Monthly Archives: February 2016

Restroom Rehab

Mary-People-Towels-paper-towel-waste-20121

Mary Wallace of People Towels with paper towel waste.   
The average person uses 2,400 – 3,000 paper towels at work, in a given year  
(Image: People Towels)

When you go to a public restroom, does it ever bother you when paper towels are tossed on the floor?  Or, when someone leaves the water running?  Or, even worse, doesn’t flush?  Does it bother you that the business is using paper towels to begin with?

Do you do anything about it?

When I find paper towels on the floor of a restroom, I pick them up and put them in the trash can/rubbish bin…before I wash my hands.  Then, after I wash my hands, I use my paper towel to wipe down the counter and then throw my paper towel in the trash can/rubbish bin.  I did this once at a restaurant in Australia when we were living there.  I think I embarrassed my girlfriend, but I probably spent thirty seconds picking up what must have been 20+ towels off the floor and putting them where they belonged.  I said to her “I always try to leave a space better than I found it.”

If the water is left running, I turn off the tap.  Clean water is a precious resource that most of us take for granted.  In many countries, people have to walk miles to retrieve clean drinking water. Appreciating how fortunate we are by not wasting our natural resources will make them last longer.

When the toilet hasn’t been flushed, I use my foot to flush it.  If too much waste builds up in a toilet, it causes clogging issues and then businesses have to call in professional plumbers who may have to use harsh chemicals to clear the clog.

This attitude could propagate out to other areas of our lives.  For instance, pretty much every day, I pick up litter on the way to drop off my daughter at school.  Doing this makes the walk more pleasant because “it doesn’t belong” there…it belongs in a trash can/rubbish bin/recycle bin.

SustainableThree Ways You Can Make a Difference:

  1.  If you visit a restroom with paper towels, take the time to put ones thrown on the floor into the receptacle.
  2. Wipe down counters, turn off running faucets, flush toilets.
  3. Even better, if the business uses paper towels, make a request to their owner/manager that they install sensor dryers that automatically release air if you put your hands in front of the sensor, but doesn’t waste energy at other times.

“Although contradictory claims abound on this topic, a 2007 life cycle analysis by the Climate Conservancy found that using a hand dryer produces fewer climate-changing greenhouse gases than using paper towels.”  ~”Cloth vs. paper vs. dryers: How to be clean and green when you wipe your hands”  (By, Tom Watson, Pacific NW Magazine, The Seattle Times

BONUS: Tweet this!  https://twitter.com/SustainThree/status/702576748907528192

There are other options to using paper towels or air dryers.  Here are a few:

People Towels

http://www.peopletowels.com

Here’s a great little article:

http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/paper-towel-alt-25875

More details on the topic:

http://www.seattletimes.com/pacific-nw-magazine/cloth-vs-paper-vs-dryers-how-to-be-clean-and-green-when-you-wipe-your-hands/

 

 

To Dishwasher or Not?

by Liz Rutledge

Girl loading plate into dishwasher

© Fotosearch.com

In 2000, I did something not most people do.  I read my dishwasher’s user manual…cover to cover.  I wouldn’t have thought that doing that would have such an impact on my life, but it did. I learned how to properly load a dishwasher and learned it so well, I can load any dishwasher now and pack it to the gills and the dishes (pretty much, mostly) always come clean.  It saves time, water, energy and detergent to have this important skill.

The most important thing to know is that you do not need to clean your dishes before you put them in the dishwasher.   If you’re trying to be more green, this is simply wasteful.  Most dishwashers today are energy efficient and designed to save water.  They are also very efficient at cleaning dishes – if you know how to load the machine.

Having said all that, I learned it is important to get STARCH and EGG off dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.  So, scraping rice, bread crumbs, pasta and such off before putting dishes in the machine helps.  Also, rinsing egg yolk off with cold water is important so it doesn’t get cooked on by the machine.  Just a quick rinse gets most pasta, egg and tomato sauces off to the point that the energy and water efficient machine can take it from there.

Then, if dishes are loaded so the water can get to them, they come clean.  So, the art is in the loading.  Dishwasher user manuals come with a diagram, but the gist is…load glasses, bowls, etc. face down towards the sprayers.  More dirty dishes should be near the middle of the spray jet fan.  Glasses and dishwasher-safe plastics should be on the top rack and plates, cutting boards, pots and pans should be on the bottom.

As for detergent, Trader Joe’s dishwasher tabs get a good rating on EWG.org’s web site and do a good job.  Seventh Generation’s powdered dishwasher detergent works well.  You don’t need super strong detergents to get the dishes clean.

Here are more suggestions on detergents from EWG’s web site:

http://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2012/12/greener-holiday-dishwashing-ewg

Two ways to save extra energy are to run the “eco/light” cycle and skip the heated dry.

If you want to get into the nitty-gritty details about how much water and energy is used, I’d recommend reading this article:

http://www.treehugger.com/kitchen-design/built-in-dishwashers-vs-hand-washing-which-is-greener.html

Except that she’s using Cascade and Rinse-Aid products, I find this video helpful:

http://lifehacker.com/the-proper-way-to-load-your-dishwasher-for-the-cleanest-1284209586

The tip about running the water to hot and the disposer (to clear the drain) before starting the dishwasher is a great tip which I do because it helps the dishwasher do a better job.  I disagree with her about sharp knives.  I put them in the top rack, sharp side down and they come clean and don’t get damaged.

Some say to hand wash dishes to improve immunity.  It can also be meditative to wash dishes by hand.  Personally, I do a bit of a hybrid as there are always dishes that need to be washed by hand…like delicate glasses and some pans that simply do not fit once the dishwasher is loaded.