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7/28/2015

The population of Texas will double by 2050 if growth continues at the same pace experienced between 2000 and 2010, according to the state demographer. That booming population would put acute demands on housing, education, infrastructure and potable water supplies.   

Looking ahead, the City of San Marcos, Texas, located 25 miles south of Austin, is offering home and business owners a chance to install a professional rainwater harvesting system and receive a 50-percent rebate—up to $5,000 for homeowners and $20,000 for owners of commercial property.

Jeremy Delost
Jeremy Delost, president and CEO of Acer Water Tanks, examines one of the Pioneer water tanks that the San Marcos, Texas-based company sells in North America.
Photo by Pat Pape

“Despite the recent heavy rains in Central Texas, San Marcos officials know this area is growing rapidly and realizes there may not be enough water for the future population,” says Jeremy Delost, president and CEO of Acer Water Tanks, a San Marcos-based tank distribution company that serves the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean. “Without adequate clean water, growth will be limited, so city officials want residents to collect, store and use rain before it runs into streets and gutters.”

Many municipalities offer benefits to citizens who harvest rain, but the San Marcos rain catchment program is the most generous Delost has seen during his decade in the industry. Despite publicity about water shortages, many Texans are still unaware of the state’s water situation. 

“Most people are accustomed to an unlimited supply of clean water at a cheap price,” said Delost. “They turn on their tap and safe, drinkable water comes out. This is why people don’t adopt rainwater harvesting on a large scale except in areas where water is expensive or no public water supply exists. Of course, water is free once you have a rainwater system.”

Despite poor well water and limited municipal water services in some areas, the Texas Hill Country lifestyle is extremely desirable, and people continue moving there. Rainwater harvesting has become a reliable source of domestic water, and many families live exclusively on rain that is far superior to water pumped from private wells during this time of water conservation.

“Residents to the area build their dream houses despite the poor well water and lack of city water, and they collect rain coming off their roof and store it in a large tank—maybe 20,000 or 30,000 gallons,” he said. “It becomes their sole water supply. As long as the system is well designed and constructed, they can store water indefinitely and maintain its high quality.”

In 2012, each Texan used an average of 83 gallons of water per day, reports the Texas Water Development Board. A 1-inch rain falling on a 1,000-square-foot roof will produce 600 gallons that can be stored and used as needed. A water-conscious family of four requires about 100,000 gallons of water per year for domestic use. Because San Marcos receives 35 inches of rain in an average year, a 4,500-square-foot collection area would supply the family with its annual water requirement.

“San Marcos and other Central Texas cities are growing fast, so access to plentiful, quality water is extremely important,” he added. “A rainwater harvesting system that collects water every time it rains and at no charge is ideal. Now that the city is subsidizing the cost of the system, residents should jump on board to secure a water supply for the future.”


Pat Pape is a freelance writer, blogger and communications consultant, who lives with her husband and numerous pets on a Texas hobby farm. See her writing portfolio.

 



7/10/2015

Are you ready to make the switch from gas guzzler to something a little more efficient, such as a hybrid or electric vehicle? The U.S. Department of Energy reports that vehicles that rely on alternative fuels produce lower emissions than traditional models that rely on fossil fuels. Data also shows that these types of cars are more affordable. Saving money and helping the environment, why wouldn’t you opt to drive a more efficient vehicle?

eco-friendly car
Photo by shutterstock.

Turn over a new, greener leaf by trading in your conventional car and purchasing a model that benefits the environment. Here are a few tips on how to make the best choices when it comes to finding the perfect eco-friendly car.

Does It Qualify for a Tax Credit?

Driving an efficient vehicle can earn you a pretty hefty tax credit. Before you buy, do some research to make sure your model qualifies. In some cases, electric vehicles are eligible for a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500. The credit is based on the capacity of the car’s battery, which is used to fuel the vehicle. Additionally, plug-in hybrid vehicles purchased during the year 2010 or later also qualify for the $7,500 tax credit. Drivers can claim the credit by filling out tax form 8936. The U.S. Department of Energy website has all the information you need to find out if the car you're interested in is eligible for the tax credit.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Conventional cars comes in all shapes and sizes, and so do hybrid and electric vehicles. However, the most popular styles of energy-efficient vehicles are often much smaller than fossil-fueled models. For example, hybrid sedans lose between three and five feet of cubic trunk space to accommodate the battery.

