The late Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef and journalist, spent a good part of his career traveling the globe, sharing meals with people from all walks of life. He famously stated, “Food may not be the answer to world peace but it’s a start.” As we wrestle with the social isolation resulting from a global pandemic, and as our society becomes more polarized over economic and political issues, world peace is needed now more than ever. Could food be the answer for a more harmonious society? If yes, where exactly do we start? Perhaps we can begin with how all life starts — with a seed. And maybe that seed should be planted in a community garden.
When I was a child, I thought gardening was an activity for old people who tended plants for leisure. Like most other children raised in an urban environment, I thought food came from the store instead of from mother nature. As a young adult I became more aware of the problems of our current food supply system and the hazards associated with a Standard American Diet. Concerned about my health and the nutritional quality of prepackaged and processed foods, I secured a plot at a nearby allotment garden. Gardening provided me with direct access to inexpensive, local fresh fruits and vegetables. Working in the garden — digging trenches, lifting mulch, bending down to pull weeds, shovelling dirt — also kept me physically active.
At the time I didn’t really think about the other benefits associated with gardening. I now know about the positive effects of spending time outdoors on mental health. People who don’t get outside enough can suffer higher rates of anxiety, depression and stress, while getting outdoors boosts endorphin and dopamine production, which promotes feelings of happiness. There’s also that sense of joy that comes with watching a seed you planted with your own two hands, sprout and grow into a bounty you can turn into a delicious meal. Even a child who typically detests eating vegetables will enjoy the carrot or cucumber that they themselves planted.
Over the years I have worked in different types of gardens — community gardens, allotment gardens, personal gardens; I even helped build a school garden. All of these experiences taught me that the relationships cultivated through food production are perhaps more valuable than anything else. In a community garden, people help one another, such as when they shelter a neighbour’s plot during a hail storm. They share resources like seeds, soil and tools. They learn important skills and tips from one another, increasing the overall yield of the group. People who may come from completely different parts of the world will find familiarity in the peppers or squash growing in a neighbouring plot. Alternatively, an uncommon vegetable sparks curiosity and welcoming inquiry. Community gardening encourages knowledge sharing as well as an appreciation for cultural diversity. Also, the food that we grow is much more likely to be shared with others, promoting generosity and strengthening social bonds. Our connection to the earth and each other is made more tangible when we work side-by-side in the dirt. Growing food helps us recognize our responsibility towards our fellow human beings. It is an essential service, not just because it feeds people, but because it teaches us to be stewards of each other and the land that we all share. The garden is a unifying force in communities, improving everyone’s overall wellbeing.
During this time of physical distancing and political divisions, we can find ways to nurture our society by getting involved with growing food in our neighbourhood. There are many community gardens in Niagara Region that you can volunteer with. Even if you don’t belong to a community garden, you can still find ways to connect with people through food. Invite a friend out for a picnic with something you grew in your own personal garden. Or donate any extras that you produce to Project Share, Community Care or other organizations that aim to help people who are in need.
Connect with Niagara Community Garden Network to get involved with a garden near you!
Photo: Frank from Our Lady of the Scapular Garden in Niagara Falls showing me an edible “weed” that grows abundantly in the area.
Written by: Tamara Cottle
The second principle of yoga practice is ‘Satya’ or truthfulness. (If you missed the intro to the first principle,scroll back to last week’s post on Ahimsa).
The root word ‘Sat’ means something like ‘that which is’. So, practicing Satya means practicing being with things as they are – in your thoughts, words and actions. It also means cultivating the ability to discern between facts, opinions and judgments. It’s about coming out of the shadows of ignorance and living in the light of truth.
Satya goes beyond speaking your own truth. Practicing ‘being with what is’ also means being with OTHER people as THEY are; allowing others to be ‘real’ with you.
Lying alters others’ perception of reality. When we actively try to alter anothers’ perception of reality for our own gain, we deprive them of the facts they need to make good decisions for their own lives (hello, fake news era). And, most importantly, truthfulness is not being delivered in the spirit of yoga if it is not tempered by the principle of ahimsa (non-harming).
