Energy efficiency means you are using less energy to do the same jobs, reducing your home’s energy waste and saving money. To effectively increase your energy efficiency involves more than just using less energy – it requires you becoming aware of how energy is used, where it’s wasted, and how it can be used more effectively and efficiently in everyday life. Here are some top tips to help your home or business save energy and be more efficient.
How to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient
- Change your light bulbs to LEDs.
- Wash your clothes in cold water if possible.
- Air seal your home.Sealing cracks, gaps and leaks and adding insulation can save up to 10% on home heating and cooling costs.
- Clean or replace all filters in your home regularly. Dirty filters make your system work harder and run longer than necessary.
- Use your microwave instead of your stove when cooking.
- Defrost your refrigerator and freezer before ice buildup becomes 1/4-inch thick to ensure your appliances are running efficiently.
- During warmer months, close blinds, shades and drapes on the sunny side of your home to help keep your home’s temperature cooler and reduce the work for you AC. Open shades during cooler months to let the sun warm your home.
- Don’t peek in the oven while baking! Every time you peek, the temperature can drop 25 F, making your oven use more energy to bring the temperature back up.
- Use natural light when possible.
- Control your fixtures with a photocell or a timer to assure dusk-to-dawn only operation of your outdoor lights.
- Don’t leave your electronics on all day long. Only turn on your computer, monitor, printer and fax machine when you need them.
- Set your thermostat to 78F in the summer and 68F in the winter – every degree of extra heating or cooling will increase energy usage 6% to 8%. Setting your thermostat to a lower temperature than normal will not cool your home faster.
- Using your ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4°F with no reduction in comfort.
- Refrigerators and freezers actually operate most efficiently when full, so keep your refrigerator and freezer as full as possible (using water bottles if nothing else). Be careful about overfilling them as this will reduce airflow and cause the appliance to work harder.
- Using dishwashers and clothes washers/dryers at night will keep the house cooler, reduce strain on the power grid during the peak usage hours of 4 PM and 6 PM and reduce the chance of an emergency!
- Turn off heated dry on your dishwasher and air dry instead.
- Set your refrigerator temperature to the manufacturer’s recommendation to avoid excessive cooling and wasting energy.
- Don’t leave bathroom or kitchen ventilation fans running longer than necessary. They replace inside air with outside.
- Replace your windows. If your home has single-pane windows, consider replacing them with more energy efficient windows, or adding solar shades or tinting film.
- Install a programmable thermostat that will automatically adjust the temperature according to your schedule.
- Turn off the lights when they’re not in use. Lighting accounts for about 12% of a typical residential utility bill.
- Don’t leave your mobile phone plugged in overnight. It only takes a couple of hours to charge.
- Turn off the oven a few minutes before cooking time runs out. Your food will continue to cook without using the extra electricity.
- Watch your appliance placement. Avoid placing appliances that give off heat, such as lamps or TVs, near a thermostat.
- Dress for the weather. When you’re at home, dress in warm clothing in the winter and cooler clothing in the summer to stay comfortable without making your heater and AC work harder.
Stay Current with Direct Energy
When you sign up with an energy plan from Direct Energy, you’ll get tips and tools to stay informed about your energy usage and save on your bill.
From 2006 to 2015, annual average heat rates of natural gas-fired electricity generators decreased 7% as heat rates of coal-fired electricity generators remained stable, increasing only 1%. Heat rates are calculated based on the amount of energy (measured in British thermal units) reported to EIA that was used to generate a unit of electricity. Lower heat rates indicate more efficient generation, because less fuel is needed per kilowatthour.
In 2006, the heat rate for all natural gas-fired generation averaged 8,471 British thermal units per kilowatthour (Btu/kWh), about 18% lower than the average heat rate of 10,351 Btu/kWh for coal-fired generation. With stable coal-fired heat rates and declining natural gas-fired heat rates since that time, the average heat rate for natural gas-fired generation was about 25% lower than the average heat rate for coal-fired generation in 2015, based on the latest available annual data.
