Monday, August 9, 2010
GOING GREEN ~ AT-HOME ECO-CENTRICITIES ~ PART I
An extension of spa is the relevancy of wellness for self. It is no different than being environmentally conscious, because doing so fosters involvement of self for the well being of the planet. Each of us is taking on their own personal agenda to accomplish ways of being green, eco-centric, or organic. Some of this is motivated by family and our circle of friends and colleagues, or health concerns, or motivated by enlightenment through the cycle of learning and information. I recently had the pleasure of attending and spending some time at this year’s annual Home + Housewares 2010 Show (http://www.housewares.org) and National Restaurant Association Show (http://www.restaurant.org), both held at Chicago’s McCormick Place.
These trade-only mega-shows continue to be the pre-eminent shows for their respective industry. Each show attracted tens of thousands (60,000+) of attendees from across the globe, and had thousands of exhibitors (1,000-2,000) featuring the latest in industry advancements. The multi-day events were also jam-packed with educational workshops and hands-on demonstrations.
Each show also had dominant exhibition space, in the form of unique pavilions dedicated to organic, green, and sustainability. Even cooking pavilions showcased celebrity chefs whose mantras were and have always been fresh, local, organic and sustainable; many of the chefs have lived these approaches for years, and weren’t just jumping on the bandwagon because of trending or to further careers.
Each year, these two shows continue expanding their eco-friendly offerings as these categories are no longer considered a part of a niche market, but rather continue gaining momentum and going mainstream through consumer awareness and demand. The shows weren’t just about things to help make one’s home life greener, it was also about food and how the manufacturers were advancing their technologies to keep pace with the growing interest and needs of the health-savvy consumer. Consumer demand was definitely leading and even shaping many of the companies and how they were keeping pace with the growing demand levels.
There is little doubt that adopting a greener, more eco-friendly approach to living, contributes to improving the planet. The same can be said about food as it relates to health and eco-sustainability. I like taking the approach of finding solace in personal commitments to those, including myself, in trying to achieve these goals and even attempting to incrementally change things on a personal level, rather than being humiliated by the “eco-zealots” who run their lives as a clique, sanctimoniously judging others as less viable just because they’re not lock-step with doing everything that the clique deems worthy of accomplishing their biased means to their equally biased ends of eco-living. I prefer celebrating anyone who at least tries and not admonishing or even ridiculing others who don’t, something the zealots fail to grasp.
In reality, the majority of people I know are very committed to making changes in their lifestyles that are eco-friendly, but their reality is that it isn’t always financially feasible. The depressed economy has certainly contributed to a very cautious approach by many individuals who are grappling with the reality of reduced expendable income for higher-priced commodities, even if they were once in a position to spend on these types of items. Instead, they’re having to concentrate on bread and butter issues, such as putting food on their table for their families, or paying down unnecessary debt, which they probably never should have had in the first place, because maybe they’ve lost their jobs, or have lost a second income in what once was a two-income household, or any number of other reasons. In today’s economic challenges, consumers are hard-pressed in making some decisions that may be more enlightened by “some”, versus making decisions that are reality-based for their unique experience.
These individuals do in fact recognize the long-term health benefits of eating organically, for example, but are hard-pressed to have their entire grocery cart filled with the higher-priced goods sold in mass market grocery chains, which carry many organic products; and, it’s even less likely they’ll shop at cache stores like Whole Foods/Wild Oats and even Trader Joe’s, which many of these individuals categorize as elitist and snobbish. Feeding a growing family is easier to handle shopping at retail grocery chains (e.g. Safeway, Albertsons, Wynn Dixie or Kroger, or even discount stores like Centrella, IGA, Aldi, or Shop & Save).
Add to this, the growing phenomenon of the unemployed or underemployed having to rely on food pantries, where healthy food options, including fresh produce isn’t available; natural and organic food items are also a rarity. Yes, we all want to live better through healthier food choices, while also achieving making conscious choices that are good for self, family and planet. Given the protracted economic downturn, that isn’t always a reality. Still, some do make humble efforts to at least try to achieve this lofty goal. Besides, it’s better to at least try, than not to try at all.
That said, following are a few highlights of products that adapt well to the at-home spa concept of wellness, consciousness, and eco-centric. While these aren’t totally indicative of the wealth of household and foodstuff related commodities, consider that ten years ago there wouldn’t have been that many choices and what little there was, wasn’t necessarily the best tasting, or best quality. Technologies have changed, changing for the better with manufacturers, growers and suppliers listening to the consumer wanting more and better quality. So, keep talking and please give honest and non-sanctimonious input.
