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Ways to Go Green In Your Kitchen

Ways to Go Green in Your KitchenMost of us agree that keeping our planet and ourselves healthy should be a priority. However, we know that to get started “Going Green” takes some dedication and a bit of an upfront investment. But it’s well worth it! And you don’t have to start all at once…

Our goal is to see as many people as possible taking the steps to make 2018 their greenest year yet. God gave us stewardship of this planet and we take that very seriously. So we’ve committed to help – for the next year, we’re going to sprinkle in a few tips every month to help you gradually transform your home (and your life!) into an energy efficient, eco-friendly castle.

And we’re starting… In the Kitchen.

The Refrigerator

The only appliance that works harder in Florida than your AC Unit is your refrigerator. Despite the origins of the name – RE-Fridge-rator, it’s meant to keep food cool pretty much all the time. Anything you can do to help it, is going to save energy use and your electric bill. So:

  • Keep it full – a fuller fridge means less air to continuously keep cool. And less of that air escapes when you open the door. Which reminds us…
  • Know what you want before you open the door. It’s not just your teenagers that stand there staring into the void. And that frigid gaze is costing you $30-75 per year.
  • Use the recommended factory settings, or slightly below. The companies do a lot of testing to determine energy efficiency. But there’s always a little wiggle room, and the lower the setting, the less the compressor will run, especially if you’re keeping it well-stocked.
  • Defrost food inside. This is actually healthier and safer than leaving it in the sink or on the counter, and it transfers the energy loss (cold to warm) and the moisture to the refrigerator, meaning it works a little bit less.
  • Make sure the seals work – loose seals can cost you countless dollars in higher power bills as the cool air seeps out. To test your seals, close the door on a dollar bill. If you can pull it out easily, or if it just slides out on its own, you’ve got a problem.
  • Give it room to breathe. Leaving space between the wall and the coils on the back means they generate less heat and can expend it easier, reducing your energy costs, and the increased airflow lets them operate easier.
  • As an added bonus, consider unplugging the automatic ice maker, water dispenser and cool electronic gadgets on the front. While these are all intended to reduce energy use and add convenience, they also add heat to the system that the fridge must compensate for. But we understand if you don’t want to go that far.

Shopping Green

Getting back to keeping that fridge full. A lot of us have already invested in washable, reusable bags to take grocery shopping. When we remember them, that is. But that’s just the beginning. Here are a few other shopping tips to help maximize the sustainability of your kitchen.

  • Plan ahead. Keeping your kitchen well-stocked means less trips to the grocery store, and less gas & time wasted. Do menus for each week so you know what you’ll need to buy and how much, so you only head to the store once, and keep that fridge full. And if you do come up short on an item, consider if it’s really needed, and if a substitution can be made from what you have on hand.
  • Buy products with less packaging – less packaging means less trash. Not only can you save trips out to the cans outside, you’ll be reducing the build-up in landfills. Experts say we generate about 4.6 pounds of trash per person each day, amounting to 230-Million TONS of trash each year, just in the United States. And only 25-30% of that is recycled.
  • Recycle everything you can. First, know what’s recyclable. Then know where you can take it. Most counties and communities on the Gulf Coast of Florida issue each household a recycling bin. Some are already transitioning to the large garbage can sized ones they use in other states. Use them, and fill them with paper, plastic, aluminum, glass, cardboard & milk jugs. Even soiled items. The more we recycle, the better it is for all of us.
  • Eat less red meat, less often. Yeah, this isn’t our favorite either, and trust us, we aren’t trying to convince you to go vegan. But consider this – cattle take up a lot of space, then generate both methane and nitrous oxide, contributing 18% of our greenhouse emissions – more than car exhaust. So maybe just cut back a little.

More Quick Tips

Dishwasher vs Dish Washers – running the electric dishwasher uses 37% less water than hand washing. But only if the dishwasher is full. If you only use a few dishes per day, fill up one sink with soapy water, one with clear, turn the faucet off and save the electricity. This also works great to help train your kids to be more responsible. If you don’t mind a few water spots, you can also turn off the heat dry option, or just wipe the dishes dry yourself as soon as the cycle finishes.

