Spring has finally sprung! The snow has melted, green grass is emerging, and bright sunshine is starting to warm the Midwest. This time of year causes many people to go on a spree of “spring cleaning” but there is one important issue that can come up during this time as well and is often forgot: water leaks.
The US Environmental Protection Agency offers an abundance of helpful tips and tricks to get a handle on your household leaks and stop wasting large amounts of water and money. More than 1 trillion gallons of water is wasted annually in the United States due to household leaks. An average household could wash 270 loads of laundry with all of its water wasted yearly! Not only could you be saving big on water, fixing these common leaks can save about 10% on water bills as well.
Common leaks in households include worn toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and leaking valves. The EPA offers many solutions for both checking leaks and fixing easy leaks around your home.
To Check For Leaks:
- Look at your water usage during the colder months. A family of four should not exceed 12,000 gallons. If you have, this could mean there are some bad leaks.
- Check the water meter before and after a two-hour period. If the meter does not read the same for both times, then there is most likely a leak.
- Check for toilet leaks by adding a few drops of food coloring into the toilet tank and checking the bowl after 15 minutes. If any of the food coloring is visible in the bowl, there is a leak.
- Check for surface leaks by examining faucet gaskets and pipe fittings for any water on the outside of them.
To Fix Leaks:
- Easily replace your toilet flapper from a hardware store or a plumber. Bring your broken toilet flapper in order to purchase the correct type.
- Pipe tape, or Teflon tape, can be used to seal a variety of pipe leaks around the home.
- Replace outdoor hoses or repair them with pipe tape and rubber washers.
If any leak seems too extreme to handle on your own, be sure to call a local plumber and start saving water and money in your household right away!
What if you could reduce your food waste in the kitchen and save money while doing it? When shopping for groceries we can be swayed by merely a ten cent price difference in brands, but in the kitchen we so often throw our money away unknowingly. Although you won’t get a fine for tossing your food scraps in the garbage like in Seattle, you can take steps to starve the landfill while swelling your wallet.
Studies from the USDA in 2010 reveal that 31% of the retail and consumer food supply went uneaten. That’s nearly 133 billion pounds of food waste, equating to $161 billion dollars lost! These are some large numbers to fully comprehend their magnitude, but on a smaller level, about 20 pounds of food per person per month gets wasted.
If these facts seem alarming to you, we are going to give you a few simple tips and tricks on how to reduce food waste in your kitchen and save some money too!
Plan Meals Ahead. Creating a list for weekly meals allows you to determine which ingredients you need and use up ingredients you already have. If you arrive at the grocery store with a plan, you can use your time more efficiently and be confident that the ingredients you buy will be used.
Sell-By Dates. Speaking of food going bad, sell-by dates can bring some confusion and deception. These dates are not monitored by the FDA and are merely a recommendation by the producer for when the product will be at peak quality. In most cases, if your food still looks and smells fresh you don’t need to toss it right away. Save yourself some money and waste by giving those foods a few extra days.
Reusing Food Scraps. Food scraps can be reused in countless different ways. You can use meat scraps for your next soup stock, carrot tops for a yummy pesto, or stale bread for a crunchy bread crumb crust. Use the power of the internet and turn your next pile of food scraps into a gourmet dinner!
Composting. Maybe repurposing food scraps is not the thing for you. Creating a compost can greatly decrease your food waste! Whether you have a large garden space or just a corner in your kitchen to fit a bucket, your food scraps have many other options than the landfill.
When is the last time you cleaned out your medicine cabinet? Years of sinus infections and winter viruses have a way of leading to an accumulation of various leftover prescriptions from sickness’ past. We count on these prescriptions to sustain our healthy mind on bodies through every season of the year, but what do we do with them after our sickness is over? And how do we properly use them in the first place? If you think it’s time to clean out your medicine cabinet you will need to keep the safety of your body and our environment in mind.
The National Patient Safety Foundation is having their annual Patient Safety Awareness Week Sunday, March 8th– Saturday, March 14th. Their hope is that we can all be united in safety as we promote awareness in how to properly take care of our bodies. This entails knowing your medications, securing your medications, and properly disposing of your medications. We want to keep both our bodies and the environment free from harm and the American Recall Center offers us three simple steps and questions to keep in mind.
- Know your medications: Do you take your prescriptions as prescribed and understand all of its possible side effects?
