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Have Yourself a Greener Little Christmas…with Gifts that Last

The environment is top of mind for many this holiday season, after a year of horrendous natural disasters. That might mean we’re a little greener in our Christmas preparations this year. And even if wildfires and hurricanes aren’t pushing us to be greener, the rising awareness of plastic waste should be. As we switch to re-usable grocery bags and restaurants stop offering straws, we are paying more attention to that waste. And now is the time to do it, because the amount of trash we throw away in the U.S. increases by an estimated 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

Yes, that makes the holiday season an excellent time to step back and figure out ways to make less waste of all kinds…starting with gifts. To help you get greener, we offer four ways to give gifts they’ll love—with less waste.

Give quality gifts
Choose a higher quality product if it will last longer, and most definitely avoid kitschy things that no one really wants anyway. (Hint: If it looks like it belongs a White Elephant party, it belongs at a White Elephant party.) Spend a little more and give a little less if you have to make up the difference in price. When you spend more for a higher quality product that lasts, you benefit in the long run by cutting down on waste.

Restrict your buying to local, independently owned shops
One way to cut back on waste is by driving less and spending more locally. It’s easy to go online and go on a splurge, buying things people might not need or want and generating lots of plastic shipping material that gets thrown away. Try shopping locally and you’ll make less waste while benefiting your local economy. (We are trying an experiment at our house this year: We are taking the money we saved for Christmas out of the bank as cash and only using that to do our Christmas shopping, forcing us to shop at brick-and-mortar stores and not online.)

Give gifts that keep on giving
It might not be glitzy but a gift like home security is a gift that keeps on giving without generating more waste. It’s something useful and much appreciated. It doesn’t take up any room or need storage, but it gives plenty of peace of mind. And it’s a gift that causes the recipient to think of you every time he or she uses it. Home security can be a priceless gift that keeps on giving. If not home security, maybe it’s a subscription to a publication, or a donation to a charity, or something else your loved one would appreciate.

Wrap naturally
Although we’ve been saving and re-using the same Christmas wrapping bows for years now (and admittedly, some are looking haggard and worn!), we are transitioning to all natural materials for gift wrapping. Check Pinterest for ideas, and you’ll see how gorgeous this kind of gift wrapping can be!

As our awareness of plastic waste increases, organizations and businesses are taking steps to decrease the amount of that waste. You can read updates on the fight against plastic waste at the National Geographic website. And you as an individual can take your own steps to reduce waste by going a little greener with gifts this season!

5 Christmas Tree Safety Tips–for Those of Us with Real Trees!

Lately the controversy has been heating up about which is the greener choice: a real Christmas tree or a fake one. If you really think about it, the real tree seems to be the greener choice, but surprisingly, over 80% of trees Americans will display in their homes this holiday season will be fake.

That still leaves about 20% of us committed to the real tree, and that means it’s worth reviewing Christmas tree safety tips. So our gift to you today: 5 Christmas tree safety tips.

1) Find a fresh tree—and keep it fresh
We live in an area surrounded by Christmas tree farms, and many trees are harvested well before Thanksgiving. Unless you’re cutting your tree yourself, check for freshness when you head out to find your perfect tree. Pull on the needles to make sure they aren’t falling off. Pick up the tree a few inches off the ground and drop it to see how many needles fall off. A few is okay. More than a few is not.

Buying your tree earlier in the season might help you to find a fresher one too. The longer the tree sits on the lot waiting to be sold, the more dried out it will get. We don’t put our tree up until right before Christmas but we buy it early, cut off the bottom 2 inches of the trunk, and keep it outside in a bucket of water until we are ready to put it up. We heat our house with a woodstove (because it was built in 1890 before central heating), and that can quickly dry out a tree, we learned the hard way. Keeping the tree in a bucket of water like just described has made a big difference in keeping the tree fresh.

2) Display your tree in a safe place
As I said, we heat our house with a woodstove, so our tree has to go in another room. All Christmas trees should be displayed far from woodstoves and fireplaces, as well as out of traffic areas where they might get bumped into by a toddler running through the house or a rambunctious big dog jumping about because he’s excited about a new toy. (I’m not going to say I’m speaking from experience here, but….)

3) Get the right size tree
As much as you might want something grandiose for displaying in your home, you don’t want your tree to be a hazard! So give your space serious consideration before you head to the tree lot. Our living room has ceilings that are 9-feet high, but our living room is small so the tree has to be skinny. It takes us a while to find a tall but very skinny tree! Even then, we end up trimming branches before we decorate, to make sure the tree is not sticking out and in the way at all.

