Summer is upon us, which means we’re getting ready to enjoy warm nights in the backyard around the pool and patio. But have you given thought to how you can cultivate a yard that invites you outside all year long? When summer fades to fall, how can you make your outdoor living space work in the cooler temperatures?
Create a visually appealing yard by planting vegetation or adding hardscaping that works hard year-round. Based on your climate, plant trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals that provide greenery and blooms with the changing seasons. This means you’ll never have to spend another winter staring sadly at spent blooms, wishing for some warmth from Mother Nature.
A staggered planting plan incorporates coniferous and deciduous trees, as well as both early and late blooming shrubs and flowers. While we all anticipate the first yellow daffodils each spring, what else have you planted that you can look forward to at the end of summer? How will your foliage change when autumn arrives? Instead of being surrounded by bare branches when fall colors fade, make sure you have evergreen plants that invite you outside.
There are many vegetation options available to ensure you have a bit of greenery in your backyard oasis year-round. Talk with a local nursery or landscaping company to determine what will work best for your yard, The following are some top choices for bringing color, texture, and variety to a yard from spring through winter:
- Mountain Laurel
- Crepe Myrtle Trees
- Hydrangea Shrubs
- Rose of Sharon
- Maples (for their foliage)
- Sumac Shrubs
- Red Osier Dogwood
- Variegated Holly
While vegetation is extremely important for creating an inviting outdoor space, don’t forget about the hardscaping that complements it.
Does your yard have shelter from the elements? What about heaters or an outdoor fire pit for cool nights? If you want to make your yard a place you can enjoy year-round, be sure you consider your hardscaping options.
A seasoned, premier landscaper like Cottonwood Landscapes, based in Utah, knows to use weather-resistant materials for outdoor spaces. The building materials and textiles used in your yard should be made to last so you can enjoy being outdoors any time of year. Since Utah can experience all four seasons in one “spring” day, Cottonwood knows how to bring a backyard vision to life with materials that can withstand the elements.
Hardscaping for an inviting outdoor environment should include defined seating areas, pathways, and cover from sun, rain, and snow. Get the most out of your yard by considering the following additions:
- Deck with a pergola or cover
- Fire pit or fireplace with built-in seating
- Outdoor kitchen
- Lighting and heat sources
- Pavers and flagstone for pathways and sitting areas
- Retaining walls
- Privacy screens
- Water features
Portable heaters or a firepit may be the best investment if you want to enjoy your outdoor space year-round. You may also be surprised at how alluring a hot tub can be even when there’s snow on the ground.
Best Hardscaping Materials for Winter
Snow, snow removal, and de-icing chemicals can quickly take a toll on your hardscaping. Concrete slabs and wood can deteriorate over time due to freezing and thawing, so it might be good to look at other options.
Compared to big, concrete slabs, individual pavers can better withstand expansion and contraction in temperature fluctuation. This means they undergo less stress as the seasons change, offering a longer lifespan than an expanse of concrete, which tends to crack over time.
Another benefit of pavers is that you can employ a variety of materials: brick, concrete, or even stone makes for beautiful, study pavers in your backyard oasis. Laying them like tiles gives a lot of flexibility when it comes to design, and if an individual piece is damaged, it can be removed and replaced.
Yes, never-ending slabs of concrete just got slammed above, but different applications of cement can fare better than others in cold climates. If your concrete hardscaping is properly sealed, it can withstand the elements a bit better. Also, concrete has come a long way and the possibilities for stamping and coloring it are practically limitless.
As previously mentioned, brick is a sturdy material to use in harsh winter climates. Whether for a patio, walkway, or wall, brick can last hundreds of years with regular maintenance. Keeping it clean, and ensuring the brick is sealed will go a long way toward preserving its integrity.
Besides providing long-lasting gathering areas in your yard, hardscaping is often a necessity for preventing problems.
Benefits of Hardscaping
Installing proper drainage in your yard is imperative for preventing flooding, and keeping pests at bay. Make sure you’re not stuck with standing water or mosquitoes by incorporating barriers and drains in your hardscaping. Thoughtful hardscaping can also divert water away from your house to protect the foundation from damage as well.
Prevents Soil Erosion
You’ve worked hard with your landscaper to cultivate a beautiful yard; don’t let erosion sweep it all away! The right hardscaping can keep flower beds intact and ensure your hard work doesn’t wash away in the next spring rainstorm. Keep mulch, plants, and dirt in place with a variety of barriers to prevent soil erosion.
If you want to make your yard the gathering place for family events, use hardscaping to define spaces. Create pathways through vegetation so guests can explore your plants without trampling them. Use pavers to create sitting areas where chairs have steady footing and no one runs the risk of topping over when they take a seat. Carve out the perfect grilling spot with permanent shade structures and food prep areas.
