Recently we have addressed things going down our storm drains and their connection to our lakes along with the link between energy and water conservation. Today we are adding one more topic relating to healthy water. A lot of people do not realize that putting hazardous materials down the drain or toilet can have harmful effects on the environment, our health and can cause costly repairs to home sewer systems, as well as city systems.
Even though an item says “flushable” Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District recommends throwing these items away instead. Another option, when possible would be to use reusable items that can be washed instead of thrown away or flushed. Examples: cloth cleaning rags, cloth napkins, reusable shopping bags. If you have items you are not sure how to dispose of or which things should not be flushed this helpful flyer will be able to answer questions as well as provide locations to take special items for proper disposal. You can also visit http://www.madswer.org or call 608-222-1201.
Did you know that when you use water, you’re using electricity as well? In this area, most of the water that flows from your faucet and fills your toilet is supplied by city wells. These wells are maintained and operated by local Utility companies that pump and transport water to your home. Powering the wells has a cost which is paid by the Utility companies and then passed on to customers through utility bills.
By conserving water we are not only helping ensure a healthy water supply but we are also contributing to energy conservation. Here are a couple indoor efforts you can take to save water, energy and money.
A first step is to make sure that none of your indoor fixtures are leaking water. ”For example, a leaky toilet can waste about 200 gallons of water everyday. As little as one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water per year,” says Kristofer Canto, City of Fitchburg Sustainability Intern. Not only does this add unnecessary costs to your utility bill it is also using energy. A few places to check for leaks around your home include faucets, shower heads, washers, toilets and irrigation connections. One way to see if you need to check more thoroughly for leaks is (if possible) look at your water meter when you know none of your water using items are on. If the dial is turning, water is still being used.
Another step to take is to purchase WaterSense labeled products. This will help increase the efficiency of your household fixtures. ”Installing a WaterSense labeled aerator for your kitchen or bathroom faucet is one of the most cost effective ways to save water and will increase the faucet’s efficiency by 30 percent,” states Kristofer Canto, City of Fitchburg Sustainability Intern. (Generally, aerators can be found for under $10.00 at your local hardware store.)
Installing an efficient toilet can provide equal performance while saving around 20 percent more water. Look for a WaterSense labeled toilet and it could save another $90 annually on a water utility bill and $2,000 over the lifetime of the toilet (based on a family of four). And if saving money on your utility bill isn’t enough of an incentive, the City of Fitchburg and the Madison Water Utility are offering Toilet Replacement Rebates! People can get up to $100 towards their new toilet if they replace older, less efficient toilets with a High Efficiency Toilet (HET) model. The HET toilets use on average 1.28 gallons of water per flush compared to some of the older models that use around 6 gallons per flush. That’s a big difference!
For additional details about the City of Fitchburg rebate visit: http://www.fitchburgwi.gov/departments/cityHall/publicWorks/PermitsApplications.php
For more details on the Madison Water Utility Program rebate visit: https://www.cityofmadison.com/water/inTheHome/toiletRebate.cfm
Don’t live in Madison or Fitchburg? Try contacting your local Utility company to see what types of rebates they may offer. You never know!
image source: thedailygreen.com
Friday, October 18th marks the 41st anniversary of the Clean Water Act (CWA). CWA sets regulations on pollutants allowed into our national waterways along with regulating water quality standards. We are grateful for protection at a national level, however, there are also things we can do locally to ensure healthy waterways.
The “Love Your Lakes, Don’t Leaf Them” campaign is spreading the word about leaf management. This is an especially important topic during the Fall season when the leaves are starting to change color and fall from the trees. The goal is to keep leaves out of the streets, which drain into our lakes and streams. Because once the leaves are in our waterways they break down into excess nutrients and can create unhealthy algae blooms.
Here are a few tips from myfairlakes.com to help keep leaves out of the streets:
*Instead of creating piles along the road for collection, compost your leaves. They will create a nutrient rich mulch for your yard next year.
*Chop the leaves up as you mow your lawn, it will provide a natural fertilizer.
*Place leaves on top of your flower and garden beds to insulate them during the cold winter months.
