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Disposable diaper liners- to flush or not to flush?

Posted on January 10, 2017 by | Comments Off

Ah, diapers.  A staple of nurseries everywhere.  But as a parent, how do you decide what kind of diaper is right for your kiddo?  Gone are the days of only a handful of disposable diaper options or cloth diapers that are secured to your precious baby with terrifyingly-stabby safety pins.  Now you’re faced with so many choices!  If you decide to go with fully disposable diapers, should you buy off-brand or name-brand?  Organic?  Moisture-wicking?  Chlorine free?  Should you enter the realm of cloth diapering and, if so, should you purchase All In Ones, All In Twos, pocket diapers, or hybrids?  Inserts?  Cotton liners?  Disposable liners?

The answer to these questions depends on your personal preferences and what works for you and your family.  But having successfully navigated the mysterious world of diapering twice now, I’ve figured out a few things. 

1)      Your baby will ultimately have the final say (i.e., you’ll choose the type that doesn’t make him or her break out in a bum rash) 

2)      Occasional leaks are an inevitability

3)      Disposable diaper liners are not flushable

“Hold the phone, Molly; did you just say disposable diaper liners aren’t flushable??  But a lot of them state that they’re flushable right on the packaging!  How can this be?”  Well, I’ll tell you.  Much like “flushable” wipes, they’re misnamed.  Technically you CAN flush both wipes and liners, just like my son has recently shown me that you CAN flush ninja turtle action figures.  But should you flush them?  Definitely not.

Diaper Liners Blog 1Disposable diaper liners are thin mesh-like cloths (usually made out of cotton or viscose rayon) that can be placed in diapers to conveniently catch solid waste.   The idea is that rather than removing the waste from and scrubbing the entire cloth diaper or insert, you can just remove and discard the liner and toss the rest into the washing machine.  But where should they be discarded?  Most are labeled “flushable,” although many specify that they are not “septic safe.”  Most I’ve found state this (or something similar) on the packaging:

Place liner inside diaper.  When diaper is soiled, simply remove and flush down toilet.  May cause blockage in old or damaged drains.  Not recommended for sensitive septic tanks.” 

Hm… suspicious!  So does that mean they’re safe to flush if your home has newer plumbing?  How do you determine whether or not your septic system is “sensitive?”  Talk about confusing packaging.

While there are plenty of first-hand accounts of the detriment of flushable wipes on our sewer systems, I couldn’t find enough out there in terms of disposable diaper liners to ease my uncertainty.  So, in order to decipher whether they’re truly safe to send down the drain, I put on my lab coat and did a bit of experimenting on my own.


1)      Three well-known brands of “flushable” diaper liners

2)      3 bowls of water

3)      1 washing machine

4)      1 mesh garment bag

Diaper Liners Blog 2

12 hours after being placed in water the diaper liners are going strong!


Diaper Liners Blog 3

A full 24 hours in water and the liners still haven’t changed.

First, I placed two sheets of each brand of diaper liner in a bowl of water, swished them around a bit, and let them sit overnight.  As you can see, all three survived completely unscathed.  I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and leave them in for another twelve hours.  Nope, still holding on strong!

Next, I figured I’d simulate the sloshing of our sewer lines by putting them through a round in my washing machine.  I placed them in a mesh garment bag to prevent them from wrapping around the agitator and then waited patiently.  The result….they survived!  I couldn’t find ANY signs of deterioration.

Diaper Liners Blog 4

24 hours in water plus a trip through my washing machine. These certainly aren’t going to breakdown any time soon!

Conclusion: Disposable diaper liners are great.  They make cleaning cloth diapers quicker and easier and can help prevent rash creams and ointments from ruining the fabric’s absorbency.  But remember, flushing things down the drain that don’t break down easily contributes to clogged pipes, which can in turn cause environmentally- harmful sewer system overflows.  Or, much like my own ninja turtle action figure incident, they can cause messy overflows in your own home.  So be a Sewer Steward and dispose of those helpful diaper liners in a trash can, NOT a toilet.  


