Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Toll Free: 800-440-remax
June 20, 2011 6:27 pm
Despite challenging economic conditions, a landmark survey of nearly 400 mayors in all 50 states has found that energy and sustainability efforts have maintained momentum within cities. The study, prepared for The U.S. Conference of Mayors and sponsored by Siemens, was based on survey research conducted from April to May, 2011, by the international research consultancy GlobeScan.
Among its key findings, the survey noted:
• Three in four cities expect their use of clean energy technologies to increase over the next five years.
• LED/efficient lighting, low-energy building technologies and solar electricity generation are the top three "most promising" technologies for reducing energy use and carbon emissions.
• Mayors are looking to the economic benefits of these clean energy solutions as drivers of their energy strategies.
• For one in three cities, adapting to climate change is already an element of their capital planning or capital improvement programs.
• One-quarter of all cities have already set targets for the use of renewable energy.
According to the study, acknowledging financial restraints, cities are taking full advantage of available federal resources and looking to partner more with the private sector, among others, to continue their energy drives. The full survey report, Clean Energy Solutions for America's Cities, is now available at: usmayors.org/cleanenergy.
"The overwhelming response to this survey—396 mayors in all 50 states, representing about 74 million people—underscores the strong commitment of the nation's mayors to clean energy technologies and energy efficiency solutions," says Conference President Burnsville (MN) Mayor Elizabeth B. Kautz. "Mayors are acting on these commitments, which also support our nation's greater goals on energy independence and security," she explains.
"As a company that provides many of today's technology solutions for cities, we're pleased how cities are embracing the many economic benefits of sustainable technologies," says Daryl Dulaney, president and CEO of Siemens Industry, Inc. "Our next challenge is to help cities come up with financing solutions that have minimal budget impact and keep cities on track with their sustainability goals using proven technologies."
"LED and other efficient lighting sources are the technology of choice for cities aiming to reduce future energy use and climate-harming emissions," says Conference Vice President Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa. "We know from our experience in Los Angeles that LED streetlights are the way of the future and having a tremendous impact globally. They save money, protect the environment, and create jobs." The City of Los Angeles is now replacing 140,000 existing streetlight fixtures with LED units in order to save energy by a minimum of 40 percent, reducing carbon emissions by approximately 40,500 tons per year.
Conference Second Vice President Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter—whose home to the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy-Efficient Buildings—says, "Making our buildings more energy efficient through the use of new technologies is a clear priority for the nation's mayors. It is something we can do today, paying dividends to all us well in the future."
"The key drivers behind much of this activity are, not surprisingly, economic: to attract new businesses and jobs, reduce energy costs, and more generally, develop a greener economy," says Tom Cochran, the Conference's CEO and Executive Director. "Mayors credit energy block grants (EECBG funds) delivering federal resources directly to cities as crucial to the expanded investment partnership between businesses and cities on clean energy technologies and energy efficiency."
Rob Kerr, Vice President of GlobeScan, which conducted the survey, says, "The survey reaffirms trends that we're seeing in different countries around the world - that cities are taking the practical lead in pushing national sustainability objectives by actually deploying the technologies today. Sustainability efforts are not going to just go away in tough economic times."
About The U.S. Conference of Mayors: The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are 1,210 such cities in the country today, each represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the Mayor.
June 16, 2011 2:25 pm
Summer is around the corner, and it's more important that ever to conserve water. From checking the kitchen faucet to watching your laundry loads, there's plenty we can all do to save water.
Here are some tips from Pennsylvania American Water on how you can conserve water and reduce the environmental impact of water consumption both indoors and outside the home:
1. Water your lawn only when it needs it. An easy test to tell if your lawn needs water is to simply walk across the grass. If you leave footprints, it's time to water. (An added benefit of watering less often is that fewer, deep-soaking waterings encourage deep root growth and stronger turf.)
2. Water in the early morning. As much as 30 percent of water can be lost to evaporation by watering during midday.
3. Set your lawn mower one notch higher to make your lawn more drought-tolerant.
4. Use drip irrigation hoses to water plants, and water in the early morning or evening.
5. Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your sidewalk, driveway, or patio.
