Author Archive | Tim Werth

The World’s First Flower Most Likely Looked Like Today’s Water Lily, Researchers Find

How would you feel if someone told you that all of the flowers in the world come from one ancestor? While it may seem dramatic, it’s true, according to a new study published in the British journal Nature Communications.

A group of international scientists has discovered that the world’s first flower sprouted about 140 million years ago. It looked similar to the common-day water lily, with circles of petals and protruding pollen spikes in the center of the bud. While scientists say that it is similar to one of the most widely known lilies, the Madonna lily, which is also the oldest lily on record, dating back 3,000 years, the head scientist explains to USA Today that it is hard to really compare pre historic flowers to flowers of today.

Herve Sauquet, an evolutionary biologist at the Paris-Sud University explained:
“All flowering plants have evolved and changed since that ancestor, that’s how evolution works. So there is no single species or group of species that would have existed some long time ago and still exists today unchanged.”

For their study, the scientists used an evolutionary tree to connect all species of plants, 792 in particular, to this one flower. Interestingly enough, the scientists were able to find that what they originally thought concerning the flower’s sexual organs was false. This finding actually was able to help the scientists plot out a whole new vision for exactly how pre historic flowers evolved to the flowers of today.

However, Sauquet points out that while no fossil exists from 140 million years ago, the researchers were able to compare the oldest finding, from 130 million years ago, and link it to 10 million years prior simply because they could link the flower’s sexual organs to similar flowers they know to existed at that time.

So while this was a great finding, the researchers are still trying to figure out where and when the first flower formed in the world. But with this information, they’re hopeful that they’re close.

How To Transition To A Natural Beauty Routine In 5 Easy Steps

With mountains of information out there about unregulated beauty products and the potentially harmful ingredients we use every day, there are plenty of reasons to simplify your beauty routine. The tricky part is getting started. By taking small steps and forming an understanding of what you really need to feel refreshed and beautiful, you can create an effective routine that is as chemical-free as possible.

These five easy steps can guide you toward a more holistic approach to beauty. You will feel clean and radiant as a result.

Step 1: Tune in to your body’s natural chemistry.

Before you decide which products to include in your natural beauty tool kit, learn how your body naturally behaves. When you are lathering your skin and hair with artificial ingredients, it is easy to completely throw off this natural balance. Take a break from or cut down on these products for a week, and notice the natural texture of your skin and hair. This will inform what you are trying to calm with your products.

Step 2: Simplify your entire routine.

Once you have a better understanding of your body’s natural chemistry, decide which products you actually need. If you have been using multiple types of face moisturizers, you likely will be able to cut down to one. Do what you can to simplify your makeup routine and cut down on the products you put in your hair.

Step 3: Read labels.

When you do buy products from the store, take the time to read ingredients. Many natural beauty gurus choose to cut out parabens and phthalates, so avoiding these can be a place to start. The same goes for when you go to a beauty salon. A 2016 survey by YouGov found that 96% of women groom their bikini area in some way. So, if you choose to schedule regular waxing appointments, find a salon that uses more natural ingredients in their wax.

Step 4: Make your own care products when possible.

For every product that you buy from a store, you can likely make your own. For example, if you are one of the 32% of people who are concerned by the look of your teeth, take a moment to consider your whitening options. Rather than reaching for a synthetic whitening kit, you may want to make your own charcoal whitening product or try oil pulling.

Step 5: Embrace your natural beauty.

Remember that the most important part of starting a more natural beauty routine is learning to love your natural beauty. For some people, this may mean more makeup-free days. For others, it may mean switching to their natural hair texture. It is up to your to define your own natural beauty. Stick with whatever makes you feel most radiant.

When working on your natural beauty care routine, remember to be patient with yourself. Forming new habits takes time, and completely changing your beauty habits is no exception. When you are liberated of chemicals and other harmful ingredients, you will feel more healthy and beautiful overall. And that is simply priceless.

How You Can Use Natural Products To Care For Your Teeth

Few things warm up a room more than a bright smile. Many studies have shown that nonverbal cues are actually four times more impactful on first impressions than verbal cues, and a healthy looking smile has a lot to do with that. There’s a reason we respond so positively to people with happy smiles.

But your oral health is much more complex than the shine of your pearly whites.

