7 ways to conserve water and reduce your water footprint

January 17, 2019 by  
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When it comes to conserving water , making small changes can have a huge impact. But many of us don’t really think about water shortages unless we are in the middle of a heatwave, when temperatures are consistently at 85 degrees or more. Extreme heat or not, the water system is overstretched, and with climate change , we can expect to put even more pressure on the depleting water supply. Here are some ways to do your part in conserving water. According to Friends of the Earth , 97.5 percent of the world’s water is locked in oceans and seas, which means it is too salty for humans to use. The remaining 2.5 percent is mostly in the ice caps, so we are all relying on a tiny amount of freshwater to survive. Water isn’t just for drinking. We use it for bathing, cleaning and producing everything from crops to clothing. It’s time to save water, and we need to do it fast. Here are seven ways that you can start conserving water now. As an added bonus, these ideas can also save you money. Change your diet It takes a lot of water to grow, process and transport food. Raising animals for meat and dairy products is also incredibly water-intensive. To reduce your water footprint , reduce your meat and dairy consumption, switch to shopping local and grow food in your own garden. If more people do these things, they will not only lead to a reduction in total water usage but also in less food waste . Related: Vegan diets deliver more environmental benefits than sustainable dairy or meat Have a plan for your garden If you do have a garden , water your outdoor plants early in the morning or at the end of the day, so the water doesn’t immediately evaporate in the sunlight. Also, make sure to water the soil, so the roots get the much-needed liquid. If you water your plants manually instead of with automatic sprinklers, it can cut your water use by 33 percent. American lawns consume a large amount of water, so reduce how much you are watering your lawn. Installing rain barrels to capture rainwater can also be a huge help and can save you up to 1,300 gallons of water every year. Related: New study suggests it’s time to replace modern, grassy lawns Turn off the tap When you let the water run while you brush your teeth, you are wasting over 1.5 gallons of water. If you have leaky taps, you could be letting up to 15 gallons a week go down the drain. Every minute you spend in the shower burns 4.5 gallons of water. So turn off the tap water when you are brushing your teeth, set a timer on your shower to keep it short and fix those leaky faucets. Don’t forget about the outside of your home. Leaky outdoor faucets, pipes, hoses and broken lawn sprinklers can waste water, too. Also, monitor your water bill for unusually high usage so you can discover leaks. Save your dirty clothes When you wash two half-loads of laundry, it uses more water and energy than washing a full load of clothes. Wait until you have enough dirty clothes to fill up the washing machine. This will not only save water and electricity, but it will also lead to lower utility bills. Related: 10 money-saving tips for a green home Use the dishwasher It may be hard to believe, but if you fill up the dishwasher every time you use it , you will use less water than if you washed the dishes by hand — even if you fill up your sink and clean your dishes without the water running. If you use water- and energy-efficient appliances, you will save even more. When you have extra-dirty pots and pans, let them soak first instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean. Wash your car at home Instead of going to a car wash, wash your vehicles at home on the lawn, so you can water your grass at the same time. Use a hose nozzle or turn off the water while you are scrubbing your car so you can save up to 100 gallons of water each time you give it a wash. Recycle ice cubes When you have leftover ice cubes in your drink, toss them into a houseplant instead of pouring them into the sink. When you are washing fruits and veggies , save that water as well to use for watering your plants. Via Friends of the Earth Images via RayMark , Jerzy Gorecki , Pierre Gilbert , Charles Deluvio , Steve PB , Conger Design , Sasin Tipchai and Hans Braxmeier

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7 ways to conserve water and reduce your water footprint

