Tag Archives: composting

6 Household Stress Busters to Beat the Stress Monster

stress monster ballFeeling the stress monster coming to get you? In our fast-paced, results-driven world, it’s a common complaint among working adults to experience stress. Consider the following things you should keep around your home to send that pesky monster on its way.

Use a Sunrise Alarm Clock

If the thought of your alarm clock going off in the morning adds stress to bedtime, consider getting a sunrise alarm clock, such as the Philips Wake-up Light. These types of alarm clocks are designed to gradually add light to your room and help your body gradually wake up rather than being jarred awake.

The best part about it is you can decide when the “sun” rises. For 30 minutes before the set time to wake up, the light will gradually get brighter and brighter. It’s especially helpful in the winter, when you might need to wake up before the actual sun rises.

Essential Oil Diffusers

It’s been found the essential oils have many useful properties, and diffusers are a great way to add the lovely scent of essential oils to the air while relieving stress. Common stress-relieving oils include lavender, citrus fruits, and vanilla. There are a few options when it comes to diffusers.

Some use ultrasonic technology to break the mixture apart and diffuse it into the air. Others use the heat from candles to diffuse the oil into the air. By using essential oils, not only will it help relieve stress, but it will also help disperse unpleasant smells in the air without using chemicals.


Did you know that the average a child laughs 300 times a day while an adult only laughs 17 times a day? According to a paper published on the National Institutes of Health website, laughter and positive emotions produce improvements in how your immune system functions. Those people who choose to cope with stress by laughing have a greater daily positive attitude and are able to deal with stressful situations easier.

There are a variety of ways to increase the amount of laughter you experience every day. One of the easiest ways is to watch comedies, whether TV shows or movies.

Meditation Apps

With today’s technology, it’s no surprise that there are apps designed to help you relieve stress and anxieties. One of the best ways to relieve stress is with daily meditations. When we feel stressed, the adrenal gland produces higher levels of the hormone cortisol. Prolonged exposure to cortisol results in adverse effects.

According to a study through the Center of the Mind and Brain, meditation helps to decrease the resting levels of cortisol. Meditation apps help you to focus on your meditation and take you through the steps to relax your brain.

In addition to meditation apps, there are other apps that you can have on your phone to help reduce stress. Breathe2Relax takes users through diaphragmatic breathing exercises that are known to help interrupt stress receptors in the body. The Worry Box app is a great way to control stress caused by worrying. In the app, it asks questions about what is worrying you, whether that worry is something within your control, and gives you techniques for dealing with worries.

Exercise Equipment

According to the Mayo Clinic, almost any form of exercise can act as a stress reliever by increasing the amount of endorphins in your brain. When you focus on a specific exercise, whether racquetball, running or yoga, it acts as a form of meditation to help you forget about the day’s stresses. For that reason, having exercise equipment in the home is a great way to beat the stress monster.

There are a lot of options with an exercise ball to work out your entire body such as push-ups and abdominal tucks. If you love aerobic exercises that get you moving, get a Wii or Xbox Kinect and some dance games like Just Dance to work off stress.

Start a Compost Pile

Environmental awareness and lowering your carbon footprint can contribute in making you feel better about your lifestyle and help to alleviate stress. In addition to recycling and switching to eco-efficient lightbulbs, starting a compost pile in your home or apartment is a great way to do your part for the environment. According to energysavings.com, keeping a 50/50 ratio of both brown materials and green materials in your compost heap is the most efficient way to break down the organic waste. Brown materials include everything from yard waste, newspapers, peanut shells and compostable paper products. Green materials include grass clippings, egg shells and fruit and veggie scraps.

With so many ways to relieve stress, there’s really no reason for stress to build up and weigh you down. These are just some items for your home that help you release that stress that you can use whenever you start feeling tense.

7 Telltale Signs You’re A Hardcore Greenie

max-R Outdoor Recycling BinGoing green is a great way to show your love for the environment and to promote a sustainable lifestyle that really helps the planet. It’s also incredibly addictive, so after the first few steps you might find yourself engaged in an increasing number of green activities. You know you’ve become a seriously hardcore greenie if…

You Look for Recycling Bins Instead of Trashcans

Recycling is one of the easiest, most essential ways to go green. It only takes a little effort, it’s great for the environment, and it’s becoming much more widely accepted. If you’re becoming a hardcore green-friendly person, you likely start looking for recycling bins before you ever look for trashcans, because you realize that practically everything is recyclable. Whether you’re out shopping or visiting a friend, you’re loathe to throw away your paper cups, soda cans, or newspapers, and secretly you feel a little appalled when you discover that there aren’t any recycling bins available.

