Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Easy DIY Home and Garden Water Conservation Tips

Everybody knows that it is important to try to consume less water. It is especially important for North Americans though. Clean drinking water is becoming scarcer all over the world and the average North American uses 105 gallons of water every day for drinking, washing, and cooking. The average person in the developing world uses only 3 gallons of water a day.

Practicing saving water at home not only helps preserve an irreplaceable natural resource, but also reduces costs associated with urban wastewater systems and your own utility bill!

Here are some easy things you can do around your home to save 1,000’s of gallons of water per month!

Check for Leaks and Fix ‘em too!

Leaking faucets, toilets, and sprinklers can really add up. One leaking bathroom faucet can drip about 140 gallons of water per week! Use your utility bill and water meter to help you discover leaks. If you notice an unusual amount of water usage then it’s time start your investigation.

The Faucet

Walk around your house and tighten all your faucets firmly. If any still drip, grab your wrench. You will probably have to replace the watertight seal (a little washer) that is holding back the water when the tap is in the ‘off’ position.

Watch this video for easy step by step instructions. Basically just turn off the water to the sink, pop off the handle cap, unscrew the handle, unscrew the big nut and pull out the valve stem. Then replace the washer and put the handle back together again. Easy!

Tip: Remember to teach the kids to make sure the faucet is always shut off completely and also to turn the water off while they brush their teeth to save an additional 25 gallons of water per month.

The Toilet

To check for a leaking toilet, choose your favorite color of food coloring and add some to your toilet tank. Now sit and watch or come back in an hour or two. If you see some of the color seeping into the toilet bowl without flushing then you definitely have a leak which can be wasting up to 1,000 gallons of water per month!

The fix is really easy, you don’t need any tools just a new flapper valve. Basically all you have to do is turn off the water to your toilet, flush and let the tank drain, remove the old flapper, clean surrounding parts for a good seal, and clip on the new flapper. Check out this video as a guide.

Tip: Make any old toilet water efficient by displacing water in the tank. A plastic juice/milk container is ideal. Remove the label, fill it partially with sand or rocks, top it off with water and add it to the toilet tank. Displacing half a gallon per flush can add up to saving 350 gallons of water per month!

Extra Everyday Water Saving Tips

Start saving more water by incorporating these tips into your everyday living:
  • Only run your washing machine and dishwasher when there is a full load to wash. If you have to do a small load to match the water level to the size of the load and save up to 1,000 gallons a month!
  • Cut back your shower by 5 minutes a day and you’ll save over 4500 gallons of water a year.
  • Replace your shower head with an energy efficient model.
  • Save a minimum of 584 gallons of water per year per person by peeing in the shower!
  • Don’t wait for water to get to temperature, put in the plug in your tub or sink right away and adjust the temperature accordingly.
  • Keep a pitcher of cold water in the fridge so you are never running the tap waiting for the water to get cold.
  • Save the water you use for cooking and washing fruits and veggies and use it to water houseplants.
  • When you have a bunch of ice left in your cup from take-out give it to your houseplants for a cool drink.

Building a Water Cautious Lawn and Garden

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that lawn care accounts for 30 to 60 percent of water consumption during the summer months. Just like in the house there are lots of easy things you can do to minimize the amount of water being used on your yard.

Gain Sprinkler Efficiency

  • Aerate your lawn at least once a year so water can better make its way into the ground and to the roots of your grass.
  • Adjust your sprinklers or get ones that shoot out big drops of water close to the ground. The smaller the drop of water and the longer it’s in the air the more easily it can be evaporated before it hits the ground.
  • Set sprinklers to come on in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler to minimize evaporation.
  • Do not turn your sprinklers on during windy days as there will be an increased rate of evaporation and the water drops will blow away.
  • Play with the placement of your sprinklers to make sure they are not wasting water onto streets, sidewalks, driveways, or against the house.
  • Instead of watering the lawn every week, check how moist the soil is two to three inches down. If you had a little rain or it wasn’t too sunny or hot you may not even need to water.
  • Let your grass get a little longer during to help the lawn hold in moisture.
  • Ever year spread a layer of organic mulch such as bark mulch over flower beds and around trees. The mulch will help retain moisture in the ground around the plants.

Collecting Water Runoff

When a big rain is coming bring out your big plastic barrels and collect the water that comes shooting out of your gutters. Use this water the next few days to water your gardens. Also anytime you wash your car or pet make sure to do it on the lawn to water the grass at the same time!

