It may seem odd to talk about water conservation when Hurricane Irma recently dumped more than fifteen inches of rain on some areas[ii] and caused water levels to rise seven feet in just ninety minutes elsewhere[iii]. But the quote above neatly describes the irony of being surrounded by a plentiful supply of water that you cannot drink.
In The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the plentiful water is, of course, the ocean. But the floodwater engulfing many parts of the Caribbean, Florida and other southern states is just as undrinkable because it is polluted with sewage, salt water, sediment and debris, posing a threat to the health of people, animals and crops. In some areas, this contaminated water has entered the public water supply, causing drinking water shortages.
Even where the water supply is unaffected, it’s important to remember that heavy rainfall does not always mean that there will be plentiful water to drink. During spells of normal rainfall, water soaks into the ground and gradually seeps deeper into underground aquifers – large areas of porous rock that hold water[iv] . During hurricanes or other heavy storms, the ground can’t soak up the water quickly enough and much of it runs off into rivers and oceans, laden with sediment and pollutants collected along the way. Heavy, infrequent rainfall delivers less water to the aquifers, which are relied upon to supply millions of people with drinking water, than steady, frequent showers.
Add to this the damage to infrastructure, such as storage tanks and water treatment facilities, caused by hurricanes, storm surges and floods and it’s clear that an excess of water can actually lead to a shortage of water!
Water conservation is the new normal
If you’re in an area affected by flooding or storms, it’s important to heed instructions from your local water supplier. Continue to boil water and limit flushing water into the sanitary system until restrictions are lifted.
Whether or not you’ve been directly affected this time, you can help to reduce the impact of future weather events such as floods or droughts by using only the water you need. You can find many online resources to help you save water and lower your bills (try here or here).
If you are really serious about water conservation, you might even follow the example of South African politician Helen Zille, who has recently revealed that she showers only every third day[v]. Although some people have expressed shock at the revelation, others have praised her response to the serious water shortages in the Western Cape Province.
However you do it, conserving water is an increasingly important way of life not only in the US but across the globe.
[i] Lines from “ The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The mariner, on board a becalmed ship, is surrounded by salt water that he cannot drink.
We tend to celebrate a lot of things in the fall – it’s the kickoff of the holiday season, there are a ton of activities to take part in, and even if we claim to love summer, there is something to be said about the slight ‘chill’ in the air that can really make you feel comfortable. One thing that doesn’t often cross our minds during this colorful season, however, is the energy we’re using, and how we could be doing ‘better’ with it.
October is actually National Energy Awareness Month. So, what does that really mean? For starters, it means just as much as we want it to because the ‘awareness’ level really starts with you!
Each year, the Department of Energy chooses a different theme or topic for awareness month, and this year they are focusing on both energy, and water conservation. With droughts plaguing so many parts of the country, it seems to be a fitting theme to bring recognition to, especially when it comes to helpful tips for what we can do.
What Can You Do To Help Save Energy This Fall
For starters, conserving energy begins at home. The easiest place to start when you think about the cooler weather? Heating units. Not only will furnaces and heaters kick on almost full-time in the fall, causing electric bills to skyrocket, but you may be pumping out more heat than you actually need. A few tips can help to make your home more efficient, even if you don’t have the budget to buy a completely energy-efficient heater.
First of all, before the cold weather kicks in, be sure to have your furnace looked at by a professional. If possible, ask them to clean it for you. If you have dirty air filters, it can slow the airflow, which will make your unit have to work even harder. The harder it works, the more energy it burns. Next, make sure your home is properly insulated, including windows and doors. This will keep heat from escaping, and can give your furnace a break from time to time.
However, the best thing you can do to make sure your bills stay down, and energy stays up, is to equip yourself with energy-efficient appliances. Buying a new heating unit might seem like a big investment at first – but it’s just that. It won’t take long before your heating bills reflect the savings, and the unit will pay for itself. On top of that, energy-efficient appliances are making a major mark on energy consumption throughout the world. If everyone switched to them, we could reduce electricity consumption across the globe by over 10% – such a small change, but such a big impact.
So, be sure to ‘energize’ your home this autumn as much as possible, by keeping the cool air out, and the comfortable air inside. Don’t be afraid to do what you can to bring awareness to the energy crisis we’re currently facing, and do your part in educating others to take the same steps throughout these cooler seasons.
More often than not, people tend to think taking steps toward energy conservation, and living a ‘greener’ lifestyle have to be huge, grand gestures and acts. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While yes, taking larger initiatives toward a greener tomorrow is always a great idea, sometimes the small things add up just as much, and they tend to be habits you can get into every single day. Over time, that’s a lot of energy conservation to be proud of. The best part? When you make small changes in your day-to-day life, they become habits you can live with forever. Making these smarter choices and changes can make more of an impact than you may realize.
So, what can you actually do today to help conserve energy? The options are honestly pretty endless. With hundreds of small choices and changes in mind, let’s take a look at some simple ones that can get you started down a positive path toward a brighter, and more energy-efficient future.
In The Home
- Wash your clothes in cold water, not hot. If you do this just twice a week, you can save over 500 pounds of CO2 each year.
- Purchase energy-efficient appliances, such as washers, dryers, and refrigerators. Always make sure your fridge is on the lowest possible setting for coldness, without getting to the freezing mark.
- Get as much as you can out of every load of laundry, and every load of dishes in the dishwasher. Fill both to a suitable amount each time, instead of just washing a few things at a time.
- Try to find alternative methods of transportation each day – from biking, walking, or taking public transit, to simply carpooling with others. With every gallon of gasoline saved, you’re also saving 22 pounds of CO2 emissions.
