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  • Mark Piazzalunga

    DESERTEC project, Sahara Sun could power Europe by 2050

    By Mark Piazzalunga

    Sahara desert climate is hot and arid, everybody knows it. So how can this simple and well-known fact become the idea to power a continent like Europe? Let’s start from the principle: renewable energy is the future of energy; we assume that this sentence is true since all facts gets to this point. Second principle: European territory is restricted and allows the construction of a few plants that could use renewable energy. Paradoxically, countries like Africa have renewable sources, particularly solar, in abundance but scarce funds to make the best of these resources. Now find the connection. Is it possible to produce huge amounts of solar energy in Africa and transport them to Europe through energy infrastructures? Apparently yes, according to DESERTEC project developers and supporters. And what is DESERTEC? It’s an initiative of the Club of Rome (a global think tank that has its headquarters in Switzerland) started in 2009. Directly from the official website of the project (Desertec.org): "The DESERTEC concept was developed by a network of politicians, scientists and economists from around the Mediterranean, from which was born the DESERTEC Foundation. Demonstrates a way to provide climate protection, energy security and the development of sustainable energy generation from sites where renewable energy sources are at their most plentiful." In practical terms? Connect renewable energy power plants in Africa to Europe through a network of HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) systems. The Foundation target is to build several renewable power plants of various types (mainly wind, photovoltaic and solar concentration) throughout North Africa. To support the project financially, the Foundation and other 12 companies (including Deutsche Bank, E.ON, RWE and ABB) created an industrial initiative: Dii GmbH. The construction project would continue until 2050 and for that date, the cost is estimated at € 400 billion, which means $ 546,720,000,000, approximately seven times Bill Gates’ fortune. It’s little bit expensive (life on Mars seems cheaper) but the entire network could provide Europe with the 15-20% of electricity that it needs. We must also consider the drastic decrease of pollution, direct effect of the project. This project isn’t just an idea but it seems an accurate and long-term plan. This could be an opportunity to connect two continents and to give them economic opportunities and jobs. There could be some problems like the wars and the instability of some of North Africa countries or how to get all 40 nations to agree to an arrangement for subsidizing the green electricity. There’s also the possibility to build the plants in Europe, just $ 54 billion more, and doing some math it brings to a shocking number: €2 per citizen per year to keep tens of thousands of jobs in Europe -- and to prevent Europe from becoming dependent on foreign countries for its electricity. Well, the project just started and it has the funds to go forward. We can't wait to see the results. Photo from Desertec.org
    • 2 comments
    • 3,793 views
  • Joseph Ramondeli

    Black Friday Promotes Over-Consumption and Waste

    By Joseph Ramondeli

    Black Friday Promotes Over-Consumption and Waste               Every year Thanksgiving weekend is overshadowed by Black Friday and in recent years Cyber Monday as well. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time when families can get together, even if it’s just for a day or dinner, to talk and reconnect. However every year more American’s are focused on shopping. Stores are now open by 8:00 pm on Thanksgiving Day resulting in people sitting at the dinner table with their families while browsing on their phones for the best deals that they hope to buy in a few hours.  This is just another example of how our modern, technologically advanced society is constantly becoming more materialistic. Aside from Black Friday overshadowing an American holiday and tradition, it is an annual example of how Americans over-consume and by doing so are very wasteful.  A huge fraction of purchased goods during Black Friday and Cyber Monday are things that people don’t need, they are things they think they need. Advertisements and social trends play a big role in the impact of this event (I refuse to call it a holiday) and in our consumption behavior in general.             Companies are tricking and forcing us to buy un-needed goods through the use of planned obsolescence and perceived obsolescence.  Planned obsolescence is disappointing because it refers to how companies purposely make products to only last a few years and by doing so force consumers to by new products from them every couple of years. The most common example of this is electronic devices. Apple creates a new IPhone every year so that once yours break “accidentally” there’s a brand new, more expensive one to purchase as a replacement. Not to mention that such companies stop making old models, forcing you to buy the newest model. On the other hand, perceived obsolescence is promoted by companies but ultimately results from our own social actions. Companies, through advertisements, constantly throw the promotion of new goods in our face. It’s almost impossible to go anywhere or do anything without seeing an advertisement of some sort. These advertisements tend to increase around the holiday season, hence the origin of Black Friday. The main reason such advertisements work is due to the social pressure we put on each other and ourselves. Everyone wants the next new model or brand and once a friend or family member purchases something then we are pressured and attracted to buying it as well. The biggest example of this is the fashion industry, where new trends come and go each season resulting in constant purchasing of new, unnecessary clothing. These companies are clearly getting the better of us based on the success of such events as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.             So why is over-consumption such a bad thing, why should we care if people waste there money on unnecessary goods? It’s simple: overconsumption leads to waste! One of the downfalls to the technological advancements of today’s world is that we create materials that cannot be found in our natural world. This means that when we throw something out in the garbage it will never decompose. Purchasing many of today’s consumer goods is bad enough because most cannot be recycled and will sit in landfills, but over-consumption takes this once step further in that we buy more than we need! We buy new clothes or new phones before our old ones are worn our or broken. By doing so we are creating more waste because we constantly thrown away products that are still functional and contribute the ever-growing amount of waste humanity has created on this planet. In order to help reduce the waste we create of course we should recycle and reuse as much as possible. However, I believe that the creation of waste should be stopped at its source, and that’s our consumer purchasing. Buying less and using goods to there fullest is a sure way to decrease waste. Resisting social pressure and advertisements is key to getting this accomplished. So next year put the phones away and turn the TV off at the dinner table during Thanksgiving, you don’t need them. Joseph Ramondelli  
    • 0 comments
    • 1,321 views
  • Megan Bonetti

    Conferencing Climate Change: Teamwork or Tug-of-war?

    By Megan Bonetti

    India. Culture, cows and rubbish. As an Aussie living for a short time in India it is such an intriguing country. Indians love their diverse nation yet they use the streets like rubbish dumps. Even my friends here tell me it’s ok to throw my paddle-pop wrapper out the car window. I can’t… so I just hold it tight and wait till I get home. Growing up in Australia, those ‘emu hunts’ in primary school have willed my littering days away. Yet I suspect that even my household trash bin will just be dumped across the road for the cows to eat or worse still, burnt on the street…for the cows to eat. This is India. Love it or hate it. (#tii) As an Australian social worker volunteering with an NGO in Southern India I witness the large divide between the rich and poor of this incredibly colourful nation. I work with many children whose whole families have had to migrate from various parts of India due to the rapid effects of drought on their land and the significant urbanisation of major cities in the last 10 years. It turns out India has seen a boom in it’s industrial and technological trades a little later than it’s western neighbours and they are loving it. But India’s urban boom is threatened with westerners telling them they have to stop producing and polluting. The earth doesn’t like it. Sorry India…We made our big capitalist bucks, but you don’t get that chance. Just when things are getting good and you’re developing astronomically, your main source of energy is being taken away. It turns out fossil fuels are the cheapest form of energy for the developing world, especially as they try in earnest to develop the same standard of living as we have. So as one the most formidable countries in the developing world, India not only has the pressures of navigating a massive population but also has to figure out how to go green on the cheap. It’s interesting that the Turnbull government has reluctantly agreed on a 5% reduction in carbon emissions in the next five years. “Phew! Glad we got through that one boys.” They wipe their sweaty brows while developing countries are drowning, burning and trying to survive on scant resources. These countries are just trying to make a crust, while Eurocentric nations are slowly turning a baguette into organic multigrain sourdough (and throwing the crusts to their hobby cows). If the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris is truly the last attempt for international cooperation, leaders cannot just show and tell their contribution and sit back with folded arms. But how can mere human individuals promote serious teamwork? This brings me back to the children I work with here in India. Every day their parent’s lives are tied to corrupt building associations. They are bonded labourers—gypsies moving from construction to construction. These families have no hope of returning to their now desolate homeland and are not provided social security measures that protect their livelihood. Then there is India’s neighbour, low-lying Bangladesh, experiencing saltwater intrusion that poisons whole water supplies for entire villages. In our own backyard we see Australian farmers shooting all their cattle only to turn the gun on themselves under the shadow of unprecedented drought. This is human impact. Global warming is not just about penguins and polar bears. Climate change is a social justice issue. We live in a globalised world. The industrial revolution brought us here; and climate change is the consequence. No longer do we just neighbour cities, we neighbour nations. The leaders of Australia must be held accountable to all their neighbours including the ones just trying to keep their head above water. It simply won’t do for wealthy nations, such as Australia, to show the world their own country’s carbon reductions and sit back down. This summit can’t work as a set menu; it has to be a potluck dinner, a time for sharing, understanding and safeguarding. For the sake of our beautiful earth and the many diverse cultures of the human race, this time I hope and pray that the leaders of the world provide a resounding voice for the marginalised. This summit and our government must not stop at figures, but uphold the basic democratic and human rights principles that cradle modern society. The United Nations was created so that man-made and worldwide calamities could no longer grasp our world with such authority. Well, it turns out a world war with Mother Nature is knocking on our doorstep. Will we listen and respond? I hope so.   For more information please visit the below links. They offer great insights into climate change realities and are positive and accessible resources for engaging the conversation. The reality of climate change | David Puttnam | TEDxDublin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBjtO-0tbKU India: Climate Change Impacts http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2013/06/19/india-climate-change-impacts Climate Change and the End of Australia http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/climate-change-and-the-end-of-australia-20111003 The Critical Decade: Climate Change and Health (Australia) http://www.climatecouncil.org.au/uploads/1bb6887d6f8cacd5d844fc30b0857931.pdf GoPro: Climate Change and the Optimistic Future https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sT6jtTtsG_M Paris Climate Conference: COP21 Explained https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-qd8YCaoQ4 Why is the Paris UN climate summit important? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnztR5JllA4 Adam asks new PM Malcolm Turnbull on climate change in Question Time https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqXtKt-Is54 Morgan Freeman's Powerful Climate Change Short Film https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YQIaOldDU8  
    • 0 comments
    • 1,355 views

Our community blogs

  1. Elements.jpg

    Summertime is here again, and as the weather continues to heat up, your utility bills are also rising. This is pretty common, since most other households are also cranking up the air conditioners and using a lot more electricity to keep their home interior temperatures in a comfortable range.

