Wiser Living
Finding a natural solution

Jumpstart to Sustainable Holiday Shopping

Americans spend over 1 trillion dollars on holiday shopping. The Environmental Protection Agency reports a 25 percent increase of waste from Thanksgiving to Christmas. It's our responsibility to reduce the environmental impact through shopping sustainable. Inspire yourself with earth-friendly gift suggestions, so you won't end up with last minute, gimmicky trinkets. 

Charitable Giving

Donate in someone's honor to organizations like T1International, which is currently working to make insulin available to everyone around the globe. Add charity memorabilia, like a t-shirt, to the gift. 

The Sierra Club Foundation focuses on conservation and preserving the planet through grassroots campaigns and advocacy. A donation in someone's name is the perfect way to say you care about them, and what they believe in.

Repurposed Giving

Scrap pieces of wood can be made into works of art with a Piranha FX, an ultimate wood “repurposer” that can carve, etch or engrave items that would have otherwise made their way to the landfill. A spare wood block can become a precious keepsake; add handmade detail with a Klingspor’s Pyrography/Wood Burning tool. Multiple tips allow for a variation of textures, and it's simple enough for anyone to use. Smaller burning kits, like the Weller 15-Piece from Highland Woodworking are exceptional for beginners.

soy candle
Photo courtesy Bedrock Tree Farm

Bedrock Tree Farm transforms needles from their sheared Christmas trees into natural candles that fill the room with a scent of fresh cut firs. Once the candle is gone, the jars, with their airtight tops, can serve another purpose.

Beauty and Fashion

Patyka's Huile Absolue Skin Booster Serum was originally created by a Hungarian pharmacist in the 1920s. The serum is 100% natural and comprised of organic essential oils, like Rose Hip and St. John's Wort. A little dab goes a long way, treating everything from wrinkles to cuts. 

Pedag shoe liners are actually vegan, and can bring back to life a favorite pair of boots or sneakers. Zederna offers all-natural cedar and cotton soles, which are remarkably comfy and antibacterial. Not only do they smell amazing, they can cure common foot issues like athlete’s foot.


Snuggle-Pedic pillows are made with excess Biogreen foam from mattress production. Each hypoallergenic, customizable pillow provides optimal neck support and is vacuum packed for eco-friendly shipping.

Photo courtesy Avocado Green Mattress

Every handmade Avocado Green Mattress is crafted with organic materials that are naturally fire retardant. Specially designed springs reduce back pain and support spinal health.

Beantown sheets naturally resist bacteria; after using for a few weeks, they can be composted with zero toxic residue. Have a kid living in a dorm, or perhaps you don't trust hotel sheets? Here's the answer. 

Hook and Loom’s eye catching rugs are ethically hand woven in India, from all-natural materials free of chemicals and artificial dyes. The earthy colors are stunning.


Plant Addicts is an online company that stocks rare plants you just can't find anywhere else. Add a personalized touch to your favorite gardener’s landscape.

Payne Mountain Farms sells heirloom seeds like Mullein and Chickweed, which have countless benefits for the environment and our health. Payne Mountain also creates herbal jewelry, ointments and other goodies from the garden.


polarized sunglasses
Photo by Erick Wofford

Native Eyewear green reflex lenses provide advanced sun polarization. Vision is crisp through the special design which boasts an eco-friendly construction.

The NAU Introvert Jacket is the perfect rain coat or winter shell with its water resistant, organic cotton construction. Another great feature—it can be tossed in the washing machine. 

POW gloves are not only ridiculously durable, proceeds from certain styles go toward breast cancer awareness.

winter boots
Photo by Karyn Wofford

Ice bug is an independent company inspired by the Bark Beetle, which can move in all directions on ice. The Metro 2 boot is the newest, with fun colors and exceptional gripping capability on dangerously icy surfaces. 


Natural teas from Teami kill sugar cravings, detox the system and nourish the body. Their on-the-go cups are nice for infusing, making it easier to incorporate tea drinking every day. 

