Our last Green Tip on conserving water talked about WaterSense toilets. This week we focus on WaterSense showerheads and faucets. When you are buying new fixtures, select those that use less water, certified as WaterSense, which means they “meet the EPA’s specifications for water efficiency and performance.” According to the EPA, such products “work as well or better than similar but less efficient products despite being 20% more water efficient.”
According to the EPA, “Showering is one of the leading ways we use water in the home, accounting for nearly 17 percent of residential indoor water use—for the average family, that adds up to nearly 40 gallons per day. That’s nearly 1.2 trillion gallons of water used in the United States annually just for showering, or enough to supply the water needs of New York and New Jersey for a year! By retrofitting your shower with a WaterSense-labeled showerhead, you can save a considerable amount of this water.” Standard showerheads use 2.5 gallons of water per minutes (gpm) while WaterSense-labeled showerheads use no more than 2 gallons but still show “water coverage and spray intensity” that is “equal to or better than” the conventional ones. By using such water-saving showerheads, an average family might save 2,700 gallons of water per year. Note: bathroom and kitchen faucets labeled WaterSense also reduce water flow while maintaining force and efficiency. For more information, go to epa.gov/watersense/watersense-label
It seems to us an appropriate time to talk about food waste again the week before Thanksgiving. We earlier focused on how to prepare meals and to conserve and serve leftover food. This week we focus on how to reduce food waste at celebratory times when having a large meal with family and friends is a focus. Eating together should be a social time, an occasion to talk together while also nourishing our bodies. On Thanksgiving Day, begin with a beloved family prayer of gratitude or ask someone to compose a prayer of thanks for the day. You might also go around the table and ask each person to say what they are grateful for.
These celebratory meals are crucial for cultural and familial reasons. But big meals produce large amounts of leftovers, and caring for them is crucial to our green goal of reducing food waste. According to the US Department of Agriculture, you should refrigerate leftovers from the meal within two hours of cooking (not of eating). If you divide the food into smaller portions and place them in airtight containers, you can store them in the refrigerator for up to four days. If you plan to offer leftovers to your guests, be sure to refrigerate them until the guests leave for their own homes and refrigerators. Other leftover food can be stored in labeled (contents, number of servings, and date), shallow (so that they cool quickly), airtight containers in the freezer. If, for example, you tried to store a large rather than a shallow container or a nearly-whole turkey, it would take too long too cool in the freezer, causing bacteria to grow and making the food potentially unsafe to eat. (https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2018/11/23/thanksgiving-leftovers- safe-keeping-weekend-grazing#)
When you are purchasing appliances and devices that use water, such as shower heads and toilets, choose those that use less water, usually listed as certified WaterSense products. This means they “meet the EPA’s specifications for water efficiency and performance. According to the EPA, such products work as well or better than similar but less efficient products despite being 20% more water efficient.” To find these products, just type in “WaterSense products” in your search engine, and you will get a long list of the products and providers.
Today we are focusing on TOILETS: According to the EPA, “toilets are by far the main source of water use in teh home, accounting for nearly 30 percent of an average home’s indoor water consumption.” Older, inefficient toilets use up to 6 gallons per flush, but newer toilets certified as WaterSense use 1.28 gallons or less (even lower than the federal standard of no more than 1.6 gallons per flush), but perform as well or better than high water-use toilets. Toilets labeled WaterSense have been “independently certified to meet rigorous criteria for both performance and efficiency.” By switching to water-saving toilets, a family could reduce toilet water use by 20-60% and save more than $110 per year in water costs, and “Nationally, if all old, inefficient toilets in the United States were replaced with WaterSense labeled models, we could save 520 billion gallons of water per year.” For more information, visit epa.gov/watersense/watersense-label.
If we are to honor our commitment to environmental solutions as our God-given task of Creation Care, which our ELCA Assembly and our Northeast Iowa Synod resolved to do, we need to think about how we can persuade more people to act to solve climate problems and avoid environmental dangers. Our 16th century founder, Martin Luther, stressed the need for active civic involvement as part of a Christian’s vocation. To get necessary change on a larger scale, we need government policy on this issue both locally and at the state and national level.
