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4 Benefits of Having Pets

In the United States, more than 50 percent of households own a pet and consider it to be part of the family. Dogs and cats are the most common companion animals, but some keep birds, horses and other animals for the same purpose. Research suggests that pet owners experience fewer illnesses, improved recovery time following injury or surgery, and are often happier. Although it’s true that pets are great company and ensure feelings of loneliness are few and far between, these furry friends are likely providing more than anyone realizes.

cat and dog playing
Photo by Adobe Stock/vvvita.

Promote Heart Health

Studies of the human-animal bond are fairly new, but the National Institutes of Health reported that pet owners were more likely to have lower heart rates and levels of stress than those without pets. More specifically, dog owners who had experienced a heart attack were more likely to live through the following year than those who didn’t own a dog.

Aid in Child Development

Aside from physical health benefits, other research suggests that pets can play a crucial role during childhood. Many children report talking to their pets before anyone else when they’re upset or scared. James Griffin, an expert in child development and behavior, says that this shows the value of pets as sources of “comfort and developing empathy.” For children with autism, pets can be especially helpful for working on their ability to interact with family members and other kids.

Boost Immunity & Fight Allergies

It may sound contradictory, but children raised in a home with pets are less prone to common allergies, such as ragweed and pet allergies. Researchers have found that growing up with animals allows the immune system to build a tolerance to specific allergens and bacteria.

Reduce Stress

Pets are cute, cuddly and soft, all of which allow them to help their owners manage stress. When your dog or cat does that silly thing that always makes you laugh, you’re reducing stress. Petting and grooming companion animals is relaxing, for both the animal and human, and lowers heart rate.

In a study from Miami University and Saint Louis University, psychologists found that pet owners also had higher self-esteem as well as fewer feelings of fear, loneliness and depression which resulted in reduced feelings related to stress.

Caring for an animal is a big responsibility, but it can also add a sense of purpose to daily life which may increase lifespan. If you’ve been debating whether or not to get a pet, consider the positive benefits it can bring and then go find newest, cuddliest addition to your family.

The Sandpearl Resort: Earth Conscious Luxury

Resort

Photo courtesy The Sandpearl Resort

The Sandpearl Resort resides on the sandy white beaches of Clearwater Beach, Florida; a semi-detached island off the gulf coast. You may know Clearwater for its celebrity residents like Hulk Hogan and the creators of Crayola, but the Sandpearl is also a growing icon of the area.

When pulling up to the towering, luxury hotel, it hardly seems that the AAA four diamond resort is a leader in green lodging and conservancy. The building met all requirements to become a LEED certified resort with its energy efficient construction and systems.

The conserving plumbing systems cut water consumption by 2.2 million gallons every year. Traditional Freon cooling systems are bypassed and a water based system is used to efficiently cool air while using only 70% of the energy the typical air conditioner requires.

Keeping Guests Healthy

The materials chosen to build the resort are low in contaminants and particles that could harm the human body. An air filtering system further purifies the air for clean breathing.

Below a grand back entrance with cascading waterfall resides the beach entry pool, surrounded by palm trees, a bar/restaurant and breathtaking emerald water views. A naturally occurring oxygen product, ozone, is used to cleanse the pool, rather than toxic chlorine that damages our skin, body and swimsuit. In the winter, the water is heated through an all-natural, geothermal, heating system.

Food

Carretta on the Gulf is the main dining area, located off the formal lobby will seashell chandeliers. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are offered in a fine dining atmosphere, overlooking the gulf. The menus are centered around organic or natural choices. For breakfast, a la carte pancakes, French toast, eggs, smoked salmon and fruit plates are available, or you can go with the extensive buffet complete with omelet bar, waffles, cheeses and any other breakfast item you can think of.

Exterior

Photo courtesy The Sandpearl Resort

Tate Island Grill is the casual restaurant located beside the pool and serves cafe style seafood. It's a simple choice if you don't want to change out of your swim suit, and with all of the complimentary activities the Sandpearl offers, from volley ball, corn hole to boogie boarding, you probably will want to hang by the water all day. The Cajun Salmon Salad is Greek inspired with kalamata olives, feta cheese, peppers and crisp, dark green lettuce. If you’re wanting authentic beach fare, the Crab Cake Sandwich with House Made Potato Chips is loaded with real crab and delicious sauce with a soft, light bun.

