askHRgreen Blog
Upcoming Events for askHrgreen
  • askHRgreen Facebook
  • a
  • askHRgreen YouTube
  • a
  • askHrgreen Newsletter


avatar Hits the Streets with “Write as Rain” Campaign

Posted on April 18, 2017 by | Comments Off


Launched this week (just in time for Earth Day) on sidewalks, streetscapes and thoroughfares throughout Hampton Roads, the motivational campaign will reveal a bevy of good-to-know “green” messages that become visible when wet.  

With the approval of local municipalities, committee members blanketed the region using custom-made stencils and an eco-friendly rain-resistant spray to adhere their messages to sidewalks in locations where residents gather. When it becomes wet, the surface around the message darkens while the stenciled area stays dry and light. The messages carry such sayings as: Only Rain Down the Storm Drain; No Wipes in Our Pipes; Your Morning Shower Starts with Tap Water; and Cigarette Butts are Litter, Too. There are 12 different messages in all!

Why “Write as Rain?”
The goal of the campaign is to inspire people to think about our Hampton Roads environment in ways they haven’t before. What’s more unexpected than a magically appearing message written with rain?

Grab your umbrella and head outside to enjoy the next rainy day in Hampton Roads and look for messages in Chesapeake, Hampton, Isle of Wight County, James City County, Newport News, Portsmouth, Smithfield, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg, York County, and more locations. Find a message near you using our interactive map below and check back often as new locations are added.

Whenever you find one of our hidden messages, don’t forget to snap a photo to share with us on social media #askHRgreen.  

Posted in: Clean and safe tap water, Community events, Don't litter!, Fats, oils and grease disposal, Going Green, HR Green campaign updates, Keeping storm drains free, Reduce reuse and recycle, Waterways

Share a link to this article with someone you know. Fill out the form below to send it to them.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


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

Share a link to this article with someone you know. Fill out the form below to send it to them.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Green Ways to Open Your Drain

Posted on September 26, 2016 by | Comments Off

 A casual Sunday stroll down the cleaning supplies aisle at any local home center looks like an armory chocked full of drain cleaning ordinance. Based on their labels, all these products are terrifically effective, but at the end of the day, once you use these chemicals, they’re gone—literally down the drain.

The best approach to cleaning drain clogs is to never get clogs in the first place. That said, here are a few tips to keep your drains running free:

  • Can the grease – Pour used cooking grease into an empty, heat safe container, such as a soup can, and store it in the freezer. Once solidified, toss the can into the garbage.
  • Scrape your plate – Scrape all leftover food from pots, pans, dishes, and cooking utensils into the trash can to prevent them from going down the kitchen sink.
  • Catch the scraps – Use a sink strainer to catch any food scraps that remain on dirty dishes and plates then toss them into the trash or compost bin.
  • Don’t treat your toilet like a trash can – The only things you should be flushing are toilet paper and your “personal” contribution. Anything else, including “flushable” wipes, may contribute to a clog in your home plumbing.
  • When a drain starts to slow down, don’t wait for a clog to form. Pour about a ½ cup of baking soda down the drain. Wait a few minutes, then add 1 cup of vinegar, followed by one cup of hot water. Let the chemistry happen for 10 or 15 minutes. Then, run hot tap water down the drain to clean out the congestion, the baking soda and the vinegar.

 It’s always best to be proactive about pipe blockages. But when a clog hits your home plumbing, here’s what do to get things flowing again without the use of toxic chemicals. Use these tips to help keep all of the plumbing in your home clear of clogs.




Plungers work by forcing air and water toward a blockage. After several good plunges up and down, the blockage will break up, and then can be flushed down the drain with hot water from the faucet. For this technique to succeed, any vent holes must be plugged with a damp rag to prevent air from entering the drain and reducing the suction created by the plunging action. In a sink basin, these are usually inside the bowl under the front rim. In a tub, they’re at the bottom of the overflow plate. If you have a double-bowl kitchen sink, you should plug one of the two drain openings.

But don’t just grab the first plunger you see. A double cup (or an extension cup) model is best because it allows plunging of toilet bowls in addition to sink and bathtub drains.



A toilet auger, sometimes called a closet auger is designed to remove blocks from toilet traps. A cable is fed into the hole and turned with the handle until the blockage is broken up. A coiled wire bulb at the end of the cable has a sharp point for grabbing solid clogs.

If you’re lucky, a plunger will handle all your slow and blocked drains. But if a bigger clog is afoot, then you’ll need more fire power: either a toilet auger if the problem is with the toilet or a power auger if the problem is in a sink or tub drain.

The toilet auger is a clever cable device made with a coiled wire bulb on one end and a hand crank on the other. This cable rides inside a housing that has a steep bend on one end, designed to fit easily into the hole at the bottom of the bowl.

To use it, insert the bulb end into the hole and keep sliding the cable down until it is blocked. Gently turn the handle to loosen the blockage or to clear the bulb from any built-in obstructions like the joints where pipes meet. If you hit the blockage, just pull the cable back and forth until it breaks up, then wash it down the drain with a fresh flush. If the bulb was stopped by a pipe obstruction, jiggle the cable back and forth until you can push it farther into the drain and on its way to the real blockage.