Tea tastes better and stays hotter in a cast iron tea kettle. Primula's Japanese inspired kettle with hammered detail is not only useful, but gorgeous.

Ecolution’s Bakins can replace toxic cookie sheets; they’re free from harmful chemicals like BPA, PFOA, and PTFE. Cookies come out better too.

Little Ones

Ecogear bags are chlorine free and designed to reduce pollution. With sustainable, traceable materials, an adorable line of kid’s packs are available along with streamline selections.

Either kid or adults can use non-toxic Natural Earth Paint. Perfectly hued for fun projects or serious art, packaging is recycled and compostable as well.

cruise trip
Photo courtesy Royal Carribean

Purposeful Trips

Not only does gifting a trip reduce holiday waste, it can raise money for those in need. Royal Caribbean's Cruises for Charity allows groups to book and raise money for their cause. Through The Ocean Fund, the company has granted over 11 million dollars to marine conversion, in addition to their outpouring of hospitality to hurricane victims.


The Exotic Bean's Coffee is organic, fair trade, sustainable, and shade grown, meaning it develops within the rainforest, rather than on a plantation that has destroyed natural habitats. Pure methods result in a clean, flavorful taste, evident in the chocolate and citrus noted Thailand Peaberry blend.

Umland's Pure Dry vacuum dries Gouda, Cheddar and Pepper Jack cheeses into crunchy morsels of Kosher, low carb, all-natural goodness. The packs are great stocking stuffers.

caramel candy
Photo by Karyn Wofford

Kwoka Caramels go back to the way caramels were meant to be, with a natural Scandinavian recipe. Flavors like pistachio and sea salt add a twist to the tradition. 

Make a new holiday meal tradition with smoked fish instead of turkey or ham. Compile a tasting of sustainably caught delicacies like oak smoked filets from Springs Smoked Salmon, sustainably caught variations form Alaska Gold Brand,  and Northern Waters Smokehaus’ mouthwatering trio of dill, Cajun, pepper and coriander smoked salmon. It’s the most beautiful pescatarian centerpiece. Browne Trading’s boxed, Scotch-cured salmon with all-natural ingredients makes for a beautiful gift to round out your list. Happy shopping!

Karyn 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.

Eco-Touring the Maine Coast

From the lobster industry to preserving its pristine shores, Maine takes conservation and sustainability to heart. Dedication from businesses all over the state has encapsulated the “pine tree state” as a stunning retreat.

Higgins Beach Inn

History is treasured in Maine; businesses look to preserve current buildings rather than build something new and modern. Higgins Beach Inn has existed for over a century and its recent renovation only added modern conveniences like private bathrooms. The feel, inspired by owners before, is still there and the repurposing of gorgeous structures has rooted such a deep vein of character. The ocean is mere steps from the inn, so you can ditch the car for the duration of your stay. Shade, the onsite restaurant, offers breakfast and other local dishes.

view from kayak tour
Photo by Karyn Wofford

Coastal Maine Kayaking

Although only operating in warmer months, Coastal Maine Kayaking takes tourists on a scenic route through the Kennebunks, which partly cannot be accessed by boats, which prevents pollution. Areas that couldn't otherwise be seen up close can be reached by paddling out in a kayak and the tour guides keep it interesting with facts, history and wildlife sightings.

Bar Harbor Inn

Repurposing in action again, the heart of the Bar Harbor Inn existed before World War I. The inn served the military during World War II, as a Red Cross base after a massive fire in the harbor, and now hosts guests from all over the globe. Enjoy a local cheese plate while watching the sunset; there’s no better view of Frenchman’s Bay than from a Bar Harbor Inn balcony.

guide on lobster boat
Photo by Karyn Wofford

Lulu Lobster Boat

Lulu is an actual Lobster Boat manned by two crew members who give visitors a glimpse into the world of lobstering. Sustainability is the core of the industry: Locals know a healthy supply of lobsters depend on following rules to keep the population flourishing. The guide talks about those rules, including sizes that can legally be caught, why you can't keep certain ones, while also giving a little information on anatomy. It's a fun way to educate the family about sustainable lobstering, while serving up some cool views of islands and lighthouses.