The small rise in the average operating heat rate for coal-fired generation may be attributed to emissions controls. Emissions-control equipment was installed on almost 205 gigawatts (GW) of coal capacity from 2006 to 2015, or about 73% of the coal-fired generator fleet that was operating in 2016. These emissions-control measures often require more on-site usage of electricity, which involves consuming fuel but not necessarily producing electricity output.
Emissions-control investments were also made at about 37.5 GW of natural gas-fired generators, or about 9% of the natural gas fleet. However, relative to the effects on coal-fired generation, these investments have not been a significant influence on average operating efficiency trends for natural gas-fired generation.
Changes in usage patterns of coal and natural gas plants could affect their heat rates. Plants that are cycled on and off more frequently—as opposed to being operated more continuously—may consume more fuel to produce electricity, especially during ramping periods (times of increasing demand for electricity).
The rise in coal generators’ heat rates—likely attributable to increased on-site electricity use as a result of operational changes and emissions controls—was partially offset by the net effects of adding 19.5 GW of more-efficient new coal generating capacity while retiring 43.1 GW of relatively less-efficient coal capacity. Coal units installed between 2006 and 2015 had a weighted-average design heat rate of 9,665 Btu/kWh, compared with the coal units that retired over this period, which had a weighted average design heat rate of 10,343 Btu/kWh.
One main factor in the improvement of the natural gas fleet’s heat rate is changes in the types of natural gas-fired electricity generators. Unlike coal, natural gas has two distinct types of electricity-generating technologies: combined cycle and simple cycle. Combined-cycle systems are significantly more efficient. The capacity of natural gas-fired units added since 2006 has been, on average, more efficient than the existing fleet, and the natural gas-fired capacity retired since 2006 has been, on average, less efficient. Almost 58 GW of combined-cycle capacity, with a weighted-average design heat rate of 7,029 Btu/kWh, was added between 2006 and 2015. Nearly 34 GW of natural gas capacity, with a weighted average design heat rate of 11,218 Btu/kWh, retired during that period.
Over time, as more combined-cycle units have been installed, they have made up a larger portion of the natural gas generator fleet and accounted for a larger share of natural gas-fired generation. In 2015, natural gas-fired combined-cycle technology operated at an average heat rate of 7,340 Btu/kWh. In contrast, simple-cycle natural gas-fired generators, which encompass several distinct technology types (gas turbines, internal combustion engines, and steam turbines), operated at a consumption-weighted average heat rate of 9,788 Btu/kWh. Combined-cycle systems accounted for 75% of total natural gas-fired generation in 2006. By 2015, this share had increased to 85%. The increased use of the more efficient technology resulted in a lower overall average operating heat rate for natural gas-fired units.
Fuel-efficient driving can save you hundreds of dollars in fuel each year, improve road safety and prevent wear on your vehicle. Adopt these 5 fuel-efficient driving techniques to lower your vehicle’s fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 25%.
1. Accelerate gently
The harder you accelerate the more fuel you use. In the city, you can use less fuel by easing onto the accelerator pedal gently. To be as fuel-efficient as possible, take 5 seconds to accelerate your vehicle up to 20 kilometres per hour from a stop. Imagine an open cup of coffee on the dashboard. Don’t spill it!
2. Maintain a steady speed
When your speed dips and bursts, you use more fuel, and spend more money, than you need to. Tests have shown that varying your speed up and down between 75 and 85 km per hour every 18 seconds can increase your fuel use by 20%.
Consider using cruise control for highway driving, where conditions permit. Be mindful, however, that little variations in speed can actually be good when gravity does the work. Where traffic patterns permit, allow your speed to drop when you travel uphill, then regain your momentum as you roll downhill.
3. Anticipate traffic
Look ahead while you’re driving to see what is coming up. And keep a comfortable distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you. By looking closely at what pedestrians and other cars are doing, and imagining what they’ll do next, you can keep your speed as steady as possible and use less fuel. It’s also safer to drive this way.
