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How to Hire the Right Moving Company in Los Angeles

Life is filled with surprises and we are often faced with decisions that result in impactful changes, such as receiving job offers, acceptance into a school, and relationships, which often requires relocating to a new home and place. Regardless of the reason for your move, you are now confronted with the challenge of getting all of your possessions transported to your new place of residence. Continue reading

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Refrigerator Repair – What to try before calling for service

If there was an award for the hardest working appliance in your home, I would have to give it to your refrigerator. Think about what it actually does, it works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year keeping your food cool and fresh. If the contents of your refrigerator seem to be warmer than usual and you are sure the door was not left open, your food might getting warm and starting to spoil. There are many problems that can occur with a refrigerator. The good news is that not all of them will require an expensive appliance service call. All it takes to fix them is a few simple observations and changes to your daily routine to hopefully resolve them.  Continue reading

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Washing Machines and Dryers Deserve A Good Laundry Room!

Nobody likes doing laundry, yet it is indeed a part of daily life. Many families have a sometimes too close relationship with their washers and dryers, especially if there are kids in the household. Considering the amount of time that can be spent with laundry appliances, it may be time to consider upgrading the laundry room. Through conversations with customers during dryer or washer repair,appliance repair Staten Island technicians have learned that those who have a clean, convenient place to do their laundry feel better about this undesirable chore – and it is easier to deal repairs if that is needed.

Why Everyone Wants A Laundry Room

According to research estimates of new construction and home remodeling, most homeowners want a separate laundry room; if they already have one, they want a better one. Again, the reason is simple – doing laundry is a necessary evil that can be easier to deal with if appliances are in their own, separate space. After all, who wants to see clothes baskets scattered everywhere throughout the house?

What Makes A Great Laundry Room?

Following are some things that the appliance repair Brooklyn specialists say are the most concerns about the design of a laundry room expressed by their customers:

Location – Traditionally, washers and dryers are located in a basement, a separate room near the kitchen, or in a cramped hallway laundry closet or other small spot. There are pros and cons for using these spaces; however, a room closer to the bedrooms, even on the second floor if necessary, for less work and greater convenience is really desired. After all, dirty clothes come from the bedrooms and clean clothes must go back there. Of course, the space must be large enough for any type of Dryer repair Brooklyn or washer repair Brooklyn if necessary as well as an exterior wall for dryer venting.

Lighting – Another feature that scores high when planning and updating laundry areas is lighting. Having to deal with poor lighting can make mundane laundry chores even less desirable. Natural light from windows is best for a laundry area; however, if windows are not an option, good overhead lighting is a must. A light-colored interior is also a good idea as this makes the most of any type of lighting.

Sorting and Folding – Sorting clothes requires space, either on the floor or in bins. Since most people prefer bins, it is a good idea to have a space for them in a laundry room. A folding surface is also recommended. Folding clothes as they come out of the dryer prevents wrinkles and makes doing laundry that much easier.

Clothesline and Ironing Space – Those who have garments that must be hung up to dry can benefit from an overhead, out-of-the-way clothesline as well as a small, foldout ironing board. These things may not be used frequently, yet having them available creates a self-contained, home laundry facility.

Getting laundry done as quickly and easily as possible, without having to deal with things such as poor lighting, lack of necessary tools, or rearranging for a washer repair Staten Island, is a common goal. To help accomplish this in the most effective way possible, experts such as Dryer repair Staten Island professionals advise that it is important to have a good laundry room, with easily-accessible appliances for any service that may be necessary!

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How To Unpack After Moving House

The process of moving house consists of a great deal of move related tasks whose timely and successful completion pre-determines how your entire residential move will play out.

Yes, the relocation process is all about impeccable organization of the various jobs you are expected to take care of, and as you surely know by now, each stage has its signature task of monumental importance – finding a top rated moving company like los angeles movers,miami movers during the initial orientation period, packing up your home for a move during the preparation period, and of course – unpacking and organizing after your move during the final stage of your relocation adventure.

Hopefully, you will have had a smooth residential move with movers los angeles. And then, the moment your mover miami or your non-professional helpers (aka your friends) leave you with mountain-like piles and stacks of cardboard boxes filled to the brim with all sorts of items, it’s time to turn your attention to another unwelcoming but must-do marathon – unpacking!

