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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Spring Allergies: 10 Ways To Help You Deal

Yay, spring is finally here! I'm excited about the longer days, warmer weather, and finally being able to wear sandals again!  I am NOT, however, looking forward to another allergy season.  It's nice to know that I'm not alone though: an estimated 54% of the American population has a reaction to at least one allergen (a substance, often a protein, that causes an allergy, such as pollen or dust).  Although indoor allergens like dust mites, mold, pet dander and mildew can be problematic year-round, pollen is probably the major contributor to spring (outdoor) allergies.  Tree and grass pollens can start causing problems as early as late February and last through the beginning of summer.  While many seasonal allergy cases are considered to be fairly mild and mainly a big nuisance, some cases are severe with symptoms that can mimic the flu and persist for months.  Untreated symptoms can often lead to secondary infections of the sinuses, ears, throat, nose and lungs, because the fluid that builds up in reaction to the allergy provides a breeding ground for bacteria.  Seasonal allergies can also trigger asthma attacks due to the accumulation of pollen and fluid, which irritates the lungs.
Fortunately, there are several things that you can do to minimize your exposure to allergens and make spring a little more enjoyable.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Seafood Lovers: Is Your Favorite Fish Eco-friendly? Find Out Here!


I don't know about you, but I absolutely LOVE seafood! I could eat it three times a day, seven days a week. So, needless to say, I was a little distressed to find that one of my all-time favorite fish (Chilean sea bass) is categorized as "Eco-Worst." I did, however, see a lot of goodies on the "Eco-Best" list.
 The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) uses several criteria to determine which fish merit an "Eco-Best," "Eco-Ok," or "Eco-Worst" rating. Eco-Best fish are defined as wild fish from healthy, well-managed populations that are caught with fishing gear that causes the minimum amount of harm to sea life and marine habitats; or farm-raised fish that are raised in systems where pollution, spread of disease, chemical use and escaped fish are controlled. Incidentally, the majority of the fish that fall into the "Eco-Best" category are also low in environmental contaminants and can be safely eaten at least once a week. Eco-OK fish are generally okay for the environment and can be enjoyed in moderation, but they have mixed records on the health of their habitat, how they're managed, or how they're caught or farmed. Some of these fish may also have elevated levels of environmental contaminants, like mercury or PCB's. The Eco-Worst choices have at least one or more of the following serious environmental issues: overfished populations, extensive damage to the habitat, or they come from farms that allow the spread of pollution, disease, chemical use and escaped fish. Not coincidentally, several of the fish on this list have higher levels of mercury or PCB's and should be eaten in moderation, if at all, according to the EDF. Click "read more" to see how your favorites rate.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Guest Post: 4 Considerations Before Installing Solar Panels by Tali Wee of Zillow

Practical steps for protecting the planet include recycling, composting, driving a hybrid car and turning the heat down in the wintertime. However, homeowners who wish to be more proactive in the sustainability movement may choose to install solar panels on the roofs of their homes.

Solar power is not only environmentally responsible, but also offers monetary incentives to homeowners. As fossil fuels continue to rise in price, homes equipped with eco-friendly technology are subject to state and federal tax breaks, stable energy costs and an increase in home value.

Considering installing solar panels? Begin researching these four details.

Exposure to Sunlight 

Without an adequate amount of sunlight hitting solar panels, the ecological and financial benefits are dramatically reduced. Before installation, consider how much sunlight shines on the property. Solar panels do not channel enough energy to power a home sufficiently without a steady stream of direct sunlight. Online tools can help homeowners determine how costly installation is for their homes, and local professionals can help decide whether the climate supports the technology.

Cost of Utilities

Solar energy savings mostly depends on the home’s location and current cost of utilities. For regions where electric bills tend to run high, solar panels may be a worthwhile investment. Generally, homeowners do save money in the long run, regardless of inflated utility prices. If looking to purchase a home in a region where heating and electricity are expensive, consider how much installing solar panels costs before making an offer. Solar panels provide long-term return on investment and are great selling points, especially in areas with high energy-related fees.

Cost of Installation 

The cost of solar energy equipment has diminished in the past few years. Like any technology, once it becomes globally produced, prices go down. The cost for solar panels themselves is relatively inexpensive. Installation and permits drive up the cost of equipping a home with solar energy. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the average cost of an installed solar panel system is $4.93 per watt. Contact a professional who can assess roof size and geographic location to estimate actual cost.

Long-Term Affordability

Financial incentive programs help make technology such as solar panels more affordable. If a homeowner qualifies for one of these programs, the initial investment is likely returned within five years. Solar leasing companies install solar panels at no cost to homeowners. Instead, property owners pay for the power manifested through the solar panels, which is typically less expensive than standard utilities. Solar panel leasing may be a good investment for homeowners who are eligible to participate in these packages.

After researching these four details, homeowners may rethink the value of installing solar panels on their roofs. For example, solar energy is not as beneficial for homes in rainy regions. While these environmental fluctuations may have homeowners doubting or highly considering investing in solar panels, homeowners should hire a contractor who can best assess local weather and investment costs and returns.

Elena White is the founder and editor of  Life The Green Way, corporate sustainability coordinator at her day job, and a "rurban" wife and mother.  Learn more about her here and follow her on Twitter at @Lifethegreenway.