Don’t Fear These Halloween Ideas

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Don’t Fear These Halloween Ideas

The decorations.  The costumes.  The candy.  The haunted houses.  Halloween is the best holiday of the year – and that’s an objective fact.

Personally, I’ve been a long-time fan of home made costumes over those bought from a store.  Something about putting your creativity to work just makes a disguise all the better, whether you’re a master crafter or just someone who threw some paint on an old T-shirt.  But is your Halloween costume really water conscious?

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The average store-bought Halloween costume is made of cheap materials, meant to be worn once and then thrown away.    Think plastic (24 gallons of water for every pound) nylon (we couldn’t find a number, but it’s not good) and polyester (about 830 gallons per pound).   Even if some of those items may not sound water-intensive in and of themselves, do you really want to leave that footprint for one night of revelry?

But let’s delve into our creative side a bit and assume you’re making your own Halloween costume.  If you’re the crafty sort, you might break out the sewing machine and some scrap cloth.  250 grams of cotton (i.e. about a shirt’s worth) require 2,495 liters – that’s worse than the polyester listed above.    A pound of wool requires 101 gallons of water    All in all you may be better harvesting fabric you already own (like old sheets or ripped or stained clothes you can’t donate) rather than buy new.

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And that leaves those of us who want to get creative but have two left thumbs when it comes to fashion.  (Don’t feel bad – I’m in that category with you.)  The good news about re-purposing existing clothing is that it has very low virtual water impact – shop used or raid your own closet to turn that striped shirt into a mime outfit  or your old red skirt and white T-shirt can transform you into a gumball machine

Of course, there’s more to the perfect Halloween costume than your threads.  We’ve touched base before on the virtual water impact of your makeup.   Aiming for colored contacts or false nails?  Both are made of plastic, and have the footprint listed above.  Wig?  Unless it’s a high-end wig made of human hair or horse hair, it too is plastic

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There’s enough spooks and thrills in the Halloween season – you don’t need to be afraid of your costume’s water use on top of everything else.

Are you wearing an extra green costume or is there some key tip we missed?  Share your thoughts in the comments or reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter!

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Fall Into Water Savings

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Fall Into Water Savings

Believe it or not, the first day of fall was last week.  You may not be thinking about your lawn now, but mid-fall is actually the perfect time of year to convert from a grassy lawn to a drought-tolerant one. 

Why should you convert?  The answer is simple.  The drought isn’t over yet.  Even if it were, Los Angeles imports the majority of its water from hundreds of miles away, meaning all the water we use in our city impacts people we’ve never met, but who also rely on that water to survive.  If that’s not a reason to save the drop, I don’t know what is.

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What does a drought tolerant lawn look like?  Lucky for you, it’s not all desert-scapes and cacti.  You may be surprised to find that drought tolerant plants include lavender, sage, and poppies.  And sure, not all drought tolerant plants are succulents, but don’t let yourself believe succulents can’t be beautiful.  I’m personally partial to aloe for its medicinal properties, but there are plenty of other water-wise options. 

Want to go the extra mile on an eco-friendly lawn?  Choose low-water plants that are also edible, so you can also save on the virtual water footprint of your food (not to mention your grocery bill.)  Low-water common garden fruits and veggies include tomatoes, eggplant, strawberries, and raspberries

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This is also a good time to think about installing a grey water system.  There’s nothing so relaxing as soaking in a nice warm bubble bath, but our water-conscious readers know baths use an average of 35 to 50 gallons of water.  You could justify an occasional soak by putting your bath water to work, and adjusting your plumbing to drain into your yard.  That, my friends is greywater.  Unfortunately, grass doesn’t flourish with greywater systems, so you’ll still be tearing out that lawn in favor of honeysuckle, roses, and oaks

Grass may be synonymous with summer, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think of your lawn needs in autumn.  In fact, with the turning of the season, nothing is more thematically appropriate than changing out your yard’s flora.

