June 13, 2011 5:27 pm
These clever tips help keep your cash where it belongs—in your pocket!
1. Buy Bulk with a Friend
Know your needs. Bulk items are only worth buying if you can use them before they expire. Consider shopping with a friend and splitting perishables such as meat and dairy products.
2. Inexpensive Art
Take a photo of something you love—a dog that comes every time you call, a keepsake with beautiful cursive and a colorful stamp, your lucky Tuesday-night poker deck. You can blow it up with some hassle-free Internet help, then frame it, hang it, and be enormously happy every time you walk by.
3. Make Clothes Last Longer
Prepare your clothes for the washer by closing zippers, fastening hooks, and turning items inside out. Wash darks together using the cold-water cycle so they don't bleed onto lighter clothes—and cold water is crucial, since it lowers your water-heating costs. Line-drying dark items will also help maintain their original appearance—and you'll save on heating costs of the dryer.
4. Pass on the Paper Towels
Instead of spending money on pack after pack of paper towels, buy reusable microfiber towels, which grip dirt and dust like a magnet and don't let go, even when wet. When you're finished, toss the towels in the wash and reuse. (One brand to try: Method, available at Target and Office Depot.)
5. Adjust Your Water Heater
Lower your water heater's thermostat to 120 degrees to restrict heat loss. The exception: dishwashers. Check if yours has a "booster heater" for sanitizing 140-degree rinsing. Your potential annual savings: $450 and 215 pounds of emissions.
For more money saving tips, visit www.marthastewart.com.
June 10, 2011 11:27 am
As final school bells ring and families put the finishing touches on vacation itineraries, emergency rooms are preparing for "trauma season" in a very different way. The National Trauma Institute (NTI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing death and disability related to trauma injury, warns the best laid summer plans and activities can often lead to serious injury and death related to preventable accidents.
Traumatic injury is the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 1 and 44, and accounts for more than 37 million emergency department visits each year. The number of emergency room admissions across the country will spike this summer from trauma-related incidents including motor vehicle crashes, bike accidents, falls, near-drownings and other hazards related to summertime activities.
"Someone in the U.S. dies every three minutes from traumatic injury," says Sharon Smith, executive director of NTI. "Our country and world have already witnessed massive amounts of devastation and injury this year from natural disasters beyond anyone's control. It's crucial to keep ourselves and our children safe using common sense and simple measures to prevent injury whenever possible."
NTI offers the following tips to keep you and your family out of harm's way this summer and all year round:
• Make auto safety a priority. Always avoid texting or cell phone use while driving, properly attach car seats for children and map out routes ahead of time. Program a dashboard GPS unit, or if necessary, pull the car over to a safe place before consulting a map.
• Keep a well-stocked first aid kit in your home and car. Not every injury qualifies as a traumatic one, of course, but untreated bleeding can make a moderate injury much worse. A well-stocked first aid kit will help you address everything from cuts to more severe injuries.
• Keep fire extinguishers in and around the house. In a multi-story home, there should be one on each floor, or at least near the kitchen and master bedroom. For outdoor grills, BBQs and bonfire pits, keep a fire extinguisher and/or hose attached to an outdoor faucet nearby.
• Wear protective equipment and safety gear at all times. Adults and children alike should always wear helmets, elbow and knee pads when biking, skating and riding on motorcycles or all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).
• Always use caution in the water. Keep enough life jackets on board a boat for every passenger. Never leave children alone in the water, and only swim in designated areas of a beach supervised by a lifeguard.
• Keep cell phone chargers in your car, home and office. A properly charged cell phone is a lifeline in the event of serious injury. Getting qualified first responders to the scene in a timely manner can literally be the difference between life and death.
• Know where the closest trauma center is. Only certain hospitals around the country have the resources to be a designated trauma center. Locate an accredited facility near you at http://www.facs.org/trauma/verified.html.
About the National Trauma Institute
The National Trauma Institute (NTI) assembles public and private resources to support trauma research across the country, sets a national trauma research agenda, and supports military and civilian innovation and collaboration in trauma care and research. Since 2008, the organization has awarded $4 million to 16 studies now taking place in 20 states. Learn more about NTI at www.nationaltraumainstitute.org.
