Caroma has long been the world’s leader in dual flush toilets, and now they have taken water-savings to a whole new level. By incorporating a hand-washing basin right into the tank of their toilet, Caroma has made it easy for people to conserve even more. 

 They started with a High-Efficiency Dual Flush Toilet (two flush options: 0.8 gallons for liquids, and 1.28 gallons for solids) and changed the design of the tank so that water refilling the tank is first routed through a faucet at the top, making that clean water available for hand washing. As the water from your hand washing goes down the drain of the basin, it goes directly into tank to be used next time you flush the toilet.

 On top of making use of hand-washing-wastewater for flushing, Caroma dual flush toilets use less water to begin with. With an average flush of just 1 gallon, these Dual Flush toilets reduce water consumption by 40-70 percent. Just imagine the water savings when the water from your hand washing gets recycled on top of it all!

Hard to imagine? Here’s an image (right) of the inside of the tank so you can see how it works.

 The Caroma Profile is a certified High Efficiency, WaterSense toilet – and has received the Popular Mechanics “Product Breakthrough” award for innovative design and engineering.

For more information on the Caroma Profile click here!

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You might be surprised at how much water your toilet consumes over time!  Fortunately for environmentally-conscious homeowners everywhere, companies like Caroma are leading the way in water conservation in the bathroom.

The United States EPA launched a partnership program in 2006 that seeks to promote water efficiency around the country.  According to Watersense, more than 240 millions Americans rely on public water consumption for their every day use, accounting for more than 43 billion gallons per day.  A family of four uses up to 400 gallons water per day on average.

The EPA reports that if the average home retrofitted itself with WaterSense certified toilets and faucets, we could save more than 120 billion gallons and more than $800 million dollars annually.

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

Green Depot carries Caroma brand toilets, including Caroma Dual-Flush toilets and sinks.

Caroma is a manufacturer with a history of water efficiency.  The company was founded in 1941, and has since become the market leader in reduced-flush water efficiency products, citing its “total commitment to water conservation.”

Dual-flush toilets give the user the ability to choose more or less water when needed, by pressing one of two distinct buttons.  Smaller flushes use about 0.8 gallons, and larger flushes use 1.2 – 1.6 gallons.  All Caroma products are certified by EPA-Watersense as a water-saving device.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green productsfor a sustainable lifestyle, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

 

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an intensive green roof in manhattan. image licensed under creative commons.

In terms of sustainability and reducing one’s impact on the environment, living in a city can have – perhaps surprisingly – distinct advantages over living in the suburbs or countryside.  New York City, in particular, is consistently ranked as one of the most energy-efficient places to live in America, thanks to our proliferative public transportation system, reliance on natural gas as our primary energy source, walkability, and mixed-use zoning laws.  Indeed, an average New Yorker’s carbon footprint is about one-third that of an average American.

I don’t meant to offer unqualified praise of New York City and its efficiency, because there are significant environmental drawbacks to living in a large city, as well.  The issues we face in New York are substantial: lack of access to green space; the relatively long distance food must travel to feed our massive population; elevated asthma rates, especially in children; the urban heat island effect; and severe water pollution from heavy rains, thanks to our combined sewage-storm water pipes.

But fortunately, different governmental, nonprofit, and civic organizations are working to address these issues, and Sustainable South Bronx is one of them.

In particular, Sustainable South Bronx (SSBX) is working on the expansion of green roofs – the environmentally- and socially-beneficial effects of which are substantial and numerous.

Green roofs, in their most basic form, are living vegetation systems, or gardens, on the roofs of buildings.  They come in numerous forms, shapes, and sizes, but this is one of their great strengths – they can be adapted to function in nearly any scenario, providing substantial benefits to the buildings and communities where they are located.

Typically a green roof consists of an impermeable membrane across the surface of the roof.  On top of this is placed a drainage layer, a filter fabric, a lightweight growing medium, and finally vegetation.  Roofs which are capable of bearing very heavy loads can support even trees and large shrubbery; roofs which are a little weaker typically support lighter-weight flora like grasses and wildflowers.

