Do You Recycle? 6 Things You’re Recycling Wrong

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6 Things You’re Recycling Wrong

I don’t know about you, but the thought of huge “islands” of trash floating in our oceans makes me feel a bit queasy. The problem seems insurmountable. The one thing I know I can do is recycle. Each week, I put anything and everything I think can be recycled into my bin and gleefully place it at the curb. Little did I know, I was doing it wrong! Read More

How Do I Quiet My Mind?

4-Step Guide To Finding Inner Peace And Quieting Your Mind

Haven’t we all said at one time: “If only I could have a little peace and quiet!” We live in a noisy, chaotic, vibrant world – with many distractions. Sometimes, we just need to “turn off the chatter, and focus on what matters.”

For me, the simpler the better. Read More

Why Choose Organic?

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “Organic”? Foodies and nutritionists alike all tout the benefits of eating organic. Why all the hype?

Here’s what CCOF Certification Services has to say about choosing organic:

People are more concerned than ever about what they are eating, and in a world filled with crazy foods, the reasons to buy organic keep piling up! Choosing certified organic foods provides a tangible way for you to benefit the environment, local economies, and public health, both on and off the farm. Organic food supports you, your health, the health of your children, and the planet. Learn more about why buying organic is so important. Read More

Do You Really Need To Eat Gluten-Free?

What’s all the fuss about Gluten these days?

That’s what I thought until I did a little investigating. In these days of increased food insentivities, it’s hard to tell if that terrible feeling you get after eating your favorite bread, cookies or pizza is a symptom of chronic celiac disease – or just plain ol’ overindulgence.

If you’re thinking about entering the mystical gluten free zone, here’s some information you might find helpful.
Why Do So Many People Think They Need Gluten-Free Foods?

Some conditions are overdiagnosed, but some are underdiagnosed.
By Darshak Sanghavi  www.Slate.com Read More

Can A Smoothie Really Change My Life?

Remember your mother telling you “eat your veggies”?   Well, now you can drink them! For those of us who are always on the go, eating enough fruits and vegetables is easier said than done – all the prepping, slicing, dicing and storing. Who has time for that?  If you’re one celery stick away from insanity, step away from your food chopper and embrace your blender, folks. Smoothies are here – and they just might change your life!

7 Reasons Why Smoothies Can Change Your Life

Smoothies change lives. Really. Now, we’re not referring to those milkshake-like monstrosities that are basically like dessert and contain sweetened fruit juice, sugar and even ice cream (those are nice for a once-in-awhile treat, not breakfast), but rather whole foods smoothies that are full of fruit and vegetable (and nutty) goodness!

A recent documentaryPowered by Green Smoothies, featured five runners and five CrossFitters who were put on a green smoothie drinking regimen and reaped the benefits. Of course, smoothies alone won’t fix a poor diet, but they can make a good addition to a healthy diet, and they found that for people who may not be consuming enough fruits and vegetables (most people) they may be helpful in upping fruit and vegetable intake. So, why not consider adding smoothies to what you eat? Read on for some ways smoothies can change your life:

1. Energy, Especially for Athletes

One finding of the athletes in Powered by Green Smoothies was that adding the smoothies to their diet seemed to increase their energy, decrease recovery time, and also lead to fewer aches and pains. For example, one athlete found that after running a 100-mile race, he was able to recover in just 10 days, rather than his usual month. Theories that RDs (registered dietitians) put out were that the vitamins and minerals in the smoothies helped lower inflammation and therefore decrease soreness, and that the boost in carbohydrates and calories made a big difference to the athletes, who burn through a lot of calories and may not have an adequate calorie or carb intake. Bottom line? If you’re an athlete, it seems you may benefit from incorporating smoothies into your diet, especially if you’re not getting enough calories or fruits and vegetables.

2. More Fruits and Vegetables

Fewer than a quarter of Americans get enough fruits and vegetables, despite the USDA’s recommendations of at least five servings per day. With a smoothie, you can easily incorporate 1-2 cups of greens and 1-1.5 cups of fruit – and it’s a fast and easy way to eat your fruits and vegetables!

