A person removing a plug from a wall outlet

4 simple ways to see noticeable savings on your electric bill

Make some changes and see the difference this winter.

Experts predict that this winter will be a tough one. Thanks to El Niño, a climate pattern associated with warmer waters, California and southern parts of the U.S. may experience colder, wetter winters. Severe weather can lead to higher electric bills, but there are solid methods to soften the blow. Read on for easy ways to see demonstrable savings on your next bill.   

Beware of “vampire electricity”

Electronics can still draw power, even when they are idle or turned off. By unplugging common appliances and household items, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that families can save hundreds of dollars per year. After use or when you go to sleep at night, check to make sure these items aren’t costing you money. 

When possible, consider unplugging the following items:

  • Hair dryer or curling iron
  • Coffee maker, air fryer, microwave oven or microwave 
  • Television or media player
  • Computer or laptop
  • Phone, tablet and other chargers
  • Modem 
  • Washer/dryer

Avoid using major appliances during “peak times”

Some may not know that energy can cost more during certain hours. “Peak hours” are when there is a high demand for energy, which makes energy more expensive per kWh used. Though peak times vary by region and by season, in general you can find some patterns:

  • During the summer, mid-afternoon hours are considered peak hours for energy usage.
  • During the winter, early-to-mid mornings and evenings are typically the most expensive. 
  • Typically, weekends are considered “off-peak” hours for most or all of the day.

If possible, avoid using major appliances like washers and dryers and dishwashers during these times.

Use your lights responsibly

Lighting accounts for about 15% of the average electric bill. If you are not in your home or not in certain rooms, make sure to turn off the lights, including overhead lighting and lamps. When possible, install LED lights, which can lead to hundreds of savings for a household, according to the Department of Energy. Fortunately, many apartment communities include LED lighting to help residents save some dollars, but if they haven’t installed these energy-savers yet, you can request them. 

Watch for areas where energy escapes

Depending on the age and condition of your home or property, there are likely areas with air leaks. For instance, gaps under your doors can allow cold and hot weather inside, making it more difficult to keep your home at a moderate temperature. A door snake — or even a rolled-up beach towel — can help conditioned air stay where it belongs: inside your home. Windows are another place where energy escapes, losses which can account for 25-30% of your overall electric bill. If you don’t have energy efficient windows, you can still purchase thick, insulating curtains and, in severe cold, you can double up with blankets from around the house for further protection from the elements. 

As energy prices remain consistently high for most consumers across the U.S., these small habit changes can translate to earnings that add up over time.

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View of the sun shining through clouds

5 powerful health benefits you can get from going outside more

Plus, how to benefit if you live in the city or suburbs

It turns out that “touch grass” is pretty good advice. 

Though many of us enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, camping or kayaking, spending time in nature can provide tangible benefits in day-to-day life. An emerging body of research is helping us to understand how our time outside improves our overall well-being. As the evidence mounts, one thing is for certain: experiencing our natural surroundings can demonstrably impact our lives. 

1. Going outside helps with stress and improves attention

Americans are going outside less and spending more time staring at screens. In fact, most of us are looking at our phones or computers for more than 10 hours per day. At the same time, 76% of Americans reported health issues due to stress. According to the American Psychological Association, stress and attention levels are intertwined – and nature is a balm for both. Experiencing the outdoors leads to lower stress levels and higher attention spans, which ultimately creates a good cycle of feeling and performing better. 

2. The outdoors can help alleviate conditions like depression and anxiety 

In a wide-reaching analysis of studies from 40 studies spanning 20 years, researchers found that greenspace exposure is linked to less severe symptoms and fewer incidences of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. This doesn’t just apply to geographies known for their natural wonders. One study from the University of Pennsylvania found that after cleaning up and planting grass and other vegetation on vacant urban land, nearby residents reported a 41.5% decrease in feelings of depression. 

3. Outdoor activities are associated with better physical health 

There are straightforward benefits of spending time in nature, like an increase in Vitamin D. According to one study, about 22% of Americans have a Vitamin D deficiency. But there are broader health implications, too. An assessment of multiple studies indicates that sufficient time in nature is associated with lower blood pressure and improved cardiovascular health. It isn’t clear how the health benefits are derived, but research continues to confirm that we are healthier when surrounded by nature.

4. Nature provides us with a connection to our society

Studies show that time spent in nature can serve as a “buffer” that helps mitigate the negative effects for people who do not have much social connection like friends or family. In the simplest terms, even when people do not have satisfying human-to-human connections, living close to nature can still provide a sense of belonging. Additionally, outdoor spaces provide a setting where we can meet others — think dog parks, birdwatching areas or beaches — in a calming, organic environment. 

People walking in a public park
People walking in a public park

5. The experience can literally make life more meaningful 

Researchers are just beginning to understand the profound effects of what they call “awe.” Some might describe the feeling as a grounding, humbling, mystical or even ecstatic sense after witnessing the majesty of nature. This phenomenon has actually been shown to decrease materialism, increase civility and encourage generosity. It also helps people feel small, a counterintuitive notion that influences our sense of self. When we see that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves — and our day-to-day issues — our perspective can and does change.

But what if I don’t live near nature? 

Unfortunately, not all of us live within hiking distance to a picturesque waterfall or stunning mountain range. Even if we all had easy access to geographic gems, we don’t necessarily have ample time during the day to spend there.

Fortunately, researchers at Cornell have found that as little as 10 minutes a day can have positive benefits for people, and not just in “nature” as we might think of it. They studied areas like college campuses, urban parks, nature reserves and or any area with green and found that, measured against buildings and cement, the participants still showed positive effects from being outside.

Even then, there is evidence that “virtual nature” can even do in a pinch. In one study, students who were exposed to nature through pictures, videos and media conveyed through virtual reality headsets experienced less negative feelings like worry and panic. 

