5 Watery Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

earthday2010_300

There is no green without blue.

Today’s post is from Laurie Loftin, who plans to celebrate Earth Day in style.

Happy Earth Day! Have you thought about how you plan to celebrate? For an occasion such as this, I believe the best way to “celebrate” is to commit yourself to making one behavioral change you can carry out for the rest of the year. By the next Earth Day, this change is a habit and you will be ready to add another.

To make it easy, here are five suggestions for you to choose from. To keep it simple, all ideas fall into one focused category: Water. Yes, everyone talks about Going Green around Earth Day, but I think we should think about Being Blue. There is no green without blue.

1. Take the My Water Pledge:  Visit mywaterpledge.com and take this pledge on behalf of Athens-Clarke County. The pledge offers many ideas for you to reduce your water use. Simply click on the selections you are doing or plan to do in the next year and hit submit. You will see how many gallons of water are saved by your changes.  Want a chance to win a Prius? Then provide contact information at the end. You will be entered into a drawing if your city is the one with the most pledges by April 30. Hint, hint, you won’t be entered to win if Athens doesn’t reach #1.  Encourage local friends to pledge, too, so Athens is the winning city!

money-down-drain

Whether you pour milk or water down the drain, it all is a waste of money and resources.

2. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth:  I ask school children to imagine this scenario: You go to the refrigerator and pull out two fresh gallons of milk. Next, carry them over to the sink and take off the top. Now pour these two jugs straight down the drain. At this point the students start yelling “no!” They insist they would never do this! It is a waste. Milk costs money. Their mom would be mad at them. I then point out that letting your water run while you brush your teeth can waste 2-4 gallons of water at each brushing. This is equal in size to at least two jugs of milk being poured down the drain. If you wouldn’t pour perfectly good milk down the drain, why would you allow perfectly good tap water to run down the drain? Which do you need more for your survival?

3. Kill your lawn:  I realize this sounds like cruel and unusual punishment for your grass. After all, it is just sitting there. Doing nothing. I doubt you play on your lawn often. You don’t tend to it as if it was a food crop. In fact, the only time you probably put your lawn to good use is when you water or mow it. Why not save yourself from a Saturday morning date with a lawnmower and replace your grass with mulch and drought tolerant plants? Richard Restuccia gives you four easy ways to intentionally kill your lawn. I prefer the “smother it” method.  If you need more incentive to kill your lawn, this video may help:  Your Yard is Evil.

barefeet

If you walk on your grass & it pops back up, it is jumping up to say “Don’t water me!” Listen to your lawn.

4. Become a Water Wise Waterer:  If you don’t yet have the heart to try #3, then learn to make the most of your watering efforts. Water Use It Wisely offers great information on planning and designing your lawn, efficient irrigation, and appropriate maintenance.  If you have an automatic sprinkler system, attach a rain or moisture sensor to shut off the system. These devices are especially helpful if you have travel plans and are unable to adjust your sprinkler for the recent rainfall. Remember, if you over water your lawn, you may end up accomplishing tip #3 after all.

5. Ban the Bag:  We have all used a plastic shopping bag at some point in our life. The question is, what do you do with the bag after you bring it home? The EPA estimates that less than 5% of plastic grocery bags are recycled.  The remaining bags have the potential to end up as plastic floating in our oceans. This Earth Day, make a commitment to reduce your use of plastic grocery bags. Carry reusable bags in your trunk and remember to bring them into the store with you. Ban the Bag UGA offers tips to remember your bags.  If you forget your bags, don’t let store employees bag items like your milk jug. Always, always, always recycle any plastic bags you do acquire on your shopping adventures.  And if you see a bag floating around in the wild, pick it up and place it in a recycle bin, even if it isn’t your bag.  It is your Earth.

Unless you are the type who really likes to party and can handle your time wisely, go easy and pick one of these Earth Day celebratory changes to adopt.  It is better to succeed at one than fail at all.  Wishing you and your family for generations to come a Happy Earth Day!

Say “Cheers” with a Glass of Mostly Water!

Today’s blog is written by Marilyn Hall, Water Conservation Coordinator for Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.

Brian and Jen

One of the things that makes SBC special is the husband and wife team that are putting it all together. Brian and Jennifer Roth have been working on the brewery for years, perfecting their recipes at Gratis Brewery.

Finally! I get to write a blog about beer!  Water is the main ingredient in beer and our local brewers are working hard to protect this precious resource.

