Friday, March 19, 2010

Fix A Leak Week - Plano Offers Free Resources for Residents

Did you know that minor water leaks account for 1 trillion gallons of water wasted each year?  That's why the city of Plano is sponsoring "Fix A Leak Week", offering free tips and water conservation items for Plano residents to help them save water.  As a resident, you are eligible for the following items:

Low-Flow Shower Head

A self-cleaning shower head featuring a non-aerating spray means less temperature loss and big hot water energy savings. Easy to install!

How do you know if you need a new shower head?  I found a handy dandy video with an easy tip on how to determine if your shower head needs an overhaul.

This is great for me, a Plano resident, right?
Yes and no.  Yes, because just the other day, as I was having a long, hot shower, I wondered if our apartment  had low-flow shower heads installed.  I was going to look into the issue with my fiancĂ©, Mark, so we could conserve water.  However, have you heard that we're not buying any new plastic this year?  When I ran into the kitchen to tell Mark we could get a low-flow shower head, he promptly asked, "Is it made of plastic?"  I reminded him of how much water we could save.  He said, "But plastic lasts forever.  Is it made from recycled plastic or metal?  If not, is it really worth creating a new piece of plastic that will last forever?"  No, definitely not.  So, I called the Municipal Center of Plano to find out if the shower head is made of plastic.  It is.  Ugg.  No new shower head for me, at least not a free one.  What are my other options?  Well, thankfully, I did the test from the video and found out I don't need one, but there are many ways we can reduce our water usage without getting yet another plastic product.

  • Get wet, turn off the water, get soapy, turn on the water to rinse.  This technique is used on naval ships and by Ed Begley (smile) and drastically cuts down on water usage.
  • Cut down on how long you shower.  I don't know about you, but I'm not a 5-minute shower person.  I could easily cut several minutes off my shower time to save water.
  • Share a shower.  Have a special someone in your life?  Sharing a shower isn't just romantic, it's the green thing to do (wink, wink).
Toilet Leak Detection Tablets
Use dye tablets to check for a leak in your toilet tank. It’s easy and could save you money.  Here are a few other ways to help you conserve water:
  • When it's time to replace your toilet, purchase a dual-flush or high-efficiency model.
  • Don't use the toilet as a trashcan or ashtray.
  • If you're really feeling green, get a human composting toilet or make your own!  Lots of resources are available online (by the way, if you do this, please let me know how it goes).
Toilet Flapper
Water treatment processes, toilet bowl cleaners and high water pressure cause replaceable parts to disintegrate in your toilet. If you get black “goo” on your hands when you touch the flapper, it needs to be replaced.

Simply visit any Customer and Utility Services counter from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, to pick up these items. Locations include the Municipal Center, 1520 K Ave. (between 15th Street and 18th Street) or the Joint Use Facility, 7501 N. Independence Pkwy. (adjacent to Davis Library).  Retrofit items are provided FREE to Plano residents by the Sustainability & Environmental Services department. 

For more water conservation tips, visit  
And of course, come to the Live Green Expo on April 17, 2010!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Do you know what the largest source of litter is?

According to the Keep America Beautiful Campaign, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing education and volunteer opportunities to help create a cleaner environment, cigarette butts are the number one source of litter.  While smoking has decreased 28% in the past 10 years (Source), only 10% of cigarette butts are disposed of properly, which leads to a big litter problem.  Most smokers don't realize the environmental impact of cigarette littering because cigarette butts are small enough to seem insignificant (Source).  However, cigarette butts are made of cellulose acetate, which is a form of plastic that doesn't biodegrade easily.  Cigarette butts that are littered on the street or in planters end up being washed into the gutters.  Then, they enter our water system and often get washed from our streams into the ocean.  Also, small animals often mistake cigarette butts for food and can end up choking or suffocating on them.  I was inspired to write this article after a trip I made to the library yesterday.  As I was getting into my car, I saw a black bird with a cigarette butt in its mouth.  :(

The Positives
  • Public receptacles for cigarette butts are becoming more common.
  • Smoking is becoming less common.
  • Cigarette manufactures are looking for ways to produce environmentally-friendly cigarette butts.  Philip Morris, a cigarette manufacturer, sponsors the Guide for Cigarette Litter Prevention on the Keep America Beautiful website.
  • You are reading this article, so now one more person is more aware.  

So what can we do?  
  • If you smoke, place cigarette butts in proper receptacles, including pocket ashtrays.  
  • Most people who smoke don't realize the impact of cigarette butts on the environment, so you can help educate the people you know who smoke.  
  • Learn more about the environment.  Knowledge of our current environmental issues usually leads to caring about our environment and wanting to make positive changes.
For more information about this issue, check out Bill Nye the Science Guy's video.