Dangerous jellyfish have invaded Australian beaches

January 14, 2019 by  
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Bluebottle jellyfish have invaded Australia’s Gold and Sunshine Coasts. This past weekend, the jellyfish (also known as the Portuguese man-of-war) stung more than 5,000 people, and many of the victims weren’t even in the water. Just walking on one bluebottle jellyfish on the beach can bring intense pain, and because of strong north-easterly swell conditions, the jellyfish have been pushed to shore. Meanwhile, the deadly Irukandji jellyfish are bombarding the eastern coasts because of warming waters. “I have never seen anything like this — ever. Not everyone reacts the same way, but there have been very serious reactions,” said Jeremy Sturges, Surf Life Saving duty officer. The bluebottle jellyfish species travels in groups. Lifeguards have now closed several beaches, because during the month of December and the first week of January, more than 22,000 people have sought treatment for bluebottle jellyfish stings. Related: Invasive longhorned tick could spread disease across the US According to Queensland Ambulance, people that are stung should “pick off the tentacles with a towel or other object, rinse the area with seawater, place the affected area in warm water and, if needed, apply ice packs.” Luckily, there have not been any fatalities as a result of the bluebottle jellyfish stings. But on Australia’s east coast, experts say that deadly Irukandji jellyfish are spreading, and their stings are so severe they can cause brain hemorrhages and an intense feeling of impending doom, a condition known as Irukandji syndrome. These stings are the most concerning, especially near Queensland’s Fraser Island, because the sting rate has been growing steadily as the waters get warmer . This jellyfish likes to live in higher water temperatures and are normally found in the northern tropics. Recently, there have been two confirmed deaths in Australia due to the Irukandji, and the mysterious deaths of three other tourists have also been linked to the jellyfish. If waters continue to warm, the Irukandji will inevitably move farther south. In three years, they could hit the Gold Coast. “In Queensland alone, we put more people in hospital due to Irukandji stings than shark attacks, crocodile attacks and snake bites combined,” said Jamie Seymore, a professor at James Cook University. “This is something that we need to address now. I can see a time when we have to shut major beaches on the Sunshine Coast. It is going to happen.” Via Matador Network and The Guardian Image via GondwanaGirl

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Get cozy this season with these 7 hot vegan drinks for winter

January 8, 2019 by  
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Thoughts of snowy winter days bring to mind a toasty fire, slippers, sweaters, blankets and warm drinks. It makes sense, because they all equate to the perfect combination of coziness. While traditional tea or coffee is a lovely choice, it’s fun to explore new flavors. For those that are vegan by choice or by circumstance, traditional drinks can be limiting. We’ve conjured up a varied blend of hot drink options to fit your vegan lifestyle. Note that most of these options can also be adapted for the over-21 crowd. Cider Apple cider quickly comes to mind in any discussion of hot drinks, and it is undisputed as a sweet, delicious option. But cider encompasses a host of other possibilities as well. Because fruits and herbs are naturally vegan, there are endless combinations to suit your preferences. How about some apple-berry cider? Cranberry makes a colorful, flavorful and delightful cider that you can drink as-is or use as a base for any number of warm drinks. Take advantage of mint, basil and lavender for tasty spins on the classic ciders, too. Related: 12 delicious and crowd-pleasing vegan brunch ideas Coffee Another age-old vegan option is coffee . However, contemporary methods have turned this once black-only option into dairy-filled whipped, stirred and frothy concoctions. The advantage of modern inventions is that they’ve also come up with an assortment of creamy options that don’t come from an animal source. Replace the cow’s milk and heavy cream with rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk or the sturdy oat milk. From there, you can embellish with a dash of almond or peppermint extract and top with vegan whipped cream and chocolate shavings. There’s no reason to miss out on the seasonal peppermint mocha or cinnamon-spice latte you see everywhere when you can recreate it at home. Hot cocoa Cocoa is a childhood favorite with its sweet flavor and creamy texture. It became a classic for a reason — it’s delicious! But even the classics are due for an upgrade at some point, so take cues from the coffee suggestions above with the addition of extracts, vegan chocolate , milks and whipped cream. You can even mix it up with white chocolate or dark chocolate, too. In the family of cocoa is a vegan Mexican favorite called champurrado, made from masa and either water or milk. You can enhance the flavor with anise, cinnamon or nutmeg for a yummy twist. Gingerbread coconut milk hot cocoa is another delectable option to consider. Simply combine a can of coconut milk with cocoa powder and season with maple syrup, ginger, allspice and vanilla. Top with vegan whipped cream if desired. Tea Tea might be the oldest hot beverage on the planet. For thousands of years, native communities around the world have infused leaves into water to create a calming brew. While English breakfast and peppermint varieties are divine on their own, jazz them up a bit for an extra special treat. London Fog tea  latte is one such treat. To make it vegan, substitute your favorite milk product. Steep a cup of earl grey tea with some fresh lavender. Meanwhile, steam some alternative milk . Combine the two and use a milk frother if you desire. Top with sweetener and a dash of vanilla. Chai tea latte is another notable culinary combination. Make the tea and steam the milk separately. Then, froth the milk and combine with the tea. Add honey or another sweetener to taste and top with cinnamon or nutmeg. Related: 10 tasty and easy vegan dinner ideas Mulled wine Mulled wine is an alcoholic beverage made from wine infused with fruit. Cinnamon, cloves and orange are the typical options, but star anise, clementines and other citrus or sweeteners can be added too. To make mulled wine, simmer a bottle of inexpensive red wine on the stove with the added ingredients. You can alternately let the mulled wine simmer in a slow cooker. Eggnog Did you know you can make eggnog from scratch? Yep, you can. The great part of that news is that it means you can make it from your favorite vegan milk , too. Try coconut or cashew milk. The following recipe is from the Tasty Yummies website : 2 cups homemade cashew milk or other non-dairy milk of your choice ½ cup full fat coconut milk ? cup raw cashews, soaked overnight or for at least 30 minutes (optional) 4-6 Medjool dates 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg pinch of ground cinnamon pinch of ground cloves pinch of sea salt Add all of the ingredients to your high-speed blender and process until smooth and creamy. Serve immediately as-is or add spiced rum, bourbon, brandy or whiskey for a spirited version. Add a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg on top. Wassail If you’ve never had wassail, you’re in for a treat. It’s kind of a combination of apple and cranberry cider with an extra kick of spices. It’s fabulous warmed, and you can even throw in a shot of rum or vodka for an extra warming affect. Winter is the perfect time to cozy up to a warm cup of goodness. Enjoy! Images via Shutterstock

