Author Archive | Tim Werth

Kombucha: A Health Tonic You Can Make at Home

At this point, most Americans have probably heard of kombucha. The beverage has been getting a lot of press in recent years thanks to its numerous health benefits. For some folks who want to enjoy the drink, however, the cost may not be justifiable. While most bottles go for around $3, some of the fancier varieties can get up to around $5 or even $6.

Fortunately, kombucha is something virtually anyone can make at home. But before we get to kombucha homebrewing, let’s cover some of the basics.

What is kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented tea. It is typically prepared with black or green tea leaves, or with a blend of the two, and a large amount of sugar. Don’t worry, the end product isn’t sugary — the sugar is added to feed a SCOBY, or a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. By the time the batch is finished fermenting, an eight-ounce serving of kombucha will typically have only a few grams of sugar. This is great news for those who are trying to replace sugar-laden energy and sports drinks, which can cause a 1.5% to 3.1% loss of your tooth enamel. By making the switch to kombucha, you can preserve your tooth enamel and keep your oral health in tip-top shape.

Kombucha was reportedly first brewed over 2,000 years ago in China. In the past few years, it has exploded in popularity in the United States, with Nielsen pricing the industry today at roughly half a billion dollars. The effervescent probiotic beverage has enjoyed such broad appeal due to both its taste and health benefits.

What are the health benefits of kombucha?

Drinking kombucha is believed to have a positive effect on digestive health. While there needs to be further study, it is thought that the bacteria present in kombucha serve as probiotics, which can contribute to a healthy microbiome. Of course, kombucha is just one component of a healthy lifestyle. Diet and exercise are key — unfortunately, only one in three children get physical activity every day.

Since it’s a tea, kombucha also contains all the beneficial compounds we associate with unfermented tea. The most notable of these are polyphenols, antioxidants that help combat free radicals in the body.

Does kombucha contain alcohol?

Kombucha contains trace amounts of alcohol. Unless it is specifically labeled as 21+, kombucha has less than 0.5% alcohol by volume. Thanks to tight regulation, any kombucha with an ABV that exceeds 0.5% requires valid identification with purchase. Given that 11% of all alcohol in the United States is consumed by people aged 12 to 20, it is good news that this industry is carefully monitored and regulated.

How do you make kombucha at home?

To make kombucha at home, first brew seven cups of tea. Then mix in half a cup of sugar and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Put in a SCOBY and some starter tea from a past kombucha batch, and wait one to two weeks. Once the batch has fermented, you can either drink it or bottle it in airtight containers for a second fermentation which will add effervescence. This is also the time to add any fruit, juice, or other flavors you want. Give another week for a second fermentation to occur, then enjoy.

Have fun exploring the tasty world of kombucha, and happy brewing!

How You Can Make Your Coffee Use More Sustainable

Coffee is an ancient art. In the 16th century, it was being grown in places like Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey. As far back as the 1600s, iced coffee and cold brew were being made in Japan; by the 1800s, Algeria also produced iced coffee and cold brew. In the 17th century, coffee finally made its way to Europe as well.

These days, coffee is everywhere and comes in many forms. But that is part of the problem. In modern times, we’ve become more aware of the impact of our disposable coffee cups, as well as the impact of certain planting and harvesting techniques for the coffee itself.

For those with an eye for sustainability, here are six tips to help make your morning coffee more environmentally-friendly.

1. Be Picky

Consider shaking up your routine by looking into coffee alternatives. Did you know 35% of people miss discovering a business because they don’t see their sign? It’s sort of the same with coffee. We can miss alternatives or more sustainable options simply because we’re not reading labels carefully.

Next time you are at the grocery store to buy coffee, take an extra minute to read the signs right before you. A lot of producers will include labels that indicate their coffee is produced more sustainably.

Look for indicative phrases like fair trade, rainforest alliance, organic, and bird-friendly. These are all certifications based on different criteria. For example, fair trade coffee tries to ensure growers and producers are treated fairly and helps protect land and waterways near where the coffee is grown. Decide what is important to you and find the labels that match that.

2. Find Local Sources

If you can get your coffee locally, that is always going to be a big step towards sustainability. The more your coffee has to travel to get to you, the more pollution and waste is involved in producing it.

