3 Easy Ways to Save Energy When Doing Your Laundry

1. Wash with cold water instead of hot water. According to The Christian Science Monitor, each load of laundry that uses hot water instead of cold water uses an additional 4.5 kilowatt-hours and costs about $0.64 more. And while hot water is more likely to kill bacteria, it’s also harsher on fabric, causing shrinking, fading and wrinkling. Consider using warm water instead of hot water when you need to disinfect your laundry, and always opt to rinse on cold. Not only will you save energy, you’ll extend the life of your clothing, too.

2. Line dry your clothes instead of tossing them in the dryer. This will also save on energy, and as much as $25 per month on your electric bill. Now that it’s summertime, you can line dry clothes outside in the sun. Or, pick up an inexpensive folding drying rack for $30 or less to dry clothes year round. Hate when your clothes get too stiff? Tumble dry them for 10 minutes when they’re damp or dry to soften them up.

3. Wash your clothes less often. Americans tend to be obsessed with cleanliness, but wearing something once doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dirty. Give your clothes the sniff test. If they pass, you can hang them and spray them with a little water to remove any light wrinkles from wear.

For even more ideas on how to save energy on laundry, check out this list by Apartment Therapy.

How Recyclable Is It?

Not all materials are equally recyclable. Why is that? Some materials can be recycled infinitely, turned over and over again into the same products. Others cannot be turned into the same product without losing quality, so instead they are recycled into products that are less valuable or can no longer be recycled. This is also known as downcycling. Curious to find out which materials are more recyclable? Let’s see what a few common life cycles look like:

Aluminum

Aluminum recycling is very popular, and that’s for a couple of reasons. One is that producing aluminum by mining bauxite is an energy-intensive, pollution-heavy process. The other is that aluminum can be reused infinitely. Aluminum alloys sometimes need to be downcycled into alloys of lesser value, but the lesser value alloys are still reusable and recyclable. According to one source, nearly 75 percent of aluminum ever made is currently in use. On average, aluminum cans are made with 68 percent recycled content.

Steel

The numbers for steel get even higher than the numbers for aluminum, because steel can also be recycled infinitely, but without any loss of strength. The steel cans you purchase food in are 100 percent recyclable, and between 80 and 90 percent of all produced steel is still in use today. All new steel products contain at least some recycled steel. Overall, steel is the material we recycle most.

Glass

Glass can be infinitely recycled, too, but only if it is sorted correctly. This is because different types of glass have different melting points. For instance, Pyrex dishware, auto glass and windows can’t be thrown in curbside recycling along with your glass jars and bottles. Even glass that can be recycled curbside has to be sorted by color before it is processed. Ideally, clear glass jars and bottles are turned back into clear glass containers, and glass bottles of other colors are turned back into glass bottles of those colors. When mistakes happen during glass sorting, the glass is downcycled into other items, such as tiles and road surfaces, which are less often recyclable.

Paper

Paper recycling has been popular for a long time. Everyone knows that you can save trees by recycling paper. But can you recycle paper infinitely? No. Paper is downcycled into paper products of less value or quality. This is because as paper is processed, its fibers shorten. Shorter fibers are not as strong or as durable, and often require other longer fibers to be mixed with them in order to be functional. For example, high grade white office paper can be recycled into high grade recycled paper. But mixed quality papers recycled together might only be able to make low-quality paper, such as newsprint. The shortest paper fibers are often turned into end-of-use products like napkins, paper towels or bathroom tissue. Paper can only be recycled about five to seven times before its fibers become unusable.

Plastic #1 (PET)

Most plastics can only be recycled once, so they are generally downcycled into unrecyclable products. Plastic #1, or PET, is most often downcycled into polyester fiber to make clothing, carpet and fiberfill. Polyester products can no longer be recycled as plastic. PET can be recycled back into plastic bottles and other food and non-food containers, but this is less common. When PET is recycled back into plastic without being mixed with virgin PET, it can be recycled only about three times before its quality is visibly decreased. PET has to be combined in equal parts with virgin PET in order to stay usable.

Remember: Because so much recycling is actually downcycling, it’s all the more important to limit your consumption of disposables in the first place. Reduce and reuse first — recycle as a last resort.

ReFuel Your Fun: Choose Refillable Gas Cylinders

Going camping this summer? If you pack a camp stove, use a refillable gas cylinder instead of a disposable one. Eighty percent of what you spend on a gas cylinder goes towards the container and convenience, not the gas itself. A lot of people use camp stoves each year — adding up to 4 million disposable cylinders annually in California alone — so it makes both environmental and economic sense to refill your gas cylinder instead of tossing it. The ReFuel Your Fun Campaign began by promoting refillable gas cylinders in California, and has now spread across the U.S. Find out where you can pick up a refillable cylinder to refuel — and save money — on your summer fun.

