Tag Archives: environment

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!

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magic Of Rainwater For Your Hair

 

Who enjoys dancing in the rain?

Who enjoys dancing in the rain?  Photo Credit: Praise Philly

Nature is absolutely magical and sometimes even beautifying.  The simplest things can be the most profound.  Take rainwater, for instance: while I used to resist being outside in the rain, particularly in cold weather, I now remind myself, when caught in a spring sprinkle,  to relax and enjoy.  The rain brings out the child in me who wants to splash in puddles, muse at drops glistening over leaves and enjoy the sensations of tiny droplets falling on my skin.  Not to mention, rain does amazing things to my hair.

Just two days ago, I got caught in the rain.  I told the part of me, that wanted to hurry to my destination and get out of the rain, to relax.  I slowed my pace, relaxing into the sensations of a light, cool rain showering all over my skin.  I was wearing flip flops and seemed to inadvertently splash some dirt, from puddles, up the backs of my legs.  There was a joy to this messiness.

Once I got indoors and spied my reflection in the mirror, my previously flat, slightly frizzy hair, was now wavy, soft and glossy.  Hooray!  I have also noticed that when I get caught in a rain or mist, that I can go an extra day without washing my hair.

So, what is about the rain that creates this hair magic? Rain is a soft water which hair loves. Hard water doesn’t wash your hair as well; you can’t lather as well and it doesn’t rinse out the soap scum very well either.  Also, rainwater doesn’t have chlorine, which is harsh for our skin and hair.

Digging a little deeper, what I found out from a company called,  Rainwater Connection, is that rainwater is a “high quality water” that “is soft, neutral in pH, free from disinfection by-products, salts, minerals, and other natural and man-made contaminants.”   However, they caution that you should properly collect and filter your rainwater for personal use.

When googling about the benefits of rainwater for hair, several websites cautioned against using acid rain.  Holistics.com cautions: “Rainwater still has chemicals in it, but it won’t contain some of the heavier chemicals found in hard water. Rainwater is not safe to drink without filtering it first. If you live in an acid rain area or any place where a layer of smog casts a pallor over the town, washing with rainwater is not for you.”  I even looked at a map that showed acid rain prone areas of the United States. It looks like I live in one of them.  Still, my hair seems to love getting caught in the rain.

Here are some other website pages that tell you how to wash your hair with rainwater and also things you should be cautious about when using rainwater:

I keep wondering, however, if there is something else about rainwater other than it’s softness, lack of chlorine and lack of other contaminates?   Unlike treated tap water, it comes from the sky and is part of the cycles of nature.

It is alive.

A selfie of yours truly, enjoying a light morning rain.

A selfie of yours truly enjoying a light morning rain.

The Persistence Of Nature In The City

 

Springs lushness ignites the soul.

Spring’s lushness ignites the soul.

Spring has been springing for over two months now and I’m still in awe.  A city that had felt hostile, cold and barren now dances in bird song and explodes in green lushness, flowers and joy.  I just can’t get over it and nor do I want to.

The beautiful merging of man-made and nature.

The beautiful merging of man-made and nature.

I often take the scenic route, avoiding busy or ugly streets, preferring the magical blend of beautiful architecture, lush gardens and the sway of trees sighing in the gentle wind.

Every bit of green helps.

Every bit of green helps.

You see, ever little bit of green helps in an urban environment.  The less cement, the better.  I often wish the sidewalks were narrower, giving way to plant life instead.  Perhaps, our walkways could be like quaint brick paths with little grasses, weeds and dandelions creeping up  between the bricks, exposing the soil and the richness of life.

Nature persists.

Nature persists.

In spite of the concrete, pavement, dense buildings and humanity’s intent to control and contain nature, she persists, determined to burst forth.  You see her in between sidewalk cracks, growing up the side of buildings and taking over the yards of vacant homes.

Nature persists through concrete.

Nature persists through concrete.

I often wonder about her rich soil and microorganisms trapped beneath streets, buildings and sidewalks, wondering if they persist too?  I wonder about the rain water that longs to feed the soil and give birth to life, that is often left to trickle down the cement and into storm drains instead?

And, I wonder if cities could be like forests, seamlessly merging man-made with nature in a mutually nourishing  and symbiotic dance expressing the web of life?