4. Avoid high speeds
Keep to the speed limit and save on fuel! Most cars, vans, pickup trucks and SUVs are most fuel-efficient when they’re travelling between 50 and 80 km per hour. Above this speed zone, vehicles use increasingly more fuel the faster they go.
For example, at 120 km per hour, a vehicle uses about 20% more fuel than at 100 km per hour. On a 25-km trip, this spike in speed – and fuel consumption – would cut just two minutes from your travel time.
5. Coast to decelerate
Every time you use your brakes, you waste your forward momentum. By looking ahead at how traffic is behaving, you can often see well in advance when it’s time to slow down. You will conserve fuel and save money by taking your foot off the accelerator and coasting to slow down instead of using your brakes.
Take the free online ecoDriving course to learn more about how fuel-efficient driving can help you save money and reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.
More ways to use less fuel
Here are more easy ways you can reduce your fuel consumption and costs:
Avoid idling your vehicle
Turn off your engine when you’re stopped for more than 60 seconds, except when in traffic. The average vehicle with a 3-litre engine wastes 300 millilitres (over 1 cup) of fuel for every 10 minutes it idles.
Measure your tire pressure every month
Driving a vehicle with tires under-inflated by 56 kilopascals (8 pounds per square inch) can increase fuel consumption by up to 4%. It can also reduce the life of your tires by more than 10,000 kilometres. Find the right tire pressure for your vehicle on the tire information placard. It’s usually on the edge of the driver’s door or doorpost. Learn more about tire maintenance.
Use a manual transmission properly
Pay attention to the tachometer, which shows engine speed. Use it to know when to shift a manual transmission for the best fuel efficiency. The higher the rpm, the more fuel the engine is burning. So shift through the lower gears smoothly and quickly, and build up speed in the higher gears.
Don’t carry unnecessary weight
Remove items such as salt, sand and sports equipment from your vehicle. The less it weighs, the less fuel your vehicle will use. The fuel consumption of a mid-size car increases by about 1% for every 25 kilograms of weight it carries.
Remove roof or bicycle racks
Streamline your vehicle by taking off the racks when you’re not using them. Aerodynamic drag can increase fuel consumption by as much as 20% on the highway.
Use air conditioning sparingly
Air conditioning can increase a vehicle’s fuel consumption by as much as 20%. Open the windows when you’re driving in the city, and use the flow-through ventilation system with the windows up on the highway. If you do use air conditioning, use the re-circulate option. It will minimize the impact.
Use a fuel consumption display
See the impact of the 5 fuel-efficient driving techniques firsthand with the help of a fuel consumption display, a feature now standard on many vehicles. (Some newer vehicles come equipped with even more sophisticated displays that analyze speed variations, shift points for manual transmissions, and driving behaviours such as acceleration and braking times.)
Many drivers consume 15% less fuel by acting on the feedback that fuel consumption displays provide.
Track your fuel consumption
How long can you go without filling your tank? Two weeks? A month?
Challenge yourself to refill as seldom as possible and your monthly costs will come down.
- Map out your route, especially if it’s long
- Listen to traffic reports and avoid accidents, road construction and other trouble spots
- Avoid roads that cut through major cities and are dotted with stoplights, intersections and pedestrians
- Use four-lane highways when you can
Longer excursions let your vehicle’s engine warm up to its most fuel-efficient temperature.
- Run your errands one after the other
- Plan your route to avoid backtracking and rush-hour traffic
The best way reduce fuel consumption is to drive less.
- Walk or bike to your destination. You’ll use no fuel and have a healthier lifestyle
- Use public transit
- Join a car or van pool. You and your group will save fuel and avoid emitting tonnes of air pollutants a year
- Work from home when you can. Every day you telecommute reduces the amount of fuel you use by 20%
Committed to saving money and shrinking your environmental footprint? Use this personal action plan to achieve your goals.
Two models for estimating small power consumption and demand profiles are presented.
Predictions of energy consumption correlate well with metered data for both models.
Prediction ranges for power demand profiles are representatives of metered data.
Both models provide an improved method for predicting small power performance.
