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4 great gifts for your green-living friend

(BPT) – Here’s a stat for you: More than 145 million Americans report being alarmed or concerned about climate change, according to the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Yes, over 145 million. That’s more than a third of the nation’s total population. Are you one of them? Whether you are or not, it’s a safe bet someone on your holiday shopping list is and you’d love to find the perfect gift that matches their passion.

Living an environmentally healthy, sustainable lifestyle is a personal thing and one every environmentally conscious person does a little bit differently. To complement that, Cool Effect is offering you the chance to personalize a great gift for those eco-conscious Earth lovers this holiday season. With a wide variety of carbon-cutting projects and flexible options, you can personalize the perfect gift package for anyone on your list. Cool Effect, a non-profit, has already done the work for you and created the holiday gift bundles below.

Breathe deep, breathe clean

Share the gift of clean air, literally, with The Cuckoo Combo. This pack, named for the threatened bird, supports efforts to capture methane and reduce nitrous oxide emissions while generating income for local communities.

Through your gift of this package, your loved one will be able to support the Native American Methane Capture program in Colorado that is converting this otherwise harmful gas to clean energy. They will also support technology initiatives to keep nitrous oxide emissions in check through the Mississippi-based Nitrous Oxide Abatement initiative.

Blown away with options

Most people have heard about the potential power opportunities that exist in wind harvesting, but it’s those living a more sustainable lifestyle that are especially excited about it. Support that enthusiasm with The Big Fan gift pack.

Your gift will support the creation of renewable energy wind turbines in Costa Rica, leading to long-term clean energy independence and jobs for local workers.

The wind turbines created through this initiative will provide power to 50,000 people and save 11,000 metric tons of carbon emissions. Your gift can help make it happen.

The power of poo

Initially this might seem like a white elephant present, but the aptly named Poo Package is actually a very real, important environmental project that anyone on your list would be grateful to support.

Using biogas digesters, animal waste — a source of harmful methane emissions — can now be turned into clean, usable energy. Your gift helps farmers in India build their very own biogas digesters that reduce these emissions while providing enough energy to power a neighborhood of Indian homes.

A brew-tiful gift

What’s the perfect gift for the environmentally conscious coffee drinker in your life? How about a package that supports the long-term sustainability of their favorite beverage? The Brew-tiful Gift package supports efforts to reduce logging in coffee growing regions, which reduces Earth-warming emissions and the hotter, drier climate they create that hinders coffee growth.

Through support of this gift pack, your loved one will be working to protect nearly 450,000 Peruvian acres from deforestation while also reducing firewood use in Honduras by nearly 50 percent — and those are initiatives everyone can drink to.

Pick the perfect project for your loved one today

These four projects are just a sample of the myriad environmentally conscious efforts your family and friends can support through your gift. To learn more about any of these projects or to shop other options and find the perfect gift, visit CoolEffect.org. Each project you find there can be customized to your price point and the passions of your loved one and they all support the same ideals of making this planet a greater, greener place to live during these holidays and all that will come after them.

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The first rule of the road: Focus on driving

(BPT) – Have you noticed that traffic seems to be worse lately? There’s a good reason for that — there are more vehicles on the road than at any time in recent history. Unemployment is low and gas is affordable, which means more people are driving more miles. And more drivers means an increased risk of getting into a collision, which impacts the number of auto insurance claims and, potentially, the cost of insurance premiums.

There is some good news, however, because vehicle technology has advanced significantly in the past decade, with features like backup cameras, active braking and pedestrian detection, which employ radar, camera, lidar and other sensors to detect and track vehicles, pedestrians or objects around the vehicle. Many of these enhancements are designed to help prevent collisions and make driving safer, but that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. When you’re driving, the road should get your full and complete attention, because as great as all of this new technology is, it’s not perfect and collisions can still occur.