 

 

Go Green 8 Week Challenge

RESIZEgogreen

This is not my usual blog post, but I hope you will join the fun and spread your green wings with me.   The parameter of this challenge is to pick one green goal per week for eight weeks.  Your goals may be things that you have been meaning to do, but keep putting off.   They may be goals that are a little out of your comfort zone.  Or, maybe, you just want an inspiring launching pad to take your green journey to the next level.

Why Do An 8 Week Go Green Challenge?

Sometimes, our personal journeys can get a little stagnant.  This challenge provides an inspiring structure for us to play our edge and create new possibilities in our lives.

Going green also means taking better care of ourselves.  This is an opportunity to nourish our bodies and souls with healthy, sustainable choices.

We all know, somewhere deep inside of us, that we depend on a healthy planet to sustain us.  We also know that are a lot of environmental issues happening now like climate change, species going extinct, pollution driven health problems, habitat destruction and ocean acidification (to name a few).  This 8 Week Challenge is an inspiring chance to empower you too make a difference and realize how much you matter.

Instructions

Choose one green goal per week for eight weeks. After you complete your green goal, blog about it. Then post your blog link in the comments section below with a short synopsis of what your blog post is about.  This weekly challenge starts on Monday, May 26th and ends on Sunday, July 20th.

If you don’t have a blog, no problem!  Share a few sentences about your goal each week in the comments section.  Share with friends and family- maybe, they will even join you in taking the challenge.

Did you find out about this challenge a few weeks after it started?  No problem!  Jump in any time over the next eight weeks.  When the official challenge ends, you can continue on in anyway you see fit.

Types of Green Goals

The sky is the limit, but here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  •  Personal steps to green your life: buy organic and/or sustainable local food,  start a veggie garden, shop with reusable bags and eliminate disposable bags , stop buying bottled water, convert to sustainable personal care products, buy minimally packaged or unpackaged items when possible, buy your next piece or furniture or article of clothing second hand or made with sustainable materials, conserve water, research renewable energy options to implement in your home, watch an environmental documentary, etc.
  • Activism: Volunteer at a local environmental organization, go to an environmental rally, inspire awareness and sustainable action in your community, contact your elected officials about environmental issues, etc.
  • Inner ecology:  We are part of the Earth and its ecosystems. Taking that concept further,  we are each an ecosystem onto ourselves.  We need to allow our inner gardens to flourish. What unnecessary clutter, time-consuming distractions and out-dated perceptions take you away from your well-being and doing the things that matter most, like living in harmony with the Earth?

Want more ideas?  Check out my goals below and click around my blog.  You can also check out other green blogs, books, documentaries and resources.

Tips

  • If a goal seems too large to do in one week,  it can probably be broken down into smaller, more manageable goals that can be accomplished over a few weeks.
  • In a non-judgmental fashion, notice what feelings, thoughts and reactions arise when you embark upon your goal.  This is an opportunity to get to know yourself better and find what flows for you.
  • Remember to not force anything.  Check out my blog post on finding the flow in your green journey.  

My 8 Green Goals

Just in case you’re curious (and also for accountability on my end), here are my green goals.  They will be in the category, “My Green Journey”. They may not happen in this exact order and I may change one or two:

  1. Take the Plastic Trash Challenge to get an honest look at the plastic waste I generate, so I can make better choices.
  2. Set up my green YouTube channel and post my first video.
  3. Go on a electronic diet to reduce unnecessary distractions in my life.
  4. Call or email a one or two food companies I like and suggest more sustainable packaging alternatives.
  5. Talk to the neighbors in my 54 unit building about enrolling in the Organic Waste Collection program.
  6. Start a microgreens and/or herb window garden.
  7. Lighten my load and sustainably get rid of items I no longer use or like.
  8. Go to a rally to stop fracking or some other environmental cause I am moved by.

Last, but not least, tell your friends and spread the green goodness!  And please don’t hesitate to ask me any questions.

 

You Can’t Scare People Into Going Green

Occupy Wall Street

A man paints a sign at Occupy Wall Street: “Give The Earth A Vote.”

How is truly sustainable global change created? 