Although many of the eco-conscious vehicles on the market may be downsized, you don’t have to sacrifice space. Shop around and look for models, such as the 2015 Lexus RX Hybrid or the 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid, that offer the benefits of an energy-efficient vehicle and the space of a traditional SUV. Keep in mind a hybrid SUV may lose some storage space to fit the battery, but you'll have more room overall.

Make a Smart Choice

Dubbed the Energy Star of vehicles by DriveTime, SmartWay is an EPA certification that is awarded to cars and trucks that emit less tailpipe emissions and greenhouse gasses than other conventional vehicles. Since its development in 2004, the SmartWay program has eliminated 51.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

And the certification isn't just limited to consumer vehicles—the SmartWay program extends to freightliners, as well. Dealerships like DriveTime have an ongoing partnership with SmartWay. In fact, 20 percent of the DriveTime inventory is made up of SmartWay certified vehicles. Additionally, DriveTime was the first national dealership to brand eco-friendly cars with the SmartWay logo, which makes it easier for consumers to make a green choice. For more information, visit the DriveTime blog and check out their selection of eco-friendly cars.



7/6/2015

Almost everyone has had bad days at work—when things are just not going right and zapping the life out of you. When you feel like things are getting out of control, take a good look at your situation as you could be experiencing work burnout. Paula Davis-Laack, an expert who trains professionals all over the world how to manage stress, defined burnout as “the chronic state of being out of sync with one or more aspects of your life, and the result is a loss of energy, enthusiasm, and confidence.” This can eventually impact your physical and mental health, as well.

Davis-Laack then cited research tracing work burnout to six sources: lack of control, conflicting values, insufficient reward, work overload, unfairness, and breakdown of relationships at work. Take control of your life and start having less stress in the workplace. Here are some tips to help you deal with burnout at work.

nature
Photo by Moyan Brenn/Flickr.

1. Proactively Assess Your Situation

To come up with an effective course of action, you need to evaluate your life. Aside from your workplace, consider your physical well being, relationships with other people, and your life in general. Refuse to become a victim of circumstances. Do something to change things or, at the very least, your perspective.

2. Tap into the Power of Meditation

Meditation is a tried-and-true, yet often forgotten, method to alleviate burnout in these modern times. Carve out time from your busy schedule to focus on yourself. Slow down, keep cellphones and other distractions away, and take deep breaths. Cultivate your mind and soul with empowering mantras or positive thoughts.

3. Do Something for Yourself

When getting out of bed seems next to impossible, give yourself reasons to get going. Take small but significant steps to reduce stress. Simple things like turning off your television, decluttering, and discovering a new hobby will do wonders for you. Each day should be more than tolerable, and having something to look forward to can really help.

healthy meal
Photo by Ralph Daily/Flickr.

4. Eat Right

It has long been said that you are what you eat. Your choice of food not only has an effect on your strength, but also on your mood. Fuel your body with the right kind of nourishment. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Drink more water. Eschew junk food, soft drinks and alcohol, and other overly processed foods.

5. Get Enough Sleep

The human body can only take so much, so be sure you acknowledge its need to rest. Strive to get eight hours of sleep each night. Take naps as needed. If you have a hard time falling asleep, keep your television and gadgets powered off or put away. Listen to relaxing music, and make your bedroom as comfortable as possible.

6. Bask in Nature’s Goodness

Nature has countless ways to soothe the body and soul. Turn to nature to rejuvenate yourself. Plan a hiking trip, take a leisurely walk in a garden, and indulge in fresh greens as part of your daily diet. Add flowers or a potted plant to your office.

7. Plan Your Schedule

Stay on top of how you spend your time by drawing up a weekly or monthly schedule. Planning will help you organize the things that you need and want to do, and ensure that you’re making time for both. Being efficient with your time will significantly reduce your stress levels and leave you feeling in charge of your life.