6. Forego the hose and wash your car with a bucket and sponge instead. According to EPA WaterSense, a hose left running can waste as much as six gallons per minute while a bucket and sponge uses only a few gallons to do the job.
7. Keep a bottle of cold tap water in the refrigerator. You'll avoid the cost and environmental impact of bottled water and you'll have cold water available in the summer without running the faucet.
8. Run dishwashers and clothes washers only when they are full. If you have a water-saver cycle, use it.
9. Adjust the water level of your clothes washer, so that it matches your load size.
10. Regularly check your toilet, faucets and pipes for leaks and have them fixed promptly. An easy test for toilet leaks from EPA WaterSense: Place a drop of food coloring in the tank. If the color tints the water in the bowl without flushing, there's a leak. Check your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter changes at all, you probably have a leak.
June 16, 2011 2:25 pm
It's not just happening to you. If you've filed for bankruptcy recently, you're among thousands of Americans who file each month in the U.S. "More than 1.5 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy last year, according to the National Bankruptcy Research Center," says Kristy Welsh, editor of Creditinfocenter.com. "That's the highest level since 2005."
The question becomes: once you're through the rigors of bankruptcy court, what happens next? "You can start your recovery the day after you receive your discharge papers," says Welsh. "Rebuilding credit and getting a little money saved can begin immediately." Here are the steps Welsh recommends:
• Those credit card payments you no longer have to make—start putting them in the bank. Most likely, you've wiped out credit card debt in your bankruptcy. You can take at least a portion of what you would be paying on those cards and put them into savings.
• If you have a retirement saving plan at work like a 401K, especially if there is a matching program, start contributing. Retirement is expensive. Even a little money put away each month can add up over the long term. • Get catastrophic health insurance if you don't have any kind of medical coverage. The number one reason for filing bankruptcy in the U.S. is medical bills. A health plan with a high deductible is often very affordable and can save you financially in the case of an accident or a sudden life threatening disease like cancer. Protect your new savings plan with this type of insurance.
• Apply for secured credit cards. Welsh suggests trying your local bank first. If you're having difficulty finding one, however, see Creditinfocenter's recommended secured credit card list.
• Check your credit report to make sure it's been updated to properly show which debts were included in your bankruptcy. You don't want to have any discharged debts show an open balance.
For more information visit www.CreditInfoCenter.com
June 16, 2011 2:25 pm
From flooring and cabinetry to moulding and furniture, American hardwoods have been treasured for generations, and for good reason. They offer warmth, durability, luxury, and design options that are unmatched by faux-wood products.
Recently, however, an abundance of green product labels and misinformation has led to confusion in the marketplace, and has everyone asking, "Are American hardwoods really a sustainable resource?" The American Hardwood Information Center says yes.
Hardwood forests naturally regenerate themselves and do not need to be replanted like softwood forests. For this reason, their harvesting methods differ. The preferred method of harvesting hardwoods is single-tree selection. A professional forester evaluates a forest and determines which trees are ready to harvest. This responsible forest management practice not only provides a sustaining supply of hardwood, but it also ensures the overall health of a thriving forest—including water quality, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and recreational opportunities—and has allowed the volume of our hardwood forests to more than double since the 1950s.
Wood also is a carbon neutral material. Healthy forests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and release oxygen. The carbon is then stored in the wood for the life of the tree and the products made from it.
Advanced technology also ensures minimal wood is wasted during the manufacturing process. Every part of the tree is used. For example, tree bark becomes mulch, sawdust becomes animal bedding or fuel for boilers to operate dry kilns, and trimmings become paper. No other material can compare.
It's clear. There really is no better or natural choice for green building and healthy home environments than American hardwoods. Learn more by visiting www.HardwoodInfo.com, or www.woodfloors.org.
June 16, 2011 2:25 pm
Consumer technology is in a constant state of evolution, but the adoption rate varies and the role it plays in families' lives has become a controversial topic.