Don’t Wash Your Car in Your Driveway

Washing your car in your driveway is bad for local water. Why? Everything you wash off your car — soap, road muck, traces of exhaust residue, motor oil and gasoline — will run into the nearest storm drain, and storm drains flow unfiltered into local waterways.

This isn’t bad only for water quality. Car residues contain heavy metals, hydrocarbons and other chemicals that are toxic to aquatic wildlife. A little pollution adds up quickly across whole cities, and even gentle soaps can break down the protective layers on fish and their gills, impairing breathing and making them susceptible to infection.

Wash your car at a car wash instead, where the water is collected and treated so that it can be safely reused.

If you are going to wash your car at home anyway, follow these tips:

  • Use nontoxic, biodegradable soap.
  • Wash your car on a lawn or other absorbent surface, so there is less runoff.
  • Wring sponges or rags into a bucket, and empty the bucket down an indoor drain.
  • Create your own car-washing kit with this guide from Only Rain Down the Drain.

To learn more about protecting local water supplies, visit our Clean Water page.

How to Dispose of Household Cleaners

In the midst of spring cleaning, don’t forget to dispose of household cleaning products and their containers correctly. Here are some tips for making sure cleaning your house is easy on the environment:

  • Use up all cleaning products before disposing of their containers.
  • Liquid, powder or gel products can be flushed down the drain in small quantities, if needed.
  • Solid products (including wipes, sheets, pads, pastes, crystals and sticks) need to go in the trash.
  • Plastic containers can be recycled as plastic, but need to be completely empty and clean. Check to see what type of plastic the container is made from (e.g., #1 or #2), and then check to see if our program accepts that plastic. If the plastic is accepted, rinse the container thoroughly and then let it dry before placing it in the recycling.

If you’re looking for safer alternatives to chemical cleaning products, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning for an overview of dangerous chemicals and product health ratings, or Real Simple’s 10 All-Natural, DIY Cleaners to Scrub Every Inch of Your Home for making your own.

Low-Water Lawn and Garden Ideas

Interested in replacing your lawn or garden so that it doesn’t turn brown and die in the middle of summer, or guzzle endless amounts of water, but not sure where to get started?

Southern California Public Radio (SCPR) compiled a list of seven lawn alternatives to turf grass and evaluated each one based on how much water they require, their estimated installation costs and other environmental impacts.

Here’s what they found: Two low-water options that maintain greenery in your yard are a garden with local plants native to California and a drought-tolerant garden with plants from other arid environments such as Australia or South Africa. Native gardens rank as slightly better for the environment since native plants promote local biodiversity, such as the health of local bee populations. However, both cost anywhere from $3.75-$18.00 per square foot, including labor, to create these gardens, depending on the plants you select. Also, both can reduce the heat your yard generates in sunlight. For comparison, traditional grass lawns cost around $3.00 per square foot to install, SCPR estimated.

Looking for a plant-free, low-maintenance yard? Mulch, artificial turf, gravel, concrete and decomposed granite are all lawn alternatives that require no water. Mulch is the cheapest and greenest option, starting at $2.50 per square foot and allowing water to absorb into the ground to replenish local aquifers. Its heating effect is neutral. The other options, however, provide little to no benefit to local wildlife and contribute to the urban heat island effect. Most artificial turf and concrete products are also not permeable, so they don’t allow water to replenish aquifers. Costs to install these types of plant-free, no-water gardens range from gravel and decomposed granite at the low end — $3.50 per square foot, not including labor — to concrete and artificial turf that can run up to $15 per square foot, including labor. Read more about these lawn alternatives here.

While SCPR provided an approximate cost to put in these seven lawn-free options, it didn’t estimate the price to maintain the yards over time. However, a nine-year study from the City of Santa Monica found that, when comparing two identical test gardens — one with native plants and the other with grass — the native plant garden used 83 percent less water and required 68 percent less maintenance than the traditional lawn.

Ready to get started? Here are more resources to help you plan your perfect garden:

  • Need more ideas for your new garden? Get inspiration from other Californians who have replaced their lawns in the State of California’s Idea Gallery.
  • Pick your plants: Search the California Native Plant Society’s list of plants suited to Stockton.
  • Get rebates: Visit SaveOurWater.com for information on how to get a rebate from California’s Department of Water Resources for replacing your turf grass with low-water or native plants.

