Shindig Season

These ideas can help you host an eco-conscious party over the holidays.

Hotdogs on Girll

It’s fall, which happens to be THE party season. In the span of four months, dozens of merrymaking opportunities exist, from Halloween and Thanksgiving to Christ- mas and New Year’s. And there’s always football, hockey and the World Series.

But many celebrations cast a huge environmental footprint through disposable décor and tableware. In 2013 alone, Americans generated some 254 million tons of trash! So why not add sustainability to the mix?

“For me, a sustainable party is all about the food,” says Sacramento-based party guru Jerry James Stone, a food author who writes about ecofriendly victuals and drinks in his popular blog, CookingStoned.tv. “Food connects people, communities and everything else,” he says. “It defines our water use and energy consumption, and how we treat our land.”

Here are a few general do’s and don’ts when it comes to hosting a  green party.

DO plan ahead, suggests Nora Beelner of The Front Range Catering Company  in Boulder. Decorate and prepare food ahead of time, and cook from scratch. “Prepared products have a lot of packaging, which creates a lot of unnecessary trash.” You could also buy compostable tableware sold at most natural  grocers.

DO send evites. They’re easy to set up and great for event management. Use an evite company, like evite.com, or make your own evite on a computer and paste it into an email you can send to every- one on your list.

DON’T neglect special diets. If you serve meat, make it from humanely raised animals. Include a few vegan and vegetarian options and lighter dishes, like fresh fruit and veggies, dips, olives, and homemade hummus, as well as locally baked pastries, rolls or muffins with homemade jam.

DO ask your trash company for compost bins; just make sure everything is compostable, including the trash liner. For events with bottled and canned drinks and non-compostables, use separate, clearly labeled recycle, trash and compost bins.

DO serve a signature drink.

DO go thrift shopping. It’s a fun way to find unique party décor, like big jars for holding signature drinks, trays for food displays and vases for seasonal flowers. “It’s repurposing things, which ties into sustainability,” Beelner says.

Football Fun

These things will make a football party more memorable.

DO make sure all sitting places have good television viewing. And serve enough food, as football parties typically involve alcohol.

DON’T serve standard fare like chicken wings. Try fun edibles like finger sandwiches on dark rye cut into football- helmet shapes or pigskin-shaped pizza pockets. Or try mini tacos and tofu-and- veggie kabobs (use extra-firm tofu marinated in barbecue sauce).

A favorite at Three Leaf Concepts is Buffalo cauliflower skewers with ranch dressing. “You just toss cauliflower florets in water, roll them in flour and seasonings, and oven-bake them.  That gives them a really light crust,” marketing director Sara Morell says. “Then add your choice of hot sauce and roast them a little longer,” skewer and serve. Serve fresh fruit in a hollowed-out watermelon carved in the shape of a football helmet.

DO use football-themed decorations, like green tablecloths with white tape to mimic yard lines on a football field. Draw football plays on a medium-sized blackboard and use it for tabletop décor. And ask everyone to wear a team jersey.

SIGNATURE DRINK
Beer, of course, but rent a keg and support sustainable local breweries like New Belgium.

Happy Halloween

These tips will get your party “creep” on.

DO go all out with carved orange and white pumpkins, black candles, gnarled branches, dead wreaths and imitation spider webs. “I saw a rubber mask in a jar filled with water to make it look like a preserved head,” Beelner says. “It was very creepy.”

DO play muted horror movies like Frankenstein and Nightmare on Elm Street, and have an eccentric playlist with songs like “Werewolves of London,” “Monster Mash,” “Thriller” and “Ghostbusters.”

DO serve spine-chilling fare, like deviled eggs with yolks streaked with red beet juice to resemble bloodshot eyes; grave- yard muffins with candied hands and bones sticking out; and white-chocolate fondue stained red for dipping fresh fruit and marshmallows. Place bottled drinks in carved-out pumpkins filled with ice.