3. Fiber

Fiber is an important part of any diet. It prevents constipation, lowers cholesterol and makes you feel full longer. In juice, the fiber has been removed. However, since a smoothie is just blended fruits and vegetables, smoothies still contain valuable fiber!

4. Antioxidants

Antioxidants may prevent or delay cell damage, and fruits and vegetables offer rich sources of them. High-level doses in supplements may cause damage, so it’s best to get your antioxidants from whole foods. You can pack plenty of vegetables and fruits – and therefore antioxidants – into your smoothies. Berries have been shown to be particularly high in antioxidants.

5. Get Lots of Nutrients at Once

Because they’re blended, smoothies provide more nutrients than you could otherwise get in one sitting – a whole lot of fruits and vegetables (without the chewing, too!).

6. More Fun (For You and the Kids)

Smoothies, with their creamy, milkshake-like texture, may satiate us more than other whole foods, and are more fun to make and eat – especially for the kids! You might not be able to get your kids to eat a big bowl of kale, but sneak it into a berry smoothie, and they probably won’t even notice! If you don’t normally drink green smoothies, try starting off with incorporating just a little bit of greens with a lot of fruit, and increasing the amount you add each time you make the smoothie – you won’t even notice the difference.

7. Add-Ins for Extra Nutrients!

Last but not least, the extra additions you include in your smoothie (beyond the basic liquid, fruit and vegetable components) can make all the difference. Optimize the nutrient factor of your smoothie with your add-ins, by including vitamin E-containing nuts and seeds (or all-natural nut butters), which prevents against cell damage that leads to heart disease and cancer. Add pumpkin or sweet potato in place of banana for a similar creamy texture and a good dose of carotenoids, which decrease the risk of eye disease. Finally, adding spices like ginger and cinnamon can provide antioxidants and other health benefits.

Eat Clean, 8 Simple Rules

8 Rules for Clean Eating

What is Clean Eating?

Clean Eating is eating mostly whole, unprocessed real foods and being mindful of the path the food has taken to get to your plate. In other words, eating food in its most natural form, i.e. vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains.

How do I start Clean Eating?

In order to start I believe you need to know what isn’t considered “clean” food. You will want to avoid processed foods. If they have had anything added to them – salt, sugar, fat, preservatives, natural flavors and even vitamins are to be avoided if you are focusing on eating clean. If the form has been changed, for instance mashing apples to make applesauce or removing the bran in order to refine bread. I know you are thinking, “What’s wrong with applesauce?” Nothing, except food manufacturers often add sugar or acid to the process, so it’s healthier if you make your own.

Why is clean eating good for you?

Read what Fitnessmagazine.com has to say –Thanks to extensive research that has linked eating whole foods with good health, “we do know that largely plant-based diets are healthy,” says Fanzo. Multiple studies have shown that diets heavy on fruits and vegetables can curb or prevent certain life-threatening conditions and diseases, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Plus, there’s research linking diets high in fruits and veggies to healthy weight management and glowing skin and hair — as if you needed more motivation.

Now that you know what it is and why it’s good for you, let’s learn the 8 Rules for Clean Eating.

