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Home Water Conservation: Save the Earth and Save Money

“Water conservation is an important issue — and not just because we want to be environmentally responsible and because we want to keep our water bill as low as possible,” explains Sujoy Bhattacharya, Founder and CEO of Falls River Soap Company, a natural soap company based in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

water with ripples and grasses
Photo by

Large appliances, such as washing machines and dishwashers, consume the most water in your home, so they are important places to start any water-conservation efforts. Set the water level on your washing machine to match the size of your load. Try to avoid doing frequent small loads; whenever possible, run the machine only when you have a full load.

Did you know: You don’t need to rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher! No, really. Hand rinsing dishes under the faucet uses 15-18 gallons of water per load. If your dishwasher has a pre-rinse cycle, try using it instead of hand rinsing. If a dish or two isn’t completely clean after the dishwasher cycle, finish the job by hand. Like the washing machine, only run the dishwasher when it’s full. If you have only a few dishes, you should try washing them by hand in the sink, rather than under a running faucet.

After you conquer savings with these major appliances, the bathroom offers the next biggest opportunity.

Make sure your toilets are all working efficiently. According to the American Water Works Association, the average American home loses 14 percent of all water used to leaks. While you are at it, it is important to remember, the toilet is not a garbage can.

When it’s time to get yourself clean, keep your showers as short as possible or turn the water off while shaving or scrubbing. Consider installing water-saver showerheads and faucets.

When taking a bath, close the drain while the water warms up then adjust the temperature. Watch the tub as it fills, and turn the water off.

Its summertime and I totally get that nothing is as refreshing as a cold glass of water, but don’t let the faucet run unnecessarily to get it. Put a container of water in the refrigerator instead; this way, you can have chilled water anytime you want.

Avoid running hot tap water over frozen food to defrost it; put it in the refrigerator the night before. Rethink any of the various activities you usually perform under running water—like washing vegetables or brushing your teeth. (A gallon of water a minute flows through a tap that’s only half open.) Use a dishpan or bowl of water instead of letting the tap run. Then pour the water from the bowl when watering your houseplants or garden.

Before pouring that half-filled glass of water down the sink, ask yourself where it could be put to good use? How about pouring it in the bowl for your favorite pet?

Each of us can make a big impact when it comes to water conservation. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average American family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day at home. Roughly 70 percent of this use occurs indoors. If everyone can make a few basic adjustments in household water consumption, you can save gallons of water and lots of dollars each year.

Touch-Free Technology to Reduce Germs in Your Home

When you talk about germs that are spread by touch, most people might think of bathroom handles and doors, or household surfaces. But you might not realize that your mobile device can be as dirty as the bottom of your shoe, according to research discussed in The American Journal of Infection Control. People take their mobile devices into bathrooms and public restrooms, handle them with dirty hands while eating, wear them inside sweaty clothes, and share them with other users who don't wash their hands. You can take steps to deter the spread of germs such as wiping down your devices with a moist microfiber cloth, or a sterilizing agent for more serious bacteria, but it's easier not to accumulate germs at all.

young boy with dirty hands
Photo by Shutterstock.

That's where no-touch technology is helping combat the spread of contamination. Thanks to technology advances such as connected devices and voice control, you can reduce the number of times your hands come into contact with dirty surfaces. Here are some ways touch-free technology is helping stop the spread of germs in your home.

Touch-Free Bathroom Technology

Fighting household germs starts in your bathroom. The same type of no-touch faucet technology increasingly used in public bathrooms can also be applied to your home. Many automatic faucets cost hundreds of dollars, but for less than $50 you can get an iFaucet EZ Faucet Automatic Touch-Free Faucet Adapter. Powered by four AAA batteries and activated by an infrared sensor, the adapter turns on your faucet when you place your hands in front of it. The unit is drip-free so that it only runs water when you need it. For the same price or less, you can also install a simplehuman sensor pump, which can dispense soap or lotion.

Showerheads and bathtub faucets can be another source of germs. You can cut down on shower germs with a no-touch showerhead such as SmarTap. SmarTap lets you use no-touch technology to set your shower's maximum temperature, flow rate and time range, reducing the spread of germs while also conserving water and electricity. You can control SmarTap remotely through your mobile device or by using Amazon Echo.

Then there's toilets. American Standard has made using the toilet more hygienic by introducing no-touch ActiVate toilet flush technology. Just waving your hand lets you avoid touching a dirty toilet handle. The toilet and seat also use an antimicrobial additive that reduces germs.

No-Touch Kitchen Technology

The kitchen is another place where germs can spread to hands from faucets, sinks, counters, tables, food and garbage cans. Reduce germs from your faucet and sink by installing a no-touch faucet. For a little over $50, motion-activated faucets are already available. These devices are useful both for fighting germs as well as assisting people who have trouble reaching or handling faucets, such as disabled home owners and arthritis sufferers.

