Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Meditation 101

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

It’s no secret that meditation is good for the mind, but recent studies are beginning to show the positive biological effects of yoga and meditation as well. In addition to alleviating stress and helping to quell anxiety and depression, Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Denniger has found a physiological component to meditation. “The kinds of things that happen when you meditate do have effects throughout the body, not just the brain,” Denniger said of his study’s findings. With findings like Denniger’s proving time and time again that meditation provides myriad health benefits, the question has become not, ‘should I meditate?’ but, ‘what’s the best way to meditate?’

Spoiler Alert: there isn’t one right way to meditate. Some people like to meditate indoors, others prefer meditating outdoors. Some people find music relaxing, others distracting. While the picture of meditation might look like this:
meditation.png

The truth is there are tons of different ways to meditate. It is much more important to find what works best for you than to partake in the way you think you ‘should’ meditate. The most important aspect of meditation is that you are comfortable, whether that means sitting cross-legged on the floor, lying down, or moving around.

Focused Meditation. No surprise here, this kind of meditation requires you to focus your attention on an object, or “target” which stimulates one of your five senses, sound and smell being most common (incense, the sounds of nature or sound machines, metronomes, and fragrant candles are all excellent choices). The goal is to give yourself permission to let your mind be quiet; not to wander through your thoughts, but to simply be present in the sensations you are experiencing from your chosen object. Focus on your target and clear your mind for just a few minutes, allowing yourself to be present in your experience.

Mindfulness Meditation. Mindfulness meditation is probably the most well-known and popular form of meditation, and for good reason. Mindfulness asks the meditator to be aware and mindful of surroundings, asking us to be present regardless of our surroundings. Accept all the sensations around you, without critiquing or judging what you experience, simply experience who and where you are.

Movement Meditation. This form of meditation is ideal for someone who hates the idea of sitting still for more than a couple of minutes. Movement meditation ranges from yoga, to a serene walk through the woods, to gardening in your backyard, to painting in your living room. Again, the goal is to relax and be mindful of what you’re experiencing; whatever movement meditation you’ve chosen, focus on your breathing and the way your body is participating in the activity. This one more than any other technique is tailor-made to your personal tastes.

Guided Meditation. This is what I like to call an extrovert’s meditation. Guided meditation typically involves some other form of focused, mindfulness, or movement meditation, but is led by another person. This form of meditation often focuses on breathing techniques. Whether you’re meditating with another person or a recorded voice, allowing another person lead you through your meditation is often helpful for beginners.

You don’t have to alter your state of consciousness or leave your body to meditate. The ultimate goal of meditation is to relax and clear your mind, to learn to be present, and to experience your surroundings. Different people achieve these goals in different ways. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new techniques; see which mode of meditation works best for you. Meditation is simple, but it isn’t easy, so don’t get discouraged if you sit down only to find yourself feeling fidgety a few minutes later. Like any other exercise, meditation takes practice and persistence, but the wide array of benefits meditation provides is worth it for your mind and body.

Follow the Frog to Stop Deforestation

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

“You don’t have to go to the ends of the Earth to save the rainforest. Just Follow the Frog!” –Rainforest Alliance.

This past week, the Rainforest Alliance’s “Follow the Frog” campaign promo video went viral on YouTube. Although it was originally published on their YouTube channel in September 2012, it really gained ground this past week with over 3.5 million views.

So, why is this video getting this much traction? Four reasons: it’s brilliant, it’s hilarious, it spreads a positive message, and it calls us to action to stop rainforest destruction. Don’t believe me? TED shared the video on their website, and Nice & Serious, an “ethically driven creative agency”, examined the persuasive qualities of the video.

To backtrack a little bit, the Rainforest Alliance is a nonprofit conservation organization. They work to conserve biodiversity by protecting wildlife, curbing climate change, alleviating poverty, and transforming land-use practices, business practices, and consumer behavior.

“Products bearing the seal originate on—or contain ingredients sourced from—Rainforest Alliance Certified farms or forests,” according to their website. “These farms and forests are managed according to rigorous environmental, social and economic criteria designed to conserve wildlife; safeguard soils and waterways; protect workers, their families and local communities; and increase livelihoods in order to achieve true, long-term sustainability.”

Thus, products bearing the green frog seal are Rainforest Alliance Certified. Such products include coffee, tea, chocolate, fruit, flowers, paper, and even furniture. To find out what products are available near you, check out their product and brand locator.

 

So, how can you “Follow the Frog”?

  1. Watch the video (and share it!)
  2. Take the pledge
  3. Buy products with the frog seal
  4. Participate in Follow the Frog Week (September 15—21, 2014)
  5. Spread the word!

 

This is a guest post by Keen Communications intern Robyn Campbell.

How to Grow a Sustainable Garden w/ Native Plant-life

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

We live in an age when the cultivation of plant-life is at an all-time high. Farming, ranching, and recent trends in urban development are just 3 ways in which humanity has taken charge of how and where plant-life can grow. There are a number of positive consequences to the gardening technologies we’ve developed: more efficient food production, increased green spaces in cities, among others.