Bob's Clam Hut

Bob’s Clam Hut started out as a backyard stand in the 50s, but is now a Maine tradition, still in its original location along Route 1. The ingredients have always been simple and now Bob's is working to remove waste from landfills by opting for reusable baskets and plates in addition to compostable cutlery. Keeping it straightforward and focusing on ways to reduce waste makes this quaint clam hut a great depiction of the area’s efforts.

oceanarium sign
Photo by Karyn Wofford

Mount Desert Oceanarium

Possibly one of the coolest surprises in Maine is this oceanarium and lobster hatchery. It's a small business run by a long-time crew who are wholeheartedly dedicated to informing others and preserving marine life. The marsh walk, hatchery demonstration and discovery tank are a few of the hands-on tactics used to teach tourists about local ecology and marine biology. When people understand their environment, they understand the importance of preserving it.

The Nonantum Resort

The Nonantum is one of those places that just feels magical the moment you arrive. Perhaps it's the fairy village in the front garden, or maybe it's because all the lush greenery, flowers and herbs are organic and tended to daily. Green cleaning products are always used; water and energy are conserved through specific fixtures; and food is sourced from local farms, as well as the ocean, of course! Soaps and shampoos left behind by guests are donated to Clean the World, an organization that recycles hotel toiletries and delivers them to countries in desperate need.

apple orchard
Photo by Karyn Wofford

Hope Orchards

Apple picking is essential when visiting Maine in the autumn, and Hope Orchards is a local business growing a variation, while also offering apple butter, maple syrup and other natural treats. Eating an apple on-site is encouraged to find what you like. If an apple you don’t want should fall, they only ask that you place it in the wooden bins to be used for something else.

250 Maine Hotel

When the 250 Maine Hotel didn't become the luxury apartment building it was intended to be, the new owners reimagined and proposed the highest building in Rockport as an eco-conscious, artsy boutique hotel. Compost, recycle, conserve are appropriate mottos that are evident through the building. Each room is refreshingly unique, and the rooftop deck has a spectacular view of the harbor.

ocean view and waves crashing
Photo by Karyn Wofford

Acadia National Park

Pure, mountainous, seaside beauty; that's how I'd describe this breathtaking park that melds two distinct landscapes together. Natives and tourists alike have a deep respect for the area that houses a pond that serves as drinking water. Jordan Pond's water can be tasted at the Pond House, a farmhouse that has operated as a restaurant since the 1800s. Popovers and lobster stew are items that have been on the menu since the beginning and a bike ride up the Carriage Roads will take you right to it. It's awesome to work up an appetite, eat great food, then bike back to your starting point. But if you're wondering, you can drive there if you'd like.

Maine promises mountain hikes, crashing waves, wildlife and lush landscapes, all because citizens are committed to keeping it that way. By being a "green" tourist, you also support their efforts.

Karyn 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.

Live Better: How Getting Outdoors Can Transform Your Health

With each passing day, our lives continue to move with speed — and, by not stopping once in a while to take in the great outdoors, we miss out on opportunities to see life and the world through different perspectives.

In the outdoors, we can breathe deeply and briefly let go of our endless obligations. Our body, minds and soul yearn for it, whether we choose to simply spend time in our backyard, stroll through a park, or set off on a weekend backpacking trip.

group of friends around campfire
Photo by Shutterstock

But if planning your next outdoor getaway isn’t at the top of your priority list just yet, here are five reasons to motivate you to get outside.

1. Seek Out Bonding and Camaraderie

"Happiness is only real when shared." This famous quote from the 2007 film Into the Wild expresses how exploring and enjoying the beauty of the great outdoors brings about true happiness, particularly when you have someone with whom to experience it.

