Monthly Archives: July 2014

8 Simple Ways to Green Up Your Picnic

 

Photo: Source

Picnics celebrate sharing, nourishment, warm weather and the abundance of the Earth. Photo: Source

 

Make Your Picnic Sustainable

We’re almost half way through summer.  Released from the confines of the indoors and cooler weather, people seem happier and more relaxed (hey, who doesn’t love wearing less layers of clothing?) Parks, beaches and backyards fill up with people coming together to enjoy the warm air, each other’s company, summer sports and, of course, picnics and barbecues.

Traditionally, picnics and barbecue’s are very wasteful events.   Paper/plastic plates, plastic cups, plastic bowls,  plastic eating utensils and disposable napkins are the norm (click here for reasons to go plastic-free.)  The trash bag can fill up pretty quick.

The good news is it doesn’t have to be that way.  So, here are 8 simple ways to have an eco-friendly picnic: 

  1. Bring your own cup and/or water bottle.  Check out this lightweight stainless steel cup for picnics and camping.
  2. Bring your own plate, bowl and/or lightweight reusable food container.
  3. Bring your own knife, fork and spoon.  Check out these bamboo eating utensils for eating on the go.
  4. Bring your own cloth napkin.
  5. Sun tea anyone?  Rather, than buying a plastic container of juice or soda, make some herbal iced teas (fresh from your garden or the farmers market, no less)  and/or lemonade. It’s very easy to do and super refreshing!
  6. Encourage others attending to do steps 1-5.  If you’re the organizer (or, perhaps, you can suggest this to the organizer), it should be pretty easy to get in touch with attendees to let them know you’re doing a green picnic theme .  This next bit of information is very important and will make your green picnic a success: Tell attendees to also bring one extra plate, bowl, set of utensils and cup for people who might forget theirs (people often do).  It’s as simple as that!  The added bonus to this method is that no one person is stuck with doing all the dishes. Most importantly, landfills are spared traditional picnic waste.  Not to mention, plastic is pretty darn polluting to produce and does not biodegrade.  Plus, we can help spare some trees from the fate of being paper plates and help save forest habitats. It’s win-win across the board!
  7. Also, invite the celebration of summer and the farmers markets’ bounty.  Encourage guests to bring dishes using local and organic (or sustainably grown and raised) fruits, veggies, eggs, cheeses, etc.
  8. Grill sustainably. Forgo the conventional charcoal (charcoal releases 100 times more carbon dioxide and VOC’s than than propane grills and also comes from a rain forest or some other unsustainable source) and propane grills.  Instead, opt for an electric or FSC certified certified charcoal (if it’s United States sourced, even better).  The best option, however, is a new technology that uses the power of the sun to grill your food. Check out this nifty solar grill.

Careful not to get dubbed the green nazi.  Find the element of fun in having a green, luscious picnic or barbecue.  Think abundance, not policing.  Some people might not follow the suggestions and that’s okay, but you’ll surely inspire others.

Have any other green ideas for a fun picnic?  Share them in the comments section below.  Happy summer everyone!

 

 

The Surprising Health Benefits of Walking Barefoot

 

Photo: Source

Photo: Source

Mmmmm, Walking Barefoot Feels Good

In the past, on some rare occasions, I would take off my shoes while walking in the woods.  At first, an intuitive tingle in my feet would prompt me.  Then, I would slowly and carefully walk up a hiking trail, maybe for a quarter mile, feeling the dirt and the shapes of the stones, beneath my feet, being careful not to step on a protruding sticks or rocks, that might hurt my feet. This complete absorption of my attention, as to where I placed my feet, would make me more present and grounded.  The end result was a deeper connection to the woods around me and the earth beneath me.

Recently, I  read two articles on earthing, which is the practice of walking barefoot on the Earth for scientifically proven health benefits.  As a result, I started playing with walking barefoot again.  Keep in my mind that I live in NYC (Brooklyn, NY, to be exact), so I don’t quite have the luxury of a backyard to play barefoot in. As my first experiment with earthing, I sat on a bench at a community garden and then planted my feet on a bare slab of stone warmed by the sun and felt the warm tingles of magnetic energy float up my feet.  Ahhhhh.

