Simple conservation tip: Put your “greywater” to work…

Greywater may be a new term to you… once again, this one was recently a new one for me too!

buckt grnGreywater is defined as the “waste water generated from bathing, showering, dishwashing and laundry”.  Initial thoughts might sound something like “well… ick.”  Sure, I certainly don’t recommend you grab a glass(!), but there are plenty of household uses for this water (as long as you aren’t using harsh cleansers and detergents).

Think about watering your indoor plants, outdoor plants and shrubbery, or washing your car.  This water is ideal.

All you need to do is add a handled bucket to your shower, scoop out a bucket or watering can full from your bath, or add the bucket to your utility tub when your washer is draining.  Plants will actually thrive from the content of this water and your car happens not to care if the water has a bit of added body wash or laundry detergent.

Considering this greywater accounts for somewhere between 50%-80% of residential water waste, conserving and using it will certainly amount to a lot more than just “a drop in the bucket”.

A water conserving mom fighting a water bill nightmare…

Usually I’m here offering suggestions and solutions.  Today, I’m just looking for answers.

faucet runningFirst, the backstory:  We are, without doubt, a water conserving family.  We have water efficient appliances, have taught our kids to conserve and have put all of the best water saving tips in place.  Our usual water bill runs between $45-$65 per quarter.  The accompanying sewer usage fee costs us a fairly equal rate per quarter, so for this time of year, I was expecting a bill of just under a hundred dollars.

The bill arrived. (Hold onto your hats:) $260!!!  Did I choke?  Yes… I did.  (And I also swore profusely!)

After 57 minutes(!) of waiting for a City of Cleveland Division of Water customer service representative they put my bill “on hold” and schedule a service appointment.

Yesterday the tech arrived, ran all the tests, said everything was in working order  – no leaks, no problems detected –  and that he would report his findings to the office.  I was advised to call tomorrow for a “decision”.  What EXACTLY does THAT mean?… a “decision”?water mtr

The interesting thing is that the tech also assessed our previous 16 months of bills and commented “Wow, your family really IS efficient!” According to him, a family of four typically uses just over 3 MCF units per quarter (this is the measurement of usage in cubic feet per thousand).  He also says, when they are teenagers, it normally raises to 4!  We have been consistently at, or just below, 2… yes, 2!

So what gives? Honest answer… I have no idea.  And what are we supposed to do?  The curious thing… my mother-in-law’s last quarter bill?  $500+!  This quarter?  $1200!  WHAT is going on with the Cleveland Division of Water?  How do you battle what they claim is true when you simply know it cannot be?

Has this ever happened to you?  What is the solution?  Because this time, I have absolutely NO ANSWERS…

Simple green tip…just “concentrate”!

Today I’m going to keep it nice and simple…

method detergentIf you want to “buy” greener, just “concentrate”… buy concentrated formulas of anything and everything, that is.  It helps to eliminate a lot of packaging waste, even if it happens to be recyclable.  As much as I hate math… it’s simple math.  Less volume = less packaging.

Another tip is to buy in bulk.  Sure, you’re buying a bigger package, but it’s still less packaging than what is needed for multiple smaller sized packages versus the one larger size!

Final tip… avoid excess packaging.  Over-wrapping and over-packaging results in excess waste, recyclable or not.

So “concentrate”, “go big” and “keep it as skimpy as possible”… wow, this post has gone someplace else entirely…

A green mom blogger’s choice: laptop vs. desktop?

laptp compWell, last month my laptop died.  (RIP dear XPS, my beloved refurbished computer!) Not a pleasant experience if I want to keep this blog going, so I’ve resorted to borrowing my husband’s laptop in the meanwhile (and it’s not easy when he needs to keep borrowing it back!).

So he has finally said it’s time for Mom Goes Green to get a new computer of my very own.  Enter dilemma:  laptop vs. desktop.

I did my research, because I also want to make the greenest choice, and here is what I found:

  • Laptops use considerably less energy than desktop computers.  In some cases, the savings are somewhere between 50-80% less, depending on the model.  Energy savings = environmental choice. (winner: laptop)
  • Laptops have batteries, so they can actually utilize their own stored energy for use. (winner:  laptop)
  • Laptops are considerable smaller than desktops therefore, when it comes time for disposal, there is less electronic desktp comp“waste” and fewer parts to be recycled. (winner:  laptop)
  • The parts contained within laptops are harder to recycle and refurbish than desktop computer parts.  (winner: desktop)
  • Desktops typically last longer than laptops since laptops are more fragile and the mobility-factor often means a greater likelihood of damage and a shorter life.  Laptops are also more expensive to repair (e.g. $500 bucks to fix mine… augh!) and are therefore more likely to get discarded more frequently. (winner: desktop)
  • The toxic materials in desktops are much less than those in laptops (due to the batteries and other materials contained within the computer) so laptop disposal means more polluting toxins. (winner: desktop)

So there you have it.  As I see it, it’s a wash.  Choose what suits your needs.  There is no real environmental choice (unless you “go computer-less!”… something that’s unlikely for any of us!).

Are your kids being forced to be wasteful at school?

Yesterday was only the second day for our daughter being back at school after what felt like an all-too-short summer and, after once again taking the position of Recycling & Environmental Programs Chairperson at her school, I’ve already found myself with Mission #1 for the year… yea, in all of TWO DAYS!cafe-tray

It seems that our children are actually being forced to be wasteful in the lunchroom and my head is just spinning.  The situation was brought to light by a close friend who volunteered to help new students become accustom to the cafeteria line process and when her story began with an “oh, let me tell you about THIS!” I knew it wasn’t going to be good.

The problem?  All students purchasing a lunch are forced to take all items on the lunch menu, even if they don’t want them!  My friend told me I probably would have choked at how many unopened single-serve applesauce containers met the trash can.  My heart just sank.  Not only is this horribly wasteful, but can you imagine how many food pantries could benefit from all of the unused foods that are thrown away daily?!?

I can’t imagine what policy is in place that literally makes this waste a “rule”, but I certainly intend to find out!  Maybe it’s so the school can say that, while they can’t control what the children eat, it was at least given to them… but if this is the case, it’s a lousy standard.

cafet-lineMy hope is to find a place that would accept these unopened foods and allow them to benefit.  With so many regulations, it may be hard to do.  And then I will need to get the school on board, so that will likely be another huge administrative hurdle, but this one ladies and gents, Mom Goes Green is taking on!!! I never knew about this before, since our daughter is a daily waste-free lunch girl(!), but now I NEED to try to make something happen.  It WILL be my first mission.

If you have a similar story to share and ideas of how to resolve this dilemma, please let me know… I would love to hear it!  And if this story sounds similar to a situation in your own child’s school, consider joining me and see what you can do to make a positive change!

Less waste means less trash, and food for those who need it… in that situation everyone wins!