SIGNATURE DRINK
Stone’s bloody old-fashioned (the recipe is in his book, Holidazed) features blood orange juice, rye whiskey, brown sugar and orange bitters garnished with grated cinnamon. For a macabre nonalcoholic brew, freeze freshly squeezed lemon juice and peeled grapes in ice trays, then drop the fake “eyeballs” into water glasses.

Giving Thanks and Counting Blessings

Thanksgiving and Christmas are fun holidays. So much to do, so little time!

DO get creative with décor. Rather than customary holiday colors, try ivory and green with glints of gold and purple. “It still says fall, but it’s not what you would normally think of,” Beelner says. At Christmas, “get glitzy with more gold and sil- ver.”

Place mini pumpkins and gourds in big glass jars from thrift stores. At Christmas, opt for colorful bulb ornaments, and string up snowflake cutouts made from recycled paper.

DON’T limit yourself to sit-down dinners. Minglers keep   it informal. Stone has his guests bring a special photo with them. “Then we sit around and tell our stories about it, while sharing in good food. It’s a fun way to get to know people even better,” he says. For Christmas, put out a donation jar for a charity or have guests bring old blankets, toys, leashes and other supplies for the local animal shelter.

DO serve seasonal foods. Beelner likes baba ghanoush with roasted fall vegetables and garlic-and-cucumber yogurt dip. Another seasonal veggie is acorn squash filled with blackberries, homemade corn-bread stuffing and pecans; it’s one of her company’s signature holiday dishes. After baking, cut into quarters and serve as a side dish.

To keep food warm, she suggests making a simple warming plate with a small granite piece for the top (sold at stone fabricators like Advantage Stone in Longmont) and brick supports. Place Sterno cans beneath the stone, making sure the flames don’t touch the stone. The warm granite makes a nice display, Beelner says, and the stone’s smooth surface is easy to clean.

SIGNATURE DRINK
Stone’s Holidazed sangria is made with white grape juice, a little sugar, pinot grigio, fresh cranberries and diced Granny Smith apples, garnished with can- died rosemary sprigs.

When it’s cold outside, try Three Leaf’s popular hot party drink: a chai Russian, made with chai concentrate, milk (or coconut or almond milk), vodka and Kahlua. Keep it warm in a Crock-Pot and put out a decorative serving ladle.

Whatever party you host this season, try to cast a lighter environmental footprint and encourage  a  healthier scene.

You may find it’s fun to inspire positive change

 

 

 

Tips for Tucking in your Garden for Winter.

 

Tucking in a garden for winter is mostly about cleaning up and covering up. Hopefully, your trees  and  shrubs  grew stronger this growing season. But too much water from relentless summer rains or overwatering can lead to weakened growth, which is susceptible to winter die-off.

Given last year’s loss of trees through- out the Front Range due to extreme air-temperature   fluctuations,   getting a garden ready for winter dormancy is prudent. In a normal year, shrubs and trees  prepare  themselves  for  winter in response to shorter days and cooler temperatures. You can help your plants get ready for dormancy by following these steps.

Stop fertilizing in late August to avoid stimulating new growth. (And never overfertilize during the growing season, as this can result in weakened growth, too.)

In September, adjust your automat- ic sprinkler system to irrigate twice a week instead of three times. When you blow out your system for winter, usu- ally in late September or early October, switch to hand watering once a week.

Before the ground freezes, do a final weeding and remove any debris. Keep grows, because long grass covered by deep snows can develop brown patches in spring.

After plants go dormant, hand water only when the soil is dry several inches below the surface. But continue water- ing any fall transplants; their root balls should not dry out during their first au- tumn and winter in the  ground.

This is also a good time to prune bro- ken branches and dieback. Wait to do a thorough pruning until just before new growth appears in spring.