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Sean Parker’s wedding violations result in new app for California coastline

January 4, 2019 by  
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What started out as a high-profile beachside wedding turned into a useful and long-term solution to beach access issues along the California coastline. When Napster founder and original president of Facebook Sean Parker started planning his 2013 beachfront wedding to then-fiance Alexandra Lenas, he had no idea that he was breaking land usage rules. With a redwood grove in mind, he simply leased the space from the hotel that fringed the area. He then spent months having the perfect set built. It included a 20-foot high fence, Roman pillars, bridges, a faux cottage and rock walls. Things were shaping up for the idyllic wedding when the California Coastal Commission (CCC) showed up and shut down progress. A little known agency, the CCC is responsible for maintaining access to over 1,200 miles of coastline. Enforcing a 1972 voter mandate, the organization aims to regulate the coast so that it is accessible to more people in a responsible way. So when the CCC heard a report of Parker’s construction, it came in with some harsh news — the hotel that Parker was leasing from did not have permission to lease him the space. Not only that, but the site of the wedding was supposed to be a public camping area that had been closed by the hotel six years earlier due to water quality issues without permission from the CCC. Related: California approves rule to require solar panels on new houses Fines for limiting beach access run high, and even though it wasn’t Sean’s fault, he sat down with the CCC to figure out a solution. According to the Coastal Act, violators can be fined $1,000 to $15,000 per day that they are in violation. That added up to a whopping $2.5 million dollars, which Parker agreed to pay on behalf of the hotel. Instead of going to the CCC, however, the funds were used to create hiking trails, fund field trips, reopen the campground, fix the water issues and otherwise promote public access to the Big Sur area. But the story doesn’t stop there. During conversations that eventually resulted in the CCC allowing the wedding to continue at the site, representatives mentioned the idea of developing an app where iOS users could find information about the 1,563 access points up and down the California coastline. Parker jumped on board and agreed to develop the app. Unveiled in December, the YourCoast app spent five years in development with teams from both sides working together. Parker’s team brought the technology to the table and received the decades of detailed information collected by members of the CCC. In the past, the constantly updated spreadsheet of information gathered about each access point was published in a book every few years and was periodically updated on the CCC website. Now, each access is shown on a map within the app, with additional information about each one when you click on it. With the financial and technological resources Parker provided, the public now has up-to-date data on closures, access points and photos of each path. The app also delineates amenities of each beach, such as whether there is wheelchair access, restrooms, off-street parking, lifeguards or fishing . Many of the access points are well disguised by natural overgrowth or less-than-helpful neighbors. Some are merely a small sign, fence or alley access, so without the YourCoast app, most people never know about them. Others are falsely marked with “No Parking” or “No Beach Access” signs to further discourage visitors, which is in direct violation of the Coastal Act. The CCC has a huge responsibility for such a small organization. The creation of the app has brought the commission from an era where it still doesn’t have Wi-Fi in the main office to an online resource available to any iOS user. Plans are in the works to also make the app accessible to Google and other Android users. Related: Southern California is losing its clouds, increasing the risk of more intense wildfires While the information is now front and center to the public, there is still the ongoing problem of policing businesses and residents along the coast who actively restrict access to the beach. In fact, the six- to 10-person violations team has a backlog of thousands of cases. The app allows users to report violations and submit pictures of their own, so that they can help with the problem. Some areas of the coastline are very remote, and with that much territory to cover, it’s difficult for the CCC to monitor it all. For those users that visit the more remote regions, YourCoast allows them to download information for use without cell service. Although it was an unusual course of events that brought Parker and the CCC together, both parties are happy to have found a creative solution that brings great value to the public and facilitates the goals of the CCC in promoting access to state coastlines. Additional sections of the settlement agreement required Parker to safely remove all the infrastructure used in the wedding, and he must produce an educational video for the public and ensure that it goes viral. + YourCoast Via LA Times Images via USFWS , James Smith and Inhabitat