Your Have Reusable Bags Hidden in the Car

You can’t remember the last time someone at a store asked you if you wanted paper bags or plastic ones because your reusable bags are always at hand. You’ve been known to turn around without shopping if you arrive at the store and realize you forgot your fabric bags. To avoid that in the future, you started squirreling reusable bags away in your car.

People who carpool with you (of course you carpool—it’s better for the environment) are likely to find cloth bags in the side pockets of the door, the glove compartment, the trunk, under the seats, and in the hidden cubby console between the front seats. You now use them for everything, from carrying around your gym clothes to carrying your shopping. In fact, you have enough reusable bags that sometimes you lend them to people at the grocery store who insist on using plastic bags.

You Unplug Without Thinking

Many people don’t even realize that their appliances and gadgets still suck up energy even when they’re turned off—but you do. You’ve long suspected that your electricity bills are high and your appliances are wasting energy even if they’re turned off, because they’re still plugged into the wall sockets. Now that you have proof, unplugging is second nature to you.

When you’re a serious greenie, your routine changes. Where once it was enough to simply walk through your home turning off the lights in empty rooms, now you go around unplugging those big energy vampires. You make sure to unplug your computer and all of its components because you know your favorite tech-toy is one of the biggest culprits. You gleefully unplug kitchen appliances, especially the microwave, and you always pull the plug on the TV too.

Of course, if you’re really green, you likely have smart power-strips as well, to save energy even when you’re using your favorite devices.

You Take Marathon Showers

People waste so much water every day! Long baths and showers aren’t special treats saved for stressful days, they are daily occurrences. But you know better. Not only do you turn off the faucet as you brush your teeth so you’re not needlessly wasting water, you’ve turned showering into an Olympic event.

You’ve timed exactly how long it takes you to do everything you need to do in your shower. You don’t waste one single second—or a single drop of water. In addition to installing a low-flow head for your shower and a shower timer, you’ve equipped every faucet with an aerator to conserve energy, water, and heat. You know, as you get all clean and fresh, that you’re doing your part to save water.

You Wanted Solar Energy for Your Birthday

After long dreaming of using solar energy, you finally decided that was all you wanted. You saved up, looked around for the best deals and the most quality work, and decided that solar panel energy was the best choice for you. That’s because you know how efficient solar energy really is. You understand the joy of relying on the sun to give you heat, power, and even hot water. While your panels were your biggest birthday present, you still insisted that anyone who got you a present used recyclable paper, of course.

All Your Gadgets Are Solar-Powered

It wasn’t enough to install solar power on your roof, though. You want everything powered by solar energy because, again, you realize how powerful the sun is. So your kitchen is fully outfitted in appliances powered by solar energy. The fridge uses solar power and all of your other appliances are completely energy-efficient. You’ve got a solar-powered watch and the charger you use for your phone, tablet, and other mobile gadgets is also solar-powered. All your friends are jealous of you when the power goes out because you’re still connected. How cool are you?

You’ve Got the Best Compost Pile on the Block

If you’re a hardcore environmentalist, you’ve been composting since long before it was cool. You’ve discovered a way to compost almost everything. As a result, your grass is lush and all the drought-tolerant plants in your garden thrive. You can easily sustain yourself on the food you grow and you routinely share with your neighbors because you want them to eat healthy too.

Composting is part of your routine. Almost everything that comes out of your home either gets recycled or composted. You try to reuse everything for a good purpose and it works for you. Not only do you know you’re doing your part, but you help to erase your carbon footprint every single day. You even offer to start compost heaps for the neighbors who compliment your lifestyle, your commitment, and your gorgeous greenery.

If you’re a serious greenie who takes the eco-friendly life seriously, then you are unquestionably awesome. You’re kind to the Earth, to your family, and to your neighbors because you know that what you’re doing matters.