Which Oven When – if you’re a small family, or only preparing a small meal, instead of kicking on the big, heat-generating oven, you can use a toaster oven, slow cooker, convection oven, or, yes, the microwave. When you’re cooking on the stovetop, use the smallest size pan you can – and put it on the smallest burner it fits. Also, when baking, you really don’t need to preheat anymore. Just turn the oven on when you’re ready to start – it’ll add maybe 3-5 minutes to the baking time, but save hundreds in electric, gas and AC bills.

Put a Lid on it! Cooking without lids can use up to three times as much energy as covering the pan. If you find yourself short on lids, look for one-size fits all options that are ribbed to fit various sized pots and pans.

Go Chemical Free – you don’t have to throw everything away at once and start over, but as you run out of cleaning products, replace them with organic, natural alternatives for harsh chemicals. You’ll feel better and will often find they’re more effective than what you’re used to. It’s the same for pest control. We’ve shown your neighbors from Lakewood Ranch to North Port that 100% organic, all-natural pest solutions are more effective and more affordable in the long run. If you’d like to find out for yourselves, give us a call!

So it’s really not that difficult to go green, if you take it one step at a time. Next up in our series – Going Green in the Bathroom comes in a couple of weeks!

Extreme Bugs: The Brightest – Fire Beetle!

Extreme Bugs Fire BeetleIn the award-winning film by Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water, the filmmaker’s latest creature creation in moments of extreme emotion lights up with a strange, otherworldly glow. The makeup and effects people working on the film managed this with a special UV paint and say they were inspired by several undersea and insect creatures in real life that exhibit bioluminescence!

The glowing insect most of us are familiar with is the summer firefly, although there is some debate as to whether or not they appear in some parts of Florida. However, as bright as those little guys you collected in a jar are, the Extreme Bug we’re highlighting today is the brightest of all – the Fire Beetle!

Meet the Fire Beetle

Fire Beetles, or Cucujos as they are called in Mexico & South America, are a species of beetles known as click beetles. They got the name from their ability to flex and snap their body segments, with, you guessed it, a “Click!” sound.  They use this ability to launch themselves into the air, or get their bodies turned right side up, especially when faced with a predator.

Pyrophorus noctilucus are similar to fireflies (who’re also a beetle) in their ability to glow brightly from two light organs at the bottom of their first torso segment. Instead of flashing their light on and off like fireflies, the Fire Beetles glow constantly, although they can get brighter to startle an incoming predator. They have the bioluminescence in every stage of development, including laying glowing eggs!

While flying around, the two glowing spots on its back and one on its abdomen shines bright – up to 45 millilamberts. How bright is a millilambert? The glow from the Fire Beetle is as bright as a single LED flashlight. But unlike the flashlight, the Pyrophorus noctilucus generates 100% of their energy in light. A standard flashlight only gives out 10% of light, the rest of the illumination coming from the heat the flashlight generates.

When they’re not glowing, Fire Beetles are mostly brown and measure an inch to an inch-and-a-half long. And we do see them from time to time in Florida, along with our Caribbean neighbors. They eat mostly pollen, aphids and scale insects that munch on your garden, so they’re helpful to have around.

Of course, if you’re discovering other creepy-crawlies around your home and yard, give us a call. Our highly trained staff are experts at taking care of just about every pest you’ll encounter, from rodents to insects. And we do it all with 100% organic, all natural solutions. For year round protection, our most popular solution from Bradenton Beach to Port Charlotte is our exclusive Go Green Plus 3. A full house treatment and 3 annual visits to bolster your protection. We’d love to have you join our family of satisfied customers!

“Green” Date Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is coming up quick! And while we know that the day is traditionally celebrated by expressing your love for another human being, there’s no rule that says you can’t express your love for God’s creation at the same time. Especially if it means saving a few bucks too.

Now, we’re not recommending that you try these just because they’re cheap – they’re also creative, fun, and can be romantic. Don’t just buy your beau a box of chocolates and some flowers (emphasis on the word JUST), enjoy an out of the box Valentine’s experience they’ll always cherish.

Get In – or Out – to Nature!

Believe it or not, there is a world out there to explore that isn’t on your phone. Take a jaunt to one of our parks with a picnic basket and a camera and enjoy the great outdoors. Enjoy a traditional PB&J or egg salad sandwich, then take a hike or seek out some wildlife or exotic plants you can only find in Florida.

