Our Picks for Great Dog Waste Bags

Did you forget to bring some baggies along before going out for a walk?

Did you forget to bring some baggies along before going out for a walk? (Pixabay/)

When it comes to the uncomfortable topic of choosing dog waste bags, many people will reuse old plastic grocery or produce bags, or even newspaper bags. They’re easy to store on your walk; just scrunch them up into a little ball and stuff ‘em into your jacket pocket, right? You may have good intentions. After all, the bags are being reused before getting tossed out and sent to the landfill. Some people even search out biodegradable bags, which seem to do the trick and also ease the conscience.

But what you may not know is the terms “biodegradable” or “compostable” that some corporations use are marketing terms with no real, legal definition. And that means the bag could be sitting in a landfill for nearly as long as a grocery bag. Either way, cleaning up after your pet does help keep a community clean. Here are our recommendations for best dog waste bags.

The makers of this bag strive to put the earth first, and profits second.

The makers of this bag strive to put the earth first, and profits second. (Earth Rated Dog/)

The package comes with 8 rolls and a total of 270 premium bags, which come with a 100 percent leak-proof guarantee. Each bag comes with more than enough capacity for larger dogs. Recycled materials are used in both packaging and roll cores. Simple to open and tie securely, these odor-blocking unscented bags make for a stress-free walk. This Canadian company also works closely with animal shelters and rescues across North America, so you’re not just helping the environment, you’re helping your canine friends.

The carabiner-style clip, which secures to any leash handle, means one less thing to worry about as you carry out your daily duties.

The carabiner-style clip, which secures to any leash handle, means one less thing to worry about as you carry out your daily duties. (Amazon Basics/)

This product simplifies the pre-walk routine. What arrives in your delivery is the dispenser, 60 rolls (which adds up to 900 bags total), and the leash clip. On the walk, you’ll have a black plastic dispenser containing a roll of 15 bags that clips easily onto your leash, which is especially great if you have more than one furry friend or you’re a dog walker. A round opening on the side of the dispenser allows for pinching and pulling of the bag and separates effortlessly from the next. Arrows are printed on each bag for added convenience, to show which direction to pull.

Made with a corn starch blend that is friendlier to the environment.

Made with a corn starch blend that is friendlier to the environment. (Greener Walker/)

This 100 percent leak-proof bag is not only extra thick, but is biodegradable. Great for all dog sizes, this package comes with 36 rolls of 15 bags, for a total of 540 bags to keep you supplied for up to 7 months. The 13-by-9 inch bags come in a roll that fits standard-sized leash dispensers. Recycled materials are used in both packaging and roll cores.

The package includes 50 rolls of 20 bags, and one patented, bone-shaped, plastic roll dispenser.

The package includes 50 rolls of 20 bags, and one patented, bone-shaped, plastic roll dispenser. (Gorilla Supply/)

These unscented waste bags contain EPI technology, which is a chemical additive that speeds up the degradation process. After being broken down by heat, oxygen, sunlight, and mechanical processes, the bag crumbles into tiny bits of plastic. The rolls have no core, which cuts down on needless waste. The bags are blue and BPA free.

One package contains 180 bags that can also be used for dirty baby diapers or disposing of trash in your vehicle.

One package contains 180 bags that can also be used for dirty baby diapers or disposing of trash in your vehicle. (Petmate/)

These bag refills come in assorted colors. But more importantly, they are two times as thick as standard grocery bags and feature activated baking soda to eliminate odors. So they are perfect for those long walks or extended hikes with your best friend. The bags have a fresh scent and fit standard dispensers.

Our Picks for Best Inflatable Kayaks

It's just you and the water with an inflatable kayak.

It’s just you and the water with an inflatable kayak. (Pixabay/)

While the art of kayaking evolved from the ancient use of canoes as a necessary form of transportation, recreational kayaking is a relatively easy and inexpensive water sport. It can be enjoyed in solitude or with friends. It’s also an effective calorie burning exercise. Kayaks can navigate a variety of waterways from lakes to rivers to canals. And you don’t need a lot of equipment to get started.

One of the best developments in the sport of kayaking is the introduction of the inflatable kayak. They’re a good choice if you’re new to the sport, because they’re typically wider than the traditional hardshell models, giving them greater stability in the water. Their wider width makes them harder to tip over. Both pros and amateurs alike can appreciate their convenience. Lightweight and easy to take with you, they can be deflated for easy transporting and storage. No roof racks or boathouse needed for these.

Here are some of our favorite choices.

A sturdy model that works well for two people exploring lakes and mild rivers.

