Water conservation is a big buzz phrase right now, especially with the droughts in much of the American west/midwest. It’s one of those environmental-y phrases which can sound very abstract, so let’s do a little refresher on what it is and why it’s important. Water conservation is essentially conserving or cutting back on, your water consumption. We use water for a whole host of things in our daily lives, not to mention the obvious (drinking). We use water to wash clothes, to cook food, to take showers. To conserve is to make conscious changes to your routine to reduce the amount you use. Conservation can look different for every person. Some of us take ridiculously long showers, say, while those of us who take 5-minute showers can still reduce water usage with a low-flow showerhead. Likewise, you can consolidate the laundry loads you do, and you can also invest in a more efficient washing machine. But why should we go to this kind of effort to save water in the first place? One reason is staring right at many Americans. Depleting the water table makes wildfires much more likely, and it means there’s less of a reserve for irrigation when droughts strike. Irrigation and farming more generally are one of the biggest reasons to save water. It’s impossible to grow vegetables without water, and raising meat takes even more. As more and more of the world discovers a taste for meat, water shortages spike drastically because of all the gallons consumed in meat production. Another reason is that despite the fact that most Westerners have ample water supply, the world’s water supply is in jeopardy. A lot of us in the west take our clean water for granted. We’re used to having enough for everything we want to do, and we assume that the water in our pipes is both clean and safe. That’s not true for billions of people in the world. Humans need water more than anything else aside from air. Our bodies are mostly made from water, as most of us learn in biology class. We use water for nearly everything we do. Without it, we couldn’t grow food, we couldn’t wash, we couldn’t use the bathroom, and we wouldn’t be able to have pets. Given that the world’s population will probably increase by 50% before the next 50 years are up, we’re going to be even more squeezed for water than we already are. Global warming will have an impact on our water situation, too. The hotter the planet gets, the more rainfall will evaporate when it hits the surface. It’s easy to be complacent when you think about the sheer amount of water on this planet. The fact is, though, that nearly 99% of the water on Earth is undrinkable and unusable for most of the applications we use it for. Suddenly, it looks like a lot less, doesn’t it? We need to do everything we can to preserve the supply of clean water we have and to prevent it from getting polluted.
When you have your product ready to go, you don’t have time to play with one website builder after another. That’s why we’ve selected what we think are the top website builders for businesses launching into the world of selling online. There is so much more to consider when launching an eStore. Not only are ease of use and design important, but you need all the functionality to make your eStore and your products easy to find, your site easy to use, and your updating and recordkeeping easy to manage. As www.EasyEcommerceHK.com points out, you may even want to open up your customer base to the world, in which case, not only are multi language options crucial, but the ability to deal with various currencies and international shipping are key as well. Out of the over 300 platforms available, we would like you to look at these: Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, Wix, and SquareSpace. Shopify Advantages: Safe and Secure 24/7 Support Themes and Ease of Customization Language Options Ready to GROW with you Some shipping discounts available Up to 20% discount on multiple year plan Offers lots of Languages, Even Chinese, here is a great resource: https://easyecommercehk.com/網店平台/shopify-香港/ Disadvantages: Shopify transaction fees Cost of apps can add up Can only accept other currencies using Shopify Payment Let’s start with Shopify, a dedicated ecommerce website builder that is self-hosted and powers over 1,000,000 businesses. Shopify knows how to do stores because selling online is their main focus. Best for small to medium stores and beginners who need an easy to use editor and great support–24/7 live chat and phone support. They have a huge variety of apps to increase functionality, though the cost of these can add up! For example, they allow only three product selection options (like small, medium, large) unless you change coding or purchase an app. Best of all, you can rest assured that Shopify takes care of all the security issues. All stores powered by Shopify are PCI compliant to the highest level by default, so payment information and business data are safe. Shopify also allows you to sell directly from your website, across multiple marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, and on social media. Shopify’s Design and Customization For basic functions, you will be able to set up a Shopify store yourself, without a lot of tech knowledge. For many customizations, however, like adding languages, you will need to learn their coding language, Liquid, or hire some help. Shopify does offer a drag and drop app at a cost of $19 USD/month (a free 14-day trial is available) that greatly simplifies the initial process. As far as design goes, Shopify has over 70 very professional, clean designs, all of which are responsive (able to be fully viewed and used on all devices). Ten are free; others range from $140-$180. Standard features packed into themes include access to free stock photos by Burst, SEO optimization, and drop-down navigation support. Themes also have a variety of features from which you can choose. For example, one feature available is the story-focused product page. Shopify and Languages Shopify is based in Canada and advertises that it is available in 20 languages, including [enter language here]. Depending on the plan, you can create separate URLs for translations of your ecommerce store. Though this is not available in the Shopify Basic plan, you can have two languages in the Shopify Plan, five in Shopify Advanced, or twenty in the Shopify Plus plan. Unfortunately, search works only in the primary language. The good thing is that Shopify considers updating language features as a priority. But there are other issues with going international with Shopify. One is that adding languages is difficult and requires coding skill and a translation widget (a monthly charge is common). Shopify encourages use of their own “Shopify Payment” gateway, on which 17 countries’ currencies are accepted, including [Hong Kong SAR China]. They also provide multiple other payment gateways. Shopify Payments Collecting payment with Shopify will be secure and easy; they provide a number of gateways for payment, but the drawback is that all have transaction fees unless you use their payment gateway, Shopify Payment. But only Shopify Payments can be used for multiple currencies. Shopify also has a country specific tax calculator available. You can also get Shopify POS which is a payment gateway accessible on your phone, either android or iOS. It allows you to accept payment at in-person marketing settings or in-store. Support Support is top notch, even with the cheapest Shopify plan, meaning you can get 24/7 support via phone and live chat. Shopify Plus—ready when your business is booming!