(StatePoint) Resolving to green up your act in the New Year? Here are just a few tweaks you can make right at home to substantially reduce your environmental footprint.
Make Appliance Upgrades
Home appliances are improving all the time, with many newer models designed specifically with efficiency in mind. If your home appliances, such as your washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator and HVAC system, are on the older side, it may be time to replace one or more of these items. Over time, you’ll offset the upfront cost with reduced energy bills. Plus, you’ll be helping protect the climate. Look for ENERGY STAR-rated products, which have met strict EPA standards.
Optimize Heating and Cooling
North American Technician Excellence (NATE) offers the following energy-saving tips to help you keep your home comfort system running at peak performance:
• Change your air filters monthly, or as directed by the manufacturer.
• Add weather-stripping and caulk around windows and doors to improve your home’s insulation. Improperly insulated walls, floors, attics, basements and crawlspaces waste energy and can also lead to moisture imbalance.
• Install a programmable thermostat to help regulate temperatures.
• Don’t keep clutter near your HVACR units, and don’t store anything next to them that could impede ventilation. Likewise, keep vents and returns free of obstructions. Don’t lay carpet over vents, place furniture over or in front of them, or obstruct airflow.
• Dry air feels cooler than moist air. A simple humidifier may make your home feel five degrees warmer.
• Even the most efficient system can suffer if it’s not properly maintained. For optimum comfort and sustainability, make sure all your HVACR installation, maintenance and other work is performed by a NATE-certified technician. NATE-certified technicians have demonstrated their knowledge of today’s increasingly sophisticated heating and cooling systems by passing a nationally recognized test developed and supported by all segments of the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning industry. Better installation and service means your equipment will run at peak efficiency. Visit natex.org for additional HVACR energy-savings tips and resources, and to find a NATE-certified technician in your area.
Reduce Food Waste
American food production uses 10% of the nation’s total energy budget, 50% of its land, and 80% of its freshwater, according to FoodRescue.net. Unfortunately, up to 40% of all food ends up in landfills. Label food items in your pantry and fridge and organize them by date to help ensure you consume food before it spoils. If you see that you’ve prepared too much of a certain item, freeze it. Of course, many foods produce unavoidable scraps. Use them to create stock or compost them. Composting will reduce your home’s contribution to landfills while enriching your garden. Bonus: it’s also a great way to reduce yardwork waste.
Make an Impact Today
Want a quick project you can complete in an afternoon? Swap out incandescent lightbulbs for energy efficient LEDs. According to the EPA, residential LEDs -- especially ENERGY STAR-rated products -- use at least 75% less energy, and last up to 25 times longer.
This year, consider making Earth-friendly New Year’s resolutions. A few tweaks can reduce your household’s impact on the planet.
PHOTO SOURCE: (c) maruco / iStock via Getty Images Plus
(StatePoint) While investing in your health and wellness can sound like an overwhelming goal, doctors say that there are easy, tangible resolutions you can make to feel your best and better protect your health.
“A new year is the perfect time to consider your personal goals, and how you can make positive health choices in the coming year,” says American Medical Association (AMA) President Gerald E. Harmon, M.D. “Small lifestyle changes today can have a lasting effect in improving your health.”
Not sure where to start? Consider these resolutions from the AMA:
1. Make sure your family is up-to-date on their vaccines, including the annual influenza vaccine for everyone age six months or older and the COVID-19 vaccine for everyone age five and older. Anyone with questions about the COVID-19 vaccines should speak with their physician and review trusted resources, including getvaccineanswers.org.
2. Learn your risk for type 2 diabetes by taking a simple online 2-minute self-screening test at DoIHavePrediabetes.org. Steps you take now can help prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.
3. Be more physically active. Adults should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity.
4. Know your blood pressure numbers. Take the time to visit ManageYourBP.org to better understand your numbers and take necessary steps to get high blood pressure -- also known as hypertension -- under control. Doing so will reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke.
5. Reduce your intake of processed foods, especially those with added sodium and sugar. Also reduce your consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and drink more water instead.
6. If your health care professional determines that you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed. Antibiotic resistance is a serious public health problem and antibiotics will not make you feel better if you have a virus, such as a cold or flu.
7. If consuming alcohol, do so in moderation as defined by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans -- up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, and only by adults of legal drinking age.
8. Talk with your doctor about tobacco and nicotine use and quit. Declare your home and car smoke-free to eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke.
9. If you are taking prescription opioids, follow your doctor’s instructions, store them safely to prevent diversion or misuse, and properly dispose of any leftover medication.
10. Manage stress. A good diet and daily exercise are key ingredients to maintaining and improving your mental health, but don’t hesitate to ask for help from a friend or mental health professional when you need it.
