Arkkeo Blog

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Think you’ve got a lot of paper piling up in your home or office?

The typical stack of paper

Well, here are some mind blowing facts & figures to put all that paper into perspective.

North Americans consume more paper per capita than anyone else on the planet, upwards of 500 lbs (227 kg) per person annually. That’s equivalent to the weight of your average refrigerator, washing machine and clothes dryer combined. A 12-ft wall could be built from Los Angeles to New York City with paper thrown away annually by Americans alone.

Though paper recovery rates in the US have increased in recent years, paper still represents one of the biggest components of solid waste in landfills – 26 million tons (or 16% of landfill solid waste) in 2009. When paper decomposes in a landfill, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Since Arkkeo’s HQ is in Helsinki, we looked at Finland’s paper consumption and found that Finland also ranks among the top countries. Every Finn consumes approximately 463 lbs (210 kg) of paper annually. Note that Western Europe as a whole averages 394 lbs (179kg) per capita.

If the paper consumption by Finns is converted to standard A4 paper (weight: 0,005 kg, length: 0,297 m), 5 million Finns’ yearly paper consumption would be approximately 6.237.000 km of A4 copy paper. If those papers would be put into a line, it would travel 156 times around the world.

Makes you think doesn’t it. In today’s digital age shouldn’t we all be receiving and consuming far less paper – reducing both the pile up in our homes and the impact on the environment?

Bon voyage – tips for hassle free travel

It’s hard to believe that it is already July and if you are like us you’re ready to kick back on a sunny beach somewhere with a tall, cool drink in hand. But before hitting the road (or the air) here are a few pre-travel tips that can help save hassle and headache should unfortunate circumstances hit while you are away from home.

1. Digitally store copies of your important travel documents

Travel itinerary, hotel, car and fight details plus receipts

  • Most of us receive these documents by email and then print them out and bring them with us. However, paper copies can easily get lost or damaged so it’s also advised to keep an extra digital copy in a safe spot such as your Arkkeo account where they can be easily accessed by you in the case of an emergency.
  • Additionally, if you book with Travelocity, Priceline, any of the Hilton family of brands, and/or Klaus K Hotel and VR in Finland, you can get your travel documents automatically to your Arkkeo account, saving the extra step of storing them yourself.  Simply go to the Company section in your Arkkeo account; find the companies you will use for your travels; SafeConnect; and then the documents will be deposited into your account.

Passport

  • If you are lucky enough to be traveling out of the country this summer then be sure to have a good clean, legible copy your passport saved in Arkkeo. And if you’ve got any family members traveling with you then be sure to save theirs as well.
  • If you find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance where your passport is lost or stolen then both the process of filing a report with the police, and getting a replacement at your country’s consulate, will be easier and faster if you have record of your original document. Another piece of advice is to have a copy of your husband’s/wife’s passport and other personal information on file in Arkkeo such as their social security card + birthplace and year – even if they are not traveling with you. If you need to get a new passport for a child under 16 then you will need to supply information for both yourself and the child’s other parent.

Record of your travel insurance

  • Travel insurance is one of those ‘must haves’ when heading off on holiday, especially when going abroad. So you should make sure to have of your travel insurance card (or copy of it) with you and take a minute to get a back up copy (front and back) into Arkkeo in the case of emergency. Your insurance company, policy number, and emergency contact information can all be found on this card.

Driver’s license and other identification

  • It’s also good to have additional forms of identification archived such as a clean photo or scan of your driver’s license, your birth certificate and your social security card so that you have access to the information in these documents should it be needed.

2.  Store a copy of your credit cards and any loyalty cards you might use while traveling (front and back)

Have a look at the contents of your wallet. Remove any unnecessary cards. Take a photo of the front and back of the credit cards and loyalty cards that will be coming with you and upload them to your Arkkeo account. If your wallet gets lost or stolen, you will need all the information on the cards including the customer service phone numbers that are typically in small print on the back.

3.  Make sure your devices have been backed up and you’ve got a list of your most used contacts in a safe place

It’s always a good practice back up your mobile devices (phones, tablets, etc) regularly in order to protect all your data but this is especially important before you travel. Nothing can derail the perfect holiday faster than a lost or damaged device but if you’ve got your data backed up and a digital copy of your phone contact list is accessible to you then you’ve saved yourself huge hassle. If your devices auto sync and backup, it’s good to double check that this is turned on. If you are not sure then check with your device manufacturer well in advance of your travels.

