5 Smart Upgrades for the Most-Used Rooms in Your Home

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-19

Solar powered fresh air skylights with energy efficient designer blinds in the kitchen can save valuable wall space for storage while providing natural light, passive ventilation and style.  Solar powered skylights and blinds, along with installation costs, are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit.

(BPT) - Kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms are typically the rooms in any home that get the most use, which could also be why homeowners, when surveyed, consistently cite those rooms as the ones they most want to renovate. It makes perfect sense to upgrade the rooms where you spend the most time, but in high-traffic areas, you can’t afford to make changes just for the sake of cosmetics. You want improvements that can enhance your enjoyment of a room and its functionality.

Here are five smart improvements to make in the rooms users of Ranker.com voted as the most popular ones in their homes: kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms and game rooms.

1. Add natural light

Most rooms in the home look better and are more functional in natural light, and more daylight can help reduce the need for artificial light. What’s more, there’s no arguing the positive mental and physical health effects of natural light. Daylight stimulates the body to produce Vitamin D and boosts brain levels of serotonin, which is thought to be associated with positive moods.

Adding skylights is a practical, cost-effective and attractive way to bring more natural light into virtually any room. Remote-controlled, solar-powered fresh-air skylights from Velux America provide not just natural light, but passive ventilation, a real plus in kitchens and baths. Adding solar powered blinds, in designer colors and patterns, increases energy efficiency while giving you total control over the amount of sunlight entering a room through the skylight.

In kitchens, Energy Star-qualified fresh air skylights increase natural light and ventilation without requiring any loss of wall space you could better use for cabinetry. In bathrooms, they provide the perfect combination of privacy and healthful natural light and ventilation.

If you already have older glass or plastic bubble skylights, you can upgrade to the latest solar powered models, plus solar blinds, and receive a 30 percent federal tax credit on the products as well as installation costs. You can even bring more natural light into rooms or areas without direct roof access, like half-baths, closets and hallways, with Sun Tunnel tubular skylights. Visit www.whyskylights.com to learn more.

2. Add organization/storage

Clutter and chaos not only make a room function less efficiently, it can impact your mood as well. Adding organization and storage to rooms where clutter typically collects - such as bedrooms, living rooms and game rooms - is an easy, cost-effective way to improve the function of the room and how you feel about spending time in it.

In bedrooms, maximize closet space by installing organization units. A variety of manufacturers offer ready-made units you can install yourself. Or, for a bit more investment, you can have a professional closet organizer custom-make a unit to fit your space and needs. In living rooms and game rooms, built-in shelving and cabinetry is a functional and beautiful way to improve organization.

3. Improve ventilation

Air flow is critical to the health of your home and everyone who lives in it. Ventilation in kitchens and bathrooms carries away excess moisture that can cause mold and mildew, and creates a fresher, more healthful environment by exhausting stale indoor air.

Bathrooms should be equipped with exhaust fans, and kitchen hoods should vent to the exterior of your home whenever possible. You can further improve ventilation by installing Energy Star-qualified, solar-powered fresh-air skylights, like those made by Velux. Because these skylights open, they provide passive ventilation to allow stale indoor air to escape and admit fresh air. A sensor operates a motor to close the skylights automatically in case of rain.

4. Replace older, inefficient fixtures and appliances

Fixtures and appliances are key elements of kitchens and bathrooms. Older ones not only look dated and shabby, they can cost you money because they use more electricity and water than newer, more efficient models.

Replacing old faucets, shower heads, dishwashers and washing machines with newer models that use less water can reduce your water bill and give kitchens and bathrooms a whole new look. Energy Star-qualified appliances such as stoves, clothes dryers, refrigerators and washers also use less electricity than older appliances, so you can also lower your energy bills.

5. Freshen the foundations

Every room benefits from a good foundation, and that doesn’t just mean sturdy flooring. Wall color, flooring materials and trim are fundamental elements in any room. Simply repainting walls and woodwork can completely change the way any room looks. Or, if you like the colors you have, a fresh coat in the same color will make the room look brighter and newer. Replacing worn carpeting or dated tiles, or refinishing a hardwood floor are also great ways to improve the foundations of any room.

