(BPT) - Companies across the nation are looking for ways to become more energy efficient, and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are no exception. Reducing energy consumption is one of the top areas where SMB leaders need more guidance - up 14 percent from the previous year, according to the Cox Conserves Sustainability Survey.
Energy costs are among the largest business expenses for any company. Simple conservation efforts will go a long way to lower the power costs of your current operations.
“More companies than ever have said they want information on sustainability,” says Cox Enterprises Executive Vice President Alex Taylor. “Our survey showed that some SMBs often find it difficult to make or justify the investment in sustainability programs or prioritize them over other demands and initiatives. From our own experience with the Cox Conserves program, I can confirm that sustainability is as good for our business as it is for the environment.”
Here are some quick tips that can help any sized business improve efficiency and cost savings.
Know your baseline. Your utility company can provide detailed usage records that show usage and cost totals, as well as helpful details like peak usage times. This data helps you measure your progress.
Take advantage of savings. Government agencies offer a variety of tax credits, rebates and other incentives to support energy efficiency. Visit www.energy.gov/savings to find programs that may be available to your business.
Pay attention. Take note of the natural energy sources specific to your geographic location. Sun or wind energy technologies may be great money-saving solutions. If the sun sufficiently lights your office or meeting room, make a point of keeping the blinds open and the electric lights off.
Look at lighting. Lighting retrofits are a simple and effective solution that do not interrupt regular operations and often offer a short return on investment.
Encourage employees. Turning off computers and other office equipment when not in use is an easy way employees can make an impact.
These tips can start your business on a journey toward becoming a more efficient and eco-friendly organization. The benefits start at protecting the earth and extend to enhancing the bottom line.
(NewsUSA) - Sponsored News - Whether you're heading on a spring break vacation or gearing up for a summer of sunshine, getting back into a swimsuit after a long winter is becoming a reality. What’s more frustrating is that stubborn belly bloat that leaves you feeling uncomfortable. The good news is there are simple tips to help you combat bloating and leave you feeling better than ever.
Eat slowly. You've heard this advice for a bunch of different reasons -- such as to help you feel fuller faster or be more mindful of your meal. But as it turns out, taking your time at the table can help with bloating as well. When you scarf down a meal or drink something quickly, you're likely to swallow too much air. You might get the hiccups, or the gas may build up in your stomach and intestines and lead to bloating. Take your time and chew well while eating.
Cut back on sodium. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that the general healthy adult population limit sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams a day. However, reports indicate that the average American eats about 3,300 mg of sodium a day -- which means chances are good that you are consuming more sodium than you should. And, given that excess salt intake can be to blame for water retention, your salt habit could be causing midsection puffiness. Try cutting back on your salt intake or consider a program like Nutrisystem, which falls within the USDA’s sodium recommendation and can be customized to contain even less sodium.
Ease in more fiber. Fiber helps keep things moving through the intestines, which aids digestion and helps prevent constipation. But many high-fiber foods -- like beans, brussels sprouts and broccoli -- are also pretty potent gas producers. Upping your fiber intake too quickly can cause bloating, so start slowly and work your way to your daily fiber goal over the course of a few weeks.
Get moving. Ideally you want to work in some exercise on most days, but even taking a short walk after eating can help. The most important thing to remember is to just get moving. Melissa Joan Hart, who lost 40 pounds on Nutrisystem, gives this advice about getting in a good workout: “I’m very much driven by working out with peers or working out with my husband, Mark. If I’ve signed up for a class or I promised someone I’d be there, it just helps motivate me.”
Pump up the probiotics. Put simply, probiotics are good bacteria in your body that help you fully digest your food. What’s more, probiotics can help reduce the belly bloat you feel when you don’t have enough of the right kind of bacteria in your gut. Pile on the probiotics by chowing down on fermented dairy foods like yogurt, kefir products and aged cheeses, or opt for non-dairy foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh and soy beverages.
(BPT) - With 2015 breaking records as the warmest year ever in the U.S., you’ll soon be seeing an unhappy side-effect of the mild weather; more deer will be browsing your backyard when the weather gets warm.