A sturdy model that works well for two people exploring lakes and mild rivers. (Intex Explorer/)

The Intex Explorer K2 Kayak is lightweight and compact with a spacious cockpit and designed for ease of paddling. There are two inflatable seats with backrests to keep you comfortable and supported. The bright yellow color makes you highly visible wherever you go, and the grab line and two grab handles on each side allow for easy gripping. Its rugged vinyl construction resists punctures, but it comes with an easy repair patch kit just in case. An inflatable I-beam in the center increases comfort and rigidity to keep you afloat, and two aluminum oars keep you moving. The removable skeg (like a rudder) enhances your directional capability. A Boston valve on each side and high output air pump (included) ensure quick inflating. It even comes with your own US Coast Guard I.D.

Convenient grab lines on each side, Boston valves for speedy inflation, and removable skeg for better navigation.

Convenient grab lines on each side, Boston valves for speedy inflation, and removable skeg for better navigation. (Intex Kayak/)

Get additional mobility on the water with the Intex Challenger kayak that is slightly longer and more narrow than the Explorer. Two separate air chambers add buoyancy. It’s made with the same Intex heavy duty vinyl that is puncture resistant, and the inflatable I-beam floor for rigidity. The bright green color and sporty graphics will make a splash, and this one comes with a handy cargo net on the bow. Two removable adjustable seats with back supports keep you out enjoying your adventure longer. Also comes with two 86-inch aluminum paddles to get you around, high output air pump, and repair patch kit for good measure. Folds down into a convenient carry bag.

Constructed with three layers of heavy duty material to provide rugged durability and extreme puncture resistance.

Constructed with three layers of heavy duty material to provide rugged durability and extreme puncture resistance. (Advanced Elements/)

This sturdy kayak has built-in aluminum ribs in the bow and stern to give you great tracking ability in the water. Adjustable padded seats unfold and attach, and three seat locations make it easy to go tandem or solo. Another perk is the customizable deck – a rip-stop fabric can be attached or detached in a number of seconds to give you open deck or closed deck options for both an individual or two people. Also features a spring valve and pressure relief valve in floor, skeg tracking fin, deck lacing to organize all your gear, and comes with a convenient duffle bag to fold up and carry everything for your new favorite pastime.

Comes with inflatable front and rear seats, two skegs for excellent speed and tracking, and welded seams that fuse the material into one solid piece.

Comes with inflatable front and rear seats, two skegs for excellent speed and tracking, and welded seams that fuse the material into one solid piece. (Sea Eagle/)

You can take up to three people down Class III whitewater in this inflatable kayak, but you don’t have to. Even though it can take on the tough water, it’s surprisingly lightweight and easy to handle even if you’re traveling solo. Its extra-thick rugged Polykrylar hull can withstand paws and claws so you can bring along your canine companion without worry. There’s plenty of cargo space and a convenient self-bailing drain valve that comes in handy if you take on water. Accessories include two asymmetrical blade paddles, foot pump, and carry bag. Sets up in less than 10 minutes so you can spend more time where you want to be – out on the water.

You can confidently bring on the big water – up to Class IV whitewater – in this adventure-ready model that is both stable and maneuverable.

You can confidently bring on the big water – up to Class IV whitewater – in this adventure-ready model that is both stable and maneuverable. (Driftsun Rover/)

When tranquil lakes and calm canals don’t suit your mood, you can kick it up a notch with the Driftsun Rover that’s fully equipped to take you down the rapids. With reinforced layered PVC side tubes, a heavy duty PVC Tarpaulin bottom, and rigid high pressure drop stitched floor, you can feel secure when you face the waves. Adjustable high-back seats and footrests keep you comfortably in place. A nice extra feature is the adjustable aluminum paddles that can be customized to your best fit. Ample rocker profile delivers strong stability, and corrosion resistant hardware adds longer life to your kayak. Other pluses are seven rapid bailing self drain plugs (because you will take on water), plenty of tie-down points to secure your gear, and even a front action camera mount so you can record all your adventures and become a social media sensation.

Looking for a Pandemic Bargain? Here Are the Places Where Rents Have Fallen the Most

Happy roommates moving home resting breathing fresh air

AntonioGuillem/iStock

Since COVID-19 shut down just about every perk that makes living in a teeny, overpriced urban studio apartment even remotely worth it, there’s been a whole lot of talk of a mass exodus from the big, expensive cities. After all, the thinking goes, if you’re jonesing for more elbow room and likely to be working from home well into the future, why not go elsewhere for a fraction of the price?

While there are still plenty of buyers willing to wait out the closures in downtown metros, rents fell in 37 of the nation’s 100 largest counties in December, according to realtor.com®’s monthly rent report. Rental prices are plummeting the most in the highest-priced tech hubs with lots of white-collar workers whose offices have closed due to the pandemic and can suddenly work from anywhere with a reliable internet connection.

“Some of the major factors that attract renters to dense downtowns—proximity to work and restaurants and fun things to do—are not currently relevant,” says realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale. “Without these strong lures, many renters are looking to save money and get some more space by moving to the suburbs.”