Blog contributed by Molly Bertsch, Community Educator at HRSD.

Posted in: Fats, oils and grease disposal, Household tips, What Not To Flush

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Winter Storm Checklist

Posted on January 4, 2017 by | Comments Off

IMG_20140129_110644494Each winter we must battle Old Man winter to protect ourselves, our property and the environment! Cold temperatures bring the possibility of frozen water pipes, slippery sidewalks and lots of hazardous. This handy winter storm checklist will help you prepare for winter while being easy on the environment.

  • Prevent your pipes from freezing and causing costly damage to your home by:
    • Keeping doors and windows near your water pipes closed during cold weather.
    • Sealing air leaks and cracks in the crawl space or basement.
    • Closing crawl space air vents or covering them from the inside.
    • Checking to ensure pipes are insulated in unheated parts of the house. Wet insulation is worse than no insulation, so be sure to replace any you find.
    • Disconnecting garden hoses and storing them in a garage or shed.
    • When temps drop to the teens or lower, you may choose to drip your faucets to prevent pipes from freezing. Pick a single faucet at the highest level in your house and make sure droplets are about the size of the lead in a pencil. You’ll only waste money (and water) if you leave the faucet wide open.
  • Apply deicer before snow falls to prevent ice from forming on sidewalks, driveways and walkways. Look for deicers with magnesium chloride or calcium magnesium acetate because they are less likely to harm your pets, sidewalks, grass and plants. Never use lawn fertilizers as a substitute for deicers.
  • Stay off roads during winter storms. Most traffic crashes happen within the first two hours after a storm starts. Get road conditions by calling 511 or visiting
  • Get supplies before the storm. Have enough non-perishable foods, water, and batteries on hand for at least three days in case you become snowed in. Don’t forget other necessities as well – like baby supplies, medications, pet food, and toilet paper!
  • Never plug space heaters into extension cords. Always plug them directly into a wall outlet. Keep space heaters at least three feet from other objects, and turn off before going to bed.
  • Stay informed during power outages with a battery-powered and/or hand-crank radio. Get one with the NOAA Weather Radio band so you can hear winter weather reports directly from the National Weather Service as well as news reports from local radio stations. 
  • Don’t use candles during power outages. Many home fires in winter are caused by candles. Flashlights are much safer. 
  • Have a family emergency plan. If your family cannot return home because of severe weather or closed roads, you need to decide now on alternate locations for riding out the storm.

For more winter preparedness tips before, during, and after extreme cold, check out

Posted in: Household tips, Outdoor tips

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New Years Resolutions to Keep in 2017

Posted on January 2, 2017 by | Comments Off

2017Each year we all make a bunch of promises to ourselves at the turn of the new year. We promise to be healthier, start saving money, live life to the fullest and more. Unfortunately, reducing our collective environmental impact hasn’t yet made it to the top of the New Year’s resolutions list. But that’s OK. No, really, it’s fine. Most people don’t realize that going green is already a part of their goal for 2017…and that’s where we come in! Here are some of the most popular resolutions for the new year and a few tips on how green living can help you meet your goal.

A New Year Means a New (Greener) You

1. Lose Weight. Who hasn’t made this resolution? I’m pretty sure I make it every year! But losing weight and green living have a lot in common. For starters, if you’re ditching fast food and other convenience foods then you’re reducing the amount of waste you produce. In place of these wasteful (and unhealthy) convenience foods, you’ll likely be packing a lunch in reusable containers and cooking at home more often. You’ll also want to keep a refillable water bottle with you all the time to fill with tap water and keep your body hydrated. See, green living is so easy you didn’t even realize you were already doing it!