Then, the other day I walked barefoot, for a little bit, in the park.  Now, mind you, I was a little anxious about it.  I was afraid of stepping on bugs, dog poop, garbage, you name it.  I don’t know if this is my city conditioning or if country folk would feel the same way.  But, yet again, I felt that flow of energy, once my shoes were removed.  It was actually, kind of, subtly incredible.  With my shoes on, the sensations of the Earth are muted out.  Of course, the Earth has a force field, that we can feel with or without shoes on, if we  pay special meditative attention. But, with bare feet, suddenly, that connection felt immediate and direct.  No separation any more.  The bottoms of my feet became alive and my nerves awakened as they sensed the grass and the texture of the ground beneath me.

The Science of Earthing

Going deeper, earthing (or sometimes referred to as grounding) is about the flow of electrons.  The Earth is negatively charged, so it has an abundance of electrons which can nourish us through the soles of our feet.  Our feet have a high concentration of nerve endings and guess what?  Nerve tissue is electronically conductive.  Usually, however, we are insulated from this particular benefit because modern-day shoe soles are made from rubber and plastics, which are excellent insulators from electricity. (Old-fashioned leather shoe soles, by the way, are excellent conductors of electrons.)  As a result, we rarely get to experience that nurturing, direct contact with the Earth.

So, why would we want these electrons flowing up through us?  It turns out that the surplus of electrons provide an antidote to free radicals, which are molecules that have become unstable due to a lack of an electron.  Free radicals can cause damage to healthy tissue as they scavenge for their missing electron.  Free radicals go hand in hand with chronic inflammation, an underlying cause of of many diseases, such as cancer, heart-disease, arthritis and diabetes.  What this means is that walking barefoot on the ground is a potent antioxidant for our body and, most likely, a birth right for our health and well-being that we simply don’t take advantage of.

According to Dr. James Oschman, a pioneer, in earthing research:

” So really what is happening with grounding or earthing is that you’re protecting your body from — I call it, collateral damage,” Dr. Oschman says. “Damage that was not intended to take place but does take place because we have disconnected ourselves from the Earth by putting rubber and plastic on the bottoms of our shoes.”

Dr. Oschman further states that the symptoms of inflammatory response- pain, redness, heat, loss of range of motion and swelling- do not need to happen.   Grounding research has discovered that when you place your bare feet on the ground, after an injury, electrons will flow into your body and spread through your tissues.  Any free radicals that have leaked into healthy tissue will be electrically neutralized.  This happens because free radicals have a positive charge and the Earth’s free electrons have a negative charge, so the two cancel each other out.

So, here are the many health benefits of earthing:

  • Beneficial changes in heart-rate
  • Thins the blood, preventing elevated levels of viscosity associated with heart-disease
  • Reduces chronic inflammation and associated pain
  • Neutralizes free radicals in our bodies, significantly reducing oxidative stress and enhances recovery from  injuries, trauma and exhaustion.
  • Improves balance of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems
  • Enhances circulation and improves energy levels
  • Improves sleeps
  • Reduces hormonal and menstrual symptoms

Now, that you are ready to earth, what are the best surfaces to step your bare tootsie on?  I say do whatever you can.  I live in Brooklyn, NY without a backyard, so whatever patch of grass I can find, I step on (you know those patches of grass that are between the sidewalk and the street).  However, walking barefoot on the sand, in the ocean or close to the water is especially beneficial and ideal, as  sea water, for instance, is a great conductor of electrons.  Walking on dewy morning grass is also great.  Even concrete is a good conductor, so long as it hasn’t been sealed by paint.

Do you walk barefoot on the Earth?  Are there any other health benefits to doing so that I haven’t mentioned?  Please share your thoughts and experiences and  happy earthing!

 

 

 

 

4 Ways Hemp Can Help Save The World

Photo Credit:  Joe Merrill

Photo Credit: Joe Merrill

There are so many uses for hemp that could help save the world.

There are so many solutions out there to save the planet and one of them is hemp.  Yes, you heard that right– hemp.  Not only is hemp a nutritious addition to your diet, but it is chock full of sustainable alternatives to things such as paper made from trees and petroleum fuel.