Recently, Ogilvy & Mather, in partnership with leading consumer insights company Communispace, released findings from its new joint research study, 'Tech Fast Forward: Plug in to see the brighter side of life,' which takes a deep dive into the role technology plays in families' lives today, exploring the mindset of tech-savvy kids and their families, as they pave the way for what lies ahead for consumers and brands alike.
The report uncovers insights from the "Tech Fast Forward" (TFF) family segment (defined as households who use more sophisticated technology than the average person, with children ages 3-12) and seeks to understand how parents and children embracing technology differ from their less tech-savvy counterparts. Following this group helps brands and marketers alike understand the mindset and experiences that companies need to stay engaged and relevant in today's rapidly changing world.
"You don't need to be a futurist to know that today's world is changing rapidly and technology is driving this evolution—continually creating possibilities, broadening our horizons and opening new doors," says Graceann Bennett, Managing Partner and Director of Strategic Planning at Ogilvy & Mather Chicago. "We assumed as a starting point that technology is our future, but what we did not know—and what we sought to uncover—was whether the outlook would be limitless or limiting, awesome or overwhelming."
According to Manila Austin, Ph.D., Communispace's Vice President of Research, "The brands that effectively speak to the Tech Fast Forward consumer today link products, services, and even corporate social responsibility together to showcase the brighter future Americans and the world hope to see."
A Tech Future is a Surprisingly Bright Future
Among the study's key findings, TFF Families have a more positive mindset overall and express less anxiety about the future. Parents believe technology is helping their children develop critical skills that will empower them to navigate—and even save—the world in the years and decades to come. According to the research, the TFF segment is twice as likely to say their children's generation is better off than prior generations and three times more likely than the rest of the population to strongly agree that when their kids' generation comes into power, they will "save the planet," "the world will be better off because of how they will lead the way" and "there will be global peace."
So What Does this Mean for Brands?
Through the research findings, Communispace and Ogilvy were able to identify the following 12 implications that will help marketers stay ahead of the curve and connect, literally and emotionally, with today and tomorrow's tech forward consumer.
1. Mobilize tech optimism: Brands have the opportunity to capitalize on today's tech optimism by helping consumers create the brighter world they want to see.
2. Generation bending: Nobody really acts their age anymore: market to kids as adults, adults as kids.
3. Mine the family mindset: As intergenerational attitudes converge, opportunities to market to the family as a unit increase. Purchase decisions are family decisions.
4. Be nice: Mean pretty much stinks; speaking to values of kindness and tolerance will increase acceptance and "liked-ness" of your brand.
5. Curate unexpected connections: Brands have the opportunity to bring unimagined access to consumers across the globe and should harness the power of connections in more interesting ways.
6. Put the world to work for you: Technology has unleashed the wisdom of the crowd and brands can build on tech optimism to channel their customers' creativity.
7. Turn up the intensity of shared experiences: Brands can leverage technology to expand and elevate shared experiences; look beyond the ordinary and consider partnering with artists to enhance and deepen brand involvement.
8. Respect the mode: Consumers today switch between modes of separation and integration, and seek service and product solutions to help them feel in control. Brands will benefit by providing a flexible feature set that speaks to the multi-modal life.
9. Un-connect the dots: Consumers want to interpret your brand—to make your brand's story their own. So give them the building blocks and let them put the pieces together.
10. Build gated communities: Safety and privacy create major barriers for self-expression online; private communities help consumers feel secure and confident when engaging with your brand online.
11. Get serious about game play: Game play is no longer relegated to the domain of kids—as technology makes brands more interactive, consumers expect to engage with brands in ways that mimic "play." Be it betting, competing, constructing or solving puzzles, consumers look for ways to take time out and have a little fun with your brand.
12. Let people mess with your brand: The creative impulse abounds, and today, any and all content is fair game for experimentation, adaptation and reinterpretation. This includes your brand! Companies need to embrace this trend and enable consumers to reimagine and remix brand assets.
How the Research Was Conducted
A nationally representative sample was conducted with 1200 tech savvy kids and their families across America with at least one child between the ages of 3 and 12. The first round of data collection occurred in 2010, and a second round was conducted in April 2011. Ogilvy Chicago also conducted in-home ethnographies with tech savvy kids and their families. Communispace conducted a series of qualitative studies including interactive conversations, image galleries, and other dynamic and exploratory activities with its proprietary online community members, which involved some 100 technology-savvy families with children between the age of 3 and 12.
