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We are surrounded by human-made chemicals—more than 80,000 are in use in the United States today. Of those, only a few hundred have been tested for safety. Chemicals are so ubiquitous, they reach us before we’re even born: Researchers have found up to 300 contaminants in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies.

Experts suspect this cocktail of chemicals in our water, food, air and homes may be part of the cause of the rising rates of some cancers, autism, diabetes and obesity. Young children, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk. While it may seem overwhelming to get control of our world’s rampant, potentially harmful chemicals, cleaning up the chemicals in your life is easier if you take it step by step. You can get started by reducing the quantity of these 10 chemicals in your house and yard.

1. Phthalates

Phthalates are endocrine-disrupting chemicals used to make #3 plastic (PVC or vinyl) flexible. PVC leaches phthalates when it’s heated or worn down. Phthalates are found in personal-care products and detergents, often labeled as “fragrance.” Phthalate exposure has been linked to early puberty in girls, a risk factor for later breast cancer.

To minimize: Never microwave plastic containers. Store food in glass or metal containers. Avoid vinyl flooring, shower curtains, PVC pipes, and products with “fragrance.”

2. BPA

Bisphenol A (BPA) is an endocrine disrupter found in reusable polycarbonate (#7 plastic) food and beverage containers (including baby bottles); the lining of food and beverage cans; in PVC (#3 plastic); and on receipts and money. Research links BPA to breast cancer, miscarriage, erectile dysfunction and heart disease.

To minimize: Never microwave or heat plastic containers, and store food in glass or metal containers. Avoid canned foods—choose bulk, frozen or fresh instead. Some companies such as Eden Organic offer BPA-free canned food. Buy “BPA-free” reusable water bottles. Wash your hands after handling receipts or money.

3. Chlorine

Used as a disinfectant in municipal water systems, chlorine is toxic, even at low concentrations. Studies link chlorine exposure through ingestion and showering with an increased risk of heart disease, allergic reactions and miscarriages, as well as increased rates of bladder, colon and rectal cancers. Chlorine irritates the eyes, nose and throat.

To minimize: You can filter chlorine with a whole-house filter or with a chlorine-filtering showerhead and a granular-activated charcoal drinking water filter. Avoid swimming in chlorinated water.

4. Radon

Radon is a natural, odorless radioactive gas that can seep into homes from the ground. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer (and the leading cause for nonsmokers) and can be detected with a test kit.

To minimize: Test for radon with a simple test kit, then call in a radon remediation contractor if the levels are too high—4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher. Levels between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L can still pose a risk and in many cases can be reduced; consult a specialist.

5. PFCs

PFCs (perfluorochemicals) are persistent organic pollutants used on stain-resistant clothing and upholstery, cooking pans, fast-food wrappers, and inside pet food and microwave popcorn bags. Teflon, Scotchgard, Stainmaster and Gore-Tex are all PFCs. They have been associated with low-weight babies, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, liver inflammation and reduced immune function.

To minimize: Forego stain treatments on furniture or carpet; don’t wear clothing labeled stain- or water-resistant; avoid nonstick pans; pop popcorn on the stove; and choose personal-care items without “PTFE” and “perfluoro” in the ingredients.

6. Lead

Found in paint manufactured before 1978 and old plumbing, lead is a neurotoxin that can cause headaches, joint pain, high blood pressure, and reproductive and memory problems, as well as impair children’s brain and nervous system development.

To minimize: If you have peeling paint, (and your house was painted before 1978), clean up chips immediately and hire a certified lead abatement contractor. Do not remove lead paint yourself. Prevent chipping by sealing old paint with a clear, nontoxic sealant. If you suspect high lead levels, contact your doctor about lead testing for any children in the household.

7. Pesticides & Fertilizers

If it kills insects or weeds, it likely isn’t good for human health, either. Many common pesticides are known carcinogens. One chemical in many pesticides, dichlorvos, is associated with mammary tumors in rats or mice. Another, glyphosate, has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

To minimize: Don’t use chemical pesticides or fertilizers on your lawn. Buy organic fruits and vegetables, or grow your own without artificial pesticides or fertilizers.

8. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a flammable, pungent compound found in building materials, pressed-wood products, melamine (hard plastic) dishes and cigarette smoke. It can irritate the eyes, throat and mucus membranes, and cause headaches and nausea. Exposure may increase the risk of brain cancer and leukemia.

