Archive for the ‘water’ Tag

My Water-Use Achilles Heel? Fruit Trees   Leave a comment

A couple weeks ago I finally finished the tallying of my summer 2013 water audit. Unlike my trash and energy audits where I have a good baseline from doing these audits since 2001, I have no baseline and no good methodology for a water audit. Until we moved into this house in 2010 I had never lived (as an adult) in a place where I got a water bill, and from 2010 through late 2012 those bills were bimonthly. It’s nearly impossible to use a bimonthly bill to get any sense of your water usage since you end up with summer watering mixed in with cooler months. In the past for my water audits I’ve timed how long showers last, how long it takes to wash my hands, etc. in an attempt to measure my water use. This time I decided to measure my outdoor water use since it’s all through hoses, and then just do the math for indoor use based on my bill. So I got little flow meters for both hoses, and started recording. Unfortunately I did not do a calibration check on either meter and one of them conked out before the end of the month. When I tallied up the amount I had supposedly used in my outdoor watering during the month, it was more than the total water usage in my bill.

Without having a way to calculate indoor vs. outdoor water usage, I’m still having to do this audit based on a lot of estimated numbers and various assumptions. The final tally gave my top 5 water uses as 1-watering trees, 2-showers, 3-toilets, 4-watering lawn, 5-watering potted plants. Assuming that I can use proportioning between the two water meters that were on the hoses, I was using SEVEN times more water on the trees than the lawn.

Now, I’m stingy when it comes to lawns. I don’t water during the winter (rainy season here in Sacramento), and I only water once per week in the summer. Plus we have a small front lawn and don’t water the little backyard patch-o-grass at all. But we have a couple trees in the front yard that are still young and getting established, and a quasi-orchard in the backyard (established nectarine, new apple, new pomegranate, established persimmon, established pear, established orange, established pumelo). But I was “deep watering” the trees by watering monthly and letting the hose water run slowly at the base of each tree for a while. And sometimes would forget to move the hose in a timely manner. They all started producing fruit only after I started watering them, so it is important to me to water them well, but since trees are on an annual cycle there’s no easy way to be sure that if I reduce water by x amount they will still fruit nicely.

I tried looking for suggestions of how much water to apply to fruit trees online, and didn’t get much help. Most of what I found I’m assuming is for commercial growers since it was talking about daily watering. When I did the math those suggestions weren’t far off from what I was applying monthly. I take that to mean I’m overwatering since you have to account for how much the soil can store so I may be applying as much water as the tree needs in a month but since I was doing it all at once much of that water would have been lost as excess.

For the end of last summer I switched to weekly watering for around 5-15 minutes depending on the size of the tree instead of monthly for 1 hr each. But this year with the drought and push to conserve water I’m wondering how to proceed appropriately with these fruit trees, and don’t yet have a plan that I can really feel comfortable with.

Posted May 18, 2014 by mayakey in gardening, water use

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More Greenwashing Napkins   Leave a comment

Apparently I’m on a greenwashing bent right now, what with my last two posts being about greenwashing in the dry cleaning industry and nail polish marketing. I notice things unfortunately often, but don’t always make note of them.

Last year I posted about the greenwashing paper napkins that Quiznos was using, this year I have another paper napkin from a pizza chain (I don’t remember which one and there’s no logo on the napkin). The claim? “Save the environment, one napkin at a time.” Even a 100% recycled paper napkin is not going to save the environment. Recycling is at the bottom of the 3-R’s since it is the least beneficial. Using FEWER napkins (reduce), and/or using cloth napkins (reuse), would be better choices but still wouldn’t quite rise to “save the environment” level. These types of small steps need to be part of a larger pattern, a larger movement, to really be effective. Yes, it’s a very good thing to use disposable napkins made from 100% recycled material, and I wish that all fast food/take-out restaurants did so. However, it really annoys me when a company makes outrageous claims of benefit for very small steps. Does anyone actually see these logos and think that the restaurant is a “green” restaurant? Or does anyone actually think that using recycled disposable napkins instead of virgin disposable napkins will save the world? Now, if the claim was “Help the environment, one napkin at a time” I might be able to get on board with it not being greenwashing.

