October 30, 2009
I travel a lot, and always wonder whatâ€™s happening to all those little hotel soaps and miniature bottles of shampoo left in guest rooms. To avoid opening a package that I might use once or twice before I check out, I always bring my own from home in refillable bottlesâ€”but Iâ€™m still close to losing my mind when I think about how many bars of soap are being put out daily in the 4.6 million hotel rooms in the US alone (my brain will explode if I try to calculate the number of rooms in the rest of the world). Thatâ€™s why I was thrilled to hear about the non-profit organization Clean the World, which is collecting gently used soaps and partially used shampoos and body care products, sterilizing them through steam and other processes, and redistributing them in places where theyâ€™re most needed.
At this time, theyâ€™re being collected from 80 participating hotels in Orlando, Fla. To date, Clean the World has distributed 60,000 bars of soap to villages in Haiti, where thousands die annually from diarrhea brought on by poor sanitation practices. The project is the brainchild of Shawn Seipler, who hopes to see the program expand nationally, and grow to benefit others in need. Read about Seiplerâ€™s altruistic efforts here.
October 29, 2009
A lobbying group called Americans Against Food Taxes has been running commercials on major networks featuring a mom who complains that a proposed tax would target snack foods including soda and chips. Reallyâ€”thatâ€™s what sheâ€™s feeding her kids? Not a great example of responsible parenting, at least in my opinion. Every time I catch one of these commercials, I want to ask the people who produced it why on earth theyâ€™re not giving their kids water and organic juices to drink, and organic fruits and veggies to snack on. I think a tax is a great idea, though an even better one would be to stop manufacturing these fake, chemical-laden products to begin with.
Health care is a hot topic, and with good reason. Are we really arguing about whether or not everyone deserves equal access to decent health care? That should include educating people about preventive care. We absolutely could cut our overall national health care costs dramatically if weâ€™d just start taking responsibility for our lifestyle choicesâ€”and that includes the foods we ingest. Strengthening our bodies with exercise, chemical-free foods, and making time for stress reducing activities (take a walk, anyone?) can help protect us against and reduce the risks for all kinds of health issues, whether itâ€™s diabetes, obesity, heart disease, or any of a host of diseasesâ€”and the expenses that go along with treating and managing them. When it comes to building a healthy nation, isnâ€™t it our responsibility to feed our kids healthy diets, and instill healthy, life-affirming habits? Making chips and soda less attractive, even if itâ€™s just by taxing them, seems like an excellent place to start. If you need a resource to help you make healthier food choices, go here.
October 21, 2009
On October 1st, the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain unveiled their latest property in Charlotte. Steps from the cityâ€™s cultural center, the hotel and wellness center were designed with eco-friendly principles, specifically with LEED Gold certification in mind. â€œWe look forward to bringing a new, environmentally-focused wellness experience to Charlotte and its travelers,â€ said David Rothwell, General Manager for The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte. â€œWith our commitment to helping restore personal balance while also protecting nature within the city, we anticipate that The Wellness Center will become an exciting new destination for area visitors.â€
The new 13,000-square-foot Wellness Center features a saline-treated swimming pool and whirlpool. The spa only utilizes 100% organic spa products in all of the treatments. As part of the eco-design the Wellness Center installed high-efficiency Kohler fixtures and utilized low-VOC paints and carpets. And the green topping on the cake? The hotel installed a vegetated rooftoop to help reduce the urban heat island effect.
October 15, 2009
While at ISPA in Austin this year, I spent some time at the Eminence Organics booth, which has always been an informative and enjoyable experience at spa shows in years past. This company has been on the cutting edge of environmentally responsible skin care since the word organic started being correlated with skin care.Â I learned that this company is the first and only certified organic collection with biodynamic ingredients… and they come direct from Hungary! What the heck is biodynamic farming one might ask?!