If you are looking to dine out, the Thirsty Marlin is short drive from Clearwater, in Palm Harbor. Being a family friendly, relaxed restaurant with outdoor dining area, it’s a favorite for us. Ingredients are high quality and fresh with the use of many vegetables and herbs. Fish choices, like crab topped grouper and salmon are served with healthful sides such as beans and rice and fresh salads. If you are looking to get a little crazy, the corn on the cob is lightly fried and absolutely fantastic. Thirsty Marlin's special sauces compliment their cracked conch appetizer well, or for a healthier starter, the sushi menu is a mile long.

Activities

Spa

Photo courtesy The Sandpearl Resort

If lounging by some of the most beautiful waters in the United States isn't enough, the Sandpearl's Spa offers natural and organic skin treatments for a day of eco-friendly relaxation. The entire spa area is equipped with water features, calming rooms and the same environmental standards as the rest of the resort.

Tours are offered by the Sandpearl of the surrounding Eco system. For adults and children, the enrichment programs teach the importance of protecting the earth. Kayaking and night tours are fun, unique ways to learn about sea life.

Organic cooking classes are offered; you can assist in cooking a gourmet meal under the instruction of Carretta's accomplished chef. Don't worry, you definitely will get to eat it!

A Cozy Night Environment

When night rolls in, you won't find a drunken party going on by the pool; things wind down, the fire pit lights up and families gather for smores. Everything becomes very peaceful, and room service will deliver healthy snacks to your room for enjoyment on the balcony. The Sandpearl provides a truly magical experience for adults and kids alike. Knowing that you are contributing to preserving the environment while on vacation is a pretty great feeling.


Karyn WoffordKaryn Wofford is a type 1 diabetic, EMT and Certified Wellness Specialist. For years she has educated herself on wellness and natural, wholesome living. Karyn’s goal is to help people be the healthiest they can be while living fun, happy lives.


Sustainable Travel: Jackson Hole, Wyoming


Photo by Chris Figenshaw

Jackson Hole, Wyoming is known for its lavish ski resorts, western flare and tons of snow. But this little town is defying the stereotypes that come along with being a tourist hot spot. Locals work tirelessly to keep their business’ environmental footprint tiny, preserving the area’s natural beauty and resources.

Recycling

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, or JHMR, recycled over 120 tons of garbage in 2015. The resort recycles fluorescent bulbs, computers, and paper, while purchasing products that are least 15% recycled. JHMR buildings feature water bottle fill stations, which has reduced yearly plastic waste by 2.5 tons a year.

Energy Conservation

JHMR, the area’s largest energy consuming attraction, has been converting to renewable energy sources since 2007. “This will save up to 4,384,760 lbs. of CO2 each year. The renewable energy product purchased from Renewable Choice Energy, is made up of a combination of Wind, Biomass, Small Hydro and Geothermal energy.” Biodiesel fuel and energy efficient snowmobiles are used as well.


Photo by Karyn Wofford

Local Food

Jackson Hole restaurants have largely local menus, sourcing much of their meat and produce from farms in the area. JHMR donated $25,000 to the innovative 13,500 square foot greenhouse, Vertical Harvest, in downtown Jackson Hole. The greenhouse uses 90% less water than traditional farming, and only competes with large distributors, not local farmers.

Q Roadhouse and Brewing’s menu is built around local produce, such as the Local Greens Salad served with huidekoper shoots, blood orange segments, pears, hazelnuts and an incredible buttermilk-maple vinaigrette. House made beer, along with a vast selection of local brews from other companies are part of the allure. Chef Matty Melehes works to create innovative dishes that are sourced from the Jackson Hole area. The Handle Bar’s Winter Burrata Salad with Vertical Harvest greens, their cocktails with locally sourced ingredients and “at your table” s ‘mores with homemade marshmallows further epitomize the commitment to local food that helps make Jackson Hole the ultimate eco-tourism destination.

