9 Tips for Keeping your Family Safe from Sharks this Summer

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As you already know, my family loves the ocean. We spend the majority of our free time paddleboarding, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, and free-diving. Our love for the ocean includes everything that lives in the ocean. There are many creatures that inhabit that ocean that humans may find dangerous – especially after all of the media coverage surrounding some recent shark attacks. While I understand that some people may find sharks to be terrifying, the ocean is their home and we are simply visitors. However, as a family, we have a realistic view of these animals and follow the rules of the ocean to help ensure no harm comes to the sharks or our family.

Eben learned how to swim before he could walk or talk, he was almost 6 months old. He is a natural in the water – it is the one place where he feels completely at ease. When it comes to the ocean, he has no fear – he has been stung by jellyfish, bitten by countless creatures, stepped on a sea urchin and even tore his leg open kneeling on the ocean floor. However, all of these incidents have not changed his view of the ocean, it is still his favorite place on Earth.

I am not as adventurous as Eben or the mister, I am the cautious one – the one always on the lookout for possible dangers. We have swum and snorkeled with sharks many times and we have never felt threatened by them. In fact, we have nothing but love and respect for these amazing creatures. Since I am so cautious and a natural planner, I have tips that I live by to keep my family safe in the ocean. I am not trying to scare you, you are more likely to be hurt by a toilet than a shark! However, if you are hitting the beach this summer, read on and take note, these tips can help to keep your family safe.

#1: What’s Going On?
The first thing to consider before even getting into the water is to stay on top of what is happening in the ocean in your area. A great place to start is at the lifeguard station – they will have a sign that will outline any dangers for the day. Check the news, have there been reports of whale migration, baitfish or seals in the area? If so, stay out of the water. Also, if sharks are migrating through the area, it is a good idea to steer clear of the water too.

#2: It’s All in the Sky
Waters tend to be cloudy at dusk and dawn – and if you can’t see well through the cloudy water, a shark won’t be able to either. Many causes of shark bites happen simply as a case of mistaken identity. Also, if it is overcast or stormy, going in the ocean isn’t recommended – again the water is usually cloudy and incoming storms can stir up bait fish, the last thing you want to do is get between a shark and its prey.

#3: Watch for Fishermen 
I don’t recommend being in the water anywhere near fishermen. Whether the fishermen are simply fishing, cleaning the fish in the water, dumping fish guts into the water, or chumming, it’s a good idea to steer clear of the area. Sharks have an amazing sense of smell and taste and fish guts in the water may attract them to the area. Some sharks have been known to hang around areas where fishermen fish, snatching the fish from their lines too. So as a rule, we do not swim near anywhere near a fishing pier.

#4: Stick Together
As with many things in life, there is safety in numbers when in the ocean too. I don’t recommend swimming far offshore or even hanging out in the water by yourself. Sharks come into all depths of water. We have seen them in knee-deep water and 30-foot waters – swimming or playing in the water as a group is a much better option. Stick together.

#5: Skip the Shiny
Shiny or metal objects can attract sharks – they are curious creatures, they may just want to check out your bling. When heading out to the sea, remove all of your jewelry – and skip swimsuits with any shiny metal embellishments.

#6 Keep Noise to a Minimum
Stick to playing Jaws at the swimming pool only! Splashing around, yelling and thrashing about may attract sharks to the area. They may think you are a struggling prey or may just be curious to see what all the ruckus is about.

#7: Keep a Safe Distance
Most of the times that we have encountered sharks have been on a reef. We always respect their space, put a lot of distance between us and them, stay close together, all the while remaining calm and still. They have always just swum past or under us – never giving us a second look. Again, I don’t recommend snorkeling or diving at a reef alone and when you do see a shark, don’t freak out and frantically try to swim back to the boat. Stay calm and still, and most likely the shark will just swim by.