I used to think that people would adopt a greener lifestyle if they truly knew the staggering and heart-breaking damage caused to our beautiful planet and the well being of the human race by many of our modern habits.  Perhaps, they would even persuade politicians and corporations to follow suite.  I used to feel that people were just unaware of the effects of their day to day habits (after all, we aren’t taught these things in school or via popular media) and if they were aware, they would change.

While I do think awareness is part of the key (it certainly changed me), I sure as heck know that the energy of fear, anger, begging, pleading and the doom and gloom scenarios of the climate change (and other environmental disaster) is not the answer to inspire most people into effective action.

A few days ago, I came across an article that shone to me like a beacon of light. It was like a missing ingredient in a grander dish where all the other flavors can finally begin to pull together into a successful, positive creation.   In this article, the author articulates the need to educate and inspire people, while giving them manageable, life-enhancing and personally rewarding actions that create positive change.  Please enjoy Creating A Culture Of Hope–Not Fear–Around Sustainability.

In closing, here’s a little food for thought.  Sometimes, when we are confronted with the potential of creating deep and meaningful change,  our own fears, frustrations and self perceived limitations can surface.  I truly believe that these larger issues that face us, like climate change, are an opportunity for us to both personally and collectively heal our perceived helplessness, complacency and self-imposed limitations to creating the peaceful and sustainable world we truly want.

Why You Should Go Plastic-Free

albatross

Photo: Chris Jordan Flickr

Hey, ya’ll.  As you can see, I am on a plastic-free kick.  What are some reasons you think we should all eliminate as much plastic as possible?  What are some ways you are eliminating plastic from your life?  Feel free to share the inspiration in the comment section below. How can we encourage companies to offer plastic-free alternatives?  How can we inspire government officials to pass laws that phase petroleum plastic out of existence and implement new alternatives?

Notice that I used the the word inspire instead of the words “demand” and “pressure” (which can sometimes include the tactic of shaming and guilting a politician or corporate mogul into better behavior.) While demanding is fine and dandy and does produce some positive results, hence the success of non-profits seeking to make the world a better place, I feel inspiring others is even more effective.  It’s like delivering the same information in a much better way.

Personally speaking, when someone attempts to shame, pressure or demand me into a new way of being, well, er, it doesn’t work so well.  I just feel resistant and defensive and not open to truly hearing the other person’s point of view.

So, let me take you on a little journey on how the raw materials for plastic are extracted to plastic’s final destinations, so you can see the true impact of plastic.   Fasten your seat belts!

Drilling For Oil And Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking)

As our oil reserves deplete, off-shore drilling is becoming the new thing.  Of course, oil spills can devastate marine life populations.  Unfortunately, oil spills are not an uncommon of a thing.  For example,  serious spills of oil and gas from North Sea platforms are occurring at the rate of one per week.  For more information click here and here

Even if oil drilling companies are extra careful to avoid more oil spills, off-shore oil drilling poses other threats to the environment.  A steady stream of pollution from offshore rigs causes a wide range of health and reproductive problems for fish and other marine life.  Over the lifetime of a single oil rig, 90,000 metric tons of drilling fluid and toxic metal cuttings are dumped into the ocean. A single rig can also, over its lifetime, pollute the air as much as 7,000 cars driving 50 miles a day.  Not to mention, off-shore drilling activities destroy kelp beds, reefs and coastal wetlands.

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE the ocean.  The rhythmic waves and forces are an inspiration to me, along with the sheer diversity and beauty of the marine life.   Swimming in pristine ocean waters is healing and nurturing to body and soul.  Also, for those of us that eat fish or sea vegetables, great nutritional value comes from unpolluted sources. We are deeply connected to the ocean and water.  Just like like human body, roughly 71% of the Earth’s surface is water (97% of water is the ocean).

In the spirit of keeping this blog on the briefer side, I encourage you to read up on fracking and also watch a documentary called Crude, which will show you the effects of drilling for oil on land through the eyes of rainforest dwellers in Ecuador, who suffered increased rates of cancer, leukemia, birth defects, and many other health ailments.

