Liz Hieter
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Are You Conserving Water?

April 25, 2017 4:33 am

You recycle. You reuse. You shop second hand. Congratulations! You’re already taking many steps to reduce your carbon footprint. However, have you thought about how much water you may literally be dumping down the drain daily? A recent study shows that nine out of ten homes are currently wasting 70 gallons of water each day.

Save more with the following tips:

- Speedier showers. It may feel great to luxuriate in a steamy shower, but think about all the water you’re wasting for this luxury. Aim for a 3 minute shower - you would be amazed at what you can accomplish in this time. To help, shampoo and shave with the water off. Still can’t cut that shower time? Take a cold shower instead. This will naturally speed things up, and save you money on water heating, too.

- Turn off the faucet. While brushing your teeth or washing the dishes, don’t let the faucet run non-stop. Turn it on only when you need it.

- Let it mellow. If you can, avoid unnecessary flushing of the toilet. Flush only when needed.

This next batch of tips on home systems that can help you conserve are courtesy of Benjamin Franklin Plumbing®.

- Install low-flush toilets or a dual flush system. The EPA estimates that a family of four that replaces its home's older toilets with WaterSense (meets EPA criteria) labeled models will, on average, save more than $90 per year in reduced water utility bills.

- Ensure your home is equipped with low-flow showerheads. The average family could save 2,900 gallons per year by installing WaterSense labeled showerheads.

- Install a hot water recirculation system for instant hot water. This helps save an average of 25,000 gallons of water per household per year from not having to wait for the running water to heat up! Because of the significant water savings, some counties are making the installation of hot water recirculation pumps mandatory for new construction projects.

Source: Benjaminfranklinplumbing.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Eco-Vacations Where You Can Give Back While Getting Out

April 24, 2017 12:33 am

Looking to give back while you take a vacation? You’re not alone. Thousands of Americans have jumped on the trend of “eco-vacations”, perfect for those looking to put a green spin on their next adventure. Below are five of picks from CheapFlights for eco-vacations where you can give back on the go: 

Monitor climate change in Joshua Tree National Park in California - Spend some time in one of North America's most popular national parks while at the same time helping scientists monitor climate change and do what they can to preserve the Mojave Desert. As you hike through stunning Joshua Tree National Park in California, you'll be tasked with monitoring desert vegetation and collecting data on various plants; trapping, recording and safely releasing reptiles and amphibians and exploring the area for larger birds and animals alongside scientists. This is a great volunteer opportunity for anyone who loves hiking in the great outdoors and has a passion for environmental conservation. 

Help research global warming in Canada's Mackenzie Mountains - If you love getting out into nature, you're going to love this chance to work with scientists to discover clues about global warming in the Mackenzie Mountains, a majestic mountain range that runs along the border between Canada's Northwest Territories and the Yukon. The researchers here are working to preserve the area's sensitive environment and learn more about the effects of global warming. You'll help them look for and monitor signs of climate change, take soil and permafrost samples, monitor the health of the tree line and record information on native plant species. When you're not in the field, you'll have a chance to relax at the lodge and attend talks on climate change and the natural history of species in the area. 

Protect bottlenose dolphins in Croatia - The small village of Zambratija, Croatia, will be your base as you volunteer with bottlenose dolphin conservation on the Adriatic Sea where the bottlenose dolphin population has declined by approximately 50 percent in the last five decades. Your volunteer efforts will include dolphin observation and tracking as well as entering and analyzing data from field work. You'll learn how to distinguish between dolphin species and have the chance to attend morning talks about NGO efforts to protect marine mammals and ecology. During your stay, there will also be at least one organized group trip to a nearby national park. 

Care for wildlife in Hawaii - This volunteer opportunity is your chance to have an unforgettable beach vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii while also helping to care for native and exotic wildlife at a local wildlife center. During your stay, you'll be caring for resident exotic and non-releasable wildlife, working with injured wildlife and returning them to the wild if possible and educating visitors and locals about Hawaii's island ecology and animal behavior. When you're not working, you'll have the chance to enjoy the island's many beautiful beaches. 