June 10, 2011 11:27 am
In our previous segment, your RIS Consumer Confidant began looking into thatch, and the toll thatch takes on a healthy lawn. This time we’ll look into the practice and the art of effectively dethatching to help homeowners develop the best looking lawn on the block, naturally.
Our source at the University of California Dept of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) say the frequency of thatch removal depends upon how fast the thatch layer builds. Lawns that are over-watered, over-fertilized, or growing on heavy clay soils may accumulate thatch quickly.
According to the university’s IPM experts, small to average sized lawns can be dethatched with a simple thatching rake available at lawn and garden stores. A thatching rake has thick blades that are designed to dig into the turf and loosen the thatch layer.
Just pull the rake across the lawn, bringing the thatch up to the soil surface, and remove or discard the debris.
For large lawns, you may need to use a contraption called a vertical mower to cut through the soil surface. Also known as a verticutter or dethatcher, this mower has a series of revolving blades that cut through the thatch and bring it to the surface.
The depth to where the vertical blades penetrate is adjustable and should be determined by thatch thickness and your turf species. These mowers can be rented or have a professional do the job for you.
Some other points about thatch from UC:
• In general, grasses with a creeping growth habit tend to produce heavier thatch layers than bunch-type grasses so set the blades so that they cut about 1 inch into the soil and 1 inch apart.
• For bunch grasses, set the blade higher and further apart.
• Before dethatching, mow your turf a little lower than you normally would and lightly moisten the soil surface.
• Run the verticutter across the lawn in one direction.
• Once you have dethatched the entire lawn, make a second pass over the lawn at an angle perpendicular to the first pass.
• Remove the debris with a rake and dispose of it.
• Follow up by aerating, fertilizing, and watering as needed.
• Overseed as necessary.
By naturally de-thatching, homeowners can contribute to their lawn’s organic health and superior looks. And this practice can easily provide those benefits in as little as an afternoon’s time just once or twice a year.
June 10, 2011 11:27 am
When it comes to energy, Intel's biggest concern is keeping a lid on the power used at giant data centers. But researchers at Intel, a world leader in silicon innovation and processor technology development, are seriously looking at home energy as well.
During the recent Research@Intel conference in Mountain View, Calif., Intel set up a “Personal Energy Zone” that showcased its efforts to use computing to improve efficiency and boost the use of renewable energy sources.
One demonstration scheduled to go into trials soon is the Wireless Energy Sensing Technology (WEST), a device that plugs into a socket and uses a home wireless network to report power usage of individual items.
The device recognizes the "signatures" of major electrical loads in a home and will transmit the information to a PC, smartphone, or TV. The WEST prototype Intel showed is a box about the size of soda bottle that plugs into a regular electrical outlet.
Because large appliances, such as a refrigerator or air conditioner, make up the bulk of home energy use, getting better information on them will help people use them more efficiently. For example, the device could help someone better set the thermostat settings or find electronics that are on when no one is using them.
During a demonstration, an Intel researcher said more detailed monitoring could reduce energy consumption by 15 percent and higher.
Other demonstrations in the Personal Energy Zone of the conference included Eco-Sense Buildings, which use sensors to monitor indoor conditions such as temperature and occupancy. By gathering data from sensors and building management systems, Intel expects that buildings that are net generators of energy are possible.
Another area of research ties large-scale renewable energy with data centers. Getting renewable energy penetration on the grid beyond 30 percent is difficult because solar and wind vary, which makes it difficult for grid operators to ensure a stable supply of power. Intel is researching to see if the varying output of solar farms can be synchronized with data center electricity loads, so they would scale down power use when a solar farm's output drops.
Home energy challenge
Intel has been dabbling in home energy for a few years now and has signed on some companies to use its chips for touch-screen display for managing energy, home security, and media. Until now, Intel has largely talked about home energy and efficiency as an application that can be part of a home-automation system.
For example, Intel researchers have shown a prototype home energy dashboard that works with a smart meter for people to view energy data, control appliances, and do a few other tasks like leaving video messages for each other. It also published a reference design in the hopes of getting third-party companies to build add-on applications.