The Alpine House, a Sustainable Travel International Eco-Certified lodge in downtown Jackson, locally sources ingredients for their outstanding, well-known breakfasts, which are included with your stay. Seasonal, organic food along with vegetables from their onsite garden are a part of the Alpine House experience. Homemade granola and wild blueberry French toast can be enjoyed, as well as craft beer and organic wine in the lodge’s Viking Bar. The cozy lodge also uses wind power to offset 100% of its electrical use, making it green as well as homey.


Photo by Josh Metten, EcoTour Adventures

Conservation

The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance protects wildlife and landscape through empowering the community to leave the earth better than they found it. It’s an educational effort that the entire community seems to comply with.

The National Elk Refuge, a part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, was established in the early 1900’s after development of the area began to threaten elk. The refuge offers safe-haven and habitat for migrating elk in the winter, a difficult time for survival. In 1970’s the refuge began offering educational, horse drawn sleigh rides through the massive herds in the valley of the Tetons. Elk cannot detect humans in the sleighs, so therefore they are not disturbed, preventing unnecessary use of precious winter fat reserves.

EcoTour Adventures takes guests into the wilderness of the Tetons by bio-diesel vehicles that provide a window seat to every guest, in addition to roof top hatches for safe, yet spectacular viewing. Tour guides, like Josh Metten and founder Taylor Phillips have extensive education and talk about everything from the bald eagles, elk, wolves and antelope you may see, to current environmental issues. Local snacks and coffee served during the excursion are the icing on the cake.


Photo by Josh Metten, EcoTour Adventures

Giving Back

Snow King Mountain, another ski spot in Jackson hole, is a partner of the Doug Coombs Foundation. The foundation enables kids, who normally couldn’t afford the expensive activity, to join in on the fun. This creates a ripple effect in the lives of these kids, opening doors for a brighter future. In summer months, soccer, hiking and other outdoor activities are made available.

Snow King Mountain sits adjacent to JHMR and offers reasonably priced fun for those of us who never planted a money tree. The Cowboy Coaster is a gravity driven coaster that zips you down a mile-long track, making it one of the coolest ways to experience the Tetons year-round. Snow tubing is another unique Snow King activity that engages a wider range of people, especially those who may not want to ski. Snow King is much closer to the downtown area than JHMR, and can be accessed by a complimentary bike from The Alpine House.


Karyn WoffordKaryn Wofford is a type 1 diabetic, EMT and Certified Wellness Specialist. For years she has educated herself on wellness and natural, wholesome living. Karyn’s goal is to help people be the healthiest they can be while living fun, happy lives.

The Empowerment Plan: Changing Lives with a coat


Photo by Brian Kelly

The Empowerment Plan is a nonprofit organization in Detroit, Michigan founded by a student who was inspired through a school project.

Specially designed coats that convert into sleeping bags are created for the homeless. In warmer months, the waterproof, hybrid garment can be used as an over the shoulder bag. Cordura fabric is created by donated insulation from places like GM motors, giving the coat tremendous warmth that saves lives on the frigid streets of Detroit, and the 40 other states and 7 Canadian providences the non-profit has been able to reach. Since 2011, over 15,000 coats have been distributed.

But the concept digs far deeper than simply distributing coats. Those who hand make EMPWR coats were once dwelling on the streets and in the shelters of Detroit, struggling to care for themselves and their children. The Empowerment Plan has worked alongside the The Coalition on Temporary Shelter to hire its 39 employees, who now have a home to call their own. Humble Design, another Detroit-based non-profit, sponsors employees by providing the things they need for their new space. Other organizations and companies work to bring education, childcare and many other vital resources to workers, helping to brighten and secure their future.

Jessica West, a young mother, found herself homeless and out of options after an unexpected pregnancy. This beautiful young woman moved her family to Detroit, where she, her partner, and children all slept in the car. After finding themselves in a shelter, Jessica was introduced to The Empowerment Plan. She interviewed with Veronica Scott, the founder, who called her the next day with a job offer. Her future is bright; she now has a home, a job as a Production Specialist, and is pursuing education at Bay Path University. Jessica wants to continue with the organization to help them grow. “I want to help people and change the world. For me, being one of those people basically out on the street, it’s like I’m giving back to another me,” Jessica beautifully states in this video for the organization.

