Materials Management

Saving resources - saving money

The links below contain valuable tips on how you can make the most of your resources. Call it being "resource-wise" of going beyond the recycling bin. Using resources efficiently just makes good sense.

Being efficient about the resources you consume (like energy, water, and materials) saves you money, prevents waste, and conserves resources for future generations.

Try these suggestions and see how using resources efficiently can actually simplify and improve the quality of your life.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure...

Much of what we need, want, and use daily comes from natural resources. These resources, like iron ore, aluminum, oil, gas, and water, are critical to our way of life and our survival. Using them wisely is in our best interest. While many people focus on the “waste” (garbage) that results from buying goods, the environmental impacts of production, including the natural resources used and pollution created in manufacturing and transport, are often larger than the impacts of disposal. For many types of consumer goods, once you’ve acquired a new item, much of the environmental damage has already been done.

Using materials efficiently means making good purchases, reusing what you can, and recycling as much as possible. While Oregonians are good at recycling, we are still generating more waste every year. By making very simple changes in your purchases and the way you do things, you can prevent waste by not generating it in the first place.

Did you know...
  • Oregonians generate 8 pounds of waste per person everyday (in 2004, 4.5 pounds per person per day was thrown away and 3.7 pounds was recycled, on average). That's more than 5.3 million tons in a year.
  • Four cents of every dollar Americans spend on goods goes to packaging: $225 per person per year or $75 a month for a family of four.
  • Americans discard annually 183 million razors, 2.7 billion batteries, 140 million cubic meters of Styrofoam "packing" peanuts, 350 million pressurized paint cans plus enough paper and plastic ware to serve the world a picnic every other month.
  • According to the national Merck Family Fund Study, people express a strong desire for a greater sense of balance in their lives - not to reject material gain, but to bring it in proportion with the non-material rewards of life.
Here's what you can do...
  • Simplify your life: Think about what you enjoy doing most. Often, the things we cherish most in life aren't for sale. Spend time discovering "low-tech" recreation: taking a walk, gardening, visiting friends, and stopping to "smell the roses".
  • Think before you buy: How many times a day do you think about something you want to buy? We are encouraged daily with flashy enticements to buy products we don't always need. Buying things we don't really need can be expensive, adds to clutter, and contributes to waste and pollution.
  • Buy in bulk or "value-pack" sizes: You can save a bundle by buying in bulk (but only if it's an item you'd normally buy a lot of anyway). Some products are not available in bulk but might come in a large container or in a concentrate. You can save an average of 52% off the price of a heavily packaged product this way.
  • Purchase products that are durable and won't break easily: Look for warranties, ask if the product can be repaired, and/or find out which product is rated highest in Consumer Reports.
  • Choose colors and styles that are “classic” and won’t call out for rapid replacement: Shag green carpet, anyone?
  • Pack your lunch in reusable containers: Why spend money buying plastic and paper bags, aluminum foil, or wax paper? You can save money on your purchases and save money on your garbage bill by using containers over and over again.
  • Purchase durable products: More and more of the products we buy are made to be used only once. That's not very efficient. Look for refillable pens, lighters, real cameras, and cloth napkins and towels.
  • Repair broken or torn things: It is fun and satisfying to fix things when they break. You'll save money, resources, and a trip to the store.
  • Give gifts that are resource efficient: An energy efficient light bulb, a fancy lunchbox, a wrapped box that can be used over and over again. Give an experience instead of "stuff," like a trip to the beach, a memorable event, or a hand-made gift.
  • Reduce the amount of unwanted mail you receive: Ask to be removed from mailing lists you don't want to be on. You can call the company 1-800 number if there is one, or if the mailing includes a reply envelope use it to mail a request to be removed from the mailing list.
  • Share tools with friends and neighbors: Sharing is fun and it can save you a lot of money.
You make a difference. Consider this...
  • If just 100 people stopped using paper cups every day and carried a reusable mug -- collectively they would save the resources used and pollution created from making 50,000 disposable cups a year.
Information taken from:
  • Oregon DEQ Resource Efficiency Tool Kit
  • SMART Program Packaging Waste Results, 
    Minnesota Office of Waste Management
  • How Much is Enough? 
    Alan Durning
  • Yearning for Balance, 
    Merck Family Fund

Even though water is the most abundant substance on earth, only 1% is available for human consumption. Most of the water on earth is either saltwater or freshwater that is frozen in the polar ice caps and not usable by humans. Population growth, agriculture, and manufacturing all demand increasing amounts of freshwater.

Clean drinking water is precious because the amount of water on earth is constant and recycled through time. This means some of the water you drink is more than 20 million years old! Protecting and conserving water is vital to our survival and the survival of future generations.

