Pulling out the TP
Processing Philly Poo Water
Food waste is a bit of a problem in the United States. The NDRC states that 40% of the US’ food is wasted and 13% of our country’s waste stream is full of our left over apple cores and banana peels. What ever happened to finishing everything on your plate or no desert??
One way to help take a bite out of excess waste is by composting. Believe it or not, composting is actually pretty easy. Plus it will save you from taking out as much trash (saving you on trash bags) and stop you from spending money on soil for gardening.
I wanted to do my composting in doors because I live in a condo. I thought about vermicomposting (composting using worms) until I found an electronic composter online (naturemill.com) that heats and churns the compost. It works great and makes the compost rather quickly.
Basically there are two kinds of composting materials:
Browns – Dried tealeaves or coffee beans, brown paper bags, saw dust from untreated wood, biodegradable paper containers/plates, dried leaves and grass
Greens – Fruit skins like apple and banana peels, vegetable leftovers
Things to avoid: Meat, dairy, cooked foods, oils, a lot of citrus, fruits and vegetables containing a lot of moister (tomatoes, whole cucumbers, etc).
A good rule to follow is that the more variety the better. You will learn as you go what your compost likes and what it doesn’t. Each compost style is a little different but there are plenty of resources out there (such as: howtocompost.org) to help you on your decomposing adventure. The goal is to reduce the moister so really watch out for wet foods. You’ll know you have too much moisture if it becomes odorous. Your browns should help to absorb some of this though. My composter originally came with sawdust pellets that were great but when they ran out I switched to untreated sawdust from a woodworker I know.
If you do not feel like dedicating the time or space for a composter look into a compost co-op in your area (such as: phillycompost.com). These convenient groups will usually pick up your compostable waste and then drop off finished compost after a few weeks. Another option is to get a garbage disposal like the InSinkErator as some cities like Philadelphia are starting to compost at their water treatment facilities. This is another way to help reduce the impact that table scraps and uneatable leftovers have on landfills. Philadelphia is also offering a discount if you are purchasing a new InSinkErator (just another incentive to change your disposal habits).
Here are some pictures from my recent remodeling. I have been working slowly over the past 2 years but its been coming along. All paints are either Mythic or Ivy Coatings non-toxic paint. Most regular paints contain VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, which are toxic chemicals that are released at room temperature. Non-toxic paints help to increase indoor air quality and since studies show we spend about 90% of our time in doors non-toxic paint sounds like a pretty smart idea to me.
The counter tops are made of bamboo and the old one was broken up and sent to the wood chipper. I sealed the counter top with a non-toxic sealant. I used the same sealant for the cork wall, which is made up of wine and beer corks collected with assistance from friends and from local restaurants. The white tile back-splash is made from recycled glass and bordered with non-toxic grout. The dishwasher is Energy Star certified.
The refrigerator is also Energy Star certified.
The window has been replaced. The shade is made from bamboo. I replaced the fan with the light from ReStore. ReStore offers lights, appliances, and the like from home remodels.
I ended up having extra counter top from the kitchen so I was able to redo the bathroom too. I also installed a dual flush option for my toilet (as seen in my previous entry). The light switches in this room are made out of stone and made in the USA, which I really love. I also experimented in other rooms with decoupaging old light switch covers with old fabrics and they came out pretty well.
Though the cost is a little higher for some of the non-toxic paints and sealants I think your health is worth it. Besides, balancing out the cost with something inexpensive like the cork wall I installed (the cork wall was about $15 for the materials) can help justify the cost.
Last post we talked about bottled water and how if you have clean municipal water why spend money on something you can get cheaper at the tap. Well just because it’s cheap does not mean we shouldn’t be considerate of how much we are using. If you aren’t careful you could literally be flushing more money down the toilet than needed. The bathroom is where most of household water is spent. Here are a few ways to save water and money:
The toilet – You have probably heard “if it’s yellow let it mellow…” a few times but there are other ways you save water in your toilet.
1.) Try putting a brick in the toilet tank (other’s also recommend a plastic bottle filled with sand). This will displace the water, which will then take less water to fill your tank. It is an especially good idea if your toilet was manufactured before 1994 when toilet regulation kicked in.
2.) Retro fit a dual flush system. This is a two-button system, which allows a partial flush for a number one and a full flush for a number two. These can be found at most hardware stores. I installed one and it was not too bad (I know nothing about plumbing).
3.) When buying a new toilet look for the WaterSense logo. This is the EPA’s certification that this product uses little water.
The sink – What do you use the bathroom sink for besides washing your hands and brushing your teeth, really? Do you need a lot of water coming out of the faucet?
1.) Don’t leave the water running when brushing your teeth or shaving.
2.) Install low flow aerators (0.5-1.0 gpm – gallons per minute – should be plenty) which will actually allow less water to come out of the faucet. You won’t even be able to tell but it will save a ton of water and electricity or gas if you’re using hot water.
3.) When buying a new sink keep an eye out for the WaterSense logo.
The shower – Believe it or not showering uses less water than baths but that doesn’t mean you should take a 30-minute shower. Don’t forget that heating water uses electricity or gas.
1.) Try and take 5 minute showers. (Though I don’t always pull it off, I try to hit the 5 minute mark. Try challenging yourself.)
2.) Most newer shower-heads are under 2.0 gpm which is really good, but again keep an eye out for a WaterSense shower-head.
These are inexpensive ways to see big savings over time. Try them out and let me know what works best for you. Calculate the amount you would save on the EPA’s WaterSense page. Have a WaterSense product at home? I would love to hear about it: email@example.com
Check out this video on The Story of Bottled Water!
Brought to you by The Story of Stuff Project.