For more helpful tips, locations to pick up yard signs, information about local municipality collections go to Love Your Lakes or check out this handy myfairlakes brochure and help spread the word on how to Love Our Lakes.
The Madison-based headquarters for American Family Insurance is set to become the first major private employer in Dane County to routinely divert food-related waste from the landfill. Very soon their food-prep scraps and used paper towels will be composted offsite.
Maggie Layden was an intern with the company last year when she came up with the idea. She was hired permanently in January and now leads the composting program. This change is part of the company’s “zero-waste initiative” which features other sustainability goals established earlier this year.
For now, American Family Insurance’s housekeeping vendor will be responsible for moving the organic waste from the kitchen to the compactor. Eventually employees will be asked to participate in a more hands-on way by adding their food scraps to separate collection containers within the café area as well.
American Family estimates they will generate around 40 to 50 pounds of food waste, along with 80 to 100 pounds in paper towels each week. This is on the low end compared to some other local businesses also participating in the pilot program.
While establishing programs for businesses, the City of Madison has also been working on a pilot program for curbside collection of organic waste for residential areas. These projects are being led by George Dreckmann, the city’s recycling coordinator. His goal is to take the organics recycling pilot program citywide to all businesses and residents by 2016.
For those of you who don’t know, “Recycling Away from Home”, or RAH, is a joint project involving Sierra Club, Marquette Neighborhood Association, Wil-Mar Center and other community groups and activists. The goal is to provide recycling and waste reducation tools, volunteers, support and education for neighborhood festivals and events in and around Madison. We’re also trying to take the next step and move to composting and Zero Waste events. (Wouldn’t that be cool!) With your assistance, we can help communities take the next step.
Be a part of the recycling team! Since the city does not provide recycling services at most neighborhood events, RAH takes the task of setting up recycling bins, checking and replacing bags during the day, and then tearing down after the event. It’s not hard work, and you can often drink beer, listen to music, watch people and enjoy the festival while you do it!
Your help is needed to help collect compost, recyclables and trash. You can not only do good, but feel good – and get free refreshments care of Summerfest!
Volunteer shifts are Saturday from 1 – 3 pm, 3 – 5 pm, 5 – 7 pm, 7 – 9 pm and 8 – 10 pm, and on Sunday from 2 – 4 pm, 4 – 6 pm, and 6 – 8 pm. Sign up now online at Volunteer Spot for one or more shifts.
Its mid-July in Wisconsin, you know what that means. Record high temperatures with motivation crushing humidity. We are all scavenging for ways to stay cool. Whether you have air conditioning or not there are ways you can keep cool while keeping your energy bills down and positively impacting the planet. Here are some tips:
Food and Drink
*Drink, drink, drink! I’m mainly talking about ice-water, but throwing a cold cerveza in the mix won’t do any harm.
*Eat small meals throughout the day so that your body doesn’t have to overwork by digesting a large meal. Also try eating spicy foods. I know this may seem strange but many great spicy foods come from hotter areas. The secret behind this is that spicy foods make you sweat without raising your body temperature so this in turn cools you down.
*Try taking cold water or ice and putting them on your pulse points- your wrists, the back of your neck etc. It really does work, trust me!
*Try to use the microwave or cook outside whenever possible as opposed to using the oven, as this will only add heat to your home.
*Wear loose breathable clothing. Linen and seersucker are great for keeping cool. Try to stay away from fabrics that don’t breath like jeans and khakis as these will only make you hotter. Also try wearing umbrellas and hats to block you from the sun. Embrace the floppy sun hat trend- insta-chic,even in the heat!
*Sleeping- now I know this is very hard to do when it is hot but there are a couple of tricks. Try putting your sheets in the freezer a half an hour before going to sleep to cool your entire bed. Also try to have organic cotton sheets and pillows as opposed to latex or down as that will only trap the heat.
*Use fans! Fans can make the temperature in a room seem 5-7 degrees cooler, which can make a big difference in this heat. The bigger the fan the bigger the benefit so ceiling fans and whole house fans are best. Make sure your fans are spinning in the correct direction to push the cool air down to you so you get the full benefit! Also make sure to turn fans off when you leave as they are not cooling anything down when you are not there.
