Four Everyday Household Tips to Save Your Money (and the Planet)

Reducing your carbon footprint at home might seem like a confusing hassle, but it can actually be quite simple. Many homeowners think that they have to rebuild their home and upend their lifestyle to help the environment, but there are many smaller steps that can still make a big difference to the planet.

As a bonus, cutting back on your energy use and material waste can not only help save the natural environment, but it can also help you save money in the long run.

Take the following steps to reduce your waste for a greener planet and a greener wallet.

  1. Remember Your Three “R”s
    Reduce, reuse, and recycle as many items as you can. Try to only buy food that comes in packages that can be recycled, or buy produce at farmers markets to reduce food package waste. Buying used clothes, furniture, and even vehicles is also a good way to cut back on energy waste from manufacturing, and will help you save money on needlessly new products.
  2. Get an Energy-Efficiency Audit
    Every home uses energy to stay well-lit and warm– in fact, 45% of the average energy bill is spent on heating, according to the Department of Energy. Scheduling an energy efficiency audit with an energy professional can help you figure out where your home is wasting electricity and heat. The experts will give you recommendations for reducing waste and saving cash on your utility bills.
  3. Invest in Energy-Efficient Features
    After your energy audit, you may realize just how much energy your refrigerator, washing machine, television, and other large appliances expend. Purchasing Energy Star rated products is an investment that will save you money in the long run in terms of quality and reduced energy bills. Even replacing windows with energy-rated panes can reduce consumption — the single-pane windows common in many homes built before the mid-1990s are notorious for releasing heat in the winter, releasing cool air in the summer, and letting in noise year-round. Upgrading household items, from windows and doors to light bulbs and microwaves, is a great and green choice.
  4. Get Chilly
    Though insulating your home will help you stay warm and help reduce heating waste, staying cool can also reduce your carbon footprint. Specifically, use your water heater as little as possible for a cooler planet. Wash clothes in cold water, and even consider taking cooler, shorter showers. Setting a programmable thermostat a few degrees lower will also have a small impact on your day-to-day comfort, but a big influence on your energy waste.

Though reducing your carbon footprint may seem like a waste of time, taking the time to reduce energy waste can actually save you money. Use these steps to live a little more conscientiously to protect your paycheck and the planet from unnecessary consumption.

5 Spooky Fruit and Vegetable Halloween Treats for Healthy Kids

Halloween is my favorite holiday – mostly because it is an anything goes, don’t hold back, get as creative as you want holiday! I have been adding a little spookiness into Eben’s snacks by getting creative with fruits and vegetables. He seems to enjoy these “sweet” treats just as much as a sugary alternative – maybe even more. Read on for 5 spooky fruit and vegetable Halloween treats that I have used as inspiration for celebrating the holiday with my healthy kid.

#1: Jack o’Lantern Fruit Plate
This may be one of the easiest treats in the bunch – simply peel, cut and arrange a selection of organic strawberries, clementines, blueberries and grapes and you have a Halloween treat that is sure to please everyone!

+ Jack O’Lantern Fruit Plate
+ via Wholesome Dinner Tonight

#2: Veggie Skeleton
Looking for a fun way to get your child to eat more vegetables this autumn? Look no further than this adorable veggie skeleton. This, along with the Jack O’Lantern Fruit Plate would be perfect for your child’s class Halloween Party or your family’s spooky get together!

+ Veggie Skeleton
+ via Feeding Four Little Monkeys

#3: Pumpkin Oranges + Banana Ghosts
Yum! These goodies are definitely calling my name – I bet the bananas would be even better if they were slightly frozen! These would be great for a kids party – just grab and go.

+ Pumpkin Oranges + Banana Ghosts
+ via Kid Party Food Ideas

#4: Apple Teeth Treats
While these little yummies might take a little more time to prepare – I bet they are worth all of the compliments you would get at your Halloween party.

+ Apple Teeth Treats
+ via All Recipes

#5: Halloween Sweet Potato Fries
I want to whip up a batch of these yummy sweet potato fries to go with Halloween dinner. Not only does my family love them – but the spook factor will win them over for sure.

+ Halloween Sweet Potato Fries
+ Babble

How to Make Simple Upcycled Halloween Lanterns

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One of my favorite areas to decorate for Halloween is our front porch. It’s the perfect spot to share your Halloween decorations with visitors and neighbors! These painted glass lanterns are one of my favorite projects to pull out of storage every year. They are just so delightful!

What you will need:

What to do:

1. Spray the glass containers inside and outside.
2. Once dry, paint on the design or face that you would like.
3. Place a rechargeable or solar powered tea light inside.
4. Watch the delight on the faces of your neighbors as they walk by.

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What do you think of my Halloween lanterns?

Smarter HVAC Systems Could Help Families Focus on Sustainability and Savings

Now that it’s finally fall, you might be relieved that the temperatures are dropping a bit. Before too long, it’ll be time to crank up the heat. While it’s a good thing that furnaces last an average of 15 to 18 years, the costs that show up on your monthly heating bills might not bring you much joy. But there may be a way to keep costs low and support efforts to live a greener lifestyle: smart HVAC.