8. Triage Your Tasks

Avoid spreading yourself too thin. With limited time, energy and resources, you need to re-align your focus or else you’ll only end up frustrated. Before attempting to do everything at once, concentrate first on what is really urgent and stick to that.

9. Have the Courage to Say “No”

Maximize what you can do, but know what your limits are. You need to protect your precious time and energy or you’ll risk losing productivity. Politely let your employer and co-workers know when you feel like you’re taking on too much so you can start concentrating on what can be done to help the situation.

vacation
Photo by Jason A G/Flickr.

10. Make the Best of Your Vacation Time

Vacation leaves are not a luxury, but a necessity for employees to recharge their batteries every now and then. Instead of seeing these leaves as a waste of time, take advantage of it so you can come back to work refreshed. When you do take your vacation, avoid taking your work with you. If you really can’t help it, keep the amount you do while away from the office at the minimum.

11. Discuss It with Your Boss

Do not hesitate to talk things over with your supervisor or someone who is in a position to help you. You and your employer need to be on the same page in regards to your productivity. Bring up your concerns as soon as possible. It could be an overwhelming workload, a lack of incentives to boost motivation and inspiration at work, and anything else you feel is taking away from your focus and satisfaction. Ask for suggestions and voice yours, if you have any. This will show that you’re taking initiative and proactively trying to improve your performance.

12. Ask for Help

Doing everything yourself is the perfect way to crash and burn, fast. Know when to ask for help, believe in teamwork and delegate or outsource tasks if you can. Recognizing that you are not a superhuman, with the ability to do it all, is important if you want to do your job well.

13. Accept That No One is Perfect

Striving to be a perfectionist every minute of the work day will only set you up for disappointments. Instead, aim for excellent performance and end the day knowing that you did your tasks to the best of your ability.

14. Avoid Self-Sabotage

It’s very easy and tempting to slip into self-destructive behavior like drinking away your woes, not showing up at work, and so on. Stop as soon as you find yourself going down this path because these activities aren’t healthy coping mechanisms. If you need to channel your burnout, find healthy ways to do it, such as working out or talking to an objective friend.

work friendships
Photo by Chepner/Flickr.

15. Cultivate Healthy, Work Relationships

Get your strength from a solid support system. Aside from helping you channel your burnout, having people you can turn to can give you new insights into your situation. If available, join the stress management program at your workplace, and if you don’t have one you may want to suggest it to your co-workers.

Working day in and day out while experiencing burnout may feel like too much, but keep in mind that you can take actions to change your situation. Get started with these simple steps that can begin to alleviate the feelings of burnout and help you strike the perfect work-life balance.


Emily HarperEmily Harper is an Environment and Sustainability Advocate. She is also fond of analyzing home structure and design and has been a Home Stylist and Consultant. She loves to write about home improvement, business, marketing, and green sustainability. Get to know Emily by following her on Twitter.



6/22/2015

We all know the obvious reasons why cycling has less of an impact on our environment than driving does. According to the U.S. Census, about 50 percent of Americans live within five miles of their workplace, so why aren’t more people riding bicycles to work or when running local errands? For every mile pedaled, compared to driven, almost one pound of carbon dioxide is saved! So park that car and get on those two wheels. Next step: save the world.

bicycling
Photo by shutterstock.

Reduce Manufacturing Footprint

All manufactured goods, including a bicycle, have an environmental impact. A whopping 1.2 billion cubic yards of air pollution is generated each year thanks to the car manufacturers. Don’t forget the painting and coating which adds another 40 million pounds of air pollution and 24 million pounds of toxic waste. Yes, manufacturing bicycles isn’t a zero-waste or pollution-free industry, but bikes use significantly less rubber and fuel to make than motor vehicles, conserving thousands of acres of forests that would normally be cleared for rubber plantations. The consumer winds up being the one who pays for the larger manufacturing footprint of motor vehicles.

