the Berkey filters reduce chlorine, rust, sediment and organic chemicals—we have rather sulphury smelling well water, which oxidates into rust very quickly, but we run all of our water through these filters and it comes out only a little while later clean and pure and tasty as a clear mountain spring.  And these ceramic filters last for about 6,000 gallons of water (at 10 gallons per week, that’s over 11 years…we’ve had ours for 10), since all you have to do is clean them up with a scrubby sponge periodically.  The best part is, there are no changeable cartridges to replace or create a disposal problem—when our ceramic filters are spent, they’ll easily biodegrade into our garden.

The up-front cost of a Big Berkey is rather high, but the savings are really worth it over the duration.  You should definitely do a little comparison shopping because we have seen huge differences in pricing from merchant to merchant.  To learn more about the Big Berkey, check out this site.

May 27, 2009–Today’s Way: Okay, I know I’m a little fixated on the mosquitoes this week, but that’s because there are just so darned many of them this year!  A snowy winter and a wet, rainy spring has brought lots of happy flowers, plants and trees, but it’s also deposited a lot of little vernal ponds of standing water everywhere, the ideal breeding grounds for massive mosquito egg-laying orgies.  But what to do if you don’t want to use chemicals to combat the whining clouds of bloodthirsty critters?  First, eliminate as many of the standing water traps as possible; used tires, fallow bird baths, ditches with poor drainage, gutters and abandoned children’s pools are some of the most common offenders.  Also, try to keep your grass trimmed.  And if you’re willing or able to build a bat house, that can help, too.  Best of all, you can use Bacillus thuringiensis israeliensis (aka Bti) pellets or dunks in your pond or other areas where standing water cannot be drained.  These little naturally-occuring bacteria are harmless to wildlife, plants, pets and humans, but deadly to mosquito larvae where they hatch.  You can find products containing Bti online, at hardware stores, feed stores and increasingly, in larger superstores.

May 24, 2009 –Today’s Way: Okay, all you lawn people.  Listen up.  I know you know we’ve all been sold a bill of goods by the grass seed and weed chemical industry, but we’re intelligent individuals with the ability to think critically and independently, right?  We know that the commercials for weed & feed products showing perfect, exquisitely trim and seductively luscious green carpets, sprawling before us and lit with a brilliant sunset is an impossible dream.  They’re just setting us up for failure, with these unattainable ideas.  I mean, those lawns are not real.  We know better.  And still, there we are, every other day from thaw to frost, going over our lawns with a fine tooth comb, nit-picking and assessing, armed with hazardous chemical spray guns, shooting anything resembling a dandelion and taking names later.  We mow it.  A lot.  We water it.  A lot.  We fret over it.  We fertilize it.  We cover it with pesticides and herbicides, we trim it, we edge it and we look at it.  But how much time do we actually spend enjoying it?  We certainly can’t let the kids play on it, what with all the chemical heat it’s packing.  Nevermind that there are no birds or natural wildlife to speak of, because they’re probably dead.  But by-gum, there’s a lawn out there, and it’s green.  And, um.  Straight.  And…green?

My question is, why are we Americans striving for a perfect lawn in the first place?  Where in nature do we see anything resembling the ideal that we so mindlessly chase?  Why, especially, are people who live in the desert, mind you, spending hundreds of dollars and wasting thousands of gallons of fresh drinking water just to have a perfect patch of green surrounding them?  It’s silly, when you really sit down and think about it.  And it’s also a big environmental problem.  The mowers and all their polluting emissions, not to mention the constant noise.  The chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides which, yes, kill grubs but they also indiscriminately kill the beneficial butterflies and bees and birds as well.  All of those chemicals have to go somewhere, and that’s directly into our ground water, our lakes, streams, rivers and, eventually, into the oceans.  And for what?  Where in the world did we get this impossible ideal in the first place?

It is believed that short grasses first came to be favored by early settlers due to their ability to see potential enemies from afar.  Others believe it was the influence of the great British estates and their manicured lawns and gardens which well-to-do early Americans were attempting to mimic, and then the idea spread to the middle class and the working class and so on…and soon the sprawling green carpet of the estate was shrunk down and applied to every little postage stamp sized patch in the country.  For whatever reason, we Americans have embraced the lawn, and all of the laborious maintenance that comes with it.