In October, stop deadheading flow- ers. Luckily, our perennial grasses and flowers fared much better than trees and shrubs last winter, because they’re

not as susceptible to air-temperature fluctuations, which brings us to an im- portant point. The reason they fared better is because their growing points, where new cells develop, were tucked away beneath mulch.

It’s very important to mulch again in late fall to keep soil temperatures from swinging erratically, which can cause perennials and grasses to weaken or die. Anything light and fluffy works, such as pine needles (but they’re a pain to clean up come springtime), wood chips, straw, hay or leaves. Rake up tree leaves and lightly run the mower over them to shred them into mulch. Liber- ally spread the mulch beneath shrubs and trees, and over flower and vegeta- ble beds to a depth of 1 to 2 feet.

A lightweight frost blanket is a good option for gravel-mulched rock gardens.

It’s a Wrap

To protect against sunscald, wind- burn, drought and transplant shock, spray specialty evergreens, like dwarf conifers, lavender cotton, arborvitae, broad-leafed evergreen azaleas, rhodo- dendrons,  boxwoods,  euonymus and

hollies, with an anti-transpirant like Wilt-Pruf or Wilt Stop.

Both are natural, nontoxic products derived from pine tree resin. Apply it  in late October after several frosts to ensure these species are fully dormant. Research demonstrates mixed results with these products, but some local gar- deners swear by them.

Wrap young trees with a trunk diam- eter of less than 4 inches with tree wrap to reduce sunscald that can result in deep trunk fissures. Be sure to remove the wrap promptly next spring to pre- vent insects from taking up residence. Or put a cylinder around the trunk of young trees and pack it with straw or shredded leaves.

One nice thing about tucking in your garden for winter is you can stop cutting back perennial flowers and ornamental grasses, as this affords some protection to the plant’s roots. Wait until late win- ter or early spring to resume this chore. Let berries, seedpods and rose hips over- winter on plants to give wildlife shelter and food during the harshest months.

Finally, wash and store your garden gloves and tools. Empty and store flowerpots, drain the fuel tank on your lawn mower, roll up and store garden hoses, and put away sprinkler attachments and nozzles. Then start dreaming of next year’s garden and all the lovely plants that will greet you come spring!


This article is provided by Marcia Tatroe, a Centennial gardener who is passionate about planting drought-tolerant natives for a gardening aesthetic unique to this region. In addition, this article is featured in the Fall 2016 edition of the BBB Community Guide.http://www.bbb.org/denver/get-to-know-us/community-guide/

Between the Sheets

Bed Sheets

 

When buying sheets, we often just pick ones that fit our mattress. But there’s more to buying sheets than choosing be- tween a twin, full, queen or king. Here are things to consider so you don’t get short-sheeted in the bedding department.

Threads Gone Wild

A sheet’s thread count refers to its number of vertical and horizontal threads per square inch. In the U.S. market, thread counts have inched higher until now we see sheets with 1,000 or greater thread counts. But those numbers don’t necessarily translate to a softer sheet. In order to achieve very high counts, some manufacturers use shorter, thinner threads and then twist the yarns together to get a higher number of threads per square inch. Many consumers believe a higher thread count means a sheet with a softer feel or “hand,” but that isn’t the case with sheets woven from short fibers.

“A 300 thread-count sheet woven from long-staple Egyptian cotton is far superior to a 600 thread-count sheet woven from shorter cotton and twisted thread,” says a Denver linens expert. “The hand and durability are so much better with a long, single, high-quality cotton fiber.” What you are weaving is the most important thing when determining quality and   hand she adds, which brings us to fabrics.

Fabulous Fibers

By far, the most common sheet fabric is cotton, with three main types:pima, Egyptian and American upland. Sheets labeled 100 percent cotton are most likely woven from American upland. This cotton is short-staple cotton, meaning the fibers are short and therefore not as soft as a long-staple fiber.