~ COOKING PREP ~
Proteak (http://www.proteak.com/) ~ Culled from renewable and sustainable hardwood teak forests in Mexico’s Pacific Coast on reclaimed ranch lands, the forests 8,000 acres of land is comparable in soil and the area’s precipitation to that of the traditional teak forests of Southeast Asia. The ideal climate results in over three million trees growing in this fertile natural forest. Because of these ideal growing conditions, Proteak is also able to cultivate its trees without irrigation or fertilizer. It’s truly a natural growing method and the ecological measures taken by Proteak have earned them the prestigious Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for organic timber. Proteak also has 2,000 acres of “virgin” tropical forest contingent to its forest; the company diligently maintains an ecological stewardship by protecting this additional land from deterioration or destruction; the entire eco-system is preserved and allowed to exist as nature intended. Growing these prized trees in this area eliminates the need for transoceanic transference of product to North America, which is costly, disruptive to the environment, and increases freight emissions during the transportation. And, because of the extent of acreage and planted trees, these forests are able to capture CO2 emissions, which is comparable to twenty million cars. In addition to renewing the agriculture of the area with these renewable and sustainable teak forests, Proteak also offers its workers fair wages with benefits, a rarity in this part of the world. Their replantation program further safeguards the loss of this precious natural commodity from its forests with a strategic harvesting and planting cycle that replaces with new seedlings whatever is harvested. At this point, I’m hesitatingly getting used to using one of the Cutting Boards. I say “hesitatingly” because in all honesty, it’s such a beautiful natural piece of functional art, that I’m tempted to display it, rather than use it. The beauty of these products is that depending on whether the cut of the timber is an end grain or edge grain, a natural pattern results and each one is more unique and exquisite than the next, with no two of equal cut being identical. These Cutting Boards are functional art at its best. Proteak also makes residential flooring and decking, as well as boat decking.
Starfrit (http://www.starfrit.com/) ~ This company makes some of the most inventive and practical products that are also energy-saving. I tried the MightiCan manual can opener; removes lids from the outer rim, leaving a smooth to the touch edge; a definite energy saver; when the power goes out and you want a can of beans, no worry; my older can opener model leaves sharp edges on the inside of the can or doesn’t remove the lid in a straight-through clean movement, like the one from Starfrit. I also tried the Light Cast Iron Fry Pan. Accomplished cooks know that cast iron is one of the more stable materials for heat retention and even distribution of heat; it’s also an exceptionally durable material and reduces the waste of replacement. Cast iron’s “turn-off” has always been that it’s heavy, but Starfrit found a way to maintain all the pluses in the material by reducing the overall weight by fifty-percent, and without sacrificing any of the performance aspects and practicality.
Fresh Mill (http://freshmill.com/) ~ This clever device allows for fresh picked herbs to be packed in the all-in-one compartment, then frozen and whenever the mood strikes for fresh minced herbs, all you have to do is turn the “mill” and the super-fine blades delicately shave fresh minced herbs into your finest dishes. I was mesmerized with the show demo of this clever kitchen aid. They tasted was as if they were just snipped from the garden.
~ COMESTIBLES & BEYOND ~
“The Boreal Gourmet” by Michele Genest (http://www.borealgourmet.com/about-michele/) ~ Culling from the best of the Yukon’s Boreal Forest, where hardy folks have lived off the land for hundreds of years, Chef Michele Genest has written a how-to in sustainability and organic cooking, reminiscent of the bounty and beauty this rich region has in foods and food types. The book also has narrative sections that explain what it’s like in this challenging and awe-inspiring land. A must for the rugged survivor in us all that longs for indigenous and hardy survival comfort foods, updated with a twist on the made organic, healthy and whole.
“The Healthy Kitchen” by Andrew Weil, M.D. and Rosie Daley (http://www.drweil.com/) ~ This iconic individual inspires all to journey towards health and well being in whatever one endeavors, including and especially with healthy eating. This cookbook is a must for those avidly following this wellness guru. The cookbook is loaded with delicious, easy to prepare healthy recipes that will make eating healthier effortless, while also providing helpful tips and guides to achieving this end. This is a must-companion book to the series of others authored by Dr. Andrew Weil.
“Cooking from The Hip” by Cat Cora with Ann Krueger Spivack (http://www.catcoracooks.com/) ~ This Iron Chef and Master Chef Fresh knows how to take the drudgery and necessity out of planning everyday meals for self and family. With helpful guides, tips and easy to follow directions, this latest of her offerings emphasizes that fresh and local relies on uncomplicated recipes that are fast, simple and outstanding. Inventive flavor combinations using tried and true ingredients that punch-up and make stellar the end result. Her culinary wizardry is culled from her Mediterranean and Greek heritage and combined with global-food ingredients. Her high energy and passion to food is inspiring and infectious and this offering reflects that and more, like how small the world of food really is. Elevates food and cooking to an art.
“The Olives Dessert Table” by Todd English, Paige Retus, and Sally Sampson (http://www.toddenglish.com/) ~ A must-companion to Master Chef Todd English’s “The Olives Table” Creative cuisine that uses only the best from nature, influenced with his Mediterranean and Italian heritage. Recipes use a short list of readily available fresh and local ingredients. Guides and simply stated recipes using basic pantry ingredients render dishes that can standalone with the simplicity of tea, or as an accompaniment to dinner with the simplicity of tea. Also elevates food and cooking to an art.