Hale expects rents to bounce back after the vaccines have been fully rolled out. But whether prices will return to pre-pandemic levels remains to be seen.

In the meantime, renters can find some pretty darn impressive deals in the big cities—if they act fast.

To figure out where rental prices have dropped the most, the realtor.com economics team looked at the median year-over-year prices of one-bedroom apartments, townhomes, condos, and homes for rent in the 100 largest counties in December. And we found a few surprises along the way.

Ready to bank some cash on cheaper rental leases? Let’s hit the road!

Counties where rents have fallen the most
Infographic

Tony Frenzel for realtor.com

1. San Francisco, CA

Rental prices are down the most nationally in ultraexpensive San Francisco County.

Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

Median rent: $2,750
Year-over-year change: -25.5%

With San Francisco’s tech workers untethered from the office, there’s been a steep drop in rental prices and huge increase in vacancies throughout the Golden City. But not all apartments have been affected equally.

Larger one-bedrooms or those rare places with an office and outdoor space that are close to a park have become much more attractive than the small, $3,000-a-month one-bedrooms in SOMA (the hip South of Market district) popular among the walk-to-work types.

Example: This large, rent-controlled one-bedroom in old-money Nob Hill can now be had for $2,850 a month. And this bright one-bedroom is listed at $2,950 per month. Both of these would’ve been nearly impossible to get into a year ago, let alone for under $3,000.

But rental real estate professionals are bullish that the market will recover.

“San Francisco is resilient and the demand will be there in the future, but some landlords are really struggling to fill their apartments,” says Charley Goss, government and community affairs manager at the San Francisco Apartment Association. “When the vaccine is better distributed and employers have confidence in bringing back their workers, the local economy and the rental market will recover.”

Watch: 5 Times Your Landlord Might Upgrade Your Place

2. New York, NY

Median rent: $3,100
Year-over-year change: -18.4%

Though rents have decreased across New York City’s five boroughs, Manhattan has been affected the most because of its wealthier, more mobile residents. In the early days of thee lockdown, the borough lost around 170,000 residents to nearby suburbs and second homes. Those who could afford it, and were now working remotely, headed to the ritzy Hamptons or north to Westchester County, or beyond.

The vacancy rate has tripled, and the market share of rentals with some sort of concession—in some cases two months in free rent—has hit record highs. This newly renovated East Village one-bedroom listed for $2,800 per month is offering a month free, and so is this West Village one-bedroom asking for $3,700.

The numbers look fairly dismal for landlords, but there is a bright side to the mass exodus of wealthy residents. The number of new leases that have been signed over the past few months is up substantially.

“There’s been an inbound migration of youth with greater affordability,” says Jonathan Miller of Miller Samuel. “I think that will lead to another renaissance period for the city.”

3. San Mateo, CA (San Francisco suburbs)

Median rent: $2,395
Year-over-year change: -17.6%

San Mateo, which lies on the peninsula smack dab between notoriously expensive bookends San Francisco and Silicon Valley, is also feeling the tech crunch. The traditionally working-class area has long been seeing real estate prices rise in tandem with the influx of tech workers. That explains why 48% of San Mateo renters are considered rent-burdened.

But the pandemic made it possible for many of them to live elsewhere for less. Many others decided now was the time to take advantage of record-low mortgage rates and buy a home with a yard. So now that many of the hoodie-clad denizens have left the rental market, rental prices have finally started to tick back down.

In downtown Menlo Park, about a mile and a half from Stanford University, a recently updated one-bedroom listed at $2,100 is offering a free month’s rent. And this one-bedroom in Brisbane, just a few minutes south of San Francisco, is offering bay and city views for $2,850.

4. Suffolk, MA (Boston)

Rental prices have fallen in one of the nation’s oldest cities.

joe daniel price/Getty Images

Median rent: $2,500
Year-over-year change: -17.6% 

Boston landlords are not just getting hit hard by remote workers seeking cheaper—and most likely warmer—pastures. Many of the students at the area’s 45-plus higher education centers have gone remote, too. This one-two punch means there are a whole lot of apartments and condos that would normally be occupied that are sitting empty on the market.

In fact, right now, there are more units sitting vacant in Boston than there have ever been. So, landlords, especially in pricier neighborhoods like Fenway, Back Bay, and Beacon Hill have been sweetening the deals since early fall.

From free parking and waiving security deposits to luxury units offering five months rent-free with a two-year lease, there’s never been a better time to be a renter (or worse time to be a landlord) in Beantown. Renters can now find luxury one-bedroom units with pool and gym access in the West End starting at $2,500 and similar Back Bay buildings with one-bedrooms starting as low as $1,995.