The full research paper can be found online at www.ogilvy.com/techfastforward and www.communispace.com/techfastforward.
For more information, visit www.ogilvy.com.
June 16, 2011 2:25 pm
Q: Is it possible to save on closing costs?
A: Certainly, once you get pass the sticker shock. Closing costs are expensive. They can average between 2 to 3 percent of the total home purchase price. But here are a few ways to save:
• Haggle with the seller. He may pay all or part of the closing costs.
• Nab a no-point loan. You may have to pay a higher interest rate, but if you are strapped for cash and can qualify for a higher interest rate, you may find this type of loan can significantly reduce your closing costs.
• Grab a no-fee loan. Although the fee is usually wrapped into a higher rate loan, it does offer one advantage—you get to save on the amount of cash you would need up-front.
• Secure seller financing. These loans typically avoid the traditional fees or charges imposed by lenders. • Shop ‘til you drop for the best deal. Every lender has its own unique fee structure; you are bound to find one that works for you.
June 16, 2011 2:25 pm
Balloon loan. Mortgage loan in which a larger final payment becomes due because the loan amount was not fully amortized.
June 16, 2011 2:25 pm
‘Tis the season that many of us practice our weekly ritual of lawn mowing. But it’s also the season that accidents with lawn mowers send people to the emergency room. Each year, lawn mowers are associated with an estimated 86,000 hospital-treated injuries and about 100 deaths. Here are 13 steps you can take to avoid becoming one of those statistics.
1. Read and follow the manufacturer’s instruction before using your mower for the first time. Insist that anyone else who uses your mower reads the instructions first.
2. Never circumvent a safety device such as the “deadman” control or discharge chute.
3. Before starting your mower, make sure there are no missing or loose parts. If there is any sign of leaking fuel, don’t use the mower until it’s fixed. Many lawn mowers have been recalled because of fuel leaks. Check www.recalls.gov.
4. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, never start your mower in a garage or shed.
5. Wear sturdy work shoes with good traction and hearing protection while mowing. Long term exposure to noisy mowers could lead to hearing loss.
6. Check your lawn for debris such as rocks, sticks, or toys that could become dangerous projectiles if you run over them.
7. Keep kids and pets well away from the mowing area.
8. Never let a child sit on your lap on a riding mower or tractor.
9. Never allow children younger than 14 to use a ride-on mower, and don’t allow children younger than 12 to use walk-behind mowers.
10. For walk-behind mowers, mow parallel with slopes; for tractors and riding mowers, mow up and down slopes.
11. Never mow wet grass where you or the mower could easily slip.
12. Always look behind you before reversing a ride-on mower but avoid mowing in reverse.
13. Never refuel a hot engine.
In Consumer Reports’ recent lawn-care poll, folks ‘fessed up to some hazardous mowing practices. In fact, 25 percent said they listened to music through headphones, 8 percent drink beer or other alcohol and 4 percent text or talk on the phone.
For more information, please visit www.consumerreports.org
June 16, 2011 2:25 pm
Today’s business world is more competitive than ever. As the economy continues to struggle, competition for jobs, clients, sales—you name it—continues to be tight. If you’re sure you’ve been saying all the right things, but you still can’t get ahead, author Sharon Sayler suggests you consider what you’ve really been saying to potential employers or customers—not just verbally, but nonverbally.
“True communication goes beyond words, and great communicators use every tool they have to deliver their message,” says Sayler. “When you have control of your nonverbal language, you can communicate confidence with passion, persuasion, credibility and candor—factors that will help you soar above your competition in the business world.”
Sayler offers the following nonverbal do’s and don’ts that will help you win in the business world:
Don’t fill the air with “um, ah, uh,” and “you know.” It is natural to pause when you speak—it gives you a chance to breathe. What’s not natural is to fill the silent pause with um, ah, uh, you know, and other sounds. Verbal pauses are distracting and muddle what you are trying to say, because the audience sees you searching for the next words. Meaningless extra syllables or words make you look less intelligent. Your message will be more effective once you eliminate them. This may take practice.