Visit one of our award-winning beaches – or better yet, visit one of the less well known beaches for a fun romantic stroll in the surf. Siesta Key, Lido Beach, Longboat Key, Nokomis and Manasota are always nice.

St. Armand’s Circle may be known for the shopping, but you don’t have to spend money to enjoy the old town Florida feel. Wander around the circle, check out their historic Lutheran church, and maybe even pop in to grab some Ben & Jerry’s.

Combine a road trip and a nature adventure! Check out one of the many historic park areas on the Gulf Coast of Florida like Spanish Point, Oscar Scherer State Park, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, or the Gamble Plantation,

It’s a little longer drive, so pack a lunch and zip down to Ding Darling to see the ancient mangroves, flocks of flamingos, other rarer birds, reptiles and amphibians. You might even catch Barbara Manatee! You could even linger long enough to take a stroll on one of the nice beaches they have nearby.

Go for Some Heavy Petting

A word of warning – this may lead to an unexpected new family member! Plan a trip to the local animal shelter or rescue and keep your idle hands busy with some new furry friends. Find a place where they let the dogs or cats roam around and share the loving. Some shelters will let volunteers walk the dogs.

We don’t have one of those fancy cat cafes they have in some cities, but here on the Gulf Coast of Florida, we did them one bigger – for under $20 per person, you can check out the Big Cat Habitat! Plus, they don’t just feature Florida mountain lions and tigers, but also bears, camels, and Chance the Chimp and his primate pals.

Artsy or Crafty

If you’ve got a shared interest in art or history, what better place to get closer than one of the Gulf Coast’s many varied museums? In addition to the outdoors historical sites, we’ve got the nautical Maritime Museum, the Railroad Museum in Parrish, Manatee Village, Art Center Manatee (which also offers classes) – or really immerse yourselves at the Village of the Arts! Not only can you visit Bradenton’s best art galleries, but because it’s an arts community, you can actually watch the art being created!

Sure, they made a movie about PT Barnum, but he’d be far less remembered if it weren’t for his late partners in the circus, John & Mabel Ringling. Check out the circus museum, as well as their palatial home right out of the Great Gatsby, Ca’ d’Zan.

If you like going hands-on, book a couple hours at Arts A Blaze, the Artful Giraffe or stop by the ‘open’ Craft Bar for some fun do-it-yourself-without-too-much-work pottery, painting and crafts galore. What better way to find out if you’re ready to tie the knot than by actually trying to?

Try Photo-Mining

You’ve heard of photo bombing? This activity takes a little more pre-planning, but can be great fun, especially if you want to do a group dating challenge. A photo scavenger hunt involves choosing specific items to look for, but rather than collecting them, you’re snapping pics. The more challenging a photo is to get, like having to interact with strangers, or work cooperatively, the higher points it’s worth. There are several places online to download hints and lists of ideas.

Or, as an alternative, simply pick a starting place and a final stop and grab random photos of interesting things – in alphabetical order. No cheating! The hardest part is remembering the proper order without resorting to reciting your Kindergarten training songs.

Having a fun romantic, and most importantly, memorable Valentine’s Day (or weekend) doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. When done right, it really is the thought that counts (although you really should keep the chocolates and flowers in the mix – trust us on this!).

If you’re planning to end your Valentine’s Day adventure in a, well, more adult fashion, you’ll want to keep your eyes out for bedbugs. Yep, they’re not just for hotels anymore! Luckily, Good News Pest Solutions is experienced in ridding your home of bedbugs and various other creepy crawlies that can put a damper on your romantic evening. Ask any of our happy customers from Lakewood Ranch to North Port, they’ll tell you the best thing they did to get rid of pests was to give us a call! And have a happy, romantic Valentine’s Day, however you choose to spend it.

Genetically-Modified Rats: Great Idea or Ecosystem Disaster?

Genetically Modified RatsNot too long ago, any type of genetic manipulation was the stuff of science fiction books and movies like Jurassic Park and Gattaca. And while we’re still decades away from the human genome being selected or edited, the same is not true for the lab rats of the world. That is to say, literally, the rats that are in the lab.

The experimental technology, known as Gene Driving, was first developed to try and eliminate malaria carrying mosquitoes.

