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We rely on plastics for nearly everything. From the decor in our homes to the machines we use at work (many of which might be made using the reaction injection molding process of combining two liquid components in a mold), this material is ubiquitous in our world. But unfortunately, it's also doing a lot of damage to the planet we call home. As a result, there's a need for more sustainable alternatives -- particularly biodegradable ones, as plastics can sit in landfills for a thousand years before ever breaking down. Now, a group of researchers from the University of Valle de Atemajac in Zapopan, Mexico think they've found the answer: the prickly pear cactus, which is the very species featured so prominently on the country's flag.
Global plastic production grew from 225 million tons to 311 million tons between 2004 and 2014. While this is excellent news for the plastics industry, it's not a positive development for the environment. Data shows that 8 million metric tons of plastics end up in our oceans every year -- and that's in addition to the 150 million metric tons that are already affecting our marine life. It impacts humans, as well, seeing as the plastic in our waterways and in our landfills makes its way into our food supply. In fact, we ingest more than 50,000 pieces of microplastic each year.
That's a startling statistic for many, but there may be hope. According to lead researcher Sandra Pascoe Ortiz, Mexico's popular prickly pear cactus could hold the key to creating an eco-friendly plastic that safely and quickly breaks down. Ortiz explained in a statement that the cactus pulp is strained into a juice, which is then combined with natural, non-toxic additives and stretched into sheets. The sheets could then be colored with pigments and used to create packaging. If the product ends up in a landfill or on the ground, it would dissolve in a month; if it comes into contact with water, it would take only a few days to break down completely. And if animals or humans happen to ingest it, there would be no negative health effects.
Although Ortiz admits her invention would not be the answer to all environmental issues, she hopes that it could potentially replace all other kinds of single use plastics being used. Tests are still being conducted and the process is currently restricted to the laboratory, but Ortiz hopes to have her patent request join the other 500,000 applications that will be received by the USPTO this year. She plans to look for development partners in early 2020 in order to pursue large scale production in an industrial facility.
Already, a number of companies have expressed their interest in supporting the venture, which means it may not be too long before we see this plant-based plastic on the market. But for now, you might want to keep reducing your single use plastic use and find additional ways to become more sustainable in your everyday life.
As summer starts turning into fall, now is the perfect time to adjust your home's energy usage for the cooler season. Energy expenses are one of the largest drains on your finances as a homeowner, and keeping up with the changing seasons for your home's energy use can help you save a shocking amount of money. If you want to save money on your utility bills just in time for back to school, use some of these hot tips to reduce your spending.
While it might seem counterproductive to spend money on energy-saving items for your home, you'll actually end up saving more by spending larger amounts now. Many homes have appliances or utilities that are outdated and wasting energy, particularly if you use these appliances often. In many cases, homeowners may not even realize they're wasting energy. The bathroom, for example, is one area of the home with many potential savings in store, especially if you're willing to renovate. Remodeling your bathroom can expect a return on investment of 70%, so it's well worth the purchase.
If you've been avoiding certain renovations and fixes on your home, doing so now will not only prepare you for the new season, but it can also cut down on energy spending. Roofing is one of the many major components in a home that can improve your energy usage. A metal roof, for example, can easily help save as much as 25% off of your annual home energy bill. Consider changing up the material in order to save some energy.
Not all energy saving fixes are going to necessarily take as much effort as renovation requires. Even small adjustments to your daily life can help cut down on energy costs as we move into a cooler season. Try switching out your lights from incandescent to LED, or moving to a programmable thermostat. These are small adjustments that decrease the overall amount of energy required to keep your home in good condition. You'll hardly notice the changes to your routine, but you'll certainly recognize how much you're saving as a result.
Work With Your Company
If your main concern when it comes to saving energy is environmental, it's important to get in touch with your energy company. Not all electricity sources are the same, and many are more renewable than others. Additionally, it's possible that your provider has switched your source of energy without you realizing that it's happened. This impacts both your bills and your carbon footprint. The average American home consumes 40% less natural gas than it did 40 years ago. Energy companies will often shift to alternative fuel sources when they find a cheaper option, like carbon.
