Tag Archives: consumer

Indoor Gardening For the Brown Thumb

Do you have a knack for killing your indoor houseplants? While all plants require some TLC, cultivating a green thumb doesn?t need to be hard. If you?ve been known to have a brown thumb, the trick to success is finding some greenery that only requires occasional attention.

Start by choosing a few easy-to-grow varieties and selecting plants that are right for your home. Before you settle on any specific type, pay attention to the natural light from your windows. All plants need some light, but some like it bright, while others do well in lower settings. Be sure to read the plant tags to find one that will do well with the light in your house.

6 easy-to-grow houseplants

Ready to take the plunge into indoor gardening? Start with one or two of these low-attention varieties:


This lush green houseplant is easy to keep vibrant all year. It won?t do well baking in the hot sun all day, but medium-to-bright light is okay. Let it grow long in a hanging basket, or put it in a cute pot and keep it short with an occasional haircut. Don?t worry?trimming won?t hurt it.


Also known as the mother-in-law?s tongue, the tall spikes on this plant are stunning. This variety can live for a long time and does best in low-to-medium light. It doesn?t like extra water, so always let it dry out before watering again, and pour out any excess water in the pot?s saucer.

Aloe vera

Aloe is a sun-loving succulent that does not like water?an especially good starter plant for a brown thumb. To care for it, place it in your brightest window, let the soil dry before watering, and remove any standing water from the pot.


Also known as a Schefflera, this easy-to-grow plant likes medium light. Let it dry out between watering?start by watering it once a week and see how it does.

Asparagus fern

Lacy and trailing, the asparagus fern is perfect for a tall stand or hanging basket. This plant likes humidity, making it a great choice for a kitchen or bathroom. It does well in medium-to-bright light with frequent watering. One thing to note: Although it has soft foliage, there are thorns on the stem.


With long, variegated leaves, this plant will add the perfect green hue to your d?cor. This variety prefers moist soil and low-to-medium light. To keep it from drying out too quickly, don?t place it near a heat vent.

Three steps to indoor gardening success

These three simple steps can help you grow an indoor garden you?ll want to show off:

Put your plant in a bigger pot

When you pick up a small, full plant at the garden center, you?ll find the most success by repotting it as soon as you get home. A small pot can only hold a small amount of nutrients and water. To keep it looking as good as the day you bought it, switch it to a bigger pot, so it has plenty of room to grow. Plus, this gives you a chance to move it from the plastic nursery container to a pot that matches your furnishings.

These steps will help you properly repot your plant:

Choose a pot slightly bigger than the current container. It should have a drain hole and a saucer to catch any extra water that escapes.
Place a rock over each of the pot?s drain holes to keep dirt from clogging them.
Place a small amount of potting soil in the bottom of the pot.
Gently remove your new plant from its old container and place it in the bigger one.
Fill the pot with dirt by lightly spooning it around the plant. Leave about an inch of space at the top, so it doesn?t overflow when you water it.

Feed with love

If you don?t have a natural green thumb, you probably don?t use fertilizer very often. Never fear?you have a few easy options. You can choose to sprinkle time-release fertilizer on top or use fertilizer spikes that are pushed into the soil. Both last for months. Note on your calendar when it will be time to fertilize again.

Remember to water

A once-a-week watering schedule is all you need with these suggested houseplants. A few, like the aloe and the snake plant, can skip a week if the soil still seems moist. The trick to remembering to water is to pick a day and stick to it. A reminder alarm on your phone is a great way to get into a watering routine.

Your plant will tell you if it becomes unhappy. You might see it wilt, turn yellow, or get spots on the leaves. If this happens, go back to the basics. By making sure it has the right amount of light and giving it the proper amounts of water, you?ll soon be able to show off your green thumb with a beautiful indoor garden.