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Our Favorite Things: LA’s Water Sources (And How to Get Involved)

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Our Favorite Things: LA’s Water Sources (And How to Get Involved)

Imagine, for a moment, that you lived in this city in 1913.  Many things would have been different.  Los Angeles only had a population of about 100,000.   The city received all the water it needed from the Los Angeles River

Today, with a population around 4 million people, a single water source isn’t going to cut it.  The Los Angeles Aqueduct was the first attempt for the City of Angels to import water from far away, but since then we’ve also taken water from the California Aqueduct and the Colorado River

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Let’s begin by looking at the LA River.  Decades ago, out of fear of flooding, the city lined the bottom of the water with concrete in order to steer the water away from peoples’ homes and toward the ocean.  Like many engineering projects born of hubris, the concrete channeling created more problems than it solved, and now several groups have begun the slow work of returning the river to its natural state.  You can support those groups and also experience the beauty of a natural Los Angeles River by booking a paddling tour

The California Aqueduct has held a prominent place in the news in recent years due to the many controversies surrounding its management.  Whether we’re debating preserving the Delta Smelt or building tunnels to direct more water south, feelings about the water source to the west of the Sierra Nevadas run strong.  Bypass the second-hand information and check out the California Aqueduct itself by taking a guided kayak wildlife tour to see all the plants and animals that rely on your drinking water before it reaches the city

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The Colorado River’s most famous outdoors destination is certainly the Grand Canyon.  The downside is that like the river itself, this national park destination is ecologically threatened.  Being famous for your beauty can be a curse.

Instead of the Grand Canyon, visit the Colorado River’s terminus in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.  For years, due to over-diverting, the river dried well before it reached its natural endpoint.   Thanks to restoration efforts, now the river touches the sea once more, a reminder of the victory that comes with ecological vigilance.

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New Urbanism and What It Means for The Longest Straw’s Premier

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New Urbanism and What It Means for The Longest Straw’s Premier

Urbanism?  Based on the word’s root, you know it has something to do with cities.  But what, exactly?  And how about when it’s new?

Well, urbanism is a study of both people and their environments in studies.  It’s a broad topic, but becomes a bit more specific when you look at the principles of new urbanism: an exploration of city design with an eye toward sustainability.

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Our movie is a perfect fit with the concepts of new urbanism.  The technical complexity of the Los Angeles Aqueduct wouldn’t be possible in a small town, and the competing values of a city’s need for water, a state’s need not to export those water resources, and the humans who will be impacted on both sides of the equation all speak to the core of the new urbanism movement.

That’s why our movie is such a perfect fit for the New Urbanism Film Festival.    In late October, this festival comes to Los Angeles with a variety of movies focusing on sustainable city planning and development.  And on October 21 at noon, you can see the premier of The Longest Straw on the big screen at 135 North La Brea Ave.   Get your tickets now!

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Of course, it’s an honor to be featured in any festival, but we’re particularly thrilled to be featured in one that reflects our own values and message so closely.

So come on out.  Be sure to check out our screening, and while you’re around sit in on some other movies, panels, and environmental activities as well.

See you on the big screen!

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The Drought Is Over: All Hail the Drought

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The Drought Is Over: All Hail the Drought

Quick: pop quiz: is California currently in a state of drought?

If you answered “no,” then you’re right.  As of April, the drought emergency that mired the state was over, and even before the official proclamation many news organizations had already declared an end.  And yes, that was three different links.

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If you answered “yes,” that we’re still in a drought, you’re also right.  The California Drought Monitor still lists about 8% of the state in a drought, has done so pretty consistently for most of the calendar year.

So which is it?

First, let’s begin with every pedant’s favorite tool: a definition.  And for climate debates, we’re not going to go with your standard dictionary definition, but instead, look at the National Oceans and Atmospheric Association’s definition: drought is a shortage of water that is evident, impacts agricultural crops, and impacts communities that rely on that water. 

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Pretty vague, right?  And that also explains why we get so much conflicting information about whether or not California is in a state of drought.  Our reservoirs and lakes are in many cases still low, and many communities still suffer from water shortages.   So in the midst of engorged rivers and flooding, we can still somewhat meet the definition of a drought-stricken state.

Drought or not, we need to think seriously about California’s water future.  A growing population will soon exceed what we can provide in all but the years of most plentiful rainfall. And worst of all, with climate change an ever looming threat, we can anticipate less rainfall and more evaporation that will exacerbate these shortages.

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The best steps you can do?  Keep conserving.  And if you want something more definite than that, keep checking back every week (plus you can follow our Facebook and Twitter feeds) for the best water conservation tips.

