Archive for the ‘Lower Impact Living’ Category

Sustainable Tacoma

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

This month The University of Puget Sound has a fantastic line-up of events, lectures focusing on sustainabilty.  On February 21, UPS hosted a sustainability expo. featuring earth friendly community groups, vendors and more.  If you missed the event, I have highlighted some of the participants bellow.  I was reassusring to see that we live among people who are passionate about making possitive changes in the environment.  Whether you are considering volunteering in a community group, making changes on your home front, or becoming more informed of your options, please check out the links bellow.

This was a family outing for us.  While the kids loved having the opportunity to “drive” the city bus and collect tattoos,  it was hard to stop at all of the booths.  I am certain that I missed out on some great information.  Here is a very short list of who was there, please leave a comment or email me with any of the “holes” that you can fill.

People For Puget Sound

We’re a citizens’ group established in 1991 by Kathy Fletcher to protect and restore the health of our land and waters through education and action. Our members, partners and volunteers are located throughout the Puget Sound basin. Our staff works out of offices in SeattleOlympia and Mount Vernon and our board of directors represents the communities we work in. 

Do you live in the South Sound?

Wet Wednesdays and South Sound Saturdays Restoration 

Want to get muddy, work hard and feel good? Dan Grosboll will have you whacking weeds, planting native species and mulching to your heart’s content.  He’ll provide the tools, training and snacks.

  • 10:00am – 3:00pm
  • For details and directions: Dan Grosboll

 Tacoma-Pierce County BUILT GREEN

For a list of members visit

Parent Organization
Master Builders Association of Pierce County

Area Served
Pierce County – unincorporated areas and 23 cities within the County

To work in partnership to create safer, healthier and more efficient homes, reduce impacts of construction and development, and improve and protect the valuable community and natural resources of Tacoma and Pierce County. We will achieve this by:

Using a voluntary, market-driven approach

Delivering a credible standard for home construction that reflects the Master Builders Association’s commitment to building better communities through environmental responsibility

Providing information and education to enhance the capacity of our design and building professionals to employ effective technologies, products, and practices to achieve the standard

Actively promoting the features and benefits of these practices to homebuyers, making BUILT GREEN™ the preferred consumer standard.

E-Cycle Washington is a new program that provides responsible recycling of computers, monitors and TVs in our state. As of January 2009, electronics manufacturers in Washington will take responsibility for recycling these products.

Recycling is provided free of charge to households, small businesses, school districts, small governments and charities at authorized collection sites.

 Tacoma Power

From the fish in the streams to the kids in our schools – environmental stewardship is an important part of what we do at Tacoma Power.

Learn about our:

Formerly Pioneer organics, Spud is an online grocer that focuses on local and organic products.  The website makes it easy to research the food that you are buying and the farms and companies that produce them.  Anything that is produced in the NW is marked “local” and there are links to all of the company web pages.  Though the prices are more then conventional non-organics, I found them to be competitive with Marlene’s and often better the Metropolitan Market.  I just placed my first order and was really excited about the prospect of shopping for the bulk of my groceries online.  Delivery is free on orders over $35 orders. There is, however, a deposit on delivery bins (somewhere around $8, I think).  save $25 spread over the first 3 orders by using the promo code Local 9.

Conserving Resources: Grey Water Recycling

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

Fall is upon us.  This time of year as the air grows colder, we are easily reminded that our homes may not be as energy efficient as we would like.  This fall we will be discussing the many ways to male our homes and lives more effiecient and less wasteful .


As those of you who were at our January “green Resolutions” meeting know, one of my goals this year was to start reusing our grey water in the yard.  Well, summer  has passed and I am no closer then I was then at this time last year.  For anyone else out there who has also thought about committing to conserving water while beautifying your surroundings, I hope that you will find this information helpful.  This makes a great fall or winter project.   When you are itching to get back into the garden, but it still or too early (or too late )to do anything worthwhile – this is a great way to prepare for the Spring and Summer.  When the time comes for planting, and water , we will already have a system in place.  So here are some basics that I have found.  Please comment with your ideas, questions, or plans.


What is greywater? 