Learn the best way to unpack after moving with the help of expert unpacking and organizing tips that have been proven to work every time.

Help unpacking after a move

Now, the first thing to ask yourself while you’re looking anxiously at all the moving boxes that have been recently delivered is whether or not you will need unpacking help, and if yes – what type. There are a few factors to consider here:

Unpacking Time

If you are forced to unpack quickly after moving house, then you should seriously consider hiring helpers to finish that task as fast as possible. The problem with unpacking is that, similar to packing, it is one of the most time consuming jobs that you will find in your personal moving calendar.

How long does it take to unpack after moving? Well, there’s hardly a unified answer to that essential question, but the case-by-case nature of moving house suggests that the unpacking time is directly influenced by 1) the number of boxes to unpack and protected furniture pieces to arrange and re-assemble, 2) the number of helpers, either professional or non-professionals, 3) the presence of special items that can slow down significantly the entire process.

Therefore, if you’re starting work in the new city in a few days’ time or if you must meet another fast approaching deadline, then initiating and completing the unpacking challenge all by yourself seems to be out of the question. Reach out to your friends and promise them even greater fun than the one they had while giving you a helping hand with the packing project.

Professional touch

Sometimes you may not have a choice but to resort to professional unpacking services. For example, if you happen to have antique furniture pieces that are too expensive or dear to your heart, or ordinary furniture that requires special re-assembly skills, then your best course of action is to re-assess the increased risk of unpacking by yourself, and do what’s best for both your you and your valuable possessions. Contact your relocation partner again to learn the conditions for the unpacking assistance you need.

How to unpack and organize after moving

Having determined whether you’d be better off asking for timely professional or non-professional help, or whether you have the time and skills to unpack by yourself after the move, it’s time to take a look a closer look at the unpacking steps you’re recommended to follow:

What rooms to unpack first

Luckily, there’s a highly logical rule when it comes to which rooms to unpack first, and that rule states that you should unpack and prepare the rooms according to their occupational significance.

Bedroom. After an energy draining moving day, there can’t be a real debate about which room should be unpacked first. A few words will probably be already flashing in your head like an emergency light (BED, SLEEP, PILLOW, and REST), thus demanding immediate action from you. If the bedroom of your new home is not pre-equipped with a bed, assemble the one you’ve just moved or consider getting one to be your top priority. One thing is clear though – you won’t be able to go through another day without a good night’s sleep, so your bedroom is definitely the first room to unpack and set up for normal occupation.

Bathroom. The good news is that the next room is pretty straightforward to unpack and get ready for use. Of course, that room is the bathroom – the very place you want to be in after endless hours of hard move related work. As long as there’s running hot water, you’re fine – just stack up towels, hang the shower curtains, get your toiletries in, and you’re basically ready to wash away the moving day stress and accumulated dirt.

Kitchen. You’re going to need free access to the new home kitchen to maintain your energy levels high during the initial post move period. However, it’s good to know that unpacking a kitchen and making it fully operational can take days, so it’s best if you unpack and set up only the absolute essentials, and organize the rest of your kitchen little by little. Get the main kitchen appliances as a refrigerator and a cooker up and running such, and then move on to the smaller electric appliances such as a coffee maker, a microwave oven, and so on.

After you have unpacked and set up (partially) your new home’s bedroom, bathroom and kitchen, you can follow an unpacking schedule that actually makes sense in your particular case and suits your immediate needs at the same time. In most cases, the storage areas your new house or apartment has will be the last ones to get organized after your local or cross country move.

How to unpack after moving: quickly, efficiently and easily

You will soon realize that the best way to unpack after moving is to prepare a personal unpacking calendar and stick to it from Day 1. The personalized and prioritized timeline will help you organize your time effectively and will eventually boost your unpacking speed to the level that you desire.

Pay special attention to the next fool-proof unpacking tips after moving:

Inspect your boxes. Your very first unpacking step is to inspect the freshly delivered boxes and check them against your moving inventory or your packing list to make sure every single item is accounted for. If you do find a box or something else to be missing, then contact your movers immediately and let them know.