A home and gardening expert,?Lea Schneider?has published?advice?in?publications like?The Washington Post, Woman?s Day, Family Circle, Consumer Reports?ShopSmart, and Better Homes and Gardens.?She?covers home-improvement and gardening tips for?Groupon.?You can find savings on gardening supplies and more?on Groupon?s Home Depot page here.

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Indoor Gardening For the Brown Thumb

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Why You Should Get an Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat

The number one rule of yoga? Do no harm.

Yoga shouldn?t physically injure you?if it does, you?re doing it wrong and you need to practice safer alignment.

It also shouldn?t injure or harm others?it is a practice of love and universal acceptance.

But when your yoga practice is hurting the environment? That?s when a lot of us turn a blind eye.

In our consumer culture, the yoga market is a cash cow. Americans spend over $16 million a year on yoga classes, mats, clothes and related equipment. Yoga is no longer just a lifestyle, but it has overflowed into fast fashion. Atheleisure is ubiquitous and there is always pressure for us to get more?new, new, new. But stop a minute and consider the effect all that yoga gear has on the environment.

It is tempting to buy cheap yoga mats, but they are more harmful than you may realize. Modern yoga mats are loaded with plenty of plastic-based nasties, but the one of main concern in PVC plastic. Not only are these bad for you (they contain known carcinogens?and phthalates?not things?you want seeping?in to your sweaty back), but PVC plastics?are non-biodegradable, which means they will leach toxins into the environment for years to come. How?s that for ?do no harm??

If you are bringing a reusable water bottle to class but still using a cheap, old mat, do some research. Yoga mats are technically environmental pollutants once you’re done using them. And since cheap PVC mats don’t boast quality or longevity, think of all the yoga mats you will be?dumping into the environment over time.

When buying a new eco-friendly mat, know that some mats claim to be eco-friendly, but always double check. Polyester-based mats will not biodegrade once disposed, meaning they aren’t as?green as they claim to be. And be aware that?good eco mats can get pricey! The temptation to buy a cheap mat is a powerful one, but a?better made mat is going to last a lot longer and be kinder to both you and the planet. If you can, look for mat made with natural rubber, which is both incredibly grippy and sustainable. Make sure it has enough thickness for you, but don?t opt for anything too heavy as it might make you less likely to use it.

I use and swear by?a Jade Harmony?mat, which is made from super-grippy, sustainably-harvested natural rubber and comes in a beautiful array of colors. Gone are the days of my hands slipping and sliding in downward dog, which means my mat has actually improved my practice. Talk about bang for my buck! (Bonus eco benefit: for every mat purchased, Jade plants a tree.) Of course, if you have a latex allergy you should avoid natural rubber. Opt instead for a cork mat.

And if you are looking to recycle an old yoga mat? You can repurpose old mats in your own home easily, or you may be able to recycle PVC mats by sending them back to the manufacturer to be shredded down, melted and reused.

A mat is an integral part of your yoga practice, so make sure it aligns with your core values. Don’t sacrifice your health. Don’t sacrifice the planet. Know what’s in your mat.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Why You Should Get an Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat

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How to Monitor and Control Indoor Air Quality in Your Home

The air that we breathe is, quite literally, our life source. But it could also, quite possibly, be killing us. Air quality is becoming a modern crisis, with the World Health Organization (WHO) classifying air pollution as the worlds largest health risk, linking one in eight total global deaths to air pollution exposure, both indoor and out.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the air inside our homes is commonly five times more polluted than that of the outdoors, and in some cases, up to 10 times. So, what can you do to protect your health, and that of your family, from this silent killer lurking in your home? Detect and correct. Find out what is causing air pollution in your home and then take whatever steps you can to help correct or mitigate those causes. Here well look at how you can achieve this.

What Is Indoor Air Pollution?

Poor indoor air quality is caused by particle matter in the air, most commonly from dust and smoke (commonly released into the air from burning oil, gas, wood and coal in the home); carbon dioxide from those same sources; volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by both natural and manmade materials (primary culprits are paints, stains, cleaning solutions and glues in furniture and carpets) and humidity, which can cause mold to grow in our homes and offices.