#8: Pick a Guarded Beach
If you are on vacation, not familiar on how to read the ocean or just want a little more protection, hit the guarded beach. The lifeguards are not only there to keep us safe from drowning, but they will also alert you as soon as they see sharks, baitfish or other dangerous creatures or weather conditions. As soon as you hear that whistle blow, get out the water until the lifeguard says it is safe to go back in. Also, when you arrive at the beach make sure to read the signs at the lifeguard station if there is baitfish in the area or they have a red/no swimming flag – follow their recommendations.

#9: Don’t Feed the Fish
There have been documented cases of people being bitten by sharks after feeding them. Sharks are highly intelligent creatures if you feed them once they will remember it and come back to the area for more. What happens when someone else swims in that spot and doesn’t have a treat to offer them? They may bite someone on accident simply looking for food. As in all cases, do not feed the wildlife, it isn’t a good idea for you or for them.

How do you keep your family safe from sharks at the beach? Are there tips I may have missed?

5 Tips for Throwing Green Summer Parties

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Summer is almost here which means BBQ’s, baby showers, and engagement parties are right around the corner. Since these events are often filled with flowers, decorations, catered food, and disposable cutlery and plates, their carbon footprint is often bigger than you’d expect. Don’t worry, there are tips you can take to make your summer party more eco-friendly. Read on for my five great tips for greening your summer parties.

#1. Serve Locally Grown Food
Unless you know where the restaurant or grocery store catering your event sources its food, chances are it’s traveled a long distance to make it to your doorstep, using manpower, gasoline, and a lot of packaging. And while a catered meal is impressive and beautiful, most hosts find themselves throwing away 30-50% of the food after the party is over. These two factors amount to a lot of unnecessary waste. Instead of ordering an elaborate meal that won’t get eaten, why not shop for produce, cheese, and pastries at your local organic farmer’s market? For starters, you could grill seasonal veggies, make fruit-infused water with local citrus and cucumbers, or even pick up a few growlers of a local micro-brew. Some farms even sell locally raised meats! You’ll be supporting local farms and serving seasonal, organic food so it’s guaranteed to be a healthy, delicious spread.

#2. Go Compostable
If you’ve ever hosted a party you know that the used plates, napkins, utensils, and platters from your event make trash day quite the spectacle. Instead of adding to the enormous amount of garbage already filling our landfills and oceans, spend an extra few bucks on compostables. Specialty stores, and an increasing number of mainstream supermarkets, carry everything from compostable cups and forks to straws. And you don’t necessarily have to compromise design; sites like SustyParty.com sell biodegradable party supplies that are fun and colorful. If you’re planning a big event, many eco-product sites offer discounts for bulk orders of compostable party supplies.

#3. Let Nature Do the Decorating
Instead of hosting your party inside where you’ll need to decorate (and air condition your guests!), take it out back or to a local park and let nature’s beauty do the work! You’ll be saving money, trips to the store, and the waste created by cheap decorations that only offer a single use, and won’t be filling the house with cut flowers that will only last a week.

#4. Email Invitations
Paper invitations and RSVP cards are becoming a thing of the past. With the speed and convenience of electronic invites, there’s no reason not to go green! Sites like Evite offer dozens of designs for all kinds of holidays and events, and personalizing is encouraged. Creating and emailing invitations or sending guests a message about updates takes mere minutes. Plus, your guest list and RSVP’s will all be in one handy place!

#5. Green the Gifts
If the event you’re hosting is for you or you have a say in the gifts, offer guests the option to give money or gift certificates. Even items purchased from a registry can end up being duplicates, or the recipient may change her mind if the list was made before she had enough information. If the guest of honor is also eco-conscious, she may accept a hand-me-down like used baby clothes or a beloved heirloom, with as much excitement as a store-bought gift.

YOUR TURN: How do you minimize waste at your gatherings? Do you have tips we didn’t think of? Let us know—and get creative!