Hemp, like oppressed people, is an oppressed plant not allowed to flourish in the United States.  It is allowed to be imported, however, which keeps prices higher and does not support local American farmers. Until very recently, it has been treated like a psychoactive drug, even though it cannot get you high like marijuana.

Hemp is technically legal in a very limited capacity in certain states.  Part of the Farm Bill of 2014 addresses hemp.  According to Vote Hemp, the bill “defines industrial hemp as distinct and authorizes institutions of higher education or state departments of agriculture, in states where hemp is legal, to grow hemp for research or agricultural pilot programs.”  For more information on this click here.

That said, there are so many sustainable and empowering reasons to legalize hemp so it can help save the Earth:

1. Hemp makes better, more sustainable paper than paper made from from trees.  

  •  Firstly, 10,000 acres of hemp will provide as much paper as 41,000 acres of forest.  Plus, hemp matures for harvesting in about 90 – 100 days, while trees take 50 – 500 years.
  • Using hemp for paper preserves forests.  Deforestation, for making paper, creates soil erosion, landslides, habitat destruction, the endangering of plant and animal species, plant and animal extinction, pollution of water ways and global warming.
  • It takes less chemicals to make paper out of hemp because it has low lignin content (unlike trees).  Plus, it is naturally whiter than tree pulp, so doesn’t need harsh chlorine compounds to bleach.  Instead, hydrogen peroxide does the trick. This reduction of chemicals protects waterways from the normal contamination brought on by turning trees into paper.
  • Hemp paper can be recycled 10 times as opposed to only 3 times like tree-based paper.
  • Hemp paper is stronger due its long fibers and also acid-free, which gives it a longer life.

2. Hemp is good for farms and the health of the soil:

  • Hemp leaves are naturally high in nitrogen, a nutrient necessary for soil health.  As hemp grows, it sheds leaves, thereby nourishing the soil.  When it is harvested and left in the fields to dry out, more leaves fall onto the soil.  The leaves can also be composted and returned to the soil, since they aren’t the part of the plant that is used.
  • When hemp is grown for fiber, it is grown very close together.  The shade created by this, chokes out weeds.  When hemp is harvested, the soil is ideal for another crop (no weeds), making it an excellent rotation crop and also a great secondary crop and cover crop.  Hemp reduces the need for herbicides (toxic weed killers) that are carcinogens and a major source of land, water and aquaifer pollution. It also repels certain pests.
  • Hemp’s deep root system is excellent for preventing soil erosion after fire and floods. It also mines for nutrients deep below the soil with its long roots.
  • In addition to being weed and pest resistant, it is drought resistant and able to be grown anywhere in the United States.

3.  Hemp is a sustainable alternative to petroleum fuel and can help replace foreign oil dependency 

  • Not only does hemp have a high oil yield (35% oil cotent), but hemp cellulose can be used to create a hemp cellulosic ethanol that burns far cleaner than petroleum ethanol, reducing greenhouse gas emissions over 80 percent. Hemp ethanol and waste from grass clippings for cellulosic ethanol are better options than the starch based ethanols from soy and corn, which only reduce greenhouse gas emissions 12 – 40 percent and also come from a very unsustainable farming practice: monoculture, which relies very heavily on chemicals and wreaks havoc on biodiversity.
  • Hemp fuel is less expensive to produce than drilling, shipping and refining oil.  Using it would support our local farmers and our economy.   The only reason petroleum has financially survived is due to government subsidies paid by our tax dollars.  There have even been tax breaks for people who drive gas-guzzling SUV’s and build large, energy-guzzling houses.  Say what?!
  • Left over plant materials from making hemp biofuels can be made into fiberboard, insulation and food.

4. Hemp is way more sustainable than conventional cotton

  • Conventional cotton farming is a very toxic business, using intense amounts of pesticides, herbicides, artificial fertilizers and defoliants.   In fact, conventional cotton accounts for 25% of the pesticides sprayed on the world’s crops!
  • Hemp, on the other hand, is naturally weed and pest resistant and does not require the chemicals used in intensive cotton farming or processing.
  • Hemp also can be grown in more diverse conditions than cotton, using much less water and producing  more fiber per acre than cotton.
  • Hemp fiber is more durable than cotton and can create everything from strong ropes or can be blended with other sustainable fibers to create soft fabrics such as terry cloth.

