Conserving Water Is Likely to Become More Important in Coming Years

My understanding as a layman is that al-though one of the impacts of warmer oceans due to climate change is increased precipitation over land, it won’t be as predictable and consistent, so we need to include water conservation in any discussion of sustainability. Or think of it as water management, since we’ll need to be concerned about flooding just as much as about prolonged droughts.

At the local level, we need to be smart about conserving water. It’s a practice we need to implement in times of abundance, because we can’t be sure when the pendulum will swing the other way and we’ll endure periods of water shortage.

For homeowners, the biggest consumption of water is typically the irrigation of our lawns and landscaping. Even though Rita and I replaced our Kentucky Bluegrass lawn with Bella Bluegrass, which requires less mowing and watering, we still need to use our sprinklers, although not as much. We would have done better to install buffalo grass, which is not as verdant, but requires zero irrigation and mowing.  (I can provide the address of a home I know in Golden that installed buffalo grass a couple decades ago.)

There are sprinkler systems which adjust the amount of watering that is done based on rainfall and ground moisture, but I haven’t investigated those devices, since I usually am home and adjust our watering according to the weather. For example, this spring I didn’t turn on our sprinkler system until June 1st because of our unusually wet May.

There are other residential strategies for saving water. I have learned to take showers in which I only run the water to get wet and to rinse off, without running the water while washing.

We also installed 1.2-gallon-per-flush toilets, which perform as well as the 1.6-gpf models.  We have a sensor faucet on our kitchen sink which operates like those sensors you’re probably used to seeing in public restrooms. The faucet (by Moen) also allows us to turn the water on and off manually when needed.

We also installed a recirculation line on our water heater, which saves a lot of water by producing hot water more quickly in the kitchen and bathrooms. Think of all the water you run waiting for it to get hot. Not only are you wasting that water, but you paid to heat that water, only to have it cool off sitting in the pipes between your water heater and your sink. You’ll also save energy (i.e., money) by installing such a recirc line. Ask your plumber for an estimate.

High efficiency washing machines are efficient in their use of water, not just energy. Front loaders use less water than the older top loaders, but the new top-loading high efficiency machines, such as our LG unit (the kind with a glass top and no agitator), automatically sense how much water is needed and do an amazing job. We’re glad our front-loading high efficiency washing machine died and had to be replaced!

At the governmental level, I’m surprised that CDOT and other jurisdictions don’t install buffalo grass in the medians and on the shoulders of our highways. Doing so would not only conserve water but save a lot of money on mowing, which can also endanger workers on high-speed highways.

Recently I saw a report on the blue jean industry, which uses an immense amount of water not just to grow the cotton (1,800 gallons per pair of jeans) but even more water to dye them blue!

I expect to learn even more about water conservation and management at this Thursday’s (tonight’s) session on this topic at Golden Real Estate’s office., 17695 S. Golden Road, Golden.  It starts at 5 p.m. and is scheduled to last only 1 hour.  We still have seats available. Email me (see below) or just show up.  The presenter is Ben Wade from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

If you can’t attend this Thursday’s session, a video of it will be archived by Saturday at www.SustainabilitySeries.info, where you can already find archived videos of the previous five sessions on other sustainability topics.

Please consider coming if you, too, have water conservation or management ideas to share, such as I have done in this column. I’m certainly looking forward to learning things I don’t already know.

Do You Practice Sustainability? Home Renovation Can Be Done Sustainably, Too

Tonight is the fifth in Golden Real Estate’s Sustainability Series. Previous sessions were about home insulation (January), home heating technology (February), solar power (March), and electric cars (April).

This month, the topic is sustainable renovation. Our presenter is an expert in sustainable practices when it comes to home renovation.  His name is Steve Stevens, and he has been my mentor regarding sustainable practices for nearly two decades.

A retired scientist from Bell Labs, Steve has made a lifelong project, it seems, out of reducing the carbon footprint of his 1970s brick ranch in South Golden.

Retired and living on a fixed income, he has developed several habits/practices that are not only sustainable but also have saved him a boatload of money.

For example, he only buys cull lumber from Lowe’s, and he buys returned products (typically mis-ordered) such as windows  and doors, which are then sold for a fraction of their original price.

Steve also seeks out salvaged goods such as windows and doors. As with buying cull lumber and returned products, collecting salvaged products means zero new carbon footprint for doing your renovation. 

Steve, being a scientist by training and passion, always considers the embedded carbon footprint of products, whether it’s food or building materials. How much energy is used to transport the goods you purchase?  For example, are you buying slab granite mined and shipped from Asia, or an alternative material mined or created closer to home?