The benefits are indeed surprising, and actually mitigate many of the urban environmental issues I listed above – even childhood asthma rates.  Green roofs provide insulation from the sun, and lower the temperature of the building, reducing cooling costs in the summer, and reducing heat loss in the winter.  They also perform important functions for the urban water cycle: green roofs absorb rainwater, preventing excess water from running directly into the sewage system which exhausts into local waterways (including the East and Hudson rivers in NYC).  Green roofs also reduce the urban heat island effect through natural shading, insulating, evaporative and evapotranspirative properties.  They also provide more green space to area residents, and reduce air pollution by trapping particulate matter, and reduce greenhouse gases by absorbing more carbon dioxide.  To read more about the numerous benefits of green roofs, feel free to read this report by Sustainable South Bronx on the urban heat island effect. [PDF].

SSBX was founded in 2001 by environmental justice activist Majora Carter.  SSBx actually built the first green and cool demonstration roof in NYC above their offices in the Bronx; in 2007 they expanded their mission to a for-profit green roof installation company, Smart Roofs LLC.  But what is perhaps most innovative about SSBx’s approach to sustainable community development is its keen awareness of the intersection of social issues and environmental issues, the hallmark of an environmental justice approach.  To that end, SSBx has built green roofs with the community in mind, for the purpose of increasing green space in one of the most dense city neighborhoods, with the least access to green space.

A rendering of the Bronx Greenway. Image: NYCEDC.

And not only does SSBx support the expansion of green spaces throughout the Bronx, they do so through community green job training programs, boosting employment and worker activity, while at the same time improving the health of people and the environment in one of the most underprivileged and polluted parts of New York City.  The Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training Academy (BEST) is one of the city’s most successful green collar training programs.  The program has trained numerous people who continue the upkeep of other SSBx projects – like the Bronx Greenway, where they have planted and continue to maintain over 400 trees.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

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At the Festival of Ideas StreetFest, we demonstrated how to upcycle old plastic bottles into sub-irrigating planters for your home or office — it’s easy, inexpensive and eco-friendly! Made from 1L, 2L or 3L bottles, these planters are a great way to keep your plants happy without accidental over-watering. So many people asked for the instructions at the demo, we decided to post them here, on our blog!
Def: Sub-Irrigated Planter (SIP) is a generic name for a special type of planter used in container gardening.  A SIP is any method of watering plants where the water is introduced from the bottom, allowing the water to soak upwards to the plant through capillary action (wicking)
What we love about self-watering planters, besides being easy to make, is that we don’t have to worry about over-watering our plants or under-watering them.

 

 

 
MATERIALS NEEDED:

  • Used Plastic Bottle (empty)(1L, 2L, or 3L)
  • metal skewer
  • potting soil
  • permanent marker
  • felt (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Remove the label from your bottle.
  2. Poke a series of holes in the neck and top of the bottle by heating a metal skewer over a gas burner. You can also use a wood burning pen or an electric soldering iron.
  3. Draw a straight line with a permanent marker around your bottle. A 14oz. can is a guide for how high up the bottle your line should be and helps keep your line straight. This is not an exact marker but a guide. The objective is to get the top of the neck to touch the inside of the bottom.
  4. Cut off the top of the bottle where the cap is located to keep the roots from clogging the bottle neck.
  5. Cut 1” of plastic from the bottom of the bottle to make up for the inch of bottle you just cut off. Make sure you cut straight!
  6. Get your soil and plant the top part of the bottle with seeds or your plant. The little holes are for the roots to poke out of so that they can soak up the water you will be putting in the base of the bottle. Don’t worry about the plant roots- they definitely know how to find water!
  7. Put the top of your bottle inside the bottom of the bottle and add water to the bottom part
  8. You’re done. Enjoy your beautiful new sub-irrigation planter.
  9. To water simply lift the top planter section from the bottom and add a measured amount of water, never add so much that it rises to the soil surface. The top ½” to ¾” should be dry. Remember… You are the self in self-watering
  10. For larger plastic containers like 5G water bottles, you can experiment by adding wicking material like polyester batting material (felt). Just pour some potting mix into the planter on top of the wick. Use a finger to push the soil down firmly until the wick protrudes at the neck opening. This will hold the soil in the planter and guarantees contact with the water

Many thanks to Groundworks INC for their help with this demonstration!