4.  Share with your spouse and one person that is not traveling

You definitely want to make sure that you’ve got important information related to your travels shared with at least one person who is not traveling with you.  This includes your itinerary plus your important personal information as listed in 1-3 above.  Arkkeo makes it easy to safely and privately share this information with a friend or family member.  Just make sure you’ve placed all the documentation into your Arkkeo account; click on the items you want to share; and then click ‘share’ in the menu bar and enter the email address of the person you’d like to share with.  A SafeConnection will be created with this person and you can share documents with maximum security from your account.

Well, we hope that you’ve found the tips useful and we wish you happy travels this summer. Bon voyage from the Arkkeo Team.

Protecting your important records in case of fire or other disaster

Photo credit: Esko Kilpi 6/2013

Just the other evening a massive fire broke out in an old boathouse adjacent to the Helsinki shoreline only a few blocks from where I live. Coincidentally, it happened at the same time that I was on the phone with my parents in Colorado who were reporting on a wildfire that was raging out of control just 40 miles from where they live – a blaze that had quite quickly destroyed 500 homes. As I listened to them tell me about the Colorado devastation, I was watching with my own eyes the speed and ferocity at which a fire can destroy. It immediately got me thinking (and saddened) about all the tragedy we see each year where peoples’ homes and properties are completely decimated and lives lost due to fire or weather related disaster.

Are we really as prepared as we should be?

What kind of records would be needed to rebuild life should this kind of unexpected tragedy hit? What if a family member was injured and needed medical care, would we have the right documents to get the care we needed? What would happen if we lost our mobile phones – would we have quick and easy access to our important contacts?  Would we have the appropriate documents at our fingertips in order to file a claim? Would our loved ones be able to manage our affairs should we be faced with serious injury or die?

Anyhow, I’m not a doom and gloom kind of person but it was definitely a reminder of how fast and furiously fire or other disaster can strike and it also reminded me that I’m far from being as prepared as I should be. So, I decided to do a bit of research and found some good articles and advice about what everyone should have securely and remotely stored (eg. backed up) in the case that a major emergency were to happen. I thought I’d summarize their advice and post it here as it serves as a good reminder for all of us. And at least for me, getting these things more organized will be part of my summer to-do list.

The basics

  • A list of all your important personal and account numbers:  investment, retirement & bank accounts, credit card, insurance policy, driver’s license, social security, passport plus copies (front & back) of the actual cards/documents for you and your family that also show expiration dates etc.
  • A list of contacts: customer service numbers for insurance companies, utility companies, banks – financial advisers, account managers – doctors, dentists, veterinarians – family, friends – teachers and employer – contractor, attorney, accountant, executor of will
  • Current photographs of household members (including pets)
  • Originals + scanned copies of birth, marriage, death certificates, divorce decrees, adoption records, residency and citizenship papers
  • Copy of your wills, your executor, power of attorney and healthcare proxy
  • Originals + scanned copies of insurance policies including homeowners, auto, health, dental, life, long-term care, etc.
  • Originals + scanned copies of deeds for real estate, property and titles for cars and other motor vehicles
  • Originals + scanned copies of loan documents
  • Originals + scanned copies of contracts, leases and mortgages
  • Copies of tax returns, supporting documentation plus any documentation needed for upcoming tax returns.
  • Originals + scanned copies of education records such as diplomas and transcripts
  • Copies of health records especially for persons in the family with chronic conditions.
  • Documentation of important prescriptions including prescribing doctor, pharmacy and dosage.  If the original prescription is not available then taking a photograph of the medication bottle is a good option for recording the prescription details
  • Employment records:  resume, salary history, references
  • Originals + scanned copies of documents related to business ownership and business insurances
  • Military service records
  • Originals and scanned copies of the records for your pet including registration numbers, pet passport, animal shelter or breeder information, health records and prescriptions.

In addition to keeping originals in a safe location that can be carried with you, it’s equally important to have the digital copies accessible in the event of an emergency. However, not on your computer which could get destroyed in the event of a disaster, but in a secure online service such as Arkkeo where they can be safely accessed from wherever you happen to be located during a time of need. Additionally, it is also suggested that you share copies of this information with your attorney and accountant as they are the two professionals who will be most involved with your situation if you do face a major emergency, and/or a family member living far enough away to be out of the emergency zone.

What’s needed to file a claim

Another important piece of documentation to be prepared with is your household inventory. If your personal possessions are damaged or destroyed, the insurance company will most surely ask for an itemization of everything that you lost along with its estimated value.  Unfortunately most of us would never remember all of our possessions (let alone in a totally stressful, crisis situation) without an inventory done in advance so here are some tips for making the process a bit easier.