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The best eco-friendly resolutions for 2019

December 26, 2018 by  
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With the new year looming, resolutions are on everybody’s mind. That’s because the new year is all about new beginnings. Whether that means changing your diet, incorporating more exercise or focusing on continuing education, 2019 can be an amazing year of growth and discovery. While you formulate your list of new year’s resolutions, be sure to include a few goals focused on sustainability. We all share one planet, which means each person needs to do their part to make it last. Making small changes leads to huge results, so even if you start small, resolve to start. Here are a few eco-friendly resolutions to focus on while you enter 2019. Start a compost bin Composting creates a full-cycle process for making the most out of your food and paper products. Begin with a design for your compost bin. Consider the space you have available along with the layout of your yard. Composters work best in full sun since they yield the best results at high temperatures. It will take longer to break down compost on the shady north side of your home, but it will break down eventually nonetheless. Related: Austin passes law banning restaurants from throwing out food waste Compost bins can be purchased online or at your local garden center or home improvement store. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Resin or plastic compost bins will last longer, but are also petroleum-based, making them an enemy of the environment . Wood composters are much more eco-friendly although they will eventually show the wear of weather exposure. Better yet, don’t use a compost bin at all, but just create a loose pile. Regardless of the type you choose, make sure you can rotate the contents occasionally and that the compost receives water and heat. Fill your compost throughout the year with equal parts green (such as lawn clippings), brown (such as brown paper bags or small twigs) and organic food scraps. Not only does this reduce your food waste, but creates nutrient-rich soil for use in your indoor or outdoor garden . Vow to shop with reusable bags As cities and even entire states begin to ban the use of plastic bags, it’s the perfect time to get into the habit of bringing your own bags when you go shopping. Reusable shopping bags are a great way to reduce both plastic and paper bag consumption. Choose some favorites and keep them in your car. Just remember to return them to the car after bringing the groceries inside so you have them next time around. You can take your reusable bag resolution one step further with the purchase of washable produce bags to use as well. Install rain barrels Rain barrels are easy to install and use. Surf the internet or head to the local home improvement store for a rain diverter. This device is installed in the downspout of your gutter system and diverts a portion of the water into the nearby rain barrels. If you receive even moderate rain in your area, it’s easy to accumulate 50, 100, or more gallons of water during the wet months. Use that water during the summer for gardens, lawns, or animals and save on your water bill. Swap out shower and faucet heads The easiest resolutions are the tasks that you perform once and they provide ongoing benefits. With this in mind, take the time to install low-flow faucet and shower heads. By using air to provide a strong pressure, newer water-restricting heads make it so you barely miss the extra water while benefiting your budget and the environment. Eliminate meat one day each week It’s so well researched and documented these days that no one can argue the drastic effects that raising cattle and other livestock has on the environment. Raising meat is resource consumptive, in the amount of both water and land required. The good news is that even if you’re a blood-thirsty carnivore, small sacrifices can make a big difference. Eliminate meat from your diet one day each week. You might find it easier than you think. If you do, increase to two times per week. Each meatless meal means good things for nature . Avoid plastic Plastic is bad for the environment on every level. It requires huge amount of petroleum to produce and never breaks down, adding to the massive waste issues the world currently faces. Set a goal to do your part to avoid plastic as much as possible. It’s no easy task since it is everywhere we turn, but start by noticing the packaging on your frequent purchases. Buy bulk and bring your own containers. Purchase individual fruit instead of the pre-bagged variety. Bring your own produce and shopping bags to the