    But comfort comes with a price. If you’re looking for ways to stretch your paychecks and lower your utility bills this summer, then check out these five tips for making your home more energy-efficient.

    Switch to Energy Star Appliances

    One of the best things you can do to lower your utilities is to use appliances and fixtures that are more efficient. The Energy Star program was developed to help consumers identify energy-efficient home appliances that help to reduce the consumption of water and electricity while lowering energy costs.

    Now obviously, if your appliances are all working just fine, then it might not make much sense to toss them all and replace them with Energy Star devices. But you should keep in mind that as your appliances wear out and need to be replaced, switching to more efficient machines at that time will save you a good amount of money over the long term.

    Use Power Strips

    Major appliances that use more energy than needed to get the job done aren’t the only money waster in your home. All of your electronic devices also suck up a lot of electricity just by being plugged in, even when they aren’t turned on! To reduce these energy leaks, make sure that they are all plugged into power strips that can easily be turned off when not in use.

    Give Your HVAC System a Tune Up

    Your central air conditioner can also waste a lot of power and money if it isn’t working efficiently. Over time, parts can begin to work loose, and the vibrations can cause your unit to wear out faster. Not only that, but the hoses, vents, ducts and filters can become clogged with heavy use, and this can cause the unit to strain more as it works to cool down your home.

    So it’s a good idea to call in an HVAC company like Aggressive Mechanical Contractors, Inc. every few years to give your system an overhaul and get everything working as efficiently as possible.

    Add Window Tint, Blinds and Curtains

    In the cold winter months, sunlight coming in through your windows is a welcome sight, as the additional warmth helps to regulate your temperature and reduce the load on your central heating system. But in the summertime, all that extra heat just drives your electric bill up.

    So now is a good time to install heavy drapes and blinds on all your windows to block out the heat of the sun. Many homeowners also opt to have tinted film applied to the windows, just like you would do with a car. That tint reduces the heat and also adds a little extra privacy to make it more difficult for people outside to see inside your home, especially during the day.

    Replace Weather Stripping to Reduce Drafts

    Lastly, replacing weather stripping around your exterior doors and windows can also help bring down your cooling bill by keeping the cold air from escaping. It’s an easy job that you can do yourself, and the stripping itself is very cheap. You just buy a roll at the local hardware store, rip off the old stripping and stick on the new strips.

    Reducing your electric bill in the summer is a great idea, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Follow these five tips to keep your home a little cooler and to eliminate energy waste and watch how quickly your utility bills come down compared to the same time last year.

  2. Summer Home Improvement 5 Ways to Create Renewable Energy.JPG

    You can install a few key items in your home in order to create more renewable energy sources. Some of these things you may already have seen around your own neighborhood. Others are a little more suited to living farther out in your community. Here are some of the ways that you can create renewable energy at your own home.

    Solar Panels

    Installing solar panels is one of the more common means for homeowners to become energy independent. There are even tax rebates that make this option more affordable for the average installation project. Look into using electrical contractors so that you can get the job done right.

    Solar Shingles

    A newer take on the solar panel solution is with solar shingle options. These shingles are more reflective in nature than the standard shingles. They function in a similar capacity as their solar panel counterparts. The only distinction is the appearance on your home.

    Wind Turbine Possibilities

    You may live in an area that would allow you to install a wind turbine system. In some areas of the country, windmill farms are common. This works better on slightly hilly terrain or other high wind areas. The power generated by these windmills can be used to power not only your home, but a whole city.

    Geothermal Applications

    The implications of geothermal power could revolutionize how you heat or cool your home. A pump is installed that will circulate the air temperature from the earth itself into your home. This works because the temperature in the earth is fairly consistent year round. The pumps also use less energy than standard pumping systems. This makes them more reliable and longer lasting.

    Hydropower Generation

    In some areas of the country, hydropower is more readily available. You don’t have to live next to a large river in order to harness some of the benefits of hydropower. A water wheel is another way that you can generate a little bit of extra electricity. Micro hydropower is a new take on this process. Groundwater can be used to aid in the generation of renewable energy.

    You have to consider your geography as well as the climate to find a source of renewable energy that will provide the most benefit for your home. Investing in any one of these options may more than pay for itself over time. Do some research so that you can find the right home improvement project this summer for a more sustainable future.

  3. Today it’s hard to find reasons against going solar. Between the two most obvious motives – cutting on energy bills and protecting the environment, homeowners can hope for solid solar ROI, increasing their home equity, state tax rebates and investing into the future. What is more, many people are becoming aware that solar panels are a great home upgrade. Whichever your reasons may be, let’s elaborate on the most solid benefits of going solar.

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    Honey, I shrunk the energy bill

    Adapting your home to run on solar power can either obliterate your energy bill completely or reduce to such an insignificant figure that it becomes just a statistical entry in your budget. How much you’ll be able to save depends on many factors, such as how much energy your home consumes, and the rates you’d otherwise pay to your utility company. If, for example, the electricity rates are high in your area, your savings will be larger since they equal the cost you avoid by going solar. As electricity prices are inevitably going to rise over the years, your savings will continue to grow over the 35+ year lifespan of your solar equipment. So, by installing a solar power system, not only do you reduce your electricity cost, but you make them more predictable, which in return improves your expense forecasting and management.

    Keeps generating return

    Let’s face it, a solar panel system is a financial product which is bound to generate annual returns from 10 to more than 30 percent. An average homeowner pays off their solar purchase in seven to eight years and receives a healthy ROI in the form of free electricity for the remainder of the equipment lifespan. What is more, there might be local or state tax programs or rebates in your area that motivate homeowners to adopt solar power. Some utilities have a market where you can sell Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) that your system generates. This additional income will help you get to the even point even faster.

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    Hedge against rising prices

    If you think about it, by going solar, you also protect yourself about rising utility prices and make your expenses more predictable year after year. Since you are your own energy provider, you can sit back and watch the energy prices rise and fall. For example, if electricity prices continue to rise by three percent each year, you can have an extra $1,200 in your pocket a year from now, provided that you purchase a system that meets 100 percent of your energy needs today. Easy to integrate in your home and unobtrusive, a reliable 5kWp solar system is sufficient for households that want to experience all the benefits of renewable energy without compromising their lifestyle and routines. With these units, living off the grid gets a whole new meaning. Even if you lack funds to pay for a solar energy system up front, you can apply for a solar loan, solar lease, or solar power purchase agreement.

    We have but one home

    Many businesses and non-profit organizations go solar because they want to contribute to minimizing environmental issues like climate change and carbon emission-related health problems. There’s not a single reason why individual households shouldn’t follow suit, especially if we know that an average household emits about 20 metric tons of carbon pollutants each year. And while a single home or small business that goes solar barely makes a nick in the pollution mountain, the joint effect of building owners adopting solar systems across the country is guaranteed to make a lasting effect.

    As the number of residential solar installations grows, we move away from our dependency on fossil fuels and closer to clean energy that rises and sets every day. Solar energy perks, however, are not only benefiting individuals and national economies. Our collective transition to commercially viable solar solutions is one of the most tangible scenarios for cleaner and more sustainable environment.

     

     

     

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    No one wants to consider themselves as wasteful. While you might know you’re not perfect, you try your best. At least, that’s what you think. It turns out being wasteful can be a cumulative action that adds up through much passivity. In order to be environmentally-conscious, you need to be conscious of your relationship with the environment. These are four ways you might be contributing to the world’s waste without realizing it.

    Plastic Bags

    You might have a whole houseful of plastic bags that you don’t know what to do with. All those trips to the grocery can add up. However, it’s not just your wallet that can take a hit. Plastic takes a substantial amount of time to break down. A great solution is to purchase a few reusable grocery bags made of sturdy material like canvas. These bags can also save you from making multiple trips to your car, based on how much they hold.

    Disposable Razors

    Are you running through razors like crazy? As we said previously, all that plastic can really contribute to landfills. Thankfully, you can nix the disposable razors and have a much better experience. A high-quality electric razor can be one of your best purchases. Instead of having an average shave with a razor you’ll quickly throw away, you can have a great shave with one that you’ll hold onto.