According to the WHO, pollutants found in indoor air that are known to be health hazards include:

carbon monoxide
nitrogen dioxide
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

How to Get Cleaner Air

Cleaning up the air we breathe prevents non-communicable diseases as well as reduces disease risks among women and vulnerable groups, including children and the elderly, says Dr. Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director-General.

One of the simplest ways to do this in your own home is to regularly change the filters in your heating and air conditioning system. Check them at least once a month for build-up, and replace them at least every three months. Invest in high-efficiency air filters with a MERV rating of 8 or higher. (This is the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value that assesses the overall effectiveness of air filters. A higher rating equals finer filtration.)

The second simplest step to take is ventilate your home. Open doors, windows, turn on fans and get the air circulating, especially if you have recently introduced something into your home that may be off-gassing chemicalssuch as new carpet or flooring.

What to Get Rid Of

You can help keep your air cleaner by banishing or reducing some of the following from your home:

Dont allow anyone to smoke in or near your home.
Never idle a car in or near the garage.
Remove all chemicals and toxic materials from your garage, especially if its attached to the house.
Reduce carpeting, which traps unhealthy particles that are released again when vacuuming.
Replace chemical based cleaners and detergents with those with natural ingredients, and avoid using products with fragrance (such as air fresheners and carpet deodorizers), as these can contribute to the formation of formaldehyde and other nasty VOCs.

What to Invest In

Use alternatives to traditional items that give off VOCs and invest in some tools and tests to keep your homes air healthier:

Install a carbon monoxide detector to alert you when levels of this deadly gas, produced by the incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels, rise rapidly.
Buy no- or low-VOC paints/stains when redecorating or doing projects in the home.
Have a radon test done on your home. A colorless, odorless gas, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.
Fix leaks in your roof and/or basement, to avoid creating conditions that can grow mold.
Combat humidity to further reduce the risk of mold with a dehumidifier. Keeping levels below 50 percent also helps keep dust mites, another indoor air pollutant, at bay.

Go High Tech

One of the challenges in combating indoor air quality is knowing exactly what the problem is. As weve seen, indoor air quality is affected by myriad different elements. If you or your family are suffering from specific ailments or are at higher risk from contaminated air, consider purchasing an indoor air quality (IAQ) monitor. The good news is these devices, which used to cost thousands of dollars, are now a lot more affordable thanks to advances in wireless and sensor technology.

An IAQ monitor can measure VOCs, humidity, particulate matter and carbon dioxide, and alert you when levels rise so you can take action. They will also help you understand what pollutants are present in your home and at what levels, so you can work on eradicating them over the long term. Many new IAQ monitors are Wi-Fi connected and use data from the internet combined with learning software to monitor your air quality and help you understand what is specifically causing your air pollution.

A few examples of consumer IAQs on the market today include Foobot and AWAIR (both around $200). They can track VOCs, particulate matter and CO2, as well as temperature and humidity. They also work with some smart thermostats, such as Nest and Ecobee, triggering them to activate the fan if levels rise too high and give you actionable insights into your air quality.

If you are specifically concerned about humidity and temperature, less-expensive devices such as the Leeo Smart Alert ($50) and First Alert Onelink Environment Monitor ($70) can track both. The Leeo can also listen for the sound of smoke and CO alarms and alert you on your smart phone. The Onelink is also a CO monitor, making it a good option for a baby or childs room.

The important thing to remember about indoor air quality is that everything you bring into your home is contributing to it in some waygood or bad. Its crucial to be proactive: Check products for VOCs before you purchase, add houseplants to help filter the air naturally, and be sure to ventilate properly when cooking or burning any fossil fuels.

As an earth-conscious mom and tech guru, Jennifer Tuohywrites for The Home Depot about how you can use technology to become more sustainable. She provide tips on how to save money and energy, from switching to LED bulbs to using an Wi-Fi-enabled monitor to alert you when you need to change your air filters.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.


