Low-Water Lawn and Garden Ideas

According to the EPA, outdoor water use can account for as much as 60 percent of total household water use in arid regions. Do you want to replace your high-maintenance, water-thirsty lawn, but aren’t sure where to get started? You can use drought-tolerant plants or plant-free lawn options to save on water and lawn care.

Drought-Tolerant Plants

Create a lawn with drought-tolerant plants native to California. This low-water option will keep greenery in your yard while benefiting the environment, because plants help the soil absorb and hold more water while preventing erosion. They also reduce the heat your yard creates from reflecting sunlight. Native plant species in particular promote the health of local bee populations.

Want to try it? You can stick to grasses that look like your typical sod, such as the native California bent grass or Native Mow Free, a trademarked California grass. You can also search the California Native Plant Society’s map for native plants suited to your area.

Succulents and ornamental, drought-tolerant grasses are another way to add beauty without the extra water and maintenance. If you still want flowers, try planting native perennials that tend to be hardier and require less water, such as blanketflower, common yarrow, and a few varieties of sage.

Need more inspiration? Check out other Californians who have replaced their lawns in the State of California’s Reimagine Your Landscape. Worried about the extra work involved in replacing your grass? Don’t be! A study from the City of Santa Monica found that a native plant garden uses 83 percent less water and requires 68 percent less maintenance than a traditional lawn.

Plant-Free Lawn Options

Looking for a yard that’s entirely plant-free? Mulch is your greenest option, allowing water to absorb into the ground to replenish local aquifers. Its heating effect is neutral, and it also tends to be the most affordable.

Artificial turf, concrete, gravel and decomposed granite are other lawn alternatives that don’t require any water. However, they provide little to no benefit to local wildlife and contribute to the urban heat island effect, so it’s best to limit how widely you use them. Whereas gravel and decomposed granite both allow water to sink into the ground, most artificial turf and concrete products are not permeable, so they don’t allow water to replenish aquifers. However, by using a tiling pattern, you can create spaces in between these hard surfaces for water to seep through.

Do you already have turf grass and want to replace it? Visit SaveOurWater.com for information on how to get a rebate for replacing your turf grass with low-water or native plants.

More Water-Saving Tips

  • Collect rainwater in rain barrels and use it to irrigate your lawn and garden, cutting down on water bills and wasted runoff.
  • Create a dry creek bed made of smooth rocks. It will direct the flow of rainwater while creating a striking visual effect in your yard.
  • Terrace sloping areas of your yard or use small check dams to increase your yard’s water absorption.

To learn more about taking good care of our water supply, visit our Clean Water page.

4 Reasons to Kick That Plastic Water Bottle Habit

If you’re one of the millions of Americans still buying bottled water, don’t worry — now is the perfect time to kick that habit. Here are four reasons why:

1. In the U.S., bottled water is not subject to the same reporting standards as tap water. If you’re drinking bottled water because you think it’s safer, know that tap water has to be tested far more often than bottled water. Additionally, in most big cities, water facilities are required to filter and disinfect tap water, whereas bottled water is not required to be filtered or disinfected. If you’re not sure that your tap water is safe, you can look up your zip code in the Environmental Working Group’s Tap Water Database to find the local water report.

2. According to MoneyCrashers, bottled water is 600 times more expensive than tap water, on average. However, if you’re buying a 16.9 oz bottle for $1.00, you’re paying over 3,000 times what you’d pay for tap. Considering that a quarter of all bottled water is tap water anyway, that’s quite a markup.

3. Bottled water isn’t always tastier than tap water. In blind taste tests, tap water tends to trounce half or more of its bottled water competition.

4. Globally, about one million plastic bottles are bought every minute. Most of these plastic bottles end up in landfills or the ocean. Researchers have estimated that about 8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in our oceans every year, where it breaks down and enters the food chain and eventually our own bodies. Creating all those bottles also uses up a huge amount of energy, and produces toxic chemicals and greenhouse gases in the process.

Kicking your plastic water bottle habit won’t just be good for the planet, it’ll be good for you, too! It’s easy — just pick up a reusable bottle and fill it with tap.

What Is a Circular Economy?

A lot of folks these days are talking about shifting to a ‘circular economy.’ Not sure what that means? Watch this video from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation for a quick rundown.

New York City Tackles Wasteful Fashion With #WearNext Campaign

This spring, New York City is tackling waste created by the fashion industry with its #WearNext campaign. Between March 4 and June 9, over 1,100 locations in NYC are accepting clothing, textiles, shoes and accessories for reuse and recycling.

To help people get rid of their clothing more easily, the NYC Department of Sanitation created an online map of the sites where New Yorkers can take unwanted clothing. Participating residents are encouraged to share their stories on social media using the #WearNext hashtag.

The goal of the #WearNext campaign is to reduce how many clothes New Yorkers toss, and motivate them to repair, donate, swap or resell their clothes instead. New York City alone dumps roughly 200 million pounds of clothing into landfills each year. That’s more than the weight of 440 Statues of Liberty.

Globally, only one percent of old clothing is used to make new clothing. An estimated $500 billion dollars worth of clothing is lost to landfills or incineration every year, even though it is barely worn. Additionally, washing synthetic clothing releases more than half a million tons of plastic microfibers into the ocean every year. In other words, the equivalent of more than 50 billion plastic bottles enters our water supply and food chain, just from washing our clothes.