    Clothes

    It can be easy to take your clothes for granted. You wear them, but you might not consider them past how they look. Take a look to see where they’re from and how they’re made. Are they made locally and sourced from sustainable materials? If not, you should definitely consider purchasing clothes that can have a better impact on the environment.

    Not Disposing of Garbage Properly

    You shouldn’t just see your garbage as one set thing. Instead, you should understand how complex it is. Make sure you have things properly sorted in recycling. You should also consider how much waste is piling up around you. A dumpster rental can be great for getting rid of lots of excess materials. It also helps to be mindful of how much you spend on non-biodegradable goods.

    Don’t be too hard on yourself if you realize you’ve been wasteful. It’s understandable and adjustable. Instead, you should commend yourself for having the foresight to address it. With these tips, you can help yourself be much more mindful of waste.

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    The cumulative environmental costs of human activities are becoming better understood. In the wake of that understanding, many businesses are looking to limit their own environmental footprint. Some try to do it with improved efficiency. Others are looking to energy production alternatives.

     

    Solar

    The most mainstream of the energy alternatives is solar. It’s also probably one of the most actively researched alternatives. The steadily increasing efficiency of solar panels is evidence of this. Around 8-12% efficiency used to be the norm, but most solar panels average around 16% efficiency these days.

     

    Solar power is limited by the total sunlight you get at your location. Even so, it still serves as a viable supplemental power source in most locales. You can also use it as part of your branding. If you’re trying to achieve a zero-carbon footprint or just reduce your impact, solar panels make a statement.

     

    Wind

    Less widespread than solar, wind is still a viable energy supplement option for some businesses. The caveat is that you need a fair amount of space for it. An urban business can’t throw up a wind turbine. If you own some acreage for a manufacturing facility, though, it’s worth investigating.

     

    Wind energy works on a fairly simple principle. The wind turns the rotor, which spins a shaft. A gearbox converts the slow rotation of the shaft into a fast rotation that drives a generator. The generator produces electricity. This cuts down on your grid-based costs and, again, lets you promote your business as working toward sustainability.

     

    Emergency Power Generation

    Green energy alternatives are important from an environmental perspective. There are, however, emergency situations that also call for supplemental power generation. Say that a tornado or flooding from a storm knocks out part of the local electrical grid. Solar or wind options might not cover your immediate needs. This is where pragmatism comes into the equation.

     

    At the very least, you should have emergency generators or battery backups that can keep the lights on for a few hours. It’s also advisable to get uninterruptible power supplies for your computer equipment. For any kind of lengthy power outage, though, what you really want on site is something like an electricity-producing, industrial boiler.

     

    Businesses often get a bad rap for energy waste and pollution, yet many are looking for ways to help preserve the environment. Stricter efficiency policies get businesses part of the way there. Renewable energy sources like solar and wind provide them with options for power generation at a lower environmental cost.

  6. For Sale 5 Changes You Can Do to Your Yard to Help Your Home Sell.jpeg

    When you put your home on the real estate market, you hope for a fast sale at the price you desire. Many factors affect the price of a home and it’s ability to sell quickly, such as hire a mortgage company to help you with your home loans, but you can take proactive steps to attract buyers by ensuring it looks its best, both inside and out. Many sellers take great pains to repair and paint the inside of the home but neglect the small improvements on the outside that can make a big difference in securing a buyer. Here are five tips for improving your yard that prospective buyers will appreciate.

    – Trim Back Overgrown Foliage

    Mature trees and shrubs may have become so overgrown that it detracts from the overall appearance of your home. Take some time to assess your landscaping to see how it affects the look of your home. Trim back tree branches that are hanging over the roof or obstructing windows. Remove broken or weak branches to improve the tree’s shape. Thin out shrubs to make them look neater. A well-maintained property will help you to achieve a fast sale and a favorable appraisal, so a mortgage company will be happy to lend to your buyer.

    – Add Yard Lights

    Lighting your entryway attractively or highlighting unusual plants can add a distinctive touch that makes your property stand out from the rest. Lights near the back door can also provide a look at security and safety. A variety of new types of outdoor lighting is available that is easy to connect and that can be utilized in a number of ways.

    – Design an Inviting Entryway with Plants

    A curved bed with colorful flowers can make a big difference in how the entrance to your home looks and feels. A small ornamental tree near the front steps can also help to improve the look of your front entrance. If you have a porch, put up a few hanging baskets with colorful flowers. These small touches can help to attract potential buyers to your property.

    – Reseed or Sod Your Lawn

    Many lawns have bare or worn areas that could use a bit of rejuvenation. Generally, this may occur along spaces that see a great deal of use or under the shade of trees. Do some reseeding of the lawn in open areas. You may want to use sod in shady areas, where grass may be difficult to grow.

    – Put Tools and Toys in Storage

    Lawn equipment and outdoor toys left in yard areas tend to create a messy appearance that can devalue your property. Collect all unused items left in yard areas and organize them neatly in your garage, basement or in an attractive storage shed in a discreet corner of the property. These changes will help you to present your home in the best possible light.

    A neat and tidy yard reflects the care you give to the rest of the property. Buyers look for homeowners who maintain their properties both inside and out. These tips can help to ensure that prospective buyers get a good first impression of your home.

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    Cutting your utility costs shouldn’t have to be hard work. If you’re at a loss of where to start, have an energy audit conducted. This will give you a jumping off point for how to become more energy efficient. Here are some methods that you can use to reduce your utility costs.

    Reduce Your Loss Factor

    Drafts are causing there to be a lot of air exchange in your home. Your HVAC unit has to work harder to maintain the temperature. Cut down on the amount of drafts in your home. Some of the ways that you can do this is to invest in caulking and weather-stripping. A more proactive approach is to replace old doors and windows. You can also add insulation into the areas of your home that you are lacking, such as the attic or your crawlspace.

    Service Your HVAC

    A HVAC that is functioning at peak capacity will save you money in the long run. This means that you should have your HVAC unit serviced at least once a year. You’ll also need to check and/or change your air filter on a monthly basis. If your HVAC is on the older side, it might be time for an upgrade. Get quotes from several companies, like A & E Heating and AC Inc., so that you can find the best solution for your budget.

    Invest in Efficient Lighting Solutions

    You may be spending more than is necessary lighting up your home. Look into changing out your old light bulbs with more energy efficient LED ones. They use approximately a quarter of the amount of energy as the fluorescent variety. Even fluorescents are better than the incandescent bulbs. Another solution is to install motion sensing light switches if your family can’t remember to turn off the lights in a room. The lights will automatically turn off when no one is there.

    Look Into Waste Reduction

    Energy efficient appliances have come a long way. The Energy Star program has even come out with ratings for appliances like the washing machine and the dish washer. These appliances not only use less water, but less energy overall. Changing out older appliances will save you money over the life of the appliance. Another place that you can reduce waste is to install a programmable thermostat. There are even varieties that have a self-learning feature.

    The first place to start when you want to become more energy efficient is to assess the areas of greatest use. Work your way backwards so that you can save money on your utility costs.

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    Once upon a time in America, products were produced and discarded thoughtlessly. But slowly and gradually, people became aware of the metro tons of waste that these items were adding to the planet. Recycling uses a variety of processes to break down the materials in these products, so they can be used again, thereby using fewer of the planet’s resources and using less land for waste storage. Here are some items you probably didn’t know could be recycled for another use.

    Metal Items

    Various types of metal objects that are used around the home can be recycled into usable metal for a variety of industries. Not only aluminum cans can be recycled, but also appliances, radiators, old fencing, wire, stainless steel parts, and sheet iron can be brought to a local scrap metal services center for processing and resale. Reuse of metal products can help to reduce the impact on the environment for a cleaner and healthier planet.

    Phones

    If you’ve ever wondered what to do with that old phone, you can send it in to a number of organizations that help individuals, such as battered women, who need to have a ways to communicate for safety, but don’t need the latest phone model to do so. These agencies find a beneficial way to utilize the cellphones that would otherwise end up as plastic parts and toxic materials in landfills.

    Old CDs

    CDs were once all the rage in music enjoyment, but they are now obsolete. If you find a box of old CDs in your basement or closet, you may wonder what to do with these round discs of plastic that also contain contaminants like polycarbonate and aluminum. These items can be taken to an e-waste site in your community to be processed and recycled into usable products.

    Porcelain Fixtures

    Although you may not think about what happens to old porcelain toilets and sinks, the fact is, they have to go somewhere when they break or are replaced. Instead of filling up the local landfill, these items can be pulverized down for use in sidewalk and road materials. It’s a great way to re-use materials instead of have them hanging around as waste.

    Companies use a vast amount of the Earth’s resources to make the products we use every day. By recycling these products when they are no longer useful, we can preserve the resources future generations will need. If you are one of the many people concerned about the health of the planet and the use of natural resources, you can help to reduce the impact of human habitation on the Earth by recycling these common items.

     

  9. Ours has accumulated over the years. It’s all beginning to fall apart, so I’ve been keeping a watch on garden furniture trends when visiting gardens and shows.

    There seem to be four key directions – modern, classic, vintage and upcycled. Here’s what they mean for your garden. There are some affiliate links in this post, which means you can click through to buy. If you do, I may get a small fee.