Small power is a substantial energy end-use in office buildings in its own right, but also significantly contributes to internal heat gains. Technological advancements have allowed for higher efficiency computers, yet current working practices are demanding more out of digital equipment. Designers often rely on benchmarks to inform predictions of small power consumption, power demand and internal gains. These are often out of date and fail to account for the variability in equipment speciation and usage patterns in different offices. This paper details two models for estimating small power consumption in office buildings, alongside typical power demand profiles. The first model relies solely on the random sampling of monitored data, and the second relies on a ‘bottom-up’ approach to establish likely power demand and operational energy use. Both models were tested through a blind validation demonstrating a good correlation between metered data and monthly predictions of energy consumption. Prediction ranges for power demand profiles were also observed to be representative of metered data with minor exceptions. When compared to current practices, which often rely solely on the use of benchmarks, both proposed methods provide an improved approach to predicting the operational performance of small power equipment in offices.
“Magnesium is an unsung hero in the mineral world and plays a role in a slew of functions in the human body including muscle function, energy production, bone health, nerve function, even heart health,” says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, CLEC. “And some studies show that magnesium can play a role in reducing anxiety and supporting sleep.” Current magnesium guidelines recommend 400–420 mg/day for men and 310–320 mg/day for women (more specific breakdowns here).
So what does that actually look like in terms of food? “There are a number of great food sources for magnesium,” says Sheri Kasper, RDN, LDN, a registered dietitian at FRESH Communications. Below, she highlights a few of the best.
The top 5 foods high in magnesium
1. Almonds (1 oz roasted): 80 mg
“A serving of almonds provides nearly 20 percent of the magnesium needed in a day,” says Kasper. “Additionally, they are rich in healthy fat, protein, and fiber.”
2. Spinach (1/2 cup cooked): 78 mg
According to Kasper, spinach is rich in many nutrients that most Americans don’t get enough of—including magnesium, fiber, and iron.
3. Black Beans (1/2 cup cooked): 60 mg
“Black beans are rich in plant-based protein, fiber, and many different vitamins and minerals, magnesium included,” Kasper says.
4. Farmed Salmon: (3 ounces cooked): 26 mg
“90 percent of Americans don’t consume the recommended eight to 12 ounces of seafood each week. Farmed salmon packs heart-healthy omega-3s, magnesium and is considered a best choice for pregnant women and children, so it’s safe for the whole family.”
5. Milk (1 cup): 24-26 mg
According to Kasper, dairy milk is rich in many essential nutrients needed to support bone and blood pressure, such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, and vitamin D.
Unfortunately, despite all these delicious and versatile options, Taylor Fazio, MS, RD, CDN, wellness advisor at The Lanby, underlines that about 30 percent of adults are deficient in magnesium. And while you can get magnesium through food, 50 percent of people in the U.S. consume less than the recommended daily amount.
The major problem is that most healthy people don’t experience symptoms of magnesium deficiency in the short term because the kidneys can compensate by retaining it more efficiently. Over time, however, deficiency can result in a few key symptoms.
Magnesium deficiency symptoms
Muscle Cramps: Among the symptoms that may signal a magnesium deficiency, Kasper says that one of the most common is muscle cramps. This is related to the fact that magnesium is involved in muscle contractions.
Fatigue and Weakness: “Because low magnesium is often associated with low potassium levels, which is believed to cause weakness, especially in muscles,” says Kasper.
Altered Heart Rhythm: “Magnesium, potassium, sodium, and calcium are electrolytes that help regulate muscles and many other body functions, including your heart. With extreme magnesium deficiency, some people experience a faster than normal heart rate,” says Kasper.
Neurological Symptoms: “Magnesium plays an important role in proper nerve function,” says Kasper. “When deficient in magnesium, some people experience neurological symptoms varying from a light tingling in extremities to a seizure.”
Osteoporosis: “Magnesium aids in the regulation of blood calcium levels, and, in turn, can impact the amount of calcium available to build and maintain strong bones,” says Melissa Rifkin, MS, RD, CDN. “A deficiency may lead to weaker bones and, if not treated, over time could lead to the development of osteoporosis.”
