Are you a climate smart Floridian?

Are you a climate smart Floridian?

Red flowers, an oak tree, pasture, and a pond.

Today’s Climate
Photo Source: UF/IFAS Photo Database

Many confuse the two words climate and weather. Weather is the day to day conditions of our atmosphere. Whereas, climate refers to the average of the weather over time. Weather depicts how we dress day to day and can change often. Climate refers more to the average weather over time. We generally must prepare for our climate by buying appropriate clothing and preparing our home for longer term weather conditions.

What causes the climate to change? There are three important greenhouse gases that have dramatically increased since industrialization: carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane. The increases are primarily due to our changes in land use over time. These factors make our earth’s surface temperature warmer which affects our loss of sea ice and longer fire seasons, and can contribute to extreme weather events.

Finger changing temperature on thermostat

Adjust the temperature
Photo Source: Julie McMillian

The question is, what can I do in my own world and community to help on an individual basis? There are several ways that we can reduce our energy use of electricity at home which will help us to contribute to the bigger picture. Some simple suggestions are when you are not using the television, computer, lights, heating and cooling, try to turn them off or down for a while. Purchasing shades or curtains for your windows can keep your house cooler in the summer and fans may be able to replace the air conditioner on some occasions. When running the air, heat or hot water heater check your thermostat for energy saving features. Try to only run the dishwasher or washing machine with full loads and be sure to clean out your lint trap in the dryer so it has good airflow. You will find you might even save a few dollars by being mindful of your energy consumption.

Next, let’s talk about reducing greenhouse gases in our yards. Composting food scraps is a great way to reduce waste from landfills and turns your waste into reusable soil. Planting trees and plants helps to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Plants store carbon and help to regulate temperatures in the home. Another thing to consider is, where does your water run off go? If water can be routed to your garden it is a win-win.
How do we plan our food system in our home? Reducing food waste has many benefits. We can save money, help our community, conserve energy and resources just by rethinking the way we plan our meals. If we buy more unprocessed foods, there will be less packaging. If we are able to grow our own food or just eat at home more, it cuts down on trips to restaurants and stores.

These are just a few ways to get you thinking about climate change in Florida. As a citizen, we can take action by staying informed and showing our support. If we hold ourselves accountable by looking at our personal impact, we may be surprised what we are leaving behind with our footprint. For more information on healthy living or other extension related topics, contact your local UF IFAS county extension office.

Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS Extension EDIS publications:

Science Support for Climate Change Adaptation in South Florida

Climate Change Adaptation: New Perspectives for Natural Resources Management and Conservation

Energy Efficient Homes

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.

Have a Happy and Healthy Father’s Day

Have a Happy and Healthy Father’s Day

Family wearing green and black shirts

Photo Source: Laurie Osgood

With everything going on in the world today, it could be easy to forget one of the most important holidays of the year, Father’s Day. We will celebrate Father’s Day on June 21st this year, during Men’s Health Month! Father’s Day is a good time to show the men in our lives that we want them to be with us for a long time. Let’s celebrate Men’s Health Month by encouraging the men in our lives to adopt healthy habits and seek regular medical advice.

Most men do not like to go the doctor. A 2014 survey conducted by The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) determined that American men are much less likely to go to the doctor than women. Starting a conversation could encourage him to pay attention to his health as he ages. But how do we start the conversation with our father’s about their health issues? To ensure a stress-free conversation, pick a time and place with few distractions and present the topic in a loving and non-judgmental manner.

Here Are the Top Healthy Living Tips for Men:

  1. Schedule an annual physical exam: Annual physical exams can help spot potential problems before they get serious. Only you and your doctor can determine your best checkup and screening schedule. Preventative screenings such as an annual colonoscopy are based on a patient’s age and risk factors for developing a condition or disease, including family or personal history, age, ethnicity, and environmental exposure.
  2. Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack: According to the American Heart Association, someone in the U.S. has a heart attack every 40 seconds. Therefore it is important for everyone to recognize the signs of a heart attack. These warning signs include pain or discomfort in the jaw, chest, arms, shoulders, neck, or back, feeling light-headed or weak and shortness of breath.
  3. Make sleep a priority: Many adults don’t get enough sleep. Sleep is essential for our bodies to maintain our healthy bodily functions. Sleep disorders and ongoing lack of sleep can increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes.
  4. Reduce Stress: High levels of stress can negatively affect a man’s lifestyle. Stress can be life threatening and can lead to a heart attack. UF/IFAS Extension’s Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS) offers a collection of information on various subjects including how to manage stress.
  5. Stop Smoking: Men who smoke are at a greater risk for heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases and strokes. Quitting can help lower the risk for smoking-related illnesses. The Florida Department of Health’s Tobacco Free Florida campaign offers resources to help quit tobacco use.
  6. Exercise More: Regular workouts can improve heart health as well as reduce stress and weight. Experts tell us that we should all try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  7. Eat Healthy: A healthy diet should include a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products daily. USDA offers tips for Men’s Health; 10 Tips: Get the Facts to Feel and Look Better .