How to Monitor and Control Indoor Air Quality in Your Home

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Inflation, Consumer Spending Both Down in March

Mother Jones

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Uh oh. The latest CPI figures are out today. It’s just another monthly reminder that inflation is spiraling out of—wait. What? Inflation went down in March? So it did:

As you can see, the Consumer Price Index (dark blue) declined last month by a fair amount. Why? Because oil prices (light blue) declined by a fair amount. The CPI is pretty sensitive to oil prices, which is why most economists look instead at core CPI, which excludes food and energy. It’s not that those things aren’t important—they affect your pocketbook the same as anything else—it’s just that they don’t tell you very much about the state of the economy. They tend to go up and down for reasons other than wage pressure and employment levels: bumper crops, wars in the Middle East, bad weather, etc.

Core CPI also dropped this month, and it’s now back down to 2 percent. PCE price inflation is below 2 percent. Overall, there just isn’t a lot of inflationary pressure in the economy, and not a lot of wage growth either.

In other economic news, consumer confidence is up but retail spending is down.

The retail “data are impossible to square with the stratospheric levels of consumer confidence recorded across an array of surveys,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics That suggests either that “spending will accelerate markedly…or confidence will decline.”

Retail spending has ticked down for the past few months even if you exclude food and gasoline to get a “core” retail sales figure:

So what’s going on? Maybe nothing. A month or three does not a trend make. Maybe people are just taking a little breather after increasing spending for most of 2016. Whatever the reason, though, consumer spending seems to have hit a bit of a wall since January.

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Inflation, Consumer Spending Both Down in March

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26 Words of a Trump Tweet, Fully Dissected

Mother Jones

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This is hardly earthshaking, I know, but take a look at this Donald Trump tweet from Monday evening:

No hope! But put the narcissism and egotism aside.1 In a mere 26 words Trump has managed to mislead his audience in three separate ways without quite lying about anything. First, no matter how many times the press pushes this meme, the world was not especially gloomy before he won. Nor was America. Consumer sentiment has been steadily rising since 2011 and personal satisfaction is near its all-time high:

Second, the stock market is indeed up, but it’s been rising steadily for President Obama’s entire term. That “nearly 10 percent” uptick—actually 6 percent since Election Day, and mostly driven by big banks, but who’s counting?—is that teensy blip at the very end of the chart:

Finally, retail sales have been rising steadily during Obama’s entire term, and so has holiday spending. The National Retail Federation forecasts that holiday spending will increase 3.6 percent this year (1.9 percent in real terms), and will finish up not at “over a trillion dollars,” but at $655 billion:

In the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t matter. But it’s still a fascinating little insight into how Trump gaslights his followers and the nation into believing that he’s the savior of the country. Most people have no idea about any of these numbers, so he can say anything he wants and he’s likely to be believed. Nor will fact-checking change this even a tiny bit. Politics has always been about exaggeration and cherry picking, but we’re now living through an era in which the truth flatly doesn’t matter. At this point, I’m pretty sure Trump’s followers would believe him if he said that Obama had tried to give Alaska back to the Russians but he managed to stop it. Then the press would stroke its collective chin and write careful pieces about how Trump was really talking about some rocky shoal that nobody cared about but had been officially disputed since Seward bought the place. Nuance, you see.

1Though I suppose we shouldn’t. What kind of person writes stuff like this?

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26 Words of a Trump Tweet, Fully Dissected

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The Wall Street-Washington Complex Invades Trump’s Cabinet

Mother Jones

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Of all the ways Donald Trump has fallen short of his campaign promise to “drain the swamp” of Washington politics with his Cabinet appointments, none is starker than his choice of Elaine Chao as transportation secretary. Chao is as much of a Washington insider as they come: She served as deputy transportation secretary under George H.W. Bush and as secretary of labor for eight years under George W. Bush. She’s also married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and this year he used his perch to undermine a federal agency that was going after the bank where she works.