To minimize: Use “exterior-grade” pressed-wood products to limit formaldehyde exposure in the home. Before purchasing pressed-wood products such as plywood, paneling, particleboard, fiberboard, and furniture and cabinets, ask retailers or manufacturers about formaldehyde content.

9. Parabens

Parabens are used as preservatives in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. While no causal link with cancer has been established, parabens are controversial because they weakly mimic estrogen, and researchers have found measurable concentrations in breast tumors. Studies show that methylparaben (in some sunscreens) may react with sunlight to damage skin.

To minimize: Avoid cosmetics that list parabens or words ending in “-paraben” among the ingredients.

10. PBDEs & PBBs

Used as flame retardants in building materials, electronics, foam cushions and textiles, PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) and PBBs (polybrominated biphenyls) accumulate in blood and fat tissues. Endocrine-disrupting PBDEs and PBBs may alter children’s brain development and cause learning and behavior problems. Exposure can decrease thyroid hormone levels and negatively affect reproduction.

To minimize: Cover or replace cushions or car seats where foam pads are exposed. Avoid rigid polystyrene (Styrofoam) insulation.


American Lung Association
healthy indoor air information

Breast Cancer Fund
information on chemicals to avoid to reduce breast cancer risk

Environmental Protection Agency
radon testing and abatement

Environmental Working Group
guides to healthy products and chemical avoidance

list of most important produce to buy organic

nontoxic children’s toys and consumer products

Pure Bond Fabricator Network
searchable list of formaldehyde-free cabinetry and furniture

Skin Deep
Environmental Working Group’s cosmetics safety database

Alli Kingfisher, a state of Washington green building and sustainability specialist, is plotting to green her 1906 home in Spokane. Kelly Lerner, a Spokane-based architect specializing in healthy, energy-efficient homes, is co-author of Natural Remodeling for the Not-So-Green Home.

Read more: Mother Earth Living

Handcrafted All Natural Lye Soaps

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(BPT) – Life with kids is fast-paced, challenging and can be stressful. So, it’s always good to stay up on helpful parenting tips and advice – whether you’re a first-time mom, an experienced dad, or a seasoned grandmother.

Actor and comedian David Koechner – who appears in Anchorman and “The Office” – is the father of five children with the youngest, Eve, still in diapers. Over the past 13 years of raising children, David and his wife, Leigh, have experienced countless moments and mishaps – and have some great tips on how to tackle busy adventures in parenthood with honesty and humor.

“Find something your family enjoys doing together and make it a weekly activity,” Koechner says. “We have Friday night family night where we make a big dinner and play games. We purposely make a huge mess that takes all of our Koechner army to clean up – but it is fun and something we look forward to and do together every week.”

Here are more of David’s tips and advice for navigating messes and stresses with little ones throughout the whole day.

* Morning: With multiple children – getting everyone up and out the door can be a challenge. Even our youngest Eve is on the go and wants to join her brothers and sisters on the school bus. She tries to toddle off after them, usually in just her diaper. But, that’s why we like Huggies Little Movers Diapers – because she likes to ‘move it, move it’ – and with the SnugFit waistband her diaper stays in place and keeps her dry no matter what she’s trying to get into.

* Noon: By midday, it’s usually time to take a deep breath. Your schedule might have been thrown off course thanks to the messes that have popped up – but take a beat and try to laugh about it. Make a funny video on your phone and show it to your kids when they get home; you can make some pretty hilarious memories at the same time.

* Night: Ah, finally you can try to relax after getting up three times for glasses of water, tucks into bed and picking blankies up off the floor. Thankfully, Eve has stopped trying to climb out of her crib – we still keep a close eye on her, but know she’s safe and won’t be waking up with a leaky diaper. Huggies Overnites Diapers help her stay dry for up to 12 hours between her twists and turns so we’re able to actually get some sleep ourselves.

Remember to take things in stride. Try putting these tips and advice to the test in your own life and enjoy some laughs with your family.

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(ARA) – The crisp days of fall will soon be here, but a long dry summer has left many homeowners looking out on lawns and gardens overtaken with invasive weeds and vines. A yard full of these noxious plants is sure to make it difficult to enjoy the cooler outdoor temperatures.