Depending on where you live, you may be able to find local growers, independent farms, and regional roasters who can make you the perfect cup. As a bonus, you’ll be helping out a local small business.

3. Make Your Own At Home

Going out for coffee is always going to produce more waste than brewing at home, even if you’re buying coffee from a small local cafe. Brewing your own coffee at home is one of the best ways to reduce waste and it should save you some money too.

When making your own coffee at home, stay away from disposable, one-time-use cups. Instead, use a fair trade brew that you can scoop out of a bag. Those one-time-use cups are convenient, but incredibly wasteful.

And while you’re making coffee at home, use a mug! Invest in a great coffee mug that you can use every morning. By doing this, you will not only be reducing the waste from the coffee, but also from the disposable cups you tend to get at coffee shops.

4. Compost the Waste

One last tip for brewing at home: Compost. Tea leaves and coffee grounds are excellent compost. Coffee is actually a superb fertilizer because of the nitrogen content.

By composting leaves and grounds, you will keep waste out of landfills. You can even spread used coffee grounds directly on your garden if you don’t have a way to compost.

5. Reuse Your Filter

While you’re making your coffee at home, find ways to minimize your waste. You can not only reuse your mug and avoid single-use cups, but you can also get a reusable filter to cut down on wasteful paper filters.

Those paper filters aren’t just bad because they fill up landfills; they also sometimes contain things like dioxins that can get into watersheds. Reusable filters are much better for the environment.

However, if you do need to use paper filters, search for ones that are “total chlorine-free” or “processed chlorine-free.” This indicates that they won’t be full of dangerous dioxins that can get into water systems.

6. Tell a Friend

You don’t need to do this alone! Get a friend to go with you for your morning coffee run at a local restaurant or cafe. You could even buy mugs, reusable filters, and more sustainable and environmentally-friendly coffee together.

As you continue trying to change your coffee drinking habits, having a friend to commiserate with can be a huge help. Talk about the best brands or cafes you’ve found, what your long-term goals are, and tips you discover along the way. Sharing the experience can make it more like a fun challenge and less like a burden. You could even try some composting tips together.

A Better Routine for Everyone

No matter how you choose to go about having a more sustainable morning routine, even small changes can end up making a big difference. Don’t be afraid to start small before working on larger lifestyle changes to increase your positive impact.

The Top Three Wellness Trends to Kick Off 2020 the Right Way

As 2020 kicks off and we start this new decade many wellness trends have appeared as more people resolve to take care of themselves. These trends show that personal wellness is much more than going for a jog every week or cutting back on the amount of ice cream you eat, which the average American consumes 28.5 times every year. If you’re looking to start this new decade right and focus on your own personal wellness, here are the top three popular trends that you need to be aware of.

Massage and Acupuncture

Firstly, massage and acupuncture are a potentially beneficial combination that everyone should take note of. Stress can build up and take a toll on the body leaving you with pain and tight muscles that make daily activities uncomfortable. Worst of all this stress can also contribute to headaches and poor moods that add to the stress and further perpetuate the cycle! Currently, 14 million Americans are using or have used acupuncture. Here’s how massage and acupuncture can help.

  • Encouraging Healthy Energy Acupuncture has long been used to treat neck and back pain, as well as headaches, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. This is because acupuncture helps promote natural healing which can then improve how the body functions. By stimulating specific places — acupoints — proper energy flow can be encouraged throughout the body which can in turn ease pain and discomfort, and improve sleep and digestive functions. Massage can work in a similar way to stimulate these points and release tension to promote better circulation.
  • Relieving Chronic Pain With six in every 10 Baby Boomers expected to be managing a chronic condition by 2030, solutions such as massage and acupuncture will be more important than ever. While both are great for relieving chronic pain, acupuncture can be used in places where massage would be uncomfortable. That said, massages can be great on their own for relaxing overtaxed and tight muscles. Some studies have even found that massages can help reduce inflammation and boost the overall immune response making your body more effective at keeping itself well.
  • The Sense of Wellness While both have tangible physical benefits that can be felt and experienced, they also can work on a mental level when it comes to soothing stress and making you feel more centered and calm. By encouraging energy flow, acupuncture can encourage feelings of stamina and emotional release making you feel more content and alert. Both of these options can be used as powerful healing methods that, with continued use, can help you feel healthier, calmer, and happier in 2020.

