Watch Out For Local Deal Events

If you have had any experience taking load after load of yard waste to the dump, you know that it can add up. I have even noticed inconsistencies in the pricing for similar loads. With an almost arbitrary method of pricing, it is only natural to feel mistrustful of the fees. But luckily there are things you can do to avoid paying full price at the dump.

You can find reduced prices, for usually not that much longer of a drive by skipping the local transfer stations and driving directly out to the dump. For Reno, the Lockwood dump is only 10 miles East of the city. There is also the benefit of having more room to maneuver a trailer, as the transfer stations can get pretty tight.  There is usually a smaller line too, if at all.

But even better, you can watch out for specific dates that Waste Management will hold free dump events. This weekend was the first event in Reno this year, and there will be two more in April. If you can take advantage of these events it will save you some money. You can find the specific dates here for reduced pricing at the Reno transfer stations and free dump days in Lockwood.

Other types of events to look out for like this include free entry fee days at places such as parks or museums. For example, the Nevada Museum of Art has free entry on the second Saturday of every month. I even took my dog to the vet on a day they were waiving the clinic fee. I would love to hear of more events like this to watch out for, so please share!

LA is Boosting its Efficiency with the Streetcar

 

 

The benefits of streetcars are being recognized in cities around the world, and they are investing heavily in these pedestrian-friendly, environmentally conscious systems to efficiently and reliably take people where they want and need to go. For more detailed information click here, but below is a summary of the benefits:

 

Catalyst for new development – With highly visible rails installed in the streets, a permanent, dependable streetcar system will assure investors that their investments have permanent access to public transit and a steady flow of customers. For example, when Portland installed their streetcar, the increase in activity that the streetcars generated, drove new retail, office, commercial, and home development around the streetcar line.

Creates jobs – With new homes, comes new residents, and they need jobs. With the streetcar, more people will have easy access to employment opportunities. The streetcar will force the downtown area to compete for skilled, educated, and in-demand employees throughout the region. The diverse urban environment will attract creative employees, making LA more competitive.

Stimulates tourism – The streetcar will connect major destinations together and will be easy for novice riders to use and understand. By traveling to the places that people want to go, the streetcar will capture riders that are willing, ready, and excited to engage in Downtown L.A.’s depth of entertainment, cultural, and shopping experiences. This results in more spending, more hotels booked, and in turn, more city revenue.

Sustainable power – Streetcars run entirely on electricity, which means they emit zero point-source emissions while operating, and as an added benefit, electric systems are virtually silent. They reduce carbon gas emissions by making urban living easier, more accessible, and convenient for live/work activity.

Promotes safe, healthy, active community – Streetcars extend the distance a person can comfortably walk. Streetcar schedules will be integrated into real-time transit maps, available on mobile phones and the internet, so riders know exactly when and where streetcars arrive and depart.

Increases productivity – Removing the stress of a daily commute increases productivity and makes getting to work an active experience. The streetcar system will be especially helpful for those who choose not to, or are unable to, use an automobile as their primary means of transit. This will decrease traffic and allow for easy circulation with less parking. The streetcar will make downtown transit connections seamless by directly interfacing with the regional transportation network, including numerous bus routes, rail lines, and multi-mobility hubs.

Cost effective – Streetcars are designed to integrate with the existing urban environment, can be constructed quickly, and flow with traffic in a shared right-of-way. They can be built on-time and on-budget while minimally disrupting businesses.

With the addition of the streetcar, urban living will become more sustainable and convenient. It can help revitalize communities and neighborhoods while providing significant economic and development returns city-wide. What do you think? Would one of these work in Reno?

When Will Green Button Reach Reno?

Recently three major California utilities (Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison) have implemented Green Button on their websites, and many more are adopting this new open industry standard. Green Button marks the beginning of a new era of consumer control over energy use, and local empowerment to cut waste and save money.