store. Buy food in glass jars instead of plastic. Take your own cup to the coffee shop. Take your refillable water bottle everywhere. Buy tampons with cardboard applicators or move to a menstrual cup or washable pad. Ask the waitress to hold the plastic straw and bring your own reusable straw if you want one. Shop with companies that use environmentally-conscious packaging. Related: Over 200 nations commit to ending ocean plastic waste Avoid fast fashion Fast fashion is killing the planet. Defined by quick-passing trends, the cheap clothing reels consumers in. But the resources required to produce and dispose of all that clothing earns the industry the title of the world’s number one pollutant . Instead of subscribing to this season’s best that is forgotten a few months down the road, invest in a capsule wardrobe that incorporates interchangeable pieces that suit all your dress and casual wear needs. Buy seasonal and local Your purchasing decisions hold all the power. Use them wisely and make this year’s resolution to buy local as much as possible. Not only does this provide you with the best farm-fresh foods, but it reduces the transport emissions from those manufactured across the ocean to those made just down the road. Gift give the work of local artisans. Attend the farmer’s market. Buy honey, soap and jewelry from local vendors. Think about the journey each product makes and select those with the shortest travel time. Baby steps in your efforts make a huge difference, so remember that you don’t have to go zero waste all at once or give up your car in lieu of a bike. Although it’s great if you want to do those things, start by adding some achievable and sustainable goals to your 2019 resolutions and vow to practice them all year long. Via My Green Closet Images via 955169 , Mike Kenneally , Shutterstock

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Is your company holiday party wasting food?

December 21, 2018 by  
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Awareness of organizational food waste and the water-energy-food nexus can help us appreciate holiday meals.

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Is your company holiday party wasting food?

Is your company holiday party wasting food?

December 21, 2018 by  
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Awareness of organizational food waste and the water-energy-food nexus can help us appreciate holiday meals.

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Is your company holiday party wasting food?

A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for pets

December 13, 2018 by  
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Our pets are our best friends … our family. That’s why it is important to spoil your animals with eco-friendly gifts that will make them and the planet happy. From chew toys made from sustainable hemp and wool to collars made of recycled plastic, here our some of our favorite holiday gifts for pets. Chew toys Whether your dog likes to snuggle with its chew toys or is a tough chewer who rips everything to shreds, these toys will make Fido the happiest pup on the planet. Each option is handmade in the U.S. from sustainable hemp canvas and eco-felt wool. They are durable enough to withstand extra-tough dogs, and they can also hold up to a washing machine. Pet beds Whether you have cats, dogs or both, all your furry friends will love the Snuggle Bed , a cozy sleeping space that can transform into many bed types to suit your pet’s preferences. This particular bed is OEKO-TEX certified; the company’s pet beds are also made from 100 percent recycled materials . Related: A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for family Cat trees Cats love climbing, scratching and — above all else — resting in baskets. Let your cat do all three with this cat tree , which features a carpeted base, a dangling ball for play, a scratch post and a basket-like sphere made from  banana leaf material . Best of all, this tree will fit right in with your home’s beautiful furniture. Aquariums If you keep fish as pets, make their home the best is can be with an eco-friendly aquarium. This specific tank uses fish waste to fertilize herbs growing atop the tank; the plants in turn clean the water for the fish . Related: How to make your own eco-friendly aquarium accessories Collars and leashes Adorn your lovable pets in nature-inspired collars and leashes made from recycled plastic bottles. For added style, this version mimics the “distinctive look and feel of a classic polo shirt,” making your pet cooler and classier than you. Images via  Rhaúl V. Alva , Honest Pet Products , Pet Play , Wayfair , Back to the Roots  and Lupine Pet