Choose When and What to Plant

Choose to plant new plants outside around your home in the spring and fall when rainfall is more plentiful and when temperatures are more forgiving. When you are considering a new flower or shrub choose one that doesn’t require a lot of water.

Water efficient plants can save about 550 gallons each year. Also try to group plants with similar watering needs to avoid overwatering of some and the underwatering of others.

Place plants that love water in places that get a lot of shade in the afternoon. Even sun loving plants will do fine if they receive morning and early afternoon sunlight. For post plants the afternoon sun is a little harsh anyways. Check out this list of drought tolerant plants and a few highlighted below.

The Coreopsis is a yellow flowering Native American plant. There are over 100 species available which are all low maintenance and drought tolerant.

Achillea are also hardy North American natives and bloom multiple times throughout the year. They come in many different colors and do well in dry and hot conditions.

The Gaura lindheimeri or 'Siskiyou Pink' blooms pinks and whites from mid-summer to fall. They strive in full sun with partial shade.

Water conservation is a global issue that North Americans can truly address without drastically changing lifestyles. A little bit of effort, mindfulness, and knowledge about water conservation and we can really make a big difference.

Challenge yourself to cut back on your water usage by trying these easy water conservation tips. You’ll notice the difference in your utility bill and the environment will notice savings of up to 3,000 gallons of water per month and 36,000 gallons per year!

This guest post was brought to you by, retailer of Dishwasher Parts with over 30,000 sets of installation instructions, a growing library of how-to videos.

Monday, August 8, 2011


I don't know about you, but it seems like some of the funniest and wittiest sayings I have either heard in a bar or read from a bumper sticker while tailgating someone down main street. These saying are usually lightheartedly sarcastic comments about the opposite sex and also include the word "beer-goggles".

But the last two sayings I've come across haven't been like that at all and instead seem to speak towards the overall sense of hopelessness that seems to have slowly been tightening it's grip on our nation.

I need to throw in an aside right here and say that I do not frequent bars that often. I was trying to round up some grub for dinner the other night because we were just too tuckered out from our weekend "let's lay flooring in the attic so we can store our crap up there and finally fit the fishing boat in the garage" project. Our usual go-to teriyaki place was closed which left a Mexican restaurant and a sports tavern as the two remaining choices that were still close to home. Remembering that my husband had brought home some really tasty burgers and stuff from the tavern, I cast aside all our earlier efforts towards healthier eating and ventured in.

Written in neat block letters on the column that divided the bar in half was this saying:

"Due to recent cutbacks, the light at the end of the tunnel has been shut off"


But a bit sad, right? I mean, this is how some - actually probably a lot - of Americans really feel right now.

Then this morning on my way to work I saw this saying on a bumper sticker:

"It's called the 'American Dream' because you have to be asleep to believe it"

Again, clever but sad.

I started thinking about how, as a kid, the sentiment was quite the opposite. America was the big, fat cherry on top of the triple-decker ice cream cone of the world! Everyone wanted to be like us. America was lthe promised land where anything could happen if you just worked hard enough.

But things have changed a lot since I was kid. This good -ol country of ours has been taking a hammering for quite some time. Morale is in the toilet. Russia called us a "parasite" that lives off of other countries because we live beyond our means. China practically owns us because we are so indebted to them. We've been steadily falling behind in education for years. Our health care system is a hot mess. Oh, and let's not forget the War. And how about the Recession (that's still not over) that kicked our asses two ways to Sunday. That's been fun, hasn't it? The rising rate of childhood obesity has to say something and I'm sure it's nothing good. And the latest and greatest -Standard and Poor down-graded our credit rating - not because we are a credit risk per se, but 'because the squabbling in Washington is not indicative of a country with a Triple A' rating. Basically, our Government just isn't working very well.

Our cherry has popped.

And of course the stuff mentioned above is just the tip of the iceberg. I could go on but honestly I'm too tired. I'm tired of worrying and caring so much. I don't really know why I do, but for some reason I really do and now more than ever.

I'm guessing I care now because I have kids - which I know is a lame reason. But I think you know what I mean -kids open our eyes to more things then we care to think about like our own mortality or the drought in Africa. And once my eyes have been opened and I care about something, I just can't not do something about it. So the question that lies ahead for me is not the "when" but the "what".

Once I figure that out, maybe the light at the end of the tunnel will shine a little brighter for me.