Southern Brewing Company (SBC), is one of three breweries celebrating Athens Beer Week this week: the week leading up to the Classic City Brewfest. The other two are Terrapin and Creature Comforts. Both Terrapin and Creature Comforts are open for tours and tastings.  SBC is finishing the installation of tanks, plumbing systems, and other brewery equipment and are not quite ready for tours.  It was the perfect time to go talk to them about their new brewery and how they are incorporating conservation into the facility and brewing process.

Print

Here is a close up of the bar that Jennifer and Brian are standing in front of in the photo above. It is 100% sourced from local materials or from packaging that would otherwise go to the landfill.

On a brewery tour trip through Europe I met Brian Roth, an enthusiastic brewer who is all about conservation.  Brian is the co-owner of SBC, Athens’ newest brewery.  While visiting breweries in Europe you can’t help but notice the open hoses that seem to be running all the time.  I assumed this was necessary in the brewing process because everything has to be so clean. Brian agreed that brewing beer is water intensive.  He told me that the average brewery uses as much as 12 gallons of water to brew 1 gallon of beer!  He said the process at SBC will “minimize the senseless rinsing” and incorporate water efficient practices that reuse water as much as possible.

Initially, SBC’s goal is to use about one third less water than the average brewery.  Once they are up and brewing with their new equipment they will initiate new ways to save even more water.  For example they hope to install a rainwater capture system to collect water to be used for cleaning and other processes.  Brian also hopes to someday use rainwater for brewing.  Using rainwater to brew beer is an emerging trend in the craft brew industry.  Some breweries in drought stricken areas do this already. (Check out Jester King in Austin, Texas.)

coleman cooler

Brian has a BFA in Sculpture from the University of Georgia. His creativity can be seen throughout the brewery. For example, the large cooler for storing and brewing beer looks like a giant Coleman Cooler. Brian is working on a giant 3-dimensional handle to match the handle on his old cooler shown in the picture.

Like many craft breweries, SBC uses as many locally sourced ingredients as they can. For example, SBC will be hosting a farmers market and using ingredients from the local farmers and fruit from onsite trees and bushes in the brewing process.  Using local ingredients and materials conserves resources.  Fewer miles travelled leads to reduced fuel consumption and less packaging. Sourcing building materials locally saves resources in a similar way.

You can support local businesses and learn more about local breweries in Athens by coming to the events of Athens Beer Week.  You can meet Brian and other local beer celebrities at the Classic City Brewfest, Sunday April 12, from 2:30 – 6:00 PM. (proceed benefit the Athens Areas-Humane Society)

Rare Planet Alignment Occurs Today, Changes Flow of Water

For Immediate Release

Toilet Bowls to Switch Direction due to Unique Planet Alignment  

Earth, Neptune, and Uranus cause unusual activity in your bathroom

It has long been rumored that an alignment of all eight planets and Pluto results in a decrease of gravity, causing us to weigh slightly less and even float.  This line of thinking has been disproven, so on January 4, 2015, the most recent time all the planets aligned, you did not experience weightlessness.

The rare planetary alignment of Earth, Uranus, and Neptune happens in April every 643 years. This short passing moment alters the Coriolis effect and can be observed today at 2:17 pm.

But there is a different phenomenon that truly does occur when Earth, Neptune, and Uranus come into perfect alignment.  On a daily basis one can find the toilets in the northern hemisphere flush counter-clockwise.  Our friends in the southern hemisphere find their toilets flushing clockwise.  This well-known fact is caused by the Coriolis effect.   Today at 2:17 pm, this idea will be flushed.

Astronomers state that this unique tri-planet arrangement occurs every 643 years and reverses the Coriolis effect, resulting in a shift of the directional flow of your toilets.  “For just a minute or so, toilets in the northern hemisphere will flush clockwise, while the southern hemisphere will experience counter-clockwise swirls,” states noted astrologer Dr. Ivana Tinkle.  Flush your toilet around 2:00 and carefully observe the movement of water in the bowl.  Flush again at 2:17 and you will be bowled over by what you see.  Remember, this is just a passing phase, so it will not be around for long.

flush

Which way will your toilet flow today at 2:17 pm?

Bottom line:  Don’t waste this once in a life time opportunity.  Flush your toilet at 2:17 pm today.  Let us know if you observe an anomaly or if this planetary alignment of Earth, Neptune and Uranus stinks.  And while you are near your toilet, take a moment to check for leaks.  They can lead to astronomical water bills and water waste.

For more information go to http://www.thinkatthesink.com or call the Athens-Clarke County Water Conservation Office at 706-613-3729 to leave a comet.

#pottyofgold Number One Winner!

This week’s post was written by WCO graduate assistant Lily Cason.