Sort out your boxes. After the initial inspection, it’s time to ensure that the proper containers have been carried inside to their correct destination rooms, that is all KITCHEN labeled boxes end up inside the new kitchen. If you have used our solid advice on how to label moving boxes, the chance of unpleasant mistakes and time wasting mix-ups is practically zero.

Unpack essentials boxes. The main idea behind packing essentials boxes in the first place is for them to be unpacked first as they contain nothing but life-savers. Click here to learn the important role of the so-called open first boxes.

Take care of your furniture. The satisfactory answer to the question how to unpack after you move continues with unpacking step number 4, which is all about proper prioritization. Thus said, you are strongly advised to unpack, re-assemble and set up your large and heavy pieces of furniture before you get down to emptying the packed boxes. Have a good idea where you want each piece to be positioned in advance to avoid having to move it again later after it’s been assembled. As mentioned before, this is the unpacking stage where you should definitely consider expert help.

Unpacking speed considerations. Unlike the process of packing up your home before a quickly approaching deadline (your scheduled move date), unpacking, when organized well, allows for a more stress-free experience. In fact, you are given a greater control over the unpacking speed thanks to the lack of a day or time set as your finish line. So, as long as you’ve made sure the most essential rooms are good to go, you can choose to slow down the unpacking pace in exchange for other more urgent tasks. Moreover, some of the packed boxes can be placed temporarily in storage until a later time (usually items intended for your storage areas anyway – garage, basement, attic, etc.).

How to unpack quickly after moving? However, sometimes you may not actually have the luxury of unpacking at your own comfortable pace, and then you should use little clever tricks to boost your unpacking speed. Here they are in no particular order:

1) Do not put off until tomorrow what you can unpack today,

2) Dispose of packing materials properly and in a timely fashion to avoid perfectly avoidable delays,

3) Clean up on a regular basis as you’re unpacking your rooms one by one to prevent an unpacking mess and a post move chaos,

4) Consider asking your friends for help if time really proves to be your enemy.

How to get motivated to unpack after moving? Having gone through the crazy preparation period that included the champion of all pre move tasks – packing, and then having made it through the nerve-wracking Moving day, the question of how you should maintain your motivation to unpack after moving suddenly turns out to be an excellent question. Luckily, a great way to keep your motivation alive is to set mini goals before you, and then reward yourself however you deem appropriate right after each of the mini goals is completed.

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How your old content can help with SEO

As the volume of content on the internet continues to expand at jaw-dropping rates, it’s getting harder and harder to attract an audience.

And yet, publishers and brands are investing heavily on churning out new pages. The Washington Post publishes 1,200 new content assets every day, 500 of which are articles prepared by their in-house editorial team. Across the entire web, according to estimates from Internet Live Stats, over 4.3 million blog posts go up each day. Keeping up with that kind of competition volume is a bit of a non-starter.

What’s more, traffic referred from search, which was once considered to be the most attainable and most effective audience acquisition channel, is likewise becoming harder to attain. Depending on the user’s search term, geolocation and device, Google’s monetized SERPs are likely to aggregate fewer than 10 organic, non-personalized results. Regardless, social media is driving more traffic to content pages than search.

One recent study conducted by Boost the News found that 74 percent of new articles hit their traffic peaks on the same day they’re published, followed by 25 percent the following day.

Long live the king

“Content is king,” as the mantra goes, but where’s the ROI on publishing pages that are basically useless after less than a week? Why do you have to keep feeding fresh meat to the content beast if you’re not going to get anything in return? The answer is that you don’t.

Sure, it’s probably a good idea to publish new material on a regular basis, but don’t forget to also make the most of your older content assets. Regularly update that which is outdated, and upgrade that which is laggardly. Promote and repurpose that which stands the test of time.

By extending your content’s shelf life, you’ll be able to maximize your discoverability, while at the same time giving your investment in these assets a fighting chance at performing. Here’s how.

Determine what assets are ripe for life extension

Start by auditing the content that’s currently up on your site, deciding which pages should be unpublished, updated, upgraded, promoted or repurposed.