But what is it? Basically, it allows the customer to login to their account and be able to click on the Green Button to download over a year’s worth of their detailed electricity usage. Here are a few ways this data can be used:

Insight – The opportunity to analyze this new data creates a ripe environment for innovation. Helping customers understand and manage their energy use, and even further, understand the environmental impacts of that usage, will be a breakthrough in the battle for sustainability.

Customization – With data specific to your household, it has the possibility of giving you a breakdown of your energy usage by appliance.

  • Heating and Cooling: the ability to provide personalized suggestions for optimal savings and comfort
  • Energy-Efficient Investments: the ability to calculate potential savings and payback for installing new energy-efficient retro-fits. Even give detailed information about the optimal size of solar panels for your house and your predicted return on investment for them.
  • Time Data: Get a better understanding of optional time-of-use rate plans (now offered by many utilities) will affect their bills, and the best time of day to run certain appliances.

Green Button was inspired by the successful launch of a similar tool, called Blue Button that allows consumers to view their personal health data and print their personal health records for sharing with other doctors or others they trust. Today this service is available to 80 million Americans. Green Button has the potential to reach every American household and business.

This is another great product for consumers who are demanding more and more information, and a great opportunity for mobile applications to jump on.

Cross-Training Employees and Empowerment

I’ve been working at my new job in the manufacturing industry for about three months now, and I am learning so much. One of the great things about my job is the opportunity for me to learn different departments within the company, from quality control, to production, to shipping. Today, I was thinking about how great of a thing cross-training your employees is and how efficient it can make your business.

Cross training benefits individuals, the team, the department, and the whole company. Empowering your employees is easy to advocate, but difficult to put into practice. In order to feel truly empowered, you must develop a strong sense of self-efficacy, by experiencing these four parts of empowerment.

Meaning – If your heart is not in your work, and you don’t see a fit between your role and your values, you cannot feel empowered.

Competence – If you don’t believe that you are capable of doing your job, you will feel inadequate and lack a sense of empowerment.

Self-determination – If you feel like you are just following your boss’ orders, having no control over the way you do your work, you cannot feel empowered.

Impact – If you don’t believe you are making a difference within your organization, and contributing, empowerment is not possible.

Now you know what it feels like to be empowered, here are some benefits to having cross-trained, empowered employees.

Understanding the big picture – Knowing not only how, but why things work is the basis of learning. It allows employees to appreciate each others’ work, as well as being more efficient in their own job because they have a better understanding of what is needed and how to best manage their time.

Smooth running business – It makes it easier to cover the absence of an employee or any restructuring. This is especially helpful in the manufacturing business where things need to keep moving, without a drop in service. It can also spur creative ideas and discussions about how things can be expanded or improved.

Staff development – The short term benefit of cross-training is knowing about each others’ work, but an even better long term benefit is possibly unearthing individual talents and interests that aren’t apparent in employees’ current roles. From the company’s perspective this gives you an opportunity to keep employees by giving them a chance to see their potential in a different position within the company, rather than having them find another job. This will save time and money spent hiring a new employee, and could improve the efficiency of your business by having the right people in the right positions.

Cross-training employees has few real disadvantages, other than the possible time commitment, which is minimal compared to the many benefits. It is a win-win for both employee and company.

Why Daylight Saving Time?

Apparently the official spelling is Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight SavingS Time. (I’ve been saying it wrong – oops!) I was curious to learn about the origins of DST, since we are “springing forward” today, and thought I would share.

Most of the United States begins DST at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday in March and reverts to standard time on the first Sunday in November. In the US, DST is not observed in Hawaii or Arizona. Since the daylight hours are similar during every season in tropical areas, there is no advantage to moving clocks forward during the summer. As for Arizona, the reasoning behind why they don’t follow DST is due to the heat. To properly start night-time activities, the sun needs to go down in order for it to cool off before 9pm. Most parts of the US like to enjoy long summer evenings. This is why DST is also referred to as “Summer Time”.