Image via Flickr by max-R

6 Creative Ways to Green Your Life in Time for Summer

First out of the trapThere’s a lot of pressure these days to be sustainable superheroes with canteen-packing totes, perfectly organic diets, and pricey hybrid cars. Most people are lucky to have access to a grocery store that even stocks local, organic foods, let alone at a price that’s amenable to the average income. These issues aside, sustainability and environmental decline are real issues that every individual should feel it within their power to combat with simple measures in their daily lives. That’s why we’ve collected 6 online resources that will hopefully inspire you to green your home, live healthier, and feel confident in the contribution you are able to make toward a sustainable world. Have fun!

  1. Start composting: An oldie but goodie, if you haven’t joined the compost bandwagon yet then now is your chance! It requires a bit of effort in the set up, but once your compost is up and running, sustaining it will be a breeze. And you don’t need a big backyard or garden to make it happen. Here is the ultimate guide to urban composting.
  2. Make an alternative energy source: You probably never even thought it within your power to create your own alternative energy. But think again! Here is a super simple, efficient DIY video on how to make your own backyard wind turbine. Even if you don’t feel like building a whole wind power generator, consider the ways you can reduce electricity – make use of natural light, look into energy-efficient shower heads, etc.
  3. Try backyard farming: Please don’t buy a $1,300 chicken coop (unless that’s what you’re into.) But do let this fascinating article on chic backyard farming inspire you to try your hand at raising chickens, growing vegetables, making preserves, or whatever you have the time and energy for. You don’t need to spend exorbitant amounts on boutique tools and tailor made gardening gear – a bit of space, time, and love are the most important ingredients.
  4. Recycle creatively: Recycling isn’t just about throwing bottles and cans in the proper bin. Explore ways to get creative with your recycling, like by making gifts and household products out of broken bike chains, old clothes, empty jars, and more.
  5. Make your own clothes: You don’t need a degree in fashion to start making your own clothes, but let this new sustainable fashion program, recently launched by Buckinghamshire New University, inspire you to work good eco-habits into your wardrobe. Thrifting is a great place to start, or have a clothing exchange party with your friends!
  6. Green your office: Whether you work from home or in a big office, there are lots of ways to reduce your footprint (and save money) at work. This can include switching entirely to Googledocs and electronic files to cut back on printing, using recycled paper, instituting communal office lunches, and more.

We hope you feel inspired and empowered to incorporate some green practices into your home and work environment! Summer is a particularly great time to get outside and plant those backyard gardens, start biking to work, take a thrift store outing, and the like. What tips do you have for green living? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section below!

A Closer Look at the Definition of ‘Recycled” and Some Other “Re”-Words

Something’s been on my mind lately. I’ve noticed that the word "recycled" is often used to describe anything that’s been diverted from the waste stream. But in fact, "recycled" refers only to things that have been produced from remanufactured recycled material. For other things that are being diverted from the waste stream, there are more accurate terms like "reclaimed", "reused" or "composted". Here’s my interpretation of what all these terms mean:

If something is "recycled" it’s been newly manufactured with a percentage of recycled materials. "Recycled material" is a formerly whole material or product that has been recovered and broken down (e.g. pulverized or melted) to create a second (or third or fourth…) generation raw material which is then used to produce a new material or product. Examples include deck boards made with the plastic from HDPE milk jugs and paper made from recovered waste paper.

Something is considered "reclaimed" when it has been either accidentally or deliberately found and recovered with the intention of diverting it from the waste stream and making use of it elsewhere in either its current or a refurbished state. Examples include building materials and architectural pieces (i.e. brick, moldings, countertops, light fixtures, etc.) that are salvaged during demolition projects and reused as is or repurposed.

Many durable goods are being made with reclaimed materials too, such as handbags made from reclaimed seatbelts, snack bags or newspaper.

"Reused" is a broad term used to describe something that is passed from one user to another–as in the case of hand-me-downs–or diverted from the waste stream for extended use, such as when using the same plastic Ziplock bag over and over again. Substituting permanent products for disposable products is also reuse, such as when electing to use a steel thermos instead of a paper cup to hold your coffeehouse beverage. The reason reuse is not recycling is because reuse involves using something in its current form or deconstructing something to make use of individual parts.

Something is "composted" if it started as organic material and decomposed in an aerobic environment. Composted food or yard waste is not "recycled" since the process happens naturally. (See "recycled above.)