Medical Body Modifications

More specifically one such modification that acts in a way similar to acupuncture: the daith piercing. These piercings have been growing in popularity as an alternative way of mitigating migraines both in frequency and in severity. A daith piercing involves piercing the innermost cartilage of the ear and usually is maintained with the use of a clicker, curved barbell, or captive bead rings.

This type of modification is usually sought out by those who have seen an impact in their migraines with the use of acupuncture and see the daith piercing as a more permanent solution. This is because the piercing itself goes through the place there the acupuncture needle is usually placed. By replicating this with a permanent piercing, the hope is that the benefits of acupuncture treatment can be longer-lasting and more significant. While there haven’t been very many scientific studies on the effects, in a survey released by MigrainePal, 47% of those polled say that they have experienced a lower number of migraines after obtaining a daith piercing, and 50% reported the piercing reducing the severity of migraines when they did occur.

If you’re looking for a way to reduce migraines in 2020 a daith piercing might be for you; however, you could try using acupuncture first to see how the less permanent form of control works for you. That said if you do choose to seek out this type of piercing, know that the healing process can take around 2 – 3 months on average, and taking care of the piecing via regular cleanings is imperative. It’s also recommended that you speak with your piercer to ensure it is fully healed before you switch out the jewelry or stop any aftercare.

The Rise of Sober Culture

Alcohol is often put on a pedestal by many who see it as a way to unwind or let loose; however, a new movement is on the rise, one that aims to put the benefits of sobriety into the limelight. Ruby Warrington, a British writer and founder of Club Soda NYC, an alcohol-free event series, states in her book Sober Curious that reducing alcohol consumption is “the next logical step in the wellness revolution.” While the liver is the second largest organ after the skin, Warrington is on to something when she links lowered alcohol consumption with wellness. Overdrinking is a problem that many Americans face and addiction is something that is easy to fall into. An article released by Medical News Today in 2019 states that consumption of alcohol has risen globally by 70%, a statistic that is too large to ignore. The short-term risks of excessive drinking can include:

  • Injury from falls, burns, drownings, and motor vehicle accidents.
  • Increased violence, suicide, and sexual assault risks.
  • Alcohol poisoning.
  • Increased risky behaviors such as unprotected sex.
  • Increased risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

If those weren’t enough, the long-term effects of excessive alcohol consumption can include:

  • A greater risk of heart disease, liver disease, high blood pressure, and digestive problems.
  • A greater risk of cancer in the throat, mouth, esophagus, breast, and colon.
  • Increased memory and learning problems that can include poor school and work performance and a higher dementia risk.
  • Increased risk of developing anxiety and depression.
  • The potential for family issues, unemployment, and loss of productivity.
  • Increased risk of alcoholism and alcohol dependence which further contributes to the above.

What Ruby Warrington is advocating for is not the abstinence of alcohol forever and always, a glass of wine once and a while with dinner is not frowned upon, it is the dependence on alcohol as a prerequisite for having a good time and being happy. While some of this is ingrained in us by Hollywood culture, the wellness movement now is challenging how we think about drinking.

Consider how much alcohol you consume regularly and see how much you can cut back. If you find that you’re struggling to go without, it could be a sign that you’ve become too dependent. In order to achieve a better sense of wellness in 2020, look seriously into the sober culture and see if it can make a difference in your life.

A New Decade, A New You

With 2020 getting into full swing, these three wellness trends are something to consider if you want to feel better and take better care of yourself as a whole. Used together or separately, you could see benefits from these trends such as a stronger immune system, which can help you recover from a cold more quickly than the average 10 days. Acupuncture and regular massages can help you unwind from the day-to-day and help keep your stress down at a manageable level. Those suffering from migraines could also benefit from acupuncture, and by extension, daith piercings, as a way to manage painful migraines and decrease them in frequency and intensity. Furthermore, cutting back on the amount of alcohol you consume can help you stay focused, take care of your body, and discover that you can, in fact, have a great night out without being under the influence. Each of these steps can contribute to making you a healthier and more wellness conscious individual ready to tackle the new decade without harmful habits.

Why Is Everyone Seeking Out Organic Clothes?