In 2012, the nation faced one of the hottest summers on record in the last 60 years. With more than two thirds of the country experiencing severe to extreme drought, conditions were ideal for pesky weeds to flourish.

Weeds like dandelions, crabgrass and clover easily tolerate hot temperatures and dry soil, overtaking lawns and gardens and lingering throughout the cooler fall months. Ivy and other aggressive vines thrive in the summer heat, climbing and covering bushes and trees and ultimately killing the plants underneath with their shade.

Left untreated, invasive plants can quickly become health and safety hazards. Kudzu can grow up to a foot per day, causing tree limbs to break under its weight, damaging homes and outdoor living spaces. Common grass weeds like nettles and thistles sting and prick the skin, and contact with dangerous plants like poison oak, ivy and sumac cause moderate to severe allergic reactions in almost all people.

“Fall herbicide treatments are the most effective way to eliminate unattractive and potentially harmful plants from lawns and gardens so that those spaces can be enjoyed throughout the cool fall months,” says Aaron Hobbs, president of RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment), a national organization representing the manufacturers, formulators and distributors of pesticide and fertilizer products.

“This is the best time of year to eliminate invasive plants,” Hobbs adds. “Weeds move the products of photosynthesis like water, glucose and oxygen to their roots for winter food storage in the fall, enabling the roots to soak up herbicides as well.” Two to three treatments are usually all that is needed to completely destroy these types of plants.

Effective herbicide options exist for every type of weed and vine. The Environmental Protection Agency rigorously tests herbicides for potential human health and environmental impact before they can be registered and sold for use. As with all pesticides, users should always read labels and use and store products accordingly.

With just one or two follow-up treatments after an initial fall herbicide application, invasive plants are eradicated at the root, and people can take back their lawns and gardens to enjoy the beauty of fall.

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(ARA) – If spring makes our thoughts turn to love, the cooler temperatures of fall make many of us think about nesting – and, often, how much more we would love our home if we improved it a little. A sense of security is one of the most comforting aspects of home, so this autumn, why not focus on home improvements that can make your home more secure?

Improving the safety of your home doesn’t have to be an expensive or time-consuming proposition. Here are four simple DIY projects that can help make your house safer:

1. De-clutter, inside and out.

Most home improvement projects are either about creating space or improving the usability of existing spaces. De-cluttering inside your home can open up rooms and offer more flexibility in how you use and decorate the space. De-cluttering the documents you store in your home can help improve its security. Getting rid of sensitive documents you no longer need can reduce your overall exposure to identity theft. Be sure to shred all documents before discarding them. On the outside of your home, de-clutter around access points. Shrubs, trees and debris that obscure your windows and doors not only look bad, they can provide cover for burglars who might try to enter your home.

2. Upgrade your appliances.

While a new dishwasher or clothes dryer may make your life easier, when it comes to improving security, think about appliances like your paper shredder or home security system. Bizarre as it may sound, identity thieves have been known to pick through trash and reassemble poorly shredded documents. Fall is a great time to invest in a cross-cut shredder that will make such an identity theft tactic virtually impossible.

3. Lock it up

The dog sitter, babysitter, house cleaner, house sitter – how many people have had access to a key to your home in the past year? It’s prudent to switch out the locks in your home every now and then – especially if you have reason to believe your security might have been compromised. It’s even easier to “lock up” sensitive personal information. Invest in a locking file cabinet or fireproof lock box to store important documents. Lock up your technology by changing passwords and creating strong new ones that can help deter hackers, phishers and other scammers. Keep your computer security software up-to-date.

4. Enlist assistance

If you were building an addition onto your house, you would ask for help if you needed it. Sometimes you need help with security as well, especially identity theft prevention. Despite all the safeguards you’ve already taken to make your home more secure, identity protection is a round-the-clock job, and most of us could use some help with it. A comprehensive identity theft detection, protection and resolution product like ProtectMyID can help prevent the damages caused by identity theft.

Home improvements aimed at boosting your security don’t have to be big and expensive. Simple, cost-effective steps can help improve your home’s security. They key is to be proactive and focus on preventing a problem, rather than just repairing damage after it occurs.