Most of us have seen more acorns, a bumper crop in fact, that provided deer with an easily accessible, plentiful food source which helped them get through winter in good shape. They’re healthy and will be ready to birth plenty of fawns come spring. This season we’ll see deer populations rise in suburbia across the country.
Don’t discount deer’s intelligence, they’re smarter than you think; they actually possess a memory of negative experiences, learn from them and adapt their habits accordingly. Deer know they’re greatly exposed to danger due to hunters and predators in woodlands and have moved right to the edge of woodlands, in close proximity to suburban neighborhoods, where they’ve learned they’re safe. They’re also smart enough to know danger is not present or even threatening in suburbia and they will remember your bountiful backyard food sources, too. Once in your yard, you can count on deer damage to your trees, shrubs, gardens and landscapes that you’ve invested much time, money and effort in.
The damage to residential landscapes, crops and timber from deer foraging ranges around $1 billion annually. With a single deer capable of eating a ton and a half of vegetation per year, just one or two deer can cause significant damage.
Deer don’t have to devastate your yard this spring and summer, according to Scott C. Williams with the Department of Forestry and Horticulture at The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. “You can definitely use deer’s intelligence against them to trick them right out of your yard. Just as they learn where to find safe, reliable food sources, you can “train” deer to avoid any specific area.”
Negative conditioning works well to deter deer from your yard, but it’s important to choose a strategy that outsmarts them continuously. Scare tactics such as dogs barking, canned noise and scarecrows have limited effects, as deer quickly learn there’s no real harm associated with these “threats.” Fences also have limitations; deer can easily jump over any fence lower than 8 feet and few neighborhoods will approve a fence of that height.
“A product that combines scent and taste deterrents, will be most effective in keeping deer away from suburban landscapes,” Williams says. “Deer will remember the unpleasant smell and taste of your backyard’s food source and they’ll pass by your yard rather than eat something they’ve already been conditioned to learn will be distasteful.”
Bobbex Deer Repellent is such a product that combines scent and taste deterrents. Testing by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station proved Bobbex is more effective than nine other commercial repellents (including coyote urine), scoring a 93 percent in protection, second only to a fence at 100 percent. The all-natural repellent blends six scents, including rotten eggs, garlic, fish, clove oil and vinegar (among other things) to mimic predator scents, classifying it as an effective fear repellent. It also tastes terrible to deer, but is actually good for plants because it contains elements high in nitrogen and phosphorus. The product dries clear, is harmless to humans and pets, won’t burn plants and its odor, after 24 hours, is undetectable to humans.
You can easily apply Bobbex with a simple trigger or pump spray, according to label directions, and school deer to pass you by. Best practice is to use the product throughout the entire year, since deer and their ability to devastate your yard, are never out of season. Continued use will ensure protection of plants and landscapes and constantly reinforce to the deer that your backyard doesn’t offer any good, tasty sustenance. Visit www.bobbex.com to learn more.
Although deer are smart enough to spot easy food sources, it is possible to humanely and effectively keep them out of your backyard all year. It’s a simple matter of using their smarts to outsmart them and convince them they’re better off looking elsewhere for food.
(NewsUSA) - Sponsored News - With many parents making plans to get out of town this spring, it’s the perfect time to introduce fun toys that can turn a road trip or visit to Grandma’s house into a learning opportunity.
Whether you’re playing peek-a-boo, singing nursery rhymes or reading a book to your little one, experts suggest that learning through play is imperative to a child’s development.
“Engaging children in play at an early age is incredibly beneficial to their physical and mental development, but it’s important that they’re getting the right kinds of interaction,” said Dr. Lise Eliot, early brain development expert and member of the expert panel at VTech, a world leader in interactive learning toys for all ages.
To help create the right toy for every age, VTech works closely with doctors such as Eliot, as well as its expert panel of early childhood education and development experts to ensure its toys help children meet important milestones. The result is an extensive range of more than 100 baby, infant and preschool learning products that cater to each child’s unique age and stage.
“Learning begins at birth, and babies absorb much more than we realize from their moment-to-moment interactions with the world around them,” said Dr. Eliot. “As parents strive to do what’s best for their child, they can introduce activities that help him or her learn through play. Babies are strongly motivated to reach developmental milestones all by themselves, and toys in VTech’s baby line can encourage them, make learning fun and grow with your little one over those important early years.”