Since 2011, Chao has sat on the board of Wells Fargo, earning more than $1.2 million in pay over that period. This year, it was revealed that the bank had fraudulently set up millions of fake accounts that customers had never requested. That activity earned Wells Fargo a $185 million fine from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the largest penalty levied so far by the new financial watchdog agency.

The Senate called in Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf in September, and both Democrats and Republicans attacking the company’s behavior. “This is about accountability,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who helped create the CFPB, said at the hearing. “You should resign. You should give back the money that you took while this scam was going on, and you should be criminally investigated.” Stumpf resigned a few weeks later.

But McConnell didn’t quite share that sentiment. Instead, he chose to go after the federal agency that had penalized Wells Fargo. As liberal consumer rights group Public Citizen pointed out, less than a week after the CFPB announced its fine against Wells Fargo, McConnell used his authority to try to fast-track a bill that would defang the CFPB by changing its funding structure.

The bill ultimately failed to advance, although the CFPB could lose significant power under President Trump. And McConnell is far from the only Republican to target the CFPB. But for Trump, who ran a populist campaign decrying the power of Washington insiders and the moneyed interests they support, the selection of Chao for a top administration role seems to show he’s not as opposed to the Wall Street-Washington complex as he might have suggested.


The Wall Street-Washington Complex Invades Trump’s Cabinet

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Republicans Pretend They Want More Powerful Bank Oversight

Mother Jones

Oh man, this is rich. Here is wingnut Rep. Jeb Hensarling griping about the fact that the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau didn’t find out about the Well Fargo scandal sooner:

“Why does it take the L.A. Times to break this story, when we’re paying federal investigators to investigate?” Hensarling recently told Fox Business Network.

“Where was the CFPB? Why did they come in so late to the game?” he continued. “They have immense powers and this is their job to enforce these basic consumer laws and it appears they were asleep at the switch.” Hensarling also has criticized regulators for the $185-million settlement with the bank, which allowed Wells Fargo to avoid admitting any wrongdoing.

If Hensarling had his way, the CFPB would be eliminated and Wells Fargo might well have escaped from the whole affair unscathed. Now he’s pretending that he thinks the CFPB is too weak. Sen. Sherrod Brown has it right:

“Hensarling reminds me of the kid who kills his parents and then wants to collect orphan benefits,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), one of the CFPB’s biggest backers. “He’s tried to underfund it. He’s tried to undercut. He’s done all he could to block bank regulations.”

Make up your mind, Jeb. Do you want the CFPB to more powerful or less powerful? You can only have it one way.


Republicans Pretend They Want More Powerful Bank Oversight

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Trump’s Ag Czar Runs His Business Like Herbalife

Mother Jones

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On Tuesday, the Donald Trump campaign formally announced its Agricultural and Rural Advisory Committee—a crew of more than 60 GOP politicians (including Texas’ colorful ag commissioner, Sid Miller) and agribusiness execs, chaired as previously announced by Nebraska cattleman and business operator Charles Herbster, whom I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.

Since then, I’ve learned something interesting about Herbster’s company, Conklin, a Kansas City-based firm with an odd mix of product lines: pesticide additives called adjuvents; fertilizers for farms and lawns; probiotics for livestock, pets, and even people; industrial roof coatings; and motor oils for “everything from semis to farm equipment to race cars.”

Turns out, it’s a multilevel marketing operation: one of those companies—like Avon, Amway, or Herbalife—that sell their products to the public through a network of individual “distributors” who make money not just based on their own sales, but also from the sales of others they’ve managed to recruit.

The homepage of the Conklin’s website lays out the business model. “Our superior products are your ticket to a financially-independent life. Become a Conklin distributor today! Get Started.” The link goes to a page stating that “in the last 40 years, Conklin has made it possible for thousands of ambitious people to increase their income and achieve financial independence.”

