Got questions? Ask the Green Geek

Wondering if line drying your clothes is greener than throwing them in the dryer? The value of coral reefs? Or the best options for recycling that old TV or printer?

Green Geek LogoAsk the Green Geek.

Pima County FYI is featuring a monthly column featuring questions and answers on all things green. Our own Green Geek gets assistance on answering your questions from the sustainability experts in Pima County’s Office of Sustainability and Conservation.

Send your questions to fyinewsletter@pima.gov. And look for the column the second Friday of each month on the left sidebar of the newsletter.

Here are this month’s questions: 


Hello, Green Geek,

How ‘green’ is it to line dry clothes, compared to putting them in the dryer? 

Thanks,

Betty

 

Hello, Betty,

Great question! Aside from the benefits line drying has on your clothes, e.g. gentle on fabrics and helps naturally  remove strong odors, line drying is also environmentally and monetarily ‘greener.’

Air-drying clothes in lieu of using a clothes dryer can reduce the average US household’s carbon footprint by as much as 2,400 pounds per year. If all Americans line dried their clothes for just half a year, it would save 3.3 percent of the country’s total residential CO2 emissions. And this does not account for the emissions associated with the production and transportation of the dryers themselves, so the overall environmental benefit is even more notable! 

Line drying is also a greener option for your wallet! The average U.S. household can save more than $200 per year on electric/natural gas/propane gas bills when they line dry instead of using a clothes dryer. This, of course, is in addition to the savings from not buying and maintaining a clothes dryer to begin with.

Moreover, clothes dryer fires account for about 15,600 structure fires every year, and the yearly cost of damages due to these fires in the U.S. is estimated at $99 million. Just another reason step outside and embrace the beautiful desert! 
 
Hope this helps,
Green Geek


What do coral reefs do and why are they so important to have around? 

Thank you, 

Gloria

 

Hi Gloria, 

Thank you for your question. Though Pima County is not located immediately near any coral reefs, it is important to understand its value to the environment and community.

Coral reefs are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth. Coral reefs support more species per unit area than any other marine environment, including about 4,000 species of fish, 800 species of hard corals and hundreds of other species. 

Not only are do they support enormous biodiversity, they are also of immense value to humankind.  Coral reefs may provide goods and services worth $375 billion each year via fisheries, tourism, protection from property damage, erosion, and loss of life, medicine, and more. This is an amazing figure for an environment that covers less than 1 percent of the Earth’s surface. 

We have already lost 27 percent of the world's coral reefs. If present rates of destruction are allowed to continue, 60 percent of the world's coral reefs will be destroyed over the next 30 years. The major threats to coral reefs are human-caused and include climate change, destructive fishing practices, overfishing, careless tourism, pollution, erosion from construction, and coral mining. These hazards are unsustainable and should be mitigated, as they jeopardize all of the environmental, social, and economic benefits associated with healthy coral reefs.

Travel to locations closer to home, preferably ones you can drive to. Flying is the dirtiest form of transportation. Make it more eco-friendly by renting a hybrid or electric vehicle if one is available. 

Book a rental home in lieu of a hotel. Hotel construction and operation has a huge impact on the environment. If you must stay in a hotel, try to find one that is LEED certified. 

Don’t leave your green habits at home. We tend to be more wasteful when on vacation, especially because we are often not charged more for using more  water and energy. Try to continue to take short showers, reuse towels, keep lights and electronics off when not in use, use reusable water bottles, etc. 

Try to walk and/or use public transportation at your travel destination. Driving a car creates eight more pounds of CO2 than a bus does for every 10 miles of travel.

Hope this helps,

Green Geek


Greetings, 
 
What suggestions do you have for recycling electronic items such as televisions, laptops, printers and other electronics?
 
Thank you for your time, 
Steve

 

Hi, Steve, 

The topic of e-waste is an important one; thank you for shedding light on it! 

Electronic waste is one of the fastest growing types of municipal waste, and though almost 100 percent of electronics is recyclable, only about 15-20 percent of it is recycled. As a result of the high rate of inappropriate disposal, heavy Laptop computermetals like mercury, lead, and cadmium, are leached into the environment, posing a serious threat to marine and land animal life, soil and plant health, and the purity of our waterways.  

Thankfully recycling options are available. Best Buy has an electronics recycling program that accepts most types of electronics. 

Unfortunately, many programs, like Best Buy’s, often require a fee to recycle your products. One alternative option is The Freecycle Network. It is an online community that offers a free service to give away electronics, but they must be reusable.

Tucson Clean and Beautiful maintains a fantastic recycling directory. Feel free to explore their resources to find an e-waste recycling option that best suits your needs. 
Select a dry, shady spot near a water source for your compost pile or bin.

Make sure large pieces are chopped or shredded before you compost them.

Regular mixing and moistening of compost will help maintain it.

Keep compost pile/bin covered to keep it moist. 

You can compost indoors with a special type of bin you can purchase.

When the material at the bottom of your pile is dark and rich in color, your compost is ready to use. 

Mix with soil and organic fertilizer for best results.

Hope this helps,

Green Geek


Dear Green Geek,

I have friends that would like to be more “green friendly” but believe it costs too much money.  Do you have any ideas of sustainable actions that would save money or that are budget neutral as a great place to start?
 
Does the County do any green projects that save money?

Best,
Luke



Hi Luke,

This is a sentiment I hear regularly.  There are many ways to live more sustainably while saving money.  Below is a link to a fantastic guide from the Department of Energy on "Tips on Saving Money & Energy at Home."

Yes, the County has saved millions of dollars through its efforts to implement the Sustainable Action Plan for County Operations. Efforts include expanding its renewable energy portfolio, improving building water and energy efficiency, and purchasing more fuel efficient vehicles, among many others.  These savings are expected to increase significantly as the County works to achieve the goals set forth in the climate change resolution recently adopted by the Board of Supervisors.  

Live green and save green,
Green Geek
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