“Rear-end collisions are the most common claims we see nationwide. We had nearly 60,000 customers report they were involved in rear-end collisions last year,” said Vice President of Claims at Mercury Insurance Kevin Quinn. “People are surprised to find out they’re at fault if they hit the vehicle ahead of them, even if the other driver brakes suddenly. This is why active braking technology, which can slow down your vehicle while using cruise control or even stop it completely if someone walks in front of your car or you aren’t able to react quickly enough to hit your brakes, is a great development. But, even if you have this technology, you still need to focus on the road to avoid getting into collisions.”

The most common auto collisions to be aware of, according to Mercury Insurance, include:

1. Your vehicle is rear-ended by another vehicle;

2. Your vehicle rear-ends another vehicle;

3. Another vehicle hits your parked car;

4. Another vehicle fails to yield in an intersection and hits your vehicle;

5. Collision with a fixed object;

6. Glass damage;

7. Another vehicle hits yours while changing lanes;

8. Your vehicle hits a parked car;

9. You fail to yield in an intersection and hit another car; and

10. You back into another vehicle.

“Most of these collisions are avoidable if people pay attention to their surroundings. Cars are safer, but drivers are more distracted than ever, especially by phone apps, texting and taking calls. And it’s not just drivers who are distracted, we’re also seeing more pedestrian accidents, because they have their heads buried in their phones and aren’t paying attention while they’re walking,” said Quinn. “No message, photo or phone call is more important than your safety and the safety of others, so please drive — and walk — responsibly.”

Drivers should annually review their auto insurance policy with a local independent insurance agent. Knowing what is and isn’t covered will help in the event you’re involved in one of the common auto insurance collisions.

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Squash the pests, not your holiday spirit, with these pest-prevention tips

(BPT) – The holiday season and guests go together like twinkling lights and fir trees, or peppermint and chocolate. However, while you might be eager to welcome family and friends to your home, you’ll probably be less excited to receive a visit from another all-too-common type of holiday “guest” — pests.

Pesky insects invade houses through a number of routes during the holidays. Indian Meal Moths can ride in with grains you purchased to make baked goods. Merchant Grain Beetles, despite their name, can take up residence in cake mixes and boxes of pasta. Spiders and other insects can hitch a ride indoors on Christmas trees. Boxes of decorations that were stored in attics, garages or outbuildings during the rest of the year can yield up a variety of insects — and even rodents — when you bring them inside for the holidays.

The National Pest Management Association offers some tips for keeping your home pest-free during the holiday season:

Ditching pests before decking the halls

Holiday decorations evoke the spirit of the season, and decorating the house is a fun tradition for many families. Take steps to ensure that when you deck the halls, your decorations are pest-free.

Greenery like trees, wreaths and garlands can harbor spiders, mites, moths and other pests, as well as their eggs. Holly boughs, pine branches, pine cones and other natural items commonly used in holiday DIY projects may also host insects. Before bringing anything indoors, give it a good shake outside. Then, inspect items for pests or eggs that may be hiding in branches, or on leaves and needles. These steps will help ensure you don’t bring anything into the house with natural decorations.

Decorations you reuse — and store from year to year in the attic, garage or outbuildings — can also become infested. Insects and rodents can find their way into storage areas and boxes throughout the year, so when you bring decorations out of storage, unpack boxes outdoors first. Check for pests like mice. Rodent droppings and gnaw marks — especially on light strands — are evidence of mice. Discard any decorations that appear to have been chewed on, especially electrical items.

At the end of the year, give yourself a head-start on a pest-free holiday next year by storing decorations properly. Use sturdy, hard plastic containers with secure lids to store decorations in the garage, basement, attic or outbuildings. This will help ensure rodents and insects can’t get into the decorations throughout the year.

Feasting is for family, not pests

Cookies, gingerbread houses and even fruit cake — many families love the tradition of holiday baking. However, nothing spoils holiday baking plans faster than finding bugs in a box of flour. Beetles, ants, earwigs, weevils, pillbugs, moths and a variety of other critters can get into stored food and infest an area in a short amount of time. Flour, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, grains and other baking items are at risk.