Meanwhile, plumbing fixtures provider Pfister recently introduced the prototype for the no-touch, voice-activiated Auris faucet as part of its Water Over Wire (WOW) initiative. The Auris is the first kitchen faucet that lets you use your voice to turn water on and off, select hot and cold, provide on-demand filtered or boiling water, pour digitally-precise volumes of water and automatically fill your sink.

Touch-Free Controls for Other Household Appliances and Devices

Devices such as Amazon's Alexa give you touch-free control over a range of other household appliances. For instance, in your living room, you can turn on your lights, change TV channels or adjust your thermostat. You can also control your smart home with your voice through most recent mobile devices using voice control technology such as Siri.

You can also use wireless technology to avoid germs on your property outside your home. Once you set up a wireless Lorex home security camera system, for example, you never have to touch your cameras again because any subsequent adjustments can be made using the app. And with a new technology called Dogdrones, you can even deploy a drone to scout your backyard and send out a robot pooper-scooper to clean up after your dog.

Roy Rasmussen, coauthor of Publishing for Publicity, is a freelance writer who helps select clients write quality content to reach business and technology audiences. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies and bestselling authors. His most recent projects include books on cloud computing, small business management, sales, business coaching, social media marketing, and career planning.

Go Greener: 5 Tips for a Green Home You Might Have Missed

According to the EPA, 80 percent of Americans' exposure to pesticides occurs indoors and up to a dozen measurable pesticides are detectable in the air within a home. An average family household in the U.S. has the potential to pollute their home and environment simply through the products that they use, Redfin says. It's no longer enough to just recycle; in order to maintain a truly green home, you have to dig a little deeper. To live a healthier, more eco-friendly lifestyle, homeowners must assess their homes with a keen, "green" eye and make eco-friendly choices in all areas of their lives. Here are five ways to go greener.

green, eco-friendly home tips
Photo by Deposit Photos.

Avoid High-VOC Products

Volatile organic compounds (VOC) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. When people use products containing VOC, they expose themselves and others to high levels of pollutants. VOC cause respiratory irritation, headaches, skin rashes, nausea, among other ailments. Use low-VOC or VOC-free cleaning products and paints in your home and check the following products for VOCs:

• Paints and solvents
• Aerosol sprays
• Cleansers
• Disinfectants
• Air fresheners
• Automotive products

Choose "Certified" Coffee

Though a small act, you take a big step toward supporting sustainability when you choose to brew only coffee with the USDA Certified Organic label. This label means that the coffee was grown using sustainable standards, and is therefore considerate of and compliant with the environment.

Go Greener by Planting More Green

It's easy to become so focused on the inside, that you overlook the immediate exterior. Planting trees around your house, specifically on the west and south sides can decrease your heating and cooling expenses. Combine that with placing trees strategically to shade the AC unit and your household will save $250 annually, Good Housekeeping says.

Turn Off Electronics Completely

If you plan to continue using your computer but will be away from it for more than 20 minutes, switching the machine to "sleep" mode is recommended. When retiring for the evening, any electrical items left plugged in, even if they are not being used, can create "phantom" electrical draw and encourage electrical surges. If you plug devices like the computer and printer or the television and DVD player, into a certified power strip, then all of the machines can be switched off simultaneously for the evening.

Buy Low-Toxicity Furniture and Decor

Your sofa, canvas painting and dining table have a secret life. Some furniture and artwork pieces release substances into the immediate air during a process called "offgassing." Though nearly everything offgasses, synthetic and synthetically treated materials offgas toxic chemicals. If you have taken steps to insulate your home well in order to conserve energy, it is actually more difficult for these offgassed toxins to disperse and exit your home, says Redfin. In order to improve and maintain good indoor air quality, consider the following when deciding on furniture and decor:

• Select untreated furniture or furniture treated only with natural stains and finishes.
• In artwork, pieces created with organic cotton are generally not treated with toxic materials, so opt for a colorful tapestry over a painting to be more eco-friendly and experience less toxic offgassing.
• Buy second-hand or vintage furniture because most offgassing has already occured.

Rinsing out your aluminum cans and taking your own canvas bags to the market are great decisions in improving the environment, but to optimize your impact on environmental well-being and the well-being of your family, use these tips to take the next step in going greener.

Jayme Cook is a writer and English professor living in Phoenix. She enjoys punctuation marks, sashimi and the smell of wet paint. Dislikes: people who cut in line.

4 Upcycling Projects for Your Home

Spring has officially sprung, which means its housecleaning season. Out with the old, in with the new, right? Rather than throwing away perfectly good materials, you could upcycle them instead. This way, you’ll be keeping trash from the landfill, while sprucing up your home. Take a look at these four projects to get the creative juices flowing.