High Blood Pressure: “Current observational studies suggest a magnesium deficiency has been identified as a risk factor for heart disease and may raise blood pressure,” says Rifkin.
So. does this mean we should all preemptively supplement? No. Most people can get the magnesium they need from eating a diet rich in healthy foods like whole grains, nuts and seeds, vegetables, seafood, and dairy. That said, Kasper notes that certain life stages, some medical conditions and some medications require special attention to magnesium and may warrant supplementation. It’s important to discuss these factors with your doctor before taking a supplement. “Some of those special circumstances include pregnancy, individuals with low magnesium due to kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, and digestive diseases. Also, medications such as those used to treat osteoporosis, some antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors, and others may interfere with magnesium absorption in a variety of ways,” Kasper says.
Bottom line? Do as Popeye does, and eat your spinach.
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Office buildings, schools, hotels, hospitals, restaurants, and other commercial and institutional facilities use a significant amount of water and energy in their daily operations. Owners and managers of these types of facilities are increasingly aware of the need to use water more efficiently to reduce their risk to water shortages and increasing costs. There is a strong business case to be made for water efficiency.
WaterSense provides facility managers, building owners, and other stakeholders with a variety of resources and initiatives to help them save water, energy, and operating costs.
Your facility can start saving today by taking action:
Learn how different types of facilities use water and which WaterSense tools can help your facility save the most.
Make the business case and get started managing water use through planning, metering, and leak detection.
Read about the best management practices that can help reduce your facility’s overall water use. Implementing water efficiency at work starts with understanding a facility’s water-using processes.
Assess your facility’s water use with our free tools, view webinars, read case studies, and more. If you manage a CI facility and need help reducing facility water use, take advantage of the free resources.
Multifamily buildings can use the new EPA water score to measure and track building water use as a way to reduce operating costs and appeal to green-minded tenants.
Hotels can sign up for WaterSense’s H2Otel Challenge, which helps hotel managers get free recognition, outreach, and technical tools to save water, energy, and money.
Review additional resources to help facilities save water and energy, including information about ENERGY STAR® and federal facilities.
How to save money on fuel costs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
You can boost the overall fuel-efficiency of your car as much as 30%
by simple vehicle maintenance and attention to your style of driving.
Here are some tips on fuel-efficient driving that will not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, but could save you hundreds of dollars a year in fuel costs.
Tips for Fuel-Efficient Driving
Avoid Aggressive Driving
“Jack-rabbit” starts and hard braking can increase fuel consumption by as much as 40%. Tests show that “jackrabbit” starts and hard braking reduces travel time by only four percent, while toxic emissions were more than five times higher. The proper way is to accelerate slowly and smoothly, then get into high gear as quickly as possible. In city driving, nearly 50% of the energy needed to power your car goes to acceleration.
Deceleration also affects fuel efficiency. Instead of breaking to stop your car, anticipate traffic flow as much as possible and coast to decelerate. In fuel-injection vehicles, removing your foot from the accelerator automatically stops the flow of fuel to the engine until the engine speed drops to idle—when it starts again to ensure your car doesn’t stall. Coasting to decelerate also saves wear and tear on your brakes.
Drive Steadily at Posted Speed Limits
Maintaining a steady speed helps your engine perform efficiently. In one study conducted in Japan, small variations in speed were shown to increase fuel consumption by as much as 20-48%. Instead of allowing small dips in speed followed by bursts of acceleration, maintain a steady speed. When traveling in hilly terrain and where traffic permits, allow your car to slow down naturally when traveling uphill and to speed up again when going downhill.
Increasing your highway cruising speed from 55mph (90km/h) to 75mph (120km/h) can raise fuel consumption as much as 20%. You can improve your gas mileage 10 – 15% by driving at 55mph rather than 65mph (104km/h). Natural Resources Canada puts the “sweet spot” for most cars, trucks, and SUVs even lower, between 30 mph (50 km/h) and 50 mph (80 km/h).
