Archives September 2010

10 Eco-Living Tips for Everyone

Today, there is growing awareness and acceptance of the fact that our lifestyle directly or indirectly affects the environment. Whether it is global warming, changing climate patterns, shortage of drinking water and energy, dwindling forest cover, the extinction of species… we know that somewhere, it is the choices we make that is responsible for these events. Unfortunately, although most of us have good intentions and would like to make a positive difference, not many are sure how we, living in cities and struggling to cope with the challenges of daily life, can do anything to help the environment. 

In this article, we present 10 simple and actionable ideas that almost each one of us can carry out to make a positive difference to the environment. These changes will not require you to change your lifestyle drastically, but they will leave a powerful and lasting impact on the world around us. In addition, these changes will help reduce expenses and lead to more balanced and healthy living.

Please read this article to see if you could change the way you’re living for the benefit of our beautiful world. At the end, if you feel these changes are helpful, we request you to forward it to your friends and relatives. Let’s do the best we can for the world around us. We owe it to the Earth and our future generations!

1. Save energy:

The easiest way to make a difference is by reducing energy consumption. Nowadays, energy-efficient bulbs are easily available. They are not only inexpensive they also consume up to five times lesser energy than ordinary bulbs. All it needs is a bit more effort from our side to make the change.

Also use cooking gas prudently. Plan your cooking such that you have all the ingredients handy before you light the gas. This can considerably reduce consumption over a period of a month. Similarly, avoid drying your clothes in a washing machine as it is very energy-consuming. Dry your clothes the natural way – using the abundant sunlight that our country receives by using any empty area in one of the rooms.

2. Eco-friendly material for your home:

Use water-based, lead-free paints for your home. Ensure that the paints do not give off fumes that will affect the air quality around you. While choosing furnishing, opt for those made from cotton, jute, silk, or other natural fibers as they are bio-degradable and healthier for the entire family. They can also be recycled for future use as a kitchen mop or for carrying out simple dusting and cleaning jobs. Wherever possible opt for environment-friendly cleaning liquids and soaps. Read the labels to check whether they have any detrimental affect on the environment.

3. Reduce waste:

If you keep a small garden patch or potted plants then you should collect organic and inorganic waste separately. Leftover food, fruit and vegetable peel, used tea leaves, etc. can be collected in the organic waste bin and used as compost for your plants. The inorganic waste can be disposed as usual. This will not only reduce the amount of waste in the city but also your dependency on fertilizers for your plants. The best way to reduce waste is to avoid it at the source itself. For example, you could carry your own shopping bags instead of bringing home plastic bags each time you shop and then disposing them. Similarly, while requesting a home-delivery, you can specify that you need the minimal packaging.

4. Use public transport:

Whenever possible, avoid using the car and walk or take the public transport. Not only will it improve your health and cut down your fuel bills, it will also reduce emissions into the atmosphere. Actively look for opportunities to form a carpool with members of your society for work or for dropping children at their school.

5. De-clutter your surroundings:

Keep only those things that you’d need on a regular basis. Dispose the ones that you do not foresee using for a long time. To avoid over-storage, dispose off the older items the moment you have bought a replacement for it. This policy will also ensure that you’ll seriously consider your buying decisions. In short, think before you buy. It will not only save you money but it will also ensure that as a society we consume only that much we need.

6. Replace disposable with reusables:

Try to change the way you shop. Buy stuff that you can keep for a longer duration rather than those that you’d have to throw after use. Switch to reusable razors, batteries, ink cartridges, bags, coffee filters, etc. If you use tissue papers, switch to cloth napkins. If you have a printer at home, then make it a point to use both sides of the paper. 

7. Reduce unnecessary consumption:

If you are going to need something only once, try to borrow it from a friend. Similarly, you should offer anything that your friend may need only once in a while. This will reduce unnecessary consumption on our part. Some items that you could avoid buying double can include books, movie and music cds, games, etc.

8. Switch to a vegetarian diet:

Not only is it proven that livestock contribute more greenhouse gases (18%) than transportation (13.5%), they also consume enormous amounts of grain to feed them. This reduces the amount of food grains that are available to feed the world’s hungry. Switching to a vegetarian could change the imbalance and ensure that there is enough for everyone to eat.

