Archive for May, 2009

Eating Wild Foods in the City – A Blog Post by Kyra

I like to share inspiring blogs from other people. This one especially caught my eye.

Eating Wild Foods in the City
By Kyra

Sea of Pansys by Julie Gengo

Sea of Pansies by Julie Gengo

Perhaps due to being raised in the country I have a propensity for eating random wild plants. Only when I moved into a urban setting did I begin realizing how fortunate I was to grow up in an environment where I wasn’t taught to be afraid of the living things around me. It was also then that I realized that people were often completely unaware of the amazing resources for free food surrounding them.

One common example I can think of is the dandelion. In the city, Dandelions are usually regarded as annoying weeds that must be exterminated at all costs. However, dandelions have multiple other uses, such as winemaking with the heads and/or roots, tea, and salad greens (the young leaves are extremely tasty, but once they get older they turn very bitter). Along with dandelions, violets, roses, clover and vetch all have edible flowers and can be used fresh in salads or whatever else you like.

Of course it’s important to consider the pollution factor with this. Picking plants to eat from next to a highway, for example, might not be all that advisable. And planting a garden in the city is a bit more complicated what with the need for soil tests etc. But my general feeling is that the amount of chemicals, hormones and radiation that most grocery store food is subjected makes eating it not a lot better than eating wild foods from the city, or food grown in city soils. There was a lot of debate over this in the Permaculture group I’m part of…people seem to feel much less comfortable with toxins they are immediately aware of. So it’s up to you where your comfort zone is.

Something else you might want to take notice of is if your city is actually planting edibles. In a city in Illinois where I was living the local University had hundreds of Aronia bushes growing around their buildings- Aronia happens to make lovely wine! In Montreal where I now live the city has started using chard and dill, among other leafy greens and herbs, in their planters city wide! Keep your eyes open.

A great project could be taking on the creation of a fruit/bush map for your city. This would involve going around and finding all the hidden apple trees and raspberry bushes which have been built around and squashed into alleyways and bike paths that could be a source of free food for you and other animals. You will undoubtedly find a plethora of resources at your fingertips! For some helpful tips and examples of fallen fruit maps, go to Fallen

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Mystical Winter Tale Personifies Nature

Light Boxes - a novel by Shane Jones

Light Boxes - a novel by Shane Jones

Sometimes a novel comes along and it grasps hold of the familiar in a way you’ve never imagined. In his first book, Light Boxes, Shane Jones does exactly that. Light Boxes is a magical journey that personifies nature and the elements. A small town in Vermont is seized by February for over 900 days. The brutal force of February traps, confines and snatches the town’s residents leaving behind a trail of dismay and heartbreak. Perhaps this is a view of what the future holds if we truly don’t respect and support our earth and its elements. While the book is not an environmental commentary, at least I don’t think it is, it does, through its surreal drama, place us in a loop of relentless environmental trauma. In this case the town folk were able to fight back. It wasn’t too late to restore balance.

The way that Light Boxes relates to our very real environmental climate challenges is that is reinforces the notion that if we choose to ban together we can create realistic ways of preventing disaster. The sadness these characters experienced could indeed manifest in our lives if we were hit by serious climate consequences as a result of inaction. The good news is that with logic, intelligence, passion and perseverance, we too can win this fight and restore balance to our planet.

By the way, I loved this tale as the seekers of summer never gave up their battle. The story comes complete with wonderful and exiting adventures and characters that are as unique in their essence as every snowflake that falls from the sky.

Be well, live green and read Light Boxes.

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Sustainable Coffee – A Superior Choice for Java Enthusiasts


Sustainable Coffee – A Superior Choice for Java Enthusiasts
By Julie Gengo

Ah, that aromatic smell of brewing coffee has opened the eyes of many people around the world. Whether that first cup, mid-day brew or after dinner drink, coffee is a staple that in its many forms, flavors and textures has had an impact on the health of its drinkers as well as the well-being of the planet.

The health benefits of consuming coffee have been controversial and perhaps difficult to determine. A recent study conducted by Autonoma University in Madrid highlighted the possibility of reducing the risks of developing heart disease, especially for women, when drinking up to six cups of coffee per day. Coffee also contains large amounts of anti-oxidants, which are known to prevent disease.