Steve will share his shopping and construction tips that save money and are also sustainable.

For example, he emphasizes insulation, which should always be your first measure when it comes to saving energy. But what products should you buy, and where should you start?

The session will be held tonight, May 16th, from 5 to 6 pm in the Golden Real Estate office at 17695 S. Golden Road, Golden. There are still seats available. Reserve yours by emailing me at Jim@Golden RealEstate.com

Each of our sessions is video recorded by our friend, Martin Voelker, from the Colorado Renewal Energy Society.  You can watch videos of the first four sessions at Sustain-abilitySeries.info.  This session will also be recorded and posted there.

Seats Still Available for Next Thursday’s Information Session on Electric Vehicles

Golden Real Estate’s monthly Sustainability Series continues next Thursday, April 18th, at 5 p.m. with Session #4 about electric vehicles.

Eleven people have already signed up for this session, but we have room for twice that number, so sign up if you’ve been wanting to understand the technology, economics and practicality of owning and driving electric cars.

Did you know that electric cars outsold gas powered cars until about 1915? Drivers (especially women) preferred them until, ironically, the electric starter  made gasoline-powered cars easier and safer to start.

So, electric cars are not new. What’s new is the battery technology which now allows EVs to carry enough stored electricity on board to provide a range approaching that of a tank of gasoline — as high as 300+ miles.

Lead acid batteries were the only kind that the original electric cars could utilize. Today’s batteries are lithium-ion, but within a few years there will be solid state batteries.

This is just some of what you’ll learn at next Thursday’s session. To reserve your seat, email me at Jim@GoldenRealEstate.com.  The session will be at our office, 17695 S. Golden Road, in Golden.

If you can’t attend, you might enjoy a 35-minute YouTube video of my presentation, “Gas Cars Are Obsolete — and Here’s Why.” It’s online at www.GasCarsAreObsolete.info.

The session is followed on Saturday, April 20th, with a “Drive Electric Earth Day” event in our South Golden Road parking lot, where you’ll be able to interview the owners of many different models of EVs about their cars and why they love them. An electric bicycle dealer is also bringing bikes to test ride! Register as either spectator of EV owner at www.DriveElectricWeek.info.

Video Recording of Sustainability Series Session #3 About Solar Power Is Now Available to View

Recorded by Martin Voelker of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society on March 21st at the office of Golden Real Estate.

Electric Vehicle Event on April 20th at Golden Real Estate

Golden Real Estate is celebrating Earth Day by holding an electric vehicle round-up on Saturday, April 20th, from 10 am to 3 pm in our South Golden Road parking lot.

It’s a national event, called “Drive Electric Earth Day,” organized by Drive Electric Week, which is held every September. As with that event, we’re inviting owners of electric cars, trucks and motorcycles to show their vehicles and maybe offer rides. You can register online at www.DriveElectricWeek.info as either an EV owner or attendee

As an extra added attraction, I have invited Best Electric Bikes USA (who sold me my electric bicycle a few years ago) to set up shop and bring some electric bikes for test rides. Research has shown that owners of electric bikes ride more often and therefore get more exercise than owners of non-electric bikes. It’s true for me!

EV’s: Yes, They Have Lower Range in Winter, But Consider the Offsetting Benefits

Maybe you saw the coverage last week of the American Automobile Association’s warning that electric cars lose up to 30% of their range in very cold weather. This happens because the battery in an electric car is also used to warm both the cabin and the battery itself. This loss of range matters more, of course, when EVs have only 100 miles of range than in the newer electric models with over 200 miles of range.

Having driven EVs for seven years now, I can report that an EV is, in fact, the best car for winter driving. Here are just a few reasons:

You’ll never have trouble starting your car. It’s a battery and motor! Turn it on, put it in drive and go — no warming up. Also, you can warm up the cabin before you unplug. Even if you don’t, the cabin will be warm in less than a mile.

You’ll never stall or get stranded. And you’ll never break down. There are only 50 moving parts in an AWD Tesla. The only time you’ll find an EV on the side of the road is when it has a flat tire or has been in an accident.

You won’t have to gas up in the cold. Think of your EV like your smartphone. Plug it in at night and you always leave with a full charge in the morning.

It handles better in snow. An AWD EV has a 50/50 front/back weight ratio and a lower center of gravity, which translates to great traction.

If stranded in a blizzard, you’ll have heat. Even if your EV is upside down in a snow drift, the heater will keep you warm, burning only 5 miles of range per hour. And no worry about carbon monoxide poisoning!

Talk to any EV owner to learn more. If you don’t know one, call me!