A non-greenwashing (at least in my opinion) example is some brands/sizes of bottled water that I’ve seen recently that are using smaller caps to use less plastic. The bottles that I’ve seen haven’t gone to such lengths as to redesign the label touting that they’re saving the world by using less plastic, they’ve put a note on the label that by using smaller caps they are using less plastic. There is no “save the world” claim, only a mention that this is part of an “ongoing effort to reduce [their] impact on the environment.” For that reason I’m thinking that this is not greenwashing but is legitimate green marketing of a product that is inherently not environmentally friends. There’s only so much that the impact of a disposable plastic water bottle can be reduced. Disposable means landfill space with long-term maintenance of leaching and methane production, or incineration with air pollution and ash disposal concerns, or recycling with energy consumption and downcycling issues. Plastic most likely means petroleum product, with all the impact associated with oil drilling, or it can mean corn product, which also has a significant footprint of energy and other inputs. And water itself is a concern. Some brands of bottled water are tap water, but some are “spring water” and by my understanding that means they have to tap into the spring before it reaches the surface. This requires the construction of an industrial facility in an otherwise untouched place, and my cause the spring to dry up and change the local hydrology. And then there’s that Fiji water brand that ships bottled water to us rich first-worlders while the locals don’t have adequate sanitation and clean water facilities.

Posted April 14, 2012 by mayakey in environment, resource use

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Spring Detox – Time To Check Up On Good Health Habits   Leave a comment

Spring detox isn’t just about diet and supplements, although they are a major part, but it’s also about making sure that the body’s natural detoxification systems are supported normally. The plan that I follow/have developed over the years includes several things that are good everyday health habits that get taken for granted or left in the background much of the time. By this I mean habits like getting enough sleep, breathing deeply, and drinking enough water. These are all habits that go right along with being conscious of my body and its needs, but it is also really easy to get caught up in distractions and drift from an established habit. For me being really busy at work makes it harder for me to drink enough water since I get sucked into my computer, being busy at home makes it hard to get enough sleep, and any form of stress or anxiety can restrict breathing. Taking a few days to make sure I am actually DOING what I think I’m doing (although to be honest I don’t think I get enough sleep regularly) is really valuable for me in the context of living a conscious life.

These are all habits that support the body’s natural ability to detoxify. Sleep is when many organs recharge themselves, especially the liver and the skin, which are two major parts of the body’s detoxification system. Exhaling rids the body of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and any other gaseous contaminants. Water is obviously a major part of the body’s detoxification system since it is the vehicle the kidneys use to get rid of waste (urine).

Posted April 1, 2011 by mayakey in breathing, conscious living, health, self-care

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Drinking Water in Winter   Leave a comment

One of the things about living in a house where the thermostat is set to 60 degrees F is that you learn what works to keep you from being too cold. One such thing is the importance of drinking water. During the summer we all know that we need to drink plenty of water to help us feel cooler, and so that our bodies’ cooling systems can work. It’s less obvious that drinking water in the winter can help to stay warm. I’m not talking about hot beverages here, I’m talking about any temperature of liquid.

The realization came after lots of self observation, and then experimentation. Some days I felt really cold, others weren’t so bad, even though the house temperature and probably the effective temperature (accounting for drafts, etc.) were the same. But when I felt really cold and then drank a lot of water (cold tap or room temperature water), I started to feel more comfortable. This was most apparent in extremities like fingers and toes.

Not being well-studied in anatomy and physiology I can only offer conjecture as to why this would be the case, but I’ll give it a shot. My guess is that when the body is not fully hydrated, blood circulation is not as efficient and so transfer of heat throughout the body is not as efficient. After all, cold fingers are used as a symptom of poor circulation, like for Raynaud’s disease.