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State or Federal – Nothing Beats a Park

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State or Federal – Nothing Beats a Park

Even as early as the nineteenth century, people understood that if they didn’t take action to preserve natural spaces, those spaces would become a lot less natural as they succumbed to development, settlement, and resource exploitation.  President Grant was the first president – not just in the United States, but in the world – to recognize a national park when Yellowstone National Park was threatened by developers. 

Parks and wilderness areas can be valuable to everyone.  Whether you’re a hardcore backpacker looking for an undeveloped patch of land in which to sleep or a day-camper who wants a light stroll and a picnic, there are few opportunities better than a park or wilderness area to get in touch with nature.

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Parks, forests, wildernesses, and recreation areas – you might need to keep Wikipedia on-hand just to know the difference between the different wild options you have to visit.  But our nationally- and state-protected lands are rife with natural claims to fame, from the largest tree in the world to the deepest lake in the US.  And Californians, you’re in luck, because we have the most national parks of any state except Alaska, with which we are tied.

Like any other natural resource, though, parks and wilderness areas need our help.  While they may be Federally protected, the government can’t prevent graffiti, poor camping etiquette, and the general wear and tear that comes from high-volume usage. 

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What can you do to preserve our natural spaces?  First, be aware of proper behavior when hiking and camping.  Different wilderness areas have different policies regarding fires and waste disposals.  When hiking, stay on-trail and don’t tread the plants growing in native areas.  And no matter how cute they look, don’t feed or pet the wild animals

If you just follow the rules above, you can reduce the degree to which you damage our parks and wilderness areas.  Want to do more, though?  You can always donate or volunteer to push your contribution from “neutral” to “positive.”

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You can’t love that which you don’t know, so nature lovers around the world should see the value in getting outside in natural areas.  Do you have a favorite park or wilderness area?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Among the Weed(s)

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Among the Weed(s)

Years ago, we wrote a blog post that could be characterized as salacious.  We’ve covered the virtual water footprint of your food, your clothes, your “adult beverages,” and other modern conveniences.  So what of some peoples’ extra-legal hobbies?

Since that post went live, marijuana in California has been legalized for recreational use.  And so, we return to this topic to explore the question: to the teetotaler who never smoked the illegal drug, what are the ecological costs and benefits associated with giving it a whirl now that it’s legal?

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The key to legalization is regulation of marijuana production.  If an illegal growing operation must hide its crops, it can’t be held to water use restrictions.    So now that weed is legal in California, is there more of an effort to keep production green?

In fact, now that marijuana growers in California can go legit, and even those who were once under-the-radar support measures to permit and regulate the industry.    Prior to legalization, 70% of all weed grown in the state was done so illegally, and since marijuana requires double the water of grapes, finding ways to reduce that footprint can mean major water savings.  Colorado, another state with legalized marijuana, is already pioneering low-water growing methods. 

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A final consideration comes down to how it’s consumed.  If you tend toward edibles, spare a thought for what you’re eating.  This is where knowledge of your food’s virtual water footprint comes in handy.  Brownies use chocolate with a whopping footprint of 17,196 liters per kg, whereas a product like gummy bears is far more eco-friendly. 

As with any other drug, be it legal or illegal, medicinal or recreational, we strongly urge our readers to consider the impacts of usage before partaking.  Where appropriate, consult a doctor.  That said, California’s now a green state in more ways than one, so think green if you decide to light up.

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Party the Green Way

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Party the Green Way

Summer is waning, which means it’s the last chance to call up your friends, fire up the grill, and enjoy a guilt-free dip in the pool before it’s back to autumn and responsibility.

Or maybe you’re a student, and you’re looking down the barrel of a school year filled with epic nights drinking and making bad decisions (but not too bad) with friends and classmates.

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Whatever your attitude toward partying, one fact is true: your party offerings can make or break your get-together.  If you want to be the talk of the town, you need the right booze, the right foods, and the right activities.  With stakes so high, is there really room to think about conservation?

In a word, yes.  Making green choices at your next get-together will at worst go unnoticed and at best earn you major brownie points among your other eco-minded friends.  Putting out recycle bins for discarded soda or beer  or serving food on reusable plates can mean big savings for our natural resources.