There are other ways to experience nature in urban environments, like simply growing plants in a balcony or backyard, or watching for birds while on a morning walk. Experts say that experiencing any of nature wherever you are is about mindfulness — explicitly focusing on the things around you when you are outdoors. 

In other words, whether you live near a beach or near a strip mall, find ways to experience nature a few minutes a day, every day, to reap health benefits.

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Charcuterie, cheese and wine spread at the Food and Wine Experience

Try our favorite picks at the Wine and Food Experience

Read on to learn the food, drinks and demos to get excited about

The USA Today Wine & Food Experience is making its highly-anticipated return to Phoenix this November. Presented by Talking Stick Resort and located on North Phoenix’s High Street, the open-air culinary showcase is set to highlight a number of the Valley’s top restaurants, spirits brands, celebrity chefs, exhibitors and special guests over the course of its single-day run. 

There is a lot of ground to cover and samples to savor, so we’ve put together a helpful roundup of everything you must eat, drink and do at the event. Here’s your guide to the Wine & Food Experience here in Phoenix.

Sushi, saganaki and upscale cuisine: The can’t-miss restaurants that should be on your radar

Uchi Scottsdale

Fans of Chef Tyson Cole’s acclaimed Austin, Texas Japanese restaurant have something to look forward to this year — Uchi is opening a new outpost in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale. Until the ribbon is cut, satisfy those cravings for unparalleled sushi and sashimi at the USA Today Wine & Food Experience where Uchi will be sampling a selection of their best bites alongside a lineup of top Arizona restaurants exclusively to VIP ticket holders. There’s a lot of good reasons to go VIP. And, this is definitely one of those reasons. 

Cala at Senna House

Send your taste buds on a trip abroad at this year’s Wine & Food Experience, no passport required. From Spain and Italy to Greece and Morocco, Cala is Scottsdale’s premier destination for Mediterranean-inspired, coastal cuisine. Cala’s culinary team is headed by Celebrity Chef Beau MacMillan and Executive Chef Peter McQuaid who have put together incredible feats to eat like the flaming saganaki, an appetizer that’s literally set ablaze at your table, and the lemon ricotta pancakes, a divine brunch dish that’s served with a vanilla chantilly cream. We don’t know if Cala will take a sweet or savory approach at this year’s festival, but whatever this duo brings to the VIP section will certainly be delicious.

Three Thirty Three

The Arizona dining scene is hungry for a new, upscale restaurant. And, eager epicureans are getting exactly that. Set to debut in spring 2024, Three Thirty Three is bringing high-end Asian cuisine to the waterfront district at Tempe Town Lake. While the full menu is still under wraps, sneak peeks include dishes like peking duck with caviar, aged wagyu tomahawk and an assembly of impressive craft cocktails to wash it all down. Three Thirty Three will be serving up a taste of what they’ll be offering when the restaurant debuts next year to VIP fest-goers; think of it as an amuse-bouche leading up to the full restaurant experience.  

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Brews, bubbles and tequila: Take a sip from these three beverage brands 

Huss Brewing Co. 

Husband and wife owned Huss Brewing Co. is best known for their unmistakable cans of Papago Orange Blossom and the German Kolsch Scottsdale Blonde. And for good reason, too. The locally-brewed beers are not just tasty, Scottsdale Blonde is a U.S. Open Beer Championship winner and Orange Blossom is the brewery’s best-selling beer. Whether you’re into IPAs or Amber Ales, you can sip through the entire family of Huss’ craft beers at this year’s Wine & Food Experience. And, you might even discover a new favorite. 

Big Marble Organics 

If there’s one thing you should know about Big Marble, it’s that the Arizona-based beverage brand brings big flavor. From organic ginger beer to proper lemon, Big Marble is set to show off their lineup of bubbly soft drinks and fizzy mixers at this year’s Phoenix Wine & Food Experience, keeping you quenched as you eat your way around the culinary event. 

Rancho La Gloria Premium Tequilas

It’s believed that the very first margarita was mixed at Rosarito Beach, Mexico’s Rancho La Gloria Hotel in 1938. Since that first rim was salted, Rancho La Gloria has taken the name of the iconic hotel and has grown to become the nation’s top-selling ready-to-drink margarita brand. The agave masters from Rancho La Gloria will showcase their award-winning single-estate tequilas, pre-mixed margs, seltzers and wines at this year’s event, much to the delight of tequila drinkers. 

Group of friends socializing with glasses of wine

Must-do demos: Get in on the action with these vendors

Mixology Demonstrations by TalkTales Entertainment

Keeping in the spirit of, well, spirits, the industry experts from TalkTales Entertainment will be hosting mixology demonstrations at this year’s event. Open to VIP ticket holders, the immersive classes will teach you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the world of mixology, minus the boring classroom setting or homework. 

Floral Arranging from Flowers by Laura Dowling 

Florist Laura Dowling’s resume is undeniably impressive. The author and former White House Chief Floral Designer is not only providing her beautiful decorative blooms for the event, she’ll be sharing some of her best floral design secrets, too. Join Laura and your fellow anthophiles for an informative floral arrangement demonstration where you can learn how to make your very own arrangement. Those newly-found skills might just come in clutch during the holiday season. 

Learn more about the USA Today Wine & Food Experience today

Tickets for this year’s USA Today Wine & Food Experience in Phoenix are going fast. Be sure to purchase your General Admission ($60) or VIP Admission ($95) in advance for special early bird pricing. To note, VIP Admission includes early entry, exclusive admission to the VIP lounge, and a souvenir tasting cup. Browse all admission options here

Ready to plan your own experience? See a full list of the participating restaurants, spirits brands, and more right here.

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