By contrast, though, there are just as many drawbacks. One of these is a decrease in the success of native plant life to flourish. Native plant life — as compared to plant life introduced to a region strictly for agricultural or horticultural purposes — takes far fewer resources (like artificial light, water, and fertilizer) to maintain. In fact, once established in the soil, a species that’s native to its environment can almost always survive on the natural elements alone because they are already adapted to those environmental conditions.

Here are just a few steps (provided by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at UT Austin) you can take to encourage natural plant life to grow in your backyard:

Assess the Land You’re Working

 Take note of sun exposure/shade, plants cropping up that you didn’t plant (probably weeds, but could also tip you off to a native species), soil types, and water supply (where water drains, where it pools).

 

Prepare the Soil

Start by eradicating weed populations. Solarization is a preferred method, which involves watering the weedy soil and then covering it with clear plastic (opaque plastic will not work). This produces a high temperature under the plastic, high enough to eradicate the invasive plants and, more importantly, their seeds. The drawback of solarization: it needs a few months to ensure effectiveness. If you have chosen truly native species to plant, no further soil preparation should be required.

Research

What plants are native to your area (LBJWC has a helpful database)? Check your local nurseries for either plants or seeds. The more you request native plant species at your local nursery, the sooner they will catch on and begin carrying more of a native variety. Be sure to investigate what species grow cooperatively, in which are competitive for soil and nutrients. When planting, consider a natural landscape layout (as opposed to rows of plants) to help promote the concept of “natural gardening.” KEEP IN MIND: Even though you’re using native species, it can still take a few years for the garden to establish itself, maintenance free. Keep weeding and watering in order to foster successful growth in your garden. Eventually, the plants will flourish and take care of themselves!

Remember, you don’t need to look far to find gorgeous plant-life. The more we encourage plants native to our neighborhoods, the sooner we will find ourselves surrounding by a natural landscape that is sustainable as well as beautiful.

 

For more on wildflowers, check out these helpful resources from Menasha Ridge Press!

Have you Ever Thought of Recycling your Tissues?

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Tissues are recyclable, although most people discard them in the trash. The question is, can you dispose of a dirty, used tissue? While many people will squirm at this idea, the answer is YES! When you’re sick, I am sure you stock many tissues and go through almost all of them, leading to a lot of wasted compost. Who wants your snotty waste? Many people claim that the high temperatures during the composting process will kill your germs, while others believe they will fight through that tissue and land in your veggie garden. But, isn’t it the same as recycling your soda can full of backwash? As controversy continues, go with what doesn’t make you gag and remember to dispose of your tissues if you don’t want the risk of bacteria floating around your garden.

Check out Mother Nature Network for more on this topic!

To Frack Or Not To Frack

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Many people do not know what hydraulic fracturing is until the sound of drills are puncturing their family’s farmlands. But, to all the fans of Matt Damon, his newest movie Promised Land sheds light on the environmental issue. Hydraulic fracturing, or colloquially known as “fracking” is the process of drilling fluids at high pressure into the ground to fracture shale rocks that will release natural gas. It has proved to be successful in providing economic benefits to participating societies.

However, the risks may outweigh the beneficial recovery of hydrocarbons which are nearly inaccessible without fracking. Workers’ health has proved to be a concern which has caused OSHA and NIOSH to release hazard alerts due to the amount of  respirable crystalline silica (dust) during the fracturing process. Water usage is a main concern due to the high amount each fracturing job needs in order to drill, which on average is 1.8 million gallons of water. There is also a chance of water contamination in towns that are undergoing the process. There have been over 1,000 documented cases of water contamination in areas participating in hydraulic fracturing, which has caused sensory, respiratory, and neurological damage.

The environment is also in harms way. There have  been links of seismic activity relating to hydraulic fracturing such as the 4.0 magnitude earthquake that took place in Youngstown, Ohio (hitting us close to home here in Cincinnati) on New Years Eve in 2011. Also, the process of drilling leaves toxic fluid that is not biodegradable in the ground and the waste fluid evaporates, which releases harmful volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere, leading to contaminated air, acid rain, and ground level ozone.

However, hydraulic fracturing proves to be successful, creating 300,000 barrels of natural gas a day. This leads to a clean and efficient energy source, although it is at the price of health and environmental safety.
Do you think the risks outweigh the benefits?

 

Meals that are easy on your wallet and your environment

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

With today’s economy, many American’s are finding they are pinching pennies. So what could you do to help the environment and save a few bucks? Cut meat out of a few days of your diet! I know it doesn’t sound too appealing for any meat-lovers out there, but meat is one of the more expensive food items in a carnivore’s diet. Since fall is almost upon us, I thought I’d share some links to some fall-like recipes that are flavorful and won’t break the bank.

First, we have a wheat-berry and black bean chili. This hearty, healthy soup costs about $3 per serving to make and will leave you feeling full and satisfied.

I love Mexican food, so this next recipe is a great meatless meal for me! This cheese enchilada with red chile sauce is a spicy yet inexpensive alternative to a more pricey chicken or beef enchilada.