Remember, you don’t have to dream up or execute your yard plans on your own. You can employ the help of a designer to get your yard sketched out and use a landscaping company like Cottonwood that does it all. From decks to patios, swimming pools to outdoor kitchens, make your yard work harder for you by incorporating variety.
Sustainable Ways to Eat Meat
When discussing sustainable eating and ways to help the environment, eating less meat is usually one of the recommendations. However, there are ways you can keep meat in your diet without having such a big environmental impact.
The Environmental Impact of Eating Meat
Even if the animals being raised for meat are treated well, there are other concerns when it comes to being a carnivore. A lot of resources are used to raise the cattle and prepare the meat for consumption.
Animals Need Land
To raise happy and healthy animals, ranchers need a lot of land. In addition to needing the space to graze, they can contaminate water sources, prematurely deplete the soil of nutrients, and contribute to erosion.
How Much Water Livestock Requires
- Beef: More than 4,000 gallons of water per 2.1 pounds of edible meat
- Pork: 6,000 gallons of water per 2.1 pounds of edible meat
- Chicken: More than 1,100 gallons of water per 2.1 pounds of edible meat
In contrast, 2.1 pounds of fruit only require 264 gallons of water, and 2.1 pounds of vegetables just 79 gallons.
Livestock Contributes to Greenhouse Gases
While not the straw to break the camel’s back when it comes to damaging the atmosphere, livestock does contribute to greenhouse gases. The animals themselves not only expel menthane but the facilities that process meat are emitting pollution into the atmosphere, as are the trucks that transport meat products to stores. studies show that livestock greenhouse gas emissions total 14.5% of all man-made emissions. This is equal to the number of emissions produced by all of the world’s transportation combined.
On the flip side, plant-based foods require fewer resources to get from farm to table. So, cutting out the middle man when it comes to purchasing meat may be one viable option. Let’s look at some others.
Tips for Sourcing Meat Sustainably
Put in some extra effort to research where your food comes from and know that you’re doing your part to reduce your carbon footprint.
Buy Local or Raise Your Own
You may pay slightly more for locally raised meat, but it often tastes better and it’s better for the environment. Wagyu beef, such as that raised by Bear Lake Beef in Utah, eliminates the need for a trip to the grocery store by delivering flavorful, tender cuts right to your door. See if there is a local cattle rancher that can provide you with premium cuts of meat, whether it’s via a farmer’s market, pickup, or delivery.
Tips for Buying Local or Sustainably Raised Meat
- Look up farmers’ markets on the National Farmers Market Directory (NFMD)
- Join a meat share, such as Good Meat Switchboard
- Search national databases for a farm that aligns with your values
- Browse Niche Meat Processors Network for farms that ship
You can also reduce your carbon footprint by raising your own meat. You might not have enough room for a cow in your yard, but backyard chickens could prove a less cumbersome way of keeping meat in your diet while getting rid of the middle man.
Maybe the thought of raising livestock doesn’t appeal to you. It’s a lot of work, and you run the risk of getting emotionally attached to your backyard breakfast. Hunting your own meat may be a better option for you. It can combine the skill of using a firearm or bow with learning how to responsibly obtain food.
Tips for Hunting
- Invest in quality tools (firearms, bow and arrows, etc…)
- Get certified and apply early for permits
- Stay in designated hunting areas in designated hunting seasons
- Wear bright clothing
- Be mindful of other hunters
- Make yourself known to other hunters for safety
- Keep an eye on pets
Purchase From Ethical Ranchers
Whether or not they’re local, ethical ranchers can make a difference when it comes to the environment. By focusing on quality rather than quantity, ethical farming practices are less harmful to the ecosystem as they don’t intensively farm and mass-produce meat.
For Ethically Raised Meat, Look for the Following Labels
- Certified Organic
- Certified Humane
- Certified Animal Welfare Approved
Purchasing directly from a farmer or a butcher is often the most convenient way to source ethically raised meat.
Switch One Meat Product for Another
Some livestock requires fewer resources than others, so switching from red meat to white may be a way to increase your sustainability.
Cows are said to have a bigger carbon footprint than other types of livestock, such as pigs or chickens. Even just switching to another source of meat can make a positive difference for the environment.
Reduce How Much Meat You Eat
Maybe the only change you make is simply reducing how often you eat meat and reducing your portion size when you do. Switch to eating meat one less day per week, or using less in your favorite recipes.
Reduce Food Waste
Whatever food waste you have left over, consider composting it to reduce your carbon footprint. Landfills produce additional greenhouse gases, so when uneaten meat products end up in the garbage it’s like giving them a second chance to produce methane. If composting isn’t an option, be more mindful with your meal planning to avoid purchasing more food than you need that will end up going to waste.