One advantage of Intel's plug-in sensor approach is that the installation is straightforward and should cost less than more complex alternatives. It could also tie into Intel's Home Energy Management System dashboard, the company said. Intel is one of many companies trying to make home energy management systems, including Cisco, Tendril Networks, and Control4, which are selling largely through utilities.
Home energy monitor makers say the devices are effective in shaving overall and peak-time energy usage. But one of the challenges with energy dashboards is the cost, which can be several hundred dollars, posing a challenge to direct consumer sales even with savings through energy efficiency. Another ongoing question is how actively consumers will be involved in energy beyond the occasional glance at bills.
There are already a number of whole-home energy monitors, which use different methods for surfacing information. Some get room-by-room energy profiles by attaching clamps onto wires going into a home's circuit box, which in many cases will require an electrician to set up. The PowerCost Monitor uses optical sensors attached to electricity meter, which can be done quickly, but it doesn't provide device-level usage information.
Another approach technology companies are pursuing is smart plugs that monitor power consumption. ThinkEco, for example, is coming out this year with a plug that will monitor energy and report it to a laptop over Zigbee wireless networks. Belkin purchased a small technology company that also has a system to recognize individual loads over a home's wirings, but that technology has not yet been put into a product.
For more information visit www.cnet.com.
June 10, 2011 11:27 am
Q: Can you negotiate interest rates?
A: A few lenders will negotiate the mortgage rate and number of points on a loan. However, this is more the exception than the rule with established lenders. As always, shop around and know the market before you enter a lender’s office. Rates are often published in local newspapers and on Internet Web sites.
You may have more luck when dealing directly with a seller who has agreed to finance your loan. He is likely to be more open to negotiation, particularly when motivated to make a quick sale.
June 10, 2011 11:27 am
Appreciation. Increase in property value or worth due to economic or related factors; the opposite of depreciation.
June 10, 2011 11:27 am
Consumer appetite for green products has increased significantly in the past year, according to findings from the annual ImagePower® Global Green Brands Study, one of the largest global consumer surveys of green brands and corporate environmental responsibility. This year's survey, which polled more than 9,000 people in eight countries, reveals that consumers worldwide intend to purchase more environmental products in the auto, energy and technology sectors compared to last year. Now more savvy about how green choices in personal care, food and household products directly affect them and their families, global consumers are expanding their green purchase interest to higher-ticket items such as cars and technology.
Industries protecting the environment
Consumers are divided on which industry currently does the best job of protecting the environment. 18 percent of American and 20 percent of Australian consumers say the energy industry does the best job of protecting the environment. By comparison, most of respondents in Germany (19 percent), India (22 percent), China (33 percent) and Brazil (22 percent) cite the technology sector. In the UK, more than 21 percent of consumers say the grocery store industry is the top protector of the environment.
Where consumers are spending
While personal care, grocery and household products are the industries with the greatest representation among the top ten brands list, consumers in the US indicate that they intend to spend more money on green technology, energy and automotive products or services in the next year. When it comes to current usage of green products or services, the 2011 study reveals that the household products and grocery categories have the highest consumer adoption rates in all countries except China, where packaged goods/beverages and personal care are the most used categories, and in Brazil, where household products and personal care dominate. In all countries, consumers indicate that in the coming year they are less likely to buy green packaged goods and beverages, grocery and household products.
"We're seeing a shift in the 'In Me, On Me, Around Me' mentality when it comes to purchasing green products," said Russ Meyer, Chief Strategy Officer of Landor Associates. "Consumers have a good understanding of how green choices in personal care, food and household products directly affect their families, and they are now seeing benefits like costs savings that attract them to higher cost items like cars and technology."
Greater perceived value in developing countries
Consistent with last year's study, more than 60 percent of consumers globally want to buy from environmentally responsible companies. Respondents in all eight countries surveyed indicate that they are willing to spend more on green products. In developed countries such as the US and the UK, roughly 20 percent of those surveyed would spend more than 10 percent extra on a green product.
In developing countries, however, consumers say that green products have a higher inherent value. Ninety-five percent of Chinese consumers say they are willing to spend more on a product because it's green—with 55 percent of them willing to spend between 11-30 percent more. Similarly 29 percent of Indian consumers and 48 percent of Brazilians say they are willing to spend between 11 – 30 percent more on green products.