  1. Eat Real– Can you imagine it growing out of the ground? Can you picture it hanging from a tree? Do you recognize it in its original form. If so, then eat it.
  2. Choose 1– Reach for foods that have only one ingredient, i.e. apple, carrot, pecan. You get the idea.
  3. Eat Naked– No, I don’t mean ditch your clothes. I mean pick foods that don’t have packaging, bar codes, plastic wrap, etc. It is okay to reach for frozen fruit or vegetables as long as they haven’t been processed. You wouldn’t want them covered in chemical cheese goo or citric acid to retain freshness. Only reach for the ones with nothing added.
  4. Go Organic– Organic is always best because its the cleanest food that has been grown without pesticides, insecticides and chemical fertilizers. If that isn’t possible for your pocketbook try to avoid the Dirty Dozen.Those are the twelve fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticide residue, so you want to avoid them and buy organic if possible.
  5. Eat What You Can Pronounce– If you can read all the ingredients on the label and don’t need to Google it, it’s probably clean. Remember, it probably shouldn’t have a label at all, i.e. Eat Naked.
  1. Prioritize Plants– No need to worry about how much sugar is in that apple or fat in that avocado. No one ever became fat from eating too many vegetables and fruits. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Eat them and enjoy them!
  2. Give Up Sugar– If you want to eat clean avoid it in all its forms and its sickly cousins – artificial sweeteners. If you want to keep your food as clean as possible, reach for raw honey or pure maple syrup since they are less processed. However, keep in mind its still sugar.
  3. Cook At Home– When you cook at home you choose exactly what does or doesn’t go into your body. Most restaurant meals are loaded with sodium, fat and sugar, not to mention the portion sizes are out of control.

Want A Toxic Free Playroom?

Are you looking for playroom ideas?  We found 10 tips on how to create a healthy space for your children to do what they do best – play!

Top 10 Tips: A Healthy Playroom

Whether your child’s playroom is a special corner of the house, or the entire basement, make sure it’s a healthy and safe environment with the following toxic-free tips:

1. Choose hard, smooth surface floors that are easy to clean.

Kids play primarily on the floor, so make it a healthy material like solid wood, bamboo, cork, and linoleum. If glues or finishes are required, choose ones that do not contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and follow directions carefully.  Choose area rugs made of natural materials like wool or jute instead of wall-to-wall carpet.

2. When painting, take precautions if lead-based paint is present, and choose low or no-VOC paint.

Protect indoor air quality with safer painting products, and protect your family from any lead dust exposure by using appropriate containment and surface prep methods.

3. Choose durable, low-toxic furnishings like solid wood furniture.

Avoid particle-board products, typically made with urea-formaldehyde (UF) glues. Steer clear of stain-resistance (Teflon) treatments, and products embedded with antimicrobial chemicals such as Microban.  Polyurethane foam may contain toxic flame retardants, so instead choose items stuffed with down, wool, cotton, or polyester.  Avoid products containing PVC, such as inflatable furniture, artificial leather, PVC-coated fabrics, and vinyl furniture covers.

4. Promote healthy indoor air in your play space and throughout your home. 

Keep pollution sources out by avoiding products like harsh cleaners, air fresheners, and pesticides. Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens to keep humidity low, and fix leaks to avoid mold and moisture issues. Open windows for fresh air when appropriate to increase ventilation.

5. Use the right tools and tactics for safe cleaning.

Clean without harmful chemicals using a HEPA vacuum, damp dust with microfiber or terry cloth rags, and try green cleaning recipes. If your family is generally healthy, the need for disinfecting and sanitizing products is rare. Routine cleaning with plain soap and water is an effective method for removing germs from surfaces.

6. Avoid clutter so dust and dirt can be easily cleaned.

Using closed containers for toys is a great way to minimize dust and clutter. Label bins and rotate them periodically from storage into the playroom to keep toys manageable and make old favorites “new” again. Choose plastic-free storage options such as solid wood toy chests and bins made of wicker, canvas, and cardboard.

7. Select safer toys.

Avoid toys with PVC (vinyl), a soft flexible plastic commonly found in bath and squeeze toys, inflatables, and dolls. Choose plastic-free toys when possible, especially for young children who frequently put them in their mouths. Look for toys made of unpainted wood, cloth dolls, plush toys, and games or puzzles made of paper.

8. Encourage creativity with kid-safe art supplies.

Children rarely use art products “as directed,” so make sure your art supplies don’t include harmful ingredients. Avoid solvent-based products like permanent and dry-erase markers, mists from sprays, and dust mixes from clays or paints, all of which are easily inhaled. The label “non-toxic” and the ACMI AP symbols indicate less toxic options, though they still are not always completely safe for kids.