1. Cereal Box Organizers

Since we’ve only just begun, let’s start with an easy project. Brightened up with colorful washi tape, these cereal box organizers are a cinch to make and they look great in your home or office.

To start, take two cereal boxes and cut them at an angle, from a top corner to midway down. Then bind them together with some regular tape to make the next step easier. Now you’re ready to start wrapping with washi tape!

Starting at the bottom, wrap the boxes in washi tape, changing the pattern each time you go around. To finish the edges, trim the tape close to the box and cover with some contrasting tape, folded lengthwise. And there you have it, a colorful organizer just waiting to be filled!

small mason jars for canning jelly
Photo by Adobe Stock/ckimballphoto.

2. Mason Jar Lanterns

These cute Mason jar lanterns are great for nights where you just want to sit and unwind on the back porch with a good book. These lanterns are as simple as placing a tea light in the jar and hanging them on hooks.

But it you want to get a little craftier, you can tint the jars before you hang them up. Take some Mod Podge or Elmer’s Glue, mix with some food coloring, then paint the outside — or inside — of the jar with the mixture. Turn it upside down, and let it drip dry for at least an hour.

To finish, heat your oven to 175 degrees F and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the jars over, and bake for another 20 or 30 minutes. When they’re done, the glue will turn semi-transparent and glossy.

Find even more unique, creative ways to reuse your Mason jars around the house.

3. DIY Greenhouses

As it turns out, you can make a greenhouse out of some pretty surprising materials! If you have some old storm windows lying around in the garage, fasten them together to make an attractive mini-greenhouse.

If you have enough of them, you can even fashion a greenhouse out of plastic bottles fixed to a frame. These greenhouses can be anything from simple open rooms to enclosed — and bottle-coated — sheds.

raw reclaimed wood shelves
Photo by Peter Murdock via
The Kitchn.

4. Reclaimed Wood Decorations

If you’re really serious about upcycling, there are tons of projects you can do with reclaimed wood. Reclaimed wood has several distinct advantages over modern lumber. For one, you’re decreasing your dependency on our shrinking forests. It’s also far more durable and stronger than anything you’re likely to come across nowadays and, because the wood is so old, it has quite a bit of character.

Reclaimed wood is super versatile. To start simple, try fashioning reclaimed beams or planks into floating shelves. More experienced woodworkers may want to try their hands on larger pieces of furniture, like a reclaimed wood platform bed. Whatever the project, you’re sure to be impressed with the results.

Discover more ideas for adding warmth and charm to your décor with these 6 Reclaimed Wood Designs from Houzz.

Upcycling an old object into a fashionable new one is a rewarding experience. It engages your creative side, all while reducing your dependence on stores and keeping junk out of the trash. After working on a few projects, you may even have a new hobby on your hands! Create useful items for your home, interesting elements for your office or unique gifts for friends and family.

Simple Ways to Personalize Your Living Space

I’ve been living in rented spaces for nearly a decade and, while I have managed to make most of them quite homey, decorating can be overwhelming. At times, it even seems impossible due to limited space and strict lease guidelines.

You have no choice in wall color, flooring, cabinets or accents. On top of that, many property managers don’t allow tenants to paint the walls and request that no holes be put into them. Even though you probably paid a security deposit, you don’t necessarily want to lose it, if and when you find your forever home or choose to relocate. Save your security deposit and add your personal style to any living space with these simple—often upcycled—decorating projects.

indoor plants in pots
Photo by Adobe Stock/

Create True-to-You Planters

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ranked indoor air pollution as on the top threats to human health. Luckily, some studies have shown that indoor plants can help purify the air by eliminating potentially harmful agents. In addition, houseplants have been shown to improve mental health, reduce stress levels, as well as boost productivity and mood.

Incorporating plants, even into a small space, is easy and thrifty. Repurpose aluminum cans into small, tabletop planters for succulents or cacti. You can also create a vertical, indoor garden out of an old spice rack or other cubby cabinet.

Prefer potted plants? No problem! Transform an old shower caddy or create minimalist plant stands.

simple wall decor
Photo by Adobe Stock/mamako.

Decorate with DIY Wall Art

Maybe you’re not supposed to use nails or screws in a rental, but filling holes is easy and takes next to no time when you’re ready to move out. So, dress up those drab, neutral walls!

Add bohemian vibes with a simple wall hanging or keep things looking upscale with a Pollock-esque canvas in your color scheme. If you’re fond of nature-inspired art, or need something special for the kitchen, create prints using cut fruits, veggies or your favorite foliage.

Another option for wall décor is contact paper. Unlike painting or wallpaper, it’s easy to apply and remove, is inexpensive and can be used in so many ways.

One upside to renting? Most places are painted and decorated with neutral tones, which means you can choose furniture, dishes, bedding and other simple accents that you love and ensure that they’ll be a match wherever you end up.