Buy Meat That’s Been Fed a Sustainable Diet
No matter what you’re purchasing, or from whom, if your meat has been fed a more sustainable diet it can help the environment. Science Direct published an abstract stating that cows fed red seaweed as part of their diet produce 50% less methane. Follow to food chain when purchasing meat to see how everything is sourced along the way.
With a few changes, you can feel better about keeping meat in your diet. See what substitutions you can make in your meals to reduce consumption, and be willing to do a little homework to source meat from ethical farms. It can make all the difference.
Sustainable Food Disposal: How to Save Money While Saving the World
Disposing of excess food and food waste in a sustainable way is not only profitable for consumers and businesses but charitable to the rest of Earth’s residents. No matter the scale of your kitchen, a couple of simple changes such as donation and composting can contribute to a worldwide shift toward the conservation of both individual and environmental resources.
While wasted food from corporate farms and distribution centers makes up a large portion of our world’s losses, widening this win-win waste management scenario’s implementation starts from the roots up— right in your own kitchen, as well as in restaurants and markets throughout your community.
The US Department of Agriculture estimates that about one-third of the food produced in 2010 was wasted before it even reached the shelves. Now, imagine how much of that was actually eaten, and how much went straight to the landfill.
If the general public starts making moves to ensure foods from supermarkets and F&B suppliers either get eaten or disposed of responsibly, expectations and pressure will arise for those with more power in the industry to reduce their waste statistics as well.
Dawn a new day in food disposal— Start recycling or getting rid of your food waste in a sustainable way today, as well as supporting businesses that strive to do the same. This will set an example for those around you, setting humanity up for a more successful future while saving you money in the process.
- Donate Excess Food
Feed the Hungry — Feed Your Wallet
Donating excess food to a school cafeteria, homeless shelter, or similar organization is easy. In the end, not only does it make you feel good but it also saves you money in more than one way:
- Help Provide Meals for Schools and Shelters
Stop feeding landfills and start feeding your community— As long as your excess food is still safe, edible, and healthy, it can feed the hungry mouths of school children and the struggling citizens of the world.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, about 805 million people across the globe went hungry between 2012 and 2014. If all food loss was eliminated, we would have enough to provide sufficient nourishment for all of these people.
- Reduce Your Bin Weight & Reap Tax Benefits
When you donate your edible excess, you will have less trash in your bin and less tax to pay to the IRS. If your waste management company is charging you by weight, which is especially likely if you are running a restaurant, your disposal fees will drop.
In addition to freeing up your budget to provide more fun for your family or an even more exceptional restaurant experience, you can write off these charitable donations on your taxes and receive more of your hard-earned money back.
- Compost Food Waste
Return Nutrients — Reduce Methane
Why throw food waste into a landfill where it will rot in a plastic bag and add more methane to our atmosphere? Return it to where it came from to decompose— the dirt. Then, it can be used to grow more plentiful and healthy food for the people of our planet:
- Conserve Resources and Enrich the Soil
Earth’s systems are naturally sustainable, promoting proper growth and decay by sharing resources through exchanges of energy. When we allow food waste to rot away in a landfill, it won’t be able to return to the soil it came from and carry on its nutrients to produce the next batch of crops.
After enriching the soil, this energy translates into nutrition for the human body. Composting food waste, whether it be at home or through employing an eco-friendly waste management company, will help supply hearty harvests and well-nourished livestock— sustainably supporting humanity’s health for generations to come.
- Separate Your Waste and Save on Pick Up
When you separate your waste to be sent to specialized facilities, it will not only help save the planet but could also save you cash. A waste management company that cares about our carbon footprint will often encourage composting and recycling by offering money-saving incentives to pre-sort your trash into different bins.
Starting a compost pile in your backyard is a great way to provide you and your family with a freer budget, more nourishing meals, and a little extra exercise. If you set up your pile to perform the composting process properly, it will support your finances as well as the health of your soil, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides that harm our planet.
Donating your excess food and composting your food waste is simple. Take a step towards sustainability today to start saving money, feeding the hungry, returning resources to Mother Earth, and cleaning the ozone through decreased methane output. Even better, start using whole-food ingredients and from-scratch methods in your restaurant or home kitchen to support human health and the sustainability of our home planet.
Resources for donating and composting food waste:
How Body Image Affects Success
What is one of the first things you put aside in order to complete other tasks? Chances are, your workouts are put on pause, as are your personal interests. When we neglect our health, it can further impact our priorities; if we don’t feel good about how we look or how physically fit we are we may be less inclined to put ourselves out there personally or professionally.
Work, hobbies, exercise, eating well, developing personal relationships, caring for loved ones– all those responsibilities add up. Sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough daylight hours to get everything done to have a fulfilling life.