Father’s Day is a great time to celebrate the men in our lives and encourage them to pay attention to their health and well-being because we want them to be around for a long time.

Going to the doctor may not be as fun as going to a ballgame or the beach, but having a conversation about their health may be the gift we can give our fathers on Father’s Day.

For more information on healthy living or other extension related topics, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Agent.

Extension classes are open to everyone regardless of race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations.

Helpful Resources for Weathering the Storm

Helpful Resources for Weathering the Storm

collection of hurricane supplies

Food and water are, with good reason, most people’s priorities when it comes to stocking their hurricane kit. However, other items are important, too, such as first aid items, sanitation supplies, and extra batteries. (Photo source: UF/IFAS File Photo)

It’s officially hurricane season here in Florida and that means it’s time to review and rebuild your disaster kit. Take some time to go through your kit and make sure you have everything you need. Use this checklist as a starting point and add whatever else you may need.

Replace expired food products and replenish your water supply. Need help deciding what kinds of food and how much water to buy? Let this shopping list be your guide! Remember, focus on nutrition. Balanced, nutritious foods will help provide much-needed, long-lasting energy during stressful times. Family and Consumer Sciences agents in Broward County, FL provide a few tips and tricks for making healthy choices.

Need advice about preparing and storing an emergency water supply? This fact sheet can help!

Keep fresh batteries on hand in all the sizes you will need to power your devices, such as flashlights, radios, and other electronics.

Protect important documents. Many items, such as wills, birth certificates, deeds and liens, and insurance papers may be hard to replace if lost or damaged in a storm. Keep hard copies safe in a waterproof, fireproof lock box. Save digital backups in multiple, secure, and portable places that can be accessed after a storm. This fact sheet provides additional tips for protecting your documents and valuables during a disaster.

Create a digital hurricane kit! Alicia Betancourt, Community Resource Development agent in Monroe County, FL, has put together a comprehensive list of online resources that can help you track the storm, stay in touch with loved ones, and plan your evacuation.

Additional Resources

Disaster Handbook (UF/IFAS)
How to Prepare for Emergencies (American Red Cross)
Ready.gov (U.S. Department of Homeland Security)

UF/IFAS is an Equal Opportunity Institution.

Seeking Calm During a Crisis

Seeking Calm During a Crisis

We like to feel as if we are always in control of our lives, especially during a crisis.  Being in control provides us with feelings of confidence and strength, as if nothing could ever go wrong.  However, sometimes we are not in control of our lives.  Sometimes our emotions can run away with us and in times of confusion and uncertainty, those emotions can leave us feeling scared and anxious.

Right now, for many of us, our world has tilted a bit off its axis.  We feel as if life is a little precarious, as if the control we value has been threatened.  We want to protect ourselves and our families from something we may not fully understand, and this can leave us feeling a bit helpless.  While this can be a scary way to feel, let me just say this: It is okay to feel this way, especially during times of challenge and uncertainty.

The key to keeping steady on rough emotional seas is to seek out feelings of calm.  Seek out activities that can help distract from the anxious feelings, even for a few minutes.  Soothing activities can vary depending on the person, so it is important to find which activities work best.  Here are some good examples:

open book and cup of tea

A good book and a soothing cup of tea can provide an oasis of calm in a desert of uncertainty. (Photo source: Samantha Kennedy)

Reading. Books and stories can be a great escape, allowing us to get lost in a world where there are no problems or where, at the very least, the problems are not ours to worry about.  When I am feeling anxious, I like to dive into a good mystery or thriller where my mind can become occupied with an intricate plot and I can break the cycle of worried thoughts swirling inside my head.  Reading stories with children can help everyone take a break from stress as well.

Creating. Remember those adult coloring books we all bought years ago?  Pull those out of the drawer and blow the dust off them.  Those items were touted as good stress busters for a reason.  Concentrating on coloring in a picture or a pattern can help calm the mind and alleviate stressful emotions.  Other creative outlets work just as well, such as drawing, journaling, or playing the guitar. I enjoy practicing my hand lettering when I am feeling stressed.

Exercising.  Moving our bodies infuses our muscles and brain with oxygen and releases those feel-good chemicals known as endorphins, which produce feelings of relaxation and euphoria.  Exercise strengthens our bodies and boosts our emotions.  The exercise does not have to be strenuous to be effective.  Low-impact exercise such as yoga and tai chi can have as much of a positive effect on the mind and body as more intense exercise such as running and weightlifting.

Meditating.  Meditation is often thought of as something only practiced by spiritual folks on mountaintops in Tibet.  But this is an unfair stereotype.  Meditation can be practiced by anyone, even children.  At its most basic, it is simply a way to center and calm our mind by focusing on our breath as it moves in and out of our body.  By doing this, we can simply acknowledge and quickly dismiss all extraneous thoughts, including anxious and stressful ones, thereby not allowing them to take hold.  Effective meditation takes practice, but it does not have to take a long time.  Even a short 5-minute meditation can help us find calm in a sea of chaos.