Pima and Egyptian cottons are long- staple fibers, which can be spun into fine, strong weaves that have greater durability and a much softer hand. Long- staple cottons also include Supima, a trademarked name for sheets made with American pima cotton. Combed cotton means the fibers were combed before weaving to remove the short fibers.

Be aware, though, that some Egyptian cotton sheets are marketed as such, even though they contain a low quantity of true Egyptian cotton.  If you’re looking for the softest sheets, make sure the label says 100 percent Egyptian cotton.

Today’s sheet market also includes other natural fabrics, including silk, wood pulp, bamboo and linen. Silk is incredibly breathable with a luxurious hand. Wood pulp is a trendy textile in today’s market that’s made from sustainable cedar trees. Bamboo is another sustainable fabric that is soft and durable. Linen is a good choice for summer because it’s very breathable, and it absorbs moisture and dries quickly so it retains its coolness. “Linen is very durable and can practically be boiled, and it just gets softer and softer with each washing,” says the linens expert.

Inexpensive non-natural fabrics, like microfiber sheets and cotton sheets blended with nylon or polyester, tend   to be much less breathable and are often thinner, which could make them prone to tears after just a few washes.

What’s In a Weave?

Sheets have certain characteristics according to how they’re woven. For instance, percale and sateen sheets are both cotton sheets that have different weaves. Percale has a simple one-under, one-over weave that results in a matte appearance and a sturdy, breathable sheet. “A great percale sheet will be crisp and cool, and still very soft and luxurious, but without any sheen,” the linens expert says.

A sateen weave is one-under, five- over, which gives the fabric a soft, lustrous and silky feel with a visible sheen. “A sateen woven sheet is not hot by any means, but it’s not as cool as a percale, because the air circulation occurs every five rows instead of every single row,” she explains.

Which sheet you choose depends on your preferences, but keep your body heat in mind. Do you throw off the sheets because of hot flashes or night sweats, or do you constantly pull them around you to stay toasty?

“The typical rule of thumb is percale and linen are more for people who run warm,” she says. “Sateen, silk, wood pulp and bamboo are for those who run cool.” And, of course, flannel sheets are a must-have in Colorado winters.

Other things to keep in mind are the sheet’s laundering needs, your mat- tress depth (so you have enough pock- et on a fitted sheet) and the length of the sheet (so you have a generous fold back). Consider if you’ll need a bed skirt, and check to see if any chemicals were added to the sheets to make them wrinkle free or feel softer (natural-fiber organic sheets are free of chemicals). If you want a fancier look, consider sheets and pillowcases with decorative hemstitching or embroidery.

White and ivory will complement any décor, but don’t be afraid of color in your boudoir. “This is weird,” the linens expert says, “but I always think of what colors make me happy and look good on me when I buy bedding. I want to wake up to a color that makes me look and feel good.”

This article was provided by Carol Brock and is featured in the 2016 Fall BBB Community Guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting with Trust

Building and maintaining trust between businesses and consumers is at the core of what the BBB does, and just as trust is a basic and universal requirement in our personal relationships, it’s also a requirement for a healthy business community.

Because creating trust between businesses and consumers is our mission, we require all BBB Accredited Businesses to adhere to our Standards of Trust, which include advertising honestly, telling the truth, being transparent, honoring promises, being responsive, safeguarding privacy, and acting with integrity. Building trust means the business adheres to those standards in good times and bad, when the customer is watching and when the customer isn’t watching. This is self-regulation at its best

But this only works if customers adhere to similar standards of behavior.  When someone goes out of their way to take advantage of a company, it costs us all. There are certain responsibilities the consumer has to the business transaction. Here a just a few that come to mind:

Research

Know your rights and responsibilities, comparison shop, read contracts, and ask questions before buying. If you don’t take the time to do some pre-purchase research you are only setting yourself up for disappointment – and the fault is your own. The fact is, if you sign a contract without reading it and then file a complaint to get out of it, there’s little to nothing BBB can do for you. The same stands for comparison shopping. If you file a complaint because the new stove you bought turns out to be $100 less at a different retailer, that misstep falls on you –  not on BBB and certainly not on the business.