2. Get Organized. This is probably one resolution I should make, but let’s be honest, I’d never keep it! Being organized means getting rid of unnecessary clutter in your home. And that’s the perfect time to refresh your knowledge on what’s recyclable, what’s reusable and what’s plain old trash. Get out some boxes and label them: Keep, Donate, Recycle and Trash. Keep what you need, donate what can be reused, recycle everything your city/county will accept and make the landfill a last resort. And don’t underestimate the power of donation. Even items like old bedsheets/towels, worn out shoes and dinosaur electronics  have value to the charities that are able to reuse or resell them. For example, old towels and linens seem like trash but are actually an important part of caring for animals at local animal shelters.  

3. Spend Less, Save More. This one is easy. Green living  is all about saving money! Whether you are switching from bottled water to tap water, adjusting your thermostat up or down a couple degrees or starting a carpool, you’ll be saving money and reducing your environmental impact. Saving more is almost always the same as using less and that’s great for the environment as well as your wallet!

4. Learn Something New. Looking to add a new hobby to your life? Consider taking up composting, upcycling, refurbishment projects or gardening. You could even take on backyard chickens! Yes, there are plenty of other new skills to learn in 2017, but why not take on something that benefits you and your surrounding community?

5. Quit Smoking. Kicking the cigarette habit is a big deal and it’s not easy. In return for your hard work, you’ll receive multiple benefits. Non-smokers are healthier and have reduced risks for cancer and other health problems. Non-smokers are also known to litter less. Yep, that’s right. Most smokers are guilty of flicking cigarette butts out the car window, onto the sidewalk or wherever they find themselves without a proper ash receptacle. In fact, cigarette butts are the most commonly littered item in Virginia and across the world. Your community and your local waterways will thank you for not smoking!

We wish you much success as you tackle a new (greener) you in 2017. Happy New Year from all of us at!

Posted in: Going Green, Holidays

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Engineering Responsible, Renewable Energy

Posted on December 14, 2016 by | Comments Off

curtains-1854110_960_720Traditionally, the fuel of choice for human beings has been carbon based. According to the EPA, over 5,000 million metric tons of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere every year. However, this pollution may also be the driving force behind global warming and climate change. If human beings are going to fend off challenges like climate change and pollution, we must engineer new sources of renewable energy. Here are a few examples of how engineering is leading to a more eco-friendly future.

Infrared Radiation as a Power Source

One recent discovery has been the possibility of using the earth’s own infrared radiation as a sustainable power source. According to, the earth releases over 100 million gigawatts of infrared radiation originating from the sun back into the atmosphere every day. Engineers believe that antennas placed into orbit may be able to harvest this radiation as a renewable energy source.

Nuclear Fusion Is the Power of the Future

While once a thing only explored in speculative science fiction, nuclear fusion as a high tech power source will soon be a reality. The first nuclear fusion power generator is in fact currently being constructed in France at the Cadarache scientific research center. The power will be generated by fusing two different kinds of hydrogen, tritium and deuterium, together. When finally activated, this fusion generator should be able to produce much more power than a traditional nuclear generator. In fact, it will produce ten times the energy that is required to operate the power plant.

Transparent Solar Panels

While solar panels are a renewable energy source that has been with us for many decades now, the tech is about to receive a significant boost that may greatly increase its use by consumers. Transparent solar panels that can be seen through exactly like glass are currently being developed by engineers and scientists. No longer will ugly solar panels have to be placed on a home’s roof. Instead, they could exist as its windows. The possibilities are great indeed.

Engineering Better Energy Usage Techniques

Engineers are constantly looking for new ways to improve technologies. Recently, a big push has been made towards increased energy efficiency in industrial equipment as well as consumer products. Appliances that use the Energy Star label, for example, consume far less energy than their predecessors. New exciting techniques are constantly being employed to get more than ever before out of far less energy.

Overall, the possibility of achieving an energy independent future free of fossil fuels is a distinct possibility. Thanks to the hard work of engineers and scientists, many different alternative fuels and energy efficient methods for powering devices will soon hit the market.