9. Conserve water:

Water is a precious commodity we all know. That it will soon become (if it hasn’t already) a scarce commodity is a fact that we’ll have to accept. It’s time we learnt to conserve the limited amount of fresh water we have. Use water only when you need it. Eliminate wastage of water through leaking pipes and faucets. Also make sure that they are not left on while you are finishing a task. Use washing machines when you have a full load of laundry. Use recycled water while washing your car. Look around your home and identify tasks where you might be wasting water. Make a conscious effort to reduce wastage in your home. 

10. Buy local:

Wherever possible, encourage manufacturers and producers of goods around your locality. Local goods will not only be fresher but also cheaper than branded items. You could also avoid all the unnecessary packaging and storage that accompanies items that have traveled from far. The greater the distance the goods you buy travel, greater is their impact on the environment in terms of fuel and effort involved in transporting them to your locality.  Your patronage of local items will also allow you to give direct feedback that could improve the quality of the goods and the service.

These may seem like little drops in the face of the tsunami of changes we are seeing in the environment. But believe us, if each one of us makes these changes, we could tilt the balance in favour of Mother Nature. Do not undermine the results of these efforts – be positive and let’s make a positive difference – from today!


Product Updates: Asset Register and other enhancements

Asset Register and Tracker

Do you know how many pumps are there in your complex and when was each of them last serviced? Are you really sure? How about number of fire extinguishers? We know how difficult it is keep track of such assets. ApnaComplex launches Asset Register and Tracker – where facility managers can maintain list of all assets under various asset groups. What’s more – you can maintain service history of every asset and get a email reminder on next service due date – saves tremendous amount of time for committee members and facility managers. We were really pleased when one of our customers started using this register the moment this was released and even before we sent out the notification of release. Truly made our day!

Improve security of your complex

Having challenges to keep track of vehicles in your complex? You can now maintain vehicle details associated with your flats online along with a parking lot number. Just log on and update your vehicle details. Give access only to the Vehicle directory to security officers at entrance/exit points to ensure movement only of authorized vehicles.

Enhanced Facility Booking

The recently launched Facility Booking has been enhanced based on your feedback. Facility Booking now supports recurring bookings up to one year in advance. Now, you can book that Tennis Court every Monday and Wednesday till you become as good as Federer. As a bonus – administrators have a separate view for approving all the bookings waiting to be approved.

Message Center Upgraded

Message Center can now display history of the messages that have been sent by you based on feedback from our customers. In addition, there are UI enhancements to make your experience better. Log on to Message Center now to see the changes.

Capture more data for all Vendors

Vendor Management module now allows to capture more data related to a vendor. You can now have a contact person’s details of a vendor and multiple phone numbers.

Personalization

We took tiny steps towards providing a personalized experience to you when you are on our site. You can now update your profile to set the number of records you want to see by default in listings like member directory, complaints etc. We will be adding more such options in coming releases.

Enhanced Navigation

We constantly listen to your feedback! Based on the feedback received, we now have more choices at the bottom of pages to easily go back to the main pages. Log on to experience the changes.

Phew! Thats a long list for lean startup. We do hope all these features and enhancements make the management of your complex lot easier, efficient and effective.


Household Help: Look before you hire

Household helps were once considered a symbol of affluence – a luxury that only a few could afford. But now, hiring one or even a few to help with the daily chores has become a necessity. From nannies to cleaners to cooks, drivers and gardeners, the services on offer are diverse and all of them have takers. 

But while there is a healthy demand-supply ratio, things are not all that easy and rosy. While India has a reputation for getting manual labour at much cheaper rates than other countries, the quality and reliability of these staff has raised a huge question mark. At the extreme end is the number of crimes committed by such household helps on the very employers who hired them. So should one give in to the need for a household help even with the associated risks or try to manage life one our own even if it means compromising on certain things? It’s a conundrum that only those who’ve experienced can relate to.

In this article we present our views on the process of selecting and hiring household helps based on the experiences of people from around the country. It should offer you some insights on how you could go about finding and keeping a household help that will make a positive difference to your lifestyle.