When our thoughts/actions/speech are couched in the spirit of truth and kindness we act from the best of ourselves. We create clarity and connection, and we bring out the best in others.
Intention/Affirmation: ‘I communicate with love and clarity’
Off the Mat: Before you speak, ask yourself whether what you’re about to say is 1) True 2) Kind and 3) Useful. (I believe this sage advice comes from yoga teacher, Judith Hanson Lasater)
Mindfulness Meditation: see video below
Posture Practice: Give your body what it’s asking for TODAY, even if that’s different from what you normally do.
Written by: Amanda Tripp
Hey everyone! Welcome back for Part 2 of the blog series where we get to discover, or rather uncover, what scary ingredients are hiding in some of our go-to products. We’re looking into ingredients that are widely used in everything from shampoos, to creams, facemasks, nail polishes, perfumes, laundry detergents… you get the idea.
Last week, we went over the term “fragrance” – what it means and what types of products it can be found in (spoiler alert, it’s in everything!) and what health and environmental impacts it can have. This week, we will be taking a closer look at one of those long scientific-type words that lives on ingredient labels. This ingredient is widely used in shampoo, conditioner, laundry detergent, liquid soap, hair dye, body wash, lotion, mascara, as well as baby shampoo and lotion to name a few. We’ll take a look at what this ingredient is (and how to properly pronounce it!), the health impacts, as well as the associated environmental impacts. So, without further ado, onto the good stuff!
Methylisothiazolinone, also known as MI or MIT, is used as a preservative in personal care products and cosmetics to prevent the growth of different fungi and bacteria. MIT is a potent biocide, which is a broad-spectrum term used to describe various chemical substances with the ability to kill living organisms in a selective way. The term biocide also covers antibiotics, antifungals, antimicrobials, and germicides.
This preservative is commonly found in various moisturizers, shampoos, conditioners, and other personal care products and household cleaners. MIT is also used in industrial settings to slow the formation of mildew, mold, and sap stain in wood products, as well as to control the population of slime-forming organisms in fuel storage containers, water systems in pulp and paper mills, and oil extraction systems. But yes, let’s lather it onto our scalp? I think not.
Methylisothiazolinone falls under a family of isothiazolinone preservatives, which can appear on a product label under many different names. The two most common names that will appear on personal care products are methylisothiazolinone (MI/MIT) and methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI/MCIT). Other common names, more so found in household cleaners are benzisothiazolinone (BIT), chloromethylisothiazolinone (CMIT), and octylisothiazolinone (OIT).
It can be a challenge when attempting to avoid MI in the products we choose to purchase. Although normally listed on its own, MI is one of the many chemicals that can be disguised on a label when in a blend with other permitted chemicals and hidden under the term “fragrance” or “parfum”.
The health impacts of methylisothiazolinone are quite serious; so much so that it was found unsafe for use in cosmetics and therefore banned in Europe. It is a known human immune toxicant, a skin toxicant, and a human sensitizer toxicant. A study was also done on the brain cells of mammals which indicated that MI may be a neurotoxin.
In 2015, a study was done to determine whether or not the current allowed levels of MI in rinse-off cosmetic products were causing allergic contact dermatitis. The study was carried out on thirty-eight individuals, with equal parts of MI-allergic subjects and a control group of non-allergic subjects.
Each subject applied two liquid hand soaps five times per day to an area on each forearm. Ten allergic individuals and the entire control group used one soap containing the allowed concentration of MI in cosmetics, which is 100 ppm (parts per million). Another soap containing 50 ppm MI was used by the other nine allergic subjects. The last soap, used by all subjects as a negative control, was a soap containing 0 ppm MI. The study ran the duration of 21 days, or until a positive reaction occurred.
The study showed that no reaction occurred to the soap without any MI, while all ten allergic individuals had reactions to the 100 ppm MI hand soap. Seven out of the nine subjects also reacted to the 50 ppm MI hand soap, and no reaction was seen among those without allergies. The study concluded with a statement saying, “Rinse-off products preserved with 50 ppm MI or more are not safe for consumers. A “safe level” has yet be identified.