Camping, backpacking, hiking, fishing, lying in a hammock — all of these outdoor activities create bonds among friends, memories for families, and special moments in relationships. Of course, solitude has its place in nature, but experiencing the tranquility of it all with those we hold dear soothes the soul.

Moreover, spending time in nature can provide you with stress-relieving rejuvenation, while spending time with friends and family often leads to joy and comfort. Together, when both elements are part of the equation, you're adding meaning to your life and enriching your overall health.

2. Pack Healthy Campfire Fare

The camping experience is all about eating good food just as much as enjoying some good times and laughs. In fact, you and your family or friends might typically enjoy:

• Cooking hot dogs, brats and bacon cooking over a fire
• Enjoying beer for drinking games or plain-old enjoyment
• Chowing down on various flavors of chips
• Roasting gooey s'mores for dessert

Good campfire food can also be deliciously good for you. With a little recipe research and preparation, you can indulge without the guilt, yet keep the charm of camping. To enjoy meals you would typically have at the comfort of your home, consider packing some of these foil-wrapped recipes:

• Chicken with chopped fruits and veggies
• Cilantro lime shrimp and corn on the cob
• Lemon salmon, zucchini and asparagus

Meantime, some good cast-iron recipes include:

• Roasted chicken and Brussels sprouts
• Sweet potato breakfast hash
• Mushrooms and wild rice
• Fireside fajitas

Of course, you can't forget about snacks to tide you over, including:

• Nuts, oats and dried fruit granola
• Veggies with hummus, guacamole or Greek yogurt herb dip
• No-bake protein or energy balls
• Edamame and hardboiled eggs

3. Seek Adventure

The everyday monotony and stress of our work life, family routine and household responsibilities wear us down from time to time. Office walls can close us in much like prison cells, and even our homes seem to shrink over time with added clutter. But one way to break free of it all is to escape to the outdoors for adventure — either off road or on foot.

Off-roading and backpacking are two ways to become intrepid in nature. Once you invest in the right off-roading essentials (like appropriate vehicle tires, a toe strap, suspension and winch), you can handle any type of tough terrain on four wheels. While backpacking, you'll need to pack some solid gear, including a backpack, water filter, hiking boots and sleeping bag. Indeed, taking part in some outdoor adventures here and there may be just the antidote you need to reboot and enjoy your outdoorsy side.

4. Detach and Disconnect

Did you know a majority of Americans spend five hours a day on their smartphones? Whether we enjoy this screen time at the kitchen table or inside a coffee shop, many of us spend more time with our head down and eyes locked on these devices when our attention and focus should be elsewhere.

With that in mind, make it a point to occasionally put down your smartphone and use the outdoors as a chance to ditch technology (this includes taking photos), enjoy nature and live in the moment without any digital distractions. While there is certainly no Wi-Fi in the forest, you'll ultimately find a stronger, better connection while being one with nature.

5. Venture to Find Meaning

Chasing happiness seems to be a perpetual pursuit in our lives. We hope work, relationships, hobbies and passions can make us happy. Yet, research indicates pursuing meaning in our lives, rather than pleasure and enjoyment, can actually lead to a deeper and more lasting form of well-being.

Indeed, the calmness of nature creates a serene, meditative environment in which you can discover how to invest in something bigger than yourself. How can you help others and strengthen your relationships? What’s your life's purpose, and how do you ultimately matter in this crazy world?

No matter our surroundings, these are important questions to routinely ask ourselves and consider. Yet, ultimately, there’s no better place than spending time in nature that allows us to explore a more meaningful, vibrant part of life.

Abby Terlecki is a marketing copywriter for a university in Phoenix, Arizona. At 5 o’clock, Abby heads to happy hour at her CrossFit gym to hang out at her favorite bar. In between writing and lifting, She explores the Grand Canyon state and enjoys the outdoors. She earned her journalism degree from Ohio University and has since made the desert her happy home.