This guest post submitted by Rachelle Wilber, a freelance writer living in the San Diego, California area. She graduated from San Diego State University with her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Media Studies. Rachelle recommends that those interested in engineering better energy usage, click here to get more information

Posted in: Going Green

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Christmas Tree Recycling in Hampton Roads

Posted on December 9, 2016 by | Comments Off

Christmas-Tree-Disposal-Recycling-Drop-Off-SlideA naturally grown wreath or Christmas tree is the perfect backdrop for the holiday season. Sadly, your fresh pine decor doesn’t stay fresh forever. When the needles start browning and dropping,  give some thought into how you will get rid of your naturally-grown decor. There are many easy ways you can reuse your natural decorations. Your  pine decor can be used to “spruce” up your yard (pun intended) with borders and mulch, or become a piece of backyard habitat for wintering birds and cuddly critters. If you prefer an easy alternative, simply find out how and when your city or county will accept Christmas trees for collection. In most cases, naturally-grown Christmas trees and wreaths collected by your locality are mulched or composted to reduce landfill contributions. The mulch or compost material created from the trees is a low cost way for your city or county to maintain parks and shared green spaces right in your community. Some localities are even able to sell excess mulch or compost back to the public. Talk about buying local…your spring mulch could be made from your Christmas tree!

But before you send off your Christmas tree or wreath, remember to remove all lights, tree stands and decorations including tinsel, ornaments and wires. Painted trees or those that are flocked (aka covered in fake snow) can’t be recycled either. Only the natural parts of your trees and wreaths can be accepted for mulching and composting.

And don’t forget! Christmas lights and most decorations do NOT belong in your curbside recycling container. Consider donating unwanted but working ornaments and decorations to a local school or secondhand store instead. For a complete list of materials you should be recycling at home this holiday season, you can review this handy holiday recycling guide.

So now that you know its time to make sure all of our holiday waste ends up in the proper place this year! Happy Holidays from!

As of this date, the following cities and counties have announced their natural Christmas tree recycling/pick-up schedules.

Chesapeake | Gloucester | Hampton | Isle of Wight | James City County | Newport NewsNorfolk | Poquoson | Portsmouth | Smithfield | Suffolk | Surry County | Virginia BeachWilliamsburg | York County



When: Dec. 27–Jan. 13

Where: Trees will be picked up on the regular trash collection day. Trees placed at the curb between January 3 and 13 will be recycled.

What to know: Remove all ornaments, tinsel and the stand. Place it separately from bulk waste and regular trash so it can be easily collected. Please do not put in a bag or put netting around it.



When: Ongoing

Where: Residents may place Christmas trees in the brush container at any Gloucester County Convenience Center during regular hours. See the list below for locations. 

  • Middle Peninsula Landfill and Recycling Center – 3714 Waste Management Way (Entrance on Route 17). The Convenience Center at the Landfill operates on the same schedule as the other County Convenience Centers: Monday – Friday 8 AM to 7 PM and Saturday 7 AM to 7 PM.
  • Belroi – 5122 Hickory Ford Road
  • Dutton – 10430 Burke’s Pond Road
  • Court House – 6550 Beehive Drive
  • Hayes – 7599 Guinea Road

What to know: Tree should be free of the stand, ornaments, tinsel and lights. Trees will be mulched along with other yard debris. Mulch is provided free of charge to county residents from the main landfill location. However, residents are strongly encouraged to call ahead to ensure mulch is available for pickup.   



When: Ongoing

Where: Trees will be picked up at curbside on regular trash collection day. Residents can also bring naturally grown trees to be recycled at the Yard Waste Transfer Site, 100 N. Park Lane (off Big Bethel Road at entrance to Bethel Landfill) from 8 AM to 3 PM. Monday – Saturday (closed city holidays).