"Consumers in developing countries express greater concern over the state of the environment in their countries, which may contribute to their greater willingness to pay more for green products," said Paul Andrepont, Senior Vice President of Penn Schoen Berland. "Consumers in these markets also differ from their developed-nation counterparts in believing that selection, rather than cost, is the greatest barrier to buying green products. Brands that address these consumers' very real concern—over air pollution in India or deforestation in Brazil —have the ability to position themselves as premium in the market, a possible competitive advantage."
Packaging is critical
Packaging continues to be a matter of great concern for US consumers. Seventy-one percent believe companies use too much material in product packaging—though only 34 percent of US consumers say they consciously purchase products that use less packaging. Almost half of American consumers feel that packaging that can be recycled is more important than packaging made from recycled or biodegradable materials.
Packaging also plays a critical role in communicating product benefits to US consumers. More than 50 percent of American consumers say on-pack information helps them understand how green a product is. Additionally, 40 percent say that packaging is their primary source for information on environmental issues
"Other than price, the two biggest influences on purchase decisions are on-package messaging and prior experience with the product, both of which satisfy the consumer need to understand a benefit beyond 'saving the world,'" says Annie Longsworth, global sustainability practice leader for Cohn & Wolfe. "It's critical for green brands to communicate the real and tangible benefits of their products in addition to being green, which still feels like luxury to many consumers."
2011 US rankings
For the first time since the inception of the ImagePower® Green Brands Study in 2006, the four brands perceived to be the greenest are "born green" companies. The full list includes:
1. Seventh Generation
2. Whole Foods
3. Tom's of Maine
4. Burt's Bees
5. Trader Joe's
6. The Walt Disney Company
7. S.C. Johnson
10. Starbucks, Microsoft (tied)
"When we analyzed the approach of the top ten brands companies, using our Esty Environmental Scorecard™, it was clear that the winners achieve a product-value-information trifecta," says Amy Longsworth, partner at Esty Environmental Partners. "The top brands offer clear price value through co-benefits: a great innovative product that meets my functional needs plus green attributes that meet my values needs. These companies also tend to have robust life-cycle insight and complete sustainability strategies across their value chains, which enable them to draw from rich experience and data for their consumer communications."
June 10, 2011 11:27 am
Business risk caused by demographic change (aging) was cited as the greatest diversity challenge by 48 percent of the survey respondents. Rounding out the top three challenges were gender (29 percent) and nationality (18 percent).
Thanks largely to recent debate in Europe about quotas for women and about the immigration of foreign talent, the topic of diversity management appears to be a focus at most companies: 80 percent of respondents said that their company had implemented at least three measures to enhance employee diversity. For example, the measures cited most frequently included flexible working-time models and parental leave—both seek to increase the proportion of women in the workforce. However, the survey also found that most companies apply these initiatives only selectively.
"Our research has shown that the business case for diversity is clear and that HR needs to integrate such measures into its broader people policies. A modern workplace must represent its customer base in order to be truly effective and to deliver products and services that drive it to the competitive edge in a global environment," explains Stephanie Bird, an author of the report and the director of HR capability for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
In addition, the survey results reveal considerable differences in how various groups of employees view the effectiveness of diversity initiatives. For example, older workers rate measures for promoting age diversity as less effective than their younger colleagues do. "In order for diversity to be successful, top management must visibly support the objectives, and the entire workforce must be integrated in the development and execution of the programs," explains Jean-Michel Caye, senior partner at BCG, expert in talent and leadership, and an author of the report.
Diversity Is an Integral Part of HR—and the Entire Company
"Diversity is an integral element of HR work. It's a recurring theme that touches all topics, including workforce planning, recruiting, and career management," adds Pieter Haen, president of EAPM and an author of the report.
Only initiatives that go beyond the minimum level of diversity required by legal mandates and social norms can help companies gain advantage. As a first step, companies must analyze which aspects of diversity can promote their business success. The BCG/EAPM report explains how employee diversity can be increased to advance business imperatives through several steps.
• Create transparency. The foundation of all strategic HR work is strategic workforce planning—the quantitative and qualitative analysis of workforce supply and demand and of the individual capabilities of workers. Workforce demand should reflect overall business trends as well as a company's business strategy.