Some of the environmental benefits that are aided by water efficiency include:
  • Fewer septic system failures caused from water overwhelming the system.
  • Healthier natural pollution filters such as downstream wetlands.
  • Reduced water contamination caused by polluted runoff from over-irrigating yards and agricultural lands.
  • Reduced need to construct additional dams and reservoirs or otherwise regulate the natural flow of streams, thus preserving their free flow and retaining the value of stream and river systems as wildlife habitats and recreational areas.
  • Reduced need to construct additional wastewater treatment facilities.
  • Efficient water use can also reduce the amount of energy needed to treat wastewater, resulting in less energy demand and, therefore, fewer harmful byproducts from power plants.
  • Most people realize that hot water uses up energy, but supplying and treating cold water requires a significant amount of energy, too. American public water supply and treatment facilities consume about 56 billion kilowatt-hours per year—enough electricity to power more than 5 million homes for an entire year.
  • The average American home uses about 260 gallons of water per day; however, during peak season the average household can use about 1,000 gallons of water in a day. Some homes use as much as 3,000 gallons on a peak day!
Here's what you can do...
  • The average bathroom faucet flows at a rate of two gallons per minute. Turning off the tap while brushing your teeth in the morning and at bedtime can save up to 8 gallons of water per day, which equals 240 gallons a month!
  • Collect water that runs until the shower gets hot. Use it to water plants.
  • Take a 5 minute shower or take one every other day: You can save 3 times: the water, the sewer, and the gas or electricity it takes to heat the water.
  • Save water and energy every flush: Over the course of your lifetime, you will likely flush the toilet nearly 140,000 times. If you replace older, existing toilets with WaterSense labeled models, you can save 4,000 gallons per year with this simpler, greener choice.
  • Don't pre-rinse dishes. Most newer dishwashers don't require pre-rinsing.
  • Make sure the dishwasher is full when you run it and/or use a small trickle to wash and rinse dishes. Average dishwashers use approximately 12 gallons of water every time you use them.
  • Reuse clean household water, such as water you run until it's hot, or water used to boil eggs or steam vegetables.
  • Chill drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap for cold water. You can waste up to 4 gallons of water every time you let the water run until it is cold.
  • Make sure there are no leaks or drips: A dripping faucet can waste 20 gallons a day or more, and leaking toilets can waste up to 500 gallons a day!
  • The average washing machine uses about 41 gallons of water per load. High-efficiency washing machines use less than 28 gallons of water per load. To achieve even greater savings, wash only full loads of laundry or use the appropriate load size selection on the washing machine.
  • When washing the car use a bucket: Only run water when you are rinsing the car off. Some commercial car washes recycle their water and are more efficient than doing it yourself.
  • Know how much you are using: A good way to help you reduce your use of water is to know how much you are consuming. Your water bill will tell you what you have used in cf's (cubic feet) or ccf's (100's of cubic feet). To convert cf's to gallons multiply the number of cf's by 7.5. To convert ccf's to gallons multiply by 748.
Information taken from:


We need energy for everything we do. Using energy efficiently can be as simple as turning out the lights when you leave the room and as important as saving salmon habitat.

In the United States, we are dependent on a few sources of non-renewable energy (oil, natural gas, and coal). To sustain our standard of living and quality of life, we need to conserve energy whenever possible. It's easy and it will save you money.

Did you know...
  • You can save $10 to $20 every month by lowering your thermostat by 3 degrees or more!
  • Washers and dryers can account for as much as 25% of the energy you use at home (including the hot water for the washer).
  • Hot water accounts for 20-50% of your annual energy bill.
Here's what you can do...
  • Control your thermostat: Place a thermometer next to your thermostat to ensure you are setting it accurately. Set your thermostat for 68 degrees during the day and 55 degrees at night for maximum efficiency.
  • Keep your furnace filters clean: Clean or replace furnace filters every month in the winter and vacuum the fins of electric baseboards. This will not only cut costs, it will improve the air quality in your home.
  • Cut down on drafts: Low-cost improvements to your windows will keep you warmer. Cover your windows at night. Push "rope" caulk in the cracks of windows that open, and install low-cost plastic film storm windows in the rooms you spend the most time.
  • Plug up leaks: Cold drafts don't just come from windows. Close the fireplace damper when it is not in use. Patch holes in walls, ceilings, windows, etc. Weather strip attic access door or hatch. Use v-weather-stripping for top and sides of exterior doors. Install foam gaskets behind electrical outlets.
  • Keep your water heater at 120 degrees: Why waste $20-$60 keeping water hotter than you need? It's easy to lower the setting of your water heater. Turn off the electricity, remove top and bottom cover plates on the side of electric water heaters, then adjust both thermostats to 120 degrees and replace covers. If you have a gas water heater, set the dial near the bottom.
  • Insulate your water heater: You can purchase special insulating blankets for your water heater and it will pay for itself in the money you save.
  • Install a water saving showerhead: Water saving shower heads can cut water use by 40% and the energy it takes to heat it. They are easy to install, they cost less than $20, and they won't affect the water pressure.
  • Wash clothes in warm or cold water: Energy for hot water to wash clothes can cost 40 cents per load. Warm or cold water is usually enough to get your clothes clean. Dry your clothes efficiently by sorting into fast and slow drying loads, or better yet, hang you clothes to dry and save 25 cents a load! Be sure to clean your lint traps and avoid over-filling your dryer.
  • Save energy with your refrigerator: Set the temperature of your refrigerator using a thermometer to 38-40 degrees. Vacuum the coils on the back of your refrigerator and avoid letting the ice build-up more than 1-1.5" in your freezer.
  • Turn off the Lights: Keep lights off in rooms you are not in. Consider replacing your burned out bulbs with energy efficient compact fluorescents and save $15 per bulb.
You make a difference. Consider this...

