Ripping Out Your Lawn and Other (Less Extreme) Ways to Save Water

It’s Saturday morning. Cartoons are on, breakfast is cooking, and before you’ve even wiped the sleep from your eyes, Dad’s yelling at you to mow the lawn. Ah, memories …

Here in drought-stricken California, though, we may need to find another way for kids to earn their keep besides cutting the grass. In an effort to save water, several cities, including Napa, Los Angeles, and Sacramento, have started Cash for Grass programs.

What is Cash for Grass?

The premise behind these programs is simple. Cities offer residents anywhere between $0.50 to $2.00 per square foot to rip out their lawns and replace them with water-saving options, like native plants or rock gardens. Though Sacramento’s program hasn’t gone into effect yet, demand is already high.

And that’s a good thing because, as a nation, we use a lot of water in our yards — 7.8 billion gallons per day, according to the EPA. That’s 30 percent of our daily water use (and 30 percent of our water bills!).

If you don’t want to rip out your lawn, there are other things you can do to save water in your yard. Here are a few ideas for how to keep a water-conscious garden.

How to save water in your yard

1. Water less

Before you respond with a collective “duh,” keep reading (it turns out a lot of people overwater).

Of course, different plants have different needs — annuals tend to need more water, perennials less —  but a good rule of thumb is to deeply saturate your plants and then let them dry out a bit before watering again.

When it comes to your lawn, you can often go up to a week between waterings (depending on your soil). If you’re unsure whether your grass is thirsty, step on it. If it springs back, it’s still plenty hydrated. But if your footprint remains for more than a couple of hours, it’s time for water.

2. Water in the morning

Watering early in the morning slows down evaporation since the sun isn’t as strong when it first rises.

I used to think that watering my plants in the evening was just as beneficial. But, it turns out that plants need time to (slowly) dry out throughout the day to avoid developing mold and fungus. Considering how foggy the Bay Area can become at night, I’m glad I switched to a morning routine!

3. Add compost to your soil

Creating your own compost can be a little, well, icky. But, man, is it good for your plants. Compost helps the soil retain moisture while also giving it tons of yummy nutrients.

And it’s good for different varieties of soil too. If you have sandy soil, it’ll hold in moisture. And if you have clay soil, it can increase aeration and drainage.

If you compost at home, more power to you. But if worms kind of freak you out, compost is also available for purchase (try adding mulch on top for extra moisture retention).

4. Grow native plants

Whether you live in the desert, the tropics, or somewhere in between, native plants (those that were here before European settlers incorporated plants from abroad) are naturally adapted to the soil and climate of their region. In addition to using less water, these hardy plants often require less fertilizer and pesticide because they’ve evolved to survive in local conditions.

A quick Google search will tell what’s native to your neck of the woods. If you live in a drier region, succulents are a great, low-maintenance option, as are herb gardens — rosemary and lavender tend to thrive in dry areas (and provide year-round seasoning for your meals).

5. Recycle your water

When you’re waiting for the shower (or sink) to heat up, collect the water in a bucket, then use it to water your plants. I’ve been using this method for a couple months and haven’t needed to use my sprinklers at all (thanks, native plants!).

Saving feels good

When I moved into my place a few years ago, I was in the fortunate position of having a blank slate in my backyard. For about $300, I landscaped it on my own using native plants and some strategically placed stones. It was a fun way to spend the weekend and it’s nice to not have to worry about watering every day.

If you already have a firmly established (and thirsty) garden, however, hope is not lost. Take advantage of these tips to decrease your water use and lower your water bill.

And if you’re looking for other ways to save around the house, get a quote for Esurance homeowners or renters insurance. By bundling it with your car insurance, you could save time and money — and who’s not a fan of that?

Related links

We can help you save water inside your home too!
Did you know your homeowners insurance can also cover your garden?

Video Appraisal: Why You Need This Technology Now

Every year, tech giants debut the next big thing to make life easier.

And, no strangers to making life easier, we at Esurance constantly leverage technology to revolutionize how you shop for, buy, and manage your car insurance. Over the past few years, we’ve brought you the Coverage Counselor®What If® Calculator, and Fuelcaster® — all designed to save you time and hassle (and yup, money too).

This year, we’re thrilled to bring you one of the biggest innovations in claims technology: video appraisal!

Video appraisal — the first of its kind in the insurance industry

When a car accident happens, you want to get back on the road as soon as possible.

Now, with our brand-new appraisal feature on Esurance Mobile, you can! Video appraisal helps you save time by enabling you to:

  • Schedule an appraisal at a convenient time for you
  • Get an appraisal without having to leave your car in the shop
  • Get your estimate on the spot

Simply use your smartphone to video chat in real time with an Esurance appraiser. It’s that easy.

How video appraisal works

Just file your claim to get started. If a video appraisal would speed things up, your rep can schedule one at a time that works for you. (Of course, you can always opt for an in-person appraisal too.)

Once your appointment’s booked, log into the app to get started — it’s automatically included on the latest version of Esurance Mobile for Android™ and iPhone®.*

Check out this clip to see how a video appraisal can speed up your claim.