Truthfulness

Don’t return used goods under the pretense that they are damaged if they are not. This is theft, plain and simple. Businesses offer return policies in good faith. The business cannot resell an opened, used product.  They are forced to dump it at a fraction of the original asking price. Abusing a return policy costs all of us.

Honesty

Show the same level of honesty you expect from a business.  There’s a reason the golden rule works. If a sales clerk makes a mistake in your favor, point it out as quickly as you would a mistake in the company’s favor.

Courtesy

Recognize that store employees are individuals. Treat them as you wish to be treated.

Respect

Don’t make unreasonable demands. Respect the firm’s right to limit services and products offered. Don’t expect to get something for nothing. Turn to your BBB for assistance with a marketplace dispute only if you’ve tried to resolve it directly with the company and that effort failed.

Trust is a two-way street and something that must be earned constantly. Whether a business owner or a customer, we all play a part in that process.

BBB Tip: Good News on Senior Citizens Day!

August 21st is National Senior Citizens Day in the U.S., and Better Business Bureau has some great news: the stereotype of the “little old lady” as scam victim is wrong. BBB research shows that seniors are less likely to be victims of scams because they are more likely to recognize a scam when they see one.

Dancing

Seniors have gotten the message, loud and clear, that scammers target them, especially for investment scams, tech support scams and imposter scams (“Grandmas, I’ve been arrested in Mexico. Please send money!”). Seniors are doing their homework to become educated about con artists and their tactics. Even more surprising, young people – despite their tech-savvy nature – are more vulnerable to scams than seniors.

The research was conducted by the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust (BBB Institute) and is available at BBB.org/TruthAboutScams. BBB surveyed more than 2,000 adults in the U.S. and Canada. Questions were about the respondents’ perceived vulnerability to scams, who they think is most likely to be scammed, and about the factors that helped them to avoid being scammed. The participants did not know that BBB was the sponsor of the survey.

Stereotypes usually paint scam victims as vulnerable and elderly, or gullible and poorly educated, but those assumptions are wrong. Everyone is at risk but, surprisingly, younger and more educated individuals are actually the most likely to be scammed. Marketplace scams affect one in four North American households each year at an estimated loss to individuals and families of $50 billion, yet most consumers believe they are invulnerable.

“Optimism bias” is the idea that other people are more vulnerable than we are, and it’s associated with risk-taking and failure to pay attention to precautionary advice. It’s one of the reasons young people are more vulnerable to scams than seniors. Seniors may also be less impulsive than younger consumers, and less likely to make online purchases (or exercising more caution when they do, such as researching a company first or only shopping at familiar websites).

More than 35,000 people have reported scams to BBB Scam Tracker since it was launched in 2015. Analysis shows that the top five scams that target seniors age 65 and older, and how often they are conned, are:

Tax Collection Scam: more than 2,400 reported to Scam Tracker, fewer than 1% lost money
Sweepstakes/Lottery/Prizes Scam: more than 800 reported, 10% lost money
Tech Support Scam: more than 500 reported, 30% lost money
Debt Collections: nearly 250 reported, 2% lost money
Government Grants: close to 200 reported, 6% lost money

Although seniors are the most scam-savvy group, too many are still losing money. BBB reminds seniors – and all consumers – to be cautious whenever someone you don’t know asks for money, personally identifying information, access to your computer or records, etc. Report scams to BBB Scam Tracker at BBB.org/ScamTracker. Research businesses at BBB.org.

Colorado Hail Storms Slam Homeowners

 No Roof Scams Group Offers Homeowners Key Ways to Avoid Roofing Scam Artists

Roofer Checking Hail Damage

Homeowners with roof damage following recent hail storms should take plenty of time and do their homework before hiring a roof contractor, according to a group of nonprofit, government, and business organizations sponsoring the No Roof Scams campaign to fight roofing contractor fraud in Colorado.