In Australia, MI was reported as an important cause of facial and hand dermatitis in caregivers and children due to the presence in baby wipes and facial wipes. Various patch test studies conducted between 2011 and 2013 showed a significant rise in contact dermatitis from MI; jumping from 3.5% in 2011 to 11.3% in 2013. It was concluded that the continued use of the chemical in baby wipes and facial wipes will lead to increased rates of allergy to these preservatives in adults.
Methylisothiazolinone has many environmental impacts on aquatic life. The chemical is moderately to highly toxic to freshwater, estuarine, and marine organisms. Although these risks are known, it is hard to know exactly how harmful they are to aquatic life forms as no formal assessment has not yet been performed. However, not being able to prove the extent of the damage we know MI is causing does not mean we should continue to use it.
These chemicals can be easy to avoid in products once you know what to look for! There are plenty of resources available for the consumer that can make shopping for new, safe products a breeze and not a daunting task! Stay tuned next week as we look into resources that you can use to help avoid these ingredients, as well as many more!
Written by: Quinn Ponton, Holistic Nutritionist CNP
Questions for Quinn?
Reach her via email at email@example.com
The aim of yoga is to still the busy-ness of our minds – but if your life and relationships are a mess, it’s hard to have a quiet mind. So, yoga starts, not with poses, but by cleaning up your relationship with yourself, with others and with the world around you. Moral and ethical practices are the foundation of Raja yoga (The Royal yoga).
The first principle of practice is ‘Ahimsa’, or non-harming. Beyond just refraining from harming people, you might think of it as a practice of nurturing.
Intention: ‘I nurture myself and others’
Supportive Breath: Dhirga (see video for instruction)
Pose: Try a supported restorative pose, like legs up the wall or savasana. Any practice that you find nurturing is perfect.
Activity: Recognize social distancing as an act of ‘ahimsa’. If you’re working on the frontlines to keep people healthy and fed, that’s ‘ahimsa’. If you’re working from home to keep your family nourished and housed, that’s ahimsa.
Written by: Amanda Tripp
Personal care products: they are everywhere are are used by everyone. These products are in our homes, our yoga totes, and our places of work. With so many products to choose from (especially for the ladies, am I right?) it is very important to know what to look for, or what not to look for, in the products we choose to buy; because what is left out of the product is just as important as what’s in it.
Most personal care products on the market today are made with outdated chemicals that date back generations. Several of these chemicals have been linked to everything from cancer, to fertility problems, asthma, skin conditions and even birth defects but are still being used in products that we use everyday! Scary, right? And these chemicals aren’t always easy to find on the ingredient list. Among that ingredients list are umbrella terms like “fragrances”, and long scientific words that are near impossible to pronounce never mind identify; things like carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and synthetic colours and fragrances are often hiding in plain sight.
The eye-catching and aesthetically pleasing labels on these products do not always tell the whole truth either – something can be beautifully packaged and read phrases like “All Natural”, “Vegan”, “Plant-derived” leading you to believe that the product itself would be entirely safe, and even good for you to use on yourself or your family. But, the catch is that those phrases are not synonymous with safe.
Over the next few weeks, I will be releasing a blog series on a few ingredients that you might find in your own products. This will cover a breakdown of what the ingredient is, as well as the health and environmental impacts it has. My hope is that in doing this, I can educate those who wish to read on what exactly those long scientific words on the labels are, why they should be avoided; enabling everyone to make more informed choices!
If there is an ingredient that you are curious about or would like information on, please email myself at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to answer any questions you might have.
When the term “fragrance” appears on the label of personal care products, it can be hiding a long list of other chemicals that companies are not legally required to disclose. This umbrella term “fragrance” is legally used by companies as a way of “protecting” their unique scent compositions. Although this is indeed hiding specific fragrance formulations, it is causing a serious lack of transparency to consumers by hiding several harmful chemicals in plain sight! In fact, the International Fragrance Association has a list of exactly 3,059 different ingredients that have been listed as part of a fragrance formulation – that’s a long list, right? Of these, many have been reported to contribute to serious health effects ranging from sensitivities, to reproductive toxicity, to cancer.