What to know: Tree should be free of the stand, ornaments, tinsel and lights. Place natural trees separate from bulk waste and regular trash. Do not put in a bag or put netting around it. Artificial trees should not be placed with leaves, grass or tree branches. Trees will be mulched or composted at the VPPSA Composting Facility. Mulch and compost are available for purchase by the public at the composting facility.


Isle of Wight

When: Ongoing

Where: Natural Christmas trees can be recycled at any of Isle of Wight’s Refuse & Recycling Centers.

What to know: Tree should be free of the stand, ornaments, tinsel and lights. Trees will be composted.


James City County

Information coming soon


Newport News

When: Ongoing

Where: Natural trees are recyclable as regular brush, and may be placed on the curb as brush collection.

What to know: Please remove the root ball and any non-natural decorations including tinsel and lights. Place tree in a brush pile separate from any bulk being set out. Christmas trees (live or artificial) may also be brought to the Recovery Operations Center located at 550 Atkinson Way. Trees will be composted or mulched.



When: Ongoing

Where: Natural trees are collected for composting on regular trash day as part of Norfolk’s yard waste collection service. In addition, residents can bring natural trees, holiday lights and artificial trees to the City’s Household Hazardous Waste Collection Center – 1176 Pineridge Road, Monday through Saturday, 10 AM – 2 PM. Artificial trees may also be scheduled for bulk waste collection by calling the Norfolk Cares IMPACT Center at (757) 664-6510, or by completing a request online at

What to know: Tree should be free of the stand, ornaments, tinsel and lights.


When: Dec. 25–Jan. 20

Where: Residents can drop off natural trees to be composted at the Municipal Pool Parking Lot (16 Municipal Drive, Poquoson)

What to know: Tree should be free of the stand, ornaments, tinsel and lights. Trees will be mulched or composted at the VPPSA Composting Facility. Christmas trees and yard waste are accepted year-round at the VPPSA Compost Facility (located at 145 Goodwin Neck Road, York County), Monday – Saturday, 8 AM – 4 PM. Mulch and compost are available for purchase by the public at the composting facility.



Information coming soon



When: Through Jan. 12

Where: Curbside

What to know: You must contact Kathy Bew-Jones at 365-4200 or and provide your address if you have a Christmas tree to be picked up. Tree should be free of the stand, ornaments, tinsel, garland and lights. Trees will be composted.



Information coming soon

Surry County

When: Jan. 1-Jan. 31

Where: Surry County Collection Centers (listed below)

  • Goodson Path Solid Waste Station – 409 Goodson Path, Dendron
  • Pineview Solid Waste Station – 101 Pineview Road, Waverly
  • Mantura Road Solid Waste Station – 60 Mantura Road, Surry

What to know: Tree should be free of the stand, ornaments, tinsel and lights. Please ask attendants for assistance to ensure that your tree is placed in the designated container.


Virginia Beach

When: Normal trash collection day

Where: Curbside or the Virginia Beach Landfill and Resource Recovery Center at 1989 Jake Sears Road with proof of residency.

What to know: Christmas trees will be handled as normal yard debris and need to be free of any decorations or tinsel. All trees and yard debris will be mulched.



When: Jan. 3 and Jan. 9

Where: Curbside

What to know: The City Crews will be collecting Christmas trees on Tuesday, January 3 and Monday, January 9. Trees must be placed at the curb before 7 AM and should be free of the stand, ornaments and lights. Please place separately from bulk waste and regular trash. Trees will be mulched.


York County

When: Jan. 2-Jan. 6

Where: Curbside – tree must be at curb by 7 AM on January 4 for collection that week

What to know: Tree should be free of the stand, ornaments, tinsel, lights and should be no bigger than six feet in length. For all York County residents, including non-subscribers, Christmas trees are accepted throughout January at the VPPSA Compost Facility (located at 145 Goodwin Neck Road, York County), Monday – Saturday, 8 AM – 4 PM. York County residents who subscribe to the trash program may bring yard waste to the VPPSA Compost Facility year-round.

Posted in: Holidays, Reduce reuse and recycle

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