    Modern garden furniture

    If you like contemporary style, you need chunky, large pieces in neutral colours, such as black, brown, beige or white. Then add a strong splash of vibrant colour. Look for giant sun loungers and huge teak tables that seat 10 or more. This style works particularly well in small city gardens. Interior designers often say that you need one or two large items in a small space to make it seem more opulent.

     

    You may have finished your spring cleaning around the house and found yourself with various trinkets and mason jars that are no longer in use. In turn, you may be at crossroads with what to do with your garden and how to give it a fresh look. Well, consider going vintage! 

    Repurposing Old Items

    If you find yourself with a few of old metal buckets around your household, you can use them as a planter instead of finding yourself a new plant pot! It does not take long to fill it up with soil, and you can place it with various flowers around your garden giving it an instant vintage look.

    What is great about repurposing old pots and items is that you can also use unconventional items such as an old colander. This is useful since they have holes at the bottom for the water to drain. You can hang these around your garden to give it a more vintage feel.

    Vintage Birdcage

    Birdcages are a staple of vintage gardens. Not only they give an antique feel, they can also create a botanical feel to your garden too. You can make use of them by adding string lights for that instant glow in the garden. Otherwise, you can turn this item into a nest planter by planting various flowers such as pansies and periwinkles which spreads rather than growing tall.  

    Rattan furniture

    For materials that give a distressed look, you should consider rattan furniture! As rattan material is durable and natural, it can create an instant shabby chic look. You can also incorporate mismatched vintage teacups and crockery on the table to complete the vintage look for your garden.

    Mason jars

    Due to its flexibility, mason jars have blossomed in popularity to the point it is a key staple in vintage ideas. You can add string lights in these jars and place them around the garden to highlight certain areas. Otherwise, you can place them on your rattan table with a tealight inside, which makes a lovely addition when you have your dinner in the garden. Just in time for summer!

    Floral prints

    Last but not least, floral prints! It is an adored addition when it comes to vintage ideas. Opt for soft prints with has neutral tones to not take away the attention from the other vintage decor in your garden. This way, it can produce a dreamy mood that is needed for a vintage styled garden. You can use these prints as a table cover on your rattan furniture too! For more information Please have a Click on Garden Furniture Shop .

    How, though, to make the most of our outdoor space when the weather can turn in the blink of any eye? We’ve put together four modern outdoor furniture ideas that will help you find the design perfect for your space, whatever the weather.

    1. Think Versatile

    Yes, there are a lot of unknowns with British weather. But that doesn’t mean we can’t create a stylish outdoor “room” of our own where we can enjoy the intermittent sunshine. It just means we have to be slightly smarter in our choices.

    For starters, consider investing in a design that is just as at home inside as it is out.

    We have a number of beautiful chairs that can be used around a modern dining table as well as the garden table meaning that the chairs don’t go to waste for half of the year. This is especially handy if you don’t have the luxury of ample storage space to hide away your outdoor furniture during the wet and windy winter months.

    2. Think Functional

    A key function of outdoor furniture is to ensure it can withstand the elements. Therefore, material choice is an important consideration when it comes to choosing the right design for your garden.

    Before you opt for traditional wicker or wood pieces, you might want to consider a different material: plastic. Enough to make many design aficionados shudder, plastic tends to get a bad rep but when executed properly, plastic can be just as chic as its natural counterparts.

    It can be easily moulded into many different shapes giving designers the ability to create truly breath-taking pieces that other materials don’t allow for.

    3. Think Colourful

     

    Your outdoor space is a great opportunity to add a bit of colour to your home, especially if you’re not quite brave enough to use it inside. Use the colours found in your garden as your starting point and build from there.

    Designed by Jasper Morrison, the All Plastic Chair is reminiscent of classic wooden chairs but made from resilient plastic. Available in a range of colours, the chair combines chair combines great stability with excellent comfort.

    Another colourful option is the Hot Mesh chair by Blu Dot. Inspired by classic wooden steam-bent bistro chairs, the use of steel tube and mesh gives a modern rendition of the interlocking rails and woven seat of the original with this yellow design available in a range of bright colours.

    4. Think Iconic

    It’s hard not to be driven by trends, but it’s better to invest in something that you love which can evolve rather than be thrown out after a season.

    New to Heal’s is the Eos range from Case which does just that. Designed by Matthew Hilton, the aim was to produce a simple, clean and functional product that was hard-wearing and well-priced.

     

  10. Whether you have a large or small web shop: many web shops are faced with orders from abroad. Are you going to send cheap parcel to Germany? Then there are a number of things that you have to take into account. Because your packages often travel long distances, you want to avoid delays and missing people. No problem sending is so nice. That is why it is useful to be prepared as well as possible. Read this checklist quickly and you can immediately start working with worldwide packages.

    1.      Check in advance what you can and cannot send

    You may not ship some products, or only under certain conditions. Think for example of alcoholic drinks or flammable liquids. Therefore, check in advance what is and is not allowed. The shipping conditions differ per country. Do you want to know which these are? Check the list of prohibited products online.

    2.      Keep in mind import duties and regulations

    Within country, the same legislation generally applies, but it may differ outside country. That is why it is good to have your conditions available in multiple languages.

    Are you going to ship internationally, outside the country? Then your customer will have to pay import duties in some cases. The amount depends on the type of product. Always send a clear and honest invoice. Paste the shipping label on your foreign package shipment.

    3.      Use the right packaging

    A package that is sent abroad will cover quite a few kilometers. That is why it is important that your package can take a beating. Always use sturdy packaging that fits well and protects the product. Sell your smaller products? Then it is useful to pack it in a larger box. This will prevent your package from being miss-sorted or damaged. Because you want to prevent damage at all times.

    4.      Check the address on the shipping label

    Addresses can be built up slightly differently from other countries than domestic addresses. This differs per country. To check this, there is a handy tool available that can save you a lot of time.

    Also check well in advance whether a PO Box address has been specified. Include a telephone number and e-mail address of your customer on the package. In many cases contact is also made with the recipient by the foreign transported about the status of the shipment.

    5.      Offer a clear and easy return solution

    When sending packages worldwide, it is smart to offer a good return solution. This way you can remove any doubts from your customer and offer extra service. The country return service is a service that is possible in a large number of countries. But to avail these don’t forget to do product comparison before shipping.

  11. We as consumers also have a responsibility. We must be careful about wasteful energy usage. The more we consume energy, the more we have to pay in energy bills and pay in the form of environmental damage.

    Jim Bridgeforth, President of American Power and Gas, is among the few people who seem to be really worried about the wasteful use of energy. He knows it is scarce and he is doing his part to create a renewable energy Future, one that is affordable and efficient.

    In a Recent Interview with Forbes, Bridgeforth stated that 80% of all energy consumption in the US comes from the industrial sector, thus making the transition for consumers tricky as they are all sourced from the same grid. Essentially, widespread use for consumers has become something that requires a higher initial cost, which most can't afford.

    Keeping in mind that not everyone is physically able to transition to renewable energy services, how can consumers play their part in the meantime? Let’s have a look at five items in your house that could cause your energy bill to skyrocket:

    1.Your Refrigerator

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    A refrigerator uses a lot of energy. All electrical items that cool things require large quantities of energy, refrigerators are no different.

    They use 4% of all electricity, costing about $100 per year. However, you may end up paying a lot more if you don't pay attention to the small things.

    To reduce the cost, make sure not to leave the door open for long. This allows the cooling to escape, forcing the refrigerator to work even harder, resulting in more use of energy and hence higher costs (not to mention it could spoil your food if left open long enough).

    2. Heating

    America is one of the coldest nations out there, especially some parts of it, which is why heating costs are pretty high averaging about $650 per year.

    To save money, try to use other techniques, such as keeping your Doors and windows closed so that no cool air can enter your home. Other than this, install insulators and keep your house covered to make sure you do not have to use a lot of heating.

    Also, keep an eye on the thermometer, make sure you remember to shut off heating and cooling systems before leaving the house.

    3. Computers

    Computers only use about 1% of the energy costing around $25 per year, but if you have several computers and smartphones charging at all hours, the cost may go a lot higher.

    4. Washer and Dryer

    Washer and Dryer.jpg

    They make up about 13% of the overall energy cost. Washers use a lot of energy. They constantly move and keep the water in motion to do the job. Similarly, dryers are also expensive to use. Try to avoid doing Laundry every day, or get it down to 1-2 times per week.

    It is expensive to produce heat, and the yearly cost associated with using a dryer can be as high as $325.

    5. Electric Oven

    If you are a fan of baking and cooking, you probably are using your oven a lot. On average, they make about 4% of the total energy consumption, which makes about $100 per year.

    Go slow on over usage and you can save money.

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    So you want a home that's cool in the summer and warm in the winter, but you're sick and tired of paying ridiculous monthly energy bills. You look around and wonder if there's any way to keep your home comfortable, while not giving the utility company another dime. What options do you have for changing the temperature of your home's air while staying "off the grid?" Actually, more options than you probably think.