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Give an extra thought to what you serve, too.  We’ve covered extensively the ways that a diet low in animal products is infinitely greener than a vegetarian one, but if you feel you must serve meat, remember that chicken has less virtual water than beef or pork, fresh or un-processed foods are greener than processed, and chocolate or cheese, while delicious, are like poison for water conservation.

And whatever you do, avoid straws

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It’s a season for celebrating.  Trust us: we know, with a premier date coming soon.  So get your groove on, throw back and relax, and just make a few minor changes to your party style to ensure that your soiree will both be a party for the ages and also preserve our planet for the ages to come.

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Our Favorite Things: The Crew’s Passion Projects

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Our Favorite Things: The Crew’s Passion Projects

The Longest Straw could never have been possible if our crew hadn’t been utterly devoted to making the movie happen.  After all, the production process was grueling, time-consuming, and expensive.  Nobody finishes a documentary unless they’re passionate about getting movies made!

And passionate our entire crew was.  So passionate, in fact, that many members of our production crew have made other documentaries and creative projects outside of The Longest Straw.

Samantha Bode, the director, apparently didn’t get her fill of filming epic journeys after her nearly 400 mile hike up the Longest Straw, because she’s now part of Yukon Calling.  This summer, she’s canoeing the length of the Yukon River – and you’ll see a video eventually, but not until after ours is released!

Producer Angela Jorgensen has written several web videos, the most recent of which include four episodes for the conspiracy-themed animated comedy web series The Lizardmen

Cameraman Ian Midgley was no stranger to documentary production when he joined the crew at The Longest Straw, especially since he’s shot, directed, and produced a documentary all his own called Reversing the Mississippi.  Ian explores alternate lifestyles with a distinctly American flavor in this PBS-airing movie.

We also had a camera woman for many of our shoots, Angela Wood, who shot the video series 2 Guys Named Ben.  The series follows, well, two guys named Ben who travel and explore the Bluegrass scene – what is it about our crew and travelogues?

We promise – The Longest Straw will be released very soon.  But if you’re feeling impatient in the meanwhile, check out the amazing work the rest of our crew has done.

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Eating Green When Eating Out

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Eating Green When Eating Out

This is restaurant season.  When I’ve got the air conditioner cranked, the last thing I want to do is heat the house back up again by turning on the oven.  Add the fact that I’m outside more, taking more weekend trips, and the reality of eating at restaurants is omnipresent in summer.

We’ve covered before that quite a few restaurants can be absolutely terrible in terms of the eco-impact of their menu items.  But we’re all going to go out to eat every now and then.  How can we go green when we’re out?

If you’re staying relatively local – say, still in the state of California, plenty of restaurants have already accommodated for our green leanings.  What if you’re travelling outside California, though?

Several restaurant chains have already committed to making sustainable choices regardless of geography.  Familiar favorites like In-N-Out, Starbucks, Souplantation, and Chipotle will provide you with tasty food while keeping their footprint as small as possible.

If chains aren’t your thing and you’re looking to expand your horizons when you go out, check for LEED certification on the building.   Another international organization that can serve as a guide both in the USA and abroad is the Sustainable Restaurant Group, which includes a list of member restaurants on their website.

Other signs that your favorite restaurant is eco-conscious?  They won’t serve water until you request it, they’ll use cloth napkins, and the bathrooms have hands-free dryers. 

Like most sustainable practices, you can make the best choices if you’re willing to do a bit of research in advance.  Whether it means keeping a list of go-to places or planning your stops during a trip, the Internet is full of guides to help you identify restaurants that are serving green food while conserving.

And if that seems like too much work for you, just memorize this list of seven green fast-food items.

If you are what you eat, then be water-wise with your restaurant choices.

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Another Scorcher

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Another Scorcher

I used to make the same joke over and over again after I moved to Los Angeles: “I’m from Iowa, and we have this weird thing called seasons…”

Given that it’s always sunny in Los Angeles, that the city almost never sees snow and rarely receives rain, one might naturally assume that the City of Angels exists in a perpetual state of summer.  That presumption would be wrong.  Based on my own experiences of living in the city for almost a decade, I can safely say that LA still has four seasons, but those seasons are non-traditional.  The seasons are:

·         The rainy season

·         The sunny season

·         The oh-God-why-is-it-so-hot season

·         The slightly cooler than the rest of the year season

Bad news for Angelenos: August marks the start of oh-God-why-is-it-so-hot.

