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What Minnesotans Do

I look out my kitchen window today, and what do I see?


Minnesota Hoodlums

Minnesota Hoodlums

Two grown men throwing snowballs at a stop sign.


We Minnesotans have to make our own fun out here in the cold, I guess. Is anyone else getting a serious case of the winter doldrums?

1. This is the time of year when I want (need?) coffee the most. Thanks to The Economist (and Devin, the economist that I am friends with), I now know that it takes 1,100 cups of water to make my cup of coffee. Argh. At least apple juice, that vile liquid which I hate, is almost as bad. Maybe I should switch to tea – it takes only about 150 cups of water per cup of tea. Lookout world….

2. I got an amazing birthday present from my cousin Karen. I am told that Liam, my nearly-three-year-old first cousin, made the designs with cookie cutters dipped in wine – food safe! My vegetables will be the happiest vegetables in the store, and I will never have to use a little plastic baggie again.

Re-usable Vegetable Bags

Re-usable Vegetable Bags

3. Eve has discovered Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. This is amazing.  1.5 tbsp salt + 1.5 tbsp yeast + 6.5 cups all purpose flour + 3 c room temperature water + cornmeal + bucket = 4 loaves of amazing bread for 2 weeks. KARE 11 loves it. Strictly Seniors loves it. Even Mark Bittman endorses the method.

4. The Humane Society. It is amazing (if bittersweet) therapy for winter doldrums. So many puppies, so little space in my apartment….

5. Does organic food really taste better? Ask a hamster. (via Caleb and Serious Eats)

In other news, I am off to Madison for a week of energy auditor training this weekend. Will it, too, be amazing? I hope so… you’ll have to forgive me if I come back talking about horsepower and motor rewinding and deluding myself into thinking it is worthy of a blog post…!


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How many gallons does YOUR toilet use per flush?

When you flush away your cares/TP/Goldie the Goldfish.. how much water are you using?

There are standards, but each toilet will perform differently. Check the labels printed on the little rectangle of porcelain behind the seat – but be aware that these are not always an accurate representation.

1 gallon per flush = urinal
1.2 gallons per flush = high efficiency
1.6 gallons per flush = low flow (mandated in California post-1992)
3.6 gallons per flush = high flow
anything higher = yikes

Even if you know what your toilet is SUPPOSED to flush, it’s hard to tell exactly how much water it’s using without measuring. Some conservation specialists are so attuned that they can tell the toilet’s capacity by the sound of the flush. Us laymen need a little more assistance. The good news – especially for those of us teaching junior high schoolers about volume – is that there is an equation you can use!

(picture: “Fish n’ Flush,” which, for the record, is 2.2gpf)

You will need a measuring tape.

1. Take the top off your toilet. I know, I know, this isn’t the most fun in the world. Don’t balk at this step. I promise, it will be worth it.

2. Measure the length of the toilet. Measure so the metal tab at the end of the tape fits against the inside edge of the tank. Record this number (usually about 15.75″).

3. Measure the width of the toilet. Again, make sure you are only measuring the inside of the tank. Record this number (usually about 5.25″).

4. Now send the metal end of the measuring tape down to the bottom of the tank to record the inches of water when the tank is full. Remember this number (about 8″) and leave the tape there, as you prepare for the most exciting step which is…..

5. Flush the toilet!! Watch your tape carefully and record the inches of water when the tank is at its lowest (about 4″).

6. Subtract the full inches – empty inches. This number is called the “drop.” This is the number of inches of water that leave the tank and go into the bowl every time you flush. (about 4″)

7. Now take your drop (about 4″) and multiply it by the length and width. This gets you cubic inches of water for each drop (volume!). (usually 400-500 cubic inches)

8. Your magical constant is 231. Divide your cubic inches by 231. Add .5.

9. Suddenly you have converted to gallons per flush! This number should be between 1 and 7.

1.6 gpf = low flow
3.6 gpf = high flow
anything higher = yikes

So again, the equation is ((length) * (width) * (full-empty))/231 +.5

If you see no water in your tank, only a black box, that means that you have an HET (high efficiency toilet). Good for you! Make sure there’s no water in the tank, or else you’ve got a leak.

So now what? If you have a 3.6 gpf toilet or higher, contact your local water retailer. They probably will offer you some kind of rebate. Some will even direct-install an HET (all you do is say you want it and let them in. They show up and do everything free).

Who offers one? Dallas does! Petaluma does! Southern California does! Who do you pay for water? Call them up and demand an HET rebate!

And, for good measure, a creepy anthropomorphic water droplet from
Actually, this one does not look so much creepy as stoned.

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Scottsdale, AZ Sends Free Self-Water Audit Kits to Residents

Hey Scottsdale!

You should get one of these. If only Santa Rosa offered free water audit kits to residents and businesses. I want one and I can’t have one! *pout* Free dye tabs! Free flow bag! Free drip cup!

Creepy anthropomorphic water droplet picture from Broward County, FL.

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Creepy Anthropomorphic Water Droplet Tells You To Save Water

So apparently local government agencies really enjoy humanizing drops of water. “Pleeease conserve me!” Maybe we are meant to empathize?

Oak Harbor, WA

Cape Cod, MA

Roaring Fork, CO

Rockford, IL “Willy”

Dakota State University “Roxanne”

Creeeeepyyyyyyy! I’m drinking Willy and Roxanne!

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Green Your Apartment – Water

This is the second in a series of how to green your apartment – this entry recommends greening through water conservation, with the help of top tips from Brian’s Blog at Signature Community:

1. It is always important to report leaks to property managers ASAP, but it is especially important to report toilet leaks – these are the most seriously wasteful.

2. “The toilet is not a trash can. There is no need to flush your tissues down the toilet. You are only wasting water.” (Not only that – you are potentially causing clogs AND creating a nightmare for the wastewater treatment facility down the line.. believe me, I’ve seen the process used to remove “rags” from waste water, and it is the most involved, energy-intensive process of the whole plant)

3. Aim for five to ten minute showers.

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UN Climate Conference, Bali

The UN finished up a climate conference in Bali (Dec. 3-14), Our friends Tim Anderson and Paul Kelley went to present the Sonoma County Water Agency’s plan to depend on renewable energy only.

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Shower Timer

Well ring a bell and make me drool. I thought I was the stubbornest of the untrainable. Even four months of minimal showering in Morocco was not enough to break my junior-high-instilled habit of showering daily. Usually a 10-to-15 minute user, I never thought I could be trained to take a shower in five minutes.

Little did I know.

This amazing little shower timer (stolen from my co-worker’s desk.. hi Laura!) has me whipped into shape! The first day felt rushed, but a week later I was squeaky clean with time to spare. And I have more time to read the Chron in the morning!

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