—is based on custom pricing, but will be about $2000 USD/month. Shopify offers discounts for paying for two years or three years and even provides ShopifyLite to add products to any website or blog and accept credit card payments for only $9 USD per month. Find the full details of features included with each plan at https://www.shopify.com/pricing. BigCommerce Advantages: Tops in built-in features even at lowest plan level Multi-function currency options at lowest plan level Multi-channel selling including Amazon and eBay Language Switch Button Allows lots of product selection options at no extra charge Live support 24/7 as well as training available 10% discount for two year payment on Plus or Pro plans Disadvantages: Minimal selection of free themes and fonts Must calculate out-of-country tax manually Search only available in primary language BigCommerce is another dedicated eCommerce platform, boasting the largest number of built-in features that will power your sales, features like unlimited products, storage, and bandwidth, unlimited staff accounts, multi-currency checkout and international shipping, multi-channel selling that includes social media as well as Amazon, and eBay, a mobile app, and the ability to have your products rated and reviewed. Your control panel is available in several languages: Chinese, French, Italian, Spanish, and Ukrainian. You get all this even on the cheapest plan and BigCommerce takes no transaction fee! Plans are unique in that they have selling caps as follows: The Standard is $29.95 USD/month, Plus is $79.95 USD/month, and Pro is $299.95 USD/month. They give a 15-day free trial and sometimes run a first month free promotion. Customers find BigCommerce sites easy to navigate, and notice the switch language button in the upper right corner, though product search names will not be translated. The big drawback is that Big Commerce is not particularly easy to use. While BigCommerce has put in a new drag and drop feature, it tends to be a bit “clunky” at times and bugs are being worked out. Layout options are limited. Initial set up may require developer help, especially if languages are added. There are a number of capable developers as well as help from BegCommerce. BigCommerce also has very limited free templates, technically about one dozen but they are quite similar with only three or four font selections. Paid templates (about 150 available) have more variety, of course, and will cost between $150-$300. Magento We have included Magento—owned by Adobe since 2018—in this review because they are top-notch and used by approximately 20% of all ecommerce sites, most of them large. Who could ignore such a big player? While Magento is open source, meaning you can download it and use it for free, to get needed SEO, backup, and security, you will need to pay. A plan will cost upwards of $2000 USD/month, though it is hard to estimate since plans are customized. Magento certainly has everything you need and more, but it has required technological skill and coding to get it started, and there really isn’t any live support. Many businesses that use Magento have dedicated developers or hire out to manage their web store. The platform can also handle multi language needs and is set up to scale internationally. If you are a large, growing company with a big budget, don’t ignore this major player! Wix Wix is not dedicated solely to ecommerce, so you may not be able to scale in the same way you can with platforms like Shopify. That said, over 500,000 stores use Wix. Why? Several reasons! Here you can view some sample small business sites powered by Wix: https://www.wix.com/blog/ecommerce/2018/10/ecommerce-website-design-examples. Advantages: Intuitive drag-and-drop design Hundreds of professional templates Multi language features without coding Free Trial–beyond 14 days Multiple ways to accept various currencies No commissions or transaction fees Shipping discounts available Disadvantages: Wix Payments only available in US and European countries Not set up for larger inventories If you are starting out and have a small store, Wix is the easiest to design, known for its intuitive, drag and drop editor. Wix also has good, built-in SEO and the chance to offer coupons and discounts, run email campaigns, and so on. You can sell on multiple channels as well. Wix makes it possible to sell internationally, accept various types of payments, and ship internationally. You can also translate your store with no coding necessary. Wix suggests using Weglot for translation. Wix package options are many, and thus, somewhat confusing. Good news: no hidden costs and fees, and upgrades are easy. SquareSpace If you are looking to integrate a small store into a website with other features, like a blog, portfolio, video posts and so on, SquareSpace is worth a look. SquareSpace advertises that they will help you “showcase your products at their absolute best,” and they are right about that! Opposite of the dedicated sites, SquareSpace is multi-dimensional, and can give you a unified, easy to navigate website that sells along with other tasks. Because of that versatility, it may not have the deep functionalities you want for larger inventories. For example, their analytics are not eCommerce focused and thus not very in depth. Advantages Cutting-edge design and easy navigation; fully responsive Easy design/edit interface Numerous eCommerce extensions Integrates well as a multi-dimensional website Variety of support available Disadvantages Transaction fee of 3% business plan level Not able to scale internationally Comparatively few extensions/no app store In Summary The website platform you choose should be based on your unique needs. For someone adding several products to existing content, you may not want a dedicated eCommerce builder, but if you have visions of growing a digital or physical product line and marketing to an expanding customer base, Shopify, BigCommerce, and even Magento are worth your time to explore. Take advantage of free trial periods to explore the offerings and see how your product presents!