Are you still reading?  Your computer hasn’t melted yet?  That’s good, because there’s more bad news.  Bad enough to live with triple-digit weather that assaults you the moment you step outdoors, but for the past several years, LA has consistently set record-high temperatures

Sure, you may think.  But it’s a dry heat.  I’ll admit, I wouldn’t trade the humidity I grew up with for a nice liquid-less dew content, but humidity or not, 111 degree days are no good no matter what the other conditions are.

And it looks like things will only get worse.  While some may still try to deny the existence of climate change, global warming is no longer a hypothetical up for debate.  It’s here.  Temperatures have steadily climbed, the California coast line has already begun to erode, and while the drought may technically be over, most agree that the next one may be around the corner.

So stay cool.  Drink plenty of liquids, keep to the shade, and stay safe.  That’s not just temporary advice for the occasional 113 degree day – it’s soon going to be a part of everyone’s lifestyle year-round.

On the upside, our planet isn’t quite yet doomed.  But the time is past for debating.  Conserve today.  Tomorrow will be too late.

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How to Talk About Our Planet

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How to Talk About Our Planet

If you follow politics, or the news, than you know that the last few months have held blow after blow for the climate.  From pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement to encouraging coal while ending green energy plans to denying human-caused climate change, our country’s leaders seem outright hostile to the concept of living sustainably.

We can still make conservation-wise decisions at home, of course.  Keeping the lights off and using rain barrels aren’t illegal, after all.  But when our personal sustainable choices are offset by unregulated industry and wasteful governments, a truly sustainable lifestyle means speaking up for the earth’s needs.  Maybe you don’t see yourself as an activist.  Maybe you don’t know what to do.  Well, here’s our guide to showing our legislators that you want a more sustainable environmental policy.

One of the quickest and most effective ways to reach your representative is to call him or her.  You can look up the contact information for whomever represents you based on your zip code online, or call Congress directly at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected directly with your representative.  You can sign up online for various groups that will provide you with scripts for different issues, and be sure to check out these tips from a Congressional staffer.

Where does the term “representative” come from anyway?  Well, our leaders are meant to represent all our constituents, and by encouraging more people to voice their concerns, we can apply greater pressure on our representatives.  Tweet about the issues you care about.  Post it on Facebook.  Be that person at a party who brings up politics. 

Are we being melodramatic ?  It’s possible, but people far more knowledgeable than us have already said that the effects of climate change may have already passed a threshold where they are irreversible.  We’re already seeing major changes in Florida and along the California coastline.    And droughts that marked our last five years have the potential to become the new norm

Sound good?  I don’t think so, either.  So let’s all stand up and speak for our planet before it’s too late.

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Summer in Los Angeles

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Summer in Los Angeles

I grew up in Iowa, where summer weather pretty consistently began in late May or early June and persisted until mid-September.  The worst heat and humidity would begin right as summer ended, as my favorite shows wrapped up their seasons, and just when local clothing stores would begin putting out their swimwear and short shorts.

Los Angeles seems to be on its own clock.  The famously sunny city doesn’t have a winter to speak of, and barely has a spring or fall.  It would seem, if it’s summer all-year-round, that the concept of seasons would become irrelevant in LA.  Then, beginning in late August, you get that first 120-degree day…

Summer seems to start in this city right when it’s wrapping up in the rest of the country.  And no matter how much you may love the sun’s warm rays, nobody wants to risk the hyperthermia that threatens when the air rises into three-digit temperatures.

So while our “summer” months have seemed mild thus far, the real threat of the LA summer is just arriving.  For me, at least, the looming, pummeling heat brings with it a sense of dread.  Life in Los Angeles is like the inverse of the Game of Thrones universe.  Summer is coming, and that threat ought to chill you to your core, because that chill will be the only heat relief you’ll get for a while.

Worst of all, summer in Los Angeles can be anathema to conservation efforts.  With no hint of rainfall, sprinklers will activate on a regular basis.  Air conditioners will run through the hottest spikes of mid-day.  Water usage goes up

That’s why now is the time to prepare.  Invest in a nice, sturdy basin big enough to stand in and build the habit of collecting your shower water and re-using it in your garden.  Install a greywater system.  Put a brick in your toilet tank. 