Confluent develops and maintains confluent-kafka-dotnet, a .NET library that provides a high-level Producer, Consumer and AdminClient compatible with all Kafka brokers >= v0.8, Confluent Cloud and Confluent Platform.
For a step-by-step guide on building a .NET Client client application for Kafka, see Getting Started with Apache Kafka and .NET on Confluent Developer.
.NET Client Installation¶
confluent-kafka-dotnet is made available via NuGet. It’s a binding to the C client librdkafka, which is provided automatically via the dependent librdkafka.redist package for a number of popular platforms (win-x64, win-x86, debian-x64, rhel-x64 and osx).
To reference confluent-kafka-dotnet from within a Visual Studio project, run the following command in the Package Manager Console:
The dependent librdkafka.redist package will be installed automatically.
To reference confluent-kafka-dotnet in a .NET Core project, execute the following command in your project’s directory:
confluent-kafka-dotnet is compatible with the .NET Framework >= v4.5.1, .NET Core >= v1.0 (on Windows, Linux and Mac) and .NET Standard >= v1.3. Mono is not supported.
In addition to the Confluent.Kafka package, we provide the Confluent.SchemaRegistry and Confluent.SchemaRegistry.Serdes packages for integration with Confluent Schema Registry. For more information, refer to Working With Apache Avro in the repo README file.
.NET Client example code¶
For Hello World examples of Kafka clients in .NET, see .NET. All examples include a producer and consumer that can connect to any Kafka cluster running on-premises or in Confluent Cloud.
To create a .NET Producer, first construct an instance of the strongly typed ProducerConfig class, then pass this into the ProducerBuilder ’s constructor:
To write messages to Kafka, use either the ProduceAsync or Produce method.
ProduceAsync is very useful in highly concurrent scenarios, for example in ASP.NET request handlers:
Unless your application is highly concurrent though, it’s best to avoid synchronous execution like the above as it will reduce maximum throughput enormously.
To asynchronously handle delivery result notifications, you can use Task.ContinueWith :
Or you can use the Produce method, which takes a delivery handler delegate as a parameter:
There are a couple of additional benefits of using the Produce method. First, notification of message delivery (or failure) is strictly in the order of broker acknowledgement. With ProduceAsync , this is not the case because Tasks may complete on any thread pool thread. Second, Produce is more performant because there is unavoidable overhead in the higher level Task based API.
To create a .NET Consumer, first construct an instance of the strongly typed ConsumerConfig class, then pass this into the ConsumerBuilder ’s constructor:
The GroupId property is mandatory and specifies which consumer group the consumer is a member of. The AutoOffsetReset property specifies what offset the consumer should start reading from in the event there are no committed offsets for a partition, or the committed offset is invalid (perhaps due to log truncation).
The Consume Loop¶
A typical Kafka consumer application is centered around a consume loop, which repeatedly calls the Consume method to retrieve records one-by-one that have been efficiently pre-fetched by the consumer in background threads. Before entering the consume loop, you’ll typically use the Subscribe method to specify which topics should be fetched from:
Note that disposing the consumer instance after you are finished using it (achieved with the using block in the above example) will ensure that active sockets are closed and internal state is cleaned up. In order to leave the group cleanly – i.e. commit final offsets and trigger a group rebalance which ensures that any partitions owned by the consumer are re-assigned to other members in the group in a timely fashion – you additionally need to call the Close method prior to disposing.
Auto Offset Commit¶
By default, the .NET Consumer will commit offsets automatically. This is done periodically by a background thread at an interval specified by the AutoCommitIntervalMs config property. An offset becomes eligible to be committed immediately prior to being delivered to the application via the Consume method.
This strategy introduces the potential for messages to be missed in the case of application failure because the application may terminate before it finishes processing a particular message, whilst the offset corresponding to that message may be successfully committed to Kafka by the background thread.
Furthermore, this strategy may also introduce duplicate processing in the case of application failure since offsets are only committed periodically.
The C# client allows you to commit offsets explicitly via the Commit method. In the following example, a synchronous commit is triggered every commitPeriod messages:
This approach gives “at least once” delivery semantics since the offset corresponding to a message is only committed after the message has been successfully processed.