From the thousands who made an entry (har har har) into our #pottyofgold contest, only one winner will emerge.

potty of gold sample entry

One of our #pottyofgold entries

The Athens-Clarke County Water Conservation Office (ACC WCO) decorated a select few bathrooms in Certified Blue businesses  around town. Lucky citizens of Athens who found a “potty of gold” could enter the contest by sharing a picture of the decorations through social media with the hashtag #pottyofgold.  The prizes at stake were a $50 gift certificate to the winner’s chosen Certified Blue business or $150 towards a WaterSense labeled toilet.

Watch our video to find out who is the Number One Winner (but not that kind of number one!).

 

 

 

FALW_infographic_ten_thousandThe WCO held this St. Patrick ’s Day themed contest in an effort to spread the word about the thousands of gallons of water wasted each year by easily fixable household leaks.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “minor water leaks account for more than 1 trillion gallons of water wasted each year in U.S. homes.” The EPA’s WaterSense program promotes Fix a Leak Week the third week of March each year to raise awareness about this issue.  Common types of leaks found in the home include worn toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and leaking showerheads. Take this as a reminder to spend a few minutes checking plumbing fixtures and outdoor irrigation systems forNAPS_ad_jw leaks.  Taking ten minutes to check these things could save you 10% off of your water bill!

For more information about common household leaks and how to fix them check out the EPA WaterSense website: http://www.epa.gov/watersense/our_water/fix_a_leak.html

 

 

The Cost of Water

This week’s post was written by WCO intern Laura Keys.

We only pay for beer

William Murphy, flickr

Watching the news this past week, my eye was captured by a major change taking place in Ireland. Up until now, Ireland’s water users have been getting their water for free (covered by general taxes), but to raise money to maintain its aging infrastructure, Ireland has started rolling out water meters and plans to charge users based on the volume of water they use. Understandably, many Irish are distressed at this change, and some have taken to the streets in protest with such catchy slogans as “We don’t pay for water, we only pay for beer.”

This slogan gave me pause, and I thought about how happily we purchase such beverages as beer, soda, and bottled water and how unhappily we gripe about paying for treated tap water. Many people argue that water should be free; it is one of the few things necessary for survival, after all, so they make a good point. However, when you look at the cost of tap water versus these other drinkable liquids, it almost seems laughable to complain about the costs.

This past month, my household used a little over 4,000 gallons of water, giving us a water bill of around $20. Here’s a comparison of what some other liquids would cost in that same quantity:

watercosts

Okay, so we use tap water for a lot more than just quenching our thirst, but the point still stands that tap water is ridiculously cheap compared to just about anything else around. It would be a better deal to reverse the Irish slogan: pay for water and get the rest for free!

fixing leaks

The danger in having such low prices on water is that there’s often little encouragement to curb water use and conserve. Sometimes people only discover leaks around the house after their water bill skyrockets to $200, when tens of thousands of gallons of water have already been wasted. With Spring having arrived in Athens, now is a good time to consider your own water use. Check your toilets and pipes for leaks, install low-flow showerheads and faucets, hook up a rain barrel to your gutters, and consider a drip irrigation system for your garden. Not only will you help conserve water, but you’ll help cut the cost of your water bill even further. For more information, contact your friendly Water Conservation Office!

How to Find a Pot of Gold

This week’s blog post is from Laurie Loftin, who has never found the end of a rainbow.

Most everyone knows the legend.  Reach the end of a rainbow and you find a pot of gold for the taking.  Of course, nothing is quite this easy.  You must sneak past the tricky leprechaun left to guard the gold.  These little guys don’t want their treasure taken away.  As soon as you are spotted, they vanish with the pot of gold.

potty of gold

Find a Potty o’ Gold during       Fix a Leak Week!                       Visit Certified Blue restaurants to find the hidden potties o’ gold. Share a photo with us using #pottyofgold on FB and Instagram (tag lilyannephibian) or Twitter (tag ACCWaterWarrior) to be entered into a drawing for either a $50 gift card to a Certified Blue restaurant or $150 towards a new WaterSense labeled toilet.

I propose an easier way to discover a hidden pot of gold.  You see this pot every day.  No, it isn’t at the end of a rainbow, though it is often at an end.  Your tail end.  I am talking about a potty.  A potty o’ gold.

When was the last time you checked your potty for a leak?  A toilet leak can come in many forms.  It can be a constant and annoying running of the commode.  Maybe you hear what is known as a “phantom flush,” when your toilet refills itself as if it has been flushed.  Or perhaps you have the sneakiest leak of all – the silent leak.

