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5 Easy Ways to Conserve Water & Energy for Earth Day, Everyday

Happy Earth Day! Today marks the 45th anniversary of the first Earth Day, created by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970 to call attention to air and water pollution. Since its humble beginnings, Earth Day has grown into an international movement to improve the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink and to understand the need to conserve natural resources.

Practicing the philosophy of Earth Day should be noted just one day of the year; there’s plenty to do every day to promote a healthier planet.

1. Fix leaks – Sinks and toilets that drip and leak waste hundreds of gallons of water a year and money, too, in lower water bills.

2. Shower instead of bathe – Taking a five-minute shower uses far less water than a bath; 10 to 15 gallons of water compared to an average of 70 gallons.

3. Install low-flow kitchen and bath fixtures – Look for the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense badge when shopping for new faucets and toilets. Fixtures with the WaterSense label are at least 20 percent more efficient.

4. Turn off lights in empty rooms – Parents everywhere are constantly reminding kids to turn off the light when they leave a room and for good reason. The less time lights spend on, the less energy they use which translates into lower energy bills.

5. Use LED lamps – Replacing incandescent and CFL (compact fluorescent) bulbs with LED saves energy, time and and money. Not only do LEDs use considerable less electricity – 8 watts compared to the traditional 60 – they also last for years and don’t contain mercury like a CFL.

Do you have energy-saving tips to share?

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3 Items that Clean & Deodorize the Garbage Disposal

The smelly truth about garbage disposals is that they sometimes stink like the garbage that gets ground up inside them and whisked away.

Using a harsh chemical cleaner could potentially smell worse than the odor causing all the trouble in the first place, so try one of these solutions instead:

1. Lemon juice & baking soda: pour a generous amount of baking soda directly into the disposal followed by the lemon juice. The acid in the juice will react with the baking soda and foam up and out of the disposal. Leave the mixture for at least an hour and then rinse with cold water and run the disposal for 15 to 30 seconds.

2. Lemon juice, baking soda & vinegar: Pour a tablespoon of lemon juice down the disposal then use equal parts baking soda and vinegar and pour the solution down the disposal. After only five minutes, rinse with hot water.

3. Lemons, vinegar and ice cubes: Slice a lemon (or a lime) in half and put them down the disposal one at a time. Pour in vinegar and ice cubes while the disposal is running to dissipate the odor and sharpen the disposer’s blades at the same time. Or, create vinegar ice cubes with slices of lemon (or lime) in them and put them in the disposal, then run it for up to a minute.

Still need help choosing a garbage disposal? Click here for handy “how to” tips.

Top 5 Kitchen Design Trends for 2015

Kitchens in the last several years have moved from strictly utilitarian design to primary gathering space for family and friends, and that trend shows no sign of diminishing.

What is changing a bit are the details; kitchen trends for 2015 are all about improving functionality while maintaining an overall vibe of warmth and welcome.

1. Wood cabinets – Wood tones are making a comeback, but not necessarily the generic golden oak hues that have been a favorite among builders for the past decade or so. Decorator’s Wisdom noticed that stained wood in darker shades is gaining popularity and so is cherry in major metropolitan centers like Chicago and Philadelphia.

2. Warm metal finishes – Polished chrome and stainless steel still have their place, but homeowners are increasingly turning to the warmer side of metal like brushed brass and oil-rubbed bronze. Style at Home notes that brass adds sparkle and warmth and looks great with both white and grey.

3. White cabinets with white appliances – Despite the uptick in wood tones, white cabinets remain a top choice, and white appliances are being chosen as well. Homeowners who flocked to stainless steel are now buying white stoves and refrigerators to create a more seamless look and easier clean-up since fingerprints and smudges aren’t as obvious.

4. Multiple Storage Solutions - Walk-in pantries, roll-out cabinet shelves, and clever pull-outs to maximize storage is a necessity in the kitchen of 2015 because making life – and food prep – easier is the name of the game.

5. Smart appliances/docking stationsUsing a smartphone to control when the coffee starts to brew and having a built-in charging station for an iPad to better read recipes or follow a how-to video are becoming more prevalent in 21st century kitchens, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association.

The bottom line is that kitchens in 2015 have to be livable spaces where every member of the family – including pets – feels comfortable. But, kitchen remodels – no matter if the job is a complete gut or just an update – should also strike a balance between classic and trendy because the changes are expected to last for years.

What must-haves are on your list:

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Is Your Outdoor Space Ready for Summer?

Spring is officially a month old, and it is time to get the patio and/or deck ready for get-togethers and relaxing summer nights outside.

Furniture that’s still in good shape will need a little love before putting it back to work for the season. Metal and wood pieces may need cleaning and a fresh coat of paint while plastic or resin should be cleaned with a solution of bleach and water to kill any mold and mildew.

But, for homeowners who need to replace outdoor furniture, the most noticeable design trends for 2015 are built-ins, indoor/outdoor rooms and bold patterns, according to the Lawn & Leisure blog.

A key outdoor design element for 2015 are built-in appliances, furniture and fire pits. Grills, prep sinks and bars – essentially an outdoor kitchen – are growing more popular as homeowners look for unique ways of adding living space outside.

Likewise, benches with plenty of cushioned seating and permanent fire pits perfect for roasting marshmallows are also part of current landscaping trends.

“The conventional backyard is being replaced with an oasis for the family and entertaining friends,” Glen Goldberg of Four Seasons Garden Center told Lawn & Leisure.

Expanding indoor entertaining to the patio or deck is also becoming increasingly popular, if the photo galleries at HGTV.com are any indication.

Many of them have titles and a dozen or more photos on how to bring the indoors out for comfortable and relaxing seating and optimal entertaining. Another photo gallery features the network’s favorite outdoor rooms from viewers.

Outdoor spaces are also mimicking interior design by mixing materials, colors and patterns in new and exciting combinations.

The goal is to create a space that echoes the homeowners taste and style even if the starting point is a set purchased from a local big box store.

The idea is to put your own personal spin on a space,” Sally Falk Nancrede of the IndyStar told Lawn & Leisure. “Patterns are also in fashion, and they don’t need to match — they simply ought to not clash.”

Mix paisleys with plaids and birds with geometrics; the key is to use complementary colors and varying shades of the same hue.

Designer Vicki Payne reminds everyone to measure their spaces before embarking on a shopping spree.

Before you make your final selection, take the time to measure your patio to make sure the pieces you want will fit. Don’t purchase a chaise if you don’t have the space for it,” she wrote on her blog.

Have you turned your backyard into an outdoor room? We’d love to hear about it and see photos.

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