Tuesday, January 17, 2017

5 Green New Year’s Resolutions for 2017

By Rebecca Yaeger-Bischoff
For The Hillsider

When people think of New Year’s resolutions they usually think about lifestyle changes for weight loss, healthier diets, and exercise routines. This year, along with any resolutions you might be making for your personal health, I encourage you to make resolutions for a healthier planet. Plastic pollution and climate change can seem like too daunting of a challenge to make any real difference, but, by incorporating one or more of the small lifestyle changes listed below, you really can make a big difference in reducing the amount of waste that ends up in the landfill and decrease your carbon footprint.   
Ethyl’s, the cat, first bus ride! She went to get her nails done and brought smiles to the the people she sat by on the bus.
(Photo by Rebecca Yaeger-Bischoff)

Here are some small steps you can take to make a positive impact on environmental change.

  1. Carry your own reusable water bottle instead of purchasing bottled water or accepting bottled water at an event. Single use, plastic bottles create a lot of waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only about 31% of plastic bottles are recycled. Bottles that end up in landfills take thousands of years to decompose. When they do start to decompose they leach out toxic chemicals into our environment. Many plastic bottles also make they way to rivers, lakes, and eventually the ocean where animals mistake the plastic for food and starve to death or get stuck in them. If you are concerned about the quality of your tap water, consider investing in a water filter or go to www.findaspring.com to find a natural spring near you.

  1. Bring your own mug to work or your favorite coffee shop. The EPA estimates over 100 billion disposable cups that are thrown away each year. These cups of often made of Styrofoam or paper lined with thin plastic coating. Neither can be easily recycled. Styrofoam is especially problematic because it made up of very toxic chemicals and never decomposes. It breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces that can leach toxins into our water sources and animals mistake for food. Coffee shops often give discounts for bringing your own mug. And besides, having a coffee (or tea) in a real mug is more fun!

  1. Bring your own reusable shopping bag. If you’re starting to see a theme in switching out one-time use, disposable items for reusable ones you’re onto something. Plastic bags are the second most common form of litter after cigarette butts. As with the plastic bottles and Styrofoam cups, plastic bags are very hazardous for animals and take thousands of years to decompose in a landfill. All are made of oil, a nonrenewable resource and large emitter of greenhouse gases (the ones driving climate change) and take a lot of water and energy to manufacture. Remembering to bring your own bags into the store can be the trickiest part of switching to reusable bags. There are companies that make foldable bags that you can carry in a purse or attach to a keychain so you’ll always have a bag with you. I’ve also seen signs in store parking lots asking customers if they remembered to bring their inside. Many stores like it when people bring their own bags because it saves them money. 

    If you’re starting to see a theme in switching out one-time use, disposable items for reusable ones you’re onto something.

  1. Compost your food waste. The EPA estimates that 33 million tons of food waste ends up in the landfill each year. About 40% of that waste is food that never even made it to anyone’s plate according to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Not only does food waste in landfills take up unnecessary space, it anaerobically (without oxygen) breaks down, releasing methane, a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Composting your food waste is a great way to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in a landfill and recycle nutrients back into the soil. It breaks down food waste faster and more efficiently food waste in the landfill. Here in Duluth we are lucky to have a large-scale composting facility operated by Western Lake Superior Sanitary District (WLSSD). If you're like me and not able to compost at home, you can drop off food waste at WLSSD’s 27th Avenue West location or check their website www.wlssd.com for a drop-off site near you.

  1. Bus, bike, or walk to your destination. Reduce your carbon footprint, improve air quality, save money, and get some exercise by using alternative transportation. Duluth celebrates Bus Bike Walk month in May but it’s never too early to try alternative transportation. I work downtown and hear many complaints about paying for parking or finding parking near businesses. Taking the bus, biking, or walking makes that part of the trip a lot less stressful. While I realize that the these alternatives may not be as convenient for you, I encourage you to check Google Maps to see if there’s a bus or bike route near you. I started by biking and taking the bus for fun and eventually become confident enough to work it into a regular routine.
Rebecca Yaeger-Bischoff

(Rebecca Yaeger-Bischoff lives in Lincoln Park, has a degree in environmental science, is a 5 Gyres Ambassador, leads Zumba classes and is interested in health and wellness. Full disclosure: She is also the daughter of The Hillsider editor Naomi Yaeger-Bischoff.)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Got Talent event set for tonight Jan.13 is canceled

  Ivy Vaino has informed us that as late last night, that the Got Talent event set for tonight (Fridiay, Jan. 13) is cancelled.