If you have old content that’s no longer relevant in any way to your ideal audience, then just go ahead and unpublish it. Content marketing is about quality, and if something isn’t helping you, there is no need to have it live. You don’t need anything unnecessarily slowing down your website and turning off readers.

Content that relates to old products or services that you no longer offer, job listings and previous employee information are some obvious things that can be taken down. Before you delete these unnecessary materials, though, set up 301 redirects so that people who head to the old URLs get forwarded to newer, updated pages with relevant information.

For example, when visitors try to access a job listing that’s no longer open, you can direct them to your updated careers page, where they can learn more about all of your current openings. This allows for longer time on site and can lead to increased brand awareness, trust and loyalty.

Update and upgrade

Spend some time reviewing your page performance metrics from the past. Were there any articles that should have been major performers but never lived up to their potential? Anything that was once a powerhouse, but audience interest dwindled?

Pages like these need your attention. Spend some good hours updating the talking points in your content to reflect the latest trends and information. Research your long-tail keywords and use these phrases organically within the content, to ensure that Google recognizes the usefulness of your page to the people who would benefit from it most.

Add visuals and subheaders to make the page more inviting. Cite some statistics to back up the arguments you make. Quote and link to experts who write about the topic at hand, so you’ll have a chance of obtaining some powerful ego-baited backlinks.

Google’s algorithms favor domains with an ongoing flow of fresh content, but they also favor pages that were published recently. To update your content without sacrificing its seniority benefits, make sure that the new version sits on the same URL as the old.

Using this powerful tactic, one recent experiment yielded a 66-percent lift in organic traffic to old blog posts.

Drive traffic to your evergreen assets

While page views don’t directly impact search rankings, on-site engagement signals can help holistically. By keeping people clicking around your content archives, your bounce rate will plummet, and by promoting your content to new audience members off-site, you’ll effectively also boost your site’s organic social shares, which also indirectly help with SEO.

Use your email list and your social media profiles to promote your best older content. For maximum email click-through performance, set up a series of rich content guides that are specific to topics, and then assign each topic to an audience segment.

Much of your content, particularly text-heavy blog posts or long webinars, can likely be atomized into short-form content optimized for your various social channels. You can create highly engaging graphics on tools like Canva and share content that’s relevant to your specific audiences on each channel. For example, knowing that videos perform well on Facebook, infographics perform well on Pinterest and listicles perform well on Twitter can help you distribute evergreen content with posts that will help maximize engagement.

The best part is, once they’re set up, social posts promoting your evergreen assets can easily be automated for periodic recurrence using an app like Hiplay.

Beyond email and social, CodeFuel offers a solution that helps site visitors discover content that’s both relevant and related. The system curates content for promotion via automated topic tagging, ultimately increasing time on site and giving your evergreen content the attention it deserves. CodeFuel’s metrics also allow you to easily see what content is performing best and where the biggest opportunities are for updating and monetizing pages.

No, repurposing content won’t kill your rankings

Well, it depends. It’s true that Google will penalize duplicate content, so you definitely don’t want to create a new blog post or section on your website with the exact same text or metadata that already appears elsewhere. However, syndicated content, especially when the original has had a chance to get indexed and when syndicated versions include canonical tags, poses zero SEO danger. Google is usually smart enough to recognize the oldest instance as the one that should rank, and it simply ignores the others.

That being said, there are many formats in which you can leverage to atomize your content assets. For example, a section from a text-heavy blog post could be turned into a video, infographic, slide deck or podcast episode. These are great ways to maximize your digital footprint and reach new audiences.

Podcasting is especially powerful in this regard. Since podcasts are favored by on-the-go people who don’t necessarily have time to look at your website or read your blog content, they represent a huge opportunity. All you have to do is record someone reading your old blog posts in a personable way, and you have your first episode. With new tools like Anchor, you can easily record yourself, share your content, and grow your audience.

One of the best examples of content repurposed for multi-platform promotion is Jay Today, an initiative of Convince & Convert’s Jay Baer, who published a short spoken word video, in eight different formats, for 149 episodes before he pulled the plug on it last summer. Each video clip was uploaded to iTunes, Medium, LinkedIn Pulse, Baer’s own blog and more.