Toilets: the place we spend twice as much time as we do at the gym. That’s not hyperbole, by the way. A survey in the UK found that Brits spent over 3 hours every week on the john, while they only exercised for an hour and a half weekly. Oof. A lot of us don’t pay much attention to toilets unless they’re working badly. If you have a good toilet, you’ve probably never noticed it. Seriously. Think about every time you’ve thought about the toilet. For the vast majority of us, it’s only the subject of our attention when it won’t flush, or when it starts running constantly and you have to fiddle with it. Today, we thought we’d encourage you to replace your toilet if you’re not thrilled with it. It’s easy to do, and it has a big pay-off. Hang on, you say–why should I pay money for a toilet? It’s basically a glorified outhouse, right? Nope! Your toilet is a lot more important than you give it credit for. Looking for the best camping toilet brands on the market? Go to homeworthylist.com. For one thing, it uses more water than you might think. Older toilets can go through as many as 7 gallons per flush, which is absolutely ludicrous by today’s standards. Current regulations state that any toilet produced today has to use 1.6 gallons per flush or less. If you take 5 trips to the bathroom every day, you’d save 25 gallons daily by upgrading. That’s 9,000 gallons in a year, just for one person. Saving that much water is good news for the planet, and it’s also good news for your wallet. Old toilets are a literal money suck, so they pay for themselves pretty darn fast. And you’ll be doing your part to be green. New toilets can make your bathrooms a lot healthier, too. Old toilets did a decent job getting rid of what was in the pool, but not so much around the sides of the bath, so to speak. Your average toilet that comes out now is designed to mostly clean itself, so the bowl stays a lot less grimy. That cuts down on bacteria significantly. You can reduce the time you spend cleaning your toilet for the same reason. If the flush does most of the work for you, you only really have to clean the outside and then do a once-over inside the bowl. More than any other benefit, you’ll be kicking yourself for not cutting out your clog problem sooner. In a sort of toilet equivalent to the space race, manufacturers are all competing to make the most clog-proof toilet out there, if only for marketing cred. Just spend 30 seconds on Youtube searching for toilets, and you’re guaranteed to see at least one tennis ball go down the hatch. Any decent toilet today should be clog-proof, so it’s adios to your plunger and the social embarrassment your friends feel when they come over for dinner and end up putting a plug in your plumbing. Now that you’ve got an incentive to swap your throne, you’re probably wondering how to go about doing it and darned if that doesn’t involve a plumber. Before you get out your antique yellow pages, rest assured that toilet replacements seem a lot more difficult than they actually are. Know the top rated composting toilet today when you visit: https://homeworthylist.com/best-composting-toilet-reviews/. The first order of business is to figure out what size toilet you need. The vast, vast majority of toilets are a standard 12” “rough-in” size. What that means is that there’s about 12” between the central pipe (where the waste goes) and the wall behind the toilet. If you measure and it’s a 10” or 14” distance, you’re going to have a lot fewer options. Thankfully, it only affects very few people. Double check before you go shopping, though. *It’s a good idea to check the hardware when you buy a toilet. A lot of them are going to have crappy alloy bolts with zinc coatings designed to fool the optimistic customer into thinking they’re brass. Be savvy! Check that they’re actually solid brass, and if they’re not, just grab some stainless steel bolts at the hardware store so you don’t have to deal with weak, snappable components.* To get the old toilet out, you’re going to need to detach it from the floor. That’s a matter of loosening the nuts that hold the toilet onto the bolts coming up from the floor. Hopefully, they’ll come off without too much trouble. If worst comes to worst, you can always cut through them with a hack-saw. Next, either install new bolts (if you have to–most people don’t need to) or set your new toilet over the bolts already on the floor. Just get the bolts to go through the holes in the base of the toilet, and you’re most of the way there. The most important step is to get the toilet situated on the flange, which is the component which holds the toilet onto the floor and the waste pipe. It’s a metal ring, with bolt holes for the bolts you’ve just been using. Hopefully, the flange is in good shape and you can just set the toilet on it with a new wax ring. The wax ring will prevent any leaks. If the flange is corroded or broken, check out The Family Handyman’s guide to fixing them. Once you have the toilet over the flange with a wax ring in between, start tightening the nuts onto the bolts. Don’t go too far, though. Make sure the toilet is level, first. If it doesn’t just slide a few shims underneath, and then caulk