Participate in island conservation in the Galapagos - Volunteer with Projects Abroad in the Galapagos Islands, one of the most naturally diverse environments in the world. Volunteers are based on San Cristobal Island in the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and participate in a hands-on way with conservation efforts. The Galapagos Islands are renowned as a location for ecotourism, and work for this project includes removing invasive plant species, replacing them with indigenous species, participating in beach cleanups, and observing and collecting data on various native animals, especially the Galapagos Petrel, an endangered seabird. If that wasn't enough, you'll also get the chance to work at the Galapagos National Park's giant tortoise breeding center.

Source: www.cheapflights.com/news/top-ecotourism-destinations.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Slide Into Summer Safety

April 24, 2017 12:33 am

(Family Features)--Summer is a time for playground fun, camping, boating, swimming, biking and other outdoor activities. Longer days mean more time outside and more physical activity, which translates to increased potential for injuries. Playground falls, lawnmower accidents, campfire and fire pit burns are some common childhood injuries that can happen during summer months.

"Sustaining a serious injury can be a life-altering event for a child," said Chris Smith, Chairman of the Board of Directors for Shriners Hospitals for Children(r). "We see patients every day with injuries caused by accidents and we are committed to raising awareness about how to stay safe."

These tips from Shriners Hospitals for Children can help your family enjoy a fun, injury-free summer.

Go Outside and Play

Outdoor play provides physical and mental health benefits, including opportunities for exercise, creative expression, stress reduction and access to a free and natural source of vitamin D - sunlight. Before sending kids out to play, make sure they are wearing shoes to protect their feet from cuts, scrapes and splinters, and wearing sunscreen to protect against sunburns and harmful ultraviolet rays.

Playground 101

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger every year for playground-related injuries. Before your kids head to the playground, keep these precautions in mind:

- Choose parks and playgrounds that are appropriate for their age and offer shock-absorbing surfaces.
- Teach children that pushing and shoving on the playground can result in accidents and injuries.
- Remind kids to go down the slide one at a time and to wait until the slide is completely clear before taking their turn. Teach them to always sit facing forward with their legs straight in front of them and to never slide down headfirst.
- Remind children to swing sitting down. Encourage them to wait until the swing stops before getting off and to be careful when walking in front of moving swings.

Make a Safe Splash

While playing poolside may be a blast, Safe Kids Worldwide reports that drowning is the leading cause of injury-related deaths for children ages 1-4 and the third-leading cause of injury-related deaths among those under 19. Additionally, the University of Michigan Health Systems estimate that about 6,000 kids under the age of 14 are hospitalized because of diving injuries each year, with 1 in 5 sustaining a spinal cord injury.


Prevent accidents and injuries with these tips to ensure your family's safety around water:

- Instruct children to never swim alone or go near water without an adult present.
- Give children your undivided attention when they are swimming or near any body of water.
- Always jump in feet first to check the depth before diving into any body of water.
- Never dive in the shallow end of the pool or into above-ground pools.

Fun on the Water

Boating, tubing and other water sports can be great fun but can also be dangerous. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, nearly 71 percent of all boating fatalities are drownings, 85 percent of which are a result of not wearing a life jacket. Here is what you can do to enjoy the water safely:

- Always have children wear a Coast Guard-approved, properly fitted life jacket while on a boat, around an open body of water or when participating in water sports.
- Educate yourself. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 86 percent of boating accident deaths involve boaters who have not completed a safety course.
- Always check water conditions and forecasts before going out on the water.

Fire Safety Simplified

According to the CDC, more than 300 children ages 19 and under are treated in emergency rooms for fire- and burn-related injuries each day. Use these tips to help keep children safe around fires, fireworks, grills and other heat sources:

- Teach kids to never play with matches, gasoline, lighter fluid or lighters. Make a habit of placing these items out of the reach of young children.
- Do not leave children unattended near grills, campfires, fire pits or bonfires. Always have a bucket of water or fire extinguisher nearby whenever there is an open flame.
- Take your child to a doctor or hospital immediately if he or she is injured in a fire or by fireworks.
- Leave fireworks to the professionals.