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American Companies Embrace a Sustainable Future

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-14

(BPT) - Meeting in Paris, delegates from 195 nations ended 2015 by reaching a landmark agreement to make significant efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The historic pact represents a global effort to curb climate change and a move toward widespread investment in zero-carbon energy sources and other sustainable practices.

Many saw the Paris climate deal as a major change in global policy and a step in the right direction. Though nations at the highest levels might be in agreement on the next steps to take, there is still a lot to be done at the ground level. While there is plenty of discussion about how an individual can lead a more sustainable lifestyle, what doesn’t get a lot of coverage is what businesses can do to reduce their carbon footprint.

This is an unfortunate oversight because businesses have a vital role in addressing global environmental issues such as climate change, carbon emissions and water security. As it stands, buildings in the United States account for 39 percent of CO2 emissions and consume a staggering 70 percent of the electricity load. Over the next 25 years, it is projected that CO2 emissions from buildings will grow faster than in either the industry or transportation sector. Among these, commercial buildings are projected to increase their CO2 output the fastest, by 1.8 percent a year, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

Through its green guidelines and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, the U.S. Green Building Council is responding to an urgent need to help businesses around the world save energy, water resources and money while amplifying human health and wellbeing.

Though it is a demanding set of guidelines, many companies have made it a priority to make their buildings LEED certified. One successful example is the Colgate-Palmolive Company, which currently has 11 LEED certified facilities and eight more in the works. The company has been so successful in their efforts that they were awarded the 2015 Ray Anderson Radical Industrialism Award for exemplifying leadership in the evolution of green manufacturing. This award reflects the company’s global strategy that includes a commitment to “Reducing Our Impact on Climate and the Environment,” and “Making Every Drop of Water Count.” To do this, they have set such goals for 2020 as reducing absolute greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing plants by 25 percent compared to 2002 levels, and cutting production water use by half and energy by one third.

Widening its sustainability efforts beyond its plants and office buildings, Colgate has launched a “Save Water” campaign which includes a coming Super Bowl ad, a discussion forum on social media, #EveryDropCounts, and “Save Water” messaging on product packaging. The overall aim of these efforts is to remind consumers that by simply turning off the faucet while brushing, one person can save up to 3,000 gallons of water a year.

While Colgate continues to make substantial strives in these areas, they are not alone. Manufacturing plants for Fortune 500 companies such as Coca-Cola, Mars, Kraft and Intel Corp. are making strong efforts to reduce carbon emissions. As of August, 2015, there were over 72,500 LEED building projects around the world. In fact, the world’s second tallest building, the Shanghai Tower, has achieved an LEED Platinum rating.

The range of these efforts to reduce carbon emissions encompasses daily activities, business practices and the global community. While such accomplishments don’t make headlines like the Paris climate deal did, they are a reminder that a sustainable future begins at home with people, families and with the brands they trust.

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New Moms Face New Challenges: Tips to Prioritize Your Wellness

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-14

(BPT) - The smiles, the soft coos and yes, even that now all-too-familiar cry – it’s only been a few months but already you can’t picture life without your little one. You’re constantly focused on their every movement and will do anything to make sure they have what they need. But while you’re focused on your baby’s happiness and health, who’s doing the same for you?

“It’s common for new moms to put the needs of their baby first,” says Dr. Jessica Shepherd, a practicing OB/GYN, women’s health expert and founder of Her Viewpoint, a premier online women’s health community. “While it’s a natural tendency for most mothers, it’s critical they don’t ignore their own health. My resounding message to all new moms is that the healthier you are, the better you’ll be able to take care of your newborn.”

To better take care of yourself so you can ensure your overall wellness and that of your child, Dr. Shepherd offers these five tips:

  • Manage your expectations. Your baby’s arrival didn’t come with a cape so don’t expect to be Super Mom. It’s OK to ask for help when you need it, and if something doesn’t go the way you planned, don’t be too hard on yourself. Learn from the situation and move on.