The Doug Coombs Foundation: Elevating Youth in Jackson Hole

Doug Coombs was a skiing legend; he passed away in 2006 after trying to rescue a fallen skier. Several years after his death, his wife Emily started a very special foundation in his memory. The Doug Coombs Foundation helps lift up children of poverty by giving them the opportunity to become involved in outdoor activities, specifically skiing, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Emily started simply by enrolling 28 kids into Snow King Mountain's ski school with her own money. It didn't take long before people noticed and wanted to help. Soon, sponsors like Marmot, K2 Skis and Smith Optics jumped in.

doug coombs foundation participants

Snow King Mountain

“Snow King was the key component since the inception of the Doug Coombs Foundation. Without Snow King, introducing the Hispanic population to the sport of skiing would have had many more challenges,” says Emily.

Snow King Mountain is a secondary ski resort in Jackson Hole, with the other being Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Snow King’s lift setup, low avalanche incident rate, and less rugged terrain makes it a safer place for kids. “Snow king is the ideal solution given it’s in town location, close to the homes of the families we serve, as well as its limited natural hazards, compared to the terrain at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort,” Emily adds. “Snow king has always been and remains a critical element in the mission of getting our low income work force into the sport of skiing, and then providing a place for them to continue skiing throughout their years living in Jackson Hole.”

Changing the Sport of Skiing

The Doug Coombs Foundation is changing Jackson Hole, and the world of skiing, in a particularly profound way. "Prior to the inception of the Doug Coombs Foundation, Latino kids and adults were not present on the ski slopes, and very few were present in the many sports organizations outside of the school programs," Emily explains.

A beautiful form of integration is taking shape, allowing friendships and lifelong bonds to be formed. Talented young individuals are being introduced to sports that they will greatly influence. Jackson Hole has morphed from a privileged ski town, to an iconic ski place for all. Emily has enriched not only a town, but an entire sport and 180 kids are now involved in the program. Once winter winds down, these children continue to participate in a variety of sports, such as rock climbing, soccer and hiking.

children skiing

Lives Changed

Many lives have been changed through the foundation, but a few have struck a chord with community.

Emily met the bubbly Karoline in 2013, and the two instantly bonded. “Like Doug, her enthusiastic personality is magnetic, and you simply can’t help but enjoy the time you spend with Karoline, as she is always happy and always nice to others,” Emily gushes. Karoline’s family has become increasingly involved, as well. In addition to mastering the slopes, she’s excelled in soccer and, at such a young age, has already accomplished so much.

Dario grew up in extreme poverty and was introduced to the foundation after his young boys became involved. He blazed through rock climbing and skiing, while having no prior experience. Seeing his great potential, Emily wanted to get Dario into the Exum Program, where he would be trained then experience a once in a lifetime climb up Grand Teton. Dario made the climb, stating “I didn’t do this for the world to see me, I did it to see the world.” He is described as a wonderful father with two intelligent young boys and a devoted wife.

In Honor

Doug Coombs was a man adored and admired by all; he was a role model and an ambassador for pursuing dreams. He lived an incredible life, which left behind an impactful legacy. The Doug Coombs Foundation is an appropriate way to honor him.

“He would be blown away and would likely cry with joy as he watched all the kids (with his name on their jackets), zooming around Snow King, on skis, discovering the spirit of adventure that we all remember him for,” says Emily. “The one thing Doug missed out on was knowing his own son; skiing with his own son. We can’t change that, but we can provide many kids the opportunity to ski, in his memory, who otherwise wouldn’t ski. I know Doug would like that.”