Although today’s newest air conditioners use nearly 50% less energy than they did back in 1990, HVAC designers and manufacturers still aren’t completely satisfied with the energy efficiency rates offered by the average unit. In fact, one source reports that HVAC systems account for almost half of all energy used in an American home. Thus, industry professionals have continued to make improvements — and these advancements may appeal to tech-lovers who want to reduce their carbon footprint.

One of the ways to make HVAC greener is to focus on designs that are small and flexible. These units need to be able to fit into tight spaces that already exist in buildings, rather than being installed through a big reconstruction project. Customers want more modular systems that are ductless. And while the centrifugal blower found in HVAC systems — which has fan blades that can be arranged in one of three different ways — might not be replaced with another option, there are big changes that can be made to these systems that can mean big savings (of both energy and money).

For example, there are actually ice-powered and solar-powered air conditioners that use less energy than conventional systems. These systems may be supplemented with natural gas in some cases, which is still less expensive than what you might pay for installation and use. Reportedly, these systems are also more reliable, particularly in the event of a power outage; they’re more efficient on an everyday basis and they’ll keep on running if the electricity goes out, too.

There are also systems that self-monitor or that allow homeowners to control the temperature in individual rooms. The idea there is that you’ll save money by being able to keep temperatures exactly to your liking, rather than compensating with extra units or overheating or overcooling rooms just to get comfortable elsewhere. This idea expands on the smart thermostat — but instead of merely being able to adjust the temperature from your phone, this would allow the homeowner to automatically close vents and redirect air elsewhere when it isn’t needed.

There are many possibilities on the horizon for smarter, greener HVAC systems. From better heat pumps to wireless units, it doesn’t look like the industry will be shifting its focus away from these innovations any time soon. In the meantime, of course, there are ways to reduce your energy consumption from heating and cooling — even without a smart HVAC system.

For one thing, you can put your curtains to good use by letting in light during the brightest and warmest parts of the day and shutting them to keep the heat in at night. You can also pick a thermostat setting and stick to it, rather than fidgeting with the temperature all day. (Of course, a smart thermostat that automates these temperature changes is ideal.) Make sure to check for leaks and seal up drafty doors and windows. And of course, get your existing HVAC system serviced. Efficient HVAC maintenance systems require maintenance checks twice a year to keep running smoothly. While it may not be the most energy efficient model currently available, you can improve its efficiency by ensuring that it’s clean and repaired, if needed.

6 Health Screenings That Could Save Your Life!

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Medical screenings or tests are examinations that are used by physicians in order to find illnesses and health conditions before any symptoms or signs appear. Such medical screenings or tests can become lifesavers in the event that they locate a serious health condition. Medical screenings or tests are gender or age specific because some ailments only attack certain groups of people. The following tips will help to lead people in the right direction.

A Pap smear is a test given to females in order to inspect cervical cells for abnormalities. These particular tests are important for women aged 21 and older. Abnormal cervical cells that are taken, being kept in a biorepository, might be found to be cervical cancer. Women that are between the ages of 21 and 29 should visit their gynecologist every three years in order to have a pap smear test done. For women that are aged 30 to 65, it is recommended that they have a pap smear test done every five years if the test is completed with a human papillomavirus test.

Mammograms are health screens that x-ray the breast of men and women in order to identify the presence of breast cancer. Individuals should begin this health screening by the age of 50. If an individual has a family history of breast cancer then it is recommended to start having the health screens done by the age of 40. Mammograms can help to save a life in the event that they catch images of cancerous cell. Early detection means that a patient can start early treatment, which helps to increase the chances of beating the disease and stop the cancer from spreading. Patients should receive mammogram screenings every other year or annually. The frequency of the screening will depend on the person’s family history and also if abnormalities were found in the health screening.

There are two important health screenings that can help to identify heart disease. A stress test monitors the heart while the patient is engaging in a number of exercises. A stress test can help to show the existence of blood flow problems. The more vigorous the exercise gets, the harder the heart will have to work. A hard-working heart is able to pump blood faster and if there are any abnormalities within the heart, the stress test will be able to reveal it. The second health screening that helps to monitor one’s heart is an electrocardiogram or EKG. This screening is different from the stress test because a patient does not have to engage in any exercises. The EKG has the ability to monitor the beats of the heart. An abnormal heartbeat can reveal dangerous heart conditions such as arrhythmia or a heart attack. EKGs and stress tests should be given to individuals that have a family history of heart disease, chest pains, shortness of breath, or a decrease in one’s ability to perform everyday activities.

A fifth health screen test is a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy can help to reveal colon cancer. Colon cancer is the third most dangerous cancer in the United States. In order to battle this deadly disease, physicians urge patients who are over the age of 50 years old to have the procedure done. Patients may want to have this procedure done earlier if there is a family history of colon cancer or if the patient has had inflammatory bowel disease for more than 8 years. Colonoscopy testing should be done every 10 years, as long as no abnormalities are found.

Finally, a prostate-specific antigen test or PSA test is a health screen that can help to reveal early signs of prostate cancer. This particular screening measures prostate-specific antigen, a protein created in the prostate gland. This particular test is recommended for men that are 50 or older. If a male has a family history of prostate cancer then it is recommended that the screening is done earlier. It should also be noted that African-American men are at a bigger risk of developing the disease so they should begin testing at the age of 45.

All of the above health screenings should be taken seriously due to the fact that they can help to save a life. These tests can help to identify health threats and help you to begin early treatment.