The power drum auger holds about 20 ft. of coiled cable inside its housing. The cable is pulled out the front barrel until the wire bulb on the end hits a blockage. Then the cable is locked with a lever (seen just above the bulb) and the cable is turned, either by hand or by attaching a drill to the nub provided on the back of the tool.

The power drum auger is made with the same type of cable found in the toilet auger and it has the same coiled bulb on one end and a turning handle on the other. The cable is longer, usually around 20 feet, and comes wound in a metal or plastic housing.

As before, you start by feeding the coiled bulb into the drain opening on the sink or tub and then turning the handle whenever an obstruction is hit. For especially difficult clogs, this auger is outfitted with an adapter for attaching an electric drill. Attach the drill and hand-cranking becomes a thing of the past.  Keep in mind that both the toilet auger and the power drum auger are common rental items. If you won’t use them often and don’t want to buy them, then consider renting.

Guest blog submitted by Steve Willson who joined Popular Mechanics magazine as their Home Improvement Editor, authored three books and has edited or rewritten 11 books on various home improvement and tool use topics and now writes for  the Home Depot.

Posted in: Fats, oils and grease disposal

Share a link to this article with someone you know. Fill out the form below to send it to them.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


To Flush or Not to Flush?

Posted on March 23, 2016 by | Comments Off

That was the question posed by Ms. Tanya Conley’s fourth grade science class at Hebrew Academy of Tidewater. These smart students recognize that anything that doesn’t dissolve in water could possibly clog home plumbing lines and sewer pipes, resulting in a costly mess.

temp1Students placed samples of toilet paper, baby wipes, and flushable wipes in water bottles and shook the bottles for one minute throughout a two week period to test for “dispersibility”— or how much the paper and wipes would break apart and dissolve. 

The results – all toilet paper samples completely disintegrated, some flushable wipes broke down but did not disintegrate, and the baby wipes remained intact.  

The recommendation from these fourth graders – never flush wipes!











Posted in: Fats, oils and grease disposal, Household tips, HR Green Mini-Grant Program, What Not To Flush

Share a link to this article with someone you know. Fill out the form below to send it to them.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


A Sink Full of Appreciation this Thanksgiving

Posted on November 25, 2015 by | Comments Off

sink2I’m in love with my new sink.  After 3 months of DIY renovations we finally moved into our new house and I’ve got to say, it’s one of my favorite things amidst the mountains of boxes.  I’m trying to take it one box at a time but I may lose my mind if I don’t get everything unpacked soon.  It’s fitting that Thanksgiving is almost here because as painful as the moving process is, there is plenty that I have to be thankful for.  For starters, I now have three toilets.  Three.  There are nearly 2.5 billion people in this world that don’t even have one toilet.  I also have conveniences like clean water at the turn of a tap and light at the flip of a switch – both very easy to take for granted until you don’t have them, and a lot of people don’t have them.   I’m even thankful for days when I think I’ll lose my mind because I wouldn’t have nearly as many of them without my two healthy, crazy, screaming kids that light up my world, and my two shedding, slobbering, barking dogs that think I’m the best thing that has ever happened to them. 

Another one that tops the list is my handy husband, who managed to turn all of my Pinterest-inspired ideas into reality and create a place that already feels like home (love you, hubby).  The kitchen was our biggest project and we went with modern white cabinets, butcher block countertops, and a big farmhouse-style apron-front sink.  Just look at that sink!  I know, I know, I need clean water, I don’t need a cool sink that it drips into, but we all have our weaknesses and thanks to IKEA this sink was within budget.  It almost makes me happy about doing dishes.  Almost.

The coolest part about this sink is something you can’t see in the photo – no garbage disposal.  The house had one but when the old kitchen came out that sucker was not going back in.  How could I do that to such a magnificent sink?!  It’s just too pretty.  Going disposal-free not only frees up storage space in my sink cabinet, it protects my pipes and the environment.  Garbage disposals grind food into tiny particles so they can get down the initial part of your home’s plumbing, but the sewer system was not designed to deal with your leftovers or fats, oils, and grease (called FOG) that are incorrectly disposed of down a drain.  Food particles stick to FOG, build up on pipe walls and can eventually cause clogs and sewer backups in your plumbing or in larger sewer pipes down the line that cause spills into our communities.   Instead of relying on a disposal, I scrape my leftovers in the trash and keep a strainer in the sink drain to catch any food particles that attempt to escape when I’m washing up.  I don’t have to worry about sewage making an appearance in my fabulous sink and I feel good about protecting the environment from sewage spills.  Win. 

sink1You can do it too – ditch the disposal this holiday season!  If you can’t bring yourself to remove your disposal, at least pretend it’s not there and keep a strainer in your sink at all times.  It’s OK to take baby steps.  Your pipes are already thanking you.  But before you go dig out that sink strainer, here is one more photo of my fabulous sink for your viewing pleasure.




Posted in: Fats, oils and grease disposal, Going Green, Holidays, Household tips

Share a link to this article with someone you know. Fill out the form below to send it to them.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


  • This is exciting stuff! Get email notifications when new blog posts have been made.