If you reverse the order of the processing and commit, as well as commit before every message (not just periodically), you will get “at most once” delivery semantics.
You should generally avoid blocking network calls (including synchronous use of Commit ) because of the ramifications for throughput.
The auto offset commit capability in the .NET Client is actually quite flexible. As outlined above, by default, the offsets to be commited to Kafka are updated immediately prior to the Consume method deliverying messages to the application. However, you can prevent this from happening by setting the EnableAutoOffsetStore config property to false . You can then use the StoreOffsets method to specify the offsets you would like the background thread to commit, and you can call this precisely when you want. This approach is preferred over the synchronous commit approach outlined in the previous section.
The below example uses this approach to achieve at least once delivery semantics without blocking the main processing loop:
We’ve all heard the need to support local businesses. Buy local, eat local, go local. But sometimes buying locally can be difficult—whether in price, availability or convenience. Still, choosing community businesses can be worthwhile and worth advocating.
When it comes to supporting local business, you’re not just helping your community—it supports you too. Check out these reasons why going local helps you out in the long run.
1. Strengthen your local economy.
According to Civic Economics, for every dollar you spend at an independent business, 3 times more money is returned into the local economy, compared to that spent at a larger chain (50 times more compared to an online retailer). This money is going right back into the community you live and work in, helping support valuable programs for yourself and your family.
Small businesses often give back to the community in other ways: donating, buying or financially backing other independent groups. When small businesses are strong, the community and local economy are strengthened as well.
2. Create more jobs.
Not only is your local economy strengthened when you shop locally, but you also help create more jobs. These jobs could go to your friends, family or neighbors—people who would probably experience much more competition at a large chain store. Or, these jobs could go to you, just from doing your part to support the community.
3. Reduce environmental impact.
Locally owned businesses often make more local purchases for their products, requiring less transportation and outsourcing. They typically consume less land, locate closer to residents and create less traffic and air pollution. All of this leads to less congestion, less habitat loss and less negative impact on the environment. While this may not impact you immediately, it can definitely impact your children and grandchildren in the future.
4. Lower your taxes.
Everyone loves lower taxes, and supporting your local businesses can help do just that. Small businesses use land efficiently and have central locations which puts less demand on roads, sewers and safety services. Even more, independent businesses often generate more tax revenue per sales dollar. This means a greater percentage of local businesses helps to keep your taxes lower, as compared to mega stores.
5. Improve your family’s health.
When it comes to buying produce and choosing places to eat, local food distributors and restaurants are often the healthier choice for yourself and your family. According to GrubMarket, buying local food has numerous health benefits—opening you up to the world of organic fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meats, fresh eggs and dairy provided by grass-fed cows. This means you and your family can enjoy a tasty meal, while supporting the local community and choosing the healthiest option.
When it comes to choosing local businesses, helping the community means helping you, too. Whether it’s aiding the economy now or building a better world for future generations, small businesses are here for you. But first, they need a little support from you.
Reducing energy use in your home saves you money, increases our energy security, and reduces the pollution that is emitted from non-renewable sources of energy. If you are planning to install a small renewable energy system to make your own electricity, such as a solar electric system or small wind turbine, reducing your electricity loads is the first step because it allows you to purchase a smaller and less expensive system.
First look at your utility bill. The national average electricity consumption is about 1000 kWh/month. If you use more, even greater savings may be possible. There are many ways you can reduce electricity use in your home:
- Appliances and electronics— Purchase energy-efficient products and operate them efficiently. Use an advanced power strip to reduce “vampire loads”–electricity that is wasted when electronics are not in use. — Purchase energy-efficient products, operate them efficiently, and incorporate more daylighting into your home using energy-efficient windows and skylights. — Purchase energy-efficient electric systems and operate them efficiently. Incorporate passive solar design concepts into your home, which include using energy-efficient windows. Properly insulate and air seal your home. Select an energy-efficient heating system that doesn’t use electricity.