In fact, the health of your teeth, gums, and mouth are actually tied to other aspects of your health, so it’s important to prioritize oral hygiene. But as any green gurus know, taking care of your teeth can be difficult to do naturally. Fortunately, with the right tricks, you can overlook the chemical-filled hygiene products and take the natural route instead. Follow these tips to take a more natural path to your dental health.

#1: Eat well and stay hydrated.
As with many other aspects of your health, what you put in your body directly impacts your health. Drinking enough water will help clean food particles from your teeth, as can eating crunchy fruits and vegetables. Avoiding sugar and consuming acidic foods and drinks in moderation are also a must.

#2: Try oil pulling.
This natural method involves swishing olive or coconut oil around in your mouth for about 20 minutes. By doing so, you can reduce bacteria, whiten your teeth, control bad breath, and curb sensitivity. Of course, you have to be willing to swish olive or coconut oil in your mouth for 20 minutes.

#3: Drink tea after meals.
Herbal and green tea are great for controlling bacteria and for removing food particles from your teeth. While black tea is certainly a healthy option for reducing plaque, it can also stain your teeth like coffee.

#4: Choose low-chemical care items.
With all the natural methods in the world, brushing and flossing are still an essential part of oral health. Just try to choose toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss that are made of more natural ingredients and materials.

#5: Stock up on herbs.
Certain plants and herbs have healing properties for the mouth. Cloves, for example, can help control toothaches. Cinnamon is also known to reduce bad breath. You may find your own herbal tips and tricks as you start your natural oral care journey.

While the above methods and other tricks can be effective in supporting your oral health, it is still essential to visit a dentist regularly. A recent study found that 84.7% of children ages two to 17 visited a dentist between 2014 and 2015. But are you doing the same as an adult? Even if you think you have your oral health under control, nothing can replace professional care and the advice of your dentist.

With a combination of at-home natural care and professional care, you can keep your mouth as healthy as possible. Remember that not every method will work for everyone, so feel free to try out different natural methods to find what works for you. Your teeth will thank you for it.

Autumn Approaches: Is Your Home Ready for Cooler Temperatures?

September is here, heralding the approach of fall. And while autumn might have a lot to offer, from multi color foliage to pumpkin spice — well, everything, it can also bring its own unique set of difficulties. Many of us find that as the temperature gets lower, our heating bills begin to skyrocket. Additionally, less sunshine means that you will need to rely on artificial light a great deal more, driving up your energy costs.

While there are very few people who view a higher utility bill as a good thing (outside of your utility company, at least), those of us who are concerned with reducing our environmental impact are especially eager to avoid the increase in gas and electricity consumption.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to help keep your fall heating and energy costs down.

#1: Resealed Ducts
According to ARLNow, poorly fitted ducts are a major cause of heat loss in homes. In fact, up to 30% of the air flowing through your ducts can be lost due to leaks, holes, and bad construction.

That is because your metal ducts will expand and contract with the weather: for instance, a duct system that was perfectly fine in summer might have small gaps, which allow your heat to escape and cause a serious energy waste.

Or as the Department of Energy puts it, “Your air ducts are one of the most important systems in your home, and if the ducts are poorly sealed or insulated they are likely contributing to higher energy bills.”

#2: Solar Heating
Solar power is a great way to save money on your electricity bill; in fact, the average home saves around $84 per month with solar panels. But solar energy can be used for other purposes, too.

Solar space heaters are a great way to cut down on your overall heating costs. From full sized retrofits to small, portable space heaters, you can easily harness solar power to help heat your home. According to the Energy Saver office of the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save as much as 40% to 80% on your heating bill with solar space heating.

#3: Energy Star Lighting
Even the most outdoorsy of us end up spending a lot of extra time indoors during the winter, and the lack of natural light means you will be reaching for that light switch much sooner than you would during the summer.

But did you know that in 2016, 10% of all residential energy was used for lighting, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency? By switching to LED Lights, you can save 85% of the energy used for standard halogen lighting.

As Autumn approaches, it is important that you take the time to prepare your home. Make sure that your heating and cooling vents are properly sealed, replace any less-than-efficient lights, and explore the possibility of solar heating. Otherwise, you might be in for a nasty shock the next time you open your utility bill.