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By adding more detail information with your keywords, most listings do very well in Garner NC City Guide.
The fee based listing (Lifetime Sponsored, Partner, Featured) are not just designed for great search-engine placement,

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(NAPSI)—Sooner or later, all car batteries have to be replaced. The good news is that by taking a few simple maintenance steps, you can avoid the cost and hassle of getting stranded with a dead battery.

Extreme Heat and Cold

Excessive heat and overcharging are the two main reasons for shortened battery life. Heat causes battery fluid to evaporate, thus damaging the internal structure of the battery.

A malfunctioning component in the charging system, usually the voltage regulator, can allow too high of a charging rate, leading to slow death for a battery.

Colder temperatures can also be a problem, increasing the thickness of the engine oil, making the engine harder to turn over and the battery work harder. This makes for harder starting.

Battery Tips

To help you get the most life out of a battery, the Car Care Council suggests the following:

• Have your battery tested—and replaced if necessary—in the fall and spring. This reduces the chance a dead battery will leave you stranded on the side of the road.

• Be sure the electrical system is charging at the correct rate; overcharging can damage a battery as quickly as undercharging.

• If your battery is the type that needs to be topped off, check it regularly, especially in hot weather. Add distilled water when necessary.

• Always replace a battery with one that’s rated at least as high as the one originally specified.

• Keep the top of the battery clean. Dirt becomes a conductor, which drains battery power. Further, as corrosion accumulates on battery terminals, it becomes an insulator, inhibiting current flow.

The Car Care Council is a national nonprofit organization providing information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign that promotes the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair.

For more information, visit

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Taking Steps to Manage Acid Reflux Disease

(ARA) – Acid reflux disease (ARD), also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), affects nearly 19 million Americans, and is characterized by heartburn occurring two or more days a week despite treatment and diet changes. Susan had lived with the symptoms of ARD for years until she went to her doctor and was diagnosed.

“I was busy and younger when my heartburn symptoms first occurred,” says Susan, a retired college professor and former clinical researcher from State College, Pennsylvania, who first experienced signs of ARD years ago. “I tried over-the-counter medications, such as antacids, which helped but not enough. I went to the doctor and he explained how acid reflux happens, and suggested that I should work to better manage my stress – which is hard for me.”

As time went on, it became harder and harder for Susan to ignore her heartburn symptoms. She began taking steps to better manage her heartburn symptoms, making several lifestyle changes, such as sleeping while propped up and trying to maintain a healthy body weight. Susan also tried to reduce her stress through such things like walking and other exercises.

“Working with my doctor, we were able to find a treatment plan that was right for me, which included taking the medication Dexilant,” Susan says. “I began taking Dexilant, and it helped relieve my heartburn symptoms. Each person’s experience with ARD is very personal, so the best thing to do if you have or think you might have acid reflux disease, is to speak with your doctor to find out more about the condition and what might be right for you.”

To help educate people like Susan who have ARD, Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Inc., the makers of Dexilant (dexlansoprazole), partnered with celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn on the “Don’t Let it Burn” campaign to raise awareness around ARD and the importance of finding ways to manage their symptoms, including diet and lifestyle changes. Lifestyle tips, music, heartburn-friendly recipes and more can all be found on

“It is very important for patients to be proactive and understand that if they experience symptoms of heartburn frequently, they should reach out to their healthcare providers to find out if what they’re experiencing is acid reflux disease, and if so, what courses of action might be possible to manage this condition,” says David A. Peura, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University of Virginia School of Medicine. “When I work with ARD patients, we counsel diet and lifestyle modifications, but often for many patients, a medication is also needed to manage the symptoms. One treatment option I prescribe for my appropriate ARD patients is Dexilant because it can offer up to 24 hours of heartburn relief.”