When high-priority tasks push other things to the back burner, we can start to lose confidence in ourselves. We can get caught up in how many to-do list items we check off each day, and berate ourselves for what we have to neglect. If your health and wellness are one of them, let’s take a look at the ways that are detrimental to your overall confidence and success.
How Body Image Affects Self-Esteem in Teens
Living in a world inundated with social media filters, teens are being exposed to more unrealistic beauty and body image standards than ever before. It used to be that advertising, TV shows, and movies were the main channels exposing kids to intimidating standards of what’s beautiful. Now, any time they look at social media they see people their age with filters that give the appearance of perfection.
Without proper disclosure, these filtered faces have a big, negative impact on today’s youth. Teens aren’t able to discern what’s realistic and what’s anatomically unattainable. With everyone online looking perfect, more teens and young adults are taking filtered photos to plastic surgeons in an effort to look like the smooth-faced, doe-eyed, photoshopped images they see daily.
This is why it’s important to put an emphasis on a body’s or mind’s strengths, especially those which can’t be seen. Help the teens in your life accept their bodies and appreciate what they are capable of. Remind them there’s no such thing as the perfect body, and what we see in the media usually isn’t real.
Compliments to Give Teens
It can be hard to give a compliment that isn’t based on appearance. But it’s important so children and teens don’t think their success in life is only tied to their looks. Here are some compliments you can give to the youth in your life that has nothing to do with how their bodies look.
- I’m proud of what you’ve accomplished!
- You make me feel important.
- I love how passionate you are about [sports, education, art, etc…]
- You’re brave to try [XYZ].
- I appreciate the example you set for others.
- I love your imagination.
- I like your sense of style and how you pair colors, textures, etc…
- Your attitude about [XYZ] is helpful!
- I love being around you.
- I admire you for [XYZ].
- With that approach, you’ll go far in life!
- I like how you listen to others.
- You mean a lot to me.
Teach children and adolescents they have more to offer than a pretty face or certain body type. If they’re interested in fashion, makeup, nutrition, or exercise, be sure the emphasis is on enhancing what’s already wonderful about them, rather than changing themselves to get external validation.
How Body Image Affects Success in Adulthood
If you spend your time hating your body, you’re probably not going to try taking care of it. This can not only further harm your health and lower your self-esteem, but it can affect your relationships and your work life.
But recognizing what a gift your body is can take practice. How can you change your mindset to allow you to love your body and exhibit confidence? Change in your attitude and body won’t happen overnight, but here are some suggestions for getting started.
- Take a photo to mark the beginning of your journey
- Dress for the body you already have
- Gradually make adjustments to how you fuel your body
- Join a group for fitness accountability and encouragement
Mark Your Progress
- Focus on non-scale-victories
- Celebrate progress with a non-food-related reward
- Share accomplishments with supportive friends and family
Be Open to Alternatives
- Work on lifestyle changes instead of fad diets
- Consult experts in the fields of nutrition, exercise, and plastic surgery to help you achieve your goals
- Try new forms of working out if the gym isn’t a good fit for you
As you learn to accept your body as it is, you will come to understand you’re worthy of professional and personal success right now- you don’t have to wait until you’re a certain weight, a certain pant size, or can run a certain distance.
Signs You Might Hate Yourself
Negative self-talk can convince you to forgo participating in activities you love or pursuing career advancements you deserve. If you find yourself attributing your failures to how you look, you might have a negative body image that needs to be adjusted.
- You feel guilt when you do something for yourself
- You don’t let yourself feel excited about leisure activities or professional opportunities
- You routinely cancel plans
- You stay in your comfort zone
- You’re pessimistic about everything
- You restrict caloric intake
- You workout to punish yourself for what you’ve eaten
Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Remember that what you see in the mirror isn’t an accurate reflection of who you are. Our minds can become accustomed to labeling our bodies in unhealthy ways, regardless of how fit we really are. The concept of “body image” has a lot of layers. There’s the cognitive, the perceptive, the affective, and the behavioral.
- Cognitive: internal thoughts about the body
- Perceptual: how the body is seen (size/shape of body parts)
- Affective: feelings about the body
- Behavioral: actions a person takes to analyze, change, or hide the body
Body Dysmorphic Disorder goes beyond vanity; it’s a condition in which a person is so consumed with their appearance it negatively affects their life on a regular basis. A person living with body dysmorphic disorder believes criticisms about themselves that other people cannot see.
This condition can greatly affect how a person functions day-to-day; a belief that the body is deformed or ugly can make it difficult to leave the house, participate in recreational activities, and interact with others. Unless body dysmorphia is addressed, it can result in a continuous cycle of self-esteem issues related to mental health and perceived body image.
It’s normal to have concerns about one’s appearance and to want to look good. When it becomes an obsession, that’s when it’s time to seek help.
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