Fortunately, you can take steps to ensure pantry pests don’t dim your holiday spirits:

* Did you know that most pantry pests ride home in items like paper grocery bags, cardboard or plastic bags? When you shop for groceries, inspect the packaging of all items before putting them in your cart. If a package is open or shows even slight signs of damage, don’t buy it. Promptly recycle any grocery bags you bring home, or — even better — use your own washable cloth grocery bag to carry items. You’ll not only have peace of mind knowing that no pests are riding home in shopping bags, you’ll also be doing something good for the environment!

* Before baking season begins, go through your pantry and cupboards to visually check for signs of pests. Sift through powdered ingredients to ensure they haven’t become infested while in storage. Check expiration dates and throw away anything that’s been stored too long.

* When you bring new ingredients home, store them securely in plastic or glass containers with tight-fitting lids.

* Clean up spills and crumbs on countertops, tables, floors and shelves right away, and don’t let trash build up in the kitchen trash container. Dispose of garbage regularly in sealed containers outdoors. From time to time throughout the year, empty cupboards and the pantry, and clean shelves with soap and water.

* Check around your kitchen and pantry for any cracks or holes where pests could get in. Seal openings around stovepipes and water pipes. Eliminate sources of moisture, like leaking pipes or clogged drains.

If you catch pests early, you may be able to prevent an infestation. But if an infestation has taken firm root in your home, consult a licensed pest professional to inspect and treat the problem.

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Is It a cold or the flu? When to seek care

(BPT) – Your nose is running. You are coughing and tired. Are you sure it’s just a cold? You could have influenza, commonly referred to as “the flu.” Although common, the flu can be serious and even lead to hospitalization or death. Knowing the difference between a cold and the flu is very important so you can get the right care, prevent worsening symptoms, and help prevent the spread to family, friends and coworkers.

Even if you’ve had the flu vaccination this year, it’s still possible to catch the flu and to pass it on to others.

“Every year we find that patients have a tendency to underestimate the flu and forget what a serious health risk that the flu presents, particularly for the very young and for seniors, but really for anyone when it is left unaddressed,” said Dr. Jason Tibbels, MD, board-certified family physician and director for quality programs at Teladoc, the world’s largest and most trusted provider of virtual care delivery services. “Without proper care, the flu can be life-threatening, so it’s vital to seek care as soon as you’re experiencing any symptoms.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in the last seven years the flu has been responsible for more than 700,000 hospitalizations and more than 55,000 deaths across the U.S. Furthermore, the risk of flu varies state by state, and some regions — including Texas, Florida and California — tend to see more flu cases than others. To find out the flu risk in your state, visit www.Teladoc.com/flu.

If you’re experiencing flu symptoms, don’t wait to seek care. Telehealth is an ideal option, and yet many people don’t realize that they have access to a telehealth solution like Teladoc through their health benefits. With telehealth, you can visit with a doctor from the comfort and safety of your home — or wherever you are, at any time of day or night. Within minutes, using a phone, mobile app or the web, you can access board-certified doctors from any location, getting you and your family the care you need, when you need it. This keeps you out of places like the ER, which can be breeding grounds for illness, and in a flu-free zone, and enables children and adults to stay at home when sick.

So how do you know if you have the flu? Flu symptoms are often very similar to those of a cold and include nasal congestion, cough, aches and fatigue. We asked Teladoc’s Dr. Tibbels for the top five signs you may have the flu. Here’s what he said:

1. Quick onset. The flu often comes on suddenly, whereas cold symptoms can slowly worsen over the span of a few days and are generally milder.

2. Fever. A moderate to high fever (at or above 101 degrees Fahrenheit) and chills are associated with the flu, and are not typical symptoms of the common cold.

3. Aches and headaches. Severe muscle or body aches are a telltale flu symptom.

4. Known exposure: Close contact with individuals known to have influenza can increase the chance of contracting the virus.

5. Time of year. You can catch a cold at any time of year, but flu season typically runs from November through March. Symptoms that show up outside of flu season are more likely to be from a cold or an allergy.