Nine lives for your content

Enough with the volume game. It’s time to get serious about maximizing the life cycle of each and every content asset that you produce. Even if you end up publishing fewer new articles as a result of these efforts, you’re likely to still come out ahead.

Focus on quality, and don’t forget the opportunities you can find in your archives. When you think strategically about publishing ROI and repurpose, upgrade and promote your content, the benefits are huge. You’ll spend less on production, improve your SEO rankings and reach new audience members.

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AdWords gains 3 new cross-device attribution reports

Google is introducing three new reports on cross-device activity, along with a reorganization of the Attribution section under the Tools menu in AdWords.

With six out of 10 online conversions in the US starting on one device and ending on another, according to a Google/Ipsos study, the new reports are designed to help marketers track cross-device conversion paths, including those that feature search ad clicks from more than one device in a conversion path.

The new cross-device activity reports:

Devices: an overview of the cross-device activity in your account.

Assisting Devices: shows assist levels  and values by each device type — mobile, tablet, desktop.

Device Paths: the top conversion paths for visitors who used more than one device before converting.

You’ll notice in the screen shot above that the existing conversion, path and click analysis reports are now rolled up under their own sections within the Attribution reporting menu. The new reports and layout will be rolling out over the next several weeks.

With this announcement, Google also released benchmarks on cross-device conversion activity for search campaigns in the United States, Japan, Germany and Great Britain.

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What is CrunchBase, and How Can It Help Your Business?

When it comes to innovation and technology, one of the best online databases for learning about companies is CrunchBase.

CrunchBase is owned and operated by TechCrunch, an online publisher of news covering the wold of technology industry. TechCrunch highlights tech startups and funding campaigns, but it also analyzes established organizations.

Like Wikipedia and other online databases, CrunchBase allows members of the public to make submissions to the site. All you have to do is register and agree to the terms. Profiles on the site consist of companies, individuals, funds, funding campaigns, and events.

One of the benefits of having a CrunchBase profile is it gives your shareholders (investors, partners, customers, potential buyers, etc.) an extra data point on your products and services. While it is a resource that definitely targets venture capitalism, their are several private companies and firms that have CrunchBase profiles.

For example, Melaleuca.com has a profile that highlights the company’s innovation in manufacturing technology, information technology, and more. A consumer interested in the wellness company has easy access to Melaleuca’s track record, patents, product philosophy, and more.

Another benefit of CrunchBase is that users can link to other important resources, such as news stories, that profile the company, organization, or individuals. It allows online users to gain helpful insight into who you are. They can also receive alerts about companies and people they are following.

But you don’t have to be a third party to create a profile. If you are a smart and proactive professional or group of professionals, you should already have a CrunchBase profile set up for people interested in your business. Profiles are easily customizable, and can feature the level of detail and information you want.

If you are someone looking to invest in a company, or you are just interested in the tech industry as whole, one of the coolest CrunchBase features is a list of trending profiles, based on page views. If a lot of people are looking at a certain CrunchBase profile, there’s a very good chance that company is going places—and fast.

Basically, CrunchBase is an online, real-time barometer of the tech industry and its major players, as well as up-and-coming players. With helpful news articles from Bloomberg, Wired news, and more, you can keep abreast of what is happening on a global scale in the tech world. And with an up-to-date calendar of important events, you can know when and where to connect with the world’s leading tech experts and enthusiasts.

 

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Britain votes to leave the EU, Cameron quits – here’s what happens next

Gavin Barrett, University College Dublin

Britain has voted to leave the European Union. This is having an immediate effect on markets. It is also having immediate political ramifications. David Cameron has announced he will not continue in his role as British prime minister.

Legally speaking, though, the process of actually leaving will take some time. Britain will now enter a kind of phoney Brexit period. It is still a member of the EU. The referendum vote is not as such legally binding. It is advisory only – but if it is out it creates a political imperative for the UK government to arrange its exit of the EU.

The law governing Brexit is found in Article 50 of the EU Treaty. This is a provision adopted by EU member states in 2009 to govern Brexit-like scenarios. It puts a two-year time limit on withdrawal negotiations. When the two years is up (or on the date any agreement reached before this enters into force) the UK is officially out of the EU.