around the bottom to hide them (do the caulking last. Another thing to do before you tighten the nuts is sit on the toilet, to help set the wax seal ring. You have to sort of wiggle and shimmy until the wax squishes enough that the toilet hits the floor. Once it’s there, tighten off the nuts. Finally, get the water supply hooked up. That’s the hose that goes on the side or back of the toilet tank. If yours comes with a rigid pipe, chuck it and grab a flexible length at the hardware store. You’ll thank yourself later. Be careful not to overtighten the connections, or you can actually cause more leaks than a loose fit. Go as tight as you can using your hand, then give it a quarter-turn with a wrench. The last thing to do is test things out and make sure they’re shipshape. Hopefully, they are! You’ve successfully upgraded your toilet, and improved your quality of life. Congrats!
Today in The Reading Room: electric cars! They’re all over the news these days, and we’re sure you have lots of questions about them. We’ll try to answer all of those and then some! To start with, what electric cars are on the market today? There are a few dozen different models currently being produced for the US market, but that’s expected to double in the next 5 years or so. All the major car companies are working on electric vehicles, though some are investing more than others. Still, it’s the direction the market’s moving in. All the significant innovations are taking place in the electric market, too. You can buy two types of electric vehicle (EV) currently. One is a “pure” electric vehicle which only has an electric motor. The second is a plug-in hybrid which starts using electricity but then will switch to a gas generator when the battery runs out. All-electric plug-ins are definitely the future, but in many parts of America, having a backup system is still handy while the electric infrastructure gets built out. There are lots of reasons to buy an electric car these days. For one thing, battery technology and motor designs are finally at the point where EVs are practical for a large percentage of consumers. The vast majority of Americans (about 90%) have driving patterns which fit well within the range offered by the average EV. Especially for city-dwellers, these are very practical. For another, EVs typically cost ⅓ as much to run as gasoline cars, even without any tax credits or rebates. They have much better reliability, and maintaining them is much less expensive. Oil changes are not a thing with EVs, and electric motors are much less dirty and prone to seizing than combustion chambers. You’ll also be able to rely on consistent fuel costs since electric utilities are much more stable than the oil market. At the time of writing, you can get a $7500 federal tax credit to offset the cost of buying an EV, too! They’re also better for the environment. You hear a lot of chatter about whether or not EVs actually cut emissions versus gasoline motors, but that’s mainly from the oil lobby. EVs produce absolutely no emissions themselves, and the emissions they produce over their life from electricity generation is lower than that produced by a gas-powered car. If you can set up a solar panel at home, you can cut out emissions (and running costs) entirely! They’re refreshingly quiet, too. EVs only make a slight whirring noise, which is much more pleasant to hear than your grumbly gas motor. Even plug-in hybrids, which use smaller gas motors to recharge their batteries, are significantly quieter than any gas-powered vehicle. One thing you may not expect: they’re super fun to drive. Electric cars have crazy amounts of torque, so as soon as you put your foot down, off they go! Acceleration is absolutely fantastic, and power is very even throughout the drive. There are definitely a few downsides, though, so don’t run out and buy an EV without thinking things through. One of these vehicles will cost you more than a gasoline model in some states, even though many offer tax incentives to offset the cost difference. There’s also talk of federal tax credits being eliminated for electric vehicles since that’s something the oil lobby pushes hard for every legislative session. If you drive long ranges regularly and don’t have charging points to use while you’re away from home, you’ll also find that EVs aren’t all that practical. They’re generally good for about 70 miles in range (some, such as Tesla’s, will go further). Plug-in hybrids can help you extend the range, but they only make sense if the majority of your driving is short distances, with the occasional extended road trip. It’s hard to set up a charging point if you live in an apartment or condo, too. You’re going to have to set up a 240V outlet, which can be expensive unless you want to deal with painfully slow charging over standard household power. These are much more feasible for people who own their home, and for those who have a charger available at work. And one last note: if you’re debating whether a specific EV will have enough range to get you from A-B, be sure to stay conservative when you look at mileage ratings. Consumer Reports suggests rounding down by 25% from the manufacturers’ claims.