Teas of Mention ~ I’m grouping a number of tea brands that fall into the broad category of organic, eco-conscious, fair trade and sustainable. These brands are all worthy of taste patronage and whether their white, green, black/fermented or herbal/tisane, I found all of them very enjoyable (n.b. I wasn't able to taste the Davidson or Rishi teas).
•Republic of Tea (http://www.republicoftea.com/)
•Novus Tea (http://www.novustea.com/)
•Tea Forté (http://www.teaforte.com/)
•Numi Tea (http://www.numitea.com/)
•Primula Tea (http://www.primulatea.com/)
•Mighty Leaf Tea (http://www.mightyleaf.com/)
•Davidson’s Tea (http://davidsonstea.com/)
•Rishi Tea (http://www.rishi-tea.com/)
Sen Cha Naturals (http://www.senchanaturals.com/) ~ I loved the Green Tea Mints, which include organic green tea, lemongrass, citrus and fresh ginger; very refreshing and addictive. Besides the Lively Lemongrass, other flavors include Original, Delicate Pear, and Morning Lychee. The health benefits of high antioxidant green tea are well documented. These Mints use Fair Trade Certified Organic Green Tea. Also available, but not tried, are Green Tea Bars, in the same flavors. The Bars are loaded with organic ingredients like roasted soybeans, pumpkin seeds, and black sesame seeds. The Bars use Fair Trade Certified Organic Green Tea, are vegan, gluten and wheat-free and also Kosher Certified.
~ SPARKLING CLEAN ~
Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Home (http://www.mrsmeyers.com/) ~ This company offers a full-range of environmentally friendly cleansing products that use essential oils, are phosphate-free and biodegradable. I tried the Liquid Dish Soap in Basil and Lavender. This product makes doing dishes by hand (look mom, no dishwasher!) less of a chore; great aromas to help the mind wander while cleaning those dirties.
EuroSpa Naturals (http://www.eurospanaturals.com/) ~ Garnering the EPA’s nod with its “Design for the Environment Program”, these liquid Hand Soaps are non-toxic, biodegradable, paraben and phalate-free and delicately scented with nature’s best; available unscented, and also lavender, vanilla, grapefruit, and orange blossom.
Fresh Wave (http://www.fresh-wave.com/) ~ Whether pet or human generated odors, these products safely get rid of those nasty odors naturally and chemical-free. Skip toxic chemical-based products, and try one of Fresh Wave’s products that neutralize odors with natural ingredients like soya and extracts of lime, pine needle, anise seed, clove and cedarwood. I tried the natural aerosol Spray, Crystal Gel, and Soy Candle; each produced favorable results in neutralizing odor residues from cooking and other unpleasant “stuff”.
Method Home (http://www.methodhome.com/) ~ Gentle but effective non-toxic cleaning products made from naturally derived surfactants and biodegradable ingredients like soy, coconut and palm oils; pleasant aromas are derived from herbs, fruits or flowers. Product range covers home, laundry and personal care. With fragrances like French lavender, cucumber, grapefruit, sea minerals, peach and green apple, the drudgery of cleaning will elevate you to a better place.
Wine Off & Coffee Off (http://www.urineoff.com/) ~ These two new “eco-kleen” products extend the product range of the original household product, Urine Off. These latest products are definite must-haves in the green household. Formulations utilize “friendly” bacteria and natural enzymes versus harmful and toxic ingredients like chlorine and other bleaching agents to eliminate these stubborn stains, which often permanently ruin fabric. An eco-product that neutralizes stains gently and effectively with very-pleasant aromas. The manufacturing facility is also eco-conscious, using recycled water throughout and benefiting from natural light via skylights, thus cutting down on the use of powered electricity. Bio-Pro Research LLC has developed these wonderful products. In addition to their home line of eco-products, they also offer industrial eco-conscious products.
Many of you who continue reading my article posts are already familiar with my reviewing a wide variety of natural, green and organic spa-based products, including edibles and related. In the future, I’ll be bringing you more articles of this nature, since the aspect of spa and wellness are intrinsically linked to eco-consciousness. Wellness is the self and beyond, embodying all that we seek to accomplish in our lives in the hopes of making the planet a better place through our efforts. At least trying to achieve this goal is more meaningful than doing nothing, remaining idle, or immobile. It’s the little steps that add up and make a difference. Keep on trying. Keep on moving. We’re all in this together. Lastly, you can read more about the efforts these associations and companies are making in reducing their carbon foot print, recycling, outreach, fair trade, sustainability and being eco-conscious, by visiting their websites.
By Terry Herman
Terry Herman is a recognized expert in the spa industry, and regularly covers issues that include business, management, operations, customer care, treatments, products, and trends. In addition to writing and reviewing, she is also a management consultant and motivational speaker. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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(Photo courtesy of Proteak and Primula Tea)