- Be conscious of the products you’re buying on a daily basis, including food, and how it’s packaged. Try to choose packaging that’s able to be reused, instead of thrown out right away. Plastics are a great option that can get recycled again and again.
- One of the most responsible things you can do, no matter where you live, is keep track of your local government. Is there an election coming up? Do some research on your local candidates when it comes to their stance on environmental protection. Or, contact your local congressman about steps they can take to bring awareness to the issue.
- You can also work to start different organizations or outreach programs in your community, or even through your place of employment. Plant trees, organize a trash clean-up day, etc.
These simple steps are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to conserving energy, and ensuring a better, cleaner future for the next generation. The best part is that most of these, and hundreds of additional ideas, can save you money, time, and require very little effort. A few smart decisions today, can create a world of difference tomorrow.
California’s drought is well-known and widely covered, but things are still changing. People are learning to adapt to the ongoing issue, especially since El Niño didn’t seem to bring much relief at all. The future doesn’t look promising and farmers are certainly feeling the effects already, so they’re turning to new technology to find solace.
Mario Daccarett’s sheep farm, Golden Valley Farm, lies about one hour north of Fresno. There, his employees milk about 500 sheep per day to produce milk to make cheeses that are found in stores like Whole Foods. Daccarett gets about 800 pounds of milk from each sheep per year and this takes a lot of feed. A lot of feed takes a lot of water and it also takes a lot of money. So Daccarett came up with his own water saving initiative.
Daccarett has started planting sprouted barley that he mixes into his regular feed. He grows it in 10 by 20 foot shipping containers with hydroponics technology and indoor grow lights. By doing this, he’s using only 2% of the amount of water it would take to grow the crop outside. With a sprinkler spraying just 20 seconds of water each day to start the germination process, the farm is producing 2,400 sprouts daily. Within a week they are ready to be eaten by the sheep.
Water Conservation & Cost Reduction
Some say the cost savings isn’t really worth it. The containers run about $100,000 each and the barley sprouts don’t provide enough animal nutrition alone. But Daccarett claims his first two containers have paid for themselves in the first year. He’s planning on buying more containers and thinks that other farmers will do the same as water conservation continues to be an issue.
For farmers with smaller plots of land, it’s certainly an idea worth looking into. These containers can provide ample amounts of feed and save the farmer money in the long run. Plus, the amount of water saved is incredible. Like Daccarett, we hope to see more innovation like this in the future.
When it comes to buying a new home, especially for the first time, there are so many different things to consider. For most new homeowners, energy efficiency is not at the top of the list. However, looking into your new home’s energy efficiency could greatly save you costs in the long run. So what should you consider?
Heating & Cooling
Heating and cooling account for the most energy use in homes, accounting for up to half of the total energy use. If your home has air conditioning, you’ll want to follow basic energy saving tips such as using a thermostat, setting the thermostat to a higher temperature when you’re away from home, rotating ceiling fans and more.
Energy Efficiency Appliances
Investing in energy efficient appliances will make a huge impact on your energy bill. Look for the ENERGY STAR® label when upgrading appliances. ENERGY STAR® is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program that helps businesses and individuals save money and the climate through energy efficiency. Appliances with this label have met the standards for energy efficiency set forth by ENERGY STAR®.
Check Air Filters & Vents
Many people overlook or delay checking air filters and vents, but they should be looked at regularly. If air flow is hindered by clogged vents or worn out filters, your system won’t be able to work properly and your energy bill will suffer.
Without proper insulation your home can lose up to 40% of heated or cooled air, which certainly makes an impact on your electric bill and your overall comfort. It’s argued that the most cost-effective improvement anyone can make is adding insulation to a home that is lacking.
While these are things new homeowners should consider, they certainly aren’t the only things you can do to improve your home’s energy efficiency. Practice small actions like shutting off lights when you leave a room and closing blinds during summer are all small actions that can add up to make a big difference. Together with the larger improvements, you’ll be well on your way to a cheaper, more energy effiecient home.
With a drought taking place in a large section of the globe, cutting down on water usage is essential. That said, nobody really wants to give up maintaining their yards. Water conservation is important, but dead grass isn’t exactly the result everyone is looking for. If you’re making changes to your yard to better suit the drought’s resources, consider these drought resistant plants. You’ll have an exceptional looking yard and an easier, more water-friendly time caring for them.
#1 – Lewisia cotyledon ‘Sunset Strain’
This beautiful blooming plant does very well in rock gardens, but needs adequate drainage. It’s foliage is evergreen and it reaches about 1 foot high and 10 inches wide. With its gorgeous flowers, it’ll be sure to draw attention.
#2 – Sedum spathulifolium, Cape Blanco
If you’re looking for excellent ground cover, this low-growing plant is the right choice. Little blue-green leaves form on stems and create a lovely addition to any garden.
#3 – Lavandula multifida
This Mediterranean shrub has a lot to offer with its long blades and beautiful violet blooms. Reaching 3 feet wide and nearly half as tall, they bloom from spring to fall and are an excellent choice for drought resistant foliage.
#4 – Sedum spurium, Voodoo
This burgundy plant makes a gorgeous addition to any garden. Excellent for ground cover, this is a low-growing, fast-spreading succulent with tiny red flowers that bloom throughout summer.
#5 – Libertia peregrinans
Coming from New Zealand, this iris relation offers some exceptional color to any garden. With stiff, bright orange blades, it stands about 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide. Clusters of white flowers bloom in spring and summer.