Source: Shriners Hospitals for Children
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Take a Mindful Approach to Fighting Spring Allergens

April 24, 2017 12:33 am

(Family Features)--While springtime means blooming flowers, warmer temperatures and more time spent outdoors, it also means allergies and pollen. Tackling dust mite matter, tree pollen and animal dander is completely different from protecting your home against the winter flu and requires a new regimen of preparation and cleaning.

Take on spring allergens by refreshing your home with these simple practices, and help get your family ready to enjoy the warmer months.

Prep for Bed. Allergens don't go to bed when you do; they can continue to irritate even while you're sleeping, causing a restless slumber. To help ensure allergens and pollens aren't tracked into bedrooms, leave a laundry basket in the hall and have family members remove their clothing before entering their rooms. A quick rinse in a warm shower before bed can help you relax and wind down while also washing away any unwanted pollens still stuck in your hair or on your skin.  

Freshen Fabrics. Clothing, towels and bed linens - items you come in contact with multiple times a day - can trap pollens, dust mite matter, allergens and dander.  It's important to not only rinse these items but to use a detergent that removes allergens and is gentle on skin.

Ingredients Matter. Taking preventative measures against spring allergens can start in a surprising place: the refrigerator. While most people think about treating allergens in their homes and on their clothes, they tend to forget that a good diet is also a good defense. Avoiding aged, pickled or fermented foods like blue cheese and kimchi with naturally occurring histamines can help prevent coughing, sneezing and itching triggered by spring allergens. Instead, look to boost your meals with ingredients found in the Mediterranean Diet, such as fresh fruits and vegetables like apples and broccoli as well as nuts and fatty fishes that have essential vitamins and nutrients known to fight allergy symptoms.

Give Pets a Makeover.  Your furry friend may be one of the biggest culprits for sneaking allergens and pollen into the house, so this season make sure to give pets twice-a-week baths to wash out dander and pollen. Remember to also wash pet beds and chew toys that are thrown around the yard to help prevent allergens from being transported into and throughout your home.


With these four steps to help protect your home and family against spring allergens, you can start enjoying a healthy, clean spring.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Moving Tips for Single Parents

April 21, 2017 2:30 am

Let’s face it. Even under optimal circumstances, moving is stressful. When you’re a single parent, the process of packing up and moving your home and children can be even more complicated.

According to consumer data website GoodCall, moving prep starts way before you start packing boxes, so taking care of as many details in advance  as possible, like getting rid of items you no longer need and cancelling your Internet service, will help decrease moving stress.

You pre-moving focus should also involve preparing your kids, especially if the move involves changing schools and leaving friends behind. Invest the necessary one-on-one time to answer all of your child’s questions and concerns, and introduce them to their new neighborhood and school in advance of your move. Remind them how they’ll be able to stay in touch with friends through Snapchat, Facetime, video games and messaging apps.

Prepare for the moving day itself by enlisting the help of family and friends well in advance. If you’re uncomfortable asking for help with the manual labor of moving, ask for help with watching the kids instead, so that you can focus on the heavy listing. Or maybe you have a well-organized friend who would be happy to head up a yard sale on your behalf. There are many ways people can help and they will most likely be happy to do so.

For many single parents, the costs involved with moving can be the biggest hurdle. Easy ways to save money from GoodCall include:

- Reusing boxes from your office or the local grocery store.

- Instead of investing in scores of bubble wrap, ask neighbors to donate their newspapers once they’ve been read for packing material. Also, utilize towels, socks and blankets - you’re packing them anyway and they make great cushions for your breakables.

- Instead of paying movers, rent a truck yourself and enlist friends to help.

- Save one eating out or take-out by stocking up the cooler with sandwiches, snacks and drinks.

- If you’re moving for a job, you may be able to deduct moving expenses.