We can all help the fashion industry move towards a more sustainable model. How? Avoid fast fashion and find ways to repair, donate, swap or resell your clothes. You can also consider buying clothing secondhand instead of new. Check out our options for mail-in donations as well as our local donation locations.

How to Keep Your Graduation Gown Out of the Landfill

At the end of every spring is graduation time. Schools all over the country will send their fledglings out into the world or onto their next degree. Students are typically required to purchase their own cap and gown, even though chances are they’ll be worn just once before getting tossed.

This year alone, U.S. high schools expect 3.6 million students to graduate. That’s a lot of caps and gowns to make room for in our landfills.

So how can you avoid buying a graduation gown that will end up in the trash? Here are some tips:

  • Ask if your school has a cap and gown rental program. If you can rent your graduation attire, you won’t have to find a way to get rid of it after the ceremony!
  • If you’ve already bought a new cap and gown, see if you can donate them to your school after graduation. If your school doesn’t have a rental program, encourage them to start one. It’s a great way to avoid unnecessary waste, as well as a way to relieve students from the financial responsibility.
  • Give your cap and gown to a younger friend or sibling, or hang onto it until the following spring, when people will be looking, and post it on a local sales app such as Craigslist, Freecycle, Letgo or OfferUp. You could also try taking it to a local thrift store.
  • Try giving your graduation outfit to a daycare or preschool where kids could use it for playing dress-up, or a theater or drama club that could add it to their costume collection.

10 Surprising Things You Can’t Flush Down the Toilet

We all know what the toilet and its plumbing were designed for, but a lot of us can’t help it — sometimes other things seem like they can be flushed down the drain, too.

However, there can be a lot of unwanted consequences from flushing things down the drain that don’t belong. (Hint: most things don’t!)

First, there’s the expensive mess of an overflowing toilet and damaged pipes. If you don’t have to pay for the clogging, chances are that the City of Lincoln does.

Second, there’s the environmental hazard of adding foreign substances to our water supply. Whether they’re chemicals or plastic, water treatment plants aren’t equipped to filter out all of these substances, so they build up in our drinking water over time.

Skip the mess — and contaminating our drinking water — by keeping these common offenders out of the drain, whether it’s your toilet, a shower or a sink. Click on each one to learn the best way to dispose of it.

1. Medicine

2. “Flushable” Wipes

3. Paper Towels & Facial Tissue

4. Diapers

5. Hair

6. Cooking Oil & Grease

7. Cigarettes

8. Cleaning Products (including bleach)

9. Paint

10. Contact Lenses

The Most Commonly Littered Item? Cigarette Butts — And They’re Plastic

More cigarettes are littered than plastic bags, straws, bottles, wrappers or takeout packaging. They’re the most common type of litter on the planet. Why? Because many people find it socially acceptable to throw cigarette butts on the ground.

The Ocean Conservancy has been facilitating beach clean-ups since 1986. In the past 30+ years, they have collected over 60 million cigarette filters, making them the most common piece of ocean litter. In 2017 alone, cleanup volunteers collected 2.4 million butts.

It’s estimated that 5.6 trillion cigarettes are consumed each year, and as many as two-thirds of the filters are littered.

No matter how you want to count it, that’s a pretty big problem. And what makes it even worse is that they’re made from plastic. For a long time, people have believed that cigarette filters are made of paper and that they biodegrade naturally, but that isn’t true.

According to NBC News, 90% of cigarettes contain a plastic-based filter. Plastic pollution is dangerous because of how it breaks down — or rather, how it doesn’t break down. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade, it photodegrades. So it breaks down into smaller pieces with the help of heat and sunlight, but it never stops existing as plastic. Unlike other organic materials that can be eaten and digested and recomposed, plastic just stays plastic.

When cigarette filters break down and are eaten by wildlife, the plastic fibers accumulate in the bodies of the animals and work their way up the food chain. Before the filters begin breaking down, they release all the chemicals they absorbed from the cigarette smoke, including nicotine, arsenic and lead.

Many of these cigarette filters end up in the ocean. Some are tossed directly by beachgoers. Others are washed from sidewalks and street corners into gutters, storm drains, local waterways, and they make their way into the ocean from there.

If you smoke, be careful to dispose of your butts in ashtrays and trash cans, so that they don’t end up polluting our environment and endangering wildlife.

Community Fridges Fight Food Waste

In the United Kingdom, supermarkets, restaurants and residents have begun putting excess food into public refrigerators to share it with the community.

Sharing unwanted or unneeded food can prevent food waste and help feed the hungry. Watch this video to learn more about The People’s Fridge:

Green Your Grocery Trip With Reusable Produce Bags

What does 'Circular Economy' mean?

Springtime is here, and the markets are about to become jam-packed with fresh fruits and veggies. Now is the perfect time to stock up on reusable produce bags!

We all know it’s better to use reusable grocery bags instead of plastic ones, but what about plastic produce bags? Reusable produce bags are a simple and affordable way to avoid single-use plastic. They’re easy to find online, and they can also be found at certain grocery stores and home goods stores. Bags made from cotton or other natural fibers are best. Simply toss them in the wash with other linens when they get dirty.

Pro tip: Once you have reusable produce bags, stash a few of them inside one of your reusable shopping bags, and keep them in your car at all times so that you don’t forget to bring them to the store!

If you’re still using plastic produce bags, you can recycle these with plastic bags. They need to be empty and dry, so give them a good shake to get any last crumbs out. If they need to be rinsed, you can prop them in your dish rack to dry. (Paper towel holders work really well, too!)