4) Keep your Christmas tree watered—and watered, and watered
Once your tree is in the house, you’ll put water in the tree stand, of course, but you have to keep up with it. Your house is warm and that will dry out the tree quickly. Keeping the stand filled with water will help to slow down that process. And don’t let the tree stand go dry. If the bottom of your tree gets a chance to harden up again, you’ll have a hard time getting it to soak up any water. I make watering the tree part of my nightly routine, even when it’s soaking up less water after a few days.

5) Turn off the lights–safely
I don’t like turning off the lights on our Christmas tree. We only have it up for 3 weeks each year, so I want it lit up 24 hours a day during that time. That’s not safe, however. It’s not safe to have to climb under or around the tree to unplug the lights before bed either (something we are guilty of), so consider using a timer for your tree lights, or a surge protector with a switch, or something else that ensures you’ll turn the lights off when gone or in bed—without jeopardizing the tree.

I have to admit I was saddened by reading that only 20% of us are using real Christmas trees. There’s just something about the search for the right tree, the smell of the tree, the uniqueness of each tree every year…it would be hard to give that up. So for now, I count myself proudly among that 20%, using a real tree and following the tips above to keep it safe!

Tips for Getting Lit Up Before the Dark Days Arrive

October is here, Halloween is fast approaching, and daylight savings will end November 4th. Yep, it’s time to look at lighting! Use the tips below to make sure your lighting is adding to your home’s security, both inside and outside your home.

Inside your home
With a home automation system, you can put your lights on timers so they turn on when it starts to get dark, even if your house is empty. There are two safety reasons for having your lights turn on automatically.

  1. The lights turning on all of a sudden makes it look like someone’s home, to help deter burglars.
  2. When the lights are already on, you or your kids can see when first coming in the front door, reducing the risk of trips or falls in the dark.

Also take a walk around as dusk falls to evaluate your lighting needs. Are there dark corners or stairs that would be safer with better lighting? Are there nightlights for anyone who gets up to use the bathroom or get a drink of water during the night? Fix any problems spots you find, to decrease the chance of accidents.

Outside your home
Good lighting outside will also help deter burglars and reduce accidents, but it’s a little trickier because you’ll have to experience the dark spots to know where you need to make adjustments. Do your assessment when it’s dark and check for the following:

  • Are sidewalks and pathways clearly lit, for your family, but also for visitors?
  • Is the path to your shop or detached garage clearly lit?
  • Are there dark areas by doorways or windows where someone could hide while breaking in?

As you’re improving your outdoor lighting, keep in mind these three tips so your yard doesn’t end up looking like a brightly lit runway:

  1. Use motion sensors to provide light only when and where needed. Perhaps a soft light is enough most of the time, but a motion sensor can turn on a brighter light as someone approaches the house.
  2. Be wary of really bright lights that shine like a spotlight because they will also create dark shadows—and you want to avoid that.
  3. Be a good neighbor and make sure your lights are not annoying or pointing into anyone else’s yard.

And now? Now let the darkness come. You’re ready…

Shocking Survey Results: 60% of Us Are not Prepared for a Disaster

Why are we so ill-prepared for disasters in the U.S.? This isn’t just anecdotal. A new survey by Farmers Insurance shows how many of us are vulnerable to a natural disaster, due to lack of planning alone.

For National Preparedness Month last month, Farmers Insurance conducted a survey and published the results as both a list of findings and a planning resource. Among the shocking statistics, Farmers Insurance learned:

  • 70% of people living in the U.S. have experienced some kind of natural disaster.
  • One-third of those say they’ve been in a hurricane.
  • 60% of households do not have an emergency plan in place in case of a natural disaster.
  • 55% of people living in the U.S. don’t have an emergency kit.
  • 35% of those who do have an emergency kit and are pet owners don’t have any pet supplies in their emergency kit.

The results of that survey gave me a jolt because I fall into the “don’t have” category every time. We haven’t discussed emergency planning around here since we became empty nesters, which makes no sense, but is sadly true. So I am more than ready to tackle the emergency plan and kit as outlined in the document.

Your emergency plan
Are you also ready to get prepared? If so, the following suggestions offered by Farmers Insurance should help you develop your emergency plan for starters:

  • Know how you’ll receive emergency alerts. If the power goes out, as well as the Internet, how will you stay informed? A hand-powered or battery operated radio might be in order.
  • Know your evacuation route and shelter plan. If you have to evacuate, where will you go? Think about which roads might or might not be open in the event of a disaster. For us, for example, we really need to figure that out because we are three miles down a dead-end road. We could easily be cut off and unable to evacuate without a plan. If you have pets, research pet-friendly shelters ahead of time.
  • Know how you’ll get in touch with each other. Make sure everyone in the family has phone numbers memorized or written down in case a cell phone is lost and you can’t access your contacts. Then consider choosing a friend or family member who lives outside of the area as the contact point in case you can’t get in touch with each other.
  • Know where you’ll meet. If one person is at work and another at school and a third at home, and when disaster hits, meeting at home won’t be an option, where will you meet instead?