So if you’re like me and can’t manage to finish a cup of hot tea at home before it gets cold, drink it anyway knowing that it’ll help you keep warm. Although, holding a nice hot cup would be much more pleasant.

Posted February 17, 2011 by mayakey in food, health

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The Rediscovery of The Spray Feature   Leave a comment

As I’ve now mentioned here a couple of times, we just had to replace our kitchen faucet in order to fix a leak in the supply line. It was one of the few easy purchases in life because (1) no real research was required and (2) the plumber supplied the new faucet. I take that back about the research since I’m doing it retroactively as I write this post. Before the purchase I assumed that there are no faucets made in the US, and that the lead content in the faucets wouldn’t vary much. We perused the aisles at Home Depot and Lowe’s to get a feel for the cost of replacing our faucet with something similar, and that was the extent of my research. I wanted to talk to the plumber about the choices for water efficiency. It turns out it is a very good thing that we got the faucet through the plumber, because otherwise we probably would have made what I would later consider “a bad decision.”

The first thing that came up was that some manufacturers responded to California’s reduction of allowed lead in faucets/piping/etc from 8% to 0.25% by switching from metal to plastic faucets. If we had bought the faucet on our own we probably would have bought a plastic faucet without even realizing it, since those would be the slightly cheaper ones. But there is a much higher risk of contaminants leaching out of plastic compared to metal, just based on the molecular structures. And metal is recyclable in perpetuity, whereas plastic is usually not recyclable and can usually only be recycled once if at all. It is important to consider the entire lifecycle of a product, and that includes disposal.

After the faucet had been installed I rediscovered the spray feature, which we would not have gotten if we had bought the faucet ourselves. It has been so many years since I had a kitchen faucet with the spray/stream selection that I had completely forgotten it. When we perused the hardware store aisle we looked at the buttons on the sprayers for some of the faucets and decided that we just wanted something simple: no buttons that will break. The faucet that the plumber supplied had the buttons, though he insisted that they won’t break. After he left I played around with the new faucet and I tried the buttons. It was a head-slapping moment. One is the pause button, and the other is the spray/stream toggle. We can now save water in the kitchen! Yay!

Using the spray feature is great for washing-type tasks because it reduces the water use. By the rules of physics, forcing the water through the smaller spray holes means higher velocity of water. So for the same velocity of water coming out of the faucet, less total flow (volume) is required for spray vs. stream. Since high water velocity is what you need when washing/rinsing things, using spray requires less total water flow than stream. With the toggle switch it is easy to switch to stream for tasks that require water volume, like filling a glass or a pot.

Now we just have to get used to not having to pull the handle out quite as far.

Posted January 20, 2011 by mayakey in conscious living, home, water use

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Conscious Kitchen Challenge, Beverages   Leave a comment

One of the blogs that I read regularly, Ask An Organic Mom, is doing a conscious kitchen challenge to promote her new book. I’m taking the challenge and posting my results here. The first part was a self-exam, the second was about shopping, the third was fruits and vegetables, the fourth was meat, the fifth was seafood, and the sixth is beverages. I haven’t read her book, so the challenge is limited to what she posted in her blog. When I saw this part of the challenge I said “ooh, an easy one!”

The first half of this challenge deals with water. And that’s what I drink mostly. At home I drink straight out of the tap, at sit down restaurants I drink water that is probably tap water, at serve-your-own-drinks type restaurants I get water from the water button on the soft drink dispenser so I think that is probably just tap water, at work I drink filtered tap water. We used to have those 5-gallon water bottles but just as I started seriously preparing for pregnancy and thinking that I needed to leave behind the convenience of the water cooler, the water delivery guy suggested that we switch to a new water cooler that gets the water through a reverse osmosis filter hooked up to our tap. (My concern with the 5-gallon water bottles was the plastic type; I think they are polycarbonate and hence have problems with BPA/estrogenic compounds.) I do plan on getting my water tested when we move into our new house, and I still need to download the water quality report, but I plan on continuing to drink tap water.