But wait … there’s more Esurance Mobile goodness

Claims aren’t the only things that are now easier thanks to new and improved technology.

You can also:

  • Add a new car by scanning the VIN or edit an existing vehicle (not yet available in all states)
  • Use your voice to navigate the app
  • Save your ID card to your device and use it as digital proof of insurance if it’s accepted in your state (we’ll mark it with “official” to let you know that it is)

Download Esurance Mobile

If you’re a policyholder but don’t have our app, what are you waiting for? Download the app for your favorite device and start managing your policy on the go.

*To get a video appraisal, you need at least an iPhone 5 with iOS 7 or Android 4.0 on your smartphone, 4G LTE connection, and an eligible claim.


Bike Lanes: What Are the Rules Exactly?

Most major cities have been adding bike lanes to their streets to accommodate the hordes of new pedal-powered commuters.

While this has improved safety to some degree, it’s also been confusing for both motorists and cyclists who are still learning how to get along on the road. To that end, here are some quick pointers (with visuals!) collected during a lifetime of urban cycling.

When the car’s turning right

Widespread misunderstanding of this maneuver has caused, in my experience, the most conflict between cyclists and motorists. It’s always best to double-check the specific laws in your state, but most adhere to the following: unless the bike lane sits between a proper turn lane and a straight lane, it becomes a turn lane for cars during its last 100 feet. Many bike lanes, at least in San Francisco, try to make this apparent with a dashed line.

What motorists should do

Whether your city provides dashed lines or not, you’re permitted to enter the bike lane as long as nobody’s right beside you (we’ll get to that later) in order to make your turn. Remember to use your signal and to keep an eye out for pedestrians, other motorists, and bicycles.

What cyclists should do

A bicycle is a vehicle. As a result, you’re not permitted to overtake another vehicle on the right side — especially when that vehicle is turning right. When you see a car attempting to turn, you should either stop and wait or make sure that you can safely pass on the vehicle’s left (just be sure to signal before entering the auto lane). Keep in mind that if you attempt to squeeze around the right side of a turning car and get hit, you could be held at least partially responsible.


How to turn left as a cyclist

Turning left can feel a little disconcerting for new cyclists. Plus, leaving the bike lane and moving across traffic to get into the turn lane can make you vulnerable.

Though it’s perfectly legal for cyclists to move across traffic, there’s another way to do it if you don’t feel comfortable. To make a “beginner’s left,” stay on the far right side of your lane and head straight through the intersection. Before you cross out of the intersection, get in the bike lane that’s perpendicular to you on your right. Once you’re safely in that lane, stop, align your bike to the new direction, and start pedaling once the light turns green.

This is also an easy way to avoid motorists who may get skittish when you enter the traffic lane. I’ve been cycling for over 30 years and I still make the occasional beginner’s left from Van Ness Avenue — a fast-moving, 6-lane street from which it’s incredibly difficult to turn left. On the road, it’s always better to play it safe.


Parking in a bike lane

What motorists should know

It’s illegal, it’s unsafe, and it’s uncool.

What cyclists should know

Retaliation is illegal and also uncool.

How to safely share the road

In the end, common sense should always be your go-to. If you’re in a car and there’s a long line of cyclists approaching from behind, it’s the same as if there was a long line of cars approaching — wait until it’s safe to move right.

If you’re on a bike and a car begins to turn right but you don’t have enough room, speed, or time to pass it on the left, stop and wait until you do.

If you’re in a car and a cyclist enters the traffic lane to make a left, treat it just as you would another car and patiently wait your turn.

And no matter which vehicle you choose, you should always signal your intentions — with turn signals or hand signals.

We’re all just trying to get where we’re going and by exhibiting some patience, we can all get there safely.

Rubber-side down!

#EsuranceSave30 at SXSW: A Giveaway That Made History

This week, Esurance was at the world-famous South by Southwest (SXSW) music, film, and interactive conference and festival held in Austin, Texas. And boy, did we make the rounds!

Our Esurance Access Badge gave attendees special access to events like the Mashable House, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and more. Our on-site Glove Box awarded cool prizes like iPads® and Mophie® Juice Packs. And our Fuel Lounge at 6th and Trinity introduced guests to our newest money-saving tool, Fuelcaster™ (while also providing them with refreshments from local juicer, Juiceland).

And then there was our panel discussion with Leo Burnett, our advertising agency, and Twitter. The topic? Our #EsuranceSave30 Twitter giveaway.

How the #EsuranceSave30 giveaway came to be

You probably heard that we gave away 1.5 million dollars as part of a first-of-its-kind Twitter giveaway following Super Bowl XLVIII.

We were invited to SXSW to talk about how the whole thing went down — a behind-the-scenes look at what went right, what went wrong, and what kept us up at night.

It was a packed house as our esteemed panel talked about some of the challenges of working against the clock (we only had 6 weeks to make it happen) and making tough decisions about hashtags, Twitter trolls, and how to keep track of millions of Tweets.

And it couldn’t have happened without our partners — from Leo Burnett who came up with the great idea, to Twitter who helped us manage the 81 spam accounts that popped up, to all those who helped monitor and respond to the millions of people Tweeting during the 36-hour campaign.