While not all providers will offer renewable source options, many smaller providers will offer unique services like these. There are nearly 28 million small businesses in the U.S., and many are created with environmentally-friendly values in mind. Check out local energy providers near you to see if you can adjust your energy source to something more affordable and renewable.
Reducing your energy use and cutting down on your utility spending doesn't have to be complicated. The right energy company can work with you to help you reduce your consumption. Additionally, taking some extra steps at home, both through major steps like renovation and minor steps like routine changes, can cut down on the energy you use. What sort of changes can you see yourself making to reduce your energy spending this fall? Will you keep things the same as they were over the summer, or will you adjust for the season?
Technology is advancing at an incredible rate. Already, Americans can see the power of 5G networks on the horizon; considering the fact that wireless and mobile traffic is predicted to account for more than 63% of total IP traffic by the year 2021, the switch to the revolutionary speeds of 5G networks will be a boon to both businesses and their consumers. That being said, 5G can't operate alone; these remarkable download speeds (which are estimated to top out at 10 gigabits per second, or Gbps, a hundred times faster than the current 4G technology) and reduced latencies will place huge demands on wired infrastructure. Let's take a look at the give and take between the two.
Where Fiber Comes In
Fiber optic cables rely on specialty gases — specifically helium — of ultra-high purity (99.995% and above) to transmit data. They are able to offer improved speed, security, and bandwidth over traditional copper systems. In the past, fiber optic was preferred due to its ability to travel as far as 40 miles without losing signal strength; data fiber optics have been found to transfer around 15.5 terabits per second, or Tbps, which is far beyond what 5G is capable of wirelessly.
The relationship between fiber optic and 5G can be compared to the human bloodstream; 5G plays the role of the capillaries in a city's networking system -- but internet traffic will travel nearly its entire journey in the veins or arteries (fiber backhaul). Ultimately, the quality and reliability of wireless networks will depend upon the wireline, or fiber, network.
Now that we know how fiber optic cables serve to enhance 5G networks, let's examine the benefits that businesses can expect to see.
- Massive device connectivity: With such amazing speeds and almost no downtime, devices throughout the world will be connected to 5G networks, greatly improving communications. In fact, the International Data Corporation predicts that more than 30 billion devices will be connected to networks globally by 2020.
- Ultra-low latency: This is where businesses will shine. Latency describes the time interval between the stimulation and response. If a company website takes too long to load or respond to an inquiry, your customers will lose interest and move on. The industry expectation for 5G latency is less than 5 milliseconds; when you take into account the fact that between three to 10 website visitors out of every 100 "convert," ultra-low latency rates will be able to boost those numbers.
- Better capacity and coverage: Finally, 5G will offer more connection points within a smaller area. You'll be able to reach all of your customers in no time -- no matter where they're located.
The future is upon us. Although many changes are coming (like the ability to download a two-hour movie in just a few seconds), the backbone of a 5G network can only be supported with fiber.
Considering that the senior population continues to grow, it's no surprise that families are flexing their creative muscles in order for older folks to remain at home. In 2014, roughly 19% of Americans (or 60.6 million people) lived with multiple generations under the same roof. And one way to ensure that your aging relatives can live comfortably while maintaining their privacy and independence is to create an in-law suite in your home. But before you begin, you'll want to know a bit more about what goes into this process and what you'll want to prioritize during the renovations.
You'll have a few different options to consider when choosing the space for your future in-law suite. While you could build a new addition or a standalone structure for this purpose, neither of those options is the most cost-effective. In most cases, you'll end up converting a garage, an attic, a basement, or an unused room within the house. Garages will require HVAC setup, insulation, electrical outlets, plumbing, and other adjustments in order to meet residential building codes and to ensure comfortable and safe living will bee possible. For an attic conversion, you'll need to assess the habitable space, the stairwell, lighting, HVAC, insulation, and flooring issues. And with a basement, you'll need to ensure that it meets the legal egress requirements to prioritize safe escape or entry during an emergency, as well as dehumidification and flooding prevention. The space you choose will largely depend on your budget, the amount of square footage available, and the main priorities for these in-law suites (which we'll discuss below).