9. Extend your playroom outside and let nature be your toy box!

Nature play offers physical, mental, and social health benefits. Give kids the opportunity to explore in backyards, parks, and nature every day. In King County, you can check out the pesticide-free places map.

10. Support Toxic-Free Future and strong rules to ensure safer children’s products.

We all deserve a toxic-free future—and to get there, we need bold action, stronger laws, responsible companies, and robust consumer and voter demand for healthier products.

 

Have You Ever Tried Forest Bathing?

It’s called forest bathing but thankfully, perhaps, neither water nor the necessity to take off any clothes is involved.

It’s called forest bathing but thankfully, perhaps, neither water nor the necessity to take off any clothes are involved.

But Shinrin-Yoku, to use the Japanese name, does entail a kind of immersion.

The idea is that by leaving your everyday cares behind and allowing the sights and sounds of the natural world, particularly trees, to wash over you, something magical happens.

Jane Dow has been practicing and teaching meditation and mindfulness for more than 15 years and more recently has begun leading mindful nature walks at Bradfield Woods, near Bury St Edmunds, and Knettishall Heath, near Thetford.

And she’s seen this magic happen. Regularly.

“So many people have amazing revelations about what they see,” she says. “They might notice a change in how they feel. It’s so nourishing and everyone can benefit from it.”

Forest bathing, or Shinrin-Yoku, means taking in the forest atmosphere during a leisurely walk. It was developed during the 1980s in Japan, where it has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing. According to researchers who have studied the health benefits of spending mindful time amongst the trees, forest bathing creates calming effects through changes in the nervous system, reducing the stress hormone cortisol.

Reductions in stress, anxiety, anger, depression and insomnia have been recorded along with improvements in concentration and mental clarity. There are now 44 accredited Shinrin-Yoku forests in Japan.

While a walk in the woods can, in itself, be rejuvenating, throwing a touch of mindfulness into the mix can take the experience to another level, says Jane. She does two of these 90-minute walks a month, one at each location, taking a maximum of 10 people a time.

“We start by meeting together as a group and getting to know one another,” she says. “We spend the first 10-15 minutes walking in silence so that people start to let go of their week or day. Then we slow the pace right down, which can find quite challenging because it’s not what we’re often used to and can bring up some anxiety. When people have overcome that we start to do more mindful exercises, using all our senses.

“We might spend 5-10 minutes cloud watching or, if it’s a grey day, we might look at intricacies of pine tree bark. People can get quite engrossed just using the sense of vision. It’s complete absorption. The stillness you get with 100% focus is fascinating. We try out different exercises because people respond in different ways.

“There has to be a balance between silence and talking so after we’ve done the exercise, we might come back and share experiences, which can help people validate what they’ve experienced or show them what’s possible.

“There’s another layer to it as well. On top of the mindfulness you get the benefits of being outside and being in nature, which various studies have shown is so beneficial. Each moment in nature can return us to a place of child-like wonder and help to develop a real, lasting sense of wellbeing.”

Being with trees actually entails physical as well as mental and emotional benefits, says Jane, who lives near Banham.

“Trees release chemicals, called phytoncides, which boost the immune system and enhance wellbeing. There are countless reasons why it’s good for you. Being surrounded by greenery, the difference between light and shade – all these factors contribute to a sense of being alive and connecting us into nature and rejuvenation.”

Groups so far have included a mix of people, from those who just like going for a walk to “super high-stressed” people who want to unwind. She’s also hoping to do some work with carers in the future and train up wildlife trust staff and volunteers to lead walks of their own.

“It’s so valuable,” she says. “As with all mindfulness as soon as you start to get that hormone change from adrenaline to endorphin release then people soften and allow this natural sense of wellbeing that we all have to emerge. By the end everyone is smiling.”

Jane’s Bradfield Woods walks take place on the first Tuesday of the month and at Knettishall Heath on the first Sunday of the month. For more information go to www.light-heart.co.uk or find Jane on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LightheartMeditationSchool.