When Green Isn’t Green: Reconsider Flowers This Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is around the corner, and with over 80 million mothers in the U.S. alone, we have a lot of women to show gratitude to. In fact, this gratitude adds up to over $2 billion in flower sales nationwide each year.

Nearly 70 percent of Americans celebrating Mother’s Day do so by purchasing flowers. However, you might consider an alternative, more eco-friendly gift — most cut flowers arrive in our shops and markets after being shipped internationally in refrigerated containers, because they are so perishable. Between water, pesticides and greenhouse gas emissions, flower sales have an alarming environmental impact.

If you’re attached to the idea of giving flowers, try giving a living plant instead of cut flowers, or find locally grown blooms through Local Harvest. If you receive flowers on Mother’s Day, remember to recycle the plastic wrap with plastic bags and compost the flowers once they’ve wilted.

Declutter Like a Pro: 8 Reasons to Ditch Your Stuff

There’s something about spring that encourages folks to clean out their homes. Considering the name Marie Kondo gets tossed around as a verb these days, it’s easy to see that decluttering your life has become a popular undertaking.

Decluttering might not be everyone’s favorite task, but now is not a bad time to “spring” into action and tackle the clutter that builds up in our abodes. Not only can you improve the atmosphere and organization of your home, you can pass along unneeded items to those who can really use them — check out this list of local donation locations. When items are no longer usable, their materials can often be recycled for reuse.

Here are 8 reasons to part ways with your clutter. Donate or recycle the following:

  1. Items that aren’t something you would go out and buy now.
  2. Items that are a duplicate — you have something similar that serves the same purpose.
  3. Items that are broken and you have yet to try and fix them.
  4. Items that are kept for sentimental reasons, but when considered in light of all of your other sentimental objects, seem unnecessary or excessive.
  5. Items that you haven’t used within the last year.
  6. Items that you don’t have a plan to use — a real plan, not a hypothetical one — or that you don’t know how to use.
  7. Items that you wouldn’t notice if they were gone.
  8. Items that don’t fit your personality or living space.

For more inspiration, check out this list of 116 things you should get rid of by PopSugar or this article in The Atlantic on the economics and psychology of decluttering.

Recycle Right!

City of Stockton residential garbage customers, let’s “Recycle Right!” Did you know that placing garbage in a recycling or green waste cart requires the whole cart to be thrown out as garbage? Despite what people think, the recyclable material in contaminated bins cannot be separated and end up in the landfill. You can help reduce contamination in the recycling and green waste carts by picking the right sized cart for your household’s needs.

Since one size does not fit all, Stockton residents can choose between three (3) sizes for their garbage cart: 32-gallon (holds about 3 tall kitchen bags), 60 gallon (holds about 4 tall kitchen bags), or 90 gallon cart (holds about 5 tall kitchen bags). The 60-gallon recycling cart and the 90-gallon green & food waste cart are provided at no extra charge. When the waste haulers service the carts, they collect and transport the garbage to a landfill, recyclables to a recycling processing facility, and green & food waste to a composting facility. Waste haulers can’t deliver trash-contaminated loads to recycling and composting facilities. It is important that carts are used only for the correct material.

Since contamination of green waste and recycling carts has become an increasing problem in Stockton, the waste haulers (Republic Services & Waste Management), in collaboration with the city’s Solid Waste & Recycling staff, have proposed a pilot project to bring attention to the situation. The project will begin with a content study of a green waste load from a selected residential route. The load will be weighed, the contamination removed and weighed, and the results documented. Educational information will be mailed out to the residents in the pilot area. Inspectors will observe the green waste carts for a number of weeks and place tags on carts that are contaminated. If contamination continues and the carts are tagged three times, the green waste cart will be removed.

After 6 to 8 weeks, another content study will be conducted to examine the amount of contamination in the green waste load from the pilot area. The results will be compared to the first study to gauge improvement in the quality of the load. Residents can help reduce contamination by requesting the right size garbage cart and not placing garbage into the recycling or green waste cart.

New Contact Lens Recycling Program!

Good news, contact lens wearers! Now you can recycle your contact lenses and blister packs. Thanks to the partnership of Bausch + Lomb and TerraCycle, you can mail any brand of used contacts and their blister packs to the Bausch + Lomb ONE by ONE Recycling Program.

Contacts may seem too tiny to bother recycling, but over 30 million people in the U.S. currently wear contact lenses. With disposable and daily contacts, not to mention their packaging, the waste adds up quickly.

You can learn more here, or click here to request a free shipping label. Note: Don’t ship cardboard contact boxes — these can be recycled with paper.