As for water bottles, I’ve really never gotten into the whole disposable water bottle thing. I do use the disposable water bottles for trips, but I’ve been carrying around a refillable water bottle since I was a freshman in high school. At that time it was a plastic water bottle. Then a few years ago I got a Sigg (which I thought at the time was stainless steel). Then when it came out that Sigg was shading the truth and their bottles are actually aluminum with a plastic coating, I decided I didn’t trust the company and replaced my Sigg water bottle with a stainless steel bottle from Green Bottle.

The second part of this challenge is “everything else”, which for me is pretty much just tea. I drink hot tea at work all day every day pretty much. I have 19 types of tea at my desk, including black, green, white, and herbal/medicinals. I insist on fair trade certified tea, and even some of my herbal teas are fair trade. Generally they are also organic; actually I think they all are organic. I’m currently getting ready to transition to almost all loose-leaf whole-leaf teas on the theory that there is less energy/material inputs than for bagged tea. At home in the summer I make sun tea, which is of course fair trade and requires no energy input for the brewing.

Every once in a while I will enjoy an alcoholic drink and I do have to admit that I don’t focus too much on organic in this realm. I’m allergic to barley and hence have to drink wheat beers. Since it is already a challenge to find beers that I can drink without getting a horrible stomach ache, I don’t complicate it further by insisting on organic. As for wine, my husband buys that as he’s the wine snob. For the most part I think we have California wines. I would be very interested in organic wine, but as I said I’m not the one doing the shopping. When it comes to hard alcohol and mixed drinks again I defer to my alcohol snob husband. We have some amazingly high quality liquors on our counter (especially Scotch and tequila)! I really could care less if they are organic because they are essentially artisan made goodness. When it comes to mixers, though, I start getting picky because I think high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) tastes disgusting and I don’t enjoy mixers made with HFCS. That pretty much rules out 95% of commercial drink mixers. Even tonic water contains HFCS! Instead I tend to buy juice and then never finish the bottle so it sits in our fridge for months and months and months and months (it’s actually amazing how long juice can last in the fridge; especially if you don’t mind a little fermentation). Not exactly a great choice, but I haven’t worked out a better system yet.

And then there’s the unmentionables: sodas. I think I’ve had one soda, maybe two so far this year, I can’t remember very well. I pretty much stopped drinking soda early in my high school years. And I’ve never looked back.

I used to make myself drink juice, but I gave that up. One should not have to force oneself to drink something that’s supposed to enjoyable. I don’t know why I don’t gravitate to juice, but I don’t.

Posted July 30, 2010 by mayakey in food, organic

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How Much Water Is Enough?   Leave a comment

How much water do you drink every day? Is it enough? Sometime in the last year something changed for me so that I no longer feel like I am drinking enough water. So I searched around looking for guidelines of how much water a person should drink in a day. There are a number of different guidelines.

In terms of volume:

  • 8 cups
  • 2.7 liters (11.4 cups) for women over age 19
  • 1 cup/20 pounds body weight (something like 8.5-9.5 cups for me)
  • 12 cups, including liquid from foods

In terms of biometrics:

  • Enough to urinate 6 times over the course of the day
  • Enough for the urine to be light yellow
  • Enough that you don’t feel thirsty

But what do you do when these guidelines don’t intersect? I have over the years measured how much water I drink in a day and the measurements have varied from 7.5 to 12 to 26 cups (the 26 cups was one day in the summer). My current estimate (not measured) is up to 14 cups on an average day (at least 2 cups when I wake up, up to 1 cup driving to work, 5-6 large mugs of tea at work, half cup or so driving home, up to 4 cups in the evening). Yet I don’t regularly meet any of the biometric measures listed above. Aside from doing a better job of carrying my water bottle from room to room with me in the evenings, I don’t know that I could get any more liquids during my day. My physical body and my intuition are both telling me that I am not fully hydrated, though, and since summer’s hot weather is coming I really need to figure this one out soon.

Posted March 12, 2010 by mayakey in health

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