Article 50 requires the UK to trigger the exit process by notifying its intention to withdraw. Not one, but rather a cascade of agreements, will follow this Brexit notification:

  1. The Article 50 exit agreement
  2. A separate treaty governing the UK’s future relationship with the EU – which could take many years to negotiate (and which, if it goes beyond trade, will require ratification by every single EU member state)
  3. Trade agreements between the UK and up to 134 other WTO members
  4. A tidying-up treaty between all the remaining EU states that removes all references to the UK from the EU treaties.

The initial main focus, however, will clearly be the Article 50 Brexit agreement.

How will it work?

The UK would be the first state to leave the EU but it is most likely that the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, will do the negotiating on behalf of the remaining 27 member states. They will no doubt cast a watchful eye on proceedings, before voting on the deal.

That vote will be by a weighted majority, with bigger states like Germany, France and Italy having a more powerful voice than smaller members (although in practice, strong efforts are made to ensure every member state can live with a deal before a matter is approved). Above and beyond this, should the Article 50 Brexit agreement venture beyond trade matters, it will then need to be ratified by every EU member state.

The European Parliament has a veto option, making it an important player too. Article 50 negotiations will thus have a lot of players with powerful voices – and many not necessarily be inclined to give the UK a very favourable deal lest “exiters” in their own countries get any ideas.



Powerful voices at play.
EPA/Patrick Seeger

Could the UK delay giving Article 50 notification?

Legally, yes, the UK could delay giving Article 50 notification or avoid it altogether. But other EU states will probably refuse to negotiate until they get the notification.

Brexit campaigners have suggested adopting a swath of domestic laws so that the UK can short-circuit Article 50. But such measures would violate EU law and probably won’t see the light of day. Enacting them would pointlessly violate EU and international law, alienate the UK’s future negotiating partners and jeopardise the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

Can the UK withdraw notification?

This might be attempted if, for instance, the UK doesn’t like the way negotiations are going. It is unclear if it is legally permissible. The EU Treaty certainly doesn’t prohibit it in so many words. Political misgivings would abound – but might possibly be met by having a second referendum to reject any Article 50 deal ultimately reached.

Ireland, after all, had referendum second thoughts on the Lisbon and Nice Treaties, Denmark had them on the Maastricht Treaty and France and Holland agreed to a Lisbon Treaty deal very similar to the 1994 Constitutional Treaty earlier rejected by both states in referendum.

What will the UK get from negotiations?

That depends on how (and who) conducts the negotiations for the UK, and what the other states are prepared to offer it. Even assuming they prove pleasantly amenable, the UK will be left with awkward choices.



On the outside.
EPA/Laurent Dubrule

Does it want continued access to the single market with its 500m consumers? If so, it is may have to make Norway-like concessions – including continued EU migration and cash payments for the privilege. Does it want to block out EU migrants? Then it may well have to say goodbye to single European market access.

No matter what the UK chooses, it will unavoidably find itself outside the corridors of power in the EU for the first time in over forty years.

Is there any way back in?

Article 50 does envisage the possibility of UK re-entry to the EU one day – but subject to a unanimous vote of member states. This pretty much guarantees it will only ever happen by the UK accepting the euro currency, participation in the Schengen area of free movement and no rebate.

Welcome to the brave new world of Brexitland.

The Conversation

Gavin Barrett, Associate Professor, Jean Monnet Professor of European Constitutional and Economic Law, University College Dublin

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Designing an Eco-Friendly Home

In one of our earlier posts we talked about the way Melaleuca.com uses YouTube to promote a lifestyle of green living. In so many words, green living consists of doing everyday things that benefit the environment.

When it comes to designing an environmentally friendly home, there are really two parts. First, is the construction design itself. Is your home outfitted with energy-efficient windows and doors? Is it well insulated to cut down on energy costs? Was it constructed using recycled materials?

Many of us end up purchasing and living in homes that were built long before we showed up, without our input. We can choose to do an eco-friendly remodel, but that can be very expensive. However, there are ways we can re-design our existing home to help protect the environment without breaking the bank.