Why Is Everyone Seeking Out Organic Clothes?

We’re all looking for ways to become more natural and organic in our general consumption. Of course, once you factor the costs into your budget, it’s relatively easy to go organic and all-natural in terms of your diet. There are plenty of different organic brands available at the grocery store, as well as stores that only sell organic food products. And there’s a reason why grocery stores have come to offer this type of food so readily. There is a huge demand for organic food, as many consumers have come to realize its benefits.

For one thing, organic products are much healthier for us than non-organic products, as they lack the types of pesticides and growth hormones used to treat the typical types of food products you’ll find in the store. There is also a moral factor that needs to be kept in mind. Organic food, whether it’s made up of meat or vegetables, can be ethically sourced much more easily than non-organic products. This means that the animals involved in the production process were treated humanely and the employees involved in the processing or preparation stage received fair wages worked in fair conditions. Now, it’s one thing to keep these issues in mind when buying your food. Although not all organic food is ethically sourced, you can probably find ethically sourced, organic groceries relatively easily. Organic, ethically sourced clothing can be much more challenging to find.

Many people aren’t even aware that clothing can be organic. In this day and age, many of us buy fast fashion. Not only are fast fashion products made from synthetic materials like plastics that can be harmful to the environment and even our own bodies, but they feed into a system that is detrimental to thousands of people worldwide. With that being said, if you want to make an effort to buy organic clothing from ethical sources, you’ll have to make an effort and a change. With that being said, let’s look into what you should look for and how you can change your shopping habits to buy more organic, ethically sourced clothing.

What Is Organic Clothing?

You’ll have a hard time buying organic clothing if you don’t know what you’re actually looking for. Not all clothing is advertised as organic outright, although many clothing lines do market themselves as “clean” or “green”. Just because a particular apparel line is marketed this way, however, does not mean that it’s truly organic — and not all organic clothing is ethically sourced. Therefore, if you have any questions you should look up the clothing line before you buy, perhaps checking up on it through websites like Trustpilot.

Organic clothing ultimately isn’t very different from organic food. As many clothing textiles are made from agricultural products, organic clothing is made with the assurance that the clothes’ materials will be grown in accordance with organic standards. Organic standards require that the agricultural materials are grown as naturally as possible, with little or no synthetic substances. You can expect the types of textiles used to make organic clothing to include silk, wool, cotton, ramie, or jute. This means that a wide variety of clothing types can be made organically and whether you’re looking for women’s clothes — the number one top-selling item online as of 2017 — or men’s clothes, or even children’s clothes, you can probably find it organically made. With that being said, not all textiles have to be completely organic to be considered a part of organic clothing.

Is Organic Clothing More Expensive?

As with many clean or green products, there is a perception that organic clothing is inherently more expensive than typical clothing. It’s true that the materials used to create organic clothing is often of a higher quality and therefore it costs somewhat more. The point of fast fashion, in contrast, is for it to be made for as little as possible so that it can be sold at a high markup, achieving the maximum profit. Of course, the cost of relying upon clothes that are environmentally unfriendly should be considered.

While organic clothing may be more expensive than clothes sourced through fast fashion, you could consider it an investment in the environment, just as buying organic food is. Of course, clothing is a much longer-term investment than the food and it’s a more long-term investment than fast fashion as well. Organic clothing is, as previously mentioned, made from high-quality materials. Alpaca fibers, for instance, are rather strong and usually measure about 50 N/ktex. This strength means that clothes made from these fibers will typically last longer. For that matter, organic clothing looks no different from many high-end pieces that are not organic. If fast fashion isn’t to your taste and you’re already spending a good amount of money on clothes, why not redirect your buying power to organic clothing?

Where Can I Buy Organic Clothing?

As people become more concerned about being environmentally friendly, more organic clothing lines are coming into play. Shift to Nature, Kowtow, and Beaumont Organic are all organic clothing brands — though not all of them are found in the United States. Fortunately, even if you have to look internationally to find organic clothing, the internet is making them easier than ever to find. In 2017 alone, around 79% of American consumers reported shopping online. And as most new fashion shoppers are in younger age brackets — between 16 to 24 and 25 to 34 — we’ll see all types of clothes online in the future!