That said, hemp and other sustainable plants, hold a lot of potential for cleaning up our unsustainable ways.  For more information in what you can do to help legalize the cultivation of hemp, click here.

Do you know of any other sustainable benefits of hemp?  If so, please share in the comments section below.  I  would also love to hear your thoughts on the legalization of hemp.

 

 

The Magic of Summer Rain Dances

Photo Credit: Daxe09

Photo Credit: Daxe09

Who Likes Dancing In the Rain?

Apparently, I do.  For the first time ever in over 37 years, I willingly threw myself into a downpour.  No more of that timid stuff– mists and sprinkles (although, they are amazing, mind you.)  I was ready for the intensity of a gorgeous, full force rainfall.

Stepping out of my apartment, with my semi-broken umbrella (i.e. security blanket), I gently got used to rain drops hitting my skin, where my tiny umbrella did not protect me.  I, then, pulled away the umbrella to feel the rain on my skin and then shielded myself again.  I went back and forth like this a few more times, until I ditched the umbrella altogether.

The rain briefly lightened– not so bad.  But then, the deluge returned, and just like jumping into cool lake, where at first it is slightly unpleasant as my body gets used to the temperature of the water, I soon adjusted, feeling the pure watery bliss.

Okay, so I never, literally, danced in the rain, but I was dancing in side.  I tilted my head back, letting the rain slide down my face, down my arms, down my back, down my legs, soaking my dress completely.  Ahhhh, cleansed by water– joy free flowing.  I opened my arms wide to the sky, letting the rain beat down upon my heart.  As I walked down the street, I saw a few people dashing to get out of the rain and a few more people standing in doorways waiting for it to pass, but I was loving being in it 1000%.  So much so, that I ran in it, like a child expressing glee.

It’s moments like this that I realize that more rain dances and expressions of joy are in order.  Next time, I want to go deeper and wider, and not stop and go home to take my laundry out of the wash, but keep going, allowing the moment to fully blossom and awaken my life.

 

Plastic-Free: A Book Review

Plastic-Free-book-photo

Photo Credit: Kate Bartolotta

When I first got Beth Terry’s book, “Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too,”  I was excited.  It was like celebrating my green journey birthday.  Finally, I would I discover some solutions to those pesky plastic problems I had not yet been able to solve.

Beth’s book, Plastic Free, is a rare gem.  Unlike many green guides, which scratch the surface, Beth dives in boldly where no human has gone before: plastic waste.  Sure, many green tip websites, books and blogs will tell you to stop buying bottled water and  carry your own reusable cloth bag when you shop.  They’ll even tell you to use reusable produce bags for veggies, fruits, nuts, beans, etc.  What they don’t approach is other plastic waste, which is a huge and insidious environmental problem, clogging up our oceans and harming marine life.  Not to mention, the pollution generated by making plastic.  It’s enough to make you want to consider other options.

First, Beth explores what the issues are with plastic in depth.  And I mean IN DEPTH.  I have never come across so thorough of a green guide on the issues with plastic in layman’s terms.  Then, she focuses on solutions– the fun stuff.  Because, who wants to be depressed on what’s wrong.  We want to feel empowered to make it right.

Beth’s plastic-free tips go beyond just telling us how to shop, how to make our own  plastic-free cosmetics (or plastic-free options we can buy) and cleaning products, she goes into activism and what it takes to make a difference.  She is a living example of how one woman can be catalyst for positive change.  As an example, she started the successful campaign to get Brita to take back it’s water filters for recycling.

Feeling overwhelemed at the idea of going Plastic-free?  Don’t.  Plastic-Free is a totally non-judgmental guide to reducing your plastic waste over time.  Beth reminds her readers it took her 7 years to get where she is at.  No guilt required.  She reminds us to be gentle with ourselves and take baby steps that add up to larger changes over time.

In closing, I highly recommend reading Plastic-Free.  I, literally,  couldn’t put the book down sometimes.  Beth’s writing is incredibly engaging. She sprinkles Plastic-Free with autobiographical tales about her own green journey in a humorous, quirky and vulnerable manner, that endears the reader even more to her sage, plastic-free wisdom.