Emily says Doug didn’t like talking about the possibility of dying, but after Emily’s father passed in a car accident, they discussed what they’d want if the unthinkable happened. “We agreed that whatever the survivor chose to do with us, our remains, our legacy; we trusted it would be good, and we would do it out of our love for each other. We believed that we truly knew each other better than anyone else. We would know what to do in the event if one of us died.” Emily certainly knew what to do to honor the name of Doug Coombs.

doug coombs foundation

Lend a Hand

Grants and sponsorships fuel the nonprofit, and anyone can donate to the cause. The Doug Coombs Foundation's slogan "Lifting Us Up", sums up its powerful accomplishments. They are laying the groundwork for effective methods of integration and it's an incredible thing to be a part of.

Photos courtesy The Doug Coombs Foundation.

4 Wasteful Habits to Kick & Eco-Friendly Alternatives

If you want to reduce your carbon footprint and live a more eco-friendly lifestyle, it is wise to take an honest look at some of your common daily habits and replace them with greener options. Fortunately, it is relatively painless and easy to adopt green habits—check out these examples.

produce in reusable grocery bag
Photo by Shutterstock.

BYOB—or, Bring Your Own Bags

Some cities, like Eugene, Oregon, have already banned those ubiquitous plastic grocery bags. If your town is not there yet and you have a pile of plastic bags the size of Mt. Everest in your pantry or garage, make the switch to reusable grocery bags. Those plastic bags don’t just end up in the dump, they are also found in the ocean, where they can harm fish and take eons to break down. Reusable cloth or canvas bags are a great option.

Are concerned about the cross transfer of germs between shopping trips? Read the labels of the bags before buying them to be sure they are washable. If your package of ground beef is a bit on the leaky side, toss the bag in the washer before heading to the store next.

Watch Your Driving Habits

There are a variety of common wasteful driving habits that are pretty easy to do; these include “jack rabbit starts” when the light turns green, rapidly accelerating through traffic, speeding to get to work and not keeping a close eye on your tire pressure. All of these situations can lead to using too much fuel. To learn the latest driving tips for fuel efficiency, check out an online resource like Driving-Tests.org. You can access your state's DMV handbook from the free site and also take practice tests that will help remind you how to drive in a more environmentally friendly fashion.

Buy Used Whenever Possible

When you buy something secondhand, be it a pair of jeans, a couch or whatever else you need, you are doing more than saving your hard-earned money. You are also putting to use something that might have otherwise ended up in the landfill. In addition, every used item that is purchased means that one less brand-new product will be produced, which will reduce the impact of the manufacturing process on the planet. Some great sources of terrific pre-owned items include thrift stores, garage sales, consignment shops, eBay and Freecycle.

Stop Using Paper Towels and Napkins

Paper towels and napkins may be convenient and clean, but they are also costly and hard on the environment. Trees must be cut down to make them, they are usually bleached and treated with other chemicals, and then once they are tossed into the trash, they take time to break down. Treat yourself to some really nice microfiber cleaning cloths or plain white dishtowels that will take the place of paper towels and have enough to rotate through when they get grungy. Purchase cloth napkins or, if you are handy with a serger, buy a variety of cotton fabric in festive prints and make your own. Although you may still keep a roll or two of paper towels on hand for really gross kitchen spills, using cloth as much as you can will have a positive impact on the planet and your wallet.

Alison Stanton has been a freelance writer for the past 18 years. Based in Phoenix, Arizona, Alison thoroughly enjoys writing about a wide variety of people and topics. When she is not writing, Alison can be found hanging out with her family—which includes three wonderful rescue dogs—and sipping a caffeinated beverage from Starbucks.

The Omni Grove Park Inn: Preservation of a Destination

A historical wonder, tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville, North Carolina sits The Omni Grove Park Inn. Omni Hotels and Resorts owns the once independent hotel, but the brand works to enhance each hotel's current attributes, while incorporating the local environment rather than stamping a cookie cutter ideology onto each of its locations. In their mission statement, they stress their vision to put "soul" and "authenticity" into each individual property by "proudly opening doors to the true spirit of a destination."

Omni Park Grove Inn at twilight
Photo courtesy Omni Hotels & Resorts.