     

    Let the Outside In

    If the idea of high utility bills and constant maintenance don't sound like your idea of a relaxing summer, consider opening some windows to drop the temperature in your home. The key here is to allow air to flow through your home, as moving air feels much more refreshing on the skin than standing air. So, open up windows on the front and rear of your home, as wide as you can, and enjoy nature's free air conditioning.

     

    Go Old-Fashioned

    If the thought of chopping wood and wearing flannel get you fired up, consider heating your home the old-fashioned way, with a wood-burning fireplace. Though requiring more effort than a traditional furnace, a fireplace can efficiently warm the common areas of your home, supplemented by heavy blankets in bedrooms. Additionally, if you can access an inexpensive wood supply, you will have constant heat all winter for a fraction of the cost.

     

    Go Hi-Tech

    Solar is another option when considering going off the grid, though it has a high initial cost of investment. While many panels would be needed to adequately power an HVAC system, using smaller heating and cooling units, supplemented by other heating and cooling methods on this list, could allow you to meet your entire power need. Not to mention, many utilities and local governments offer substantial rebates for significant solar investment, resulting in a shorter time for you to recoup your initial cost.

     

    Go Down Under

    Geothermal systems can also be a practical component of off-the-grid living. These systems use pipes buried deep in the ground to take advantage of the more constant temperatures found at that depth. Always more refreshing than the surface in the summer, and warmer than the surface in winter, a decent-sized installation will enhance the effectiveness of other methods you use to reduce your utility bills. In more temperate climates, you may be able to rely solely on a geothermal system for all your heating and cooling needs.

     

    Charge It Up

    A large rechargeable battery, while not creating any energy of its own, is still a critical component to employ in an off-the-grid system. Large batteries store excess energy from other off-the-grid sources for many days, meaning that they can power heating and cooling appliances for a substantial amount of time. If you're planning on going completely off-the-grid, but don't want to change your lifestyle more than you have to, a battery is essential.


     

    Whether you choose to go off-the-grid only some or go all the way, off-the-grid heating and cooling methods can save you a vast amount of money, over time. Knowing the right techniques to integrate for your home and using them effectively will ensure that you have the best results, and are the envy of your friends and family when you tell them how you kissed the energy company goodbye.

     

    Resources

    Telegraph

    Classic Air

    Texas Fireframe

    House Logic

    HowStuffWorks

  13. In the last couple of decades, people became more conscious of the different ways we affect the environment. Our interested in ecology opened up topics like what damages we've done up until now, can we reverse them and can we prevent them from happening in the future. With global warming, polluted waters and deforestation more people want to take part in protecting our planet, bringing the conversation to our homes. Now we do our research and make conscious purchases.

    toxic_cleaning_Products.jpg

    Let's talk about cleaning for example. Some of the products we used to think are harmless, are now proven to be dangerous. They go down the sewer or into the ground on their way to disturb the natural eco-system.

    Some companies gained a bad reputation for using not-so-eco-friendly chemicals in their cleaning solutions. Behind the beautiful packages and expensive commercials stands something very ugly. The truth. "Kill all the germs!", "More powerful than ever!". What about when this solution goes into the sea? Nothing is lost, the poison just changes locations. Be sure, those chemicals are as bad for the fish, plants and you, as they are for the germs. Simply following the cycle of water, we can see how easily the dangerous chemicals find their way back into our homes.

    No wonder people have second thoughts about over-the-counter cleaning products. More people opt-in for professional cleaning services because they offer safe cleaning solutions. But beware! A lot of companies saw this demand as a possibility to break through the market, so they started labelling their products as "eco" and "organic". Some of them really are but most are just as bad as the previous ones. Their lie is hidden on the back of the labels.

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    People often get discouraged, as they feel like an insignificant speck in the cosmos. But we should all remember that big changes happen with one step (person and household) at a time. We shouldn't wait for others to change. We should take care of ourselves first and set a good example for everybody else.

    The number of bad things we should watch out for seems to be growing. From where do you begin?

    The first step is conscious purchases. Be aware that mass production is in fact "mass" because consumers buy the stuff. Think about it this way – with every choice you make, for every product you buy, you claim what world you want to live in. If you buy products with heavy, harmful chemicals or made by industries that exploit their workers, it's like giving them thumbs up for it. You invest in it, you give it green light. Having this in mind, you can now start applying it in your everyday life – from grocery shopping to what kind of paint you use for your house.

    The second step is to swap disposable items with reusable ones. Why do you have to spend who-knows-how-much dollars in your lifetime on something that you use only once? Like wet wipes for example. They don't disappear into thin air or dissolve in water as lots of people seem to think. "But it's only one wipe," said a million people while flushing it down the toilet. They build up, causing problems for plumbers, as well as for nature. Simply washing with water and soap should do the trick. And they should be replaced with reusable cloths in our households. We can at least try to cut down the usage.

    Getting back to the chemicals in the domestic cleaning products. Some of them (actually a great deal of them) are labelled as dangerous to the environment picturing a real wasteland – with a dead fish and a dead tree. This is pretty straightforward. But other companies slip under the radar. Thanks to laws and policies, the businesses are not obligated to list all of the ingredients of the product if there is very little of the toxins in it. Okay, so they're harmless then? Well, no. Combining cleaning solutions can be dangerous and the toxic chemicals build up.

    Even those that are labelled as “toxic-free” and “green” can be misleading. Watch out for phonies, who use “eco” or words like this only to decorate their label. They should be certified, not just state it freely. People can start feeling discouraged as they seemingly cannot be sure about the trustworthiness of anything.

    But do we really need to use chemical-based products that much?

    There are ways to clean without any cleaning solutions. Like using a squeegee and purified water – for windows. Steam treatment technique – for carpets. Pressure cleaning – for outside walls. The later is effective even if the surface has graffiti on it. Those are maybe the best ways to do domestic (and corporate for that matter) cleaning. The equipment for these methods is professional and quite expensive so it's usually used by cleaning experts. If you are looking for service here's a list of what you should be looking for:

    • Environmental Policy
    • Energy Saving processes
    • Responsible products
    • Low energy usage equipment
    • Recycling policy

    Even if we don't like it, we do have an effect on the world. Why don't we turn that into something positive and actually be the change in our choices? We try our hardest not only to repair the damages done by previous generations but to prevent any of them repeating in the future. And we can do it. Minimising the negative effect on nature has become more important than ever and every household counts. Are you in?

  14. Off The Grid 3 Ways To Keep Your Well In Tip Top Shape.jpeg

    A good well is a priceless part of off-the-grid living, and maintaining one can be surprisingly easy. However, first-time well owners may find that there is a bit of a learning curve. Unfortunately, mistakes can be costly if they damage the well or cause contamination. Here are three simple ways to avoid those troubles and keep your well running smoothly.

    Keep An Eye On The Calendar

    Regular water testing is an important part of maintaining a healthy well. In most places, an annual test for bacteria and other contaminants is enough. Check with your local health department when working out a maintenance schedule, however, because some areas may have specific risks that require more frequent testing. During this annual check, it’s also a good idea to give your system a routine flush with chlorine as a preventative measure, as well as checking the flow rate to make sure your system is working as well as possible.

    Watch For Changes

    Most of the time, wells run just fine with just a little preventative maintenance. However, even properly maintained wells can develop contamination issues for reasons ranging from failing equipment to flooding from major storms. If you notice any changes in your water quality, schedule another water test immediately, and consider drinking bottled water while you wait for the results. These changes can include cloudy or discolored water, new odors or a strange taste.

    Changes in the rate of the water flow can also be a sign of trouble. Pumps may become sluggish or inefficient before they break down completely, or a broken pipe may be causing you to lose water pressure without totally disabling the system.

    Know When To Call The Professionals

    The average homeowner can handle some minor maintenance, but for most issues it’s best to call in qualified professionals, like those at Taylor Heating Inc. Wells are more complicated than they seem, so a problem that would be minor and easy to fix for an experienced technician may turn into a major headache for a homeowner. Inexperienced people also may accidentally introduce dangerous bacteria into the system while doing something as simple as removing the well cap.

    Wells are a major investment, so it’s important to take the time to keep yours running smoothly. Preventative maintenance may seem like an unnecessary expense, but it can save you thousands of dollars in the long run. By scheduling routine testing and treatments, addressing any potential problems and finding qualified professionals to work with, your well can last a lifetime.

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    Eco-landscaping is about making a difference in your yard, the one that results in making surrounding a healthier place that reduces water, soil and air pollution. The advantages of such responsible approach are reasonable savings in time, money and maintenance. The eco-friendly method is growing in popularity for its obvious reasons while creating and designing an eco-friendly landscape is not more complicated than designing a traditional garden. It does take some planning and involves maintenance, but all the efforts invested in a project like that are nothing compared to benefits.

    Planning

    For starters, you will have to make basic analysis and assessment of the yard. Determine the ground thickness by running the water to see how it is draining and where the ground is soaked the most. That way you’ll know where to plant as well as where to place hardscape. Check which areas get most of the sunlight and which ones are in the shade. Decide which area will serve its specific purpose, meaning where you will place a patio, play area or flower beds. This way you’ll know ahead what materials and plants you will be using and what will structure the basis of your eco-friendly yard.