Summer is coming.  Don’t leave your city parched.

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Our Favorite Things: Parks Along the Aqueduct

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Our Favorite Things: Parks Along the Aqueduct

Years ago in the stone ages, before Sam and her crew took their 338 mile hike up the aqueduct, we found ourselves faced with a conundrum.  We wanted our journey to be a backpacking journey, with camping and tents and hiking trails.  But as the aqueduct wound through private lands, where could we camp?

As it turns out, we didn’t need to worry at all.  The aqueduct passes through numerous state and federal parks and forests, meaning the journey rarely left Sam without a place to sleep.  In fact, the path is roughly parallel to the Pacific Crest Trail, and Sam’s camping worries evaporated as she walked a path dotted with BLM land and even several formal camp sites.

Let’s start with an easy one: Yosemite National Park.  Mono Lake sits just outside the sleepy town of Lee Vining, which in turn marks the turnoff for the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park.  If you’re taking the 395 in to see one of California’s most beautiful sites that Teddy Roosevelt once described as a "solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hands of man,” you can look to the right as you drive as spot Mono Lake. 

Ever heard of Sequoia National Park or Sequoia National Forest?  Just south of Yosemite, these naturally protected spaces are known for their towering redwoods, including the world’s largest tree by volume.    While the aqueduct doesn’t actually pass through the Sequoia National Park or Forest, it runs along their eastern borders.

If you’re an avid camper, you probably already know that both Yosemite and Sequoia are pretty far north, and a visit to these parks means a several-hours-long road trip.  Ever wish there were a forest closer to Los Angeles that just for good measure featured the LA Aqueduct?  Lucky for you, there is!  Sam spent the better part of her first week on-trail passing through the Angeles National Forest, a wilderness area so close, you can actually walk to it from within Santa Clarita city limits!  (As for whether you’d want to make that walk, well, that’s up to you.)

One of the greatest benefits to living in Southern California is our abundance of state and national forests and parks, meaning we’re never at a loss for camping destinations.  Naturally it makes sense that this blend of urban and wilderness would express itself through our water importation system as well.  So next time you have glass of cool, refreshing tap water, remember that you’re partaking of a wild area’s ecosystem.

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Having An Explosive Independence Day

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Having An Explosive Independence Day

There is one (and only one) tradition that is inherently synonymous with Independence Day.  Sure, there may be barbecues, re-enactments, and beach trips, but that’s not really what leaps to mind when you think of the Fourth of July, is it?  No, it’s the fireworks.

Nothing lights up a balmy summer night quite like a controlled explosive whether it’s a hand-held sparkler or a full-on professional light show.  However, as a child, I always felt a sense of unease after a grand fireworks spectacle, and it wasn’t only because of the loud noise and bright lights.  After the sound and the fury has concluded, there’s always a haze that lingers in the air.  So what is the ecological impact of fireworks?

As it turns out, I’m not the only one concerned about that smoke that remains after the fireworks go off.  While the air pollution from fireworks constitutes only about 0.01% of the world’s air pollution, actually – holy cow.  Given that fireworks are far from an every-day occurrence, 0.01% is kind of a big deal.

Of course, we’re not an air pollution blog, we’re a water conservation blog, and the news is bad on that front, too.  After all that pollution leaves the air, it has to drift somewhere.  Sometimes, pollutants known as perchlorate can drift into open water, but more often, they settle into the land and then get washed into waterways with rain storms.

Even the manufacture of fireworks can leave something to be desired.  Fireworks’s main active ingredient is gunpowder, which in turn is made of sulfur, charcoal, and saltpeter.  All of these are naturally occurring elements, but the manufacturing process that combines these minerals into fireworks leaves something to be desired

We all get a little patriotic thrill when we see that rocket’s red glare, but this Independence Day, spare a thought for the other great group you’re a member of- humanity – and make some water-wise decisions.

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Beautiful Inside and Out: How to Practice Water-Wise Skin-Care

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Beautiful Inside and Out: How to Practice Water-Wise Skin-Care

I’ve had severe eczema ever since I was a baby.  After my parents dragged me to countless dermatologists, numerous experts assured them that while I would suffer as a young child, by the time I was an adult I’d have grown out of it.  Well, here I am, as an adult, and I still must live with my skin condition.