- Secure your medications: Are your medications stored in a secure location and how do you monitor their amounts?
- Dispose of you medications: Do you know how and where to safely dispose of unused or expired medications? Have you checked to see if any medications are recalled?
For resources on taking the Medicine Cabinet Clean-Put Challenge check out FDA tips on medication disposal (How To Dispose Of Unused Medicines) and American Recall Center’s easy way for checking if medication is recalled (Patient Safety Alerts).
February in Wisconsin brings more cold weather, inches of snow, and brisk winds. Instead of letting this cold weather keep you and your family inside, let’s remember all of the outdoor winter activities that Madison has to offer! Before you get too stir crazy stuck in your home, try a new fun activity such as cross-country skiing, ice skating, hiking, or ice fishing!
Madison parks have a lot to offer for you and your family! Cross-country skiing is a great activity to stay warm while in the cold outdoors. Six parks in Madison provide a combined 32 kilometers of clear, groomed trails. Twelve more parks are open for outdoor ice skating too! Whether you’re a novice beginner or a seasoned expert, these activities are sure to brighten your mood during the grey winter months. Be sure to check out the City of Madison website to choose your venue and for helpful information about park conditions, fees, and more winter park activities! (http://www.cityofmadison.com/parks/seasonal/winter/).
If outdoor sports aren’t really your thing, why not plan a hike in this beautiful winter wonderland! Challenge yourself with the adventurous Ice Age Trail, one of the 11 National Scenic trails that run through Dane County and a perfect activity to increase your heart rate during these frozen months in Wisconsin. Otherwise, you could take a casual walk through the UW Arboretum and enjoy the natural landscapes of Madison. At the arboretum there are also opportunities to volunteer, participate in classes, take a private guided tour, or explore on your own!
No Wisconsin winter activity guide would be complete without ice fishing! Here in Madison, we have plenty of frozen but fish-filled lakes just waiting for you to set up your fishing lines. There is nothing like cooking up some fresh fish that you proudly caught earlier in the day. So grab your warm boots and fishing bait and head to the lakes!
Don’t let the cold keep you inside all winter! Pick a new activity for you and your family to try this weekend!
Who says that biking is just a summer hobby? Here in Madison every season is biking season! There’s no better way to stay warm outside than to get on your bike and enjoy a bike ride to work during Madison Bike Winter Week. Don’t let the low temperatures and piles of snow discourage you, join the community of bikers for a special Winter Bike Week!
If you are wondering why you should grab your bike instead of heading to the bus or your car, here are some benefits of biking to work:
Save Some Money. According to the BikeToWork.com the yearly cost of owning and operating a vehicle can be more than $9,000 which is 18% of the average household’s income. Owning and maintaining a bicycle can cost as little as $120 per year.
Lose Some Pounds. When you get home from a long day of work, going to the gym may not be your top priority or desire. Biking to work is a great cardio exercise that will keep you slim and trim all year round.
Say Goodbye to Traffic Jams. Business Insider says that Americans can spend more than 25 minutes in traffic while driving to work every day. Riding a bike can shorten that time and get you to work without the frustration of stand-still traffic.
No More Parking Hassles. If you have tried to park your car in downtown Madison, you have experienced the 15 minute struggle to find a spot. When parking garages fill up and the streets are parked in, you could instead ride your bike directly to your destination location.
Help the Environment. Riding a bike to work contributes greatly to a cleaner environment. Bicycles use no fuel and take less energy to make than cars. You can play a role in reducing transportation emissions and make an impact too!
Sunday, February 8th through Saturday, February 14th will be a full week of winter biking activities for Madison Bike Winter Week! Join Madison bike commuters in celebrating winter biking with a winter bike ride at Barriques, free breakfast at Whole Foods, and much, much more! Check out their Facebook event for a full list of daily activities (https://www.facebook.com/events/1391453804491958/).
Invite your friends outside of Madison to join in the winter bike craze too! Friday, February 13th is International Winter Bike To Work Day. Commit to biking to work online and see where hundreds of others have committed around the world on an interactive map. Check out more details: http://winterbiketoworkday.org/
It’s that time of year again. Holiday season is upon us! But while you’re looking for the perfect gift for your loved ones, are you considering where your money is going?