The term fragrance can be found on the label of many different products. It’s commonly found in everything from shampoos to creams, to makeup, and even feminine hygiene products. This term can also be found on the labels of other products such as home fragrance items like room sprays or oil blends, home cleaning products, laundry and dish washing detergents, air fresheners, deodorizers and many more. Fragrance can also be listed on an ingredient label as one of many guises; perfume, parfum, aroma, and “essential oil blend” (please note, specific essential oils listed as individual ingredients are very different!).
The list of health concerns related to fragrance in products is extensive. Many ingredients that fall under the guise “fragrance” have links to allergies and sensitivities, while others have evidence linking them to effects as serious as cancer. A few ingredients that are able to hide under the term “fragrance” are benzophenone, acetaldehyde, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), chloromethane, and synthetic musks. But, what exactly are those ingredients?
Benzophenone and Butylated hydroxyanisole, which are listed under California’s Proposition 65 as potential human carcinogens, are endocrine disruptors that are also linked to organ system toxicity. Endocrine disruptors are defined as, “chemicals that can interfere with endocrine (or hormone) systems at certain doses. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders!
Acetaldehyde is known to affect the kidneys as well as the nervous, reproductive, and respiratory systems. Due to these affects, it is listed as a possible carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer and is also listed under California’s Proposition 65 as a known carcinogen.
Chloromethane, also called methyl chloride, is also listed under California’s Proposition 65 as a developmental toxicant as well as a male reproductive toxicant. Chloromethane can impact the liver, skin, and kidneys, as well as affect the nervous system. This substance has also been formerly used as a refrigerant, a pesticide, and a fumigant, but use was discontinued due to toxic effects! But yes, let’s keep putting it in our care products… that just doesn’t make sense!
Synthetic Musks (aka tonalide, musk ketone, galaxolide, or musk xylene) are more ingredients that can hide under the term “fragrance”. Synthetic Musks are of great concern, as they are highly bioaccumulative, meaning they absorb into your body at a rate faster than they are being detoxed or excreted, causing them to remain in your body for an extended period of time. Their bioaccumulative nature has led to these substances being detected in human breast milk, body fat, and even the blood in an umbilical cord! Synthetic musks are also known to be endocrine disruptors, as well as potential developmental, reproductive, and organ system toxicants.
Research has shown that fragrances also contain harmful phthalates – a term that is a little more known to consumers now that classifies a group of chemicals with their own health concerns. Phthalates are another endocrine disruptor that have been connected to thyroid abnormalities, hormonal changes, and reproductive system problems in newborn boys.
Phthalates are used to hold consistent scents in personal care products such as scented hair products, perfumes and colognes, deodorants, body washes, and creams among other products. Phthalates are also being used as a plasticizer in food containers, plastic wrap, children’s toys, and various other products.
Since some components of fragrances have the ability to bioaccumulate in humans, such as synthetic musks, they also have the ability to bioaccumulate in the environment. When these chemicals are released into the environment, they do not breakdown. Instead, they make their way into the water system where they attach to the fatty tissues of aquatic lifeforms. Once accumulated in the fatty tissues of aquatic organisms, it does not take these chemicals long to make their way up the rest of the food chain.
Unfortunately, it is not only the aquatic life that is impacted by fragrance, but the water itself is affected. A study was done in 2015 in Venice, Italy, to determine the levels of 17 different fragrance chemicals in the water. Samples were taken from 22 different locations ranging from the center of the canals, to the rural, less populated areas. Traces of all 17 different fragrance chemicals were present in all samples, with samples from the city being 500 times more concentrated than those taken from the less populated areas.
Fragrances are also impacting the air we breathe on a daily basis, both indoor and outdoor. Most fragrances fall under the classification of volatile compounds, called VOCs. VOCs are substances that when released into the air, break down into a new composition, which are often more toxic than the original compound. VOCs are known to cause nose, throat and eye irritation, as well as dizziness and headaches. In higher concentrations, VOCs can also impair vision and memory, and are a potential carcinogen!
Written by: Quinn Ponton, Holistic Nutritionist CNP
Questions for Quinn?
Reach her via email at email@example.com
Next week, I’ll be covering an ingredient called methylisothiazolinone: what is it, and why is it banned from products in other countries? Stay tuned!