To learn more, visit You can also hear from celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn, and get tips, helpful information and facts about acid reflux disease, including:

  • Acid reflux disease can occur in both men and women, with varying severity of the disease among patients
  • Lifestyle modifications are part of a treatment plan to help manage a patient’s acid reflux disease. Some include:
  • Avoid common trigger foods, such as fried or fatty foods, citrus foods, onions, and tomato-based foods as well as alcohol, coffee and other caffeinated drinks, chocolate, peppermint and spearmint
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Eat small, frequent meals rather than large amounts of food at one time
  • Try not to wear tight-fitting clothing around your waist
  • Elevate the head of your bed 6-8 inches
  • Be smoke-free

About Dexilant (dexlansoprazole) 30 mg and 60 mg delayed release capsules

Persistent heartburn two or more days a week, despite treatment and diet changes, could be acid reflux disease (ARD). Prescription Dexilant capsules are used in adults for 4 weeks to treat heartburn related to ARD, for up to 8 weeks to heal acid-related damage to the lining of the esophagus (called erosive esophagitis or EE), and for up to 6 months to continue healing of EE and relief of heartburn. Individual results may vary. Most damage (erosions) heals in 4-8 weeks.

Important Safety Information

Dexilant may not be right for everyone. Do not take Dexilant if you are allergic to Dexilant or any of its ingredients. Serious allergic reactions have been reported. Tell your doctor if you get any of the following symptoms with Dexilant: rash, face swelling, throat tightness, or difficulty breathing. Symptom relief does not rule out other serious stomach conditions. People who are taking multiple daily doses of proton pump inhibitor (PPI) medicines for a long period of time may have an increased risk of fractures of the hip, wrist, or spine. Low magnesium levels can happen in some people who take a PPI medicine.

The most common side effects of Dexilant were diarrhea (4.8%), stomach pain (4.0%), nausea (2.9%), common cold (1.9%), vomiting (1.6%), and gas (1.6%). Dexilant and certain other medicines can affect each other. Before taking Dexilant, tell your doctor if you are taking ampicillin, atazanavir, digoxin, iron, ketoconazole, tacrolimus, or methotrexate. If you are taking Dexilant with warfarin, you may need to be monitored because serious risks could occur. Talk to your doctor or healthcare professional. Please see accompanying Prescribing Information for Dexilant.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

To hear more from Spike and to learn about the treatment option Dexilant, please visit

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Decorative painting: How to transform a room with a few simple strokes

(ARA) – Paint can do more than change the color of a room – it can add texture, pattern and visual interest. Today’s decorative painting techniques are simple and sophisticated alternatives to wallpaper, and a far cry from the dated sponge painting from years past. Whether you’re a painting pro or a DIY beginner, here’s how you can transform a room with a few simple strokes.

Textured techniques
Give any room an extra bit of “oomph” with textured techniques. Easy to do and requiring few supplies, they’re an excellent option for new DIYers. One simple technique is simulating the texture of fabric on walls – it makes any space feel warm and homey. To add a more masculine feel to a bachelor pad or study, use paint to create the appearance of leather on walls – apply a mix of glaze and brown paint to walls using a scrunched-up plastic bag to give the right texture. Once it is dry, use a roller to add a layer of brown glaze over it. You can also use textured techniques to easily create the look of linen for a light and airy feel, or to transform your walls to seem like wood or stone for an outdoorsy atmosphere.

A technique called combing is also great for those new to decorative painting – it’s simple to do and mistakes are easy to fix. To “comb” your walls, paint your base coat of color and let it dry completely, use a paint roller to apply a thin layer of clear glaze, and “comb” through the glaze with a special paint comb. If you don’t like your first attempt, simply apply another coat of glaze with your paint roller and start over.

Sophisticated stripes
Simple but stylish, stripes are an easy way to update your space. Vertical stripes create the feeling of high ceilings, making rooms feel spacious, while horizontal stripes add a modern, funky touch. For a subtle look, paint two-toned stripes in neutral hues – such as cream and taupe – or use the same color in two different sheens (i.e. glossy and flat). For a more dramatic redo, choose two contrasting colors, create multicolored stripes or paint stripes in a variety of widths to add extra interest.

When painting stripes, measure carefully and use a laser level to apply tape to ensure the lines are straight. Always remember to paint your base coat with the lightest color first since it will eventually become one of the stripes, and it is much easier to paint your darker colors over the lighter base. Then add the darker colored stripes, in order from lightest to darkest.

To create stripes with the sharp, crisp lines you’re looking for, choose FrogTape brand painter’s tape. Treated with patented PaintBlock Technology, FrogTape reacts with the water in latex paint to create a barrier that prevents paint bleed and helps ensure clean lines. For stripes, FrogTape is available in a Delicate Surface technology – it is great for decorative painting because it can be applied to fresh paint after only 24 hours.