Your emergency kit
If you need to evacuate, you will need a grab-and-go emergency kit that you can take with you at a moment’s notice. Farmers Insurance recommends your kit include:

  • Water
  • Drinking water tablets
  • First aid kit
  • Canned food and can opener
  • Blankets, preferably the space saving emergency kind
  • Warm clothes
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Medication
  • Dust mask
  • Extra eyeglasses
  • Bleach
  • Baby items such as diapers and baby food
  • Pet items such as food, water bowl and leash
  • Hygiene products such as tissues and hand wipes
  • A plastic bucket in case toilets aren’t available
  • Battery-powered radio (and extra batteries)
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Multifunctional axe/knife
  • Whistle
  • Trash bags
  • Small tent
  • Cooking stove, fuel and pot
  • Heavy gloves
  • Shovel
  • Rope
  • Wrench
  • Cash
  • Copies of important documents
  • Phone numbers

You can see the full list here. Note that most of these items are things you should have on hand, even if you don’t need to evacuate. So have this stuff handy regardless, okay?

Are you one of the 60%?
The year 2017 was the costliest ever, with natural disasters causing $306 billion worth of damage. As we near the end of 2018, it seems we had an easier year, but one thing is for certain: Natural disasters will always be a threat. We can’t do anything about that or the destruction they will do, but we can take steps to keep ourselves and our families safe by preparing ahead of time. And according to Farmers Insurance, 60% of us need to get our acts together and get ready!

Making Your Home Safe for Kids

Maybe you’re expecting an addition to your family sometime soon. That’s great, and congratulations! Or maybe you’re expecting family members to come stay for the weekend, and you need to make some quick adjustments to make the home suitable for the kids. There are a few things you’ll want to consider before both of these scenarios arise. But where do you start? Here are some things that we recommend:

A new addition

First and foremost, make sure your baby is never unattended. Take turns with your partner keeping an eye on your new bundle of joy and make sure that the baby is comfortable. Also, keep things out of baby’s reach to prevent choking. This becomes imperative as babies get older and learn how to crawl. Keep floors and surfaces clean of debris and small, chewable objects.

Second, you’ll want to consider investing in a security system. There are a lot of home security companies out there that offer a slew of different packages and pricing options, but above all, make sure you pick one with a high level of customer satisfaction. As of right now, SafeStreets USA has an impressive 7.6/10 rating according to Best Company and nearly 150 customer reviews. Contracts start at 36 months with lower monthly fees than more well-known industry competitors.

For a full guide to how home security systems work, click here.

Occasional visitors

Toddlers and small children are much more mobile than your new baby, so this is where things get complicated. There are a handful of particular things you need to protect children from, including the following:

  • Drowning
  • Electrical
  • Poisoning
  • Guns
  • Fires

Drowning isn’t much of a threat unless you have a swimming pool. If you do, you should know to keep it covered during winter months and drained if you’re not using it. If you have kids at the pool, always make sure that they’re supervised and equipped with age-appropriate flotation devices.

With electrical concerns, make sure that the wiring in your house has been done correctly. It’s not a bad idea to bring in an electrician if you’ve moved into a new place and you find that some of the light switches aren’t working correctly. Keep wall outlets covered with a plastic plug if they’re not already in use. Make sure electrical items in the kitchen and bathroom are kept out of reach.

So many things can classify as poison, from mouthwash to cleaning products. Common items that can be considered poisonous include medicine, cleaning products, mouthwash, toothpaste, or alcohol. Take them out of easily-accessible cabinets and put them in a place that will be hard to find and out of reach. If you find that a child has ingested dangerous substances, contact the National Poison Center Hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

Keep guns out of the reach of children at all times. If you insist on owning a gun, keep it hidden away in a closet or in a locked drawer or safe. Instruct kids not to touch a gun if one is found, but instead to report it to an adult.

Fires can be easily made inside or outside depending on what’s available to kids. When cooking, keep pan handles pointed toward the back of the stove so kids can’t reach up and grab them. Keep kids away from the range when items are baking. Keep matches and lighters in a safe place that isn’t easily accessed.

 

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Customer Reviews

I feel so much better knowing my family is protected! I spoke with SafeStreets USA in the evening and a technician was able to come install the system for me then for my parents first thing the next morning. Very impressed with his knowledge and care!

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We had our ADT system installed by SafeStreets USA and were really impressed with the service we received from our technician. He was very friendly and answered all of our questions on the system and how it worked. He set everything up in a couple of hours and was a real pleasure to talk with []

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