Tag Archives: conservation

MacArthur Foundation hands out genius grants to 23 ultra-talented people

“A phone call out of the blue; $500,000 – no strings attached”

Reads the front page for the MacArthur Foundation. Sometimes called the genius grants, they are awarded to the ultra-talented in nearly any field – writers, scientists, photographers. Young and old, this year’s recipients range from 31 to 66 years old. And like the quote says, $500,000 over five years is provided and never talked about again, “in the spirit of fostering intellectual freedom.”

Officially called the MacArthur Fellows, 23 were awarded this year with a focus on “works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society.”

The foundation is one of the largest in the world worth $5.7 billion in 2011 – and awarding $230 million in that same year.

A selection of the winners:

Natalie Almada – documentary filmmaker capturing complex views of Mexican history, politics, and culture as both an art form and a tool for social change.

Claire Chase – arts entrepreneur forging a new model for the commissioning, recording, and live performance of classical music.

Dylan C. Penningroth – historian studying property ownership among former slaves and their children in the United States.

Terry Plank – geochemist probing the invisible but remarkably powerful thermal and chemical forces deep below the Earth’s crust that drive the motion of tectonic plate collisions.

Read about all 23 ultra-talented winners.

 

Source: L.A. Times

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How does water get to my house?

Through a series of pumps and electricity, from the USGS Water Science School:

Let’s assume that you get your water from the local water department through pipes buried below the streets. In other words, you don’t have your own well in your back yard. Chances are that you get your water through gravity and pumps. Cities and towns build those big water towers on top of the highest hills and then fill them with water. So even if you live on a hill, there’s a good chance the water tower is higher than your house. Water moves from the tower, due to gravity, and goes down a large pipe from the tower to eventually reach your house.

Although gravity supplies the power to move water from the tower to homes, electricity is needed to run a pump to push water from the source.

 

In my city, those water pumps use a lot of electricity. It is the second largest city expense, using 5.4 million kWh and costing more than $500K a year. (Energy Action Plan, page 21)

 

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What uses the most water in your home?

The average person uses 80-100 gallons of water a day. But where is all that water used?

  1. Toilet – 27%
  2. Laundry – 22%
  3. Shower – 17%
  4. Faucet – 16%
  5. Leaks – 14%

 

image: EPA

 

Water stats:

  • Showers – 2 gallons/minute – bathtub holds 36 gallons.
  • Kitchen faucets – 2 gallons/minute.
  • Bathroom faucet – 1 gallon/minute.
  • Dishwasher – 4-10 gallons.
  • Laundry – newer uses 25 gallons/load – older 40 gallons/load.
  • Toilet flush – 3 gallons
  • Water the lawn – 5-10 gallons/minute

Residential water trends for the United States

Here is a report that studied water trends from the past 50 years (pdf) and found both good/bad news.

The good:

A household in the 2008 billing year used 11,678 gallons less water annually than an identical household did in 1978.

To investigate the causes of this decline, a local study of statistically representative households of the LWC was conducted in Louisville. Adjusting for weather, water use per LWC customer fell from 208 to 187 gpd between 1990 and 2007, a decline of 21 gallons.

 

The bad: declines are leveling off.

Most homes have installed low-flow appliances and that accounted for the biggest drop. There was a drop in family size, from 3.38 to 2.59, and that’s not going any lower.

There were no recommendations for next steps. Future declines may be up to us.

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How many baths could I get from a rainstorm?

From the USGS Water Science School:

Let’s say your house sits on a one-half acre lot. And let’s say you get a storm that drops 1 inch of rain. You’ve just received 13,577 gallons of water on your yard. A big bath holds about 40 gallons of water, so if you could save that inch of water you could take a daily bath for 339 days!

 

A great reason to get a rain barrel and collect all that water. Place it underneath your gutters and you’ll have an endless supply of water for your garden. Be a water warrior!

 

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Become a water warrior – 9 recommendations for water conservation

It’s hard to commit to using less water because it involves everything fine and delicate: cleaning our bodies, our food, and our clothes. We have a level of comfort with cleanliness and nobody wants to be smelly. The United States is particularly obsessed with this (“Cleanliness is next to Godliness”). We use nearly as much water as China and they have four times the population.

And water conservation is a worthwhile cause, from the EPA:

In the last five years, nearly every region of the country has experienced water shortages. At least 36 states are anticipating local, regional, or statewide water shortages by 2013, even under non-drought conditions.

We are in a drought.

Keep that in mind with these water conservation tips. Approach them with caution, do a little at a time, and find your comfort level. At times you may go too far and that is okay. Often I go too long without showering and am reminded, it’s time.

Water use in the home covers four areas: kitchen, bathroom, laundry, and outdoors. Which I break down into two categories – turn-off the running water and change your habits. The first is such a common sense idea, but we frequently keep the water running without doing anything. When you brush your teeth for 2 minutes and use the running water for 5 seconds. Or, when you pause in the shower to lather and ignore the gushing stream behind you.