With the right preparation and the right support group, moving can be an exciting instead of stressful experience.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Follow These Tips Before Hiring a Contractor

April 21, 2017 2:30 am

If you’re adding an addition or plan to build a new home, you likely have a ton on your plate. Planning, researching, and dreaming up designs can be fun, but stressful. When it comes to hiring the right contractor, make sure you do your due diligence so you don’t end up with a lemon.

NICB suggests you consider these tips before hiring a contractor:

- Get more than one estimate.
- Get everything in writing. Cost, work to be done, time schedules, guarantees, payment schedules and other expectations should be detailed.
- Demand references and check them out.
- Ask to see the salesperson’s driver’s license and write down the license number and their vehicle’s license plate number.
- Never sign a contract with blanks; unacceptable terms can be added later.
- Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is finished and ensure reconstruction is up to current code.
- Make sure you review and understand all documents sent to your insurance carrier.
- Never let a contractor pressure you into hiring them.
- Never let a contractor interpret the insurance policy language.
- Never let a contractor discourage you from contacting your insurance company.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Things to Consider When Buying a Mattress

April 21, 2017 2:30 am

(Family Features)--When it comes to buying a mattress, individual needs and preferences vary across the board. Just like there is no "one size fits all" for jeans, there is not one mattress for everyone. What might be comfortable and supportive for one person may not be the best fit for someone else.

Having a wide variety of options is key to picking out your new mattress because you can mix and match different levels of comfort with size and adjust your pick based on your sleeping position and surrounding factors. When choosing the mattress that's best for you, consider these factors.

Size

The basic mattress sizes include twin, full, queen, king and California king. Choosing a size depends on the amount of space you have available, whether or not you share your bed with a significant other and personal preference. Think about your current sleeping situation and if you're happy with the amount of space you have to sleep. If you're fighting for space with your partner, it might be time to think about upgrading to a larger size. If your room is small and your bed is taking over the space, downsizing might be a good option.

Comfort Level

Mattresses come in all different levels of comfort ranging from firm to plush to pillow top as well as contoured and personalized. To provide a variety of comfort levels for mattress shoppers, Mattress Firm offers a Comfort by Color system that categorizes levels of comfort to help customers shop in their comfort zone.

Sleeping Position

Another important factor to consider when choosing a mattress is your sleep position. Knowing whether you are a front, back, stomach or side sleeper, or move around frequently throughout the night, will help you narrow down your options and choose a mattress that accommodates your needs. For example, side sleepers might get better sleep with a plush or pillow top mattress that supports the spine's natural curve versus a mattress with a firmer comfort level.  

Temperature

Temperature plays a role in how you sleep, and it's not limited to hot summer temperatures. Heavy comforters, heat settings and even your mattress can affect the quality of your sleep. While pillow tops and traditional memory foam can make for a warmer night's sleep, Serta's iComfort mattresses contain cooling technology to help you sleep at a comfortable temperature all night long. If you naturally heat up in your sleep, cooling technology may be something to consider.  

Pain

If you experience any sort of pain - especially while you sleep - your mattress can either help or hurt that pain. For example, if you have lower back pain, you may need a firmer mattress to help keep your back aligned. By identifying any pain you have and being transparent when shopping, you can find the right mattress to help alleviate discomfort and improve your sleep.

Source: Mattress Firm

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Want to Increase Your Home’s Value? Look No Further than Your Closet

April 20, 2017 2:27 am

Before you embark on adding another bathroom or installing brand new kitchen appliances, consider a much simpler way to add value to your home: an updated closet.

According to CNBC’s “The Deed” star, Sydney Torres says, there’s money to be made in closets. By making a relatively small investment in customizing and maximizing the space in your home’s existing closets, you can see a nice return on your investment, advises the real estate mogul.

HGTV experts recommend revamping closets in the rooms where people need the most storage: the master bedroom and the kitchen. No matter which room the closet resides in, your goal should always be about creating organization and space.

In bedroom closets, consider adding custom drawers, shoe racks and shelves. On a budget? Decorative baskets and fabric-lined boxes can do the trick. Make the most of walk-in closets by adding a bureau or a center island with drawers. Also consider the popular trend of converting existing closet space into his and her closets. If your closets are tall enough, double the available space by adding two hanging bars.