“If you are feeling sick, going to the ER or visiting urgent care may make you feel worse, while also putting others at risk of catching your illness,” said Dr. Tibbels. “Visiting a Teladoc doctor is the most effective way to get quality care, while also containing symptoms and stopping the spread of flu.”

To learn more about Teladoc and the level of flu risk where you live, visit Teladoc.com/flu.

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Buying life insurance can be complicated. But it doesn’t need to be

(BPT) – Getting insurance can be famously complex and time-consuming. Whether it’s life, health, automobile or home, it takes time to understand what coverage you need and how to get it. As a result, it’s easy to put off items that don’t feel truly urgent until it’s too late.

Buying life insurance and helping to protect your family in the event of the unexpected is one of the most important purchases you can make. Doing this right requires a clear understanding of how much coverage you need, what a policy actually covers and how much you can reasonably afford. That’s a tall order for anyone.

But life insurance doesn’t need to be complicated. Understanding the basics — and taking advantage of the tools out there that can help you find the right policy in just minutes — are all you need to help protect your family’s future.

So, what do you need to know about life insurance to make an informed decision? Let’s answer your questions and clear up some myths first — and then explain your options.

Isn’t life insurance for older people? I’m young and healthy. I don’t need it.

The answer is a resounding no, and for obvious reasons: Even the young and healthy are at risk for the unexpected, from accidents to sudden illness. Life insurance can help you and your loved ones — whether that’s your children, parents or siblings — prepare for the unknown and make the right financial decisions. Laying the groundwork for that protection now, when you’re healthy and young, is an important step in building a sound financial future.

The good news is that there are different types of insurance policies that can best serve you and your family’s needs. Whole life insurance, which is what we often think of when we’re considering a life insurance policy, offers coverage you can’t outlive, with the cash value of the policy growing over time.

If you have big responsibilities right now and are still healthy, term life insurance, which can replace income and cover expenses in the unfortunate event of an early death, might be the better option. You can choose the timespan of the policy based on your family’s needs (for example, if you’re just starting your family, you may want to opt for a 20- to 30-year policy to make sure your children are covered until they’re adults). In an ideal world, your family will never need the policy, but it’s a strong safety net that can help you feel more secure, regardless of what the future holds.

But life insurance is expensive!

Life insurance costs can be high, yes — but that’s not a given. Understanding the amount and type of coverage you need keeps costs down. Being underinsured can be distressing in an emergency; being over-insured can eat away at your financial planning. Opting for a term life policy can help you solve these challenges. Their premiums are typically lower, and allow you to only cover the most likely scenarios for your age demographic.

This helps, but I’m still not sure which policy I need. And I’m too busy to keep searching.

This is where products like TruStage(R) come into play. You don’t need to spend hours assessing your risk and sorting through the clutter yourself; you have access to an online application as well as licensed agents that can help take the guesswork out of the process.

TruStage offers a simplified-issue term life insurance product that helps demystify the process for you through an online application process that takes about 10 minutes to complete.* After answering a few health questions, their automated process delivers a decision in minutes, offering coverage amounts of $5,000 to $300,000 to provide protection for home mortgages, children’s education, income replacement and final expenses. It also provides coverage options based on your budget, rather than making you estimate the amount of coverage you need.

In other words, in the time it takes you make a box of mac ’n’ cheese, you could help protect your family.

Where do I go to get started?

Visit www.trustage.com to fill out the online form. Include if you’re a credit union member, but even if you aren’t, you could still be eligible to apply for coverage.

Questions about TruStage? Call 1-855-309-2688.

*Source: TruStage.com Production WEB Policies Time reporting 2017.

TruStage(R) insurance products are made available through TruStage Insurance Agency, LLC. Life insurance, annuities, & accidental death & dismemberment insurance are issued by CMFG Life Insurance Company. The insurance offered is not a deposit, and is not federally insured, sold or guaranteed by your credit union.