I daresay these are easy changes:

  • Brushing teeth – brush, floss, and don’t turn on the water until you rinse your toothbrush and mouth. Use a cup to save even more water.
  • Cleaning dishes – Use running water after you scrubbed your dishes. A moist sponge can get you 90% clean. Make sure to place other dishes to collect the run-off.
  • Washing hands – turn off the water while you soap your hands.
  • Lathering in the shower – turn off the water for a few minutes while you lather, turn on to rinse off.

I know these are simple and common sense, but they are also habits. Repeated practice can save bucketfuls of water. Remember, the average American uses 100 gallons of water/day!

The second recommendation is for the water warriors. These require true determination, involving a substantial change:

  • Shorter showers – Five minutes is the goal, but four minutes will make you a legend.
  • Wash your clothes half as much – many clothing items, like jeans, can go weeks without washing.
  • No more dishwasher – some say that a full dishwasher is more efficient than hand washing, but the average dishwasher uses 4-10 gallons of water. Can you use less?
  • Watering the lawn – water less and less until you notice the grass slightly brown. That is the ideal amount to use.
  • Recycle gray water – Keep a pitcher next to the sink for recycling gray water. This is water free of soap and chemicals but containing food bits and such. Give it to your plants because they don’t mind a little dirt.

I have tested these recommendations and found them very livable. It took a few weeks to learn each habit, but now I’m proud of my water use. I think I’m becoming a water warrior!

Maybe I’m ready for the big challenges.

 

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Stop wasting water in the shower! – Install a point-of-use tankless water heater

(image: Yahoo! Shopping)

A great technology for water conservation is available called the point-of-use tankless water heater. These small box-like devices can be installed underneath the sink in a kitchen or bathroom. They offer a simple way to avoid running cold water for minutes while you wait for hot water. For showers, the EPA says the average output is 2.5 gallons/minute and assuming a few showers a week that adds up 500+ gallons of water wasted every year.

In most houses this waste occurs because the water heater is located a significant distance from the faucet or shower. The hot water has to travel that distance to reach the user. The tankless technology shrinks the size of the water heater allowing you to place it right where it is needed.

One can imagine eco-friendly homes of the future skipping the central water heater altogether and placing point-of-use heaters wherever water is used. Not only would this save hundreds of gallons of water but also cut energy costs by 27-50%, according to the Dept. of Energy. For existing homes, like ours, we can place them in our heavy water use areas (i.e. bathrooms, where we use 50% of our water) as a supplement to traditional water heaters.

On a side note, replacing a traditional water heater with a tankless version can reap incredible energy savings, up to 30%. Traditional heaters keep 40+ gallons of water hot 24 hours a day, even though we only use it for minutes a day. A great waste of energy compared to tankless versions which heat water only when needed. However, if you want to conserve water then installing a tankless in the same place won’t work. You will need to put one at your point-of-use.

The heaters run $100-200 and are found at every major hardware store, including Amazon. They may need minimal electrical or plumbing work. I have not installed one myself but research shows it is not hard (depending on your skill level). I would recommend researching your situation before purchasing – intended water use, plumbing/electrical needs, reading reviews.

Point-of-use tankless water heaters are the ideal solution for water conservation. They cut out waste and don’t require a change in habits, allowing us to treat water like the precious resource it is and still enjoy our favorite comforts. Plus, as more people begin to install them the price should drop and make it easier for everyone to afford this eco-friendly upgrade.

 

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Cardiff Surf Classic & Green Beach Fair – Oct. 27, 2012, 8am – 5pm

Cardiff, a city just north of San Diego, is hosting an event guaranteed to be fun. There will be multiple surf contests, a green expo, tarp surfing (see picture below), musical entertainment, and a demo of various DIY surf toys (handplanes, paipos, etc.).

 

The Cardiff Surf Classic & Green Beach Fair
Saturday, October 27
8am – 5pm
Cardiff Seaside Beach
Free, open to all

 

Tarp Surfing

 

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Trees are virtual air conditioners that save millions in electricity, water, carbon

 

An article from The Atlantic focuses on the value of trees:

I was approached by someone from an initiative called San Diego County Trees…(a project) extolling the benefits of urban trees. I just spent time on the website, where the coolest feature is an interactive map of the whole county showing very specific tree locations and information, including quantified benefits…(like) carbon sequestration, water retention, energy saved, and air pollutants reduced.

 

Wow! Look at that image…millions of dollars in savings, water conservation, improved air quality. That is impressive.

Some more facts include, “the net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day,” and the energy savings of planting a tree on the sunny side of your house (3% after 5 years, 12% after 15 years).

I love trees.

Maps of Southern California’s – Marine Protected Areas

A map of all the Southern California MPA’s (marine protected areas), defined as:

A space in the ocean where human activities are more strictly regulated than the surrounding waters – similar to parks we have on land.

They are supposed to form a network of safe areas for marine life ro repopulate and bring back big populations to our oceans. You can see that they aren’t that large, nor extensive, but serve as a good starting point.

 

 

Here are maps for each of the regions: San Diego, Los Angeles (Santa Monica Bay), Orange County, Santa Barbara, Catalina Island.

**Full-size graphics are available at Cal Oceans – Maps

 

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