  • Address stress urinary incontinence. A common result of pregnancy or childbirth is stress urinary incontinence (SUI) – bladder leaks triggered by everyday activities like coughing, sneezing, laughing or exercise. Now, women with SUI can have the freedom to live without worrying about their next leak! Poise Impressa Bladder Supports are the first over-the-counter, internal product designed to help stop leaks before they happen. Safely inserted into the vagina like a tampon, Poise Impressa Bladder Supports gently lifts the urethra to help prevent leaks for up to eight hours every day. Note that new moms with SUI should wait at least three months after childbirth before trying Poise Impressa Bladder Supports, but once they do, Impressa can help give them the freedom and confidence to live active, fulfilled lives.

  • Stay active. Yes, being a new mom naturally keeps you pretty active, but it’s also good to take some time for activity that focuses on you instead of your child. Ask your partner, family member or friend to babysit once a week so you can go for a run, hit the gym, take a yoga class or find some other physical activity that reinvigorates you.

  • Don’t skip the most important meal of the day. What did you have for breakfast today? If you routinely skip this meal because you’re so focused on getting the bottle ready, stop. Studies show a good breakfast can leave you feeling more satisfied and empowered with more energy, perfect for taking care of a child.

  • Set an appropriate bedtime… for yourself. Yes, bedtimes aren’t just for your youngsters; they’re good for you as well. Many moms make the mistake of supplementing a lack of sleep with extra caffeine or sugar, exposing them to harmful health effects and weight gain. Instead of spending that last hour of the day in front of the TV or iPad, try going to bed earlier. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel in the morning.

New motherhood can be the most rewarding experience of your life and it can also be the most taxing, particularly if you haven’t supported your own wellness. However, if you place some much-needed emphasis on you, there’s no reason this first year can’t be as enjoyable for you as it is for your baby. To learn more about how to manage bladder leaks as a result of pregnancy and childbirth, or as a result of other causes, visit Poise.com.

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Tackling Insects, Diseases and Weeds Can Lead to a Larger Corn Harvest

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-14

(BPT) - Some bake with it. Some decorate with it. Some wander around for hours in it. We’re talking about corn: the edible, ornamental and downright a-maze-ing homegrown staple. Corn takes center stage in U.S. tradition, especially during the holidays. But for all the corn mazes (800 at last count) traveled and cornbread baked, only 1 percent of the corn we harvest each year actually winds up in our snack bowls or on our dinner plates. Where does the rest of the approximately 14 billion bushels, go?

The U.S. actually grows three kinds of corn. Sweet corn is what we eat off the cob, bake in casseroles and serve up in side dishes. Popcorn is - you guessed it - that salty, butter-swathed favorite of movie nights and football games. Then there’s the other 99 percent of corn, known as field corn. It’s not sweet, and we don’t eat it - at least not directly. Field corn is what we use to feed the cows, hogs and chickens that feed us. It’s also what we use to make ethanol, a renewable fuel that mixes with gasoline to power our cars, trucks and other modes of transportation. Last but not least, a small portion of field corn - about 10 percent - goes toward making food ingredients like corn syrup, corn starch and cornmeal.

But that’s only half the story.

The corn that feeds livestock, which puts protein on our plates, is also breakfast, lunch and dinner for hungry insects. Some of these pests nibble on corn roots, others munch on corn stalks and still others prefer the silks and kernels. How much damage can these tiny feeders do? Plenty.

Insects, weeds and other stressors reduce the fruits of our global harvest by some 40 percent each year. Here’s a look at some of the ways Syngenta is working to increase the world’s global corn harvest by controlling damaging insects, diseases and weeds.

The corn rootworm
This underground feeder starts out small - less than a centimeter long - and grows larger and hungrier as it munches on tender young corn roots, hence the name corn rootworm. By the time it’s finished gorging, corn rootworm costs U.S. growers about $1 billion each year. But what if we could develop corn with rootworm resistance built right in? That’s exactly what researchers at Syngenta have done with hybrid corn that protects corn roots from the inside out.

They may not nibble, but weeds also eat away at our annual corn harvest. Pigweed is one of the worst offenders - it grows fast (up to 3 inches per day); it grows tall (up to 6 feet); and it steals the water, nutrients and even sunlight that corn plants need to grow. This weed species is also smart. Over time, it has adapted to common herbicides, making it harder and harder to control. Syngenta researchers have come up with an answer: a herbicide that combines a brand-new active ingredient, plus three others, to keep pigweeds and more than 70 other weeds guessing.