- Electric water heating— Purchase an Energy Star heat pump water heater and operate it efficiently.
- Reduce your “always-on” appliances. If your home has a smart meter and you can see your hourly consumption, then examine your consumption at 3AM. It should be significantly less than your use at 7pm. If it isn’t then you might have “vampire loads.”. Look for electronics that you don’t use (like VCRs!) or can switch off, or perhaps get rid of that extra refrigerator.
To improve the overall energy efficiency of your home, see the Energy Saver home energy assessment page.
Time-Based Electricity Rates
Many utilities are introducing programs that encourage their customers to use electricity during off-peak hours. The programs pass on the savings to you, the customer, through rebates or reduced electricity rates.
Smart meters and home energy management systems allow customers to program how and when their home uses energy. If you are able to shift your power use to off-peak times — such as running your dishwasher late in the evening — these programs can save you money.
Time-based rates are very attractive to owners of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles since typically these vehicles are recharged at night. See buying and driving fuel efficient and alternative fuel vehicles for more information.
With its thick pink crystals, Himalayan sea salt is attractive and fun to grind over the foods you prepare. You may have heard it touted as a healthier alternative to regular table salt, especially for those with high blood pressure. But are there any blood pressure benefits to these pink crystals?
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Blood Pressure and Sodium
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure, also called hypertension. Uncontrolled hypertension can lead to various health problems including stroke, heart attack, heart failure, metabolic syndrome, aneurysm, weakened blood vessels in the kidneys and dementia, per the Mayo Clinic.
A blood pressure reading of less than 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) systolic and 80 mm Hg diastolic (or "120 over 80") is considered normal, says the CDC. High blood pressure has two stages:
- Stage 1: 130-139 mm Hg systolic and 80-89 mm Hg diastolic.
- Stage 2: over 140 mm Hg systolic and over 90 mm Hg diastolic.
While age increases your risk of higher systolic blood pressure, per the American Heart Association (AHA), the ranges that define hypertension don't change by age.
There are a number of dietary means of controlling high blood pressure, and chief among them is reducing your sodium intake. According to the AHA, sodium pulls water into your bloodstream, which places extra pressure on the interior walls of your blood vessels. Therefore, scaling back on sodium in your food can help keep this pressure to a minimum.
Himalayan Salt vs. Other Salts
Are there nutrition benefits to consuming Himalayan salt compared to other salts? Not really. All salt is composed of the molecules sodium and chloride, and according to information supplied by the USDA, Himalayan salt, sea salt and table salt are all zero-calorie foods.
As for sodium content, brands may vary, but according to the USDA, Himalayan sea salt and Atlantic sea salt contain comparable amounts. However, Himalayan salt may contain less sodium than table salt — in some cases, up to 200 milligrams less per serving. This may allow you to sprinkle more Himalayan salt onto your food for less total sodium.
It is also true that, compared to table salt, Himalayan sea salt contains slightly higher amounts of certain micronutrients. Per Kris Sollid, RD, dietitian and senior director of nutrition communications for the Washington, D.C.-based International Food Information Council, Himalayan sea salt boasts more calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium than table salt. But this isn't necessarily reason enough to pay extra for the pink stuff.
"The micronutrient differences between types of salt are small, and their resulting impact on health is insignificant," he says.
Himalayan Sea Salt Benefits
In addition to its lower sodium content, you may have heard buzz that Himalayan sea salt has lots of additional health benefits as well. The internet is filled with claims that Himalayan sea salt can do things such as balance the body's pH levels, regulate blood sugar, improve sleep and more.
However, Sollid takes issue with these lofty promises. "Claims across the internet do not always align with established evidence from decades of published scientific literature. There is no research to support the claim that Himalayan salt is more beneficial to health than table salt," he says.
All told, Himalayan sea salt doesn't have any magical properties for lowering blood pressure. "If you have hypertension, the amount of sodium you consume is more important than what part of the world it comes from," Sollid says. The AHA recommends consuming less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, with an ideal limit of 1,500 milligrams per day for those with hypertension.