Finding ways to achieve calm during confusing times can help us feel more in control of our lives and can reduce feeling of stress and anxiety.  For more suggestions on how to cope with stress, please read the UF/IFAS fact sheet Stress Management: Ways to Cope.

Extension classes are open to everyone regardless of race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations.

Produce Pointers – Blueberries

Produce Pointers – Blueberries

Once known as star berries because of the pointy flower calyxes on top, blueberries have grown wild in North America for thousands of years. They were a staple among Native Americans, who dried and smoked the berries, and pounded them into venison to flavor the meat.

Berries such as blueberries are rich in vitamin, minerals, and antioxidants and can be delicious additions to yogurt, salads, and smoothies. (Photo source: UF/IFAS file photo)

Uses & Preparation
Wash blueberries just before using.  Add to yogurt or cottage cheese or any fruit and mild cheese platter.  For color and great taste, add to salads; or sweeten pancakes, cakes, and muffins.

Selection
Look for firm, dry, plump, smooth-skinned berries with a light grayish bloom.  Ripe berries should be deep-purple blue to blue-black.

Storage
Cover and refrigerate fresh berries for up to 10 days.  Blueberries are easily frozen for later use.  Freeze unwashed blueberries in airtight, resealable plastic bags.  If thawed, keep refrigerated and use within 3 days.

Blueberry Pancake Stacks

Vegetable Oil for cooking
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup  all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries
Dash of nutmeg

In a mixing bowl, stir together the milk, oil, and egg.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.  Add dry ingredients to the milk, and stir just until mixed (batter should be slightly lumpy).  Gently fold in the berries.  Spoon the batter onto a griddle or pan greased with vegetable oil and heated to medium-hot (dollops should be about the size of a silver dollar).  Let the batter cook until the tops of the pancakes begin to bubble, then flip and cook until done.  Stack and serve immediately with softened margarine and warm syrup.  Makes about eighteen 2 1/2″ pancakes.

Blueberry Syrup

Combine 1 pint of blueberries and 1 cup of maple syrup in a saucepan.  Heat to boiling, then lower the heat and simmer until most of the fruit has burst.  Remove from heat and use a fork to mash the berries.  The syrup will thicken as it cools.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Nutrition Information:  Good source of vitamin C.  High in fiber.  Low in calories.

Available Fresh:  April – June

To learn about fresh Florida strawberries, please read our fact sheet: Panhandle Produce Pointers – Blueberries.

.For more delicious produce preparation tips, please visit: http://www.panhandleproducepointers.com.

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.

Step by Step into Better Health

Step by Step into Better Health

What does your morning and evening routine consist of? Now that we are adjusting to our new normal of staying at home and social distancing, many routines are different than before. How about starting a routine of walking 30 minutes or an hour each day? There are so many positive benefits to even just adding 15 minutes to your schedule and most everyone, including children, can do it.

two people walking their dog

Walking is a great form of exercise that nearly everyone can do. (Photo source: Lyon Duong, UF/IFAS)

Walking improves your mood and reduces stress and anxiety. Who doesn’t need that kind of positive influence in their life right now? If you walk in the morning, it will provide you with energy for the rest of the day and walking in the evening helps you to sleep better at night. Taking a few extra steps each day can add some time to clear your head and add to your energy level while creating a positive mindset for other activities.

One of the other benefits of walking is burning calories. Burning calories may lead to weight loss. It seems that almost every American is always looking for a way to improve the fitness of their body. By exercising during a walk, you build stronger muscles, ligaments and tendons. Physically, walking can reduce your hips, tighten abdominal muscles, strengthen your arms, and tone your legs. Walking gives you a chance to improve balance, coordination and flexibility. Your feet can help to reduce the load on other joints while keeping knee joints healthy and lowering the risk of blood clots. Walking makes your heart stronger and reduces risk of stroke. A research team from the University of Michigan Medical School says that people who are in the 50s-60s age bracket who exercise regularly are 35 percent less likely to die in the next eight years than those who do not. Therefore, some walking each day could help you lead to a longer life.

Now that we have so many reasons to take a stroll each day, we must make sure to walk correctly to avoid injury. It is important to move freely and naturally while swinging your arms to avoid back problems. Keep your shoulder back with your head held high and eyes forward. Position your feet straight and push off with your hind leg to engage your hips. Watch for traffic if you are walking by a highway and of course practice social distancing for now. Maybe later ask a friend to join for a social aspect and to have accountability to someone. Keep a log to track progress. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity per week to be considered active adults. That should add up to about 7,000 to 8,000 steps a day but if you can get 10,000, go for it! It is a great time to get into this daily routine and doesn’t require any special equipment or memberships.

So what are you waiting for? There is no better time to start stepping.

For more information on healthy living or other extension related topics, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Agent.

Additional Resources:
Healthstyle: A Self-Test (UF/IFAS Extension)
Healthy Living: Beating Barriers to Physical Activity (UF/IFAS Extension)
Improving Savings, Health, and Happiness by Modifying How the Family Operates the Home (UF/IFAS Extension)
Walking: Your Steps to Health (Harvard Health)

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.