Here are a few, relatively inexpensive tips for designing a green home:

1. Recycling. Whether you live in a community that provides recycling pick-up or you have to pay for the service/so it yourself, one great thing you can do is set up a recycling station or stations in your house. Head to a hardware or office supply store to pick up a few blue bins for just a few bucks. Place these bins in areas where you throw away a lot of recyclable material. Office spaces are great because of all the paper waste, and kitchens are ideal due to the cardboard cereal boxes, plastic milk cartons, etc. By getting in the habit of recycling as much as you can at home, you will be doing your part to help keep the environment clean.

2. Lowering your thermostat. There are “smart thermostats” these days, but you don’t really need one to help the environment. By manually lowering your thermostat a few degrees in the winter and raising it a few degrees in the summer, you will save quite a bit of energy—which is great for Mother Earth but also for your wallet.

3. Reusable shopping bags. Buy a few of these bags, which nowadays are made from recycled material, and keep a few in your car. There’s no need to use plastic bags at the grocery store. They’re flimsy, anyway.

4. Avoid chemicals. Do a quick check of all the household products you have, from cleaners to soaps. Get rid of stuff that contains toxic chemical like bleach and sulphates, which when washed down the drain can damage waterways and harm the environment.

Sources: Melaleuca Idaho Falls, Huffington Post

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Too Human (Not) to Fail

by Lena Groeger ProPublica, June 8, 2016, 8 a.m.

A coffee grinder that only works when the lid is on. An electrical plug that only fits into an outlet one way. Fire doors that stay unlocked in an emergency.

Lots of everyday objects are designed to prevent errors — saving clumsy and forgetful humans from our own mistakes or protecting us from worst-case scenarios. Sometimes designers make it impossible for us to mess up, other times they build in a backup plan for when we inevitably do. But regardless, the solution is baked right into the design.

This concept has a lot of names: defensive design, foolproof, mistake proof, fail-safe. None is as delightful as the Japanese poka-yoke.

The idea of the poka-yoke (which means literally, “avoiding mistakes”) is to design something in such a way that you couldn’t mess it up even if you tried. For example, most standard USB cables can only be plugged into a computer the correct way. Not to say you would never attempt to plug it in upside down, but if you do, it simply won’t fit. On the other hand, it’s easy to reverse the + and – ends of a battery when you replace them in your TV remote. The remote’s design provides other clues about the correct way to insert the batteries (like icons), but it’s still physically possible to mess it up. Not so with the USB cable. It only fits one way, by design.

Many consumer coffee grinders are another example of a design that physically prevents you from messing up. Even if you wanted to, you could NOT chop your fingers on the blade, because the “on” switch for the grinder is triggered by closing the lid (as opposed to a blender, which leaves its blades easily accessible to stray fingers).

Foolproof design can also save your life. The mechanical diver’s watch is designed with a bezel that spins in only one direction. It functions as a simple timer that a diver can use to know how much oxygen is left in the tank.

In a blog post about resilient design, designer Steven Hoober describes how this smart design can prevent disaster:

If the ring were to get bumped, changing its setting, having it show less time might be inconvenient, but its going the other way and showing that you have more time than you do might kill you. You don’t even need to know how it works. It just works.

Foolproof measures can be found throughout web design (although perhaps without the life-saving part). Ever fill out an online form incorrectly and only found out because you could not progress to the next step? That’s a conscious decision by a designer to prevent an error. In this case, from Yahoo, it’s even a chance to insert a little humor:

Sometimes, design cannot prevent you from messing up (we humans somehow always figure out a way to do things wrong). But it can still make it harder for you to do the wrong thing. This type of design is not exactly foolproof — more like fool-resistant.

Child-resistant safety caps on medicine bottles, for example, keep kids from accidentally overdosing. A water dispenser that makes you push an extra button or pull up a lever to dispense hot water makes it harder for you to accidentally scald yourself. Neither of these designs are as foolproof as the coffee grinder. But they do put an additional step between you (or your child) and disaster.

We see these features quite often on our computers. Most of us are familiar with the “Are you sure?” messages before you empty the Trash or the “Do you want to…” before you replace a file with another one by the same name. These alerts certainly don’t prevent us from making a mistake (in fact, we probably ignore them most of the time), but their purpose is to slow us down.