Protect Wildlife & Their Habitats

We know the negative impact of air pollution on our natural environment, but consider the impact of the oil, fuel and hydraulic fluids that drip out of cars. When it rains it doesn’t stay on paved roadways, it becomes toxic runoff that enters our oceans and local waterways. For every parking space one car takes up, 20 bikes can easily fit in its place.

Reduce the amount of land that’s cleared for parking lots and the expansion of roads by riding your bicycle more often. Not only will this protect the home of local plants and animals, it will protect trees that are vital to carbon sequestration, or the filtering and reduction of carbon dioxide in the air. Less commonly considered, air pollution from motor vehicles is an urban animals’ worst enemy. Natural areas are becoming fewer and farther between. Bicycles are quiet, they don't pollute and are less likely to turn urban animals into roadkill victims.

Boost Your Local Economy

The U.S. bicycle industry boosts the nation’s economy through the 1.1 million jobs and nearly 1.8 billion dollars in federal, state and local taxes it generates. By riding your bike instead of taking your car, you’re more likely to support local grocery stores, drugstores and other local businesses. These nearby businesses will foster a vibrant and walkable community which reduces further habitat loss and air pollution. And you get to live, bike and thrive in your clean, green town!

Save Lives

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that nearly 33,000 people in the U.S. died in motor vehicle accidents in 2014. Although bicycle accidents still occur, fatalities are few (only about 700 people a year). Accidents aside, you’re saving your own life in other ways. Biking will leave you in good shape, good health and good spirits, not to mention less prone to obesity and depression. Biking for 30 minutes a day—to the bank and back —could save on health care expenses every year.

Get a New Perspective

The perspective from behind your wheel while you’re stuck in rush hour traffic isn’t the most beautiful. Actually, it’s usually full of road rage, frustration and the back of someone else’s car. Imagine zooming past these cars in traffic on your bike, taking in the fresh air, getting a close look at the beautiful rose bushes on the side of the road or the blue jay flying past you. You get a much more colorful perspective, your mind is clear and you have more time to think.

Perhaps you’ll consider a bike tour for your next vacation, cycling the lush streets of Boulder, Colorado, or over the endless bridges of Portland, Oregon. It's among many ideas for keeping travel cheap and enjoyable. It’s a never-ending wheel of possibilities when you choose to cycle!


Natalie Posdaljian has a degree in Environmental Systems: Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. She works in the fisheries in Alaska.



6/3/2015

water.org
Photo courtesy water.org.

WHY THEY’RE CRUCIAL: When you step into the bathroom, do you consider the importance of the most basic, essential personal-care item we use? It’s water. Safe water has the power to transform lives. Worldwide, 750 million people lack access to clean drinking water (that’s almost 2.5 times the population of the U.S.!), and every day more than 2,000 people die as a result. For more than 20 years, water.org has pioneered water and sanitation solutions that help give communities hope, health and a future.

WHAT THEY DO: For just $25, water.org can give someone access to safe water.

• Work with well-vetted local partners who understand the community’s culture

• Engage the community at every level of a project to ensure community ownership for long-term viability

• Respond to community demand when approaching project selection

• Hold intensive seminars throughout a project to emphasize the link between hygiene and health

HOW WE CAN HELP: Throughout the duration of this issue, we’re raising funds to help spread access to clean water across the world. To join our efforts, visit our water.org fundraiser. Or mail donations directly to water.org at 920 Main, Suite 1800, Kansas City, Missouri, 64105. Include the fundraiser name, Mother Earth Living Gives Back, on the envelope or check, if you wish. Our goal is to collect $2,500 for water.org.

DID YOU KNOW

• Every minute, a child dies of a water-related disease.

• Diarrhea caused by inadequate drinking water, sanitation and hand hygiene kills an estimated 842,000 people every year globally, or about 2,300 people per day.

• Women and children collectively spend 140 million hours per day collecting water, which takes time away from education, work and raising their families.

• More people have a mobile phone than a toilet.




6/2/2015

The world people live in today entails an avalanche of to-do list items that are demanding to be ticked off. Amid these urgent tasks you may have a family with whom you want to spend time, as well as a job that provides for you and your loved ones. Finding a work-life balance is important for attaining happiness, personally and professionally. It can seem like a tough act to pull off, but learning how to balance work and family life is not impossible. Follow these tips for the best results. 

