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Living green can help environment, add green to wallet

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Living green can help environment, add green to wallet

by clovett

By the Oregon Environmental Council

Water is a limited resource, and even in our wet corner of the world in the Pacific Northwest, supplies can be depleted. Careful use of water will help individuals save on utility costs and help society avoid the high costs and environmental impacts of new dams, pipes and treatment plants.

In Oregon, twenty-eight rivers are used for drinking water. Other communities draw on wells that are linked to nearby rivers. The more water we use, the less we leave for fish, wildlife and irrigating farms, and the more we end up paying. Like it or not, the population of the Pacific Northwest is expected to grow drastically during our lifetime, so even more demands will be placed on our water resources.

The good news is that conserving water is easy. Here are nine ways to get started:

  1. Water in the morning or evening, not in the middle of the day when water evaporates quickly. A green lawn only needs 1 to 1 ½ inches of water per week. That's only as deep as a tuna can.
  2. Landscape with native plants instead of grass. This will reduce your yard's water needs. This will also attract wildlife such as birds and butterflies. You can get information on native plants from your library or nursery. Native plants are used to the natural cycles and can thrive without the extra watering.
  3. Run the washing machine or dishwasher only when you have a full load!
  4. Take shorter showers. Each minute you cut from a daily shower will save over 1800 gallons over the course of a year. If the 2.5 million people in our area cut one minute of shower time from every shower for a year, it would save 4.5 billion gallons of water!
  5. Fix leaks promptly. Leaky sinks and toilets can waste thousands of gallons. A leaky sink can waste 50 gallons of water in just 24 hours.
  6. Adjust sprinklers to avoid sidewalks and streets. If it doesn't grow, don't water it.
  7. Install water saving devices. These include low-flow showerheads, on/off sink spigots, and toilet dams. Showerheads average five gallons per minute. Switching to a low-flow showerhead (around two gallons per minute) can save even more.
  8. Turn off the tap. Keep a pitcher of cool water in the fridge to avoid running the tap until it gets cool every time you want a drink. Use a cup while you brush your teeth.
  9. Support “conservation rates” in your community. Water rates should be structured to encourage conservation by homes and businesses. Instead, they often encourage waste by charging less per unit for high-volume customers.
  10. In addition to water conservation, people should also pay attention to the idea of using our limited energy supplies wisely.

The latest scientific data confirm that the earth's climate is rapidly changing. Global temperatures increased by about 1 degree Fahrenheit over the course of the last century, and will likely rise even more rapidly in coming decades. The cause? A thickening layer of carbon dioxide pollution, mostly from power plants and automobiles, which traps heat in the atmosphere.

Scientists say that unless global warming emissions are reduced, average U.S. temperatures could rise another 3 to 9 degrees by the end of the century – with far-reaching effects.

The less energy we all use, the lower our demand on power plants, which means less pollution – and more savings on our utility bills. One thing you can do to reduce your energy demands is to use energy efficient appliances.

The major appliances in your home – refrigerators, clothes washers, dishwashers – account for a big chunk of the energy you use in your home. And if your refrigerator or washing machine is more than a decade old, you're spending a lot more on energy than you need to.

Today's major appliances don't hog energy the way older models do because they must meet minimum federal energy efficiency standards. These standards have been tightened over the years, so any new appliance you buy today has to use less energy than the model you're replacing. For instance, if you buy one of today's most energy-efficient refrigerators, it will use less than half the energy of a model that's 12 years old or older.

The easy way to do your part to save energy is to look for the ENERGY STAR logo when purchasing a new appliance.

Clothes Washers
On average, ENERGY STAR qualified clothes washers use 50% less energy and water than conventional washers.

  • qualified clothes washers save up to 7,000 gallons of water a year—more than most people will drink in a lifetime
  • qualified clothes washers extract more water from clothes during the spin cycle, reducing the drying time, saving energy and wear and tear on clothes
  • ENERGY STAR qualified clothes washers save up to $65 a year on energy bills

ENERGY STAR qualified dishwashers use 25% less energy than the federal minimum standard for energy consumption. Because it uses less hot water compared to conventional models, an ENERGY STAR qualified dishwasher will save about $100 over the lifetime of the product.

  • ENERGY STAR qualified dishwashers have more efficient motors, pumps and improved washing systems
  • many models feature internal water heaters and efficient cycles which improve cleaning and reduce hot water tank demand
  • ENERGY STAR qualified dishwashers save energy two ways: through the electricity used to operate the machine and through the energy used to heat the dishwater

ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerators require only about half as much energy as models manufactured before 1993. ENERGY STAR qualified models use at least 15% less energy than required by current federal standards.

  • ENERGY STAR qualified models use high-efficiency compressors and improved insulation and door seals to help reduce energy consumption
  • better temperature control mechanisms are often found on ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerators meaning that the consumer can more accurately regulate the internal temperature, resulting in fresher food
  • ENERGY STAR qualified models come in various configurations and have convenient features such as through-the-door ice makers found on standard models

Light Bulbs
By now, we’ve all heard the benefits of compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Consuming roughly 30 percent of the power required for a similar incandescent bulb, CFLs are a no-brainer way to reduce home energy bills and slash greenhouse gas emissions.

Living green can benefit everyone in society as well as the environment we all depend on. To find out more, please visit the Oregon Environmental Council at

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Open Mic Comments

Great tips to live by.

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