Also consider your closet doors. If you have a single door or sliding doors, for example, modernize the look by replacing them with double doors.

In kitchen closets, add hooks for hanging pots and linens on the inside door, and also tack up a cork or chalk board. Use see-through storage containers for housing flour, sugar, rice and dried legumes, and install a lazy susan for quickly finding items. Maximize floor space with decorative baskets to store paper towels, garbage bags and cleaning supplies.

Investing in your closet space will not only add to your home’s value, it will enhance your quality of life at home for years to come.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Spring Clean Your Digital Life

April 20, 2017 2:27 am

Spring cleaning may call you to empty those closets, wash the windows and lug mountains of items to the local thrift store. But have you ever considered paying the same attention to your digital spaces?

NCSA has identified our top, trouble-free tips that everyone should follow this spring.

- Keep a clean machine: Ensure all software on internet-connected devices – including PCs, smartphones and tablets – is up to date to reduce risk of infection from malware.

- Lock down your login: Your usernames and passwords are not enough to protect key accounts like email, banking and social media. Begin your spring cleaning by fortifying your online accounts and enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device.

- Declutter your mobile life: Most of us have apps we no longer use and some that need updating. Delete unused apps and keep others current, including the operating system on your mobile device. An added benefit of deleting unused apps is more storage space and longer battery life. Actively manage your location services, Bluetooth, microphone and camera – making sure apps use them appropriately.

- Do a digital file purge: Perform a good, thorough review of your online files. Tend to your digital records, PCs, phones and any device with storage just as you do for paper files. Get started by doing the following: 

- Clean up your email: Save only those emails you really need and unsubscribe to email you no longer need/want to receive.

- Back it up: Copy important data to a secure cloud site or another computer or drive where it can be safely stored. Password protect backup drives. Make sure to back up your files before getting rid of a device, too. 

- Own your online presence: Review the privacy and security settings on websites you use to be sure that they remain set to your comfort level for sharing. It's OK to limit how and with whom you share information.

- Know what devices to digitally "shred": Computers and mobile phones aren't the only devices that capture and store sensitive, personal data. External hard drives and USBs, tape drives, embedded flash memory, wearables, networking equipment and office tools like copiers, printers and fax machines all contain valuable, personal information. 

- Clear out stockpiles: If you have a stash of old hard drives or other devices – even if they're in a locked storage area – information still exists and could be stolen. Don't wait: wipe and/or destroy unneeded hard drives as soon as possible.

- Empty your trash or recycle bin on all devices and be certain to wipe and overwrite: Simply deleting and emptying the trash isn't enough to completely get rid of a file. You must permanently delete old files. Use a program that deletes the data, "wipes" it from your device and then overwrites it by putting random data in place of your information ‒ that then cannot be retrieved.

Source: The National Cyber Security Alliance

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Ways to Get More From Your Carbon Monoxide Detector

April 20, 2017 2:27 am

Hopefully, you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home. But do you know if it’s working? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 20,000 Americans visit the emergency room yearly for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.  

"Carbon monoxide can be produced from any system or appliance that burns fuel. While all home appliances are designed to vent properly to the exterior, cracks or blockages can cause leaks into the home," says Steve Truett, president of Aire Serv, who stresses the importance of scheduling annual maintenance for all equipment including furnaces, water heaters and space heaters. “Routine upkeep and other preventative measures, such as installing carbon monoxide detectors throughout the home, can help ensure the health and safety of the entire household."

Below are three tips to get more from your detector.

- If a vehicle is left running in the garage, the dangerous gas can build up inside the home. Place the detector within a few feet of the internal door to the garage.

- Avoid placing detectors in places that receive direct sunlight, or near open windows or other areas where there is a strong draft.

- Though detectors are meant to alert homeowners when there is a leak in a fuel-burning appliance, it's important to place them at least 15 feet away to prevent a false alarm.Source: Aire Serv

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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