The Ottumwa Courier

April 22, 2014

Where every day is Earth Day

By MARK NEWMAN Courier staff writer
Ottumwa Courier

---- — OTTUMWA — Putting cans in the correct bin, saving electricity and adjusting the thermostat are not new concepts to the Ottumwa/Wapello Recycling Center staff.

"We try to practice what we preach," said Janice Bain, the town's recycling coordinator.

Tuesday — Earth Day — was no different. Visitors to their office would see those techniques, especially recycling, already in place at the center.

"Every day is Earth Day here," she agreed. "We try to operate as efficiently as possible here."

The next initiative Bain hopes to put into place is more efficient lighting.

"But really, you don't have to sit in the dark or skip showering to be more Earth friendly," she said. "Small changes can make big differences."

Those changes can reduce the light or heat bill. But if the person paying the bills doesn't care how much they pay, what does it matter how many lights are on in their house?

"Electricity, for us, comes from coal. The more energy we use, the more coal we burn, the more emissions pollute the air. And coal is a finite resource. I'd like it to last."

Some of the ideas to safe resources take a bit of effort. Installing insulation, for example, decreases energy usage and makes a home more comfortable, but takes some work and some cash. Savings in utility bills can offset the cost of insulation.

But many "Earth friendly" tips are things that aren't difficult to put in place. For example, when it's cold out, turn the heat down a notch or two. When it's hot, turn the air conditioner up a notch or two.

"You don't have to freeze," she added, "or roast."

You could install low-flow shower heads, take shorter showers, or both. And while you're washing up, cut back a bit on the hot water. Clear, cool water is better for your skin anyway, Bain said.

Cold water is also fine for most laundry, and is more economical. And if you're going to wash laundry, Bain said, wait until you need to do a full load. Washing machines take 15-40 gallons of water per load, depending on the machine. Newer machines use less, but with a new machine and a small load, it still takes the equivalent of 15 one gallon containers of water to do the job.

How does a full load help? Bain feels using 120 pounds of fresh water to clean a pair of socks may not be the wisest use of resources.

To follow Mark Newman on Twitter, check out @CourierMark