Striking a balance between a medical need to moisturize and a desire to be ecologically sound can be difficult.  The upside is that most heavily processed items are both bad for you and bad for the planet, so eliminating the majority of cleansers, make-up, and treatments from your daily routine will make for a double-win.

So what are some natural products that sooth your skin without scarring the earth?

I recently discovered the joys of coconut oil.  It’s naturally packed with vitamins that are easily absorbable through your skin, but what is the ecological impact?  Coconut oil is just what it says on the tin, made from coconut husks  and only needs 538 gallons of water to produce. 

Other natural oils include avocado oil and cocoa butter.  Avocados are very virtual water friendly, needing about 43 gallons per fruit but coming in much more sustainable when imported from their native environment, Mexico.  Coco butter, meanwhile, comes from the same plant that produces chocolate: a high virtual water crop.    Your best bet is to stay away from that product.

There’s more to skin-care than applying oil, however.  Low virtual-footprint products like the aforementioned coconut oil and honey (no virtual water footprint) can replace soaps and make-up removers to help you keep your face healthy and clean.  Just stay away from water-guzzling olive oil

Do you feel like you can’t leave home without makeup?  We’ve got you covered there, too.

Whether you have a clinical condition or you just want to cultivate your naturally healthy glow, caring for your skin and being water-wise don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

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The Planet Doesn’t Get a Vacation

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The Planet Doesn’t Get a Vacation

It’s about that time again: the sun is shining, the beach beckons, and school’s out.  That must mean it’s time to plan your family vacation!

Vacationing can be… let’s say resource intensive.  There’s the money you spend on gas and hotel stays and souvenirs.  There’s the diet that falls by the wayside when you’re eating out for every meal – and the extra pounds you can expect to put on.  And let’s not ignore that travelling often means drinking out of plastic bottles, burning fuel, and engaging in other behaviors that will break our conservation trends we follow the rest of the year.

The alternative?  Do a little advance planning to keep your vacation water-wise.

For example, let’s tackle the whole bottled-water thing.  If you’re road-tripping, you don’t always have ready access to a tap or a water faucet, which usually means you have to rely on bottled drinks to keep yourself hydrated.  That said, there’s nothing preventing you from bringing a re-usable bottle from home and re-filling with tap water or fountain drinks, saving you about half a liter per refill. 

Haven’t selected a destination yet?  Some green-thinking cities will help you easily conserve without adding one more worry to your down-time.  If your destination isn’t on this list, look for hotels that will allow you to re-use towels between washes.

Then there’s what you do during your trip.  Most major cities have extensive public transit systems that will get you to their main tourist destinations – not only do you save on gas, but you also avoid the hassle of navigating and parking in an unfamiliar town.  More and more destinations also offer municipal bike rentals.  And let’s not forget the simple pleasures of a nice, long walk.

Finally, let’s talk your travel plans.  Cruise ships might sound like a lot of fun, but their carbon footprint is virtually unregulated when they’re in international waters.  Better just stick to road trips and flights.

Finally, the particularly eco-conscious traveler might want to consider ecotourism.  It may not be the same as sipping a tropical drink in a four-star resort, but studies show that altruism leads to more long-term positive feelings, meaning a week spent cultivating native plants in a distant forest may benefit you more than a more traditional rest & relaxation retreat anyway.

How do you like to live green on vacation?

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How The Department of Fish & Game Saved the Mono Basin

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How The Department of Fish & Game Saved the Mono Basin

When you turn on the tap, water comes out.  Can’t explain that.

Well, actually, we can.  Los Angeles imports its water from a variety of sources, one of which is the Los Angeles Aqueduct.  This aqueduct carries with it so much history, so much political unrest, and such wide-reaching ecological impacts that we could never hope to cover all of its nuances in a single blog post.  What we can, do, however, is make a feature-length documentary exploring many of those issues – The Longest Straw comes out this fall!

Even with ninety minutes of storytelling, however, we still can’t delve into all the issues there are to explore.  That’s why this week’s post conveys a bit of history that didn’t quite make it into our final cut.  Think of it as a text-only deleted scene.