History of The Omni Grove Park Inn

Preservation is one of the most important things we can do to sustain our environment. The Omni Grove Park Inn is the epitome of preservation, as the 1913 structure has only been enhanced over the years, not torn down. The same boulders hauled in by mule-drawn wagons still set in place as a glorious reminder of the hard work 400 men put in for nearly a year. You can take a history tour and learn about the building and the century-old artifacts that line the halls.

After ascending up a winding drive, a short distance from downtown, the inn magnificently reveals itself through a cascade of mountain trees and foliage. History oozes from its pores, although the structure fits seamlessly in our current time period, due to its naturalistic build. At the time of its construction, the hotel was proclaimed to be "built for the ages" and this has remained true.

Omni Grove food
Photo by Karyn Wofford.

Dining at The Omni Grove Park Inn

Serving up local ingredients in their restaurant dishes, the Sunset Terrace is an outdoor dining option on the stone patio looking out toward the mountains. The Spa Cafe offers wellness smoothies and healthy fare at the entrance of their award-winning spa.

Several other restaurants and lounges are sprinkled throughout the elaborate halls, but Blue Ridge was the showstopper, serving a variation of farm-to-table buffets throughout the day. House-made donuts, a yogurt bar, grits with tomatillo sauce, fresh pressed juices, pancakes, frittatas, made to order omelets and a variation of cereals barely tip the culinary iceberg of Blue Ridge's locally-fueled breakfast display.

We also enjoyed stopping by the rustic lobby, complete with two gigantic fireplaces and mountain views, for late night drinks, local pickled veggies and an intricate cheese plate sourced from the Asheville area. Omni Grove falls in line with the prevalent "local" food presence in the town.

Omni Park Grove outdoor spa
Photo courtesy Omni Hotels & Resorts.

The Timeless Spa

Woven throughout a cavernous lower level of the hotel is their Mediterranean-style spa. By its cave-like look, complete with stone, tunnels, a fiber optic star ceiling and antique tiled steam room, you'd think this wellness wing existed before the hotel itself. However, it was an addition completed years after the initial structure was built.

Two massive, mineral-based, indoor pools accented with waterfalls, ambient color changing lighting, hot tubs, underwater music and extravagant rock features serve as the spa’s central hub. An outdoor pool, complete with yet another fireplace, allows guests to relax and watch the sun set while taking a soak. Gender separated areas offer detoxifying saunas, steam rooms, contrast pools, herbal teas and natural snacks. 

Multiple therapies are available, including massages with aromatherapy, wellness wraps with volcanic clay and local sourwood honey and Himalayan salt detoxification. The fresh mountain air is also thought to have healing attributes, and is what drove the hotel's founder to the area in the first place, in the early 1900s.

Helping the Community

When a room is booked, a portion of the proceeds go toward feeding less fortunate families through Feeding America. "In one year, nearly nine million meals have been donated to help Feeding America provide nutritious meals for food banks to feed children, families and seniors in communities across the United States," says the Omni Hotels and Resorts site.

Employees are also encouraged to volunteer at food banks and pantries in their local community. 5,000 nationwide employees donated 7,000 hours of their time over the past year.

sunset over mountains
Photo courtesy Omni Hotels & Resorts.

Flourishing in Eco-Tourism

The travel industry is becoming increasingly aware of eco-tourism, and that people prefer an authentic experience built around the community in which they are visiting. Vacations become enriching rather than simply an empty experience at just another hotel room with commercial gimmicks and corporate food.

The Omni Grove Park Inn provides incredible surroundings that blend into nature, a first-hand look into history and culinary experiences that let you truly experience life in the Blue Ridge Mountains. As we watched the sunset from the back terrace, I simultaneously felt truly connected with history and nature; moments like these display a glimpse of the deep importance of preservation on every level.