Fall Leaves: Don’t Toss Them… Recycle Them!

Got a yardful of Fall leaves? Don’t rake, bag, and toss… get ready for Spring plants by recycling them.

 You don’t have to go far west of St. Louis to get a magnificent view of Autumn colors. At this time of year, the Ozarks explode with reds, yellows, and browns… the beauty of the season almost makes driving and biking dangerous!

When I get home, however, I’m confronted with a yardful of Fall splendor from the neighbor’s silver maple. The experience isn’t quite the same.

You could sum up the typical method of dealing with those Fall leaves with "rake, bag, toss." Nature doesn’t create waste, though, so why send that carbon-rich material to the landfill when you could reuse it throughout the year? Don’t think of that (sometimes thick) blanket of leaves as a mess to clean up and dispose of, but one of the ingredients for next year’s gardens and landscaping. Those leaves quickly become to valuable to just toss…

Recycling Your Autumn Leaves

Depending on what you want to do with those leaves, you have several options for "recycling":

  • Mow ’em: If leaves fall primarily in an area you’d normally mow, then keep mowing once they start coming down. Start early, though: as Paul Tukey at Safelawns notes, most mowers aren’t up to tackling a blanket of leaves. No need for any collection, and the chopped leaves become food for the lawn.
  • Rake ’em: Few of us enjoy raking (though, as Tukey notes in a different post, it’s a great form of exercise). It’s definitely the most eco-friendly way of taking care of the leaves, though. Instead of setting them out for trash collection, though, put them in your compost bin or pile… Care2 has a great process for composting those leaves.
  • Mulch ’em: While this method requires a bit of power, it also makes for a more versatile end product. I use an electric mulcher (much cleaner than gas equivalents) for my yard. The chopped leaves can go into my compost bin (where they’ll break down faster than whole leaves), or I can (and often do) save them for garden mulch for the Spring. Try to avoid the plastic bags for storage (though I’m as guilty of this as anyone)… opt for reusable or biodegradeable bags.
  • Toss ’em: Wait… didn’t I say don’t toss them? In general, that’s correct, but if hanging on to those leaves is problematic, check to see if there’s a local composting site where you can take them. Earth 911 will help you find one…

Got more creative ways of handling Fall leaves with a minimal environmental footprint? I’d love to hear them… share them in the comments.

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can follow him on Twitter @sustainablog

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oakleyoriginals/ / CC BY 2.0

My Path to Green: Step 1 – How to Compost

Hello everyone,

So I began my first step in "My Path to Green" this week by learning How to Compost. I used Norma Hartie‘s blog as a guide for what to do. Of course, composting is far easier if you have a backyard but for those who live in an apartment (like me!) I made my compost in a small bin that I will be keeping next to my trash. That way all my organic waste can go in there instead of my trash can. Here is what I learnt about composting:

You want to save all your organic waste, things such as: vegetable and fruit parts, coffee grounds, tea, eggshells, brown paper products, grass and plant clippings. But absolutely NO animal leftovers, dairy products, oils or waste.

You compost in layers 1 green to 2-3 brown. Greens are things like fruits and veggies, plant clippings and browns are things like egg shells, newspaper clippings, brown paper bags, coffee grounds and dried up leaves. After you are done layering — add a layer of soil so the microorganisms in it will kick start the process.

Composting generates heat as a by product. The temperature and rate of the decomp will vary on how you build your compost pile. The hotter the temperature, the faster the decomposition. The compost will also need mositure and air to be successful.

So there, I tried mine and I hope you will as well and share your success stories. Here is where I learnt how to compost and additional resources that might help you:


Just joining me? See My Path to Green from the beginning.

I am taking small steps in my life to to help our planet. If you are too, then share your stories with us. SunChips® brand and National Geographic believe in the power of the Green Effect. If each of us takes one small step to make our community greener, we can create big change for our planet. To get the movement started, they are awarding $20,000 grants to five people or groups with compelling ideas for green change. Submit your green idea between April 22 and June 8, 2009. For more information visit: www.greeneffect.com

Love Your Mother – Earth that is!

 Happy Earth Day 2009. 