Looking for more ways to personalize your living space? Check out these projects:
A to Z: Personalized Wall Art
12 DIY Projects to Bring Nature Indoors
Modern Macramé Hanging Planter

DIY Backyard Projects for Summer

As summer inches ever closer, spend some time building one (or more) of these DIY projects to create your ideal outdoor living space. We scoured our archives to inspire and help you design the perfect summer retreat—right in your own backyard! Whether you’re a grill-master or gardener, these additions are sure to impress guests and neighbors.

fire pit
Photo by Adobe/alwayspp.

Fire in the Hole

Add a simple fire pit for ambiance and to provide lighting. They’re attractive focal points for any yard and serve as the perfect gathering spot for barbecues. If you want to show off your grilling skills, you could even add a grill grate.

vertical pallet garden
Photo by Adobe/Anna Baburkina.

Grow Up

Vertical gardening is perfect for small spaces, such as balconies, but can look just as beautiful in a full-fledged backyard. Perhaps your yard is small and you want to save as much space as possible, or the soil quality is too poor to grow the garden of your dreams. No worries! A pallet garden will solve all your problems and barely break the bank.

pond with flowers
Photo by Adobe/Krawczyk-Foto.

Serenity Pond

If you want to create a peaceful, relaxing sanctuary in your backyard, consider a garden pond. Basic ponds are simple to build and allow you add your own personal touches, like your favorite flowers. They also vibrancy and life to any space.

homemade swing
Photo by Pixabay/qimono.

Swing, Swing

Whether you’re young-at-heart or have grandkids, a classic rope swing will provide hours of entertainment. These simple swings can keep kids occupied during cookouts, dinner parties or before Fourth of July fireworks start.

Although most of us enjoy spending time nature, we often feel like we have to go “into the wild” to do it but that’s simply not true. A few small investments can create your ideal outdoor space—no travel required.

Want more ideas for designing your dream backyard? Check out 10 Secrets to Creating the Perfect Outdoor Living Space.

4 Areas to Declutter in Your Office

Spring has sprung and that means its Spring Cleaning time! Although not everyone is keen on this annual tradition, ensuring that your work and living spaces are free from clutter will create a more positive environment—externally and internally.

Recent studies from UCLA and Princeton have shown that clutter can increase stress levels, influence mood and decrease focus. Most of us have experienced these outcomes: Whether it’s a sink full of dirty dishes distracting you from your checkbook or a table littered with assorted papers irritating you. Clutter and chaos won’t help you actually make progress on projects or any tasks at hand.

When considering your professional goals, organization is crucial for achieving them. Forbes suggests keeping your work space as clean as possible. Keep lesser used items in drawers or displayed on shelves for easy access.

home office with plant
Photo by Unsplash/Tran Mau Tri Tam.

Clean Surfaces

Use disinfectant wipes to clean your desk, keyboard, phone, mouse and other often-touched surfaces that are likely to harbor a number of germs from the winter season. Don’t forget to clean your computer screen with a microfiber cloth or electronics wipes, along with any other office appliances you use regularly (i.e. printers, calculators, etc).

Inbox Upkeep

Digital clutter is just as prevalent as real-life clutter, and email is likely your main form of communication while at work. If a message can be answered quickly or requires your immediate attention, answer it. If the message doesn’t pertain to you or isn’t something you need to save, it can be deleted.

There are, of course, emails that need to be held on to for the future. Create an inbox folder system that works for you to keep track of your important, save-for-later correspondence. Once you’ve responded, file them away in their appropriate location to keep your inbox (and your brain!) from becoming overwhelmed.

Get Organized

From your physical desktop to the one on your computer, organize your space to maximize your productivity.

• Back-up any old files you need to keep for future reference, but that aren’t used on a regular basis.
• Remove any unnecessary files and programs from virtual desktop.
• Create a filing system for physical papers you need to keep track of.
• Organize your incoming mail to make it easier to attend to daily. Create inboxes for different types of mail you receive or based on priority.
• Keep the things you use, every day, within easy reach on your desk so you never have to go searching for them again.

Calendar Clean-Up

One area you probably wouldn’t even think of adding to your spring cleaning list is your ever-useful calendar, so why bother? Oftentimes, appointments and meetings get rescheduled or canceled, but don’t ever get removed from your calendar.

• If you have regular reminders, like “go to the gym,” in your weekly calendar, consider removing them. These are great when you’re getting started on any routine, but after awhile it becomes second nature and the reminders don’t really serve a purpose anymore.
• Merge your various calendars together so you can see all your appointments in one place. This will help you avoid double-booking.
• Color-code appointments, meetings, and personal engagements so they’re easy to find at a glance. Plus, it will make things a little more appealing to look at!