*If nothing else try going to a movie or dinner in a nicely air conditioned place, or taking a cold shower. If you must use air conditioning: keep your air conditioner filters clean, make sure your weather stripping is tight, draw the drapes during the heat of the day to increase efficiency.
*Set your air conditioner to 78 or higher. Running your air conditioner at colder temperatures won’t cool down a room any faster than a more moderate setting, but it will force your system to work harder. And you’ll probably forget to turn the temperature up later. Stick with the warmest setting you can tolerate, and move on to other stay-cool ideas.
If all else fails, there’s always the Chillow which always lets you be on the cool side of the pillow.
Thank you for reading and participating in the stay cool challenge!
EnAct intern Chelsie
Parties, cookouts, and soirees are a dime a dozen in summer, especially around the 4th of July. Anyone who has ever thrown a party knows how easy it is to stack up on paper plates and napkins to simplify clean-up. However, we should be conscientious to our carbon footprint as well as our guests. In every category of party-throwing there are simple changes to make your party more green.
Try nixing your paper invitations for invites via email. You can still be artsy and creative using eCards plus you’ll save money avoiding pricey invitations and postage.
If you are a traditionalist and really want people to receive invitations in the mail, there are more options than plain card stock. I personally love seed cards, they have a great texture and feel more special. Botanical Paperworks makes beautiful invitations that your guests can just bury in the yard at a later date. However, these can be pricey for a budgeted host. Another simple option would be to use paper you have laying around the house to make hand-made, recycled invites. Don’t be afraid to be creative, the funkier the better!
No more paper tableware! Make it your hosting mantra. Don’t let a whole garbage bag fill up with paper plates, napkins, plastic cups, and utensils. What a waste. Your party will look more sophisticated with actual plates and silverware.
Sometimes this just isn’t an option if you’re having a large party or don’t want to risk tableware breaking. The good news is that there are plenty of eco-friendly disposable tableware options. From recyclable to compostable there are companies that sell disposable tableware for every budget. Costco carries a line of plant based compostable tableware for fair prices. Whole Foods also carries tableware that looks like sturdy paper plates but are actually made from renewable and biodegradable sugar cane.
Note: If you do decide to go with compostable tableware, make sure it is composted! Throwing compostable tableware into the garbage is a common mistake. Many people think, “Oh, it will compost in the landfill”. But many landfills compress garbage so tightly that the tableware wouldn’t get enough air to compost. Have your garbage/recycling/compost bins CLEARLY labeled.
Think Local! When planning your menu, try to base it off what is in season in your area. That way, once its time to go shopping, it’s easier to find most of your shopping list at the local farmers market or food co-op. This will ensure that most of your food will be organic without the price-tag of out-of-season ingredients. If you plan on serving burgers, steaks, etc. buy grass fed beef because it require fewer pesticides, fossil fuels, and antibiotics than the corn-fed alternative. Not to mention, buying better ingredients will make your food taste and look better.
When it comes to drinks, try to eliminate as much container waste as possible. Make fresh lemonade (or powder drinks) in pitchers instead of individual cans. Buy pony-kegs of beer and root beer. The kids will love feeling like the adults and you can avoid the frustrating clean up of dozens of barely drank Mtn. Dew cans.
Favors and Games
It is so easy to be creative and less wasteful with party favors. Some options are fun can koozies, seed packets, or local treats or unique games. One of my favorite idea is to decorate the tables with various potted plants. You can send the guest home with one of the plants- a party favor they will actually hold on to. Simple, pretty, and inexpensive. Another fun idea is to make a homemade pinata (easy, I swear) and fill it with mini bottles of wine, make-up samples, or giftcards for the adults.
When it comes to the kids, don’t bother with plastic, cheaply made knick knacks. Instead, make the favors part of a game or activities. Have the kids tye-dye shirts, make their own kites, decorate frames, or make their own bubble solution and wands. This is a great site for kid activities: http://bit.ly/11dML2w.
As you have read, making your party more green is easy peasy. And all these tips will also make your party more successful, memorable time. It just takes a little planning!
Thanks for reading,
EnAct Intern Chelsie