Contemporary chevron
A chic alternative to traditional stripes, chevron, or zig-zag stripes, is a way to make a big impact on your room with minimal effort. Create a pattern of many chevron stripes, or go for major drama with fewer, wider stripes. Paint the pattern around the entire room, or add chevron to one focal wall. To get the look, use pencil or chalk to create a grid on the wall; use a level to make sure the grid lines are straight. Then, apply painter’s tape – FrogTape Delicate Surface is a good choice for this technique, too – to create the chevron pattern, utilizing your grid lines as a guide. After the painter’s tape is applied firmly to the surface, paint in-between the taped design. Lastly, make sure to remove the tape as soon as you are finished painting.

Stylish stencils
Make an ordinary space extraordinary with stencils. Nowadays, stencils are available in almost any shape and size. Buy them precut at your local craft store or online at, or create your own for a design that is completely unique. Add floral designs for a feminine look, or go classic with preppy polka dots. Stencil a chandelier shape for instant sophistication or paint a meaningful quote to add a personal touch to your space. Geometric patterns, damasks and paisleys also add spice to boring walls. Some retailers even offer wall size stencils, helping you to cover a large area with ease.

Whether you consider yourself shabby chic, prefer sleek modern looks or adhere to a more traditional style, decorative painting is a simple way to add flair to any space.  With just a few supplies and a free weekend, you can transform any room into a space you adore.

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Grow beautiful landscapes with less water

Grow beautiful landscapes with less water

(ARA) – Hot and dry weather provides reason enough to think about simple ways to save water while still enjoying beautiful yards and gardens. You may even find that your efforts to be water smart may improve the health and appearance of your plants.

During the summer, an estimated 30 to 70 percent of household water use takes place outdoors, depending on your local climate. Up to half of the water used to irrigate yards and gardens is unnecessarily lost due to evaporation, wind drift, watering non-plant areas due to poorly aligned sprinklers and simply overwatering.

With some easy steps, you can reduce your water bill, foster attractive spaces for you and others to enjoy and help protect water supplies for future generations. Do something good for your bank account, your yard and your planet by following these smart tips.

Plant smart

* Landscape to suit your lot and your climate. Choose grass or plants with low water requirements that will thrive in your local climate. Consider sun and shade areas, slopes and plant sizes for optimum growth. Group plants with similar water needs close together and separate lawn areas from planting beds.

* Keep soil healthy. Aeration helps improve water penetration and adding compost or fertilizer maintains plant health so they use water more efficiently. Mulch well around plants, bushes and trees. Two to 4 inches of mulch reduces evaporation, moderates soil temperatures and helps control weeds that compete for water.

* Maintain your yard regularly. Weed, prune and mow as needed. A well-maintained yard uses water more effectively.

Water wisely

* Set sprinklers to only water plants, not your driveway, sidewalk, patio or other hardscapes.

* Water at the best time. Watering during the heat of the day causes high evaporation loss. Watering early in the morning when winds are calm and temperatures are cooler minimizes evaporation by as much as 30 percent.

* Adapt watering to the season. Adjust how much you water based on seasonal weather and changing conditions. Weather-based timers are available and can make such adjustments automatically.

Maintain and upgrade automatic irrigation systems

* Inspect the system regularly. Check for leaks that can waste water and cause other problems. Also look for broken or clogged sprinklers that no longer operate efficiently.

* Check the pressure. Proper water pressure encourages more uniform water distribution and better sprinkler operation. Fixed spray-type sprinklers work well around 25 to 30 psi while sprinklers with moving streams of water work well at 40 to 45 psi. Water pressure regulation devices are easily added to valves to control a whole irrigation zone or can be part of individual sprinklers.

* Install a rain shutoff device. Rain sensors prevent irrigation systems from running when irrigation is unnecessary. These devices can reduce irrigation water usage by up to 35 percent and help extend irrigation system life. Sprinkler systems should never run in the rain and rain sensors can put an end to those wasteful situations.

* Utilize “smart” technology. Climate or soil moisture sensors and controllers evaluate weather or soil moisture conditions and automatically adjust the irrigation schedule so your landscape always receives the appropriate amount of water. The water savings can be significant and the convenience of these self-adjusting controllers is another great benefit.