Tips for taking a dip:

If you want to try forest bathing out for yourself head to your local wood, nature reserve or even park, making sure you leave your phone, camera or any other distractions – along with any goals and expectations – behind so you can be fully present in the moment then:

Allow yourself to wander, slowly and aimlessly, wherever your body wants to take you.

Pause from time to time, looking more closely at a leaf or tree, for instance, or to notice the sensation of the path beneath your feet.

Find a comfortable spot to sit and listen to the sounds around you. Notice how the behavior of the wildlife changes as it becomes used to your presence.

If you’re with others, agree not to talk until the end of the walk, when you could gather to share your experiences.

Cruelty-Free Cosmetics? 5 “MUSTS” Before You Buy

Whether you’re new to the idea of shopping for cruelty-free products, or already a devoted cruelty-free conscious consumer, you need to know what to look for.  You might have noticed, cosmetic companies make a lot of claims about their products. How can you be sure they’re true? To take some of the guesswork out of the of the process I checked out CrueltyFreeKitty.com for tips that everyone should follow – a must-read for any new cruelty-free consumer.  I you are already an experienced cruelty-free shopper, do you follow all of them?

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1. See through the bullshit

If you want to find brands that are truly cruelty-free, you’re going to have to be critical. Never blindly trust a label and never settle for an incomplete cruelty-free claim. If it sounds fishy, it probably is. There are a ton of false “cruelty-free” claims being thrown around. In other words, there’s a lot of bullshit out there, so keep your guard up!

2. Look for the Leaping Bunny

By far the best way to ensure that a brand or product is cruelty-free! The Leaping Bunny has the most strict criteria for companies to adhere to. Read more about it in my Cruelty-Free 101 article Leaping Bunny vs. PETA.

3. Do your homework

Do some online research about the brand or bookmark a trusted list. A simple google search like “Is X cruelty-free?” or “Does X test on animals?” is going to be very helpful. But be wary of conflicting information, which is never a good sign. My own list of popular cruelty-free brands has been thoroughly researched and is updated constantly.

4. E-mail the company

If you can’t find any information about the cruelty-free status of a brand, don’t hesitate to e-mail them. Look for “contact us” on their website; they’ll either provide an e-mail or make you fill out a form. Don’t simply ask them if they’re cruelty-free; be very specific! Ask them if their products or ingredients are tested on animals, if any third party tests on their behalf, and if they sell their products in China outside of Hong Kong. This is also an opportunity to ask for a list of their vegan products.

5. Be wary of new ingredients

New ingredients don’t have a safety proven record and the law requires them to be tested before they can be sold. These tests often involve animals. In fact, one of the biggest reason why animal-testing still exists is because of cosmetics companies trying to come up with “new and improved” miracle ingredients that keep customers interested. Think of brands like L’Oreal, who are notorious for animal-testing: their products are also often full of claims like “Contains the newly-formulated amazing secret ingredient X!!!”. If you see any claims on the label about the product using “new” ingredients, research it before you buy it!

Sustainable and Healthy

Hallie Mazurkiewicz: Lunar Wild

Hallie Mazurkiewicz, founder of Lunar Wild, is blazing the trail in terms of menstruation products—especially with regards to the stigmas surrounding them. Hallie understands that periods are seldom discussed, let alone celebrated—and she’s on a mission to change that for the younger generation.

Hallie and her team at Lunar Wild have created the First Period Gift Box, designed to be healthy, sustainable, and a conversation starter not only for the young girls receiving them, but for the family members, mentors, and friends gifting the boxes as well. Hallie’s mission, and the purpose of her company, is to ensure that young women and girls understand their power and value themselves and their monthly period, even if society consistently encourages them not to. 

Located in East Aurora, New York, Lunar Wild ships all over the United States and internationally, offering Period Gift Boxes featuring organic tampons and pads, literature about womanhood, reusable cloth pads, moon jewelry, and much more. 

Check out Hallie’s Mindful Market shop and help her support the next generation of women!