WHL-1943500

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A cup of tea can be the best solution for everyday wellness

(BPT) – Before medicine and pharmaceuticals filled our remedy box, food and food ingredients were considered healing agents. Hippocrates was wise in his understanding of the special powers of food, beyond satisfying our appetites: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

There are many cultures that rely on herbal remedies and natural foods for everything from soothing an upset stomach to lifting our spirits when we’re down, to calming jittery nerves and even fending off colds and flu. Many of the best cosmetics tout ingredients to smooth skin, prevent aging, block the sun, reduce inflammation and minimize puffiness. There are four common herbs that have been used by many cultures and that are found in many of our kitchens.

1) Turmeric is a commonly used ingredient in Ayurvedic practices. In Hindu, the bright yellow color of turmeric is associated with the sun. In India, turmeric is used in wedding and religious ceremonies and is thought to bring good fortune. Not only is it said to brighten our spirits, but it has also been found to have some anti-inflammatory properties, which are healing for the body

2) Ginger, a relatively inexpensive and easy-to-find root, is considered a very healthful spice in the same family as turmeric. It is rich in many healthy components and has a strong aroma caused by the compound gingerol. Ginger has a long history of use in traditional and alternative medicine. It is most commonly used to soothe a stomach ache and combat nausea, and is frequently used by women to prevent morning sickness during pregnancy. Like turmeric it also has anti-inflammatory properties and can be helpful in reducing pain caused by osteoarthritis and menstruation.

3) Another popular spice is cinnamon, which is known for its healthy antioxidant properties and delicious sweet taste. It may help to reduce inflammation and be heart healthy. It may also be helpful in regulating blood sugar levels within the body, and even have some protective effect against developing colds.

4) Chamomile is a flower that has historically been associated with relaxation and calming. Many different cultures have used it alongside lavender as a soothing beverage to enjoy before bedtime.

Many of these ingredients can be found in our pantries, and including them in our diets is as simple as incorporating them into recipes or brewing up a delicious cup of tea. Herbal teas are a delicious and probably the easiest way to introduce these ingredients into our daily lives. Sipping tea throughout the day provides a natural break. Many tea drinkers proudly sport their mugs to stay hydrated, refreshed and alert.

Tea itself (from the plant Camellia sinensis) contains many healthy compounds such as polyphenols, which are great antioxidant compounds. Studies with this phenomenal beverage are linked to many areas of health and wellness. It’s no wonder that tea is one of the most popular beverages in the world. People drink tea proudly knowing they are not only enjoying something delicious, but also giving their well-being a boost.

Bigelow Tea has long understood the art of blending top-quality ingredients in their teas and has recently introduced a new line called Bigelow Benefits, which takes the concept of herbal tea one step further by carefully crafting a tea bag with an enticing mix of beneficial herbs, flowers and fruits that supports your daily health. The flavorful combinations include Cinnamon & Blackberry, Peach & Ginger, Chamomile & Lavender and Turmeric Chili Matcha to name a few.

Designed to add everyday value to a regular healthy lifestyle, each contains ingredients that are commonly thought to help safely support and enhance life’s everyday moments and bring the wellness benefits of ancient civilizations to your teacup. For more information about Bigelow Benefits, visit bigelowtea.com/benefits.

So next time you are looking to have a more healthful lifestyle, or just a good night’s sleep, look no further than your tea cup.

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Congress may improve access to integrated care for dialysis patients

(BPT) – More than 700,000 people in the U.S. suffer from end-stage renal disease (ESRD), also known as kidney failure. These patients often cope with multiple chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and depression. They may also have financial difficulties, which limit their ability to access preventative health care services. These patients must juggle multiple appointments, manage numerous medications and experience frequent hospital visits while struggling to navigate a complex health care system. Integrated care programs, like the Dialysis PATIENTS Demonstration Act (PATIENTS Act) (H.R. 4143/S. 2065), offer patients support from a dedicated care coordination team and added benefits like personalized care planning.

