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Going Eco-Friendly At Home: Three Ways You Can Get Started Today

Going Eco-Friendly At Home: Three Ways You Can Get Started Today

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) estimates that approximately 84 percent of residences will have sustainable features by 2018. When moving into a new home, one of the things that may spring to mind is the sustainability of your new home. A new place provides new opportunities to outfit your home with eco-friendly features whether they may be in the form of changes or included in the design plan. Building or designing an eco-friendly home is not only good in an environmental sense, but it is also a great financial move. It turns out that making the move towards sustainability could end up being one of the best things you could do for your new home and your bank account. Whether you are just moving into a home or renovating your home to update your style, check out these ways you can make your next home a little bit more efficient (and greener).

Invest in Insulation

One of the largest users of energy in your home is your heating appliances, particularly in larger or older homes. The Insulation Institute estimates that approximately 90 percent of homes in the U.S. are under insulated. During the winter months and cold spells, it is important that your heating system is capable of keeping your home warm. It is also one of the areas you can make the largest change in your energy usage and is a great tip when going green in your house. Making the investment into insulation in your new home when moving in can save you up to 80 percent in energy costs annually. Good insulation means your home will be able to hold the heat in longer, reducing the heating costs.

Begin by inspecting your home including your attic. Using the recommended guidelines from the Department of Energy, assess whether your home including its walls and roof are insulated to the correct levels and with the correct fibers. If in doubt ask your agent to arrange an inspection, and you can also ask the previous owners about the current insulation. Finally, don’t forget to insulate pipes and any fixtures. The use of an insulation blanket can reduce your heating loss by 25-40 percent each year.

Recycle & Reuse A Normality

One of the best habits to adopt when going green at home is to recycle and reuse. This habit can extend to many instances in your home. It may not be a practice previous owners followed, but it is a simple one to get started. If your new place comes with a garden, consider installing a greywater system which utilizes used water from your shower and other parts of your home and funnels it to water your plants afterward. For your fruits and vegetable, contemplate having or building a home compost. Using kitchen scraps or those vegetables that have gone bad to build a compost rich in nutrients you can then use in your garden.

Invest in Upgrades

Choosing to invest in energy efficient appliances when moving into your new home can save you up to 40 percent on your electric usage. Many appliances in the home that are used daily including washing machines and dishwashers are significant determinants of your water and electricity usage. However, due to the recent rise in support for sustainability, there is now a magnitude of energy star appliances available. It is important to take note of any installed appliances when preparing to move in and swapping them for a more energy efficient model before moving in. While some of the more efficient models may be more costly than the standard model, the savings they provide over their lifetime easily outstrips the extra cost paid. If you are after cheaper and simpler upgrades, then consider switching your shower heads to a low flow head. Within four months, they would have repaid their cost and reduces both your water and electricity usage.

More importantly, the secret to making your home eco-friendly lies in understanding your home and your lifestyle. Simply put, it is about becoming smarter in your usage in resources. You can choose to do a large overhaul and invest into it, or you can take smaller, simpler steps towards sustainability at home. Whatever your approach, it makes a difference so why not get started today?

Jenny Holt jennyholtwriter@gmail.com

Photo by Volha Flaxeco on Unsplash

Battling Stress when Moving to a New Country like Mexico


Battling Stress when Moving to a New Country like Mexico

The U.S. Department calculates that there are around nine million Americans living abroad, a significant increase from just four million in 1999. Meanwhile, a recent survey by money transfer company, TransferWise, stated that 35% of Americans said they would consider leaving the U.S., for three main reasons: better quality of life, a lower cost of living, and the chance to gain new experiences. Moving is seen by many as an opportunity to attain a more affordable education, lower taxes, and more affordable health care, but what many don’t realize is that a move can be a stressful life experience – and could potentially cost more than they had originally budgeted for.

Why is Moving so Stressful?

Moving to a new country is a source of stress for many reasons. It involves building brand new social networks and researching everything from healthcare to schools for children, neighborhoods, customs and etiquette, and the like. Moving to a country like Mexico may also necessitate learning a new language – which can be as entertaining as it is stressful if you aren’t learning at the pace you hoped. The practical aspects of a move can also cause anxiety. For instance, you may wonder whether or not to move your furniture or simply buy new items in Mexico. Moving with family pets and little children may also add extra stress into the equation, since you may need to take special precautions or measures to ensure all goes smoothly.

Facing Financial Stressors

The cost of living is considerably lower in Mexico, which is great news for your finances long-term. However, immigration costs alone will set you back around $1,500. As far as moving is concerned, there are firms which specialize in moving appliances and furniture to Mexico though you will need to set aside around $5,000 for this service. Stressors go beyond the actual cost of moving and extend the need to possibly sell property, cancel insurance plans, and the like. Take your time and make financial decisions slowly. Conduct all the research you need to, seek advice from a trusted financial advisor, and carefully weigh up all the pros and cons of moving.

Reducing Health Stressors

If you have either a temporary or permanent residence in Mexico, you can apply for the Mexican public healthcare system (the Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social or IMSS), but you will still need to ensure you are covered or be prepared to pay out-of-pocket for necessary services such as dental care, preventive care, and maternity care. The good news is that dentistry costs significantly less than in the U.S., which is one of the reasons why many Americans travel south of the border. Even if you are enrolled in the public healthcare system, you will still need to pay upfront for services, though you will be reimbursed for up to 80% of what you have paid out. Be aware that your IMSS coverage will need to be renewed annually for a fee of around $400 per year. Also, note that the IMSS does not cover pre-existing conditions. Many expats in Mexico have private insurance despite being enrolled in the IMSS, to reduce waiting periods and to have easier access to specialists. The amount you will have to pay very much depends on your age and health risks. Expect to pay between around $1,500 and $20,000. Before making a decision, obtain quotes from various insurance companies, to ensure you obtain as wide a coverage as possible for your dollar.

Building New Social Networks

Once financial and practical considerations are underway and you have arrived in Mexico, find local expat groups in your local area. Those who have moved before you will give you all the vital information you need, including information on interesting areas to live in, schools, sports installations for adults and kids, etc. Expats will also provide an opportunity for new friendships that will undoubtedly prove to be a vital source of support when you most miss home.

Fighting Stress Proactively

There are many steps you can take from a health stance to reduce stress. A sound Mediterranean-style diet comprising healthy proteins, Omega-3 fats, seasonal produce, and nuts, will go a long way towards keeping your immune system in good working order. Exercise is also key, with a bevy of studies showing the important role it plays in stress reduction. Finally, holistic activities such as yoga and meditation have been found to reduce (stress hormone) cortisol levels in a host of studies.
Any big move is exciting yet stressful all at once. Once research is conducted, and financial decisions are made, it is vital to make  stress reduction a priority. Sleep well, exercise regularly and take part in holistic, mindfulness-based practices to improve mood and vitality and to keep illness at bay. Finally, try to be sociable and meet other expats, whose knowledge and experience will be invaluable when it comes to setting you on the right path.

Jenny Holt <jennyholtwriter@gmail.com>

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