    Downsize the lawn

    Having a smaller lawn means there will be less mowing and you will use less water. Limit your lawn by placing artificial grass or synthetic turf. Create walkways and paving and make sure to use low-maintenance materials like concrete, bark or gravel. You can use permeable pavers to direct rainfall back into the ground. Place gazebos or benches to fill the space in the yard that won’t require any watering.

    Eco-friendly mowing

    Since there will be a lawn that needs mowing, consider using a reel lawn mowers. Although mowing can go a bit slower than with gas or electric mower, reel mowers are true eco-friendly device since they are a perfect example of energy conservation. An alternative to reel mowers are the mowers powered by rechargeable batteries.

    Plant low-maintenance plants

    Consider planting native plants since they are best suited for the environment. Also, try choosing drought-resistant plants because there will be less maintenance while planting them will save water in the long run. To reduce the usage of water, try to group plants with similar water requirements. Plant some ornamental grass, pansies, and marigold. Planting clover is recommendable since it is insect and weed repelling plant.

    Clever landscaping

    Strategically planted trees and shrubs around the house can act as an insulation and save you up to 20% of your heating and cooling costs. One of the best landscape design firms advises planting deciduous trees on the sunny spots next to the house. That way the trees will provide the shade in the summer, while they will allow more sunlight in the cold months. Also, vines can be used to cool some areas.  

    Watering

    To reduce water waste, install drip irrigation system that brings water directly to plants. Watering with automatic irrigation is more effective while the technology allows you to program it the way you want. You can set the system not to release the water while it rains. You can use rainwater, previously conserved in barrels to water the lawn and the flower beds. When watering in the summer, always water in the late evening and early in the morning to avoid evaporation.

    Weed and insect control

    Avoid using chemicals to fight or to control weed, but take some preventive measures like planting in raised beds, preparing the soil, using landscape fabrics and mulching. To get rid of the weed you can use corn gluten or vinegar, only make sure to use it carefully since it a strong herbicide that can harm other plants.  The last stage of fighting the weed is an old-fashion move of pulling the weed from the ground.  As for insects, learn more about companion planting and see how your plants can benefit from it.

    Fertilizing

    Learn to make and use compost and keep the chemical fertilizer away. Composting is the best possible way to keep your ground properly fertilized, aired and watered, while it will significantly reduce the amount of trash that ends up in the landfills. Almost anything can be used for compost, starting from grass clippings and leaves to fallen branches, food scraps, coffee filters, tea bags, newspapers, cardboard, etc.

     

    Going green takes a bit more than these few tips since it extends further on the maintenance and how you care for the environment aside from the yard. Remember to recycle and reuse all the materials and to establish a sustainable eco-system in your home and your yard. Do your research and create an eco-friendly garden that you will enjoy in years that come. An effort toward the healthier environment is worthy of praise so design your garden and be proud.

  16. The foundation of your home, is, by no surprise, the most important aspect of it. While others may argue, the fact that your entire house depends on the integrity of your foundation means that any damage that might occur to it, can be drastic. Since your entire house literally sits on top of this concrete base, any little mistake in its design means that the problems will increase as you go up. Ensuring you protect your foundation will mean longevity and hassle-free home maintenance. Here are ways you can protect your home’s foundation.

    What is the Foundation?

    To begin with, for those who are unaware, the foundation of your home is made from a combination of materials, with the most common being made from poured concrete or concrete block, and a poured concrete footing system. With the majority of North American homes being built this way, it’s safe to assume that your house was also. During the construction process, it is vital that the foundation is poured and dried at level. Any dips or slants will cause structural problems throughout the rest of the house, making it a headache to fix and to sell.

    Ways to Protect Your Foundation

    Now that you are enlightened on what your home’s foundation actually is, here are some ways in which to ensure it is protected, and remains its integrity and strength.

    1. Make Sure the Ground Slopes Away: Keeping water away from the foundation of your home is critical in ensuring it stays dry and protected. Ensuring your backyard or front yard are sloped away from the house will enable runoff water to flow away from the house, instead of towards. If it is sloped towards, water will likely seep into the foundation, causing flooding in your basement and structural damage to the concrete base. If the ground is sloping towards, you’ll have to either call a professional (depending on the severity) to level out the ground, or fill in the areas with dirt yourself, if it’s not too difficult.  

    2. Clean Out Your Gutters: While generally keeping your gutters clean is a good habit for good water runoff, it’s especially important to ensure the water from rain and other precipitation doesn’t get backlogged and then seep into your house. Ensure they are pitched correctly so that they water flow is away from your home, and clean them at least twice a year to remove any buildup that can cause clogs.

    3. Inspect Your Downspouts: As with your gutters, make sure your downspouts don’t have any leaks or holes present. Also, make sure they are pointing away from the foundation of your house, rather than just next to it.

    4. Monitor the Foliage: Especially during the fall, leaves, trees, and foliage tend to shed everywhere. Managing plants and vines that are up against your home is helpful in ensuring they don’t have an active part in trapping moisture and dampness against your home when they are wet. Try not to plant any trees near your foundation either, as they can soak up the moisture that prevents the foundation from cracking.

    5. Water your Foundation: While this may seem contrary to what we’ve been saying about keeping water away from your foundation, no moisture at all can result in cracking and shrinking in the spoil of your foundation. Giving it a good soaking during the summer at periodical intervals will help prevent this from happening.

    Warning Signs You Have a Problem:

    While you may have implemented these preventative measures, if there is a problem with your foundation, you should be able to see warning signs pretty clearly. Here’s what to look out for:

     

    1. If you see pooling occur, especially after a rainstorm, this is a good indication that something isn’t right. Water gathering in pools around the foundation of your home means the ground isn’t level and water is seeping towards the base. Hiring a professional to both level the ground and pump the water away from the house is most likely the best course of action here.

    2. Water leaks don’t always show up easily, so looking out for water stains on the walls or ceiling is a good way to tell if anything is wrong with the house. You might notice it as well with discoloured baseboards or musty smells.

    3. Inspecting the perimeter of your home will let you know if there is a problem. If you see cracks or breakage, this is not a good sign. Making sure the siding, whether it’s brick, wood, vinyl or metal, is at least six inches above the bottom of the foundation is helpful, because often times, dirt and debris can make its way in there and shrink the clearance area. This provides a place for moisture to invade. If possible, power wash and clean away this dirt and buildup to improve the clearance.

  17. Amazon is one of the largest online retailers in the world. With an estimated net worth of nearly $20 billion dollars, this massive portal has changed the ways in which online shopping occurs. It is therefore understandable that the recent announcement of Amazon entering into the Australian marketplace and the intention to use Melbourne as their base for operations has turned quite a few heads. Why is this movement so important and what could it potentially mean for the average Melbourne business? Let's take a closer look at the answers to both of these questions, as the face of the retail industry could be forever transformed.

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    The Potential Winners

    The answer to the first question, primarily depends upon the type of business. For example, it is predicted that online sellers within Melbourne will reap the greatest number of benefits. As they will soon be presented with an entirely new venue to digitally promote their items, their overall ROI should dramatically increase.

    This same observation can be made for international sellers who have been looking to tap into the lucrative Australian marketplace. As they can ship their products directly to the consumer, these sellers will likely enjoy a greater amount of business. However, we should keep in mind that this relationship will partially depend upon the strength of the Australian dollar in relation with other major currencies such as the pound and the euro. 

    The Possible Losers

    The bad news is that traditional retailers might not fare so well. When Amazon does indeed enter into the Australian marketplace, consumers may opt for cheaper goods from international sources as opposed to purchasing similar items from a local business. This is particularly the case in terms of Melbourne-based electronics firms, as Amazon has always had a strong market share within this industry. The only possible trade-off is that those businesses which are able to translate their operations into the e-commerce sector will likely enjoy success over time. Still, these predictions have yet to materialise. 

    The Employment Sector

    Many are rightfully concerned as to whether the introduction of Amazon will bolster or deflate the job market. Robert Bruce,
    Amazon’s director of operations for Australia attempts to alleviate concerns stating “Over time, we will bring thousands of new jobs to Australia and millions of dollars of investment as well as opening up the opportunity for thousands of Australian businesses to sell at home and abroad through Amazon Marketplace.”

    Those businesses within Melbourne (and throughout the entire country) which are able to adapt to the online retail community could very well see their businesses expand at a rapid pace.

    Thanks to the new warehouse to be located in Dandenong East, local trades such as sales, customer service, HR, Operations Managers and warehouse operatives will all be in high demand.

    However, the verdict is still out as to whether traditional retail businesses will be forced to downsize. 

    The Real Estate Impact

    We should also expect to see some changes within the real estate market. As The
    Financial Review highlights, dropping brick-and-mortar sales may impact the number of commercial leases being renewed throughout Melbourne. However, there is a potential bright side as well. Businesses centred around the field of e-commerce could very well experience increased sales. Thus, they might require more office space to store and ship goods to the end user. This will particularly impact the Melbourne metropolitan area thanks to the looming presence of a truly gargantuan Amazon warehouse. 

    The entrance of this giant online retailer into the Australian marketplace will certainly shake things up a bit. However, few analysts are surprised at such a move and it only makes sense in a world increasingly defined by digital purchases. The main question is how Melbourne businesses will adapt to this shift and if they will be able to capitalise upon such a profound move into the future. 