The way for each of us to make this process work is to become a CLIMATE VOTER: learn about candidates’ records and commitments to solving environmental issues. Learn whether and how each candidate supports sustainable energy solutions, clean air and water legislation, fossil fuel regulation and reduction, public transportation, sustainable agriculture, and climate justice (making sure the air and water in low income communities is as clean as it is in higher income communities, etc.). Go to candidate campaign functions: voice your worries about a climate that is worsening for human habitation, and tell candidates that your support and your vote depend on their commitment to climate remediation, legislative action, and social and economic justice.
Then commit to voting in this election. Make sure you’re registered at your current address and decide whether you will vote in person or by mail. In Winneshiek County, you can vote in person between October 19 and November 7 at the Auditor’s Office (County Courthouse, 2nd floor). If you are voting in person on election day, find out your poll’s location beforehand (https://winneshiekcounty.iowa.gov/departments/auditor) and go to the polls on November 8 between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. If you are voting by mail, you will need to have already ordered your absentee ballot from the Auditor’s Office (deadline was 5:00 pm, October 24). Be sure to follow the directions exactly as you fill out the vote and prepare it to mail, and be sure to mail your completed ballot enough days ahead of time in order for it to be received at the Auditor’s Office by the time polls close on election day: 8:00 p.m. on November 8. There are several ways to have even more impact than voting. You can challenge yourself to get at least three more people—family, friends, or neighbors—to vote. You can join a climate organization, such as Citizens’ Climate Lobby or Interfaith Power and Light. And you can join a phone bank to contact voters (see, for example, https://www.environmentalvoter.org/) or you can write letters to voters encouraging them to vote for climate solutions (see, for example, https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/toolkits/letter-writing-101-build-the-climate-vote/). Be a Climate Voter!
Creation Care’s explanation of Green Tips are things you as an individual, a church member, a citizen, and a family can do to help God’s Creation—our planet and its inhabitants—survive and thrive. As part of our mission as a church to care for God’s creation, we include tips for green living every other week in the Afterword. Our Green Tips so far have included: 1) Walk to Church; 2) Reduce Food Waste; 3) Conserve Water; 4) Reduce Junk Mail; 5) Use Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products; 6) Use Earth-Friendly Personal Habits; and 7) Use earth-friendly transportation practices.
This week’s tip might seem insurmountable to any of us. How do we reduce our home’s carbon footprint? We might vaguely know there are lots of ways but might not know where to begin. But there’s a lot of help right here in our community. The Winneshiek Energy District offers several options to help you reduce your home’s energy use (see energydistrict.org; call 563-382-4207; or email email@example.com).
- One is the Bright Box initiative, which allows you to add up the number of light bulbs in your house that are inefficient—conventional incandescents and compact fluorescents—and request the same number of low-energy LED lightbulbs to replace them. Winneshiek Energy District can provide you with a box of those LEDs.
- You can also request an in-home energy assessment. Done under the auspices of Americorps Services, this includes a “full lighting upgrade to LEDs, combustion safety testing, and a blower door test to identify drafts in your home.” (Since this involves in-home assistance, you must be fully vaccinated against Covid.)
- If you wish to do even more for your home, you can schedule a Comprehensive Energy Assessment, for which there is a charge. Winn Energy District’s website explains: “Our full home energy assessment includes a combination of combustion appliance safety testing, insulation analysis, a blower door test to determine air leakage, and direct installation (replacing light bulbs and aerators with higher-efficiency models).” (Vaccination required.)
Please note that Congress’s recently passed Inflation Reduction Act will offer 30% tax credits for “qualifying and electricity upgrades,” beginning January 1, 2023 (see IRA Consumer Reduction Fact Sheets at energydistrict.org). These tax incentives may be applied to the above options.