Conserving Water at Home

While the East Coast and Midwest have seen more than their fair share of rain and other precipitation over the last several months, the West Coast has seen extreme drought and numerous wildfires. Even my state of Washington is currently experiencing a “historic monster” of a fire and resources are dwindling. So, all of us up and down the West Coast need to conserve as much water at home as possible. There may be less we can control at work, grocery stores and other public areas, but at home we can (and should!) do everything in our power to minimize our water use.
Not sure if you’re doing enough or wondering what else you can do? Do not fret! I have plenty of tips below.
First, make sure nothing is leaking. Pipes and faucets are easy to check, but toilets are a little more complicated. Try this trick: put a few drops of food coloring in the tank of your toilet and do not flush! If, after a few minutes, the color has entered the toilet bowl, then it is time to call your plumber or order new parts. Also, keep anything that isn’t waste or toilet paper OUT of the toilet. Several gallons are wasted each time you flush garbage.
Once any obvious leaks are fixed, check for hidden ones. Locate your water meter, note the reading and leave all water off for a couple of hours. If the water meter reads the same a few hours later, then you are good to go. However, if you haven’t used water and your meter reads differently, you have a hidden leak somewhere. The longer leaks go without repair, the more water you waste; even a few drops every hour add up quickly.

The most important rule for conserving water is: don’t leave the water running. Turn off the water in the shower while you shave; turn off the water while you brush your teeth; turn off the water while you wash dishes. Letting the water run during these activities wastes much more than you think. You can easily leave a little bit of water in the tub or sink to rinse your razor; rinsing with running water wastes more. You only need a drop of water to wet your toothbrush before brushing and you can easily soap up dishes without leaving the faucet on (have a dish with a little water in it while you wash the other dishes).
Another good rule of thumb is to wait to run dishwashers and washing machines until you have a full load. Look into efficient dishwashers and water-saving front load washers. Water efficient appliances are not only becoming more popular, but more necessary, too. You can find anything from low flow shower heads and toilets to irrigation controllers. The EPA has great resources for water efficient, green homes. Also, for you Californians, consider the CEC’s Water Energy Technology (WET) program for water and energy saving appliances and technologies.
See how cool this looks?! If I had a lawn this would be it.
If you’re living in the Southwest and you still have a green lawn, it’s time to rip it out. Don’t waste any more time! Either let your lawn go brown or replace it with drought-resistant plants. Need some more reasons to do this? Los Angeles has a Cash for Grass program, Governor Brown has banned brown lawn fines and succulents and boulders are pretty.
Water is 100% a depletable resource, as we have daily proof. Cities are suffering and this will only continue. While we all recognize this, our situation will only get worse if we continue to talk the talk but not walk the walk. It is up to each one of us to monitor our usage and minimize it in as many aspects of our lives as we can. This is not just a suggestion, this is a call for action! In addition to doing the right thing, you’ll find yourself with a fuller wallet. Water conservation and efficiency, like energy conservation and efficiency, puts money back in your pocket and there’s absolutely nothing to dislike about that.
It’s up to you to make a change. Will you accept this challenge?

Lighting the Way to Savings

We have all gotten used to having lights to guide us down the road or down the sidewalk, but do you know how much electricity it takes to light that path? Many American’s have no idea what it takes to keep common area lighting going, but your cities and counties do. If you were to ask them how much it costs they would most likely state…TOO MUCH!

Cities have held back on making the leap to LED streetlights, since it comes with a pretty hefty price tag. Many city councils and or county supervisors get hung up on the price tag and vote no, but there are many more added benefits to making the change than one would think. When streetlights are upgraded to LED streetlights cities will gain more than energy savings and energy usage. They will be improving light pollution, wasted lighting and public safety. Many may doubt that the items listed above can be improved with just lights, but I am here to prove it to you!

Most of the older streetlights that you see today were installed in the 1970’s and give off an orange hue. The hue is caused by the lights containing sodium, which takes a lot of energy to keep lit.  Estimates show that for outdoor parking and roadway lighting the US spends around $10 Billion dollars’ each year. That same amount that goes to those outdoor lighting structures would be able to power around 6 million homes.  [i]  Besides the conservation of energy look at the dollars and cents that would be saved. That is a large chunk of money that a city or county could put toward a large improvement project.

When a city decides to make the switch to LED streetlights they would be able to use 60% less electricity. One such success story was featured in SF Bay. The City of San Jose is retrofitting 63,000 of their streetlights by the year 2016. [ii] It is one of the biggest lighting retrofits in the country. The city is doing a two part retrofit with the first part consisting of 18,100 lights and comes at a cost of $10.5 million. The city is working with PG&E on their streetlights program, which will provide around $900,000 in rebates once all is said and done. With the incentive taken into consideration the city will cut the big price tag down to $9.6 million. Not too shabby of a savings in my book.

Besides the money and energy savings cities can improve light pollution and wasted light as well. Having LED streetlights allows the lighting to be directed to where you would like the lighting to go to.[iii] Along with having directional light LED’s are able to deliver a more even light to the area being lit. With more even light you do not get the glowing sensation like you would with the older orange lights.

Now when it comes to improving public safety street lights help to improve pedestrian safety and traffic safety. With well thought out plans of street lights pedestrian can become more visible along the sidewalks as well as in the crosswalks or roadways. When it comes to traffic safety improved lighting would be a no brainer. With well-lit roadways and intersections you have improved visibility of vehicles. Most of your high lit areas would be those that have high traffic, high volume and dangerous or blind curves.

Though city officials would receive praise for making such large investments and upgrades they can also receive national recognition. Just this year President Obama launched the Presidential Challenge for Advanced Outdoor Lighting. This challenge is to help push municipalities to make the upgrade to better outdoor lighting. For those cities and local governments that would like to gain that recognition and complete the work they will be listed on the white house partners listing as well as gain press attention.  

[i] “LED Outdoor Lighting: A $6 Billion Annual Savings Opportunity”, Mar. 18, 2015,
[ii] “San Jose Flips Switch on LED Streetlights”, Mar., 18, 2015,
[iii] “Improving Efficiency in Municipal Street and Public Space Lighting”, Mar., 26, 2015,