     

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    Your bedroom should be a place of leisure where you can kick back and let every nerve and muscle in your body just chill. By doing this, your body can fully recuperate from hassles and stresses of your everyday life. But is it possible to enjoy this rejuvenating power of your bedroom if your bedroom contains unhealthy elements such as a bed or bedding that’s made from synthetic materials filled with hazardous compounds, or if you have poor ventilation and no fresh air? Probably not.

    There are lots of reasons to keep your bedroom natural and ensure that it maintains its powers of rejuvenation and some of these reasons include;

    1. Improper lighting messes with your sleep cycle.

    Natural lighting is hands down the best no matter the situation you are in and that includes when you are resting. If you have bright glaring light in your bedroom when you should be resting, it tampers with your sleep and can lead to you waking up feeling totally unrested. Keep lighting natural in your room by installing the right LED lights for night time, especially if you are one of those who aren’t comfortable sleeping in total darkness. This will help ensure your body can sleep properly and rest your mind as well as everything else to strengthen you for the coming day.

    1. Poor ventilation is unhealthy.

    Fresh air is very important for both overt and subtle reasons. If your bedroom’s window is constantly closed, it simply means you are breathing in all the old air and stale gases your body has expelled and this isn’t healthy in the long run. Open your windows as frequently as possible to let fresh air in and clear out the old air. This will keep you cool the right way instead of depending solely on recirculated air from fans and air conditioning. And if you are totally averse to opening your window for some reason, place some leafy potted plants in your bedroom. These plants will absorb carbon dioxide and other unhealthy elements from the atmosphere of your bedroom and give you clean, fresh oxygen in return. These potted plants should be natural, not synthetic ones.

    What about the bed?

    You can heighten the comfort and enjoyment of your bedroom by also throwing out your old synthetic mattress and replacing it with a natural organic one. According to Brentwood Home, “…organic mattresses are some of the most comfortable natural sleep products you can use to get the best night's sleep…”

    If you opt for a natural mattress, you can expect to enjoy the following benefits;

    1. Synthetic mattresses are well known for harboring dust mites, mold, and certain forms of bacteria. All these elements can be causes of irritation for you while you sleep. But with an organic mattress, all that goes out the window because the composition of an organic mattress ensures that it is mold-resistant, anti-bacterial, as well as capable of repelling dust mites.

    2. Organic mattresses are made from wholly natural materials and are thus free of the harmful chemicals found in synthetic mattresses. Some of these toxic chemicals in synthetic mattresses have been found to cause cancers as well as trigger allergies.

    3. Natural mattresses have moisture wicking capabilities which means no more sweat drenched sleepless nights for you.

    4. Instead of depending on hazardous chemicals, organic mattresses have their own natural fire resistant properties.

    5. The 100% natural wool and cotton mix of organic mattresses make them more breathable and ensure you can keep cool in summer, and warm in winter while you sleep.

    6. And best of all, natural mattresses are biodegradable and environmentally friendly. This means when you throw it out, it will be absorbed back into earth without negatively impacting the environment.

     

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    For people who have become more conscious of what goes into what they eat, the good news is that an escalating amount of food manufacturers are proposing organic options, making organic food one of the fastest-growing sectors of food production in the United States. The bad news is that all of those options can be uncertain, especially when factoring in food made without GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Some people could be trying to eat an all-organic diet, and others may simply be trying to dodge GMOs. Although foods may be labeled as USDA-certified organic or Non-GMO, consumers may not understand the difference. In some cases, there is an overlap between the USDA Organic and Non-GMO labels, but there are some key differences consumers should be aware of when trying to make the distinction between organic foods and foods made without GMOs.

    Normally, foods with the USDA Organic label have been manufactured without the use of GMOs as well as other standards that certify that the food has been produced with at least 95 percent organic ingredients. Foods that have been labeled as Non-GMO, on the other hand, only need to meet the criteria that they contain less than 1 percent of GMO content. Foods certified as Non-GMO may have been exposed to fertilizers or chemical pesticides, animals may have been subjected to hormones or antibiotics, and livestock may not have been fed using 100 percent organic feed. In short, all USDA Organic certified foods are Non-GMO, but not all Non-GMO certified foods are organic.

    The inflated variety and selection accessible at the grocery store today may be more confusing, but anyone who is concerned about what goes into their favorite organic chocolate brands will need to know the difference between the labeling and what the labels mean. The following chart helps delineate the differences between USDA Organic and Non-GMO labels, so review it the next time you check the labels on your favorite snacks.

    Check out the useful infographic that spray drying company, PacMoore has created below:

     

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  19. Every once in a while there comes the time to freshen up your garden and it is important to remove your green waste the responsible way. A common problem that arises is what to do with all that garden leftovers. If you are looking for Eco-friendly ways to get rid of your yard waste you are in luck because what follows is a comprehensive guide on how to dispose of your green waste without harming the environment. Read on and enjoy.


     

    Turn your waste into an eco-friendly fertilizer

    Much of your yard waste can be turned into compost that may be reused later as a fertilizer in your garden. Grass, veggie scraps and flower cuttings are ideal matter for this purpose. You will need a DIY composting bin or specially designed composting station. Do get in touch with your local government administration, as the office may provide composting bins for free to encourage sustainable gardening practices. It is important to take proper care of your composting bin – keep it moist and secure and add layers of different materials regularly. Unprotected composting bins may attract insects and rodents. Take a look at composting know-how to learn more.


     

    Use the worms

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    Beware fellow gardeners as vermicomposting is on the rise! More and more home-grown and professional gardeners are drawn to using worms as green waste disposal system which can turn garden and organic home waste into the ultimate soil enricher. Designated worm species, such as red wigglers and white worms will gradually consume your waste and turn it into nutrients-rich worm castings that can be used as a top or side dressing for the plants or worked into the soil without burning the roots. You can get worm boxes from your local gardening store or make them yourself. If you opt for the latter, do remember to line the box with fabric and drill little holes for drainage.


     

    Arrange waste pick-up

    Many countries have implemented regular yard waste pick-up – you simply need to bag your waste and leave it on your parkway. Unfortunately, there is a significant drawback to this method, as you are allowed to dispose of limited amount of garden leftovers. When you are planning a major clean-up or you are about to finish an extensive yard project it is a good idea to hire professional waste removal company to tackle your garden waste problem. Companies such as 1300 Rubbish will take care of as much of green waste as you need. The undeniable advantage of waste pick-up is the fact that you won't have to lift a finger, as the heavy lifting will be done by the professionals.


     

    Take it to the nearest waste collection center

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    If you do not want to arrange for organized waste pick-up you can always take your garden trash to the nearest collection service yourself. This method might be time-consuming, but it gives you the comfort of knowing that your waste has been disposed of legally and safely. You can also find tailor-made facilities designed specifically to handle large quantities of green waste. Collection centers and dumps may charge you a small fee per weight or load and you will be expected to unload your deposit in the right section of the tip.


     

    Garden waste can build up pretty quickly, therefore it is essential to implement efficient and sustainable strategy for green waste removal. You no longer need gas-guzzling chippers or heavy machinery to get rid of excessive waste, as with the help of our 4 tips you will be able to handle your green waste like an expert!

  20. Based on the findings of the US Department of Energy (DOE), homeowners shell out $2,000 or more every year to heat their private pools using conventional electricity. If we go by data, there are approximately 800,000 pools in Florida alone, including the above-ground ones.  Although Florida hardly gets cold, you can extend the swimming season by opting for solar pool heating in your Tampa home.  Here are some of the most important reasons to choose the solar option over traditional pool heaters:

    Efficiency

    Solar heaters have the capacity to heat your pool efficiently provided the panels are professionally installed to harness the sun’s free energy. With proper installation, you can expect to raise your pool’s temperature by up to 15 degrees, especially when you experience a nip in the air. During the cooler months, you can consider using solar blankets as well to maintain the water temperature. You can use them when the pool is not in use. The blankets will trap the heat and stop the unnecessary evaporation of water.

    You can also lower the water temperature during the hot summer months if you have a solar pool heater installed. Obviously, you cannot cool the water when the temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit. But if you run the heater overnight instead of turning it on during the day, the water circulating will cool by several degrees, making the pool water more comfortable to take a plunge.

    Extended Swimming Season

    A solar pool heater together with covers can extend your swimming season, especially during the summer months from May to October. These pool heaters are designed to adjust the water temperature for a comfortable dip. It depends on the season and the amount of sunlight received.  When the Florida Solar Energy Center monitored pools in the Sunshine State some two decades ago, they found that most of the homeowners enjoyed swimming for approximately 110 days in a year. Eventually, with the advancement of solar equipment and technology, people with private pools could extend the swimming season to about 290 days. It means that you can enjoy a refreshing dip with your family and kids a little longer than you have expected.

    Durable

    Gas heaters with a lifespan of about five years are not as efficient as solar ones. Moreover, they call for a lot of care and maintenance. And it is needless to say that periodic upkeep will add to your pool heating costs further. Solar pool heating systems, on the contrary, come with a 12-year warranty and last for 10-20 years requiring little or no maintenance at all. With your pool’s filtering system and chemical balance working fine, they will last for years to come. Solar panels are designed from high-quality polypropylene. They include an additional 35 percent of the material. Solar pool heaters also have UV stabilizers, making it more durable than conventional heaters.