If you don’t have health insurance, the AMA also encourages you to visit healthcare.gov to sign up for coverage. You may benefit from recent changes that improve access and affordability. The deadline to enroll for 2022 coverage is Jan. 15, 2022. More health resources and tips can be found by visiting ama-assn.org.
For a happy, healthy 2022 and beyond, consider making these 10 doctor-recommended New Year’s resolutions today.
PHOTO SOURCE: (c) Ridofranz / iStock via Getty Images Plus
(StatePoint) Sticking to a schedule is good for health, wellness and productivity, and the start of a new year is the perfect time to form great habits. Resolve to adhere to a daily routine with the following tips and tricks:
• Write it down: The act of writing things down can help reinforce priorities. Keep a list of short- and long-term goals, events and meetings. Be sure to check items off your list as you complete them. Doing so can help you stay motivated.
• Get a good watch: Keep yourself accountable with a good watch. The line-up of Edifice watches by Casio are not only stylish, they contain must-have productivity features, such as multiple alarms, as well as countdown timers displaying the remaining time until the alarm beeps. They also connect with your smartphone and offer cool, sync-up features that help you keep your essentials organized, such as “phone finder.” If you prefer a sportier timepiece, Pro Trek watches offer similar alarm features, along with step counters and sensor technology like altimeters, compasses and more, all of which are great for hikes, fishing expeditions and other outdoor activities.
• Keep it consistent: Keep both bedtime and the time you awake consistent day-to-day. Doing so can mean better quality slumber so you will be more alert, energized and ready to tackle tasks. Consistent meal times can also be beneficial, helping you maintain your energy throughout the day, manage metabolism and avoid hunger.
• Don’t overdo it: It can be tempting to try to schedule more tasks and to-dos into your day than is actually realistic. Doing so however can leave you feeling constantly stressed, and always in catch-up mode. Be sure your schedule offers you sufficient time to actually complete tasks and travel between appointments.
• Practice self-care: Downtime is essential. Whatever self-care looks like to you, be sure to build it into your schedule, whether that means relaxing with a good book, getting together with friends or working out.
Make 2022 the year you finally create and maintain a well-balanced schedule. With wearable tech and smart habits, you’ll be more inclined to stick with the program.
PHOTO SOURCE: (c) Olga PS / iStock via Getty Images Plus
(StatePoint) The New Year offers the perfect time for a fresh start and a renewed commitment to getting finances back on track after a season of spending – one where many Americans felt the effects of the pandemic on their wallets even before the onset of the holidays.
In fact, COVID-19 has already prompted consumers to start thinking differently about their finances. According to Lincoln Financial Group’s Consumer Sentiment Tracker, 59% say they are planning to make permanent changes to the way they spend and save due to the crisis. The findings went on to show that consumers’ top three financial concerns in today’s market include emergency savings (41%), having enough income in retirement (40%) and inflation (39%).
“Our research found consumers are especially interested in protection during times of financial uncertainty, which reinforces the need for financial planning,” said Sharon Scanlon, senior vice president, Customer Experience, Producer Solutions and Retirement Operations for Lincoln Financial Group. “Everyone has competing priorities but making a few easy adjustments can help people achieve their financial goals.”
Here are three simple financial resolutions Lincoln Financial recommends for 2022 to help strengthen consumers’ financial outlooks in the new year:
1. Review finances holistically.
Ensure you evaluate the big picture – not just where you are spending, but where you are saving and protecting your future too. A simple budget will help you differentiate between needs and wants, enabling you to find areas to cut back or eliminate to find money to meet your financial goals, like retirement or emergency savings. Maximize online budgeting tools, calculators and other financial wellness resources available through your employer too.
2. Prepare for the unexpected.
Without the right protections in place, an unexpected event can derail retirement savings, disrupt your ability to provide for your family or drive you into additional debt. Look into coverages like disability, accident and life insurance that may be available through your employer or consider an individual life insurance policy. Also, commit to funding your emergency savings account as part of your budget. And don’t forget to think about how you would fund the cost of care if you or a loved one had a long-term care event.
3. Plan for the future.
Start with your employer-sponsored retirement plan and commit to save at least up to the match, if available. If you already meet the match, resolve to increase your retirement contributions each year, or with each increase in pay. You don’t just need a retirement plan, though – you need a plan for retirement! Consider diversifying your portfolio with an annuity. Also, in-plan guaranteed income options can serve as a powerful tool to protect savings during periods of market volatility, while still benefitting you when the market goes up.
In addition to these resolutions, also consider meeting with a trusted financial professional who can help you identify solutions that best meet your individual needs and situation. Visit www.lfg.com for more tools and resources.