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flickr user maggie hoffman

Two years ago, I was living in a loft conversion in the New York City neighborhood of Bushwick.  One of the big perks of living here was our roof access – which we turned into a rather extensive rooftop garden.  We had heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, chard, and any number of other vegetables (and perhaps a few fruits).

But one of the major issues we faced was watering our garden, especially on hot, dry days.  Up on a tar-covered urban roof, raised planters (especially wood planters) dried out quickly.  At the time, our only recourse to prevent our plants from dying was to carry gallon jugs of water up four flights of stairs several times a week.

It occurred to us a few weeks later that we should have collected dew and rainwater in barrels and use those for irrigation!

Even though our plans for rooftop rain barrels never panned out, capturing and reusing rainwater for a garden – or a lawn – is a really great idea.  It cuts down on municipal or well water consumption, reducing your impact on the environment, and on your wallet.  And if you’re watering a rooftop garden, it saves you the torture of carrying dozens of gallons of water up the stairs!

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

RAIN BARRELS ARE ON SALE THROUGH MAY 1! Here are three options for storing rainwater around the home:

The Bosmere Pop-up Rain Barrel holds 50 gallons of rainwater from the rain or a downspout.  A screen keeps out leaves and other debris.  This collapsible rain barrel can be stored flat in a work shed or garage and pulled out when you need it.  A handy on/off spigot at the bottom can be attached to a hose or the collected water can be accessed through the wide-mouth top which opens with a zipper for easy pail-filling.

The Garden Watersaver rainwater diverter makes it easy to redirect the rainwater flowing down your downspout to a rain barrel. It Installs right onto your downspout in minutes and is easy to activate and de-activate as needed by removing the hose & adding the plug in winter.

The Slim-Line Water barrel holds 26 gallons of water and is made from molded UV-stable plastic. It comes with its own stand so that you can fill your watering can easily from the tap provided. The barrel has snap on-off lid for easy filling and keeping insects & debris out. This tool is designed to be unobtrusive and compact for small gardens, patios and decks.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

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waterMarch 22nd was world water day, and while we’re few weeks late in celebrating it, water conservation is something to always consider.  International World Water Day was first recommended in 1992 at the UN Conference on Environment and development as a way of “focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.”  The United Nations General Assembly designated March 22nd as World Water Day, and this is a tradition that has occurred annually ever since.

As the webpage for World Water Days points out, each year WWD highlights a specific aspect of freshwater conservation.  It is perhaps especially appropriate for  those of us dwelling in urban areas to (re)consider water conservation in 2011, since this year’s theme was “Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge.”

But what urban challenge?  Well – this is the first time in human history that more people are living in urban areas than in rural ones, and this trend is expected to continue for some time.  Because urban water consumption is then set to increase, strain will be added to the area watersheds that provide potable water to city populations.  Given that climate change will change some aspects of the water cycle, this strain could increase in some urban areas.

Another major water challenge for the coming decades is that the rapid pace of urbanization has given rise to vast informal settlements – or slums – for which there is often no piped, safe drinking water.  93% of all urbanization is occurring in the developing world, and 40% of that growth is the growth of informal settlements.  Infrastructure has not kept pace with this growth, meaning that conservation is especially important in these areas.

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

In an urban, suburban, or rural home, water consumption is most likely to occur in the kitchen and bathroom, where in many places our flushable water is the same as our drinking water.  To address issues of water conservation, Green Depot is focusing on green products that reduce water consumption in the bathroom.

Green Depot is currently offering 50% off Caroma Dual-flush toilets and sinks, which gives one the ability to choose whether less or more water is needed to flush. With a two-button system, the user can select a small flush (0.8 gallons) or a larger flush (1.6 gallons in some models, and 1.2 gallons in the High Efficiency models). A 4″ trap throughway assures the user of maximum flushing efficiency.  A Caroma dual-flush toilet will help conserve water in any commercial or residential project, and are certified by EPA-Watersense as a water-saving device.

All models of toilets have complementary sinks–call Green Depot to inquire.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

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