To help discern which toy is right for your child, VTech has taken the guesswork out of the decision with its easy-to-follow milestones guide. The recommendations include some toys that are great for travel, such as:
For babies, VTech’s Crinkle & Roar Lion features buttons, sounds and tactile fabrics for little hands to discover, and a baby-safe mirror to help introduce self-awareness. It can be attached to carriers, strollers and more, making it the perfect take-along toy.
Infants will love the working Spin & Learn Color Flashlight, which introduces opposites, colors, letters and animals. They can spin the color-changing ring and explore buttons to hear fun melodies, nature sounds or play an interactive game.
For long car rides, the Count and Learn Turtle encourages early math skills with toddlers and preschoolers, and lets them explore colors, shapes and instruments. Kids can also exercise their memory and hand-eye coordination skills with a fun repeating sequence game.
For more information, visit www.vtechkids.com/milestones.
(NewsUSA) - Sponsored News - Most parents know the best way to get kids to read later in life is to read to them early and often. But even parents' best efforts to create bookworms sometimes fall flat -- especially in today's world of lights and action best seen from a screen.
Yet, studies continue to suggest that the benefits of reading from an early age not only teach kids the rules of syntax and expand their vocabulary, but, according to one study released last year, also activate the part of the brain that allows them to understand the meaning of language.
Because of its interest in closing the reading gap among children in this country, RRKidz Inc., home of the beloved children's brand Reading Rainbow, embarked on a Kickstarter campaign in the summer of 2014. Through generous donations by its legions of fans, the company raised more than $6.4 million in 35 days.
As a result, Skybrary Family, the award-winning digital library of books and videos, was released. On the heels of this successful introduction, RRKidz Inc. is proud to announce the launch of Skybrary School, an educator-specific version with features designed to increase reading frequency and build literacy skills.
This new digital library, especially for early elementary school students (K-3) and their educators, offers close to 1,000 fiction and non-fiction books, all in the hopes of creating life-long readers and learners.
"Teachers devote their lives to giving students the tools needed to succeed in reading, and we want to make sure we are doing the same for them," said LeVar Burton. "With Reading Rainbow's Skybrary Family and now Skybrary School, we are offering a comprehensive solution to assist both educators and parents in providing engaging and relevant content to develop children's literacy and learning skills."
In addition, the service features more than 200 educational video field trips hosted by Burton, such as a trip to the White House, peeking inside the Mars Rover at NASA, behind the scenes at Cirque du Soleil and other locations. Other benefits to Skybrary School include:
Working with acclaimed publishers such as National Geographic and Britannica to discover books that meet children's interest and reading level
Forty standards-aligned, themed lesson plans inspired by books and videos in the library
Instructional programs with flexible online and offline activities
A web-based subscription service with on-demand access to read and learn anytime, anywhere
New books and videos added to the service every week
RRKidz Inc. is also giving Skybrary School to 10,000 classrooms nationwide for free.
For more information, please visit www.readingrainbow.com.
(NewsUSA) - Sponsored News - April 18 is the deadline to file income tax returns with the federal government this year. But tax day is another important deadline: Up until then, workers can still make contributions to their individual retirement accounts (IRAs) for the previous year. And, IRAs offer a great tax-advantaged savings opportunity.
Here are three reasons why you should consider an IRA as a valuable tool for your retirement savings:
Traditional IRAs provide all workers, regardless of income, with access to tax incentives to save for retirement. Tax deferral helps workers build a nest egg over time by putting off taxes on your investment earnings until you retire. Contributing to an IRA is a great way to invest and build retirement savings.
The flexible structure of IRAs provides Americans with choices when it comes to their retirement savings. For example, workers decide how much they want to contribute and when. Workers who are age 49 and younger currently can contribute up to $5,500 to their IRAs, and workers 50 and older can contribute up to $6,500. IRA contributions can be made at any time during the year. Workers who meet certain qualifications may decide to open a Roth IRA. Unlike traditional IRAs, workers pay tax when they make contributions into Roth IRAs and pay no taxes on qualified withdrawals in retirement.
