Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Earth Hour

This Saturday, March 27th, is Earth Hour. For one hour turn off your lights to show that you want action taken against climate change. people around the world will turn their lights off from 8:30-9:30pm (local time).

Get involved, show support, and who doesn't like to have fun in the dark. Sign up at My Earth Hour.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Why Pay to Water Your Lawn

I live in a VERY dry area. You think it never rains in Southern California....try living in Waikoloa. Today though, is a great day, lots of rain falling, and I'm happy to not have to water my plants for a day...maybe two.

Days like this I wish I had a rain barrel. Most people think I'm silly wanting to put a rain barrel up when it rarely rains here. My thought is that when it does, I can harvest the rain and have a few days where I can use free water for my yard.

Consider this...less than a half an inch can easily fill up a 50 gallon rain barrel. A rain barrel can save approximately 1,300 gallons of water during peak summer months.

So, what is a rain barrel? Its an easy attachment that you can either buy or DIY which attaches to your gutters. When it rains, the water runs down the gutter and into your rain barrel. Pretty simple concept. There's a hose attachment at the bottom that you can use to then water your plants.

There are several different styles of barrels, from simple drums to nice looking planters. Its up to you on how you want it styled.

I found a site which will ship for free; you can find rain barrels starting at $136 at Grow and Make. Learn how to make your own rain barrel here.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Expanding On Water

In a previous blog, Plastic Palace of Doom, I spoke briefly about the hazards of plastic bottles. My friend asked me to expand on the regulations of water, so here we go.

The big differences between bottled water and tap water is the regulation. Tap water must follow the guidelines of the EPA while bottled water is classified as food, and must follow the FDA.

The EPA's Clean Water Act regulates quality standards with consideration to pollutants and discharges into waters of the United States. The EPA requires water treatment plants to provide residents with a yearly detailed report of their tap water's source, testing results, and contaminant levels if applicable. Some plants post their results online, you can check your local water results by accessing the Consumer Confidence Reports. I checked out Honolulu's site, Board of Watter Supply, and found links to download 2009's report. Honolulu tests for more than 100 different kinds of chemical "contaminants" deemed by Federal and State Law, and conducts over 18,500 tests. They also analyze around 10,000 water samples a year for bacterial contaminants.

Standards are set for maximum allowable contaminants. The maximum level is set where no significant health effects would occur after a lifetime of drinking. All states must follow the EPA guidelines but may also choose to increase the standards for a State level. If you're unsure about your water quality, check to see if your report is listed. If your report is not posted online, you may choose to have your water tested by a certified officer. The EPA lists certified officers on their site by state.

Now how does this differ from the FDA? The FFDCA (Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act) regulates how a company labels its product. It ensures that companies are truthful about what ingredients are in the product as well as where the product is from (i.e. spring or mineral water). The FDA also requires water to be safe, and processed in a sanitary environment. They have set their own regulations on what is considered an allowable level of contaminants. Because the FDA considers water bottle companies as having a good record, they are considered low priority for testing.

The NDRC (Natural Resources Defense Council) conducted a four year study on bottled water. They had an independent company test over 1,000 bottles and found there is no assurance that bottled water is not only safer than tap water, but that it wasn't tap water. They estimated 25% or more bottled water was just tap water (sometimes treated). 22% of the brands contained "at least one sample, chemical contaminants at levels above strict state health limits." These chemicals are known to cause cancer if consumed over a long period of time. Beyond the water, there's the container itself....leaching.

"Recent research suggests that there could be cause for concern, and that the issue should be studied closely. Studies have shown that chemicals called phthalates, which are known to disrupt testosterone and other hormones, can leach into bottled water over time. One study found that water that had been stored for 10 weeks in plastic and in glass bottles contained phthalates, suggesting that the chemicals could be coming from the plastic cap or liner. Although there are regulatory standards limiting phthalates in tap water, there are no legal limits for phthalates in bottled water -- the bottled water industry waged a successful campaign opposing the FDA proposal to set a legal limit for these chemicals."

So - take things into consideration, and moderation. For me, I mostly used filtered water from a pitcher. Previously I had a filter on my tap which I used to fill up a water pitcher filter. There are different types of filters you can use, and based on your water report and pocket book, would determine the best type for your home. You can find out more about the different types of water filter systems at Consumer Reports.

And remember - its also recommended you drink 8 glasses of water a day. Cheers!