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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.

Supplies:

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 www.511Virginia.org.
  • 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 ReadyHamptonRoads.org.

Posted in: Household tips, Outdoor tips

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An Energy Efficient Makeover for Your Fireplace

Posted on December 5, 2016 by | Comments Off

fireplaceIf you have tried to supplement your home’s heating system by building a roaring fire in an open masonry fireplace, you might have been doing more harm than good. About 70 to 90 percent of heat energy in the wood you burned disappeared up the chimney. To keep burning, the fire consumed the oxygen in the room—the air that was heated by your furnace or boiler. Plus, the smoke that spilled from your chimney contained noxious gases and particulates that contribute to air pollution.

Fireplace Inserts

Inserts are sealed fireboxes that fit into the opening of your fireplace, usually with glass fronts so that you can watch the flames. They convert 75 to 85 percent of the fuel they consume into heat. They can burn wood like a traditional fireplace, but gas and electrical inserts are also available. Some are purely decorative, but others can provide a significant amount of heat. Products list their heat output in British Thermal Units (Btu). As a general rule, the Department of Energy says that an insert rated at 60,000 Btu can heat a 2,000-square foot home; one rated at 42,000 Btu can heat a 1,300-square foot space.

  • Wood-Burning Inserts. These are the closest inserts to the traditional fireplace experience. They burn cleaner than traditional fireplaces, thanks to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations passed in 2015 that restrict particle emissions to 4.5 grams per hour. Good units have a blower fan that heats room air and recirculates it back into the room. Installation may require a new flue liner that runs from the insert to the top of the chimney.
  •  Gas-Burning Inserts. These are the most popular types of inserts. They are powered by natural gas or propane, so you will need a gas line in the fireplace. Most models work with remotes for easy start up, and you can adjust the height of the flames. Gas inserts have non-burning ceramic logs to give the impression of a roaring fire. Traditional gas inserts are vented through the masonry chimney, but direct-vent models are also available. In this type, a vent pipe goes out the back of the unit and directly through a wall. This eliminates the need for a traditional masonry chimney.
  • Pellet Inserts. These are fueled by pellets made from compressed wood waste and other materials. The pellets are placed into a hopper and then automatically fed into the fire. As with wood-burning inserts, pellet inserts are certified by the EPA for emission control.
  • Electric Inserts. These are mainly used for decorative purposes. Some produce heat, but heating with electricity is an expensive option.

If you’re concerned about conserving energy and lowering your home’s energy bill, you may want to consider a fireplace insert in place of the traditional option. It’s an environmentally-friendly way to add warmth or style to your home during the winter months.

Fran Donegan writes on home heating topics for The Home Depot. Fran is a longtime DIY writer, and is the author of the book Paint Your Home

Posted in: Going Green, Household tips

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5 Ways to a Greener Holiday Season

Posted on November 30, 2016 by | Comments Off

christmas-734866_960_720For many Americans reducing, reusing, and recycling is as far from their thoughts as starting a holiday diet. With very little effort and a few tips you can trim down your holiday waste.

  1. Reusable Bags - Don’t have one of those fancy store bought totes? No worries! Grab any reusable bag, even that beach tote you retired for the winter. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States every year. So as you can see, any bag is better than a plastic bag!
  2. Recycle While You Cook - Make food prep a snap by keeping a recycling bin nearby. Recycling while you cook is easier than you think. Tin and steel cans, clean aluminum foil and pie pans, glass bottles and jars, cardboard, clean mixed paper and in some cities you can now recycle cartons too. Not sure what is accepted? Check out your city’s waste management website.
  3. Dust Off the Fine China - Pull out grandma’s china and linens and treat your guest to a holiday meal that they will remember. Using what you have or even borrowing items eliminates disposable plates, drinkware, utensils, and napkins from going into the landfill.
  4. Grab a Growler - It’s no secret that Hampton Roads has amazing breweries as well as growler filling stations available. Opting for growlers over bottles and cans will aid you in your quest to be greener this holiday. Growlers reduce the need to buy cans and bottles and can be repurposed to hold other refreshments such as water and sweet tea.
  5. BYOC - Inviting guests? Have plans to be a guest? BYOC, otherwise known as “Bring Your Own Container”, to reduce your carbon footprint and be more eco-friendly by preventing the use of plastic storage containers, plastic wrap, and other single use plastics this holiday season.