Twenty nine years ago, in 1970 amidst the Vietnam War and the last of the real hippies, the first Earth Day was celebrated. I don’t think I took much notice back then and for the next two decades. I was too caught up in my own world of abundance and working for a large corporation where the money seemed endless. As long as my own little world wasn’t affected it was hard for me to feel that anything was going wrong. Sure there were movies that brought things to light, like Erin Brocovich and Three Mile Island, but again those things happened to other people, not me, so I never felt the impact.
So what changed it all for me? If you have read my blog posts or newsletters you know I focus on educating people about ways they can lighten their impact on the environment and how to ‘green’ their lives. It began with observing my own life style and habits especially with regard to my trash. It all has to go somewhere. Sure the big truck takes it away from my house once a week, but when I thought about where it went – along with all my neighbors and the city’s trash, it became overwhelming.
 When I began composting several years ago, I started noticing how much less garbage I threw out. When I got serious abut recycling, I started noticing how much less trash I took to the curb each week. When I started looking at what WAS in my trash bag before I took it out of the house, I noticed it was filled with the packaging of the food or snacks I brought into the house. This is stuff you can’t compost or recycle, stuff that still ends up in the landfill or has to be manufactured. Then I started shopping at the local Farmers Market and refusing their bags and putting it all into my own canvas bags. Pretty soon I wasn’t shopping at a traditional store more than once a month. My trash bag is now one small plastic bag you get at the grocery store – and I want to reduce that!
The same kinds of practices spilled over into the other areas of my life like clothes shopping, ‘stuff’ buying, and gardening. All I had to do was look at all the ‘stuff’ I had already when I brought something new home to see that I had enough. Soon I was very conscious of what I bought and why. And what happened to stuff when it’s usefulness was done. Throwing these things into the trash doesn’t fit in with my goals!
So on this 29th anniversary of Earth Day, I am making a 30 day commitment to not purchase anything besides food or something that will support the growth of food (like plants and seeds). If I need something I do not have I will borrow it or do with out. I will also lessen the amount of stuff I recycle buy either not buying foods and beverages in packaging – period – or finding another use for the item before throwing it in the recycle bin. 
This will really be interesting as I have a brunch in a few weeks. I’ll report back on how to throw a party and reduce your trash!
Will you join me and make your own 30 day commitment? What can you do that will show Mother Earth how much you care about her – and help make it a better place to live?

Doreen, the Garden Goddess


Which Bin Does It Go In? Recycling and Composting 101

A friend was telling me about a recent trip to Germany, where she was daunted by the strict and varied recycling rules there. Apparently, they have a host of different color-coded bins (brown, blue, yellow, and gray) for sorting waste recyclables. That really puts me to shame, since I have trouble deciding between recycling, compost, and trash! Since hearing about Germany’s eco-diligence, I’ve decided that it’s time to brush up on my recycling and composting routine and learn to avoid common mistakes.

As of 2005, the last time the U.S. General Accounting Office collected statistics, the recycling rate is 32 percent, up from 10 percent in 1980. This is good news, but not good enough, since municipal solid waste has also grown by 60 percent in the same amount of time. The numbers work out to an approximate 246 million ton yearly increase in landfill waste. Most people understand that they’re supposed to recycle, but many—I plead guilty as charged!—have forgotten or never quite understood how. Sure, putting your empty water bottle in the plastics bin is a no-brainer, but what about that paper plate with pizza grease on it, or the packaging from your latest purchase?

Different municipalities have slightly different recycling rules, so you should check with your local town or county for specifics, but here are some basics for what to throw where.

Whether your municipality does single stream recycling (all recyclables are collected in the same bin) or separate containers, the basic recyclables are similar.

DO: Envelopes, paperback books, catalogues, cartons (with any plastic or cellophane removed), writing pads, brochures, loose leaf paper, cereal boxes, newspapers, clean paper plates.

DON’T: Photographs; anything with food or other soilage. The basic rule here is to keep it clean. That greasy paper plate or pizza box is compostable, not recyclable. By throwing it in with your other paper recyclables, you risk sullying the whole bin. This is a big problem in offices, where people often throw their lunch detritus in the blue bin next to the copy machine. Learn the difference and don’t be that person!