• Redefine recruiting. Tailored recruiting campaigns expand the existing talent pool by targeting underrepresented groups, such as female engineers. In addition, the employment of HR officers from outside Europe enables more efficient recruiting of international talent.
• Promote diversity. It is equally relevant to promote diversity within the company's existing workforce and among new hires. Evaluations of employee performance and potential, as well as career moves by managers, should be assessed for how permeable they make the company for new talent groups. The sooner the promotion of diverse talent is achieved at the lower levels in a company's hierarchy, the better the chance that the organization's internal diversity can be tapped and enhanced.
• Build leaders for the twenty-first century. At many companies, a 2x2x2+5 development program has proved successful. In such a program, aspiring managers are exposed to two business units, two countries, two functions, and at least five different projects.
• Retain employees. New groups of employees are presenting employers with new challenges. Financial incentives alone are losing their attractiveness—the ability to reconcile one's job with one's family is growing in importance. Modern incentive programs involve family members, for example, by providing health care for spouses or scholarships for employees' children.
• Make progress visible. Performance indicators for diversity must be anchored in a company's HR controlling function, so that proven progress can be quickly established. The HR department is responsible for setting the parameters of the framework—such as additional resources for department heads—to promote a corporate culture that is based on diversity.
Further results of the survey will be published by BCG and EAPM in September 2011 in the latest edition of the "Creating People Advantage" report.
For more information, please visit www.bcg.com.
June 10, 2011 11:27 am
Major European organizations display little diversity in the ranks of their top management. An analysis by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) of 40 randomly selected companies from the Euro Stoxx 50 index shows that, on average, 93 percent of the executive directors were male; 86 percent were native Europeans; and 49 percent were between the ages of 51 and 60 years old. By contrast, the market demands on these same companies are far less homogeneous: the purchasing power of women is steadily increasing; the companies generate, on average, approximately 40 percent of their revenues outside of Europe; and their customers are growing older.
"Diversity must be seen as a strategic response to major business trends such as globalization, demographic shifts, and the talent shortage," explained Dr. Rainer Strack, senior partner at BCG, HR expert, and an author of the report.
In collaboration with the European Association for People Management (EAPM), BCG has conducted its third study on the trends in people management, surveying more than 2,000 executives in more than 30 European countries. In the just-released Focus report "Hard-Wiring Diversity into Your Business," BCG and EAPM analyzed how 444 executives responded to survey questions about the challenges in diversity management.
June 10, 2011 11:27 am
There isn’t a person anywhere who wouldn’t agree that no store-bought tomato can compare in flavor or juiciness to one that is home-grown—and the good news is that you can successfully grow your own delicious crop no matter where you live.
From the gardening experts at Sunset Magazine, here is all you need to know to get on the right path to summer tomato heaven:
• Full sun is best – You’ll get sweeter tomatoes from plants in full sun than from those in partly shaded areas.
• Move the plot – Avoid growing tomatoes in the same spot each year, as diseases can build up in the soil and spoil future crops.
• Sure-fire varieties – Check with gardening centers in your area, but you can generally rely on ‘Early Girl’ varieties for a medium-slicer that does well in all regions, or cherry tomatoes like ‘Black Cherry’ or ‘Sun Gold.’
• Pots are fine – Cherry tomatoes, especially, do fine in pots and are a great choice for apartment or condo-dwellers. Choose a container at least 16 inches deep and wide and prepare to feed and water a bit more frequently than tomatoes growing in the ground.
• Growing time – It takes about three months from planting to harvest, sometimes faster with short-season varieties. Fruit may take longer to ripen—up to 50 percent longer—in cool summer climates.
• Pruning tips – In cool summer climates, you may want to prune thick foliage to expose the fruit to more sun. In warmer climates, prune minimally if at all. You want lush foliage to protect against sunburned fruit.
• Picking time – Pick ripened fruit only when fully colored. In the fall, if night temperatures dip below 55 degrees, you may pick tomatoes when partially colored and finish ripening indoors on a sunny windowsill. Fully green tomatoes will never ripe, so think about fried or pickled green tomatoes!