3 Efficient Ways To Add Some ‘Green’ To Your Cleaning Routine

These days, more and more of us are slowly but surely changing our day-to-day routines to adapt to the needs of our beautiful Mother Earth. But despite all the progress we’ve made, many people are still wary about ditching their chemical-filled cleaning products for more environmentally-friendly alternatives. However, the truth is, there are countless ways to clean using natural substitutes that are just as effective as traditional, store-bought solutions. Even better, these tips can also save you money.

Here are some tried-and-true ways to add some ‘green’ into your cleaning routine.

Floors:
Hardwood floors are one of the most popular types of flooring. So popular, in fact, that data from the National Association of REALTORS found that 54% of home buyers are willing to pay more for a home with hardwood flooring. And while most people choose artificially lemon-scented polishes, you may be surprised to learn that you can make your hardwood floors shine like never before using nothing more than tea bags. Just boil some water and add two tea bags, letting them steep for a few minutes. Get a soft cloth damp with the tea and wash away. Soon enough, your floors will look like new!

Windows:
It’s true that flu viruses can survive on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours. But instead of using harsh, ammonia-based cleaning agents, consider using a mixture of vinegar and warm water to get your windows and other glass surfaces sparkling clean.

In fact, vinegar has a number of viable uses in the green cleaning realm. Baking soda and vinegar isn’t just for home science projects; this mixture can also be sprayed on almost any bathroom tile, making it easier than ever to wipe away dirt and grime. Bathroom surfaces should also be disinfected with rubbing alcohol at least once a month to prevent excessive bacteria buildup. The average child catches between six and 10 colds a year, so it’s easy to see why parents are reluctant to give up their chemical cleaners. Even so, you can keep household surfaces disinfected without resorting to toxic chemicals.

Laundry:
Laundry is one aspect of keeping clean that traditionally uses harsh chemicals. If you’re seeing the word “fragrance” listed as an ingredient in detergent, fabric softener, or even air freshener, be aware that it’s basically code for harsh chemicals (magical smelling harsh chemicals, to be fair). Luckily, baking soda makes an effective and safer option for laundering and air-freshening. To make DIY laundry detergent, Natural Living Ideas recommends dissolving one cup of baking soda and one third cups of salt into two cups of warm water, pouring it into a gallon container, adding one cup of liquid Castile soap, and filling the rest of the container with water. One quarter of a cup is enough for one full load.

It’s also important to note that some products labeled with ‘fragrance’ can affect fertility rates in women. One in eight couples (or 12% of married women) have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy as it is. Ovia Health says, “Chemicals called phthalates, used in various products to make smells last longer, are often found in the synthetic fragrances of common laundry detergents. These products can disrupt important hormones that cause ovulation, so try more natural brands instead. Other chemicals found in laundry detergents can lead to reduced sperm count — stick to vegetable-based products to minimize chemical presence.”

Ultimately, cleaning green is more than just substituting products for other products. It’s all about staying vigilant, being aware of which ingredients can be dangerous, and thinking critically to come to a more eco-friendly solution.

Families That Garden Together Stay Together (And Learn Healthy Habits While Doing It)

In the U.S., physicians and families alike are making efforts to fight the obesity epidemic, but an increasing reliance on technology, our national love of junk food, and lack of physical activity makes it a bit of an uphill battle. The typical American dieter makes four weight loss attempts every year, but placing severe limits on caloric intake is only a short term solution. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 75% of Americans aren’t eating their daily recommended doses of fruits and vegetables.

Whether family members need to lose the winter weight or simply want to live a healthier lifestyle and enjoy more time together, many experts are proposing a tactic that might surprise you: starting a family garden.

Statistics show that pre-teens and teens spend an average of six to nine hours per day looking at TV, computer, phone, and gadget screens. Those activities lend themselves to a sedentary lifestyle for kids and adults alike. But other promising data shows that families with kids are gardening far more now than they were just a decade ago. From 2008 to 2013, the National Gardening Association found that gardening activities among families with children increased by 25%. And in the spring of 2014, the number of people who gardened within the past 12 months amounted to 113.5 million.

This involvement has a huge impact in multiple areas. Scientific studies have proven that when children are involved in gardening, their fruit and vegetable intake — not surprisingly — increases. Taking part in the process allows them to enjoy the literal fruits (and veggies) of their labor and feel more connected to the produce they come across outside the home. Plus, preparing and eating nutrient-rich meals together as a family can develop a foundation of lifelong healthy eating habits and weight maintenance.