There are so many reasons why people are looking for organic clothing — and that’s a good thing. Know it is an option for you if you want it to be!

Eco-Friendly Ways to Keep Household Pests at Bay

If you own a home, you’ve probably invested a lot of time (and money!) to ensure that your prized belongings and loved ones are protected. But no matter how much you paid for your home — even if your Manhattan condo cost $1.9 million, like the average unit in an existing building did during 2017 — there’s no guarantee that your domicile won’t be invaded by unwanted guests. And we’re not talking about distant family members who want a place to crash during the holidays.

No, we’re talking about pests. You may love all creatures great and small, but that doesn’t mean you should allow certain insects or rodents to take permanent refuge in your abode. On the other hand, you may not want to hire an exterminator, either. Although 68% of all pest control service revenue in the U.S. came from residential services in 2015, the majority of pest control companies will use methods that could harm the environment (as well as cause undue harm to the animals in question). So what’s the alternative? If you want to eliminate pests in a way that supports environmental sustainability, there are a few methods to keep in mind.

DIY Repellants

If you’re trying to keep bugs out of your garden or out of the house, there are natural ingredients you can use to achieve your goals. Make a safer pesticide to keep away small insects by combining vegetable oil and a mild soap (or just soap and water in a spray bottle). Garlic and water can be combined to keep away slugs and snails, while a chili pepper spray can deter all kinds of garden pests and predators.

In the home, try making your own ant traps by combining water, sugar, and Borax. Cayenne, citrus oil, mint, cloves, lemon juice, and coffee grounds will also keep ants away. Catnip and boric acid will stop cockroaches in their tracks, as will diatomaceous earth (which will also get rid of fleas, ants, silverfish, ticks, bed bugs, spiders, house flies, and a whole assortment of other bugs). If you’re tired of dealing with mosquitoes, herbs like sage, rosemary, and Thai lemongrass can work wonders, as can Neem oil. For flies, try cloves, eucalyptus, bay leaves, or basil, as well as a DIY flypaper made from syrup, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and craft paper. Dried lemon peels or sachets made from cinnamon sticks, cloves, bay leaves, eucalyptus leaves, lavender, peppercorns, or wormwood will repel moths, while ingredients like citronella oil, peppermint oil, castor oil, or crushed onions will drive rodents away.

Creative Landscaping

In addition to cooking up solutions in your kitchen, you might also want to consider making changes to your landscaping. Not only can landscaping add up as much as 14% to your home’s resale value, but it can also discourage pest activity in certain cases. If you’re worried that your garden could be overtaken by unwelcome creatures, floating row covers can protect your plants from harm. You might also want to invite the presence of other animals — like ladybugs, praying mantises, or nematodes — to ensure your garden thrives. Some plant species can also keep pests away. Marigolds and nasturtiums, for example, can act as natural insect repellants. Daffodils, sweet pea, lavender, grape hyacinth, amaryllis, catnip, wormwood, and mint are just some of the plants that can repel mice and rats.

Keep in mind that large shrubs and thick vegetation provide both food and shelter for pests. Overgrown branches and other plants that are located close to your home can provide a way for pests to get inside. Be sure to keep up with pruning and other forms of landscaping maintenance to minimize opportunities for pests to find their way in. If you use mulch in your landscaping, be sure to start fresh every year; otherwise, this provides a welcome habitat for pests. Remember to remove all standing water to minimize the likelihood of mosquitoes and other creatures hanging around.

Regular Cleaning

Another good way to discourage pests is to make thorough house cleaning part of your regular routine. Vacuuming, decluttering, and washing linens at higher temperatures can be highly effective. Even mattresses and pillows should be vacuumed regularly. Steam cleaning can act as a safe alternative that will get rid of bugs without exposing your family to harsh (and potentially toxic) cleaning agents. Frequent cleaning and tidying up will minimize how much food pests can find to live off of and can allow you to zero in on vulnerabilities in your home to ensure pests never come in.

Even if you’re eco-conscious, no one should have to deal with the potential health risks posed by certain pests. And while almost 90% of us will be faced with our own body issues, all of us will be faced with how to go about pest control in an eco-friendly way. With these tips in mind, you can alleviate the need for conventional and harmful pest control and use tried-and-true methods that will protect both your loved ones and the environment.