Our panel generated a lot of interesting Tweets as well. Here are a few:

sxsw 6



Attendees asked great questions too, including one about how a wildly successful campaign like #EsuranceSave30 will impact how we do things on social media. The answer: this giveaway (while attention-grabbing) was just one small part of how we use social media at Esurance.

Our relationship with social media

In the modern world, social media is integral to how we connect, communicate, and share information. And it’s a great place to showcase our partnerships with exciting events like SXSW, the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, and the US Open.

But if you look past those high profile events, you’ll see that we’re on Twitter and Facebook 24 hours a day, talking to customers, answering questions, and helping them solve their insurance issues in a way that only we can — by being approachable, fast, and responsive. In fact, our @esurancecares Twitter handle is devoted entirely to customer service. And we have the fastest Facebook response times in the industry.

The folks responding on those platforms are the same licensed agents you’d talk to over the phone or online. Social media simply provides our customers with one more (superefficient) way to get in touch.

We’re exceedingly proud of our Twitter giveaway success, but it’s the day-to-day customer interaction that truly makes us who we are. Welcome to the faster, smarter, and just plain better modern world.

Looking for more info on our Super Bowl giveaway? Check out these highlights and milestones:


2186.16 Win Big infographic-01

North Dakota: Milk Mustaches, Enchanted Geese, and Nearly 9,000 Angels

Esurance now offers car insurance in North Dakota, bringing our total number of states to 42. We’re psyched because this place is pretty darn cool. Yet a lot of folks don’t know much about North Dakota beyond the movie Fargo.

Read on to find out what makes this state so special.

It turned Teddy Roosevelt’s life around

Though President Roosevelt is now famous for his toughness and brawn, he was scrawny and sickly growing up. In 1883, his first trip to North Dakota (then Dakota Territory) to hunt bison changed all that. Enamored with the landscape, he became a rancher and spent much of the next 4 years there. By the time he returned home for good, he was a suntanned, barrel-chested icon of vitality.

Roosevelt’s lifelong interest in conservation began in North Dakota when he saw the herds of bison diminishing before his eyes. He was also struck by the eerie, dramatically shaped Badlands near the Little Missouri River, which he said looked the way Edgar Allan Poe sounds. Today, those Badlands are part of the 70,467-acre Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

It’s an enchanting place to drive

North Dakota’s highways tend to offer views of wide-open spaces and not much else. But, for 32 miles along Highway 21 (aka the Enchanted Highway), drivers are greeted by giant grasshoppers, massive pheasants, and even Teddy Roosevelt himself, all crafted from scrap metal by local sculptor Gary Greff.

Worried that his hometown of Regent would become extinct like many other small farm communities, he started the project in 1989 as a way to boost tourism in the area. The most famous of his creations, Geese in Flight, holds the Guinness World Record for world’s largest scrap-metal sculpture.

It could set a record for setting records

Greff’s goose sculpture is just one example of North Dakota’s penchant for going big.

  • The state is home to 2 more record-breaking roadside structures: Salem Sue, the world’s largest Holstein cow at 38 feet high, and the Jamestown Buffalo which stands 26 feet high.
  • Every year, the world’s largest french-fry feed is held during Potato Bowl USA in Grand Forks.
  • North Dakota also holds the world record for the largest number of people making snow angels at once (8,962).
  • Past world records include largest pancake feed, largest flipped hamburger, and longest ice-cream sundae. (Hey, if you have the space …)

Sacagawea called it home

The story of explorers Lewis and Clark can’t be told without including Sacagawea, a local Shoshone woman who became their interpreter. Joining their Corps of Discovery expedition in 1804, she traveled with them for the next 2 years, accompanying them all the way to the Pacific Ocean and back. Her presence as the only woman in the group meant that the tribes they encountered knew them to be friendly (war parties never included women). She helped procure the horses necessary for the journey, and her knowledge of the landscape proved invaluable as well. Oh, and she did it all while carrying her newborn son on her back.

Folks say it’s peaceful, but also rough

North Dakota is officially called the Peace Garden State in honor of the International Peace Garden that stretches across the borders of North Dakota and Manitoba. But it has 2 other nicknames: the Roughrider State (for the famed First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry that fought under Teddy Roosevelt in the Spanish-American War) and the Flickertail State (for its ubiquitous, tail-twitching Richardson ground squirrels).

Other fun North Dakota facts

  • North Dakota produces half of the sunflowers grown in America
  • The official state beverage is milk
  • When North Dakota and South Dakota became states on the same day in 1889, the papers were deliberately shuffled so no one knew which state was admitted first
  • The town of Rugby is said to be the geographical center of North America (though it may actually be closer to the towns of Orrin and Balta)
  • North Dakota is home to 63 National Wildlife Refuges, the most of any state

So, whether you love nature, history, or just a nice, frosty dairy drink, North Dakota is worth getting to know.

And North Dakotans, you certainly don’t need us to tell you what’s great about your state. But if you need reliable car insurance, we’re here to help 24/7.