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Cheap drainage nets keep water pollution at bay in Australia

November 30, 2018 by  
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Water pollution is a growing crisis around the world, but one city in Australia is doing its part to tackle the huge surges of waste that come from stormwater drains. By using a somewhat obvious, simple and cost-effective system of nets, or “trash traps,” the City of Kwinana is moving to prevent waste from entering its waters. In Spring 2018, the City of Kwinana collaborated with supplier Ecosol to install two drainage nets in the Henley Reserve. The netting was simply attached to concrete drain pipes, and these nets have since collected 370 kg (about 816 lb) of waste, including plastic food wrappers and bottles. Related: Former businessman bicycles down the Thames River to stop plastic pollution The system, including manufacturing, installation and additional labor, cost the municipality about $20,000 — prior to the nets, city workers would collect debris in the water by hand. The new system is picked up and cleaned out using cranes when the nets become full of waste. Then, the waste is sorted in a designated facility. Here, green waste is transformed into mulch, and other materials are separated into recyclable /non-recyclable. The City of Kwinana has considered the drainage nets a huge success, with plans to install three more nets in the nature reserve area over the next two years. “We know that the Kwinana community is very passionate about environmental initiatives and rallies around actions with positive environmental impact, and if it was not for the drainage nets, 370 kg of debris would have ended up in our reserve,” Mayor Carol Adams said. “The nets are placed on the outlet of two drainage pipes, which are located between residential areas and natural areas … This ensures that the habitat of the local wildlife is protected and minimizes the risk of wildlife being caught in the nets. To date, no wildlife has been caught up in either of the City’s nets.” The system took off on social media, in a viral storm that Adams said shows the importance for all levels of government to focus on initiatives to save the environment . + City of Kwinana Image via Shutterstock

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Magical rainbow swamp goes viral

November 30, 2018 by  
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Earlier this week, Brent Rossen posted a photo on Reddit that his girlfriend took of a rainbow swamp, and within 24 hours the photo received more than 120,000 upvotes. The couple was enjoying a walk at First Landing State Park in Virginia when they came upon the unusual phenomenon. “Me and my girlfriend were walking in the woods the other week and saw a rainbow pool for the first time,” Rossen wrote in his post. Related: Magical artworks place lamps, books and chairs in the middle of nature So how does this happen? Jeff Ripple, a former Florida swamp walk leader, told the BBC that the rainbow effect occurs because of the natural oils released by decaying vegetation. The decomposing leaves in the water release tannic acid and a thin film forms on top of pooled water in swamps and marshes. When the sunlight hits it at a certain angle, you can see the gorgeous colors. However, if you look at the water in a shadow, it appears to be normal swamp water. But, on a sunny day, you can see the rainbow when you look at it from an angle. The water also needs to be still for a long period of time for the rainbows to appear. Ripple says that any movement from sheet flow, wind disturbances, or current will “destroy the fragile rainbow film.” This phenomenon reportedly happens at various swamps and marshes along the Eastern seaboard. Retired engineer Michael Hussey posted a pic on Facebook of a rainbow pool in Tallahassee, Florida. Swamp walk leader Sandra Friend has also blogged about her experience with rainbow swamps, and Annie from Not Just Abroad has also posted about a rainbow swamp in Caw Caw County Park in Charleston, South Carolina. Hussey says that he sees this happen every three to four years, and it is “beautiful to see.” Thomas Thornton, facility manager at Caw Caw swamp, says that it must be the result of some kind of perfect storm, and it seems like you have to be lucky to see it in person. Via BBC Images via Shutterstock

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