The PATIENTS Act, a bipartisan bill recently introduced in Congress, aims to expand the availability of integrated care for Medicare dialysis patients. Currently, fewer than 10 percent of Medicare dialysis patients have access to integrated care. The PATIENTS Act is designed to deliver better care, better health outcomes and lower costs for Medicare ESRD beneficiaries receiving dialysis. For patients, this could mean fewer trips to the hospital, fewer unnecessary office visits and an improved quality of life.

As one of the most chronically ill patient populations in the U.S., those coping with kidney failure must receive dialysis therapy three to four hours per day, three times per week. Dialysis patients will benefit in many ways from increased access to high-quality, integrated care.

“I feel fortunate to have a team observing and supporting me daily,” said Francis Hogan, a DaVita dialysis patient with access to an integrated care program. “It gives me confidence to better manage my condition.”

While integrated care has existed for many years, the PATIENTS Act provides an opportunity to transform health care for more dialysis patients and their loved ones. The PATIENTS Act builds on existing integrated care programs to provide a sustainable, scalable model that could work for many more dialysis patients.

The PATIENTS Act could offer access to additional benefits like:

* A nephrologist-led interdisciplinary care team

* Individualized care planning for patients and caregivers

* Preventative care and services to help keep patients out of the hospital

* Care coordination for services received outside the dialysis clinic

* Support and counseling before receiving a kidney transplant

Patients and health care providers like DaVita have joined together to urge Congress to take action. The PATIENTS Act has support from both Republicans and Democrats and is under consideration by Congress right now. Patients, caregivers and kidney care advocates can visit www.MyAdvocacyMatters.com to send Congress a letter of support.

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Homeowners liable for snow and ice control

(BPT) – Whenever it snows, it is common to see shopping center employees and business owners out and about clearing pathways, parking spaces and entrances of snow and ice. But this isn’t just good business to help customers get in the door, it is also a liability issue should someone slip, fall and injure themselves. Homeowners, too, face similar, albeit more limited, liability if they fail to take adequate steps to remove such slippery hazards from their property.

Generally speaking, homeowners are responsible for limiting dangers on their property, but in some cases this can also extend to public sidewalks abutting the home. In some localities, Homeowners Associations (HOAs), and governments also require that homeowners clear snow and ice or face fines. A regional survey of county and municipal ordinances conducted by the Salt Institute found that 83 percent have written policies directing property owners to remove accumulated snow and ice “within 24 hours of the end of the snowstorm.” Penalties for property owners not complying can range from nominal tickets to misdemeanors punishable by up to 90 days in jail and fines of up to $500.

Shoveling snow is simple enough, but ice is another matter, and nothing works better to remove ice or prevent ice from forming than salt. Salt lowers water’s freezing point, the temperature at which it changes from a liquid to a solid and vice versa. Melting water that is already frozen is called deicing and is applied once ice appears. Preventing water from freezing in the first place is called anti-icing and is applied when a freeze is expected.

Commercially available anti-icing materials include salt (sodium chloride), calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, potassium acetate and calcium magnesium acetate. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but salt brine remains the best choice for anti-icing in temperatures above 15 degrees F (minus 9.4 degrees C) and continues to work in temperatures as low as minus 6 degrees F. For extremely low temperatures, look for a mixture using calcium or magnesium chloride instead.

Laws regarding snow and ice clearing vary by state and locality, but most mandate that some action be taken within a reasonable time period after it stops snowing. For example, the Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act states that any owner who “removes or attempts to remove snow or ice from sidewalks abutting the property shall not be liable for any personal injuries allegedly caused by the snowy or icy condition of the sidewalk resulting from his or her acts or omissions unless the alleged misconduct was willful or wanton.”

The dangers from slips and falls should not be taken lightly, especially for the elderly. Each year thousands are rushed to emergency rooms as a result of icy falls with injuries that could have easily been prevented. One enterprising hospital, St. Vincent’s in Indianapolis, Indiana, even decided to give away road salt to local residents one winter to try and prevent such injuries and the resulting emergency room visits. In the end, the person who is most likely to slip and fall is the homeowner themselves.

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