Greywater is the water that goes down plug 

holes inside the house. This is distinct from 

the ‘brown’ or ‘black’ water from toilet 

flushing and the storm water that flows off 

rooftops and streets into gutters and storm 

water drains.   


Kitchen waste water is generally not 

recommended for reuse as it tends to 

contain high levels of fats, food residue 

and other contaminants, which can 

block plumbing and cause odours. 


Bathroom greywater is sometimes used 

on gardens provided it is not heavily 

tainted with soap, bubble bath and other 

toiletries. However, bathroom plumbing 

can be difficult to access in order to set 

up greywater diversion systems. 


Laundry water is most commonly 

reused on gardens. Raised laundry 

sinks make pipes accessible and allow 

gravity to help the water flow into the 

garden. The use of eco-friendly laundry 

powders, ensures that the greywater has 

relatively low chemical content, 

protecting the health of the garden. 



An average of 45,668 gallons (per 3 person household) of grey water is wasted down the drain each year.  Reusing this water reduces the amount of freshwater that gets drawn upon.  Utilizing grey water also decreases energy consumption. A substantial amount of energy is expended to pump and treat the water for our use.  The power used to supply Americans a year’s worth of water is equivalent to the amount needed to supply 4.5 million homes with energy for a year.   Reducing pollution is yet another benefit.  Pollutants in grey water are redirected away from streams, rivers, and lakes.  While substances found in grey water can do damage to aquatic life, when used to irrigate soil breaks down these would be pollutants and transforms them into nutrients for the plants.  BENEFITS for Your Wallet: Some states offer tax credits for installing gray water systems.  Be sure to look into it prior to installation because some states require an application before the system is put in.  There is also savings from the reduction in your water use. Depending on the system you opt for though, the total savings may not offset your expenses.  BENEFITS for Your Plants: Grey water may contain detergents with nitrogen and phosphate and can be beneficial to your plants.  In addition, if you use a subsurface irrigation system (required in California), it forces plant roots to reach downward to obtain water making them stronger.  For those of you in areas prone to droughts, the availability of grey water can be a lifesaver for your plants. Cost: VariableThere are do-it-yourself options that can be fairly cheap, but as far as having a system installed they are almost all upwards of $1000.  In addition, there may be maintenance and water treatment costs.  Time and Effort: HighLaws regarding the reuse of grey water can vary from state-to-state, county-to-county, and city-to-city, so finding out what is applicable in your area may take a bit of research.  Once you determine the codes you must abide by, planning and installing will take additional time and effort.  Here is a good website site to start with regards to grey water policy: Installing a Grey Water SystemThings to ConsiderLegal issues: The reuse of grey water is prohibited in some states.  Find out its status in your state before investing time and money in planning a system.Health and Hygiene Issues: Although there has yet to be health issues associated with the use of grey water in the U.S, there are still some general precautions that should be taken.    All contact with it should be avoided as it can contain microorganisms, chemical contaminants, and physical contaminants.  Avoid surface contact with plants and with edible roots.  Do not irrigate using a sprinkler system or in sloping areas that can lead to runoff.  If someone in your household is suffering from an infectious disease discontinue the reuse of grey water.  Storing untreated grey water beyond 24 hours can lead to bacterial growth, don’t do it.Complexity of Your System: It is important to determine the best system based on the set up of your home and the way you use your water.  This is where some professional consulting can come in handy.  Systems vary from the storage of water from the washing machine in a barrel to dual-piping systems throughout the house leading to a filtration system and holding tank.  How will you reuse the water: While most gray water is reused for irrigation purposes, if the water is treated it can also be used indoors for flushing toilets.  This can make a huge difference when you consider that at 30%, toilets use the most water in the home.  There are some issues of debate as to whether setting up a system and using chemicals to treat grey water would do more environmental harm than good in the reusing of water.  Switching to a high efficiency toilet may be a better investment.  Other issues: Not all plants can be watered with grey water nor can all soils handle it.  You can locate a list of plants that are grey water intolerant and ones that may be able to tolerate grey water.  Because what goes down your drains is being reused, be sure to select more eco-friendly cleaners and detergents.  Try to find low sodium products because too much sodium can be fatal for plants.    


(taken from