    Eco-Friendly

    Solar pool heaters are extremely environment-friendly. In fact, you are contributing to the green cause by installing a photovoltaic (PV) system. That’s because the sun’s energy is pure and clean.

    The benefits of solar pool heating in Tampa are hard to ignore. With the significant drop in the prices of equipment over the last few years, installing PV systems is a safe and economical option for homeowners in the city. So, are you ready to take the plunge?

  21. The sustainable building trend is not just good for the planet, but for the economy — green construction is expected to account for 3.3 million jobs in the U.S. alone by 2018, a 143.5 percent increase over 2015. Green construction involves the design, construction and/or operation of buildings in ways that reduce any harmful impact on the environment and/or on human health. Some of these include reducing the carbon footprint of manufacture, preserving air and water quality, minimizing toxic emissions, and increasing energy efficiency in building operations. Sustainable building also can be economically beneficial. Using green materials and practices often benefits local economies, and the focus on energy efficiency frequently results in significant savings for property owners.

    The following infographic was created by Accurate Perforating Company and highlights 10 green building materials to consider for your next green building project.

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    green-building-materials.pdf

  22. More than 1 million U.S. homes now sport solar panels on the roof. That number is expected to double in the next two years as the cost of solar continues to decline and solar awareness continues to rise.
     
    While making the shift to solar is good for the environment, that’s not the only reason to invest in solar technology. Here are just a few of the many benefits homeowners can realize by going solar. 

    5 Reasons So Many Homeowners Are Going Solar

    1.    Solar is a good investment. While the exact ROI for solar varies according to location and other factors, research indicates that in most states it makes financial sense to go solar. Specifically, solar brings a better return than a five-year CD in 86 percent of states. If you live in one of the top 13 states for solar, you’ll actually do better with your solar panels than you would by investing in the S&P 500. 
    2.    Solar is reliable. With any technology comes the potential for failure, but solar bucks the trend by being one of the least likely of your home’s systems to break down. While solar panels are typically warranted for 25 years, 90 percent of them last 30 years or longer. One report showed that many 40-year-old panels are still generating power at 80 percent of their efficiency. In addition, a residential solar system typically has no moving parts, and almost never needs repair. 
    3.    Solar is security. Concerned about power grid security, future energy price hikes, and/or the escalating effects of global climate change on the weather? Installing a solar system with battery backup is an excellent way to ensure that you will always have the power you need at a price you can afford. 
    4.    Solar protects our planet. Sunshine is a clean, renewable energy source that does not contribute to global climate change. While all manufacture has an impact on the environment, solar panels create far more energy in their lifetime than is consumed by making them. In fact, an average 4 KW solar power system offsets nearly 200,000 pounds of carbon dioxide in its first 25 years. It would take planting more than 2,000 trees to equal that amount of carbon offset.  
    5.    Solar is hot — and that’s cool. Who doesn’t like to be the cool kid on the block? Solar is an undeniably hot and trendy technology, so why not add a system to your roof and enjoy witnessing the “panel envy” of your neighbors and friends?   

    How to Go Solar at Home

    According to Google’s Project Sunroof, nearly four out of five U.S. homes have enough unshaded area to install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. So when you’re ready for a larger investment in your home (similar to what you would pay for a kitchen remodel or home addition), chances are good that solar will pay off for you.  

    That said, PV panels aren’t the only way to go solar in your home. Here are more ideas, at a variety of price points for any budget:
    •    Solar water heater — A typical solar water heating system saves 50-80 percent on monthly water heating costs, even in a cloudy climate.
    •    Solar landscape lighting — Solar outdoor lighting doesn’t just save electricity. It’s also safer and reduces maintenance because you won’t have to run power lines outside. 
    •    Solar chargers — A solar phone charger lets you charge your phone from anywhere, even on a hiking trip or in a boat! 
    •    Solar Christmas lights — Solar LED holiday lights are convenient to set up, and can save you up to $10 for every 300 hours they’re lit.

    These are just a few of the many benefits you can realize by going solar at home. Check out this infographic to discover even more compelling reasons why so many Americans these days are choosing to add solar to their homes. 

    Ryan McNeill is the president of Renewable Energy Corporation, one of the largest residential solar energy companies in the mid-Atlantic region. It is committed to providing homeowners with high-quality, American-made solar panels and solar energy products. 

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  23. In today’s economic uncertainty and fluctuating weather Calgary homeowners are increasingly interested in reducing their home’s impact on the environment, which can also help lower energy and utility costs. 

    Built Green Canada, a national organization with a certification program that rates the level at which a home is energy-efficient, measuring factors such as the materials and methods used in construction, ventilation, waste management, water conservation, and indoor air quality. The Calgary Herald has reported that Calgary and area builders enrolled more single-family homes in the Built Green Canada program in 2016 than a year earlier, and again more homes in the Calgary area were enrolled in the program over the first three months of 2017 than the same time last year. 

    Built Green Canada notes that there are a number of roofing materials and methods that improve thermal performance and offer energy benefit including recycled-content roofing systems and those with a minimum 30-year manufacturer warranty on roofing material. To help you make eco-friendly choices when you need roofing and siding replacement our roofing contractors at Century Roofing Limited have pulled together these common roofing related ways to make your home environmentally friendly:
    •    Proper insulation and ventilation of a roof system - reductions in power and fossil fuels used in the heating and cooling processes will help make a more environmentally efficient household.
    •    Daylighting - bring natural daylight into your home will benefit the environment by reducing electricity, and provide healthy natural light to the household. 
    •    Landscaping - keeping vegetation growth from encroaching on a roof area will aid in air circulation and reduce wear and tear on your roof system. Extending the life of the roof system reduces the material usage over time, saves money, and lowers the environmental impact. 
    •    Proper roof maintenance - keeping the gutters, downspouts, and roof area free of debris will help extend the life of a roof system. By utilizing the full life span of a roof system homeowners can delay replacement, which in turn results in cost savings and less material waste. 

    Albertans are increasingly embracing eco-friendly building options as evident in Built Green Canada’s efforts and events such as Edmonton’s Eco-Solar Home Tour, now in its 17th year (June 3-4, 2017), showcasing ways to maximize energy efficiency at home. Century Roofing Limited can help you to fill all those needs. We handle virtually everything having to do with roofing. No project is too big or small for our roofing contractors; see what our Calgary roofers can provide:
    •    Historical renovations;
    •    Custom designs/installations using quality craftsmanship and materials;
    •    Large-scale commercial or varied sized residential roofing projects;
    •    Roofing, eavestroughing, soffit and fascia renovation and repair; and 
    •    Siding maintenance and repair.

    At Century Roofing Limited, we handle virtually everything having to do with roofing and offer a host of eco-friendly options. If you have questions about your homes or business exterior contact us at 403-235-5457 today to plan your next project and get a free estimate. Serving central and southern Alberta and eastern British Columbia.

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    Every generation has its own defining issue, and unfortunately, ours is climate change. Climate change is affecting people and communities all over the world. Apart from being a major threat to humankind, climate change has far-reaching impacts on the entire ecosystem. For over a quarter of a century, activists and concerned citizens have been discussing climate change through public broadcasting. Back in the In the 80's, the main focus was on recognizing and discussing the potential threats. In the past 30 years, we have thoroughly examined the actual impacts and yet failed to effectively address global warming. We’re all aware that Global Warming is happening as a direct consequence of human activities. That’s why activists and concerned citizens like Solly Assa, are struggling to keep the American public informed.

    Over time the conversation has changed, but the problem has remained unsolved. Solly Assa calls everyone to become emotionally, practically, intellectually and politically and involved in this battle to save our planet. The effects of Climate Change are already with us and if we continue down this path, the planet that as we all know it, may be given a 10-year deadline. The actual impact has caused heat waves, droughts, ocean acidification, and floods. Global warming has also exacerbated poverty, hunger, and spread of diseases. The consequences of climate change are very real, and if we don’t take drastic changes, it can even lead to the worst consequence, which is leaving that planet

    As an individual, Mr. Assa has helped by taking action to reduce his personal carbon emissions and encourages more people to do the same. We all need to take responsibility and reduce Carbon Emissions now. Once we start dealing with the problem on an individual level, together we can get the support needed to build a community that can make a difference.  To fully address the threat of global warming, we need to seek action from our leaders who have the power to implement comprehensive solutions. In December 2015, world leaders agreed to limit Global Warming to 2°C, but since then we haven’t seen some life real action. For example, countries like Denmark have committed to 100 percent renewables, while China has increased their renewable energy consumption.

    Because of climate change, humans and wild animals face new challenges for survival. If we don't reduce greenhouse gas emissions drastically, then the results will be catastrophic for the climate. Education and information play important roles as facilitators of climate understanding. Nowadays there is a wide range of documentaries and other informational media that can help us get to the bottom of this issue. But in order to succeed, we all need to be a part of the solution. Together we have the power to limit the effects of climate change. We have all participated in the over-use of our planet, and now the time has come for us to unite and start fighting for our home.

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