Pest Prevention: 4 Natural Methods to Consider

With warm weather finally here, it’s time to enjoy all that summer has to offer. But one thing many homeowners don’t want to deal with during the summer is pests. Ants, cockroaches, and termites tend to make their way into homes when the weather is nice. And these pests can be more than just annoying — bugs can do a lot of damage to a home, which is why it’s important to take care of them quickly. But it’s not always ideal to use harsh chemicals in your home to rid of bugs, especially if you’re one of the 44% of U.S. homeowners who have a dog. Chemical pesticides can be harmful to the health of people and animals as well as harmful to the environment. So let’s take a look at a few natural ways to get rid of and prevent bugs that won’t be harmful to you, your family, your pets, or the planet.

Do Some Landscaping

Pest control should actually start outside of your home. If you have trees, bushes, and other plants right up next to your house, this can make it easier for pests to enter your home. With trees and bushes right next to the house, pests can simply crawl up them and make the jump to the house. So take a look at the landscaping around your house and make changes as needed — look for greenery that is close to the house especially near the roof, windows, doors, and cracks in the siding. You should also check the cracks in sidewalks next to your house, which is a common place for pests to hang out. While it’s true that having smoother pavement can extend pavement life by up to 25%, it’s also important for controlling pests. So start with some basic landscaping to make it more difficult for pests to enter your home.

Use Soaps and Oils

If you’re looking for a product to buy, you can consider insecticidal soaps and oils. These products are botanical mixtures and contain no harsh chemicals. You can spray these soaps or oils right on the pests or around your house as a preventative measure. If you’re one of the 20% of homeowners who have termites as their main pest issue, this may not be an ideal solution. Insecticidal soaps and oils may be less effective on hard-shelled pests unless used on the eggs. These soaps and oils will be effective against many pests, while not harming other bugs nearby, like ladybugs.

Grow Some Herbs

Some insects, like ants and spiders, don’t like the smell of certain herbs. So even if you don’t use herbs very often, it may prove to be beneficial to grow some herbs in your house, specifically in the kitchen. Some herbs to consider include mint, rue, tansy, and pennyroyal. Or if you don’t want to actually grow any herbs, you can also consider placing dried bunches of these herbs around your home. Placing herbs near windows, doors, and other cracks pests can sneak in could do the trick. Additionally, you can spray some mint, lavender, or other oils near these trouble spots for further prevention. Either way, having some of these herbs in your home is sure to help deter pests from entering.

Change Out Stored Items

Homeowners tend to change things in their house regularly, especially with interior designers recommending updating home decor at least every 10 years. But there are some items in a home that rarely get changed out — stored items, like towels, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and bags are perfect nesting locations for pests because they don’t get moved around often. The average home in the U.S. has 300,000 items in it. So during the warmer months, it’s crucial to check on your stored items. Make your way around the house and check those cupboards and drawers you rarely go into to move the items and wash or replace them as needed. While this may seem like a nuisance, it can go a long way in preventing pests from settling in your home.

As you can see, you don’t have to resort to harsh and harmful chemicals to keep your home pest-free this summer. These simple tips will help prevent and kill pests in your home while keeping you and your family safe — all while being better for the environment, too.

6 Ways to Green Your Summer Trip

summer-vacationSummer is in full swing and I hope your family is taking advantage of the warm weather and break from school to take a trip together! With all of the travel, eating away from home, and sightseeing, vacations can leave quite the carbon footprint. Here are 6 tips to help you make green choices on your summer trip.