DO: Aluminum foil, plastic wrap, tins, cans, glass bottles and jars, yogurt cups, soap/shampoo/lotion bottles, plastic bags (some places have separate drop off for these), margarine tubs; really any plastic, glass, or aluminum containers. Check if soda bottles or cans are redeemable in your state. You can usually collect a small refund at your grocery store and those nickels and dimes do add up!

DON’T: Mirrors, broken glass ware, compostable food containers, batteries, and other non-recyclables. Try to keep it relatively clean. Although a little food residue on containers won’t gum up the whole system (that wedge of lime in your beer is fine), it’s a good idea for sanitary reasons to rinse everything out before tossing it in the bin.

Growing up, we always had a canister on the kitchen counter for composting. We’d empty it into a larger bin in the backyard and my mom would use it to fertilize her garden. Almost anything biodegradable can be compost and you don’t even need a garden to develop these eco-friendly practice. As part of its initiative to reach 75 percent citywide recycling by 2010, San Francisco now has green carts for food scraps and yard trimmings that get picked up with other recycling, and other cities are starting to follow suit.

DO: Stale bread, egg shells, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, fruit and vegetable scraps, nutshells, hedge trimmings, leaves, grass clippings, weeds, dead flowers, twigs, saw dust, straw. You can also throw in biodegradable paper products like used paper towels, paper coffee cups, paper milk cartons, take out containers (with metal parts removed), egg cartons, etc. And although in your personal garden compost piles you don’t want animal products like meat, bones, or fats (it attracts vermin), when throwing it in the yard waste bins for city pick up, these items are sometimes acceptable.

DON’T: Ash, cigarette butts, anything recyclable or not biodegradable.

Other Recyclables
Although not usually picked up with your regular trash and recycling, electronic products, including TVs, cell phones, and computers can all be recycled or reused. The EPA has reference page which gives links to drop-off centers nationwide. Other items that should be kept out of the trash include batteries and fluorescent light bulbs (in some states it is illegal to throw them away because they contain pollutants); you can usually drop these off for free and they will be recycled or disposed of properly. Many items, like motor oil, scrap metal, treated and untreated wood, bronze, radiators, and other building materials can be recycled or reused. For some items, like scrap metal, you might even earn some money.

Toxic household items like herbicides, paints, solvents, and poisons should be taken to a hazardous waste drop off center—almost all cities and counties have these and drop off is free.  

Regular Trash
Basically, everything that doesn’t fall into any of the above categories goes into the trash. Make sure you can’t reuse or donate items. Broken glass, chip bags, chewing gum, feminine products, diapers, vacuum cleaner bags, and mirrors should be thrown in the trash.

Most towns have scheduled curb-side pickups for recyclables. Check with your waste management company to find out when pickups are scheduled and what items will be accepted (this is important, since non-recyclables placed at the curb will be left there and can blow away to become litter). If your town does not have a recycling pick-up program, visit Earth 911 to find a recycling center near you. Though the process can be confusing and daunting at first, once you get into the habit, you’ll stop asking, “What can I recycle?” but rather, “What can’t I?”

By Molly Mann for DivineCaroline.com

Food Waste and Composting

According to the US Health Department, approximately 25% of the food Americans buy becomes waste. That’s about one pound of food, per person, per day. What is alarming is that the rotting food in landfills produce methane, a major source of greenhouse gases. Methane , like carbon dioxide, contributes to global warming.
I find the fact that the average person manages to waste this amount of food is staggering. I understand that often parents with young children throw out what their kids don’t eat. The simplest solution to this problem is to figure out how much food your kids consume. Give them an appropriate portion and cook the right amount of food.
For example, my husband and I typically consume 4 ounces of protein. I generally cook enough for 2 nights in a row, so I prepare a pound of protein—meat, tofu, whatever. Pay attention to portion sizes and simply calculate.
If you do have leftovers, consider eating them for lunch the following day. Most food will be fine as leftovers. One exception, however, is dressed salad, because the dressing will make salad soggy.
If you still have leftovers, compost them. See my post for how to here. Compost will not produce the dangerous methane like it does in landfill. Instead, compost will give you dirt that is dynamite when applied to plants!
 Since I began using compost, my trees, flowers and shrubs are amazing! Plants  grow faster, flowering shrubs and flowers produce more and they just look great!
If you are throwing food out and need more help, please ask me specific questions and I will try to help.


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