5. King, WA (Seattle)

Median rent: $1,726
Year-over-year change: -14.5% 

Some real estate experts claim that nearly half of the rental listings in metro Seattle are offering concessions to potential tenants. Like other gentrified tech hubs, many affluent former renters have been taking advantage of low-interest rates to buy a condo in town or house in the burbs.

Folks who want to be prepared for the city’s eventual comeback can take advantage of all the vacancies, including this $1,895 one-bedroom steps from Pike Place’s world-famous provisions. There is also this nearby one-bedroom, asking $1,625, coming on the market in a couple of months.

6. Washington, DC

The Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC, where rental prices have dropped during the pandemic.

Rudy Sulgan/Getty Images

Median rent: $2,034
Year-over-year change: -12.9% 

Many of DC’s well-paid, highly educated residents just don’t see the point in renting these days. Mortgage rates are so low and they’ve saved up so much money staying home that buying is more appealing than ever.

Plus, many of the amenities they pay for in their luxury buildings have been closed since last spring. So those buildings that offer gyms, pools, and community rooms that would normally function like a work-from-home space are scrambling to find tenants. Who wants to pay for a pool you can’t use?

“None of those [amenities] have been open since April 2020,” says Jordan Stuart, a Realtor with Keller Williams Capital Properties. “Now that we’re in the dregs of COVID people don’t want to be in situations where there are shared elevators.”

To snag tenants as quickly as possible, landlords in even the most coveted neighborhoods are seriously slashing the rent. In perennially popular Dupont Circle, this one-bedroom condo is asking just $1,500 a month.

7. Middlesex, MA (Boston suburbs)

Median rent: $2,145
Year-over-year change: -12.5%

Many of the forces affecting the other counties on this list also hit Middlesex County’s rental market hard. Renters are fleeing the high-cost market for cheaper parts of the country. Others are buying homes farther out, where their dollars stretch further. And landlord woes in Boston didn’t stick to just the south side of the Charles River.

Like many of the higher education institutions in the metropolitan area, elite Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the wealthy county’s Cambridge have gone remote. That means that the rentals normally occupied by students are empty. Renters seeking amenities can now find a south-facing one-bedroom with a pool and gym right next to MIT and Kendall Square for $2,675 a month.

8. Cook, IL (Chicago)

Median rent: $1,600
Year-over-year change: -11.1%

Across Chicago, landlords have been trying to tempt renters with price reductions and months of gratis rent. But there are some types of housing that are sitting empty longer than others.

While townhouses and duplexes with courtyards are still clamoring for tenants, units with direct-entry from the outdoors are getting rented out a bit faster than the glut of brand-new apartments and condos in The Loop that require an elevator trip with strangers. Bonus if they have private outdoor spaces.

“We don’t know yet whether [the declines] are because people don’t want to be in a high-rise during COVID,” says Nick Libert, a Realtor with Exit Strategy Realty.

Renters willing to brave communal spaces can now get into luxury apartments like this one-bedroom with a gym and in-unit laundry in the West Loop for just $1,525.

9. Honolulu County, HI

Rental prices have fallen overall in Honolulu, but the luxury rental market is still doing well.

M.M. Sweet/Getty Images

Median rent: $1,650
Year-over-year change: -8.3%

With an influx of new units built over the past half-decade—3,000 in just the past three years alone—Honolulu and greater Oahu have been experiencing rent decreases for the past half-decade. Then the pandemic hit.

Travel to tropical paradise temporarily ground to a halt. A long quarantine period for visitors coming from the mainland and elsewhere also dissuaded folks from moving in. This disrupted the tourism industry, leading many furloughed or unemployed hospitality workers to leave town. Their empty apartments added to the glut on the market.

In Honolulu’s hip Kakaako neighborhood, the median rent decreased from $3,000 in 2015 to $2,750 in 2019. It is now possible to get a one-bedroom in a high-rise with views of the water for $1,450 a month. But across the island, in Kailua’s high-end neighborhoods like Lanikai and Kahala, luxury rentals catering to the ultrawealthy have been flying off the market at sky-high prices.

10. Fairfax County, VA (Washington, DC, suburbs)

Median rent: $1,635
Year-over-year change: -7.5%

Just past Arlington and Alexandria counties, Virginia’s Fairfax County has been dealing with many of the same rental conditions found in DC. Big tech companies, like Google and Apple, have gone virtual. So their Northern Virginia employees no longer need to consider commuting to the office.

Many of those well-paid workers are choosing to spend the cash they’ve saved from nearly a year of no travel and little entertainment on a down payment for a house.

“With COVID, [people] haven’t spent the money that they normally spend,” says Keller Williams Capital Properties’ Stuart. So they’re thinking about making offers on homes instead of signing new leases.

Those still renting can get into nice, new units like this one-bedroom for $1,627. There’s also this one-bedroom with no elevator required for $1,499 in Reston, VA.

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