Well, I’m here to stand up and declare my freedom from the lawn.  We’ve begun eliminating our grass, one island of garden at a time.  We have the wildflower meadow area (which is just what popped up naturally when we stopped mowing on the Northern side of our property and it’s quite pretty), we have the woodland gardens with delicate native wild geranium, periwinkle and lily of the valley mingling with mushrooms, ferns and wild leeks.  We have the shade garden, where columbines and bleeding hearts glow their brillant colors out from under the cool shelter of trees.  We have the herb garden.  We have the vegetable garden.  And soon we’ll have more.  Our goal is to eliminate as much lawn from our nearly two acres as possible, so that mowing will be a cinch (instead of a day-long project requiring a lawn tractor and several tall glasses of mint iced tea a couple of times per week).  And instead of a lawn—which, let’s face it, is a greedy mistress who just takes and takes—we are surrounding ourselves with beauty and reaping the bounty, in the form of fresh cut flowers, cheerful color, brilliant butterflies, singing birds, leaping bunnies and graceful deer, not to mention fragrant herbs and the juiciest of fresh vegetables.  Most importantly, we’ll no longer be slaves to the call of the machines—the buzz and roar of all those lawn mowers and trimmers and blowers that begins at dawn every weekend, and carried out by the weekend warriors.  And my yard will be one less polluting patch in a greener (not grassier) world.

Care to come along?

May 23, 2009–Today’s Way: Water is our most precious resource, yet so few of us stop to consider where it comes from when it flows so easily from our faucets, or where it goes when it swirls out of our lives through the drain.  For so many people on the planet, fresh water doesn’t come easily, and it is not taken for granted.  For those who grow up with indoor plumbing and abundant, fresh water is freely flowing just about everywhere, it’s easy to overlook it, but it’s important to overcome our wasteful ways.  It’s just so simple: when you turn on a faucet, don’t leave water running unnecessarily.  Use whatever water you need, then turn the faucet off if you need to go get the lettuce out of the fridge, or while you’re brushing your teeth, or even as you’re soaping up your hands.  Just being a bit more mindful of your daily water usage will save you both money and precious fresh water.

May 21, 2009–Today’s Way: Instead of pouring the water collected from your dehumidifier down the drain, use it to water your plants or gardens!  During the average Michigan summer, this can mean two full gallons of water a day collected from our basement, or up to 250 gallons over the course of just one season.

May 18, 2009–Today’s Way: If your water bills just seem to keep rising every year, you may want to evaluate exactly where every drop is being used.  One of the biggest water wasters is through sprinkler irrigation systems.  Depending on the temperature and humidity on any given day, a lot of the water you intend to be quenching the roots of your lawn or garden is instead being lost to evaporation.  If you were to use a drip irrigation system, however, you could be saving up to half of your water while more efficiently delivering the water where it’s needed:  in the roots.

Drip irrigation systems can be as simple as using soaker hoses—which are permeable water hoses which slowly seep or “sweat” water out, directly into the ground—or as fancy as an installed underground piped system complete with timers and hygrometers to measure the moisture of the soil.  Either way, there’s a solution to fit every budget and one that will save you water as well as money over time.

Eartheasy has a very informative article detailing the ins and outs of drip irrigation systems here.

May 17, 2009–Today’s Way: Of all the kitchen contraptions and doo-dads we’ve acquired over the years, the most valuable by far is our pressure cooker.  Often overlooked in the modern household (or looked at in head-scratching bafflement by friends and family), pressure cookers are a great way to cook foods faster while preserving more nutrients.  Everything from soups to beans and rice to potatoes and even roasts are cooked quicker under pressure, which means that more nutrients are retained.  Pressure cookers also require less water because they trap and pressurize steam to cook the food, in about half the time.  And of course, the less time the food is on the stove, the more energy (and dollars) you’ll save as well.

Look for a quality pressure cooker, which will have a safety locking mechanism as well as a pressure adjustment for different types of cooking.  To learn more about choosing and using pressure cookers, visit this article.

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