Gardening can even improve academic achievement. Multiple studies cited in the Review of Educational Research found that children who garden at school had a higher affinity for science. Another Chicago-based study found that just being near green spaces — in this case, seeing them from apartment windows — can help improve children’s self-discipline in educational settings. Even when gardening at home, the lessons learned there can translate into multiple educational areas. Parents can easily interweave nutrition lessons as you plant the backyard garden.

Plus, spending time in nature has been proven to produce calming effects in both children and adults. Parents of children with ADD and ADHD reported that “green activities” have a consistently positive effect on their kids’ symptoms. Children who don’t have these conditions can use gardening and other outdoor activities to work off excess energy, develop stronger immune systems, and just recharge.

For families that don’t have a large outdoor space to devote to gardening, other outdoor family activities can be a good substitute. Taking nature walks or biking trips can allow for both physical activity and appreciation of nature. Since 36 million Americans ages seven and up rode a bike at least six times in 2015, it’s a popular alternative or supplement to digging in the dirt.

But in many ways, gardening has those other activities beat. Not only is it physical and rewarding work that can promote better nutrition, but it’s a great way for children to feel connected to the world around them and engage all their senses. Sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch are all involved in gardening. And by allowing kids to have a direct effect on how their garden grows — by picking out seeds, planting and watering them, and helping to harvest and prepare them — that will set the stage for a balanced lifestyle that values both hard work and healthy food.

Although many children recognize produce at the supermarket, that’s often not enough to convince them to try (and stick with) these healthy foods. Gardening at home or school makes kids much more likely to consume fruits and vegetables. More than 30% of schools in the U.S. now have gardens (a 12% increase from 2006), but whether kids garden at school, in a community garden, or right in their own backyard, they’re bound to live healthier lives — and their parents will too!

How to Save Money on Your Air Conditioning Bill Without Even Trying

Now that we’re in the full fledged dog days of summer, chances are that most of us are relying on our air conditioners to keep our home nice and cool. But sometimes cranking the thermostat down can cause our energy bills to skyrocket, not to mention that it isn’t eco-friendly!

So how do you keep the energy bills down and the planet happy, all while keeping your family pleasantly cool? It’s not all that hard, it just requires some creativity and dedication. Here are some air conditioning hacks that will make your wallet smile this summer.

Replace if your AC is more than 15 years old

Technology changes all the time, and HVAC systems are no different. Having an updated machine will lead to major energy savings because the units on the market nowadays work hard to be energy efficient. Plus, older machines have to work harder to do the same job, and their repairs can be costly. On top of that, older machines are often clogged with dust and other allergens. As a rule of thumb, consider HVAC replacement if your air conditioner is more than 15-years-old.

Install a programmable thermostat

There’s no reason that you should be paying to cool the home when no one is there, right? Investing in a programmable thermostat is the best thing you can do when it comes to regulating your energy costs. You’ll be able to choose exactly what times of day it turns on, to what temperature, and when it needs to turn off. By optimizing when it turns on, your machine will be able to work more efficiently, which spells out cost savings for you.

If you can’t afford a programmable thermostat right now, just follow this trick: simply turn up the thermostat at least 10 degrees right before you leave the home. Doing so will ensure the unit doesn’t automatically turn on when you’re gone.

Change your air filters

According to EnergyStar, most HVAC system filters need to be changed every one to three months. But even still, you should aim to change your filter once every month so the air in your home can be as clean as can be. A simple trick to remember is to write the date you replaced it on the filter itself in pencil. Check it periodically, and once you can’t read the date anymore, it is time for a new filter.

Seal windows

That precious cold air can be escaping from your home through tiny cracks around your windows and doors. Don’t pay to cool the outdoors! At the beginning of every season, caulk the windows and doors in your home to ensure nothing is leaking out. Remember, even simple changes like this can add up to major energy savings over time.

Close your blinds and keep the sun away from the unit

The idea behind this is simple: the cooler your home, the less you’ll have to use your unit. Keeping the sun off the unit itself will also prevent it from turning on automatically, and shutting the blinds and curtains will keep your home as cool as possible naturally. Closing your blinds is especially important for when you’re going to be gone from your home for a while, like going to work heading on that summer vacation.

These five simple air conditioning hacks will change how you cool your home, and your wallet will thank you! So go try these tips and tricks out today, and let us know how much you save.

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