  • Walk around your house and take photos of each room and its contents. Or if you have a camcorder then a narrated video recording of each room is also a good method for remembering what you own.
  • Don’t forget to estimate the year of purchase and the value of the item and keep a log of it. If you’ve saved receipts then they should be photographed as well and placed with the digital inventory, as should any appraisals you have gotten.
  • If you are already an Arkkeo user and have the Photo+ app then it’s a great idea to use it for capturing photos of your household inventory since they will be automatically uploaded to your Arkkeo account and can be easily organized for future use.
  • It’s a good practice to do a once a year update to your inventory since most of us purchase new items each year that should be included.

What’s needed to make it easier for family members to manage your affairs

None of us want to think about death and the grief associated with it, but the scary reality is that it can happen quite suddenly. And when we go, it’s far better to leave our grieving loved ones with our affairs organized than with stress and confusion over where things are and how we would like certain things to be taken care of in our absence.

Some good advice from several articles was to start by creating a document locator — a list outlining exactly where all of your important records are kept – both the originals and your digital versions. In this locator you should also include the combination for the home lock box (if you have one) and other information that they will need to access your vital records, for example how to access your online files. If you are like me and have an Arkkeo account then it’s easy because once you’ve created all the digital backup of your vital records, then you can securely and privately share it with family members and other key individuals directly from your account.

One thing to consider is that if you’ve got your documents in a box at the bank, you may want to rethink that strategy — safe deposit boxes are often sealed at the time of death, so keep your funeral arrangements and wills someplace more accessible.

And don’t forget the memories

Most of us have years of photos stored already in the Cloud whether it’s with Flickr, iCloud or another service. But what about all the other precious memories and items of sentimental value – love letters, awards and achievements, kids report cards and drawings, baby hand and footprints – the list goes on. It could be equally, if not more, devastating to lose years of beloved memories as it would be to lose your other records. So, while you are capturing the inventory of your home with photos and scanning your records, it’s also a good idea to start scanning or photographing the memories as well.  This is where I’ve also found Arkkeo’s Photo+ app to come in handy. Since I started using Arkkeo, I also started using the app to capture the memories that I want to be certain are protected under any circumstance.

In summary

Dealing with a personal crisis is stressful enough, without the pain of lost paperwork and missing information. But by taking a proactive stance, and a few preventative measures, you can save yourself and your loved ones a great deal of headache and can make the recovery process a lot quicker and easier.

Step 1: Review your records and identify which ones are the most important to you and your family. Use the check list above to guide you.

Step 2:  Make sure you’ve got your home inventory completed.

Step 3: Put originals together in a safe container or home lock box that you can take with you.

Step 4: Make copies (electronic preferably) of these records for active use and to serve as a back-up if the originals are destroyed. Keep an electronic backup in a secure online location (like Arkkeo) and share with key people in your life.

Step 5: Make sure everyone who should know how to access these records knows how to do so. Likewise, make sure that you keep the records as secure as possible. This is personal and confidential information that you do not want just anyone to gain access to.

Thanks to Princeton University Records and Virginia Tech University, AARP.org for excellent articles and advice on the subject. Photo credit: Esko Kilpi 6/2013

Yes, I will take that receipt digitally. And into my Arkkeo account please.

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon a post in the New York Times’ Green blog related to the chemical compound BPA (bisphenol-A) and its use in the production of those little paper receipts that we are handed every day. Its headline ‘Check your receipt: It may be tainted‘ naturally caught my eye since I’m not a fan of paper receipts anyhow, but to know that they are filled with harmful toxins really pushed me over the edge.  

So I started doing a scan of all the companies that today are offering digital receipts and it was nice to see that more and more retailers are moving in this direction and the list had grown significantly in the last 6 months. As a matter of fact, digital receipts have been dubbed ‘the latest trend in retail’ by ABC Action News in the US, among other major news media.

But ‘hello retailers’, while I want my receipts in digital form, I don’t necessarily want them cluttering up my email box. It was great when the first digital receipt from Apple appeared in my inbox back in 2005 but yikes, I get so much email everyday that digital receipts are doomed to get lost in my email, just as those little pieces of paper get lost when they enter my home.

The solution? Well, I think that Arkkeo has the right vision.  Instead of sending receipts into my email box, or making me hunt for them from a company extranet, Arkkeo enables companies to deliver them right into my personal Arkkeo account. They come instantly, automatically and I don’t need to download anything or file anything. It’s like having a personal assistant on staff all the time.

So, thank you retailers for innovating and moving in the digital direction. And thank you for offering me an option to being handed the toxic little piece of paper – you will get my business every time over the company that does not offer digital receipts. But I will take my receipt in Arkkeo please.

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