Since it’s privately held and not publicly traded, it’s hard to say how large of a company Conklin is. It’s certainly well connected in Nebraska Republican political circles. When I called the company to ask, the receptionist referred me to the voicemail of Carlos Castillo, vice president of governmental affairs for the company. Before taking the Conklin job, Castillo served as a top aide to former Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman—who now serves on Conklin’s board of directors and was recently named as a member of the Trump ag advisory committee chaired by Herbster.

In this video, an interview with the trade publication Agri-Pulse released July 27, Herbster and Heineman make the case for Trump.

I have repeatedly called Herbster, Castillo, and Heineman to ask for more information on Conklin, but have so far not heard back.

According to the MLM-promoting website Business for Home, Conklin brought in an estimated revenue of $28 million in 2015—tiny compared with industry giants Amway, Herbalife, and Avon, which drew in billions of dollars per year, and just the 239th largest US MLM, according to the website.

MLM is a highly controversial business model. Critics like Robert FitzPatrick, president of Pyramid Scheme Alert and co-author of the book False Profits: Seeking Financial and Spiritual Deliverance in Multi-level Marketing and Pyramid Schemes, says the model by its nature concentrates profits at the top of the chain and keeps most “distributors” in the red.

FitzPatrick noted that the Federal Trade Commission has long taken an indulgent view of MLMs, distinguishing between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” MLMs. But the agency’s recent settlement with Herbalife “may change all that,” he added. Last month, the giant MLM agreed to pay $200 million to consumers the company “deceived into believing they could earn substantial money selling diet, nutritional supplement, and personal care products,” according to an FTC statement.

Conklin has “the classic MLM hallmarks,” FitzPatrick told me. Another MLM expert, Jon Taylor of the Consumer Awareness Institute, echoed FitzPatrick’s assessment of Conklin. He told me Conklin has “all the hallmarks” of an MLM.

Of course, the spectacle of GOP politicians rubbing shoulders with MLM purveyors is nothing new, as Rick Perlstein showed in a 2013 Nation series. The DeVos family, owners of the enormous MLM Amway, have played a large role in shaping the modern Republican Party, as Mother Jones‘ Andy Kroll laid out in a 2014 article.

And Trump himself has dabbled in the MLM business model. He made “millions of dollars for extolling ACN Inc., a multilevel marketing firm that has weathered regulatory investigations in three countries,” the Wall Street Journal reports. And he licensed his name to a vitamin-hawking MLM that became known as Trump Network, whose owners eventually went bankrupt, the Washington Post reports.

With Trump’s surprise success sending the GOP into disarray, he’s apparently having to bring in second-tier MLM titans like Herbster, FitzPatrick told me. He noted that last month’s Republican National Convention featured a speech by a representative of Youngevity, an elixir-selling MLM closely associated with the prominent right-wing conspiracy theorist and broadcaster Alex Jones, an avid Trump supporter.

In the above video interview, Herbster makes a claim about the 2016 presidential campaign that at this point seems as likely as someone achieving “financial independence” by peddling supplements to friends: “I believe we the Trump campaign will win. I don’t think there’s any question about that.”

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Trump’s Ag Czar Runs His Business Like Herbalife

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Are Wall Street Profits Fundamentally Based on Consumer Laziness?

Mother Jones

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Brad DeLong:

It used to be that we collectively paid Wall Street 1% per year of asset value–which was then some 3 years’ worth of GDP–to manage our investment and payments systems. Now we pay it more like 2% per year of asset value, which is now some 4 years’ worth of GDP.

He is responding to a post by Noah Smith that, when I click on it, turns out to be a response to me. My question was simple: finance is a very competitive industry, so how has it stayed so astronomically profitable for so long? Smith suggests that part of the answer is lending to households, but another part is asset management fees:

Asset-management fees are middleman costs that all kinds of players in the finance industry charge to move money around….The amount of wealth in the U.S. economy has soared since 1980 — just think of the rises in the housing and stock markets over that time — meaning that the middlemen in the finance industry have been taking their percentage fees out of a much larger pool of assets.

