What are some easy, and delicious, ways to drink more water? If you’re like a lot of people, you’re not crazy about it. Fortunately, you can jazz up the taste with a few simple tweaks. You can even sneak in some vitamins, too!
It may not come as a surprise that coming into contact with cold & flu culprits are amazingly easy. Why? Because there are many common surfaces that we all touch, but that very few really stop to think about.
For example, did you know that the warm, wet inside of a sponge is prime habitat for bacteria to grow?
The National Sanitation Foundation at the University of Michigan suggests microwaving your sponge for two minutes every day to kill germs growing inside, as well as replacing your sponges once every two weeks.
We know what you’re thinking…what other areas do you touch every single day without even suspecting of being potential germ factories?
Your Desk. Desktops have actually been found to have higher levels of bacteria than toilet seats! Which actually makes sense – people spend several hours a day touching, eating on, and even coughing/sneezing on and around their desks. In addition, many desks aren’t cleaned at night because they are considered private areas.
An easy fix? Clean your desk regularly with an antibacterial wipe.
Your Purse/Bag. When not on a shoulder, most purses are resting on the desks (see above) or floors of restaurants, restrooms, movie theaters, cars, buses and sidewalks. A joint ABC News and University of Arizona investigation of 50 women’s handbags found that the outside bottom of the purses were teeming with bacteria, including fecal germs and those that can cause skin infections. The researchers found 6.7 million bacteria on one purse alone.
An easy fix? Wipe purses down from time to time with antibacterial cloths.
Your Everyday Public Buttons. The Kimberly-Clark study found that 41 percent of ATMs, 40 percent of parking meters and 35 percent of vending machines contained dangerous levels of bacteria. Debit card touch screens, elevator buttons and grocery shopping carts also have alarmingly high germ counts.
An easy fix? Whenever possible, try to use a tissue, glove, etc. when touching a commonly-used surface. Ideally, use an antibacterial cloth to wipe down a surface, such as a grocery cart, before using it.
Your Toothbrush. Germs thrive in moist environments – such as your toothbrush. Add that to the fact that research in the 1970s discovered toilets spew fecal bacteria into the air every time they are flushed, so chances are, your toothbrush is teeming with microbes.
An easy fix? Replace your toothbrush every three to four months and close the toilet lid when flushing. If you want to be extra safe, the Philips Sonicare FlexCare electric toothbrush has a UV sanitizer that kills germs.
Your Pillow. Chances are, you wash your sheets and pillowcases frequently, but when was the last time you threw your actual pillow in the laundry machine? Pillows contain mold, bacteria and dust mites, which can cause allergies. And several studies have demonstrated that they are one of the biggest sources of infection in hospitals.
An easy fix? Wash your pillows. Often.
Your Jewelry. There is a reason that doctors and nurses are required to remove jewelry in the operating room. A 1997 study found that health care professionals wearing rings carry significantly more germs even after hand washing than those who don’t. Those nooks and crannies in our favorite pieces can harbor germs.
An easy fix? Clean your jewelry as often as possible. Also, consider that silver is antimicrobial, so smooth jewelry made from this metal stays relatively germ-free.
Your Gas Pump. A 2011 study by Gerba and Kimberly-Clark Professional, the makers of products such as Kleenex and Scott, found that 71 percent of gas pump handles hosted bacteria in high enough concentrations to cause illness.
An easy fix? After pumping gas, wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer.
by Karen Johnston
It’s that time of year again – a time usually wrought with guilt and gravy, when we eat too much, spend too much, and absorb a year’s worth of stress in a matter of weeks. This season, take it easy on your purse, your health and the environment by applying some of these simple strategies for making your holiday festivities and feasting a celebration of your family, your community, and the local treasures available within your region!
• Transform shopping drudgery into fun foraging: We all spend more money during the holidays, so keep those dollars local, and avoid mall traffic and box store crowds by patronizing Main Street shops or one of the nearly 8,000 farmers markets and farm stands dotting our nation. Many feature special holiday and winter markets for choice local food specialties, wreaths and other decorations, and those one-of-a-kind gifts and crafts we all love. Take the kids, invite a neighbor or a shut-in along on your shopping forays – save by sharing gas costs and create a happy new annual tradition.