Know your needs

Before you decide to get a household help, ascertain your need for it. Get into the specifics of how this help will add value to your life. It could be a nanny for your child, a driver, a cook, etc. It’s not just a matter of money. You need to understand that you’ll be handing over some part of your life to these people. Not to mention a bit of your privacy and personal time. You may also have to get involved with some of their personal problems too. So decide how much value this additional resource will add to your life. Once you are sure that everything considered, your help will make a substantial difference, start looking out for him/her.

Define your requirement

Once you’ve decided to go for a household help, define the tasks that this person will carry out for you. Assume that you’re going to recruit this person by placing an ad in the newspaper. In which case, you’ll have to list down the job description and the qualifications for that post. Jot down these points before you go help scouting. Of course, you’ll not place an ad – but it will come in very handy when you’re screening potential candidates and short listing the ones you like. Age, familiarity with the locality, gender, salary expectations, experience, language etc. could all be the criteria that you mention in this requirement definition.

Announce your need

Now that you are armed with what you want, you should make your need known to the market. You have quite a few options here – not all of them very structured, though. You could approach a few of the agencies in your area that supply helps. The advantage of agencies is that they will send people after knowing your requirements and once you’ve engaged them, they usually tend to offer services over a period of the contract. In case the household help has to be replaced, the agency also steps in to provide an alternative within a specified time limit. But you’ll have to mention these clearly to the agency when you discuss your needs. The other option is to go the social networking route. Talk to other household helps in your complex, mention it to the security guards and even other residents who employ household helps. Once the word spreads, you’ll have your candidates dropping in to your home.

Interview and salary negotiation

If you talk to some of the fellow members who employ helps, you’ll realise that the most common grouse against helps is that they go on leave without giving adequate notice or that they extend their leaves without prior notice. This is the most critical part as it throws your life completely out of gear as you try to fill in the gap that your household help was filling in. If she was responsible for looking after your baby then you either have to take a leave or work from home. If she was responsible for cooking then you have to either leave late or arrange for meals from outside or drop in early. If it was the driver then you have to learn how to negotiate the traffic jams all over again. And so on.

During the interview stage, make sure that you clear all these points. The best way to go about through the interview process is to let the other person talk as much as possible. Ask them to describe their daily routine in their current job, their family background, their experience, etc. In case you make your demands first, they are bound to structure their story around your expectations. So just mention the requirement first and then ask them to tell you how they fit into the role. Once they’ve finished, you’ll have a fair idea of whether this is the person who could fit into your needs. You could question them to get more details on a particular aspect, if you wish.

The salary part is not as tricky as some people might think. There is a standard rate for most roles and you could ask around to know that is the going rate. If you offer certain benefits you could mention them while discussing the salary. It could be festival offs along with weekly holidays or bonuses or any other benefits. If someone makes an unreasonable quote, find out if there’s a genuine reason for it and if it something that you’d like to pay for. For example, a nanny who’s been trained in first aid and knows how to talk and write in English may charge a premium over someone who doesn’t know these. Similarly for a driver or a cook who is tuned to a lifestyle similar to yours. And so on.

If you’re recruiting through an agency then the fees would be mentioned upfront and you’ll have little room for negotiations. But you should be absolutely be clear about the service that the agency will offer after the person has joined your employment.

Getting along with your household help

Once you’ve got the person you wanted, you’ll need to spend some time with that person to make him/her understand your way of doing things. Make sure that you are very clear about things that you will not compromise on. Cleanliness or punctuality or a day’s notice before taking a leave – anything that you are very particular about should be communicated to the help so that there is no misunderstanding on that front.

With the spate of crimes abounding, it would be wise to record information about your household help. This can be in the form of an ID that you can photocopy and keep with you or if you are able to, recording the personal details with your local police station or the managing committee. In case you have to dismiss a help for a conduct that you feel has criminal overtones, make it a point to register it with your local police station.

Be on the alert till you are completely sure that the household is reliable. If there is a family member at home then that person can supervise the work. But if you don’t have that luxury, then make it a point to drop in for a surprise visit once in a while so that you don’t get an unpleasant surprise at some later date.

Finding and retaining a household help that fits in well with your needs can make your life much more peaceful and efficient. So put in that extra bit of effort to get the right person. All the best!