Want pizza but can’t afford to go out for some? Try this spinach and sun dried tomato stuffed pizza instead. It’s sure to satisfy the pizza-lover within!

A FABULOUS website I recently discovered is BUDGET BYTES. Beth provides some actually good food recipes that cost very little money. She also has a really helpful list of items you should keep on hand at all times. Great for a beginner!

EARTH DAY 2011

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

You can get this image on a soft, Earth friendly t-shirt at Park+Vine!

Today is Earth Day!  The one day a year completely dedicated to Mother Earth and devoted ways to keep her safe and clean.  This is the day that people who don’t typically think about things they can be doing to better the environment, DO!
Running around naked like a free bird isn’t the only way to celebrate this glorious day!  I have compiled a small list of things you can do to help save the planet.  These are easy, enjoyable things that take little to no effort and a very small amount of money, if any.

  • First off, here in Cincinnati the weather is miserable, so I won’t feel too bad about being inside on Earth Day.  Today and today only, get yourself to your local movie theatre to see Disney’s African Cats!   Proceeds go towards helping save the Savanna.
  • Visit the Earth Day Network.  They have everything here, from ideas and tips on being green to Earth Day event listings all over the world.  A part of the Earth Day Network, A Billion Acts of Green is another awesome resource!
  • Unplug all of your appliances (besides your fridge) before you leave for the day, everyday!  This helps more than you’d think.
  • If you’re a meat-eater, try cutting meat out of your diet at least partially.  There’s a really neat group called Meatless Mondays and their motto is “one day a week, cut out meat.”  Their website has some great recipe ideas for hearty, healthy, meatless meals.
  • Wherever you are, tons of companies – restaurants, bookstores, retail shops – they’re all having Earth Day specials today.  I just found out that SoHo Sushi here in Cincinnati is giving away a party tray of sushi to the greenest small business in the area, based on votes on their Facebook page.

Today is not the only day we should celebrate our planet, but it is absolutely a great day to start!

Growing Green

Monday, March 28th, 2011

I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all heard the quip “money doesn’t grow on trees.”  Well, now it does.

Envision Solar “has merged high-design architecture with sustainable infrastructure master planning to help corporations, schools, governmental agencies and other entities deploy ‘solar you can see.'”  With their use of attractively designed solar panels, or trees, solar power is becoming more mainstream and more widely accepted as a real alternative power source for the future.  Here’s a little more on what Envision Solar is doing along with some forward-thinking U.S. businesses, including the University of California San Diego, which implemented these solar tree parking infrastructures almost 3 years ago.

Much to my complete, blind-sided surprise, the Cincinnati Zoo has just completed construction on 4 acres of solar trees throughout their many parking lots.  I’m not sure how this news passed me by, since I not only live in Cincinnati and am a solar energy fan, but also an avid fan of the Zoo.  I can’t wait to go check them out!  This will be wonderful advertising and education for solar power since the zoo has well over 1 million visitors each year.  Read more about Cincinnati Zoo’s most recent push to go green here.

Save NPR!

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

I’m not much of a political activist.  I am, however, a dedicated supporter of public radio and television.  In the next couple of days Congress will vote on eliminating all funding for public broadcasting.  I urge you to write, email, or phone your US Senators and Congressmen and voice your opposition.  It will only take you ten minutes, tops.

Contact info for senators can be found at: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

Contact info for representatives can be found at: http://www.contactingthecongress.org/

NPR is the only way I receive my news.  I learn about new (and old) music, movies, and books through NPR.  I pick up tips for gardening/farming at home through special programming on NPR.  I catch a laugh with A Prairie Home Companion and other shows.  Without national, public broadcasting, where would we be?

Do your part and help save our public TV and radio stations!

Pedaling For A Greener Earth

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Have you ever been downtown and needed to get across the river (assuming you’re in Cincinnati) or get across town, but not wanted to take a smog-inducing taxi?  The walk is just long enough to be inconvenient but too short to merit getting into your car and fighting traffic as well as paying to park, yet again.  A new company here in Cincinnati has the answer!  J-Ride Premiere Pedicabs has brought the big city transportation to the Queen City.  Designed to carry 2-3 weary pedestrians looking for a fun and green alternative to cars, taxis, and buses, J-Ride Pedicab drivers will take you where you need to go in Covington, Newport, and Downtown Cincinnati.

Here’s the kicker folks, I just got a part-time job as a J-Roller!  I had my first ride on the bike last night for training.  Now I’ll admit I’m a little out of shape and haven’t been on my own bike in a few months, and boy was I tired last night (and sore today) after 4 hours of pedaling.  Some serious trips to the gym are in order over the next week before I start my first real, working shift.  It IS fun and I have already met a handful of really great people, including the owners Jared and Beatrice.  I’m excited to see where this takes me and how it will all pan out.

I’m gladly sharing my J-Rolling experience with a Keen Communications co-worker, Rachel!  Together we’re doing our part and pedaling for a greener Earth.

Check out J-Ride Premiere Pedicabs on Facebook and Twitter!