Duluth Chief of Police Mike Tusken speaks about Sex Trafficking

Mayor Larson says the community needs to put a stop to sex trafficking

The Hillsider
Mayor Larson says people understand more and more the implications of sex trafficking.
"Everyone single one of us in this community knows someone who has experienced sexual violence," Mayor Larson says.
"You have to have these conversations with your kids," she says.
"It's on all of us in the community to call it out and put a stop to it." she says.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Trafficking Awareness Month, January 2017

The Hillsider

Sex Trafficking. It’s here. Help end it. Together we can make a difference. Several events are planned this month to help people understand the scope and impact of trafficking, as well as how to help victims and help stop this abuse. The January events (free and open to the public) are:
Jeff Bauer with The Family Partnership in Minneapolis, MN, will speak.
-January 17, 2017: “Safe Harbor for All.” Jeff Bauer with The Family Partnership in Minneapolis, MN, will speak. He helped lead a successful effort to pass a Safe Harbor law in MN, obtaining some of the most significant state investments in the country for shelter, services, and training to protect children from trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. Venue and time TBA.
-January 19, 2017, 6:30 p.m.: Book read and discussion, “The Guest Room” by Chris Bohjalian. Gold Room. Main Library, 520 W. Superior St., Duluth.

Happy New Year!

A mother/daughter in traditional costume. Mom is Blia Moua and daughter is Selena Xiong. Selena attends Denfeld High School.
(Photo by Ivy Viano)
The Hillsider
The secular New Year is January 1, 2016, but the Twin Ports Hmong celebrated the new year on the first Saturday in December 2016.
The Hmong came to the United States as refugees from the Vietnam War. They had been in Laos where they were recruited by the CIA beginning in the early 1960s under President Kennedy to help Fight the communist invasion of Southeast Asia.
The first Hmong family arrived in the Twin Ports in 1978 .
Their culture, language, and background are all very different from that of the other Southeast Asian refugees who came out of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand following the Vietnam War.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Take a Moment to Color and Relax your Mind

By Lydia Walker
For The Hillsider

The above image was drawn by Lydia Walker, art therapist. She and The Hillsider invite you to get out colored pencils or crayons and enjoy a few minutes of relaxation by coloring her design.
It seems like suddenly everywhere you go you can find adult coloring books, including grocery stores, bookstores, department stores, and coffee shops. Many of them label themselves as art therapy. As an art therapist I can tell you that they are not art therapy, but a tool that can be used by therapist and general population alike to induce various health benefits. Now one may wonder what type of health benefits can come from coloring.

Dr. Stan Rodski, a neuropsychologist and author of a line of adult coloring books, states that coloring stimulates a relaxed mindset, which is similar to what one could achieve through meditation. Coloring allows us to distract our brains from other thoughts and focus on the moment and task in front of us. Tasks with predictable results and repetitive motions such as coloring can be calming and relaxing. Both meditation and coloring help to relax and reduce the chatter of one’s restless mind. Additionally, coloring keeps a person focused on the present moment and helps them to be mindful.
"Coloring can lead to lowered heart rate and slowed breathing causing physical relaxation as well."

Not only do the repetitive actions along with the attention to patterns and detail associated with coloring aid in mental relaxation but there is also a physiological response as well. Coloring can lead to lowered heart rate and slowed breathing causing physical relaxation as well.

Most of you remember coloring as a kid.  As an adult colors, they are linking to memories of coloring as a child, whether they are aware of this or not. One is transported back to the stress-free days of childhood, which aids a person to relax and feel more optimistic and energetic. This leads to increased positive emotions and thoughts. Now who doesn’t want to be a kid again and who doesn’t want to have happy thoughts?
Lydia Walker, art therapist

(Lydia Walker is an art therapist and artist specializing in how art & brain interact promoting healing & healthy living and owner of Studio 15. For more information visit Facebook.com/pg/Studio15Gallery or phone (612) 203-4300)

The images below were drawn by Lydia Walker, art therapist. She and The Hillsider invite you to get out colored pencils or crayons and enjoy a few minutes of relaxation by coloring her designs.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Snow Removal Update -sidewalks Dec.18,2016

Editor's note, Duluth has a color coded priority system for snow cleaning, please read the story and click on the link to see which roads and sidewalks are considered high priority

 Sidewalks are an important part of Duluth's transit system. The City of Duluth is responsible for clearing sidewalks that abutt the road.

By Pakou Ly
City of Duluth Public Information Coordinator

While plow drivers are out cutting ice on residential streets, another smaller group is working to clear city managed sidewalks. Priority 1 (red) routes near schools and major bus routes are expected to be done tomorrow and the second tier (pink) routes are underway. This ice and snow mix has created significant challenges including equipment break down. Crews are out working every day though. Thank you for your patience and for doing your part to clear your own sidewalks. 

Here is a link to the sidewalk clearing system:


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Cold Weather Tips for Pet Owners

Cold Weather Tips for Pet Owners
By Naomi Yaeger-Bischoff
With the ASPCA
Your pet may have a fur coat, but you still need to keep in mind how the cold weather affects pets. Even if you don’t own a pet, please keep others’ pets in mind. Many years ago, my husband had the unfortunate experience of discovering a cat under the hood of his vehicle when he started the engine. The cat had crawled under the hood to stay warm, and when my husband started the car, the cat died.
Cold Weather Tips
Thinkstock (Photo of MaggieBW coming soon)

The following tips are from the ASPCA, and they are all important. See tip #2 on how to prevent inadvertently hurting a cat as you start your vehicle. Tip #5 explains how essential winter clothing is for dogs. Our dog, MaggieBW, is a shorthaired dog and we purchased a sweater for her. I first thought this was a little extravagant, but since we all know how cold it gets in the Northland, it is actually important for her health and safety.
Please follow these guidelines to protect your companion animal when the temperature drops.

