Native Plants Helped a Colorado Neighborhood Save 15 Million Gallons of Water a Year

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

As droughts have worsened in the western U.S., residents have had to contend with a question of landscaping. Grass and other traditional fixtures of residential gardens require a lot of water to stay green. Just ask Don Ireland, who has spent years spearheading water-saving techniques in his neighborhood. According to Audubon, his efforts have helped save 15 million gallons of water per year.

When Ireland first joined the Cherry Creek Townhomes Homeowners Association upon moving to Denver, he was shocked at how much money the association was spending on its water bills. He set about getting his neighbors to improve their water-using habits in part by redesigning their gardens. For five years, he helped tear out the juniper bushes, grass, and rock gardens that dotted the community and replaced them with drought-tolerant plants native to Colorado’s high desert environment, plants that didn’t require extra water on a regular basis.

Don Ireland replaced his own lawn with a colorful garden filled with native plants.Don Ireland

The results of the project—which also included things like installing high-efficiency toilets and other appliances—are impressive. In 2008 and 2009, the community used 37 million gallons of water each year. By 2014, the neighborhood was using 20 to 22 million gallons, saving $100,000 a year and enough water to fill the local swimming pool 138 times over.

Ireland’s case proves how valuable native plants can be, but he’s not the only one crusading for homeowners to plant them. In California, water agencies have been offering rebates over the past several years to homeowners who rip out their water-guzzling lawns in favor of drought-friendly plants (though the process has not always gone smoothly). And while replanting landscaping with plants that have been bred to survive in that area does save a lot of water, the other part of the equation, installing high-efficiency appliances, has a huge effect on water usage, too. In 2015, an audit in Los Angeles found that every dollar spent on rebates for high-efficiency appliances resulted in approximately five times more water savings than a dollar spent on turf replacement.

[h/t Audubon]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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More Than 38,000 Pounds of Ground Beef Has Been Recalled

Beef-ware.
Beef-ware.
Angele J, Pexels

Your lettuce-based summer salads are safe for the moment, but there are other products you should be careful about using these days: Certain brands of hand sanitizer, for example, have been recalled for containing methanol. And as Real Simple reports, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) recently recalled 38,406 pounds of ground beef.

When JBS Food Canada ULC shipped the beef over the border from its plant in Alberta, Canada, it somehow skirted the import reinspection process, so FSIS never verified that it met U.S. food safety standards. In other words, we don’t know if there’s anything wrong with it—and no reports of illness have been tied to it so far—but eating unapproved beef is simply not worth the risk.

The beef entered the country on July 13 as raw, frozen, boneless head meat products, and Balter Meat Company processed it into 80-pound boxes of ground beef. It was sent to holding locations in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina before heading to retailers that may not be specific to those four states. According to a press release, FSIS will post the list of retailers on its website after it confirms them.

In the meantime, it’s up to consumers to toss any ground beef with labels that match those here [PDF]. Keep an eye out for lot codes 2020A and 2030A, establishment number 11126, and use-or-freeze-by dates August 9 and August 10.

[h/t Real Simple]