With a few proactive strategies, you can get 2022 started on the right financial foot.
PHOTO SOURCE: (c) Kerkez / iStock via Getty Images Plus
(StatePoint) It’s no secret that many people wait for a new year to commit to implementing better habits. They’ll start eating more vegetables next week, they’ll cut out wine with dinner next month, and they’ll use their gym membership next year. These are things you’ve heard before, and likely even things you’ve said yourself. So how do you make resolutions you’ll stick to?
Declutter. Have you ever intended to use a free weekend to clean and organize and then felt defeated by the enormity of the task? If you resolve to declutter, start with one room a month, slowly working your way through your space.
Celebrate with friends. Ever get so busy with commitments that you forget to celebrate those who mean the most to you until a special occasion comes around? Celebrating at these times is certainly nice; but imagine how your loved ones would feel if they knew you were going out of your way to connect with them and celebrate an ordinary day?
With SmashUps from American Greetings, you don’t have to wait for a birthday or holiday to send a personalized message to friends. These customizable ecards allow you to send greetings celebrating, encouraging and congratulating, any time. Start the year by sending one friend or family member a SmashUp each week. You can even schedule them so you’ll never miss a moment. You’ll likely make their day and feel pretty good for the rest of yours, too.
Create a sleep routine. Many people realize just how worn out and tired they are at the end of the year. When holiday breaks arrive, they may find themselves more inclined to relax and sleep than to celebrate. Starting in 2022, create a sleep schedule and stick to it. By sleeping enough each night, you’ll likely wake up feeling refreshed, ready to take on commitments and energized to do more of the things you enjoy.
Read a dozen books. Setting overly ambitious goals can be a downfall for New Year’s resolutioners. Create small, realistic goals for a better chance of really sticking to them. For example, if your resolution is to read more, make it your goal to read one book per month. By tying a number and timeline to your goal, you’ll feel a sense of pride when you accomplish it and be motivated to continue.
Make meals at home. Many people start the year with the intention of “eating healthier,” but don’t define what that means and get off track fast. You might start by committing to cooking dinner at home once a week. After a long day of work, ordering in or eating out can be tempting, but by committing to cooking once each week, you’ll save money and likely eat more healthfully. It can also be a fun activity to look forward to with your spouse, roommate or children. The same can be said about your morning coffee. Instead of making a daily stop at Starbucks, find a coffee you love and make it at home.
With smart strategies, you’ll be able to see how your new habits have become a normal part of your daily routine by the end of the year.
PHOTO SOURCE: (c) Jacoblund / iStockPhoto.com
(StatePoint) Whether your New Year’s Resolutions include eating healthier, exercising more, or devoting more time to self-care, having a plan can help you reach your goals on a budget.
This new year, consider the following tips from the experts at Dollar General:
Preparing food that is healthier, tasty and affordable is easier when sticking to recipes and a budget. To help customers make healthier decisions, Dollar General partnered with a registered dietician and nutritionist to create “Better For You” recipes from ingredients available at every Dollar General store. The complete collection can be found at dollargeneral.com, and includes simple, budget-friendly recipes, such as loaded egg muffins, roasted broccoli almondine and secret ingredient brownies, making it easy to whip up something delicious and nutritious at each meal.
A healthy dose of self-care can make you happier and healthier. Self-care may include adopting a new hair care routine, experimenting with skin care products, or learning a new recipe. It may also mean taking time to meditate, read new books or spend less time on electronics and more time with friends and family. Be sure to dedicate time on the calendar every day to self-care.
To begin 2022 with a fresh perspective on finances, make a budget that includes household essentials. While food is one budget line item that can fluctuate, you can be sure to save by taking advantage of retailers’ apps that help you shop savvy. For example, the Dollar General app includes digital coupons, a Shopping List feature so you can take note of needed items and calculate the estimated total before going to the store, and a Cart Calculator feature, which keeps a running total of purchases while you’re in the store. Understanding budgets, sale items and available digital coupons before shopping can help keep you from overspending and hopefully support your financial stability goals.
Regardless of your plans for the new year, adopting a few smart strategies can help ensure you meet your goals affordably.
PHOTO SOURCE: (c) HAKINMHAN / iStock via Getty Images Plus
The custom of eating pork on New Year's is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress.
The animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving.
Roast suckling pig is served for New Year's in Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, and Austria—Austrians are also known to decorate the table with miniature pigs made of marzipan.
Different pork dishes such as pig's feet are enjoyed in Sweden while Germans feast on roast pork and sausages.
Pork is also consumed in Italy and the United States, where thanks to its rich fat content, it signifies wealth and prosperity.
Cooked greens, including cabbage, collards, kale, and chard, are consumed at New Year's in different countries for a simple reason — their green leaves look like folded money, and are thus symbolic of economic fortune.