Before you launch into any renovations, you'll need to determine the features that must be included in the finished in-law suite. For one thing, privacy is a must. Certainly, you'll want to invest in window treatments, which 15.88% of survey respondents aged 18 to 29 purchased in 2018, to add some extra privacy to windows (especially if your relatives will be on the ground floor). But you'll also want to consider adding a separate entryway so that occupants can come and go without traipsing through the entire house. Ideally, the in-law suite should feel separate enough that no one feels overcrowded but connected enough that the entire family can feel free to spend time together when they want to.
Another important point to keep in mind is independence. An in-law suite needs to be a fully functional entity in and of itself. In other words, it needs its own bathroom and its own kitchen (or at least a kitchenette), as well as appliances and other conveniences, to ensure that people living there don't need to rely too heavily on the other rooms outside the suite. Since homeowners remodel more than 10.2 million kitchens and 14.2 million bathrooms each year, you'll need to add both of these rooms to your remodeling list.
When it comes time to remodel, you'll also need to consider universal design and accessibility. While your relatives may not yet have any mobility issues or disabilities to be worried about, that may not always be the case. If they wish to age in place, you'll need to make certain that the design concepts used throughout the in-law suite will remain functional even as physical or mental capacities deteriorate. That may mean adding in wider doorways, adjusting the height of toilets and bathtubs, choosing non-slip flooring, or opting for easy-to-handle hardware on doors and drawers. The better you can plan ahead for the future, the better this space will continue to serve your family as their needs change.
You may also want to consider the flexibility of this space before you start tearing walls down. It's possible that your in-law suite may be only a short-term solution or that you'd like to be able to use this area for multiple purposes. An in-law suite can also be used to accommodate out-of-town guests or may even allow you to turn your home into an income property. If you plan on turning the space into one you can rent out or use as a guest haven, you won't want to go too far overboard into aging-in-place design trends. It's definitely possible to find a happy medium between universal design and modern concepts that will appeal to guests or tenants of all ages. That's why it's important to determine the purpose of your in-law suite before you begin; otherwise, you may have to spend more money later on if your needs change.
Adding an in-law suite is a great way to ensure your loved ones are safe and comfortable during a pivotal time of their lives. It can also be an option for families to earn extra income or ensure guests enjoy their stay. But before you break ground, you'll want to put ample thought into your choice of space, the design, and the intended use. If you do that, you'll end up with an area that will add value to your home and to your lives in general.
The number of fast food restaurants throughout the U.S. has doubled since the 1970s, but more and more Americans are thinking a lot harder about the foods they consume. If the increased emphasis on vegan diets, gluten-free meals, antioxidant-rich foods, and other specialty plans is anything to go by, most of us are looking for ways to improve our health and overall well-being.
That said, some of these trends are more rooted in marketing schemes than scientific evidence. And even more concerning is the fact that these supposedly health-conscious recommendations could actually end up hurting a vital part of your body: your teeth.
In 2017, roughly 127.5 million American adults visited a dentist. While you might brush and floss every day, there are essential dietary components of good oral health, too. Before you delve into the latest health food craze, you might want to double check to make sure it won't end up causing damage to your pearly whites. Here are just a few trends you might want to enjoy in moderation (or avoid altogether).
In 2015, Americans consumed roughly 6.6 gallons of juice per capita. And while juice isn't necessarily bad in limited quantities, it does contain a lot of sugar without the fiber you'd get from eating whole fruit. What's more, there's really no evidence that a juice cleanse is good for long-term health; in some cases, this practice can be detrimental. Not only will your body naturally handle cleansing itself, but engaging in juice cleanses can also increase your risk of tooth decay. Highly acidic juices can soften your tooth enamel, as well. The same goes for apple cider vinegar, which is often seen as a cure-all for a number of conditions. These health trends really don't hold water, but if you do want to partake in them, you'll need to increase your dental care to compensate.
According to recent research, 67% of millennial customers say they love ordering healthy options at restaurants -- and it stands to reason that this extends to cafes and coffee shops, as well. Although almond and soy milk may be a welcome alternative for vegans or those who are lactose intolerant, it's important to be careful when using non-dairy milk alternatives. Many of these options are actually sweetened, so you'll want to make sure you're buying the options that have no added sugar to promote better dental health. And if you're not into using dairy milk, you might be missing out on calcium. Although many non-dairy milks are calcium fortified (and almonds naturally contain calcium), you should aim to use milk alternatives that contain at least 120 milligrams of calcium per 3.4 fluid ounces to ensure your teeth stay strong. These changes might be subtle, but you may reap the benefits at your next dentist appointment.