The recent storms in Colorado Springs, Eaton, and surrounding communities pummeled homes and businesses with hail the size of golf and tennis balls damaging thousands of roofs. Colorado is number two in the country for insurance claims filed due to property damage from hail, which makes our state a magnet for fraudulent roof contractors. These storm-chasing, fly-by-night scam artists will often make false promises, insist on full payment upfront before work is completed, and sometimes they say they’re inspecting your roof when in fact they are creating damage where none occurred.

The No Roof Scams coalition advises homeowners to avoid being victimized by fraudulent contractors by doing the following:

  • Take your time when selecting a contractor.  Many contractors use fear tactics such as telling homeowners their ceiling or roof may collapse without immediate repairs.  Don’t fall for this ploy.
  • Most legitimate local roofing contractors do not knock on doors after a storm.  This is a classic technique utilized by out-of-state contractors who have no local presence.
  • Check out contractors before hiring anyone with two of Colorado’s excellent resources.
  • Get more than one estimate; make sure any contract includes all information required by Colorado law (http://coloradoroofing.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/SB38FactSheet-20122.pdf).
  • Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until all the work is completed.
  • Never sign a contract with blanks or statements like “see insurance estimate, etc.” – fraudulent contractors may enter unacceptable terms later.
  • Under Colorado Law a contractor cannot pay, waive or rebate the homeowner’s insurance deductible.

Organizations participating in the No Roof Scams campaign include:

  • Better Business Bureau – Denver/Boulder
  • Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
  • Colorado Division of Insurance (Department of Regulatory Agencies)
  • Colorado Roofing Association
  • Insurance Institute for Business &  Home Safety
  • National Insurance Crime Bureau
  • Property Casualty Insurance Association of America
  • Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association

Follow #NoRoofScams to learn more about how consumers can avoid being the victims of unethical roofing contractors and find reputable roofing contractors.

“Invulnerability Illusion” Means Millennials More Likely to Get Scammed than Boomers

The stereotype of the “little old lady” as scam victim is wrong, and Millennials are actually more vulnerable to scams than Baby Boomers. That’s the conclusion of new research by the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust (BBB Institute). Marketplace scams affect one in four North American households each year at an estimated loss to individuals and families of $50 billion, yet most consumers believe they are invulnerable.

“This research is so vital, not only to stop scammers from hurting consumers, but to help businesses,” said Mary E. Power, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB). “That $50 billion ‘underground’ economy is stealing from the legitimate marketplace. Every dollar lost to a scam is a dollar not spent at a lawful, trustworthy business.”

The research, Cracking the Invulnerability Illusion: Stereotypes, Optimism Bias, and the Way Forward for Marketplace Scam Education, is based on a survey of more than 2,000 adults in the U.S. and Canada. Participants were asked about their perceived vulnerability to scams, who they think is most likely to be scammed, and about the factors that helped them to avoid being scammed. The participants did not know that BBB was the sponsor of the survey.

Download “Cracking the Invulnerability Illusion” at BBB.org/TruthAboutScams

“We’ve bought into stereotypes about scam victims – they’re usually seen as vulnerable and elderly, or gullible and poorly educated,” noted the paper’s co-author Emma Fletcher, product manager with the BBB Institute, CBBB’s foundation. “These stereotypes are strongly held… and they are wrong. We are all at risk, but younger and more educated individuals are actually the most likely to be scammed.”

“Optimism bias – the idea that we all think other people are more vulnerable than we are – is associated with risk-taking and failure to heed precautionary advice,” said co-author Rubens Pessanha, CBBB director of marketing research and insights. “Seniors may be the one group that does not suffer from optimism bias when it comes to scams. They’ve heard, loud and clear, that they are at risk. Seniors may very well be more scam savvy than others. They are also less impulsive buyers than younger consumers, and less likely to be making purchases online where so many scams take place.”