Family Priorities
Photo courtesy Lord Monark Larion, via Flickr/Creative Commons

Know Your Priorities and Stick To Them

No one can have it all, but that doesn’t mean you can’t set priorities for the work-family life that you want to achieve. When the Philippine Star asked busy mothers who juggle work and family what their secret was, sticking to one’s priorities emerged as one of the top-credited secrets.

Make a mental list of what matters to you, and bring out this list whenever you are confronted with decisions. It may be hard at first, especially if you’re wired or pressured to excel in both, but it will get easier over time. It will also ensure that you stop, or at least spend less time on, the trivial things and focus on what’s most important.

Use Your Work Schedule to Your Advantage

For example, most call center employees follow Western time zones. This can result in night shifts, clocking out in the morning when the rest of the country is just starting their day. Make the best out of such a situation by using low-peak hours to complete errands such as grocery shopping, paying the bills, and so on. You could also avoid the traffic to and from the office by commuting when the streets and vehicles and not that jam-packed, and you might even want to take a power nap in the sleeping quarters if you arrive early at work.


Photo courtesy amrufm, via Flickr/Creative Commons

Enjoy at Least One Meal a Day with Your Family, Every Day

It may be a simple act, but it’s the simple things like these that shape and nurture relationships at home. If you’re a parent struggling to create a work-life balance, you know all too well how precious each moment is with your children. Time flies fast, and before you know it your kids are no longer the babies you once cradled in your arms.

Sit down and enjoy a nice meal with your family upon getting home or before leaving for work. When you do gather at the dining table, put away cell phones and other gadgets so you can ask them how their day went, among the many other things that you want to know as a parent.

Use Your Lunch Hour Wisely

Why head out and wait in lines when you can sit at the pantry with your packed lunch? Aside from saving money and sparing you from unhealthy food choices, bringing your own lunch gives you more precious minutes that add up.

Consider taking shorter lunches so you can ease your busy schedule. For example, put notes on accounts you handle; look up call procedures that you need to refresh; ask your supervisor about work concerns. Basically, strive to compress your schedule so you won’t have to stay in the office long after your shift ends.


Photo courtesy herotype0, via Flickr/Creative Commons

Schedule a Day to Bond with Your Family and Coworkers

Although you get to see them every day, it’s not necessarily the same as spending quality time with them. A healthy camaraderie at the office strengthens teamwork and makes work more enjoyable. Share in team-building sessions.

On the other hand, a satisfying life at home brings you a different kind of fulfillment. Pencil in a movie marathon or family vacation. Such activities will bring you closer to the people you’re surrounded with every day, as well as relieve stress.

Plan Your Schedule and Activities for the Week

Devote one day a week to sit down, think about everything you need to do, and organize these tasks. Group tasks geographically as much as possible to avoid circling the entire metropolitan.

Special Dates
Photo courtesy Jesslee Cuizon, via Flickr/Creative Commons

Go On Dates with Your Significant Other

Don’t forget to make time for your significant other. Even the simplest of dates will do as long as you assure him or her that you’re making your relationship a priority. Don’t let a day pass by without talking with one another, even if your job left you dead tired. It doesn’t take much to send a text message or make a short call. Chill out together on your rest day. Go to a spa or explore a new place together.

Think About How Every Change Could Affect Your Work and Family Life

Change is inevitable, and unfortunately it can be a major source of work and family stress. Fret not. Take it as an opportunity—or a challenge—to make things better than before. Does a change in your work schedule pose a family conflict? Try talking with your team leader as soon as you learn about it. Perhaps you can swap schedules with a teammate or file for a leave.

Take Time to Relax

Don’t let work-life stress take its toll on you. The bad vibes will just rub off on the people around you, which can in turn result in an even more negative atmosphere. So do something about your situation, and if things cannot be changed, the best that you could do is to take a hint from a famous song and shake it off. Shower even for a few minutes to wash it all down. Breathe in and breathe out. Then go on with your day and take everything in stride.