• Enrich your holiday feast with local ingredients: Living in Vermont, I often use maple syrup collected in my state to replace corn syrup, sugar and even vanilla. Local sourcing of high-use items like eggs, butter, milk, honey, breads and grains guarantees freshness, deliciousness, and the best nutrition money can buy. It also supports the local economy. When shopping at farm markets, stroll the booths, talk to vendors and sample their goods. Check for local labels and ask if foods come from within 50 miles of home.
• Mix up the main course: I know it sounds like blasphemy, but why not give yourself permission to eschew the traditional turkey this year, or at least shrink its poundage and allow Tom to share the spotlight with a second main course. Try out meats and fish that showcase your region’s very best, freshest, tastiest local offerings, such as baked ham in Virginia, Pacific salmon in Seattle, and Texas beef in Dallas. Be creative!
• Give local veggies a starring role: Dress up locally grown, Plain-Jane vegetables with unique flourishes. Serve broccoli and beans in a parmesan or béchamel sauce, or sprinkle with toasted sunflower seeds or add a sprinkle of fresh lemon. Try a new ratatouille or curried vegetable recipe that all your relatives will be asking for after dinner. It’s also a scrumptious way of getting the American Medical Association seal of approval: they recommend vegetables over meat in a balanced meal.
• Honor Native traditions: Explore the history of early Americans in your region and remember them in native food choices. Be sure to tell children and relatives why you selected native cranberries, corn, pumpkins and other foods for this special meal. The holidays are more than a time for feasting – they were, and are, a celebration of family, community, and gratitude for the natural abundance of this amazing and diverse country.
• Check the sources of exotic ingredients: When buying chocolate, coffee, pineapple, cinnamon sticks, olive oil and other ingredients from abroad, make sure they are fair trade labeled, that they aren’t manufactured with child labor and made with sensitivity to the environment. It does matter.
• Waste nothing: Set up a composting system or strategy for your holiday bounty of veggie peelings. If you don’t have a composter or pile, find a local gardener or farmer who does, or place your scraps in a local wildland – a way of honoring fellow creatures and enriching soils. However, do spread compost away from human habitation, since you might be inviting skunks to the feast!
• Choose cloth over paper: Paper napkins can’t be recycled. Replace them with colorful cloth napkins to add elegance and personality to your holiday table. Avoid paper towels too. I’ve lived without them for years, using washable hand towels instead. Haven’t missed the paper at all – a good year-round habit. It only makes sense to save some trees.
Plan now for next year: Use some foresight – harvest local crops and wild foods throughout the year, preserving them for your next holiday feast. I’ve picked autumn apples, and gathered and frozen summer blueberries, blackberries and strawberries for holiday baking extravaganzas and jams for gifting. Every fruity bite is full of sweet memories of foraging on sunny days gone by. Local harvesting is an activity you, your family and friends can share – a celebratory tradition that may endure for generations.
Happy Local Holidays!
Karen Johnston is an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant, former farmer, and community food activist living in Montpelier, Vermont. Contact her at [email protected]. © Blue Ridge Press 2012.
Young buyers are inching back into the new-vehicle market after several years on the sidelines, helped by easing credit and a slightly improving job market.
“Younger buyers have returned to market at a higher rate than any other age category,” according to a recent report by J.D. Power and Associates’ Power Information Network.
The young buyer group from teen years through age 35 is a hefty 23% of so-called retail buyers, the highest since 2008, according to Power. The retail sales category excludes multiple-vehicle sales to fleet buyers, such as rental-car and taxi companies.
Data from Polk, which tracks new-vehicle registrations, not sales, found a similar trend, showing buyers ages 18 through 34 are 12% of all new-vehicle registrations from January through July this year, the highest since 16.4% in 2007.
Power’s Thomas King, a senior director, says that high used car values could be helping younger buyers who have something to trade-in or sell. Credit is also easier to get, and “We are also seeing growth in longer-term loans, 72 months and over,” which reduces monthly payments, he says.
Long loans, however, can lock buyers into long ownership. It takes years before the loan balance is less than the value of the car, delaying the next purchase.
Still, the rebound is huge for car companies, which depend on an influx of youthful customers as their lifeblood. Younger shoppers don’t buy high-profit vehicles,at first, but if they can be well-served and kept loyal, automakers believe they’ll move up to very profitable models as they get older and richer.
Big gainers with young buyers: Hyundai and Kia. Polk says together they had 11% of the new-vehicle registrations by young buyers, up from just 5% in 2007. European makers, mainly Volkswagen, also grew, edging up to 4%.