The new research also confirms some trends noted in BBB Scam Tracker, a crowd-sourced reporting tool. More than 30,000 consumers have reported details of scams to BBB since the site was launched in late 2015, and reports are shared with law enforcement to drive investigations. Of those consumers reporting scams to BBB Scam Tracker, 89% of seniors (age 65 and up) recognized the scam in time, while only 11% reported actually losing money. For those age 18-24, however, more than three times as many failed to recognize the scam – 34% reported losing money. Armed with this information, BBB is calling for a new direction for how society approaches the problem of fraud. The report recommends a three-pronged approach:

  1. Leverage Technology, Crowdsourcing and Altruism: Targets of scams feel empowered when they can take back some control by reporting what has happened to them in order to help warn others. This altruistic impulse is the number one motivator for reporting scams. As noted in the report, “The voices and stories of others have the potential to normalize the problem in a positive way, shedding the shame and stigma of victimization with the message that, if it can happen to other people like me, it can happen to me.”
  1. Take Aim at the Optimism Bias: Consumer education must heighten perceptions of personal risk and provide information that boosts confidence in one’s ability to protect oneself. Motivation to take protective action requires both the sense that one is vulnerable and the tools to do something about it. Effective public education must take a twofold approach; it must confront its audience with messaging that runs counter to stereotypes and perceived invulnerability, while simultaneously providing information that empowers individuals to avoid becoming victims.
  1. Provide Preemptive Information: Survey participants, when asked what might have prevented them from being scammed, said knowing about different scam types and understanding common methods used by scammers prior to being targeted would have helped. Nearly 80% of respondents identified one of these two factors as most protective; only one in five felt doing research after being approached by a scammer was most protective.

Work from Home? How to Decide on a Coworking Space

If you decide to go the coworking route, the big question is where. Do you want to be with the hip, entrepreneurial set, or do you prefer something more old-school?  Here are a few tips to help you decide:

Jim Carry on Computer

Be clear on what you want

Do you simply want a professional work environment, or is it a workplace community you’re looking for?  Figuring out exactly what you want from coworking is the first step in choosing your ideal venue.

Identify your ideal working environment

Some people can’t tolerate a pin dropping when they’re trying to meet a deadline, while others only get into their groove when they feel the bustle of daily life going on around them.  To identify your ideal working environment, ask yourself how much desk space you need, whether you’d love a gorgeous view, and ultimately whether you can tolerate the sound of other people’s clicking keyboards.

Consider the costs

Deciding how much to invest in an office space is always a consideration for a freelancer or small business owner.  Most facilities offer various tiers of membership tailored to different budgets and can start as affordably as $200 a month for “floating” desk space (you park your computer where you find an empty tabletop each day). Such memberships still include Internet, coffee, and educational trainings, but paying more can buy you a permanent desk, meeting space when needed, and various other perks such as access to on-site gyms or a transit pass.

Find your peeps

If building a workplace community and networking feature high on your reasons for coworking, think carefully about whom you’d want to share your office with.  Several coworking spaces attract distinct groups—computer programmers, creatives, designers, entrepreneurs, for example—leaving you to decide whether you want to meet people who are in a line of business similar to yours or who are refreshingly different.

Commitment or flexibility? 

Some venues offer full-time-only options whereas others accommodate people who prefer to work and pay on a part-time basis.  Some packages buy you assigned desk and locker space, while others may entail playing musical chairs every day. Choosing the best option depends on your budget, the nature of your work (try lugging that full-screen monitor around every day), and how much coworking time you need.

Location, location

Maybe all you care about is the length of your commute, or perhaps you think the right community is worth a longer trip. The good news is that coworking spaces are dotted throughout the region, meaning that most of us don’t have to travel far to get some focused work done and beat isolation.