With a little pre-planning and consideration for doing the right thing you can make small changes that produce big results.

Guest blog contributed by Kristi Rines, Recycling Coordinator for the City of Virginia Beach.

Posted in: Beautification, Going Green, Holidays, Household tips, Reduce reuse and recycle

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Winterize Your Home to Reduce Heating Bills

Posted on November 10, 2016 by | Comments Off

insulationWinterizing a house is a two-step process that includes sealing the many gaps and holes that allow heat to escape and upgrading insulation levels. The two work together to stop different types of heat loss.

Step One: Air Sealing

Heated air rises and looks for ways to escape through the top of the house. As it escapes, the pressure difference pulls outside air through cracks around windows, doors and other areas into the house. You can save energy by interrupting the cycle and attending to the escape routes in the attic.

To work in an attic, wear long pants, a long-sleeve shirt, gloves, safety glasses and a hat. Be sure to take a flashlight with you. Caution: Once in the attic, walk on the ceiling joists only. The spaces between the joists will not hold you, and you may fall through the ceiling. You can also create walkways by placing boards or sheets of thick plywood on the joists.

Plug Large Openings First

Sealing large openings will provide the biggest energy benefit. Make sure the attic hatch or attic door is not only insulated but also has foam weather-stripping around the edges. Other areas to check include:

  • Dropped soffits. Soffits are often found in kitchens and bathrooms to hide ducts or pipes. If they are installed under the attic, they are often left open. If the attic is insulated, the soffit may be covered with a fiberglass batt. However, the insulation does not prevent air movement. To seal the soffits, remove the insulation and cover the opening with a sheet of rigid insulation board. Seal the edges with caulk and reapply the insulation.
  • Flues, chimney and pipe openings. There is usually a space around any type of pipe or chimney that comes through the floor of the attic. Seal the opening around masonry chimneys or metal flues from furnaces with aluminum flashing and high-temperature silicone caulk. Seal around plumbing pipes using caulk or expanding foam. Be sure the sealant you use is made for the material it will come in contact with.
  • Recessed lights. These fixtures provide a path for air and in some cases moisture if they are installed in a kitchen or bathroom under an attic. Standard recessed fixtures are difficult to seal, and doing it wrong can be dangerous. One solution is to replace the fixtures with Insulation Contact Air Tight (ICAT) fixtures. Unlike standard fixtures, these can safely be covered with insulation in the attic and are airtight.

Plug Small Openings

Apply caulk around electrical junction boxes that go through the attic floor. Once the attic is sealed, make sure windows and doors throughout the house are caulked and weather-stripped. If you have an unfinished basement, use caulk or expanding foam to seal where the house framing meets the concrete or block foundation. Seal around any pipes or wiring that goes through the basement ceiling to the floor above.

Step Two: Upgrade Your Insulation

Most attics contain some insulation. But there is a good chance that the insulation that is there does not meet current R-value recommendations. If you can see the tops of the ceiling joist, you need to add insulation. You can find the current recommendations here.

If you install fiberglass batts, place unfaced batts perpendicular to the joists to reduce heat loss through the joist. If you opt for loose-fill insulation, it is best to have a contractor apply the material because installation requires special equipment. The depth of the final application should be even throughout the attic.

No matter what type of insulation you install, be sure to keep it at least three inches away from recessed can lights if they are not rated for insulation contact. If there are soffit vents, install insulation baffles between the rafters. These provide a path for fresh air into the attic above the insulation. When used in combination with ridge or gable vents, they help exhaust moisture-laden air and ventilate the attic.

Fran Donegan is a DIY-for-the-home authority and writes on energy-saving tips for The Home Depot. Fran’s insulation tips are geared to provide you with numerous options for your home during the winter months. 

Posted in: Household tips

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