It’s a farming technique that eliminates using artificial fertilizers and instead nurtures crops with natural medicinal herbs and mineral composts to enhance the soil, infusing the ingredients with natural nutrition instead of harmful chemicals. Further, Eminence Organics uses herbal tea and plant-friendly honey traps as an alternative to those nasty pesticides we are hearing so much about, a pretty clever alternative.Â Adhering to these stringent farming methods has put Eminence at a rating of 95% organic and 88% biodynamic with regards to the ingredients in their new collection.
And their packaging is oh so creative and well done, not only are they close to 100% organic but their branding is fabulous. I plan to order the samples they gave out at ISPA and give to my friends and family for Christmas gifts.Â They have one decorative ornament that when you open it up there are cute little samples of face masks and lotions inside, a perfect gift for the women in my life!
Be on the lookout for Eminence Organics, they are taking the spa world by storm and have done their due diligence to rank high on the non-toxic skin care meter. Thumbs up!
October 13, 2009
Girlfriend getaways for most women are few and far between. It seems life always gets in the way, but one thing science has shown is that our relationships with other women are necessary to keep us healthy, happy, and strong. So, if you don’t have an annual gathering start one now, especially with Devil’s Thumb Ranch’s new BFF getaway package. Nestled in the Rocky Mountains just outside Winter Park, you’ll get to experience “5,000 acres of raw Colorado,” allowing you to leave feeling refreshed and renewed instead of polluted… Although, you might still be exhausted!
As part of the package you can stay in either the lodge or in a cabin (prices vary). You’ll begin your getaway with an afternoon horseback ride, afterward you’ll get to enjoy wine and cheese in the comfort of your suite or cabin. If you’re not oohed and ahhed enough, that’s followed by a 50-minute massage at the Ranch Creek Spa. And, Pilates and yoga classes are complimentary!
I know I don’t get to spend enough time with my closest girlfriends, and I personally know Devil’s Thumb is the place to be when you get the opportunity. Lucky for me,Â I already got to visit Devil’s Thumb Ranch with my best friend this past August. (And, my hubby, two close friends, and daughter to boot!)
October 12, 2009
Iâ€™ve been in beautiful Tennessee for the past week, visiting local farms and restaurants where the farmers and chefs are working synergistically to bring the farm-to-table concept into the mainstream consciousness. In the Chattanooga area, owner Rob Gentry of Blue Plate has created a deliciousâ€”and funâ€”menu developed around locally grown and produced foods, from pork to tomatoes. Gentry told me that customers increasingly ask where the ingredients in their food comes from, and want to know heâ€™s using local, trusted sources. At 212 Market, chef-owner Sally Moses works closely with area farmers to build her constantly evolving menu of imaginative and original dishes. A local legend, this gorgeous cafÃ© has become known as the place to go for the best of the regionâ€™s sustainably produced foods.
Everywhere Iâ€™ve gone, thereâ€™s a tangible effort to help people reconnect with the greater source, and to think beyond the supermarket shelf. Stores like GreenLife Grocery have avoided the corporate shenanigans of some large chains, remaining true to the farmers whose livelihoods depend on the producer-supplier-seller paradigm. The stunning beauty of the surrounding land, the sincere friendliness and kindness of the locals, and the dedication and commitment of so many of the local restaurants have left me deeply impressed. Today, Iâ€™m off to tour a local farmerâ€™s market held in Chattanoogaâ€™s lovely downtown district, which has been literally transformed from an industrial city to a lively, vibrant area known for galleries, shopping, a busy riverfront, and truly local dining. Hatâ€™s off to Tennessee, and to itâ€™s farming families and smart chefs.
October 9, 2009
So, I’m a bit skeptical of the flu vaccine. Maybe it is ignorance, or maybe it is my belief on natural medicine, but at our household we’re going to try and brave out this year’s flu season with natural remedies. My entire family is taking probiotics and of course vitamins; we’ve also added Source Natural’s Wellness Herbal formula (available for kids and adults), which includes such immunity-boosters as ginger root, goldenseal, echinacea, and elderberry.. Add to the mix a healthy serving of orange/yellow veggies and carrot juice, and we’re a shoe-in for a healthy winter, right? Well, as a neurotic mother of a 1 1/2 year old, I’m not quite so sure. And, even with the most frequent handwashing you’ve ever seen, I’m willing to try even more to keep our family free from the flu. So, when I heard about olive leaf complex, which is purported to have double the antioxidant capacity of green tea (in fact, rating higher in antioxidants than goji, acai, mangosteen, or noni), I decided to give it a try.