Of course, your diet should contain lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. But you might want to alter your produce changes based on your proximity to a toothbrush. That's because, like it or not, many fruits and veggies can stain your tooth enamel. Beets, for example, have become a popular addition to restaurant menus in recent years, but they contain strong pigment that can certainly stain. Blackberries, blueberries, and pomegranates are lauded for their health benefits, but they can result in staining, as well. The same can be said for tomatoes. You don't need to avoid these foods, but you may want to invest in an electric toothbrush and hydrate to keep your mouth cleansed of acids.
A good toothpaste can also help to fight staining, but not all products are created equal. Although charcoal toothpaste, for example, was all the rage last year for its supposed whitening properties, it may not be making a comeback anytime soon. That's because a recent study has revealed that charcoal toothpaste can actually cause permanent tooth discoloration and decay. According to researchers, the addition of activated charcoal in toothpastes has been proven to be nothing more than a "marketing gimmick," especially since these products have high levels of abrasives and most lack any fluoride whatsoever. Even more worrying is the fact that charcoal can end up absorbing essential nutrients the body needs -- and its whitening properties are virtually nonexistent, despite that 96% of charcoal toothpastes included in the study made whitening claims. If you fell victim to the plethora of Instagram influencers applauding these products, you'll want to discontinue using them and opt for a traditional toothpaste, instead.
Since oral health is a good indicator of overall wellness, it can really pay off to pay attention to our dental needs. Ultimately, it's way better to follow your doctor's or dentist's orders than to regard the internet as a reputable source of what your body really needs.
Approximately 40 million Americans, or 18.1% of the entire population, suffer from anxiety disorders. That's a startling statistic, although one that is understandable; nearly 80% of Americans suffer from debt, putting a lot of additional strain on day-to-day life.
Everyone has their own techniques and strategies to deal with the stresses and anxieties of their lives, but there are a few things that have been found to be universally calming. It's certainly true that many people need more than just additional relaxation in their lives, but discovering what soothes your stresses -- even if it's only in a minor way -- is absolutely worthwhile. Let's take a look at three easy-to-obtain sources of serenity.
Cannabinoid products are being sold all across the nation. Cannabidiol (CBD) accounts for 40% of the plant's extract and has been considered a viable treatment option for those suffering from anxiety, cognition problems, movement disorders, and pain. Though science has yet to prove the legitimacy of these claims, 80% of users report that they've found CBD products to be "very or extremely effective."
CBD oil can be found in everything from soap to tea. One of its most popular uses is for anxiety; the phytocannabinoid targets 5-HT1A, a receptor for serotonin that is believed to play the strongest role in anxiety disorders.
Research has shown that puzzles activate our brains while relaxing us psychologically, putting our brains into a meditative state. Many people might be surprised by this fact, but it makes a lot of sense when you think about it; when we focus on puzzles, we start paying attention to patterns.
"That's what a huge bit of the cortex is primed to do -- to spot [patterns]," explains Neuroscientist Daniel Bor. "Once we spot them we can assimilate them into our pyramid of knowledge and build more layers of strategy, and knowing how to do that makes us incredibly successful at controlling the world."
That out-of-control feeling contributes to most anxieties and stressors; by stimulating our ability to strategize, we feel more in control and therefore relaxed.
Recent studies have proven that having plants in an office space actually boosts productivity and employee satisfaction. It makes sense that the same effects would occur at home; the addition of just a few green houseplants can improve mood, concentration, and reduce stress levels. All you have to do is find species that work best for you. If you're terrible at caring for things, select a plant that needs little water and care, such as a succulent. If you're environmentally-conscious, opt for a bamboo plant -- the highly renewable resource grows to maturity in just three to five years.
There are many things you can do and changes you can make to help manage your anxiety and stress levels. If you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, give the above options a try; you'll never know if they make a difference unless you give them a chance.