Don’t use the fig-leaf pose. “When you place your hands in the fig-leaf pose, your body says, ‘I’m harmless,’ or, ‘I’m afraid,’” explains Sayler. “Not exactly the way to convey the level of confidence that a new employer might want to see in a new hire or that a client wants to see in the genius he needs to help improve his business.”
Do use hand gestures systematically. When we use only words to convey our message, we make it necessary for our audience to pay very close attention to what we say. Using gestures systematically, especially when giving directions or teaching, makes the audience less dependent on the verbal part of the presentation. The visual reminder created by gestures allows the listener two ways to remember: auditory and visual. It thereby increases the likelihood of accurate recall.
Don’t put your hands in your pockets. Thumbs hanging off the pockets and hands deep in both pockets say something similar to the fig leaf hand gesture, “Geez, I hope you like me.” Hands deep in the pockets jingling change say one of two things, depending on context: “Geez, I’m nervous and hope you like me,” or, “Geez, I’m so bored. Is this ever going to be over?”
Don’t hide your hands behind your back. Depending on the situation, grasping your hands behind your back can be interpreted as meaning, “Geez, I hope you like me,” or, “You better fear me.” Neither interpretation leaves a very good impression of you, so avoid this position altogether.
Don’t cross your arms. This stance is most frequently understood to indicate that you’re upset or uncomfortable. In business, others often interpret it as, “I am not open to discussion,” or, “I am annoyed.”
Do know when to put your hands on your hips. This is a ready-to-take-action gesture. It makes most people appear bigger, because they are actually taking up more space. Yet, it is often given negative labels by others, such as meaning you are annoyed, closed, or won’t listen—similar to placing your arms across your chest.
Do remember the eyes have it. Of all the nonverbal messages one can use, the eyes are the most expressive and really are the window to thoughts and emotions. Little or no eye contact is often thought to be associated with lying, but this is not always true. Experienced liars will look you right in the eye every time. It might also indicate lack of self-esteem or interest.
Do stop fidgeting. Unintentional gestures are emotional reactions or the result of the body’s desire for physical comfort and are often lovingly called fidgets. Even though fidgets can calm us, those pesky, jerky movements or anxious behaviors often make others uneasy.
“When it comes to inspiring and influencing others, we can say all the right words, but if our nonverbal postures send a different message, that is what others will understand and take away,” says Sayler. “True communication goes beyond words, and great communicators use every tool they have to deliver their message. When you learn to communicate not only through what you say, but also through what your body says, you can build stronger relationships, become a more influential leader, and receive enthusiastic responses from potential employers, clients and colleagues.
June 16, 2011 2:25 pm
For many families, times are tough, and the budget may not stretch far enough this year for a family vacation or summer camp. But, says life coach Valorie Burton, there are many ways to plan a summer of fun without spending a lot of money—even without a swimming pool in your own backyard.
Burton suggests starting with the following five questions, and plan your fun based on the results of your answers.
• What gives me joy? Are you happiest at the seashore? At a picnic in the woods? Playing with the kids at the park? Make this the year to plan family outings at the places you enjoy.
• Who do we want to connect with? Are there cousins, friends, or grandparents you don’t see often enough, even though they don’t live far away? This might be the year to plan a car trip—or invite other people to your own home—for a few days of visiting fun.
• What do tourists do around here? Often, we travel long distances on vacation while passing on the local attractions other people come to see in our region. Is there a national park within easy driving distance? A state or county fair? A museum? Plan a few picnics or an overnight stay at a few of these local treasures.
• Who can we team up with? Plan a block party or barbecue with neighbors. Teaming up and sharing the cost can be more fun than planning a party on your own.
• What can we do for someone else? Volunteering is a great way to feel good about yourself while helping those in need. You can volunteer at a home improvement project, read to the elderly at a senior facility, or organize a school supplies donation project before school resumes. Have a family conference and let the kids help choose what projects they would like to do.