Take Care Of Your Health
Photo courtesy Andrew Kalat, via Flickr/Creative Commons

Take Care of Your Health

There is no better way to cope with managing a work-family balance than by having a sound mind and body. With more energy and less illness, you’ll be able to strike a balance for success. Eat well, drink plenty of water and take your vitamins. Aim to be active every day, as sitting too much at work can add to a sedentary lifestyle. Indulge in your hobbies that make you fit and sharp. More importantly, keep a healthy and positive outlook no matter what circumstance you find yourself in.

These tips for gaining career and family life leverage will help you cultivate happiness by finding the key to a balanced life. Soon enough, you will be garnering excellent feedback, especially if you work in a company like IBEX that recognizes its employees, while being committed to your family and loved ones. Now, that’s the best of both worlds.


Aby League is a medical practitioner and an Elite Daily writer. She also writes about business and other topics of great interest. She also writes a blog, About Possibilities. Follow her @abyleague and circle her on Google+.



5/18/2015

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average US household spends around $2,700 a year on gasoline. And that’s only if the gas prices stay where they are now and don't rise.

Making your car as eco-friendly as possible makes sense both for your pocketbook and for the environment. Not only does driving more fuel-efficiently often save you gas money, but you’ll also be doing some good for the planet. Check out these simple, easy-to-begin strategies that you can use to make your car even more eco-friendly.

drive eco-friendly
Image by Split Shire.

Drive with a Feather Foot

According to Popular Mechanics, one of the best ways to improve your gas mileage is by changing the way you drive. Basically, drive smoothly, lower your speed and avoid those “jack rabbit starts.”

Check Air Pressure

The US Department of Energy states that keeping your tires inflated to the manufacturer's suggested levels can increase your gas mileage as much as 3.3 percent. For example, if your tire pressure drops by just one psi, you'll lose 0.4 percent on your gas mileage. To find the ideal pressure for your vehicle, consult your driver's manual or the sticker inside your driver's door.

Upgrade to a More Fuel Efficient Engine

Look into upgrading to a more fuel efficient engine for your vehicle. For example, eco-friendly sports car engines can help traditional sports cars gain better mileage without losing performance. Depending on the kind of car that you own, similar options may be available for your make and model.

Add an App

Simply being more aware of your driving habits can impact how you drive and help you change bad driving habits. Adding an app such as Automatic will provide you with a report of your weekly driving habits and offer suggestions for changes you can make to improve eco-friendliness. Just install the app, and when your phone is plugged into the data port in your car it will track different aspects of your travel habits.

Make Maintenance a Habit

The US Department of Energy also points to regular maintenance as an indicator of how many miles per gallon your car might get. Make repairs quickly and get tune-ups on schedule. The Department of Energy mentions that an oxygen sensor that needs repaired can impact your fuel efficiency by 40 percent, and more minor things like an out-of-tune engine can cost you 4 percent in fuel efficiency.

Plan Errands in a Circuit

One simple way to save fuel is to reduce the amount of actual travel you’re doing. When running errands, complete as many tasks as possible in one trip. Look at the places you need to drive to ahead of time and plan your route in a circuit. By planning this way you’re not backtracking and wasting miles driving through the same areas. While this may not always be convenient, you can overcome issues like keeping items refrigerated by planning ahead and taking along a cooler with ice.

Carpool When You Can

Do you see your best friend at the grocery store every Saturday when you go? Make a mundane task into a fun outing and ride together, taking turns driving Not only will you save fuel and the environment, but you’ll spend some quality time with your best friend. Look into options for carpools to and from work, as well.

Some outlying suburbs have programs where you can park your car and ride the bus into the city. See what is available where you live and how much you can save in the course of a year. While you may not save a lot of money after paying for bus fare, you’ll be saving the environment for future generations and that is worth more than cash.

Making small changes now will pay off big in the long run. Start using these tips today and you’ll be on the road to getting the best gas mileage possible.


Kayla Matthews is a health and wellness blogger who loves jogging, yoga and hiking. Follow Kayla on Google+ and Twitter to read all of her latest posts.





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