First: the basics.  The Los Angeles Aqueduct originally ran from LA to the Owens River, but as the city expanded, it built two extensions, one of which stretched all the way to the Mono Basin.  As the aqueduct diverted water from the clear, drinkable freshwater streams of the region, the terminal lake they once fed began to dry up. 

Cue decades of lawsuits and negotiations as the Mono Lake Committee and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power tried to strike a balance between a metropolis’s need for drinking water and a unique ecosystem’s need for pristine snowmelt.

1984 was an unusually wet year for the state of California, a year that brought amble flooding with it.  As the usually dry-from-diversions streams of the Mono Basin refilled, a few enterprising fishers stocked game fish in the local creeks.

When the rain stopped, the Department of Fish & Game found they had something in common with the Mono Lake Committee: a desire to save the waterways.  In their case, the law stated that sport fishing waterways had to be maintained so that they were healthy for the fish.

Cue a joint effort to require the Department of Water and Power to maintain the streams of the Mono Basin.  These creeks needed minimal water flow, and with that water came plant and animal life and the hard work of restoration was begun.

When you think of preserving a local ecosystem, is your first thought “let’s check legislation on sports that were only possible because of fluke weather events?”  Probably not.  But that’s the real beauty of the LA Aqueduct: its history is riddled with chance alliances and symbiotic relationships.  Water is a right to everyone, and you never know who will join you to preserve it.

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Our Favorite Things: Cities Taking Charge

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Our Favorite Things: Cities Taking Charge

We’re all in this together.  Our blog tends to focus on personal, individual steps we can all take to save water, and that’s because it’s individuals who read us.  As private citizens, each of us plays a role in creating and impacting our world and our environment and it’s good to acknowledge our responsibility.

But sometimes, a few individuals acting independently can’t make enough of an impact to really change a major problem.  That’s where our governments come in, and say what you will about the dangers of bureaucracy, here are some municipalities that are really getting it right when it comes to water management.

San Francisco has been turning heads with their just-barely-safe-for-work ad campaign that makes water conservation sexy.  At the end of the day, it’s up to individuals to decide when (and whether) to turn off the tap, but this PR move might just make saving water the sort of thing people want to do.

We’ve long advocated for turning to more sustainable, local water sources like greywater and wastewater reclamation, and Tempe, Arizona shows how a desert city can not just survive, but thrive with the water resources available to it.

Texas may not be the first place you think of when you think of conservation, but they’re getting down and dirty with water reclamation – and we do mean dirty.  Not only is Houston recycling waste water, but they’re recycling wastewater from another city – Dallas, which sits upstream. 

Finally, we’ll wrap this post up with a little pat on our own shoulders.  Los Angeles may not be perfect, but it’s weathered its fair share of droughts, due in no small part to our rebates on low-flow fixtures, irrigation restrictions, and other efforts to save the drop.    LA loves its water, and not just because we’re close to the beach – we all have come to recognize that without water, there is no life.

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Grow Your Garden with Virtual Water In Mind

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Grow Your Garden with Virtual Water In Mind

You wouldn’t believe it, given how hot it’s been lately, but you’re not too late to plant for a harvest this year.  A few well-chosen seeds now will mean fresh, local, pesticide-free produce on your table come early autumn.

Of course, if there’s one takeaway from California’s water woes of the past few years, it’s that we need to be forward-thinking with our water use, lest another multi-year drought hit us again (and trust me, one will.)  So when it comes to selecting what to plant in your garden, there’s more to consider than just what makes your mouth water.

For a truly eco-friendly garden, look to natives.  Their benefit is self-evident: these plants evolved in southern California’s climate, so of course they’re well adapted to Los Angeles weather.  Onions, celery, fennel, and lettuce are all LA natives in case you want to make a salad.  Even some plants that typically get dismissed as weeds are edible and possibly already growing in your yard. 

Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself only to California natives to have a virtual water friendly garden.  Other plants have evolved to do well with limited watering, such as tomatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, and peppers. 

Gardens are about more than just food.  Whether you have a simple window box or a whole terraformed landscape in your yard, you can feel confident that you’re not contributing to water shortages when you plant poppies, sweet peas, and sage

One thing is clear: sunny Los Angeles with its rarely cloudy days may seem ideal in travel advertisements, and plenty of plants enjoy the blue skies, too.  So enjoy the yields of your hard work, and maybe send a tomato my way once it’s ripe.

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