Olive leaf extract has been used for thousands of years. Both the Egyptian and Mediterannean peoples used it to treat a variety of conditions, and even Hippocrates mentions it in his medical texts. In Barlean Organic‘s formula, which is made in Australia, olive leaves are picked fresh and fresh-pressed to ensure potency. At first, I was a bit intimidated by the bottle. Although it was “peppermint flavored“, I was concerned it would be like chewing gum while swallowing a tablespoon of olive oil. Should I mix it with something, and if so, what? I finally just decided to take a shot. And, it tasted good. Almost like peppermint schnappsâ€”another one of my cold-weather standbys. ($19.95 for 8 oz.; also available at Whole Foods)
October 8, 2009
When I caught a glimpse of the latest offering (designed for stress reduction) at the Mayflower Inn & Spaâ€”the Chocolate, Chuckles, and Chi Workshopâ€”I immediately understood and also wondered: why hasn’t anyone created this paring in the past? Really, what’s butter than chocolate and some laughs with your best friend to boost your mood?
In addition to the chocolate paring, guests are instructed on how to assimilate foods that reduce stress into their diets.
Each Chocolate, Chuckles and Chi session lasts 45 minutes and is offered as a group class on a complimentary basis for guests every Friday at 6 p.m.
The best part about the workshop is that afterward you’ll leave with real skillsâ€”ones that are nearly freeâ€”to help you change your mood in just one bite. Just one suggestion: Maybe it should be the four “Cs”: Cabernet, Chocolate, Chuckles, & Chi. Sounds like my perfect girls getaway…
October 5, 2009
My latest favorite beauty indulgence is the Ayurvedic practice of body oiling. While participating in a Panchakarma detoxification program recently at the ParkschlÃ¶sschen Bad Wildstein retreat in Bad Wildstein, Germany, the resident Vaidya (Ayurvedic healer) suggested that my Vata constitution would benefit from a full body oiling and self-massage each morning.
While he recommended sesame oil, I donâ€™t like the scent. After searching for an acceptable substitute, I happened across a bottle of Rapunzel Organic Sunflower Oil at a local market. I should mention that sunflowers are my all-time favorite flower, and the bottleâ€™s label reveals that the cold pressed, unrefined oil inside was bottled in France. I love the idea of beginning the day by massaging my skin with the oil from sunflowers that were gathered in French fields. Ooo la-la.
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Until a few weeks ago, our house was teeming with work crews from Simple Solar of Boulder, Colo., who were busy installing a rooftop photovoltaic system on our home. The dogs went nuts for hours every day, convinced there were giant woodpeckers on top of the houseâ€”and, it did kind of sound that way, but it was easy to put up with in the interest of going solar.
My husband works for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and weâ€™re both strongly committed to doing what we can to make our stay on this planet as green as weâ€™re personally able to. About a decade ago, we switched our main heat source over to a pellet-burning stove that burns compressed, recycled wood pellets, and weâ€™ve recently added a tankless water heater.
With the addition of the solar panels, we feel even more of a sense of being part of a greater solution, and Iâ€™m enjoying talking to curious neighbors and passers-by who want to know more about our system, and how it will impact our lives and the environment. We were especially lucky to be one of the first homes in the country to secure a networked micro-inverter, which allows us to track our energy production from the solar panels in real time (on a minute-to-minute basis), as well as our carbon offset, by logging on to a personal website. If youâ€™d like to check out our sunlight collection and carbon offset for yourself, see it here.Â Hereâ€™s to clean, abundant energy!