More homeless individuals will be employed in the near future, and the organization is looking toward expanding far beyond Detroit, after they are sure the foundation in their current location is completely stable. The Empowerment Plan envisions retail stores that will provide jobs for hundreds more individuals who just need a chance.

Individual sponsors like you and I can fully fund the resources required to create one coat, for $100. It's a small price to pay to provide someone with shelter, warmth, and the thought of knowing someone cares. Donors can also help fund education, childcare and food.

The Empowerment Plan is an innovative company that is truly targeting the root of the homeless problem, which is an under recognized issue that needs our attention. These men and women have fallen into unfortunate circumstances, tossing them into a nearly impossible pit to crawl out of. Everyone needs a helping hand at some point in their lives. And I can't think of a more impactful way to gradually get these deserving individuals into homes, jobs, education programs and fulfilling lives. In the words of The Empowerment plan, "Homelessness should not be a life sentence."


Karyn WoffordKaryn Wofford is a type 1 diabetic, EMT and Certified Wellness Specialist. For years she has educated herself on wellness and natural, wholesome living. Karyn’s goal is to help people be the healthiest they can be while living fun, happy lives.


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Seven Simple Ways to Help the Environment


Photo by Fotolia

Concern has been growing for some time about our need to pitch in consistently to help the environment. Climate change is being fed by large carbon footprints that contribute to greenhouse gases. Chemicals are harmful to sustainability. Droughts are happening in many areas of the world.

If helping the environment seems like a lot of work, rest assured it isn’t. There are many simple ways to be ecologically conscious. Here are seven:

1. Use Gas-Powered Vehicles Less

Gasoline-fueled cars are major contributors to greenhouse gases and climate change. Fortunately, there are many ways to cut down on vehicle use. If you can bike to work rather than drive, you will save 90 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions you were previously using. Ditto with walking. Even if you can carpool several days per week, it helps. And telecommuting five days a week? You’re a green star!

You use a vehicle for other reasons than working, of course. You can help the environment by looking at those. Jot down how much mileage you cover every day running errands or other tasks. After a month or so, look to see what you can reduce. Could you shop virtually rather than going to the mall? Talk on the phone/Skype rather than visit friends? Put errands together all on one day?

2. Reduce Food Waste

The U.S. uses up a lot of energy and chemicals growing foodstuffs. It takes oil and gas to run tractors and combines. Fertilizer and pesticides are often made from chemicals, including oil. Because of this varied usage, any reduction of food waste will also help the environment. Americans throw out 40 percent of the food they buy.

So, vow to not throw out as much. Buy smaller plates so you can fill up a plate with less food. Buy in bulk. Rice, potatoes, pastas, onions and other root vegetables can be bought in quantity and used as needed with proper storage. If you have more than you need, donate to the local food bank.

3. Cut Down on Packaging

Packaging — in grocery stores, restaurants and other retail places — is a huge source of waste. Plastic and paper bags, Styrofoam and other packaging all uses natural resources, and it’s unnecessary in many cases.

Buy some sturdy cloth bags for your groceries and other needs. Wash and reuse them. Use a coffee mug at work rather than bringing in coffee in a paper or plastic cup. Get a water bottle and fill in frequently rather than purchasing individual one-time bottles. Join a food co-op that encourages recycling smaller bags from the individual ingredient bins. Be sure to recycle any cardboard boxes rather than throwing them in the garbage.

4. Use Environmentally-Friendly Cleaning Supplies

Many household cleaning supplies and ingredients are not green — in the sense of being environmentally friendly at least. Harsh chemicals are frequently part of them. Read labels carefully. Throw out anything harsh or unsafe.

In their place, use natural cleaners. For example, a good way to clean microwaves it to cut several lemons and put them in a bowl. Microwave for two minutes on high. When done, food in the microwave will be softened and ready for scrubbing — and it will smell wonderfully of lemons. Need to remove mold? Spray vinegar on the affected area and leave to dry. Then scrub with a brush.

5. Control Household Energy Use

Heating and cooling the average U.S. home is a major source of energy use. It is estimated that leaving thermostats two degrees warmer in the summer and two degrees cooler in the winter alone would save 880 pounds of carbon dioxide.