No matter what type of toilet leak you have, you need to get it fixed.  And the sooner the better.  A running toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water a day.  This water loss has a very noticeable and painful effect on your water bill.

Let me give you the best case scenario for the impact a running toilet has on your wallet.  Your loo is leaking 200 gallons of water a day.  As it tends to do, life gets in the way and you put off fixing your running toilet for a month.  After 30 days you have let 6,000 gallons of clean, treated water wash away.

We have a tiered billing system in Athens-Clarke County.  In this pricing system, water used within the first tier is the least expensive.  As water use increases and passes the limits of the first tier, the additional water use is charged at a higher rate.

IF your water use stays within Tier 1, the month-long 200 gallons a day toilet leak would add $24 to your water bill.  Here is the math:

ACC Tier 1 cost for 1 gallon of water = $.004

$.004 per gallon x 200 gallons = $.80 a day

$.80 a day x 30 days in a month = $24 extra on your water bill

Again, $24 is the best case scenario.  If you are using an extra 6,000 gallons of water a month, you are more than likely going to find yourself splashing around in higher tiers.  Here is the math for a worse case scenario:

ACC Tier 4 cost for 1 gallon of water = $.01

$.01 per gallon x 200 gallons = $2.00 a day

$2.00 a day x 30 days in a month = $60.00 extra on your water bill

I consider finding $60 a large pot of gold.FALW_full_logo_2015

The week of March 16-22, 2015 is Fix a Leak Week.  Promoted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program, the week is a reminder to check your plumbing and irrigation systems for leaks.  “Ten percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day,” according to WaterSense.

Take some time during Fix a Leak Week to find and fix any leaks, including toilet leaks, in your home.  You won’t have a rainbow leading you to your leaky toilet, but there are many videos online that show you how to locate and fix leaks.  The best news is there shouldn’t be any pesky leprechauns lurking about in your bathroom to prevent you from finding your own potty o’ gold.

 

 

There’s No Business Like Snow Business

This blog post brought to you by WCO intern Laura Keys, who has not built a snowman during the 2014-2015 school year.

Like many of my fellow Athenians, I awoke this past Thursday and excitedly looked out the window to see how many inches of snow we had received. Weather forecasts had shown Athens receiving a potential 1-3 inches during the night, and students across the city awaited with bated breath for word of school closures and delays. So did it snow in Athens?

The view from my window agreed with the forecast from local website “Is It Snowing In Athens?” (http://isitsnowinginathens.com). The answer: a resounding no.

School and work continued as usual in Athens that day, much to the disappointment of many, and Athens was spared from a repeat of 2014’s Snowpocalypse that shut down operations for several days. While Athens’ economy is certainly not dependent on the presence of snow (and in fact, probably fares much worse when there -is- snow), many places in the world actually rely on snow to get their annual water and business needs met.

Measuring snow depth in California

Case 1: the entire state of California, the largest economy in the US. California is in a dire drought, with no foreseeable end in sight. Much of their water supply needs are met by snowpacks in the surrounding mountain ranges such as the Sierra Nevada, where snow falls during the winter and melts in the spring to supply cities that need the water. Snow levels have been much lower over the past few years, and that signals big trouble for California, whose GDP rivals that of Canada, Italy, or India. Californians definitely have room to complain about a lack of snow.

Skiing at Lake Lucerne

Case 2: Switzerland and mountainous European countries. Winter in Switzerland, Austria, and other Alpine nations is marked by outdoor recreation in the snow, particularly skiing. Skiing is a huge part of the winter economy, with families traveling by train to stay in resorts, rent skis, eat meals in restaurants, and generally spend money. Over the past several decades, precipitation has decreased in Switzerland by upwards of 60% in some areas, and that translates into serious economic losses due to a shorter skiing season. The Swiss are understandably distressed about missing out on snow.

Baikal seal pup in its den

Case 3: Baikal seals. Lake Baikal is the largest lake in the world, located in Siberia, and is home to the endemic Baikal seal. Snow in autumn provides habitat for these seals: a mother seal digs a den in the ice and snow in which to raise her pups. In spring when the ice melts, the den collapses, and the seals venture out into the world on their own. Snow is crucial for the life cycle of Baikal seals, so a lack of snowfall could be disastrous for the lake ecosystem.

In short, we Athenians aren’t going to suffer immense monetary or water supply shortfalls due to a lack of snow, but it is a nice departure from the norm to have some. Even those who hate snow can revel in the fact that when we do get snow, it doesn’t stick around forever; your bread and toilet paper supplies will last until the snow has melted away.