The idea of daylight saving was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin in 1784, in his essay, “An Economical Project.” But the idea was first seriously advocated by London builder William Willett (1857-1915) in the pamphlet, “Waste of Daylight”. The plan was not formally adopted in the U.S. until 1918.

Some arguments in favor of DST include energy savings. Some studies show how DST reduces the entire country’s electricity usage by a small, but significant amount. Less electricity is used for lighting and appliances because of the time change. Some even argue there is a public health benefit to DST, claiming that it decreases traffic accidents. There may also be an economic benefit to DST; as daylight evening hours encourage people to go out and shop, they potentially stimulate economic growth. But there have also been studies disproving these theories as well.

There are just as many complaints about DST as there are praises. Many have to do with the inconvenience of changing many clocks and adjusting to a new sleep schedule. Protests also come from those who wake up at dawn, or those whose schedules are tied to sunrise, such as farmers. This was funny to read because I always thought that daylight saving time helped the farmers.

Whether DST is making efficient use of our daylight is up for debate. Even though losing an hour today was not fun, I do love the long summer evenings.

Sources: http://www.webexhibits.org/daylightsaving/ and http://www.abc15.com/dpp/news/state/why-arizona-doesn%27t-observe-daylight-saving-time

Use Habits to Increase Efficiency

Habits are important because they can help simplify your life. They allow you to perform mundane duties without expending very much physical or mental energy. Some habits can even go unnoticed because there is no need to self-analyze while completing such tasks. This is how good habits can create order and efficiency in your life.

But bad habits can have the complete opposite effect. Besides making you less productive, certain bad habits can even adversely affect your health and well-being. I also thought it would be interesting to share the difference between a bad habit and an addiction – willpower. If you still have control over your behavior, it is just a bad habit.

Here are some techniques for removing bad habits:

  • Remove easy availability
  • Find what triggers/encourages your bad habit and remove it
  • Replace your bad habit with a good one
  • Make yourself accountable
  • Reward yourself

I feel really repetitive, but if you make it a goal to break a bad habit, make sure it is SMART! Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. The same thing applies to forming new habits. Good habits are just as hard to form as bad habits are to break.

Here are some techniques for creating good habits:

  • Know what you want to accomplish
  • Start slowly, but fully commit
  • Focus on consistency over performance
  • Reward yourself

Most of the productivity killers I listed in one of my previous posts can be flipped into a good habit. Timing of certain habits can also be important. For example, it is more efficient to perform a routine task when your energy levels are low.

On a related note, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is on my past-due reading list.

Communicating Effectively

One thing I’ve always wanted to work on is becoming more articulate. I often struggle with expressing myself. Effective communication is a skill that some individuals pick up as a child, but for those of us who aren’t so lucky can either learn now, or battle to be understood and to understand what others really mean.

With everyone “joining the conversation”, through the numerous social media outlets today, more than ever, we see a need for better personal interaction in business and life. Here are some tips I have found helpful:

Be self-confident – The more self-worth you have, the more confident you will be. Also understand that your worth never changes – don’t be afraid of rejection.

Be sincerely interested in other people – listening is a huge part of effective communication. Here are a few ways you can connect with someone:

  • Ask open-ended questions that they would be interested in answering. It makes people feel good to talk about themselves.
  •  Compliment them. Make it specific to have a genuine compliment.
  •  Ask them their name and REMEMBER IT! I am horrible with this, but there is no excuse.
  •  Smile and make eye contact.
  • Show your sense of humor.

Broaden your horizons – Peruse the latest in sports, television, news, local hobbies, etc. It will give you more to talk about, and opportunities to meet new people.

Be aware of perceptions – It is a good idea to manage the impressions others have of you. There may be a difference in what you are trying to say and how your audience perceives it. Paying attention to your appearance and body language can help you control your message.

Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion – Express your thoughts, ideas, and feelings openly.

Be more assertive – Stop using self-depreciating phrases like “I’m just following orders”, and drop the just. By practicing non-defensive communication, you create a positive and productive environment to communicate in.

Good communication skills are fundamental to all relationships and your success in your career.