Need for water
Of course, even weed-free, insect-protected corn can’t grow without water. We know what happens when we forget to water our office plant or home flower garden. The consequences are even worse in farming. Drought can cut a corn harvest in half, or more. Syngenta scientists are breeding corn with genetics that help thirsty plants stay green and healthy.

Popped, creamed or on the cob, as we enjoy the delicious variations on sweet corn this fall, we can also celebrate the 14 billion bushels of field corn that help put food on our tables and fuel in our tanks.

For more stories about the cream of the crops, visit www.syngentathrive.com.

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4 Ways to Go Green This New Year

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-14

(BPT) - This new year means fun-filled celebrations, spending time with loved ones and the excitement of new changes in the coming year. It’s also the perfect opportunity to break old habits and create new, healthy ones. While many put exercising, eating healthy or traveling at the top of their resolution list, this new year is a great time to start thinking green!

Some items that can be recycled are thrown away mostly because people do not know what items can be recycled or where to recycle them. For instance, rechargeable batteries that power the portable products on holiday gift lists (such as laptops, cordless power tools, tablets and even remote controlled toys), should be recycled when they can no longer hold a charge. These batteries contain metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium and nickel, which could harm the environment when improperly disposed.

Environmental concerns have become one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century. From climate change to the rise of e-waste, making a choice to do our part to help the environment can seem like a daunting task. The key is to start small. While we don’t have the answers to the larger questions surrounding environmental conservation, we can do our part to help preserve our environment. It can be as simple as recycling or donating pre-owned items to family or friends to reduce the impact of waste on local landfills.

By starting small and making your resolutions realistic, there is a greater chance you will keep them throughout the year. You should also encourage your family and friends to join you in incorporating environmentally-friendly behavior into your everyday lives.

So how do you start recycling and making a difference in your community? Here are some tips to help incorporate green resolutions into your busy lifestyle:

  • Your “fourth bin” - Set up a bin or bag (ideally near your front or back door) for your family to leave recyclables.

  • Sound the alarm - On your smartphone or computer, set up a regular reminder to gather up your rechargeable batteries to take to your local retailer or collection site.

  • Regularly clean out the junk drawer - On a regular basis, task a family member with going through the junk drawer for recyclables and other unused or old items.

  • Keep your errand list on hand at all times - This will help you prioritize stops while you’re on the go, as well as remember to drop off your items to be recycled.

Once you’ve made the commitment to start recycling your old stuff and you know how, you need to know where to go. Organizations such as Call2Recycle offer an easy and free way to care for the environment year-round through battery recycling. Call2Recycle works with a network of businesses, communities and retailers in the U.S. and Canada - including Best Buy, The Home Depot, Lowe’s and Staples - that serve as drop-off locations. Additional participating collection sites can be found at call2recycle.org.

It’s never too late to learn about environmental issues and why they are important. Setting sustainability goals is your commitment to support the environment for yourself and future generations. Resolving to change your habits could not only have a huge impact on the rest of the world, but can also help you feel good because you know you’re making a difference. As you get ready for the new year, take that extra step to be prepared to maintain your green resolutions throughout the year.

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Getting an Early Start on Spring

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-14

(BPT) - As soon as the first morning frost appears and the first snowflakes start to pile up, many begin looking forward to spring. Images of green leaves, red and orange blossoms, fresh vegetables and herbs help keep the cold winter days manageable as you wait for the ground to thaw so you can start planting. A good green thumb knows early starts in the garden or yard ensure lush, healthy plants, especially if you’re planting trees.

Many people do not realize that they shouldn’t wait for summer. Young trees do best when they are put into the ground in spring and have ample time to establish themselves in the soil before either extremes of heat of cold hit.

Therefore, if part of your winter landscaping daydreams include planting trees, it’s important to know you’ll need to be ready to plant early. Winter is an opportunity to begin planning.