If you remember your high school biology lessons, you’re familiar with the fact that there are two sets of genetic markers that make up each strand of DNA – one from the father and one from the mother. To simplify, when an egg is fertilized, the two strands of 23 alleles combine to form 23 pairs of chromosomes to form the DNA of every cell in a human being.

And the system works similarly for other mammals, just in different quantities.

Gene Driving interrupts the natural genetic process by overriding the natural biological processes with engineered genes that cause the rats to have, instead of shared genetics between their father and mother rats – they only have the mother’s genes.

If all rats were female, they couldn’t reproduce. And if this sounds familiar, it’s a variation on the method Michael Crichton proposed in his dinosaur novels. After 4 movies and a 5th on the way, I think we all know how that ended. (Hey, weren’t mosquitoes part of that too?)

Life Finds a Way?

And while no one is worried that rats are going to escape from their island and eat the humans, there are some in the scientific community that are concerned about other consequences when “Life finds a way.”

To put it more specifically, they’re concerned that such genetically engineered organisms could have an irreversible impact on the ecosystem. It’s not just about genetically engineering sterility or reducing aggression. It’s more that they’re concerned that we are fiddling with nature without fully comprehending what the consequences could be.

And while some are calling for a complete halt to all of the research related to gene driving, the researchers who developed the process point out that completely abandoning the research means that we may never understand it, and it could be a very effective way to cut down on several disease-carrying and crop-devouring insects and rodents.

Unlike the typical science fiction B movie plot, however, the original researchers are adamant that they need to better understand the animals and the ultimate result of their existence in nature before releasing them from the lab.

The next step in the process, they say, would be to develop an engineered gene drive that is self-limiting. Instead of taking out a whole species, it could temporarily slow generational growth – for example, stop rabbits from breeding, allowing the population to be more easily controlled.

The hope that these scientists in Scotland cling to is that we can find a better way to try and control the spread of harmful parasitic viruses and diseases that cause things like malaria and dengue and zika virus. It is becoming harder to develop vaccines and the diseases themselves mutate to be resistant to treatments, while at the same time their transmission partners (the mosquitoes) become more resilient to traditional pesticides.

Like it or not, and despite the moral implications, we might find ourselves having to develop mutations to fight nature’s mutations in order to survive.

Luckily, we have a solution – for the mosquito problem at least – that doesn’t require  potentially harmful pesticides. Our exclusive No Bite Zones have turned biting, blood-seeking female mosquitoes into vegans, from Punta Gorda to Lakewood Ranch, and lets them pass it on to their offspring. Suddenly your rainy season isn’t as buggy and the mosquitoes get to fulfill their God-given purpose of pollinating. Give us a call today to find out more!

5 New Year’s Resolutions… For Your House

5 New Year's Resolutions for Your HomeIf you’re like most of us, you either made some resolutions or set some goals for yourself for the coming year. The start of a new year is a nice signpost for initiating a change. So we decide to lose weight, read more, eat healthier, watch less TV, save money and exercise more. But why stop there? Why not make some resolutions to improve the place you spend most of your time?

Here are some short-term and longer ranging goals you can set to give yourself a better home.

Defend Against Hidden Dangers

A safe home is a good place to be. That’s why you invested in smoke detectors, right? But there are other unseen dangers to be informed about.

Every time you do a load of laundry, you clean the lint trap. Or at least you should – studies show that almost a third of Americans don’t clean their lint trap – which costs you significantly in energy bills, as well as posing a fire danger. On top of that, even when you DO clean the trap, there’s 3-6 feet of dryer vent where excess lint can catch on its way out of the house. You should clean this out at least twice a year, but to truly ensure safety, experts recommend cleaning it every 3-4 months. Start now, then mark the next 3 dates on your calendar.

In addition to smoke detectors, many homes now have carbon monoxide detectors installed. If you haven’t, strongly consider it. Even in Florida, chimney flues and furnace vents get stopped up – especially since we use them less frequently – and can cause a CO leak that can silently kill you.

Similarly, 21,000 people each year die from lung cancer caused by radon. According to the EPA, 1 in every 15 homes has elevated levels, so the $20 cost of a test kit is well worth it.

