With Governor Brown calling a drought in California, it's important that we all take steps to reduce our water consumption. Our City Forest has compiled the following water saving tips for you and your family to try!
- Equip faucets with aerators. Installing aerators on kitchen and bathroom sinks can reduce indoor water use by about 4%. San Jose Water Company offers free faucet aerators that are available from our inspectors during our water audits and at our main office.
- Operate your washing machine and dish washer with FULL LOADS ONLY.
- Don't leave the water running if you hand wash dishes. Fill sink or a pail to wash and rinse dishes.
- Replace your washing machine it is the second highest wateruser indoors. New high-effiency washers can reduce water and energy by 40%. Rebates are also available.
- Fix toilet leaks, they are easy to identify and fix. Check that the water level in your toilet tank is not about the overflow tube; the water level should be about an inch below the top of the tube. Over time your toilet flapper becomes worn and does not work effectively to stop leaks into the toilet bowl.
- Shower instead of using the bathtub and take shorter showers. A full bath tub can use 25-70 gallons of water, while taking a five minuet shower uses 10 to 25 gallons. If you take a bath, stopper the drain imediately and adjust the temperature as you fill the tub.
- Replace your old toilet, the largest water user indors!
- If you have a toilet from 1992 or earlier, you probably have an inefficient model that uses 3.5 gallons per flush or more. Newer models use 1.3 gallons per flush, and rebates are available.
- Install low flow showerheads! Newer showerheads use 2.5 gallons per minute or less, older models can use up to 7 gallons of water per minute. The San Jose Water Company offers free low flow showerheads.
Did you know that outdoor water consumption typically accounts for at least 50% of residential water use? Try following these easy steps to conserve water
- Water your lawn only when it needs it. Over watering the lawn is a common wastefull practice.
- Step on your lawn, if the grass springs back up when you remove pressure, it doesn't need watering.
- Set your irrigation schedual for the season and your local conditions. Watering times will vary by season, climate, soil type, and plant types. Remember to turn off irrigation during the winter rainy season.
- Plant drought tolerant species. Reduce outdoor watering needs by planting species appropriate for the Bay Area's dry climate. Plants native to the areaare already adapted to the soil and weather conditions will generally require less water and work to thrive. (OUR CITY FOREST's Community Nursery has many native plants.)
- Upgrade your irrigation hardware. For example, replace high flow sprinklers with drip irrigation (where appropriate) Santa Clara residents may be eligible for rebates for irrigation.
- Hydrozone: when planting, group plants together according to their water needs.
- Water durring the cool part of the day. Reduce evaporation by watering lawns only in the early moring or at night.
- Use Mulch. Place several inches of mulch around trees and plants; a layer of mulch will slow the evaporation of moisture from your landscape and inhibit the growth of weeds.
- Install shut off nozzels on all garden hoses. Make sure our garden hose has an automatic shut off.
- Sweep sidewalks and driveways. Hosing down pavement around your home can waste hundreds of gallons. A broom is the proper tool to clean thoes areas. Come on guys.
- Don't water the pavement. When your irrigation system is on, check for overspray. Position sprinkler heads to water lawns and gardens, not the pavement surrounding your landscape.
- Avoild runoff slopes. Try to avoid planting on slopes (especially lawns); if your lawn or garden is already on a slope you can reduce your watering times so that excess water does not run off.
- Check your irrigation system often for broken sprinkler heads and irrigation tubing. Broken sprinkler heads waste water and can potentially damage your landscape. Check sprinkler heads, drip system emitters, and drip lines for breaks and cracks.
- Dont let water run while washing the car. (by the way, don't wash your car during a drought... not cool)
SAVE WATER, SAVE MONEY
Our worldwide supply of clean, fresh water is steadily decreasing. Individual can
moderate their usage and help conserve this precious natural resource.
- Only 1 % of the world’s water supply is drinkable, yet humans cannot survive more than
a few days without it.
• Currently, 1 in 6 people do not have sufficient access to clean water. This problem is
projected to increase to 4 in 6 people over the next 20 years. (Corporate Accountability
• “There are 1.1 billion people, or 18 per cent of the world's population, who lack access
to safe drinking water. About 2.6 billion people, or 42 per cent of the total, lack access to
basic sanitation.” (WHO/UNICEF, 2005)
• The average daily use of water per person ranges dramatically depending on where
they live (gallons/day): U.S. 153; UK 88; Asia 22; Africa 12; Gambia 1.3. (Corporate
Accountability International, 2007)
• At one drop per second, a leaky faucet would fill 75 bathtubs in one year. (PennState, 2007
& Mohave Water Agency)
• On average, lawn watering and car washing make up 50-70% of household water use.
