Many people think that if they live in a so-called “nice neighborhood” that they’re immune to residential crime. While it’s true that the probability of having their home or cars broken into may be lower than in urban or high-crime areas, there’s always the outside chance that there’s someone wandering through the neighborhood — especially at night — who doesn’t have the best of intentions.

While that does not mean you have to be in a state of “high alert” all the time, it does make sense to develop good habits with regard to home security. One thing to avoid is being lulled into a state of complacency by the the sight of manicured lawns, friendly neighbors, and the peaceful atmosphere of your neighborhood. Although those qualities are well worth appreciating and being grateful for, an ounce of prevention can help preserve the sanctity of your home and property.

Typical Security Mistakes Homeowners Make

Whether you’re talking about highway safety, food safety, or home security, you and your family can lead a safer, more secure life by following a few basic guidelines. Unfortunately, all-too-many people tend to let their guard down and leave themselves vulnerable to threats, like home break-ins, burglary, and other residential crimes.

Have you noticed any neighbors on your street who seem to “throw caution to the wind” when they’re away? Maybe you, too, have gotten a little too complacent or forgetful about basic home security measures. Here are a few of the common mistakes many people make — especially when they’re on vacation — which could be an invitation to trouble:

  1. Leaving a house key under the front door mat: Although it may seem like a convenient and somewhat discreet place to “hide” a key, it’s one of the first places a resourceful burglar is going to look. Not only that, but every time a friend or member of the family accesses that key, they could easily be observed by someone passing by. The longer it’s there, the more people are going to see it.
  2. Forgetting to suspend mail or newspaper delivery: When you go on vacation or visit relatives for more than a few days, your mind is already cluttered with travel plans and other arrangements. It’s easy to forget about details like mail delivery and newspapers accumulating in the driveway. However, if either of those items start piling up in front of your house, it’s equivalent to placing a flashing neon sign in your window, saying “Nobody’s home!” Rather than contacting the post office and newspaper circulation department, an easier method is to have a trusted neighbor or friend gather your deliveries and store them in a safe place — possibly inside your home. (If they’re a really good friend, they can also water your plants, feed your tropical fish, take care of your pets, and turn on a couple lights at night — but, maybe you don’t want to test the limits of your friendship that much!)
  3. Leaving lampposts and outdoor floodlights on continuously: Again, it’s like an advertisement that the house is unoccupied.
  4. Allowing the grass to get too long: It’s amazing how a little sunshine and rain, while you’re away, can cause an unexpected growth spurt in your lawn. Although it’s not as obvious as the previous items, it can be a tip off that the family is on vacation, blissfully unaware of the security breaches that are occurring. The overgrown grass problem can be prevented by either hiring a regular lawn mowing service or recruiting an enterprising teenager in the neighborhood to keep your property looking well tended while you’re away.

There are potentially dozens of home security measures you can take to ensure that your premises are completely burglarproof, but they can be expensive and complicated. However, if you just follow a few commonsense guidelines, both your possessions and your peace of mind should remain fully intact!

Climate change may turn out to be the defining issue of our time. As global temperatures continue to rise, many of us are looking for small ways that we can make a difference. What better place to start than right in your own home?

Making your home eco-friendly can seem daunting. Installing solar panels and replacing windows aren’t an afternoon project. They take time and financial planning. However, there are many changes we can make without spending a penny, and those small changes add up. The two main areas we’ll focus on are power and waste.

Cut the Power

A costly utility bill isn’t only hurting your wallet. It also means power plants need to burn more coal and natural gas, emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. Your home is probably full of opportunities to conserve electricity. One thing we all do that uses a huge amount of power is washing and drying our clothes.

85-90% of power used by washing clothes goes to heating water. Set your machine to cold wash when you can to cut down on energy consumption. When the weather’s fair, take advantage of it by hanging your clothes on the line. It doesn’t have to be a cloudless summer day to dry clothes outside, and it will drastically reduce your power consumption.

Another cost-free way to save on electricity is to unplug your devices when they’re not in use. You probably have at least 50 items in your home that use electricity. Many of them are always plugged into the outlet. While this is necessary in some cases, like your refrigerator or alarm clock, oftentimes those objects are left on standby, slowly leeching electricity. One way to easily cut the power to multiple objects is to keep them plugged into a power strip. Start in the living room where you might have a TV, DVD player, cable box, and lamps all plugged into one strip. Simply power off the strip at night to start saving.

Take out the Trash

Up to 70% of waste from U.S. households goes into landfills. That’s double the rate of many European countries. Just like conserving power, reducing waste can be done at no cost to you and can sometimes save you money. A good place to start? Food items.

In the U.S., up to 40% of food purchased will never be consumed. All of that food took a huge amount of energy to grow, process, package and ship. Even worse, much of that food is over-packaged and then placed into unrecyclable plastic bags at the checkout line. How can you save?

  • The next time you need to go grocery shopping, make a list beforehand so you only buy what you will eat
  • At the store reach for items that are less packaged, like fresh vegetables
  • When possible, buy items like rice and beans in bulk. You’ll throw away less packaging and save at the register
  • Get a few reusable shopping bags and keep them in your car. Grocery stores are happy to use your bags. It saves the store money on bags and, in some states, saves you money where there are additional charges for using plastic bags.
  • Ask for no bag. Most store employees assume customers want a bag, even for small purchases at CVS. Cut down on waste by saying “No, thank you” to plastic bags

Being a conscious consumer at the grocery store and being a conservative consumer of electricity at home will help you do your small part for the environment, and save some money in the process.

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