So, set your thermostats to those temperatures! Don’t just leave it there, of course. If you’re not home, leave your thermostats to the coolest temperature. We know many thermostats are programmable so your house is warm/air conditioned by the time you get home — but if you can wait until you get home to adjust your thermostat instead, it saves energy.

6. Clean Less

This is one many people don’t think about, but it’s certainly easy! If you’re in the habit of doing laundry once a week, see if you really need to. If your clothes aren’t really dirty, they may not need to be washed. If they’re not, you save water and laundry soap.

Similarly, only run your dishwasher when it’s really full. Wiping down showers and bathrooms maybe could be done less frequently as well with no real loss of cleanliness.

7. Place Selected Plants Indoors

Plants, whether ferns or cacti, have a beneficial effect on the environment. Basically, they breathe out oxygen and breathe in carbon dioxide. So a few selected plants in each room contributes nicely to air quality inside the house.

Consider water usage. If you live in a dry climate, cacti or other succulents are best. If the natural environment is naturally humid, ferns or philodendrons can be good choices.

See how easy it is to be green? These seven tips will help you help the environment.

4 Ideas to Wake Up Positive

Proper sleep helps your body heal, balances hormones, bolsters immune function and makes for much more enjoyable mornings. When your alarm clock goes off it signals the start of a new day, but old habits, like hitting snooze, can be hard to break.  Whether or not you’re a morning person, try implementing some of these ideas into your wake-up routine and see how you feel.

woman sleeping in sunny room
Photo by Unsplash via Pixabay.com.

Stay Away from Social Media

Although many of us wake to an alarm sounding from our iPhone, don’t be tempted to check e-mail, Facebook or Instagram. The constant barrage of information can be overwhelming at any time, but particularly upon waking; realizing “all the things you’ve missed” can trigger stress and some research has shown that it may contribute to a lower sense of general well-being.

Get Inspired

Read a book or listen to a TedTalk that inspires you! Starting your morning with these activities will help motivate you for the day. Studies have also found that moments of inspiration have a positive impact on self-esteem, confidence, work mastery and optimism.

Get Physical

Whatever your preferred work-out is, opt for making it a morning routine instead of the evening. Physical activity, especially cardio, releases endorphins. These chemicals act as a natural painkiller during workouts, but they also create a feeling of euphoria and well-being. Regular exercise has also been linked to improved work-life balance.

Be Grateful

Show your appreciation for the things you find most valuable in life, from friends and family to time spent outdoors, by noting them in a gratitude journal each morning. Studies have shown that happy people have different habits than the average person, including practicing gratitude. And the positive effects extend beyond happiness. Additional studies have reported that grateful people feel healthier, are more proactive about their health, and experience less stress and fewer negative emotions, such as anger, regret and envy.

Choose to wake up on the right side of the bed and see an improvement in your feelings throughout the rest of your day.

Charity Spotlight: The Farm School

Feeding Cows
Photo by Fotolia/2xSamara.com

This issue's charity: The Farm School

Why they’re crucial: Sustainable food practices are essential to maintaining our food system. But the continued success of good farming practices requires new generations of farmers to make it work. The Farm School encourages farmers of all ages by creating educational programs that connect people with the land. Spread over four family farms in rural Massachusetts, the school teaches sustainable farming practices to students ranging in age from middle school to adult. Its year-long Learn to Farm program allows adult students to live and work on the school’s farm. Students grow their own food, learn business management techniques, and operate summer vegetable and winter meat CSAs.

What they do:  

• Run a year-long residency program for adults looking for hands-on experience in forestry, animal husbandry, propagation, soil science and more.
• Host short-term visits and summer camps for students and teachers to stay at the farm and get hands-on experience raising animals and growing crops. 
• Operate The Chicken Coop School, a full-time middle school for local children. 

Did you know...

• Farmers older than 65 outnumber farmers younger than 35 by a margin of six to one.
• 63 percent of all farmland (573 million acres) will need new farmers over the next 25 years as older farmers retire. 
• The Farm School hosts more than 2,000 children each school year as part of its classroom programs.