• As much as 19% of California’s electricity is used to pump, transport and treat water.
(Flex your power, 2009)
• “1.1 billion people gained access to safe drinking water between 1990-2002. The greatest
access gains were achieved in South Asia.” (WHO/UNICEF, 2004)
• Turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth can save 5 gallons of water. If every
American did this, we would save 1.5 billion gallons—more than all of the residents in
New York City use. (Wire & Twine, 2008)
• Each minute cut from your shower time saves 2.5 gallons of water or more. Reducing
your shower by five minutes saves the amount used, on average, by one person in Africa
each day. (Corporate Accountability International, 2007)
• Washing clothes only when you have a full load saves up to 600 gallons each month.
(Water Use it Wisely, 2009)
• Fixing a leaky faucet can save up to 140 gallons of water per week. (Water Use it Wisely, 2009)
Want to learn to care for the urban ecosystem while connecting with green-minded neighbors? Want to learn simple and effective ways to use fewer natural resources while saving money and having fun? Register for a Green and Healthy living course with Our City Forest and get started!
What are Green and Healthy courses?
Green and Healthy courses are free, single or multi-session workshops covering green living topics such as:
- Energy and water conservation
- Earth-friendly landscaping
- Reducing household waste
- Recycling dos and don'ts
- Sustainable food options in our area
- Spending less at the pump
- Household toxic chemicals
Classes include hands-on activities, like making homemade cleaning products and testing the energy use of your appliances. Participants also choose several action steps to implement throughout the week, such as refusing plastic bags or eating primarily in-season produce. Discussion and reflection are emphasized.
Relevant local resources help ease the transition into a greener lifestyle. Not sure where to safely dispose of old electronics? Want to learn how to block junk mail? We’ve done the research for you.
What does green living mean to us?
We don’t think you should have to spend a lot of money to “go green.” In fact, we know that a more eco-friendly lifestyle can actually save you substantial amounts of money. We also believe that going green should be simple, which is why we have created a clear action guide full of information and resources to help you along your way. Lastly, reducing your environmental impact should be fun! Green and Healthy courses are discussion and activity-based, allowing you to connect with like-minded neighbors.
Who should take a Green and Healthy course?
Anyone! High school students, young professionals, parents and families are all welcome to participate.
Seasoned green living experts might be interested in taking the course as a training program to become a Green Amigo. Green Amigos are dependable Our City Forest volunteers who organize and lead Green and Healthy workshops of their own.
Ask Green and Healthy
Ask Green and Healthy
If you have a question about making your life more green and healthy, or a general question about county or city programs, please feel free to ask us! If you have a question, there's a good chance someone else has the same question, so we would like to provide you the information and possibly add the answer to our site too!
We will not use your information for anything except to answer your question.
If you would like to subscribe to any of our newsletters, just fill out the form below.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the overall carbon footprint of using paper bags versus plastic bags?
Disposable bags pose environmental problems whether they are paper or plastic. Plastic bags generally receive the most environmental criticism because they are made from a non-renewable resource (petroleum), they are not easily recyclable, and they often end up in waterways as a major source of pollution. Paper bags, on the other hand, are much more easily recyclable and, if they come from trees harvested in the United States, are generally from closely monitored tree farms (thus not posing threats of deforestation in the same way as paper products produced in the developing world). At the same time, however, paper bags are much heavier and bulkier than plastic bags, and require much more fossil fuel in their transportation from factories to stores. The production of paper is also very carbon-intensive, and can also cause significant water pollution.
Overall, the production of paper and plastic materials both pose environmental threats, as does the production of nearly anything. The best option is to use reusable bags that aren’t discarded after only a single use, so as to minimize the amount of fossil fuels that are needed to produce bags for our society.
Are pollutants, toxins, chemicals, and metals removed when boiling water? Should we filter our water before boiling?
Boiling water does not guarantee the removal of all toxins and chemicals, only microorganisms. Near sea level, a vigorous rolling boil for at least one minute is sufficient to kill or deactivate all microorganisms. At high altitudes (greater than two kilometres or 5000 feet) three minutes is recommended.
For chemicals, toxins, and metals, some have higher boiling points than water so they are unaffected. Boiling water may actually increase the concentration the toxin because some of the water evaporates while the toxins remain. The best way to remove toxins and chemicals is with the proper filter.