If each household in the US lowered its average heating temperature by 6 degrees over a 24 hour period, we'd save the energy equivalent of 500,000 barrels of oil every day.

Information taken from:
  • Low Cost Steps to Cut Utility Bills, 
    OSU Extension Service 1-800-457-9394
  • 10 Quick Ways to Cut your Energy Bills, 
    OSU Extension Service
  • The "I Can Make a Difference In the Environment" Handbook, 
    The Earth Works Group and Portland General Electric

Most home closets, basements, and garages are stocked with household products like cleaners, paints, polishes, and pesticides that promise to be quick, easy, and effective-- but how safe are these products? You might assume that a product is safe if it's for sale. Unfortunately, many products may contain chemical ingredients that can be dangerous when you use them, or harmful to humans and the environment if they are disposed of improperly.

A hazardous product is any product whose use, disposal, or improper handling may be damaging to human health, or to the environment. By reducing the toxicity of the products we use, we reduce the risk of harming the environment that supports us.

Did you know...
  • Every day US families produce an estimated 4 million pounds of household hazardous waste.
  • 260 million gallons of motor oil are improperly disposed in streams, sewers or on the ground each year in the US - the equivalent of 16 Exxon Valdez oil spills.
Here's what you can do...
  • Mix your own all-purpose cleaner: Mix one quart of warm water with 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap, 1 teaspoon borax and 1/4 cup of vinegar. You'll be pleased with how well it works on counters, floors, walls, rugs, etc. for a fraction of the cost of store-bought cleaners.
  • Get rid of pests and weeds without harmful chemicals: Many pests can be picked off plants, sprayed off with a hose, or killed using simple things like beer, salt, or dish soap. Eliminate aphids using a spray bottle of dish soap and water and pour salt on slugs. These alternatives are usually much cheaper than purchasing harmful chemicals.
  • Recycle your motor oil: If you change your own oil recycle it by taking it to a recycling depot that accepts motor oil or setting it at the curb if you have curbside recycling pick-up.
  • Don't buy aerosols: These containers may explode if heated. Contents may be flammable, irritating, corrosive, toxic, or poisonous. Using non-aerosol containers like pump-sprays, roll-ons, or liquids reduces these risks.
  • Choose water-based latex paints: Water-based latex paints contain fewer flammable and toxic solvents than oil-based paints. As with all products containing solvents buy only what you need and, work in a well-ventilated room.
  • Buy only what you need: Much of the household hazardous waste collected at facilities and special events is the result of people buying more than they need and letting it sit around until it is unusable. Carefully calculate your needs and don't over buy.
  • Choose the least hazardous product to do the job: Look for the signal words: CAUTION, WARNING, DANGER. These words tell you how hazardous a product is. Caution is the least hazardous. But there are also alternatives to these that are even less hazardous.
  • Follow safety precautions included on the label: Work in a well-ventilated area. Store products away from children's reach, heat sources, high traffic areas. Use "Mr. Yuck" stickers to identify harmful products in your home. Dispose of products through local household hazardous waste collection programs or as instructed on the product label.
  • If you are moving in or moving out: Do you have unwanted household hazardous products that you are not able to use yourself? You may be able to give them away or you can call the state Household Hazardous Waste Hotline for information on collection programs. Call 1-800-732-9253.
  • Give it away: If you do have products left over, give them to friends or neighbors. If you have paints or cleaners call your local charitable organizations to see if they are in need of these products.
You make a difference. Consider this...

If just 1% of US families cut their hazardous waste in half, we'd keep 7.3 million pounds of hazardous waste out of our landfills and waterways each year.

Information taken from:
  • Hazardless Home Handbook
    Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Metro
  • Alternatives to Pesticides, 
    Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
  • The Recyclers Handbook, 
    Earthworks