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Staying dry: Drought renews interest in water conservation

2013-05-28 Water Conservation - showerEveryone has at least a little bit of green in them.  It might be as simple as switching off a light to save electricity or as committed as recycling every scrap of paper, plastic or aluminum foil that comes your way.

But what about water? Are you as careful about using only what you need as you are about, say, turning off the iron when you leave your apartment? (Or going back to make sure you did.)

As author Charles Fishman notes in his book, “The Big Thirst,” water is the most familiar natural resource and the most important substance in our lives.  But we often take it for granted.  It’s cheap, safe and always there when we turn on the faucet.

“The ease with which water enters and leaves our lives allows us an indifference to our water supply,” he writes. “We are utterly ignorant of our own water-mark, of the amount of water required to float us through the day, and we are utterly indifferent to the mark our daily life leaves on the water supply.”

But the images of cracked fields and withered crops resulting from the drought that still grips a good deal of the country has nudged water – or more precisely the lack of it – into the national conversation.  And the word that keeps popping up in that conversation is conservation.

Let’s begin with one way we all use water. The typical American, on average, flushes the toilet five times a day at home, using 18.5 gallons, Fishman says. Every day as a nation 5.7 billion gallons of clean water is flushed down the toilet, according to Fishman.

Now consider what happens if you place a filled plastic water bottle in a conventional toilet water tank, one that uses three to seven gallons per flush. That simple act will displace enough water to save half a gallon to a gallon each use – and that’s no drop in the bucket (sorry).

Here are a few more tips from Water – Use it Wisely that every apartment dweller can employ to save H2O:

  • Run your washing machine and dishwasher only when they are full. You can save up to 1,000 gallons a month.
  • Collect the water you use for rinsing fruits and vegetables, and then reuse it to water houseplants.
  • Shorten your shower by a minute or two and you’ll save up to 150 gallons per month.
  • Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.
  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and save 25 gallons a month. Turn off the water while you shave and save up to 300 gallons a month.
  • Drop your tissue in the trash instead of flushing it.
  • For hanging baskets, planters and pots, place ice cubes under the moss or dirt to give your plants a cool drink of water and help eliminate water overflow.

The freshwater initiative of National Geographic has plenty of information and tips and an eye-opening water footprint calculator.


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Spring cleaning: Make your home sparkle and shine with these green recipes

spring-clean-in-spring-1Ah, spring. It’s the time of year when the birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, the days are longer and, for reasons that defy logic, we feel an urge to clean the house.

It is said that the spring cleaning ritual originated in ancient times and may have something to do with our body clocks (think hibernation). Culture and biology aside, spring is when manufacturers meet this collective urge to purge our homes of dust balls, pet hair and grease stains by pitching all manner of mops, sprays, brushes, paper towels, garbage bags and more.

Spring is also when the Internet is loaded with cleaning tips, including those of the green variety.  [A March 25 Doing Green Right blog provided recipes for DIY glass cleaners, so we’ll skip that.]

Here are a few other tips from a variety of online sources to make your home sparkle and shine:

(From the TLC Web site)

— A cloth dipped in lemon juice can remove stains on vinyl items or tile flooring.

—  Mix 2 parts olive oil with 1 part lemon juice and apply it to your wood furniture using a soft cloth. The result:  a sparkling shine and a nice smell.

— A paste of equal parts of salt, vinegar and flour will remove tarnish from a brass or copper item. Use a soft cloth to apply the paste, cover the item and wait until it dries, and wipe it off with a clean, soft cloth.

(From the Sparkpeople Web site)

— Use a toilet brush sprinkled with baking soda to clean the throne. Occasionally disinfect your toilet by scrubbing with borax instead.

— Straight vinegar will dispatch mold and mildew.

(From thedailygreen Web site)

— Deodorize a carpet or rug by sprinkling baking soda or cornstarch on the surface, using about 1 cup per medium-sized room. Vacuum after 30 minutes.

— For clogged drains, pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by 2 cups of boiling water. The drain is still slow?  Chase the baking soda with a 1/2 cup of vinegar and cover tightly, allowing the chemical reaction to work its magic. Then flush with one gallon of boiling water.

(From the National Geographic Web site)

— Simmer cinnamon, cloves, or other spices in a small pot of water. Your home will smell delicious.

— To clean the tub, tile and countertops, cut a lemon in half, dip it in borax or baking soda and scrub. Rinse and dry the surface when you’re done.

And, if you’d rather not mix your own cleaning concoctions, the Environmental Protection Agency allows safer products to carry the Design for the Environment (DfE) label. You can find a list of DfE products by clicking here.

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Bench-marking Energy Performance

Energy efficiency conceptIn the design phases of our projects, Wood Partners runs the energy calculations that are required by the energy codes and also for the green building programs we have in place. On average here in the Central Region we have been scoring a HERS Index Rating of about 75 which means we are about 25% more efficient than the standard home. To put this in perspective, a HERS Index Rating of 100 is standard. A HERS Index Rating of 85, which is the threshold of ENERGY STAR for New Homes is 15% better than the standard home that meets the basic code.

In this article, Barbra Murray of Multihousing News writes about a growing trend toward benchmarking to measure a building’s energy-saving performance.


William J. Greene III, LEED® AP BD+C
Architect/Design Manager
Wood Partners

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Meet The Team: Jennifer LaSalle

942751_499663670088617_1692325453_nBefore Jennifer LaSalle was Office/Project Manager for Wood Partners in Mill Valley, she scooped ice cream at her first job at Baskin Robbins. Learn about her fantasy career, the most exotic place she traveled to, the song she listens to the most and more:

Name: Jennifer LaSalle
Title/Position: Office / Project Manager
Office Name/Location: Mill Valley

Fantasy career: Chef / Baker

Favorite ethnic cuisine: Italian

Most exotic travel experience: Ambergris Caye, Belize

Starbucks (or other coffee shop) order: non-fat latte

Most played song on iPod: Pride and Joy, Stevie Ray Vaughan

Best advice you ever received: Educate yourself. It’s one of the few things that can never be taken from you.

Your first job: Scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins

Worst subject in high school: History

Most productive time of day: mid-morning

Reality show you’re embarrassed to admit you watch: Real Housewives..ugh.

Person you’d like to have dinner with: Maya Angelou

What you’re most proud of: my relationship with my family

Next travel destination: Spain

What book is on your nightstand now? This Family of Mine, Victoria Gotti

First thing you do when you get to the office: respond to emails

Last thing you do before you leave your office: “try” to organize my desk