Critter Cravings

According to the national ASPCA, approximately 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year.  This number doesn’t even include the wildlife that shelters like the Dane County Humane Society take in each year.  All of these animals require a lot of TLC (tender loving care) to get healthy enough to hopefully get adopted or released back into the wild.  In addition to a substantial need for people to adopt animals or donate funds, Dane County Humane Society also needs many supplies in order to provide the best care possible to the animals that come through their facilities.  This is where you come in.

The Dane County Humane Society has a regularly updated wishlist of items available on their website:  Consider organizing a shelter supply drive at your local community center, school, office, etc. or perhaps next time you are at the grocery store or pet store, consider picking up some ‘Doggies Delights’, ‘Feline Fancies’, or ‘Wildlife Wants’ as included in the list.  Through your donation, you will be supporting the Dane County Humane Society in making big changes in the lives of the animals they care for.  For more information about the Dane County Humane Society, visit their website:



April 16, 2014 at 11:56 am Leave a comment


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 or call 608-222-1201.


November 26, 2013 at 4:50 pm Leave a comment

Energy and Water- more connected than we think

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:           

For more details on the Madison Water Utility Program rebate visit:


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:

November 20, 2013 at 10:48 am Leave a comment

“Water Is Worth It”



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 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.

October 16, 2013 at 12:59 pm 1 comment

Madison-based Business Leading the Way

ImagePhoto by M.P. King- State Journal

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. 

Read more:

August 16, 2013 at 9:03 am Leave a comment

Recycle Away from Home at Atwood Summerfest

recycling krewe 

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.

July 23, 2013 at 10:44 am Leave a comment

Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot!

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.

Daily Habits

*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.

Air Conditioning

*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

July 18, 2013 at 11:43 am Leave a comment

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