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Take the conservation challenge

Posted: August 10, 2008 8:24 p.m.
Updated: October 12, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Shower with a friend.

That's the often-heard (amid giggling) response to detailed published accounts advocating water conservation.

But, really.

Depending on how committed Santa Clarita Valley residents are in responding to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's call to conserve water in the face of a statewide drought, The Signal has found some novel, energy-saving alternatives to day-to-day routines.

Last month, celebrity actor and famed conservationist Ed Begley Jr. visited Santa Clarita Valley stopping by Whole Foods Market on Valencia Boulevard and urging residents to follow his example of environmentally friendly living.

The Signal took up the challenge.

We took a closer look at ways to conserve water and energy at home.

Begley, 58, told The Signal he is still learning about ways of living more harmoniously with the world after 38 days of green living.

Some alternatives - such as Begley's using recycled denim jeans as an attic insulator - may not be for everyone. But, everyone can gravitate to some simple ways of doing small things better.

From the second you wake up to the second you close your eyes at night there are several alternatives to the regimen of daily chores.

Let's begin with waking up.

7:00 a.m. - Option #1
Pull the plug on the electric radio alarm clock and use a windup old-fashioned alarm clock - the type seen in cartoons with a clapper rattling between two bells.

7:02 a.m. - Option #2
If you still use an old toilet, the local water agency offers cash rebates year-round for people willing to replace water-wasting toilets with more efficient models.

In March, the agency approved a recommendation to issue more rebate vouchers for the popular ultra-low-flow toilet voucher program.

The vouchers are handed out by each of Santa Clarita's four water retailers: The Newhall County Water District, the Valencia Water Company, the Santa Clarita Water Company (a division of the wholesaler) and Los Angeles Water District 39.

7:05 a.m. - Option #3
Showering with your partner, despite the requisite giggling, really will save water.

In conservation tips recommended by the Castaic Lake Water Agency, local water officials urge people to take shorter showers.

Also, local concerned conservationists can purchase low-flow shower heads which use considerably less water per shower.

And, for the radical conservationist, consider building an enclosed outdoor shower using a camping shower bag.

If you're brave and want to pursue this option further, set up the completely enclosed outside shower on the backyard lawn.

7:10 a.m. - Option #4
Make sure to follow the agency's advice and remember to not leave the bathroom sink water running as you brush your teeth and/or shave.

7:30 a.m. - Option #5
Try eating a breakfast that does not require cooking. Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Market offer a wide range of organic cereals. Energy expended in making breakfast is limited to pouring milk and lifting your spoon and is not spent on toasters, microwaves and ovens.

8:00 a.m. - Option #6
Close all the drapes and blinds in the house before it gets too hot, according to recommended tips issued by Southern California Edison.

8:15 a.m. - Option #7
Before it gets too hot to work outside, tend to your garden.

The Los Angeles Water & Power Department on Temple Street has a beautiful garden of drought tolerant plants including several alternatives for ground cover.

Visit the garden, take photos then return home and rip out all your water-sucking, non-indigenous plants.
For the radical conservationist, you want to consider replacing your lawn with gravel, indigenous groundcover or sand suitable for cacti and succulents.

Some drought tolerant plants worth considering include: the California poppy, the Cranesbill Geranium, Goldenrod and Russian Sage.

10:00 a.m. - Option #9
Still time to wash the car before it gets too hot. Although it's still more water wise to take your car to a commercial car wash where they recycle the water, Steve Cole, general manager of the Newhall County Water District has some water conservation tips.

He recommends car owners use a hose with a controllable shut-off nozzle and a bucket.

Those following the district's water wise suggestion of washing your car on the lawn can also purchase special wide-mouthed hard plastic tubing grids.

Lunch - Option #10
Again, not firing up kitchen equipment cuts down on energy use. Have a salad or a sandwich.

1:00 p.m. - Option #11
Southern California Edison recommends setting your central air conditioning unit to 78 degrees.

7:00 p.m. - Option #12
As the day starts to cool down, it's best to use electrical fans and installed central fans instead of the air conditioning unit.

8:00 p.m. - Option 13
Time to relax and check your e-mail. The Signal has found a way of never having to expend electricity to power up your laptop.

You can re-charge your laptop's battery by plugging into a power converter (sold at K-Mart) equipped with a regular three-prong outlet.

The converter is attached to a deep cycle vehicle battery (sold at Camping World), which is in turn charged throughout the day with a pillow-sized solar panel (sold at Fry's Electronics).

You can either run your computer directly to the converter or re-charge your laptop overnight connected to a battery fully-charged during the long sunny Californian day.

10:00 p.m. - Option #14
Time for bed, since "early to bed, early to rise" saves on using electricity. Southern California Edison recommends opening your windows during cool evenings to save energy.

But, perhaps it's best to check with the Santa Clarita Sheriff's Station on leaving accessible windows open during the night.

You can skimp on water and energy, but not on safety.


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