Some adverse affects of drinking Jo may include contributions to blocked arteries, adrenal stress and acid and toxic buildup in the liver. Most importantly, coffee should never be used as a consistent supplement for sleep deprivation as lack of sleep is linked to numerous health issues. Insomnia and other sleep disorders can pose a serious hindrance in achieving optimal health.

There may be other hidden concerns of drinking coffee that include the use of vast amounts of pesticides to cultivate large-scale coffee farms. Pesticides are poisons that pose risk to human health and the environment. Other issues include labor abuse/stress and habitat/biodiversity destruction.

With the first known cultivation dating back as far as the ninth century in the highlands of Ethiopia, coffee has since become a very lucrative global commodity. Big corporations have industrialized its production and in turn removed the natural habitat for cultivation and replaced it with large-scale factory coffee farms.

For those java enthusiasts everywhere, you do have a choice; Organic, Fair Trade Certified™, shade-grown coffee does make a difference.

· Organic Coffee: Does not support the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers that pollute our bodies, watersheds, soil and air. Organic coffee is also grown under shade trees, which impact the environment in a positive way.

· Fair Trade Certified™ Coffee: Although all Fair Trade coffee is not certified organic, this practice does require strict environmental stewardship including prohibiting the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the most toxic pesticides. It also sets labor and trade standards that ensures that small-farmers secure a guaranteed price above conventional market rates.

· Shade Grown Coffee: Coffee grown under shade trees help maintain bio-diversity. The trees provide a rich habitat for birds that in turn provide a natural form of pesticide. Many shade birds flock to organic coffee farms, as their tropical habitats have been lost to deforestation. This helps prevent extinction of species. The fallen leaves from the trees also nourish and purify the soil preventing water contamination.

Another wonderful way to support sustainability is to compost your coffee grounds. High in nitrogen content, grounds will break down into nutrient-dense soil that you can use for planting organic foods, flowers and herbs.

So if you must have that cup of brew, make a choice that makes a difference.

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Poetry by Timothy Gager

Check out this poem from my wonderfully talented friend Timothy Gager.

how easy is a spring weekend

by Timothy Gager

Christina Faerch Blu Sky Mile
photo by
Christina Faerch

it is as easy as

the hint of mountain flowers,
the coolness of the streamlined
onslaught of wind
stifled by humidity

free as
the swirling rain,
except now it is us

falling from the sky.

There is fear… endless as
the afterlife where
you now know–
nothing is perfect,
this moment reaches
out and looks at us.

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Your Year of Vibrant Health

This is a story I wrote in January encouraging readers to become proactive and green with their health.

By Julie Gengo, HealthWalk™ Marketing Coordinator

little girl holding small plant

As we move into the New Year, many of us have set certain goals or requirements upon ourselves in the form of resolutions. However, our commitment to our resolutions often fades quickly and we are once again living or finding ourselves in situations that do not suit us. My yoga practice tells me how to plant the seed, root it down and nourish it when I want to accomplish a goal. It is important to uncover the root cause of our choices. Understanding why we make our choices helps us to determine why we haven’t been able to break old patterns.

Why are we really eating that piece of cake before bedtime? What are the feelings associated with this not so healthy choice? If we first tap into the sensation that triggers our initial choice, then we can make conscious decisions that allow us to live up to our highest self.

If you choose yoga as a means to take care of your physical self, it is important to connect to the root feeling which will dictate how you approach your yoga practice on any particular day. When we pinpoint this Bhava or intrinsic nature of the self, we can then allow our practice to unfold in a beneficial way. According to yoga master, Shiva Rea: “Bhava is a deep yogic concept that extends to all of life as the feeling state of being, sometimes translated as mood, that forms the inner soil from which all yoga experience arises”. The first step to creating lasting change is to apply this concept to anything we undertake.

Yoga has taught me some essential lessons about how to live a more integrated wholesome life. The true state of yoga is the balance of self. Balancing ourselves takes into account all aspects of how we flow as humans. One of the most important aspects of self is the health of our outer and inner body.

The Buddha said: “Every human being is the author of his health or disease”. We are given a package to house our souls, investing in our bodies is the best commitment we can make today.