Five simple ways trees are practical and beautiful

Few things can be so practical and as beautiful as a tree. It’s no wonder that with the rising popularity of the do-it-yourself lifestyle, more people are deciding to plant trees in their yard. Here are five simple reasons why:

  1. A mature tree can add up to $10,000 to your property value.

  2. Trees can reduce energy costs by providing shade to a house in the summer.

  3. Trees naturally offset carbon emissions.

  4. Because many change from season to season, trees add a variety of different colors to your yard and allow for a range of creative choices and combinations.

  5. Trees help make memories. Watching a tree grow in your yard from year to year builds a connection between you, your family, your home and the memories you make there.

An easy way to get started

The nonprofit Arbor Day Foundation is encouraging people to get an early start on their tree planting this year by offering 10 free flowering trees with a $10 membership. Which 10 flowering trees a new member will receive is based on what the state forester recommends or other trees selected for your area to ensure they thrive when planted.

The 6 to 12-inch trees are guaranteed to grow and are currently scheduled to be shipped in March or April, a perfect time for optimal, early season planting. So if you’re already getting excited about spring projects, visit www.arborday.org/earlyplanting to make sure your trees arrive at the right time for planting where you live.

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Discover the Power of a Smartphone with These 5 Tips

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-12

(BPT) - As with all technology, mobile phones have come a long way in a short amount of time. Gone are the days of big, bulky phones. Today, phones are sleek and slender and, in most cases, smart, allowing users to surf the Internet, watch movies and keep in touch with friends and family.

The potential downside of smartphones is the assumption that they are difficult to use. However, with a few simple tips, smartphones can be easier to operate than older cell phone models. Once the basics are mastered, users can easily take advantage of all the features, giving them a new way to communicate with friends and family - particularly younger family members.

With more than 2 million users and the highest overall customer satisfaction of any mobile carrier, according to Nielson Mobile Insights, Consumer Cellular caters exclusively to the boomer and senior demographic. If you’re uncomfortable with contracts, don’t worry. The company offers popular smartphones, like the iPhone, without forcing you to sign a contract. This offers you the flexibility to pay month by month with the option to cancel at any time. It’s a perfect option for anyone who wants to try something new.

Consumer Cellular recently teamed up with AARP to offer smartphone classes for seniors. The classes don’t just cover the basics of how to operate a phone, but also delve into how smartphones can enhance your lifestyle. So if you’re ready to upgrade to a smartphone, or already have one but just want to better understand it, here are five tips that can help:

  1. Communicate easier with family members - Text messaging has become one of the most widely used forms of communication. Many seniors report once they start texting, they are able to communicate with grandchildren more frequently. A unique “text” language has also developed, and many find it enjoyable to send emojis (small cartoonish pictures) or abbreviated phrases such as “idk” (I don’t know) or “omg” (oh my gosh!).

  2. Learn to type faster - On first use, typing on the small touch screen can seem clumsy. The best way to become accustomed to typing on a smartphone is to hold the phone horizontally in landscape mode. Next, learn to love predictive text. While you’re typing out a word, the phone will offer several options, or predictions, of what word you want. If the word you’re typing appears, simply tap on it and move on. Once you get used to this you’ll be amazed how fast you can type.

  3. Access the Internet on the go - Being able to access the Internet from almost anywhere is one of the most useful smartphone features. Access to the Internet allows you to check and send email, view local news, shop online or visit your favorite website. Connecting to Wi-Fi, which is available at many establishments, allows you to surf the Internet without using your cellular data plan.

  4. Share your experience with pictures - Smartphones come with a powerful camera that takes high quality pictures that can rival most digital cameras. With the capabilities of sending photos as texts, you can instantly share your photos and experiences with loved ones.

  5. Find your way and discover more with maps - Stopping to ask for directions is a thing of the past. You can easily find your way with the highly accurate maps smartphones can connect to, as well as discover new places to visit. For example, if you’re in an unfamiliar area and in need of a cup of coffee, all you need to do is type “coffee” in your map’s search bar, and you’ll see the locations to all the nearby coffee shops. You’ll even get directions on how to get there!

Smartphones are designed to be user friendly, and it’s easier to learn the basics than you might first think. It’s amazing from one handheld device, you can access the Internet, watch movies, store photos, listen to music and so much more. Visit www.consumercellular.com to find the phone that’s right for you.

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