Workers can easily roll over their employer-sponsored 401(k) assets into an IRA upon leaving a job. Job changers who simply cash out their 401(k) may have to pay taxes on their assets and possibly a penalty tax for early withdrawal. These taxes and penalties can be avoided by rolling over 401(k) assets into an IRA, which is not tied to an employer and allows the individual to keep saving for retirement.
Today, Americans are increasingly using IRAs to grow and maintain their savings for retirement. As of 2015, more than 40 million U.S. households reported that they owned IRAs, according to “The Role of IRAs in U.S. Households’ Saving for Retirement, 2015” published by the Investment Company Institute (ICI). Other research from ICI shows that Americans have $7.3 trillion invested in these accounts.
But IRAs are only one piece of our multilayered retirement savings system. When IRA assets are combined with all other assets earmarked for retirement, Americans have set aside $23.5 trillion. The various pieces of the entire system -- including IRAs, employer-provided defined benefit and defined contribution plans, personal savings, and Social Security -- are working well for millions of workers. In fact, successive generations of near-retirees have reached retirement with higher wealth than the previous generation.
To learn more about IRAs and the strength of America’s retirement system, please visit www.ici.org/retirement.
(BPT) - Just because New Year’s Day has come and gone, your chance for making a change for the better hasn’t. Whether looking to give a boost to your health, your fellow man or even the environment, there’s no deadline on picking up positive habits.
Make easy nutritional choices
If you’re looking to trim your waistline, but have little time to prepare nutritious meals at home, simple fish recipes can provide a punch of protein and flavor in 30 minutes or less. Lake raised tilapia has become popular for its firm texture, mild taste and overall versatility. Plus, it’s high in protein, low in fat, and a good source of essential vitamins and minerals. Consider using tilapia in a meatless Monday dinner, or add a fish Friday recipe to your weekly repertoire for a healthier you. Regal Springs produces fresh and frozen all-natural, lake grown tilapia in Mexico, Honduras and Java. Asking your seafood counter for products from these regions is a great way to ensure you’re getting a high-quality product.
As with any product, not all tilapia are created equal. To ensure the fish - or other seafood you choose - is high quality, look for certifications by credible independent agencies that monitor the conditions in which the proteins are raised and processed. Some endorsements to look for include the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, the British Retail Council and the Global Aquaculture Alliance/Best Aquaculture Practices.
Pay it forward
You can make healthy changes in your diet and your community at the same time. For example, fish like the tilapia previously mentioned can be a more economical protein compared to beef or pork. So, if you can afford to do so, think about purchasing more cost-effective foods and setting aside what you’re saving each week. At the end of each month, make a donation to your local food bank or another charity of your choice.
Or, consider where some of your favorite things come from and how you can support their communities, particularly those in developing countries. If you indulge in coffee or chocolate, seek out versions that are Fair Trade to ensure that the producers and growers are being compensated fully for their labors and can develop sustainable businesses.
If you’re trying to decide between two similar products, the greater social impacts by one brand may help tip the scales. Simple research can uncover how a business treats the communities that are relied upon for raw ingredients or labor. Most companies are proud of how they’re supporting their suppliers and share their efforts online. Companies operating in developing countries recognize the benefits of healthy communities and invest in ways to improve necessities like housing, health care, education and economic development.
Respect for Mother Nature
Healthy communities also depend upon the state of the environment, and consumers can make a difference with their dollars by supporting environmentally friendly companies. While looking into a brand’s social initiatives, take a look at their green initiatives. Companies relying on aquatic systems, for instance, will want to maintain pristine conditions by monitoring water quality, treating wastewater, improving sanitation systems and contributing to reforestation. Other companies may pursue policies that move toward zero waste or no carbon emissions.
Sometimes, it’s possible to help yourself, others and the environment in one go. For instance, Regal Springs, a leading producer in Mexico, Honduras and Indonesia who provides approximately 70 percent of America’s fresh tilapia, is committed to raising a nutritious fish while being a good steward of the environment and the communities in which it operates. Whether in Mexico, Honduras or Indonesia, the company invests millions of dollars annually to improve the overall quality of life of their employees and their local communities while producing high quality, all natural tilapia that grocers like Costco, Kroger, HEB, Sprouts and Giant Eagle can feel proud to carry and you can feel good about eating.