3 Reasons Why Water Is a Magnificent Natural Healer

It’s amazing that water makes up an average 60 percent of the human body, but society often forgets water’s capacity for natural healing. Instead, people consume artificially flavored water, energy drinks, soft drinks, sparkling soda and coffee over pure water — and that’s not the fizzy, bubbly kind, either.

flowing stream and glass of water
Photo by Adobe Stock/arttim.

From the world’s ecosystems to the human body, water is an intrinsic element of our existence, and metaphorically it has been used to represent emotions and spirituality. Water affects the body, mind and spirit as a magnificent catalyst and a natural healer. Here’s how.

1. Water Keeps the Environment Healthy

Though organisms may thrive in interesting environments that are toxic to humans, space explorers have looked for life on planets that are not too hot and not too cold. That “Goldilocks Zone” makes a planet a potential host for the life-giving powers of water. Humanity has equated water with life for ages.

Water changes the face of the landscape, breaking down boulders and shaping mountains. It may look like features of landscape disappear, but the Earth is constantly evolving and changing, as both energy and matter are neither created nor destroyed.

Remember learning about the various types of clouds? Don’t worry — there’s no quiz, but there are typically eight types, from what we see terrestrially all the way up to the stratosphere.

When it rains, it pours — and through the process of evaporation, the water cycle keeps the environment healthy. The majority of water evaporated from the sea returns as precipitation, and roughly ten percent falls over the land as precipitation. In the process of evaporation, a water molecule will spend nearly ten days in the air.

If there was no precipitation runoff or groundwater discharged via aquifers, the oceans would be virtually empty.

2. Water Is Vital to Human Health

Water is vital to human health, especially for the brain, which is composed of 75 percent of water. The effects of dehydration are harmful to all parts of the body. The human brain needs water for proper processing of thoughts and storing memories. As your endless train of thought can attest, the brain doesn’t stop running. The ecosystem of the body fails without water.

Consider what happens when we dam up our natural water sources to control and consume the flow. A river whose flow has been blocked with begin to weaken and its ecosystem will start to fail. Waste backs up. Where there is water, there is life.

Similarly, for human beings, the body’s organs shut down when no water is available. This vital element acts as a lubricant for digestion and helps your gut absorb proteins and nutrients. Without water, the body can’t boot out pollutants or toxins, increasing the body’s odds of experiencing skin disorders, digestive disorders, allergies, high cholesterol and even cancer. Those hunger pangs in the body are likely a craving for water. So, before you kick back with a coffee, drink a glass of water.

When part of the body breaks down or is wounded, water is there to help heal it. For example, water has the ability to heal a shoulder replacement. In one case study, physical therapists used a pool as a healing environment for shoulder rehabilitation and the patient regained 100 percent functionality, claiming his abilities were better than they were 20 years prior.

Hydrotherapy is useful for many patients to regain mobility — especially elders who have a greater range of motion in the pool. Those water gymnastics classes do their job! And if your health improves and you feel like the real swan of Swan Lake, why not?

3. Water Is Nurturing to the Soul

Priests of various faiths bless water to make it holy and children are christened after birth for “purity.” Myriad cultures used natural springs and manmade baths as healing and worship centers, such as the Celts, Greeks and Romans. For example, Sulis was a Celtic water deity of healing found in woodland springs. The Greco-Roman view of bathing was a way of leading a spiritual and clean life and get their party on, too. Water has long been associated with spiritual healing and rejuvenation.

Don’t you feel amazing after you take a long, hot shower or soak your stinky, aching feet in Epsom salts after a long hike? Thought so.

You can make bath time a more soothing and spiritual aspect of personal self-care by adding herbal oils or candles to the experience. Take a little longer than usual and soak in the tub, closing your eyes and focusing your breathing. Let the relaxing power of water nurture your inner self.

From the outer world to the inner body, mind and soul, water is a magnificent natural healer. It cycles from the oceans to your tap at home, to drink and nurture your vital organs. It also soothes your mind and spirit — whether by way of a priest’s blessing or a hot soak in the tub after a long day.

Water is at the center of life — so drink up, be healthy and merry!