….But why have profits from these middleman fees stayed so high? Why haven’t asset-management charges gone down amid competition? In a recent post, I suggested one answer: people might just be ignoring them. Percentage fees sound tiny — 1 percent or 2 percent a year. But because that slice is taken off every year, it adds up to truly astronomical amounts. So if people are just ignoring what middlemen skim off the top, because each fee seems small, investors could be handing significant fractions of the country’s GDP to the financial sector out of sheer carelessness. That would certainly keep profits high; if many investors pay no attention to what they’re being charged, more competition can’t push down those fees.

So a combination of rising asset values and unchanging management fees can explain a large part of both finance’s growth and its continued profitability.

James Kwak has more here, basically suggesting that lots of people pay high fees for actively-managed funds deliberately. They figure that the higher price means better performance, just as a higher price usually means better performance in most areas of the consumer economy.

If Smith and Kwak are right, it means the enormous profitability of the financial system is based primarily on products sold to consumers (mutual funds, home loans), not to services offered to the rich or to the rest of the industry. Is this true? To find out, someone would have to break out industry profitability by product line (so to speak) and figure out where most of the money is coming from. Has anyone ever done that?

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Are Wall Street Profits Fundamentally Based on Consumer Laziness?

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Earth Week Daily Action: Change 5 Light Bulbs to LEDs

One of the simplest steps you can take during Earth Week is to change out some lightbulbs. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends you switch out bulbs in the 5 lights you use the most. Usually, that means the lights in the kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom and on your porch.

Until recently, EPA mostly recommended that you shift from incandescents to compact fluorescents, or CFLS. CFLS are much more efficient than old-fashioned incandescents, but the downside is that they contain a minuscule amount of mercury. The only way this would be a problem would be if you broke one of the bulbs, and even then, vacuuming up the debris minimizes the risk (and you’re exposed to far more mercury inthe pollution that comes from coal-fired power plants).

Still, with LEDs, there’s no mercury involved. Plus LEDs last much longer than CFLs. That’s because LEDs don’t actually burn out or fail. Instead,they experience something called “lumen depreciation,” in which the amount of light produced decreases over time. Fortunately, this time period can be ten years or more. This is particularly advantageous for bulbs in hard-to-reach places like ceiling lights.

Another benefit of LEDs is that they don’t radiate heat the way incandescents or halogen bulbs do. In fact, about 90 percent of the energy an incandescent bulb uses is radiated in heat, which is one of the reasons why it’s so wasteful.

How to Buy the Right LEDs

Most lighting fixtures can easily use an LED in place of an incandescent. However, if you’re planning to use an LED in a fixture that operates on a dimmer switch, make sure to choose an LED designed specifically for dimmers.

Keep in mind you’re purchasing a bulb based on its lumens, not its watts. Most packages will give you the lumen equivalent so you can get the right amount of lighting to meet your needs. For example, if you want to replace a 60-watt incandescent, you’d buy a bulb that generates between 500 and 800 lumens and would only use 8-12 watts. Consumer Reports offers a good guide to choosing the right LED here.

You’ll also want to choose your light depending on whether you want bright light that is more like daylight, or “soft” or warm light, which is yellowish, like an incandescent.

One strong recommendation is to purchase LED bulbs and lights that are ENERGY STAR certified. ENERGY STAR sets standards to ensure that manufacturers produce products of high quality and performance, with long-term testing to evaluate the products over time and in ways that are similar to how you would use them.

Be prepared to pay a little more for LEDs upfront. The package will tell you how much money you will save on your electricity bill over timeusually it’s many times the cost of the bulb.

Some utility companies offer rebates to help their customers pay for the bulbs. Ace Hardware stores often send out coupons that discount LED purchases. If you have a home energy audit done, the auditors may install LEDs as well.

CFL vs. LED: What’s the Best Lightbulb Type?
What to Look for When You Make the Switch to LEDs

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Earth Week Daily Action: Change 5 Light Bulbs to LEDs

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