The Danish eat stewed kale sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, the Germans consume sauerkraut (cabbage) while in the southern United States, collards are the green of choice.
It's widely believed that the more greens one eats the larger one's fortune next year.
Noodles and Grains
Noodles are symbols of long life, and grains like rice, quinoa, and barley stand for abundance. Slurp the noodles whole for even more luck.
* Yellow cornbread should also be included with your meal to ensure gold is plentiful in the coming year.
Two Days After Christmas
'Twas two days after Christmas, and all thru the house
all the creatures were exhausted, even the mouse
Empty stockings still hung by the fireplace this year
the kids emptied them so fast, they were on a tear
The kids were still playing, plenty of toys to spare
while visions of credit card bill still gave me a scare
With ma in her her bathrobe, and I in my slipper,
I just settled with a cup of coffee and the daily paper, and a plate of fresh kippers
When over by my window, there arose such a clatter
I sprang from my armchair, to see what was the matter
Away to the window I flew like a bird
and passed a great looking purple insula-tor
The sun shone in the window and bathed us in its light
and passed thru that purple insulator, and it looked just oh so right
The light dazzled and scattered and reflected off the walls
it was prettier than the Christmas lights, the decorations, and balls
There's something majestic, so special, so right,
when the sun hits an insulator in a manner just right
But the cats were playing by that window by far
and I had to prevent them from turning the treasures to shards
The floors were all covered with boxes and ribbon,
paper and packages, coats, hats, and mittens
But I got to the window in just the nick of time
to save those insulators that were mine, mine and mine
As I admired my collection, while the kids played their games,
I whistled and shouted and called them by name
Oh suspensions, Oh ponies, Hello beehives and tolls,
hello threaded (but no threadless), some new, most quite old
The weather outside, with the sun was till freezin'
but I was warmed by the glow of this holiday season
The world isn't perfect and is quite far from quite right
in some senses it gives one quite the right fright
But with the sunrise tomorrow and with its first light
it will hit that insulator the same, and scatter its light
And so I'm reminded to spread this good cheer,
not just now but also the rest of the year
And so with apologies to the late Clement Moore,
I'll wrap this up and finish this score
As life marches on, with its good times and bad,
I wish you all the best, and hope that you are glad
Now my bad rhyming and meter shall close,
with my best wishes for all the best in the New Year,
Happy Collecting, and no more bad prose!
By: Jeff Nucciarone
We could all use some good fortune in 2022.
Every culture has its own ways to ring in a lucky new year. Sometimes, you have to start the year off with good luck foods to make sure you get going on the right foot. (Beans, round foods and noodles seem to be high on the list, as well as some lucky desserts!) Other times, what you wear is indicative of what will come your way, be it health, money or love. Then again, where you are when the clock strikes 12 might be more important than what you're wearing — so get ready to jump into the new year. And since everyone wants to start the year off with a blank slate, there are certain things you can do to rid your home of bad vibes and welcome in the new.
So, no matter how you choose to celebrate New Year's Eve, be it with a lavish New Year's Eve dinner that spans two years, a quiet night at home watching New Year's movies or a planning session that starts making wishes, see if you can take some time to squeeze in one of these New Year's good-luck traditions as well. Because we could all use some good fortune coming our way in 2022!
Have Hoppin' John for New Year's Day Dinner
It's said that anyone who makes this dish of black-eyed peas, pork and rice on January 1 will experience luck and peace for the rest of the year. And maybe prosperity, too: According to History.com, "Hoppin’ John was, and still is, often eaten with collard greens, which can resemble paper money, and 'golden' cornbread. The peas themselves represent coins. Some families boost the potential of their Hoppin’ John by placing a penny underneath the dishes — or adding extra pork, which is thought to bring more luck."
Get the recipe for Hoppin' John with Greens »
Or Try Something Else Round
Many cultures believe eating round foods on New Year's Eve will lead to prosperity. In Italy, lentils in a New Year's dish serve the same function as the black-eyed peas in Hoppin' John, with their round shape representing coins. And in the Philippines, it's customary to eat 12 round fruits, one for every month, to ensure a year of abundance. The fruits usually take center stage at the table for the media noche, or the midnight meal.
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
If you thought that your country’s New Year’s celebrations were the norm, just wait until you check out the following infographic!
Some of these traditions are crazier than others, but in a good way. You might even find that you’ll want to incorporate some of these ideas in your 2016 New Year’s celebrations (the one about wearing red underwear in Italy definitely sounds like a fun idea to me)!
Did any of these New Year’s traditions surprise you? Do they make you want to visit that country, and experience these unique celebrations first hand? Comment below!