Oil Refineries

Ever live close to an oil refinery?  Me neither.  But there are folks that do live near these refineries and their story is not pretty.  As per the movie, Tapped, Corpus Christie, TX is the largest PETE water bottle manufacturer in the U.S.  PETE is in the Benzene family which causes cancer.  Other health risks of living close a to refinery are increased risk of birth defects.  Birth defects in Corpus Christie are 84% higher than the state average! PETE also contaminates ground water because these manufacturing plants have major chemical leaks.  Air and soil is also negatively impacted.

To me, clean air, water and healthy soil is a basic human right.  Heck, it is a basic right to all life to Thrive.

Risks Of Having Plastic Items

Having plastic in your home comes with some risk to the health of you and your loved ones, especially if the plastic item is what you eat from, drink from, sleep on or wear. Also, when friction or heat is applied to a plastic item, toxins can be released more readily into the air or in your food/beverage.

Two plastics of major concern are PVC (polyvinyl chloride, #3 plastic) and polycarbonate (#7 plastic). Please note, however, not all #7 plastic is polycarbonate.  If you see PLA next to the #7, then the  plastic is plant-based.

PVC is found in many common household items such as conventional shower curtains, peanut butter jars, cling wrap and air mattresses. PVC contains harmful carcinogens, most notably VCM (vinyl chloride monomer). Other chemicals such as dioxin and phthalates, both carcinogenic, may also be released into an indoor environment.  For more detailed information on the risks of PVC, click here and here.

Polycarbonate is used in some hard plastic bottles, metal food can liners, clear plastic “sippy” cups and some clear plastic eating utensils.  It has been found to leach BPA  (Bisphenol A) which mimics estrogen and has been linked to several cancers and genetic damage in infants. 

Are there any safe plastics?  Even some supposedly safe plastics can have hormone-disrupting effects.
I can’t help but think of the greatly increased cancer rates that have occurred with modern living and the presence of synthetic chemicals, pollutants and processed foods in our lives.  I don’t think it is necessarily one thing that causes an ailment, but most certainly toxins can add cumulative stress to the body over time. 
 
While your life may not be entirely plastic-free and the transition may take some time, I believe reducing toxins and increasing natural materials is life enhancing and, not to mention, beautiful.  Who doesn’t love the look and feel of wood, glass and natural fibers?  Above all, don’t stress as you transition.  Find your flow and allow it to happen organically.
Recycling and Disposal Of Plastic
While recycling  whatever plastic is accepted by your municipality is the better option, it still has many drawbacks.  For one,  if your municipality does single stream recycling (meaning that you put all recyclables into one bin and do not have to sort),  not everything you put in the bin may necessarily be recycled. To create simplicity and avoid confusion, single stream municipalities may say the accept more than they do.  
Sometimes, a wrong material or unclean item can delay the process of recycling or contaminate other items it has spilled on.   To find out recycling tips to avoid this issue, click here.  
Most importantly,  when plastic is recycled it turns into a lesser material each time (a.k.a. downcycling), until it is no longer recyclable and then makes it way to the trash.
Once plastic becomes trash, it is not biodegradable.  Bacteria have no interest in digesting it except a certain strain under very specific conditions manipulated by humans. Plastic, instead, is photodegradable, meaning it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces via sunlight.  In a landfill, there is little to no sunlight.  Out in the open, such photograded plastic can pose a threat to the wildlife as they can unwittingly eat the smaller pieces.
Not all plastic ends up recycled or in a landfill.  With landfill space scarce, some trash is incinerated,  releasing high levels of green house gasses and toxins into the air.  And then  there is the other plastic that makes it into waterways for many reasons.  Perhaps, our trash can lid wasn’t secure and some of it  blew away in the wind.  Perhaps, we  when we throw things away in a lidless public trash receptacle and it overflows, the wind carries it away and yet again, plastic and other garbage clogs our waterways.  Or perhaps some people just carelessly litter or do open dumping.  Whatever the case, this free floating garbage poses a great threat marine life.  Ever heard of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch?
Now that I have filled you with some sobering thoughts (and hopefully some uplifting ones as well), don’t despair.   There are many plastic-free alternatives that I will be sharing on this blog as I also explore  going plastic-free with you. Some will be DIY and others will be products from sustainable, awesome companies.   For those items that are near impossible to find plastic-free, I do believe alternatives are on the horizon as the green market and consciousness expands. Stay tuned for the inspiration!