Aliyah Marr, author of Parallel Mind, The Art of Creativity makes a very poignant statement in her book: “If you have a choice of living for twenty to thirty more years in disease, disability or pain, or living those years in health and pleasure, which option would you choose? Would you make the necessary change in your habits to achieve your goal? Change your habits and alter the course of your life.”

For many, creating a path to change habits that may increase the risk of disease is a daunting process. Taking measures to reverse already acquired chronic illness can also lead you in circles, especially if you chose an allopathic path that only addresses the symptoms. At HealthWalk, our holistic approach to achieving wellness goals allows our practitioners to find out what is causing the symptoms by analyzing the root cause. We can also set you on a path of prevention that empowers you to lead a healthy, vibrant life and will save you money in the long run.

It is predicted that healthcare spending in the United States will top $2.8 trillion by 2011 with the cost of prescription drugs reaching all time highs. Statistics are showing that the average American, aged 19 to 64, is now on taking close to 11 prescription drugs, and to get to the average life expectancy age of 72 that number increases to 18 prescription drugs. What is even more shocking is that in 2008, in the first three months of the year, the FDA received nearly 21,000 reports of serious drug reactions, including over 4,800 deaths. Does this sound like a safe and cost effective option to you? Is this really the way you want to live?

In this New Year, instead of making another resolution that will not last, why not make a commitment to a life-altering decision that will create a perfect place of being – a wholesome and healthful lifestyle for the rest of your life? Choose to live mindfully and be proactive about your wellbeing so you can live your life in health and pleasure.

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Trayless Cafeterias – Another Way to Save Energy and Keep the Pounds Off

I’m sharing this story that I found on because it showcases easy ways we can all reduce our energy consumption. Tray manufacturers may not like this concept, but I’m certain that you will.

Almost Half US Colleges Go Trayless. Why? by Kristin Underwood, Sacramento, CA on 05. 4.09 Food & Health (food)



When I started hearing that colleges were going trayless all I could think was, “how is saving plastic by not using a couple of trays going to cut down on the environmental footprint of a campus that is the size of a small town?” Well actually, according to the New York Times, several studies have been done now pointing to rather large savings, and we’re not just talking waistlines. As almost half of the 300 schools with the largest endowments across the US go trayless, we thought we would take another look at this latest method to save some green. So how does not using a tray benefit the environment? Apparently using that tray allows students to stockpile food like they’re in a depression era – the same food that many of the studies found also ends up completely uneaten and in the garbage. If you only have your two hands to hold your dinner, then your eyes are suddenly not bigger than stomach and you mentally weigh getting up repeatedly to get more food with just eating what you have and only going back if you’re actually still hungry. Going trayless also helps save water because as students conserve plates, silverware and cups, it also means extra water isn’t being used to wash all of those items. Some students report that the trayless dining halls make the area feel closer to home and less like an institution. Another benefit – students are less likely to gain the freshman 15 because they don’t have a way to just pile the tray high with food and sweets and breads and cakes and several drinks. Benefits of Colleges Going Trayless Williams College saved 14,000 gallons of water last year by changing one dining hall to a trayless system. They plan to change their other 3 dining halls to trayless due to the successful program. Rochester Institute of Technology noticed a 10% drop in food costs by going trayless, despite rising food prices during the same period. Moravian College (PA) is going completely trayless starting this fall after they had such a successful “Trayless Tuesdays” program. Their studies showed a 25% savings in food waste and as many as 25% of the student body now voluntarily chooses to go trayless every time they eat in the cafeteria. Moravian College has also committed that all financial savings they achieve through the program will be reinvested into the cafeteria and food programs. American University (DC) environmental science students conducted their own research on going trayless and found that there was a 47.1% savings of food waste during the dinner hour and a 30.8% reduction in plates and bowls. Both sectors also had savings during the lunch hour, though the percentages were lower. One casualty of going trayless: the loss of automatic sleds when the first snow of the season hits. As a student on the east coast who had never seen snow before college, and who also remembers vividly clambering for a cafeteria tray for both shield and shovel during the school snowfight, this is a big loss. A big loss indeed. :New York Times:Moravia College :American University More on Colleges Going Green Top 5 Colleges Going Green Focus on Focus Earth: Colleges Making the Green Grade 7 out of 10 College-Bound Students Prefer Green Universities Sororities Can Green Their Lives Through Sharing and Eco-Friendly Group Initiatives

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