Reduce Clutter

One thing most of us are guilty of is collecting and saving far too much stuff. Not only is it a bad habit, but it’s one our kids will also pick up on. That doesn’t mean you have to get rid of everything, or do some yearly purge. First off, be conscious and intentional about what you keep. Go paperless with your bills and take advantage of digital options for space stealers like DVD’s, books and music – especially if its material you only partake of once or twice a year or less. And when Christmas comes around again, consider giving or asking for one of these greener gifts!

And as much as doing a big spring cleaning or garage sale appeals to some, you may get overwhelmed with the amount of work you imagine it will take. Choose instead to go area by area – each month clearing out another room or closet and donating unneeded items to charity – the write off is likely worth more than the 25-cents you’d get at a garage sale anyways.

A word of warning – don’t clean one room by just mov— er, reorganizing it into another room. Actually go through everything. It’ll take less time than you think, especially if you get the whole family involved!

Work Out a Weekly Routine for Keeping Your House Clean

And speaking of the whole family… Nobody said that you have to clean the whole place by yourself. Nor do you have to be solely responsible for keeping it all clean. Everyone in the family can and should pitch in to keep the house presentable.

Start with making sure all dishes go in the dishwasher, if you have one. Or be like my grandparents who hand washed the dishes after each meal. Either way, don’t pile them up in the sink to attract bugs and rodents, or smell up the place. Similarly, everyone is responsible for making sure their clothes go in the hamper, jackets get hung up, and stuff like keys and backpacks and phones are placed in the appropriate spot each day before bed.

Assign each member of the family chores, and rotate them so everyone gets to do their most and least ‘favorite’ each month. Each person gets one or two tasks: dusting, sorting laundry, vacuuming, taking out the trash, filling & running the washing machine, changing sheets, cleaning the bathroom, hanging the clothes out to dry, turning on the dishwasher.  Once you get into the rhythm, you can get a whole lot done in just an hour or two.

Preparing to Entertain

How many opportunities to spend quality time with family and friends is lost because we’d be embarrassed to have them see how the house really looks? Hopefully, the weekly routine helps eliminate much of that problem. The next step is making sure your home is inviting to guests.

Now that our TV’s hang on the walls, it’s harder to hide them when company comes over, but they don’t have to be the centerpiece of your home either. Have a room that’s organized and ready for guests – plenty of comfortable seating, good lighting, some candles and floral accents can really open a place up and make it feel welcoming.

Wanna go a little further? Add a splash of color to the walls. Nobody likes to look at white or beige all the time. Add a little wine red, pastel yellow, or eggshell blue to one or more rooms – or all three – and make it feel like your home is an oasis from the boring and cliché.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

We’ve mentioned several of these in other posts, but it’s always good to remember – it’s never been easier – or cheaper – to be environmentally friendly than it is now. Install a low-flush toilet, low-flow showerheads, and only do laundry when you have a full load. Consider redoing your lawn with approved native Xeriscaping. Plus, some Florida counties have rebates you can take advantage of to defray some of the cost of water saving improvements, inside and out.

Replace your light bulbs – not only do LED and CFL bulbs last longer and use less energy, they also tend to give off more illumination without increasing the temperature in the room. And regardless, turn the lights off when you leave the room.

Set your thermostat at 80 for AC or 65 for heat when you leave the house – better yet, get a programmable thermostat that will turn on or off in anticipation of your return. Or, if you really want to go all out, get a Nest or similar device that you can control from your smart phone.

You’ll not only be saving the planet, you’ll be cutting down your utility bills too. We’re big proponents of the going green movement here at Good News Pest Solutions. In fact, we’re going to be highlighting several tips every month for the next year on how you can be more environmentally conscious throughout your home.

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention another green home improvement – 100% All natural pest control! Yes, for over 10 years, we’ve used green methods and found them to be not only safe for your family and pets, but also more effective than the chemical treatments of the past. Give us a call and we’ll come by and show you what your neighbors from North Port to Bradenton already know about our award-winning pest solutions.

By the way, statistics say we don’t stick to personal resolutions for as long as we’d like. A big part of that failure is a lack of accountability. The nice thing about these resolutions for your home – everyone can be a part of it – make a commitment with your family to keep these resolutions and we promise by next year you’ll have a cleaner, more inviting house and a whole lot less stress (about the house, anyways)!

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