Designers have also come up with more elaborate confirmation steps. For instance, Gmail will detect whether you’ve used the word “attached” in an email you’ve written and, if you try to send it without an attachment, will ask you if you meant to include one. Github, a popular website used by software developers to collaborate on code, forces you to type the full name of the project in order to delete it.

Most of these examples work by forcing your attention to the task at hand, breaking your autopilot behavior and make you really consider what you are about to do. Design details don’t make it impossible to screw up, but they certainly make it a little bit harder.

Still other designs revolve around keeping your information secure. Your computer may prompt you for a login if you’ve left it idle for a few minutes, preventing someone else from seeing or stealing sensitive information. Smartphones often do the same thing, requiring a passcode to re-enter. Some web browsers will prevent you from downloading certain files, and your computer’s operating system may ask you if you are SURE you want to open a program you got from the internet. Connect a smartphone to a new computer and it may ask you to confirm that this computer can be trusted. These security measures don’t prevent you from doing dangerous things, but try to prevent a potential horrible outcome due to careless mistakes.

Let’s say it’s too late to prevent the error: the mistake has occurred, the failure has happened. What now? This is where fail-safe design comes in. Fail-safe design prevents failure from becoming absolute catastrophe.

In some cases, it’s the system (or environment) that has failed. In the event of a fire, fire doors are required by law to fail unlocked, so that people can escape a burning building. On the other hand, if you need to protect state secrets or cash in a bank vault, you’d probably want a fail-secure system for those doors, which would fail locked.

Circuit breakers cut the power if an electrical current gets too high. Elevators have brakes and other fail-safe systems that engage if the cable breaks or power goes out, keeping the elevator from plummeting to its passengers’ death.

In other instances, it’s our own human error that the fail-safe system is designed for. SawStop is a table-saw safety technology that automatically shuts off a spinning saw blade if it comes in contact with flesh. The blade has a sensor that can detect whether it’s a piece of wood or your finger, using the same property (electrical conductivity) that makes a touch screen sensitive to your bare fingers but not to your gloves. In less than one thousandth of a second, the saw blade will shut off, giving you in the worst case only a small nick (rather than removing your thumb). Don’t believe this could work so fast? Watch this video:

Some industrial paper cutters are designed to shut off if they detect motion nearby (presumably a hand getting too close to the blade). Similarly, many automatic garage doors will stop closing if they sense something, or someone, in the way.

Another well-known fail-safe measure is the dead man’s switch. The dead man’s switch kicks in when a human in charge lets go of the controls — or dies, as the name implies. In the event of an accident (say, a train operator has a heart attack), the dead man’s switch can prevent harm to all the passengers by stopping the train.

This actually happened a few years ago on the New York City subway, when an MTA employee had a heart attack on the G train. His hands lost grip of the controls, the brakes were activated, and the train slowed to a stop.

The dead man’s switch is also a common device in lawn mowers and other equipment that require you to continually hold down a lever or handle to operate. As soon as you let go, the motor stops. U.S. law actually specifies that all walk-behind lawn mowers come equipped with such a switch that stops the blade within 3 seconds of a user releasing her grip.

In software, absolute catastrophe often means losing your work, your files, that long heartfelt email you worked so hard on. So many fail-safe designs revolve around letting you undo actions or automatically saving work in the background as you go along. Auto-saving Google Docs are a vast improvement over other word-processing programs that can lose hours of work with a single crash or loss of power. Web browsers like Chrome can restore all your tabs if you accidentally close a window (even if you’d rather declare tab bankruptcy).

Finally, we have the last-ditch, eleventh-hour design solution to keep you safe from the worst of the worst: The backup.

A backup parachute is perhaps the most dramatic of all backup devices, but many things in the real world are designed to have similar built-in redundancies. Cars have two sets of brake circuits (not to mention a spare tire). Airplanes have multiple redundant control systems. Emergency stairwells have lights that work on battery power if the building’s electricity goes out. On computers, backing up your photos or making a copy of a file before editing it is just common sense.

In the end, nothing humans build or even touch will ever be free from error. Luckily, designers work tirelessly to save us from our mistakes. And in many cases, we don’t have to know how the poka-yoke works. It just works.

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