Overwhelmed by your options? Just try them out. Nearly all coworking facilities offer a free day’s trial.

Be a Smart Consumer on Social Media

It’s no surprise that businesses have moved into the social media sphere to connect with their customers and to try to reach out to new ones. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms offer a fantastic meeting place for consumers to learn more about a business’ services, specials, and general information.

Social media can also be a place where consumers get duped by people running scams or click-baiting through fake accounts, though. Here are some helpful tips for consumers who are interested in safely connecting with businesses online:

How to Like on Facebook

  1. Make sure you’re visiting the right accounts. If a company has active social media accounts, chances are good that those accounts are linked to their website. Use those links to ensure that you’re getting to real accounts that will offer truthful information.
  2. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You’ve probably seen those Facebook or Instagram pictures around that claim that if you share a specific post, you’ll receive a gift card for a large sum of money. Look out! These posts often come from fake accounts that have been built to look like a major brand’s account. Check back to the company’s website to ensure that you’re on their real account.
  3. Don’t offer up unnecessary information. If a business is asking you to share your credit card number, social security number, or other private information on a public page, be wary! If you were in fact to win a prize on social media, the business will insist that you communicate via private message or phone, and they will not ask for sensitive information.
  4. Look out for sensationalized videos. Oftentimes, scammers will post videos on social media as “click-bait.” These videos tend to have exaggerated headlines and often claim to have a new angle on a current event. Make sure the videos you click on come from a verified source and that you’re not asked to provide any information in order to view the video.
  5. It’s OK to enter verified contests, but read through the rules. Businesses run real contests on their social media accounts every day, and entering can be a fun way to interact with a brand. Make sure you glance over the rules, though. In many cases, entering a contest with your mailing address or email address means that a company will be able to send you promotional materials. If you’re not interested in that, then you may not want to enter the contest.

Enjoy Pokemon GO… with Caution

In just a few days, Pokemon GO has become the most downloaded phone app in the U.S. The app, which uses mapping software to create a virtual reality game, is getting children and adults out and about in their neighborhoods to “catch” the game characters as they pop up on phone screens from various locations.

Although the game can be a blast, BBB is warning players and parents to be aware of some nuances that go with GO.

Jim Gaffigan Phone

Expenses: It’s possible to play completely cost-free by winning “PokeCoins” (the app’s currency) through gameplay, but you can also purchase the coins through an in-app purchase. The longer you play, the more spending money you need to store and “train” your gathered characters. The app also requires constant GPS access, and it uses a lot of data. After playing for hours every day, consumers with limited data plans may find themselves with a hefty bill at the end of the month.

Privacy: In order to play the game, users must allow the app to access other applications, such as maps and camera. Many users sign in with a Google account, and that has caused some concerns about privacy. The Android version of the game only accesses limited data (such as the user’s email address), but the iOS version for the iPhone can access all Google data. Niantic, the game’s maker, says no personal information has been accessed, and it is issuing a bug fix to correct the problem. Users can create an account through the app itself rather than using an email address to access the game.

Malware: So far, the app is only available in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, which has given cybercriminals an opportunity to capitalize on the demand. A malware version of the game has been found online; although no known infections have been reported. Users should only download the app through official app stores, not third-party sites.

Safety: Players should use the same safety precautions while playing the game that they would in any other outdoor setting, including caution in strange locations. A Missouri police department reported robbers using a secluded “PokeStop” location to rob unsuspecting game players. Players should be cautious as pedestrians and obey all traffic laws, and drivers should be on the lookout for children who may be distracted by the game. The app also drains phone batteries, so users should be careful not to get stranded far from home.

Infringement: PokeStops are supposed to all be on public property (or cooperative private sites), but at least one homeowner has reported that his historic house is mistakenly a PokeStop. Players should be respectful of others’ private property. Future commercial opportunities are anticipated, where stores can offer rare or unique characters to add to the game.