Quick Tips / Did you Know / Fun Facts
Quick and simple tips for living green and healthy
• Vinegar works as a great cleaning product and can replace glass cleaners (which contain ammonia) for most practical cleaning applications.
• Natural vinegar like apple cider vinegar has been around for centuries and is a source of vitamins and a natural health remedy.
• Lemons possess a wonderful, natural flavor and smell that can’t be reproduced artificially. In addition to traditional use in cooking, lemons are also a natural cleaner and are antibacterial due to high acid content. Lemons are also used in home remedies.
• An advisory committee to the federal Food and Drug Administration has found that household use of antibacterial products provides no benefits over plain soap and water. The American Medical Association recommends against using triclosan in the home because it may encourage bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Here is a link to Triclosan and a Recipe for DIY Hand Sanitizer
• Lighting accounts for nearly 25% of total energy costs in the home or office.
• Home electronics such as computers, TVs and printers use power even when idle. Turn your electronics off when not in use.
• Fluorescent light bulbs consume 75% less electricity, last 4-15 times longer, and generate 74% less heat than incandescent bulbs.
• According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a faucet dripping at one drop per second wastes 2,700 gallons per year.
• Riding a bike burns around 400-500 calories/hour.
• Certain non-recyclable paper products' (such as tissues, napkins, and egg cartons) fibres will aerate compost and help the organisms that encourage decomposition.
Do It Yourself Projects
Green and Healthy Resources
We hope the following resources will help to initiate discussion and thoughts about living a green and healthy lifestyle, as well the importance of understanding the connection between nature, humans, and our everyday lifestyles.
Our City Forest does not necessarily endorse the following resources; they simply provide general information related to or educating about Green and Healthy lifestyles.
Links to External Websites
Environmental Working Group - Research group on toxins in our food, water, air, and products
San Jose Residential Recycling Guide
San Jose Recycling at Work Guide
Working with janitorial services
Responsible and Accountable E-Waste Refurbishing/Recycling
Free and Gifting Economy
FreeCycle - Reusing unwanted items within the local community
Zero Waste Businesses Group
San Jose Municipal Water - Tells about water-saving devices
San Jose Water - Demonstration Garden
Santa Clara Valley Water District - Rebates
Green Gardener Directory - sustainable and water-wise landscaping
Local Farms and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
Many of these also provide education about permaculture, ecology and the environment
Farmers' Markets Locator
Emma Prusch Farm Park - San Jose, CA
Full Circle Farm - Sunnyvale, CA
Ardenwood Historic Farm - Fremont, CA
San Francisco Permaculture Guild
- Reading Material
Silent Spring by Rachel L. Carson
Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough & Michael Braungart
Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken
The Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawken
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
The End of Nature by Bill McKibben
The Story of Stuff Book by Annie Leonard
Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind by Theodore Roszak, Mary E. Gomes and Allen D. Kanner
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Permaculture by Bill Mollison
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
The Mountains of California by John Muir
Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger
The Big Burn by Timothy Egan
Earth: The Sequel by Mariam Horn and Freed Krupp
The Vertical Farm by Dickson D. Despommier
The National Parks by Ken Burns
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Prescription for Natural Healing by Phyllis Balch
Vandana Shiva, Michael Pollan, Alex Shigo, Daniel Quinn, Bill McKibben, John Muir, Ralph Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Poems of Walt Wiltman
My Plastic-Free Life - A blog about trying to live a plastic-free life
Treehugger - A blog about green and environmental topics
Clean Bin Project - A blog/website about zero waste living for a year
Movies, Films, Documentaries, Etc.
Sustainability and Environmental Awareness:
Additional: The Ecological Footprint; Guns; Germs and Steel; Dive!; Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox, Objectified; An Inconvenient Truth; Cool It; The 11th Hour; Ecotopia; Freedom Fuels
Waste Reduction and Plastic Awareness:
Additional: Plastic Plane, Clean Bin Project
We Recommend: Flow
Additional: Tapped; Blue Gold; Thirst; Water Wars
Additional: Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead; King Corn; The Future of Food; What’s On Your Plate; Killer at Large; Deconstructing Supper; The Gerson Miracle, Fresh
- Reference Guides
Searchable databases and libraries of information
Find out what's in your water!
Find out what's in your sunscreen and other cosmetics!
Click here to search
the cosmetics database
Find out about the other products and information!