  1. Keep your cat inside. Outdoors, cats can freeze, become lost or stolen, or be injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to fatal infectious diseases, including rabies.
  2. During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes choose to sleep under the hoods of cars, where it is warmer. Then, when the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed in the fan belt. To prevent this, bang loudly on the hood of your car and wait a few seconds before starting the engine, to give a cat a chance to escape.
  3. Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm. Dogs frequently lose their scent in snow and ice and easily become lost. They may panic in a snowstorm and run away. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season.
  4. Thoroughly wipe off your dog’s legs and stomach when she comes in out of the rain, snow or ice. Check her sensitive paw pads, which may bleed from snow or ice encrusted in them. Also, salt, antifreeze, or other chemicals could hurt your dog if she ingests them while licking her paws.
  5. If you own a short-haired breed, consider getting a warm coat or sweater for your dog. Look for one with a high collar or turtleneck that covers your dog from the base of her tail on top and to the belly underneath. While this may seem like a luxury, it is a necessity for many dogs.
  6. Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold. Your companion animal could freeze to death.
  7. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only long enough to relieve himself.
  8. Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs and may be difficult to house train during the winter. If necessary, paper train your puppy inside if he appears to be sensitive to the weather.
  9. If your dog spends a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities, increase his supply of food, particularly protein, to keep his fur thick and healthy.
  10. Antifreeze, even in very tiny doses, is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Because of its sweet taste, dogs are attracted to it. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle. To prevent accidental poisonings, more and more people are using animal-friendly products that contain propylene glycol rather than the traditional products containing ethylene glycol. Call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center if you suspect your animal has ingested poison.
  11. Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter. Leave the coat in a longer style, which provides more warmth. Remember that such a style will require more frequent brushing due to dry winter air and static electricity. When you bathe your dog, make sure she is completely dry before you take her out for a walk.
  12. Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep far away from all drafts and off the floor, such as in a dog or cat bed or basket with a warm blanket or pillow in it.

(This information was provided courtesy of ASPCA, 424 East 92nd St.,New York, NY,10128-6804 (212) 876-7700 www.aspca.org)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Free Tax Site gears up for 2017

By Julia Cheng
For The Hillsider 
Volunteer Recruitment
Community Action Duluth is seeking volunteers for the Free Tax Site. Walk-in clinics operate Mondays and Tuesdays, 4:30 – 9:00 pm and Saturdays, 8:45 am – 1:00 PM, January 28 – April 17.

The Tax Site depends on 80-95 volunteers every year to help more than 1500 families and individuals file their tax returns for free. Experience doing taxes or working for a tax-filing business is a plus, but we provide all necessary training, and there are other ways to help besides preparing returns. Volunteers from the community we serve, tax site clients and CAD staff are all partners in running an excellent program.

New volunteer orientations take place throughout December at CAD’s main offices in the former Lincoln Park School, 2424 West 5th Street. Tax preparer training begins on January 3. A first-year preparer starts with an introduction to basic tax concepts, and continues with required trainings in federal tax law, Minnesota tax law and TaxSlayer Pro Online return preparation software.  People who have used online tax prep sites like MyFreeTaxes.com or Intuit TurboTax may find TaxSlayer quite user friendly.

Tax site assistants train to screen clients – helping them complete the intake process and get ready for a successful tax site visit.  

Bring your Social Security card or ITIN card to the Tax Site
VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) tax sites must now verify the social security number of each person on a tax return with one of these acceptable documents:
·      Original Social Security card
·      Social Security Number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration
·      Medicaid Card (with letter “A” after the Social Security number)
·      Form SSA-1099, Social Security benefits statement or any document issued by the Social Security Administration. Truncated numbers (“XXX-XX-1234”) are acceptable.
·      ITIN card or letter

Make sure to bring these documents to the CAD Free Tax Site or other VITA tax sites in Duluth.

PATH Act holds on EITC and ACTC refunds take effect in 2017
The IRS will hold tax year 2016 refunds that include Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit until February 15, 2017. Taxpayers should still file returns as usual, and the IRS will process returns as they receive them.
The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (“PATH”) extended or preserved tax credits set to expire in 2017. Many of these tax credits benefit families who use the Tax Site. However, Section 201 of the PATH Act also “provides additional time for the IRS to review refund claims based on the earned income tax credit and refundable portion of the child tax credit in order to reduce fraud and improper payments,” beginning in 2017.

No one can get you your federal refund faster than the IRS releases it, and if they say they can it will probably cost you money. Electronic filing through a VITA tax site and direct deposit of refunds can still minimize your wait time. The IRS will release all pending EITC and ACTC refunds on February 15. Refunds from returns filed after February 15 are not subject to this hold.

Julia Cheng

(Julia Cheng is the Community Action Duluth Tax Site Program Manager)