* Consider drip or micro-irrigation for shrubs and ground covers. Rather than spray large areas with above-ground sprinklers, drip irrigation utilizes emission devices to deliver desired volumes of water to particular locations at or near plant root zones. Water drips slowly from emitters either onto the soil surface or below ground. Less water is lost due to wind and evaporation as a result, and weeds can also be reduced.

* Look for rebates. Many water utilities offer rebates for certain water-efficient products. Before upgrading your system, check with your local water provider for opportunities for free and discounted products.

Consider an irrigation professional

* Have your irrigation system audited. Hire a qualified professional to conduct a system review and uniformity test to ensure areas are being watered evenly and appropriately, and make necessary adjustments. Certified irrigation professionals have the training and skills to offer insight into unique watering challenges and can be located at

* Upgrade or invest in a new irrigation system. A water-efficient system requires a good design, quality components, proper installation and maintenance. Licensed and certified professionals can offer expert advice and services.

Although July is officially designated Smart Irrigation Month by the Irrigation Association and a number of states, it makes sense to promote smart irrigation every month of the year. Each individual effort makes a difference that results in more beautiful, productive and water-efficient landscapes for everyone to enjoy while conserving one of our most precious natural resources. For more information and helpful tips, visit

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How do you keep cash flowing? Small companies go online for answers

(ARA) – The Great Recession will probably be a subject of discussion and debate for decades to come, but one certain ideology has emerged from it: small businesses have had to reassess how they manage cash flow.

Lost and slow sales continue to be a top concern for nearly half of all small businesses, according to a recent Kauffman Firm Survey.

“In light of the recent economic challenges, many small businesses find it more important than ever to preserve cash flow by scrutinizing potential and current relationships with customers, vendors and other businesses,” says Adam Fingersh, senior vice president of Experian’s Business Information Services.

Large companies have always evaluated the viability and cash flow of potential and current customers, vendors and other business relationships. The economic challenges of the past few years now have many small-business owners doing the same thing.

“Maintaining a profitable business is a challenge that all business owners face,” Fingersh says. “Small-business owners especially feel this pressure because access to tools that enable them to effectively manage their business relationships have been too costly, too complex or too difficult for a small business to use.”

The Internet is helping small businesses overcome those obstacles. Online tools like Experian’s BusinessIQ Express, which launched in early May, help small businesses access, evaluate and monitor important financial information about current and potential customers, suppliers and other business partners. The idea is that the more informed small-business owners are about those they do business with, the better equipped they will be to make decisions that can help improve their company’s cash flow.

Knowledge of another company’s financial health can help small-business owners in scenarios such as these:

* A small company is approached by a potential customer whose business would represent a 50 percent increase in the small company’s revenue – and workload. The small company would need to hire employees and purchase supplies in order to meet the demand generated by the new customer. Knowing that potential customer’s payment history could minimize the risk of not getting paid in a timely manner by helping the small company decide whether to ask for money up front, and if so, how much – or decline the business altogether.

* A small company is competing with others to secure a significant piece of business from a new customer. Checking into the new client’s financial background, the small business learns that this customer has a strong payment history and no black marks on its financial records. Comfortable that the new customer will be able to pay its bills, the small business offers the client favorable payment terms that help win the business away from its competitors.

* A small business depends on suppliers to provide key materials for its products. Checking the background of those suppliers, the small-business owner discovers the supplier has stopped paying its bills – a red flag that the supplier is having financial trouble that will affect its ability to continue meeting the small company’s needs. The small-business owner begins to search for alternative sources of materials to ensure its ability to meet demand won’t be impacted if their current vendor goes out of business.

Online tools like BusinessIQ Express can help small businesses evaluate other companies to determine how likely they are to pay bills or deliver products or services on time, provide alerts and notifications of key changes in the financial condition of business relationships, and know when and how to collect outstanding debts and avoid future losses.

“Monitoring small-business relationships is essential,” Fingersh says. “Being able to evaluate, monitor and collect from business partners can help small businesses level the playing field as they compete in the marketplace with larger businesses that have historically had access to these types of tools and resources.”

Evaluating and monitoring each business relationship is a key component for small businesses to experience profitable growth. The more informed small businesses are about their current and potential customers, suppliers and business partners’ financial information, the better equipped they will be to make better business decisions and improve cash flow.

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