  1. Travel locally
    Traveling closer to home (or taking a staycation) cuts down on fuel and emissions—not to mention the expense involved with longer car trips and flights. Who knows, you might just discover your new favorite getaway a few towns over!
  2. Rent a Hybrid
    Many car rental companies now offer the option to rent a Prius or other compact hybrid. Even if you don’t see a hybrid option when booking online, many companies have one or two on hand that you can ask for when you go to pick up your rental. Hybrids are quiet and cut down on fuel cost and waste immensely and are a great choice if you’re taking a sight-seeing road trip.
  3. Stay at a Green Hotel
    There is a growing number smaller hotels and B&B’s choosing to become Green Certified. The Green Certification process evaluates the hotel’s overall carbon footprint and what choices they are making to positively impact the environment as well as to minimize their otherwise negative impact. Areas evaluated include energy and water conservation, solid waste management, indoor air quality, building infrastructure, and community outreach, to name a few. Most green hotels that offer meals also buy organic and local.
  4. Eat Locally
    Isn’t it wonderful that you can travel to almost any city in the US and find a farmer’s market—or at least a local fruit stand? Since I live in the high desert of Colorado I love sampling local fruits and vegetables when I travel to states at lower elevation or with a more humid climate. I’ll never forget eating dozens of peaches in one sitting on a visit to Mississippi or a crate of strawberries in California! Put your money towards local business and sustainable living by picking up a few meals or snacks at the farmer’s market or small, local grocer on your next vacation.
  5. Explore the Local Environment
    One of my favorite things about vacation is the variety of trees, flowers, and animals native to the state I’m visiting. Exploring new environments is especially valuable when traveling with kids, who can learn about different species and ecosystems and by doing so appreciate and protect them better. States with protected open space or forests sometimes offer tours of wildlife sanctuaries—a fun, educational choice for families.
  6. Leave No Trace
    Whether you’re roughing it back country camping or staying in an upscale hotel on your vacation, the 7 principles of Leave No Trace are helpful guidelines to bring and follow. Don’t forget to educate kids about their impact on the places you visit!

YOUR TURN: What green tips does your family have for vacationing this summer?

6 Eco-Friendly Ways to Keep Your Dog Happy and Safe this Summer

During the summer, your pet may be spending more time outdoors and might even take a few road trips with you. Keep your pooch happy and safe this summer by incorporating these pet and eco-friendly tips into your summer routine. These tips will keep your best friend comfortable and safe during the dog days of summer.

1. Hydration Station:
A simple fact is – a hydrated dog is a happy dog. Keeping Fido hydrated during the summer months is especially important – remember they are wearing a fur coat! Keep several dishes of fresh, clean water throughout your home and outside areas. Also, remember when you are out for the day or traveling, offer your pet fresh water on a continuous basis.

2. Give that Dog a Pool? 
Many dogs love to get wet and a great way to keep them hydrated when you are outside as a family is with a wading pool. Or, better yet, if you live near a natural body of water, why not take your dog with you for a little water fun! Just remember that not all dogs are good swimmers – keep an eye on them at all times.

3. Make it Portable
If your travel plans or daily outings include taking your dog along with you, don’t forget your pet’s essential supplies. There are many great eco-friendly on-the-go dog supplies that making taking your dog with a snap. Don’t forget the collar (with I.D.), leash, biodegradable poop bags, food, water, and feeding dishes.

4. Just Say NO – to Cars
I know it can be tempting to take Fido with you when you just have a few errands to run. However, this is an absolute no-no, especially on summer days. The inside of a car can heat up to deadly temperatures in the matter of a few minutes. Also, studies show that leaving the windows cracked or partially rolled down does nothing to save your pet from the summer heat. It is simply too hot for them!

5. Think of Hot Paws
When taking your dog on summer walks, remember that hot concrete and blacktop do not mix with dog paws.  Especially the paws of dogs that spend the majority of their lives indoors. Instead, choose a grassy route for your walk or wait until the early morning or evening hours to take your best friend on a walk.

6. Keep Them Updated
One of the worst feelings can be losing your pet. Regardless of how careful you are, accidents do happen. Remember to never take your pet outside of your home without their collar and I.D. on. This simple act can be the difference between having your beloved friend returned immediately if lost and never seeing them again. It is definitely worth the few seconds that it takes to snap their collar on before taking them outside.

How do you keep your dog happy and safe during the hot months of summer?