According to UC-San Diego, buying from locally owned stores not only reduces carbon emissions but can benefit the local economy as well. When you spend $100 at a chain store, only $43 goes back into the local community. However, if you spend the same amount at a local store, $68 stays in the community. This means more money is going to people in your neighborhood rather than chains across the country. Other studies have shown that the money spent at local stores is more likely to be spent at other local businesses, which helps to strengthen the economic base of the community. Local businesses are also more likely to hire local residents and support other local businesses as well.
Buying local is also more sustainable and can lower your carbon footprint. Many local stores have products that were made or grown locally, meaning that less fuel was used to bring that product to the store. Many chain stores ship their inventory from large warehouses across the country, which can use large amounts of fuel and release many harmful emissions. Products found in chain stores are typically made in bulk and the creation process can produce a lot of excess material and waste. In addition, typically local stores are more centrally located in a community than chain stores since they usually require less space. This makes it easier to walk or ride your bike to the store, further cutting down your carbon footprint.
Supporting local businesses also keeps the community unique. Where we shop, eat, and spend our free time helps to make our community our home. Frequenting a local business allows you to meet and establish a relationship with the owner and employees. This can lead to better service and assurance of quality products since we are more likely to help those we have relationships with. Local businesses also help create a distinct character in the community and can attract tourists that will help strengthen the local economy as well.
Local businesses are important for keeping our community unique and economically strong. Support your community this holiday season by buying local. Instead of participating in Black Friday shopping this year, participate in Small Business Saturday! For a list of local Madison businesses, go here.
Fall is a great time to get outside and enjoy the colors and beauty of Wisconsin. Before those cold winter months arrive, check out these fall activities with your family and friends!
- Go to an apple orchard. Fall is the best time to head over to an orchard for some fresh fruit! Apple picking is a fun activity for the whole family and supports local farms and orchards. Plus, you can take home baskets full of fresh, healthy fruit! The Cooking Mom has some great apple recipes to make the most out of your haul.
- Go on a hike. Wisconsin has over 2,500 miles of beautiful trails to explore! Travel Wisconsin has a great list of trails all over the state, from lake shores and forests to prairies. Looking to stay local? Head over to the Lakeshore Nature Preserve near UW-Madison for a great view of Lake Mendota. The UW-Madison Arboretum is also full of gorgeous colors during the fall and has numerous trails for your family to explore.
- Make some fall crafts. Stock up on fall leaves, acorns, and other trinkets while you’re on a hike so you can spend those colder fall days indoors making fun crafts with your kids. Check out our Pinterest page for some ideas!
- Go on a bike ride. The League of American Bicyclists has repeatedly ranked Wisconsin as one of the top bicycling destinations in the nation. Its numerous bike trails are perfect for a sunny fall afternoon with some family or friends. Get outside and enjoy the beauty of Wisconsin while getting exercise as well!
- Visit your local zoo. Fall is a great time to take one last visit to your local zoo before the cold weather settles in. The cooler fall temperatures are perfect for most animals to be outside and easily viewable for visitors, and the fall leaves will add a little more color to your trip.
- Visit a farmer’s market. Support local farmers by purchasing locally grown fruits, vegetables, baked goods, and other products at a farmer’s market. The Dane County Farmer’s Market occurs every Saturday morning from 6:00 am until 2:00 pm around The Wisconsin State Capitol Square. After November 8th, the market will move indoors to Monona Terrace.
- Play football. We’re in the heart of football season! Grab your family and friends and head outside for a friendly game of football. It’s a great way to get exercise, enjoy the outdoors, and spend time with those you love.
- Go horseback riding. Fall is the perfect time for horseback riding because the trails are full of color and the temperature is perfect for wearing pants and boots. Many farms and ranches have kid-friendly options and will teach you everything you need to know for a great experience. Check out Travel Wisconsin for a list of horseback riding locations.
- Take some friends and family on a hayride. Madison Parks offers special event hayrides in November for $2 a person. The hay wagon will take you on a scenic tour of one of Madison’s parks and will even include a view of the holiday lights in November. For more information, head over to the Madison Parks website.
- Spend a night under the stars. Grab some friends, a blanket, some pillows, and snacks and find an open spot in your backyard for some stargazing. It’s a great way to spend quality time with your friends while viewing constellations that are only viewable in the fall.
What other fun activities do you like to do in the fall? Leave a comment below!