“Forest Bathing” and it’s Health Benefits: News and Freestyle Post

In the NPR article “Suffering From Nature Deficit Disorder? Try Forest Bathing”, author Marcelo Gleiser reports on the findings Dr. Qing Li has found about the health benefits of the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, which can be described as “forest bathing”. Gleiser explains that in today’s society, approximately 54% of the world population lives in an urban area. While living in an urban area brings employment opportunities, social connections, and cultural experience, it also limits the ability of urban residents to experience nature and make environmental connections. There are widely felt effects of air, noise, and light pollution in urban areas. Gleiser reports a statistic that was found by an EPA study. According to the EPA, “Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors, where the concentration of air pollutants can be 2 times to 5 times higher than outdoors”.

Dr. Qing Li has found the answer to this issue that more than half of the world’s population is experiencing. In his new book, “Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness”, Dr. Li provides his findings (backed by research data) that spending time in nature, such as in forests, parks, and other green areas, can reduce common health problems such as stress, anxiety, depression, and anger. His scientific findings conclude that spending time with trees and in green spaces result in reduced levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Other health benefits that come from spending time in these natural settings include increased energy levels (by more than 30%), sleep improvement (by 15%), immune system improvement, better cardiovascular health, and improved parasympathetic system response. Additionally, practicing shinrin-yoku results in a general better sense of well-being. Dr. Li says that those who live in large cities should not panic though, if their location doesn’t provide access to large forests. He says that even going for regular walks in a park, having house plants, and practicing aromatherapy using tree oils can show the same health benefits. The practice of shinrin-yoku can be done by anyone, no matter their location, and can result in important health benefits for those who make time to connect with trees and nature.

I thought this article was very interesting because it relates to my personal connection with nature. For the past nine summers I have spent my summers on an island in the middle of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. Being surrounded by trees on the island is very calming, and improves my well-being during the summer. I feel very connected to nature during the summer, and I try to incorporate this feeling into my life in Charleston as a student in an urban area. I have flowers in my apartment and I go for regular walks and runs down to the Battery and around Colonial Lake. Being near the water and surrounded by trees and plants provides a sense of shinrin-yoku during the stressful school year. I think that other students should try to incorporate shinrin-yoku into their lives, because even the smallest connections with trees and nature have great health improvements. It is a simple thing to do to have a house plant or go for a walk, and doing so can relieve some of the stress and anxiety that we feel as students. I believe that if more students focused as much on self-care as they do on school work, we would all feel less stress, and have a greater sense of well-being in the busy lives that we lead.

Link to article: https://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2018/04/04/599135342/suffering-from-nature-deficit-disorder-try-forest-bathing

Starbucks Opening at Yosemite National Park: News Post

In an article publish by reputable news source The Guardian on Monday, reporter Gabrielle Canon discusses the controversy surrounding the opening of a “hidden Starbucks” in Yosemite National Park. Canon describes that outside of the typical urban feel of the Starbucks, consumers and park visitors can hear the beautiful, natural sounds of Yosemite falls. Despite any signage for the new Starbucks location, park visitors have managed to find the 27,000-franchise strong coffee shop. While many people are outraged at the installation of a commercial coffee giant, other park visitors have enjoyed a hot coffee or tea during their cold or rainy visit to Yosemite.

David Freireich, who is a spokesperson for Yosemite Hospitality, the group that works to provide upgrades for “concessions and facilities” at the national park, described to Canon that his group was responding to park visitor requests for a facility such as Starbucks, and that it is the responsibility of Yosemite Hospitality to meet visitor needs and requests. He described that the installation of the Starbucks was part of a recent and ongoing upgrade project to the infrastructure of Yosemite, which includes concessions options and availability. According to Freireich, these updates were long overdue.

Photo taken from the article.

Photo taken from the article.

In response to the planned opening of the Starbucks, former Yosemite National Park tour guide Freddy Brewster organized a petition to try and stop it from happening. He was able to gather more than 25,000 signatures on his petition. While the opening of the Starbucks still happened as planned, Brewster and his colleagues are still working tirelessly to protect the purity of Yosemite and to prevent any more infrastructure and commercial changes to the National Park.

I thought this article was very interesting, and it relates to many of the topics that we have been discussing in our class this semester. The opening of a Starbucks franchise in Yosemite National Park represents the challenge between government (which includes big business) and the environment. As Brewster mentioned in the article, “The government is increasingly dependent on major corporations. Time and time again.”. This serves as another example of big business infiltrating the preservation and purity of there natural settings we are so fortunate to have in the United States, such as Yosemite. Furthermore, when looking at the chain of consumption, pollution will be brought into the national park as deliveries come to the Starbucks, bringing coffee, processed foods and syrups, and coffee cups. These coffee cups are not recyclable, and contribute to the disposal arrow of the linear chain. More trash is introduced into the park, resulting in the ultimate degradation of the natural setting, even if not intentional by consumers and park visitors. Many people do not see how the small action of getting a coffee at Starbucks contributes to the pollution and degradation of the environment.

Thinking about the nutrition lecture that we had in class today, the Yosemite Hospitality group could have decided upon a healthier alternative to have in the national park rather than a Starbucks. Starbucks sells many processed, fat and sugar heavy food products that can lead to the development of chronic disease. In a national park where visitors come to experience nature and get exercise, healthier foods, such as whole, plant based foods, should be those offered to park visitors.

If the Yosemite Hospitality group still found it necessary to have a coffee shop as part of the concessions offerings at the park, they could have instead chose a local coffee business, that would have then contributed to the stimulation and sustainability of the local economy.

I believe that this battle between big business and the environment will be one that continues to cause problems and controversy until everyone realizes the importance of conserving the beautiful natural world.

Points of Intervention Tour: Event Post

On Thursday, February 22nd, I attended the Points of Intervention Tour, sponsored by the Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN), that ran through the middle of campus on George street. This event is a national tour program to show college students ways that they can live a more environmentally conscious life through reducing their carbon footprints, purchasing and consuming locally grown foods, and challenging the modern, “linear consumption economy”  of extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal. This linear economic system is detrimental to the environment and is not a sustainable way that the economy and the environment can thrive together. The Points of Intervention Tour addressed many of the topics we have been discussing in class, and it was a great experience to see businesses, organizations, and individuals make tangible and realistic efforts to challenge the current social-economical-ecological framework that we are living in.

During my morning spent at the Points of Intervention Tour event, I focused mainly on learning about ways I can purchase and consume locally grown food. This method of intervention focuses on challenging the linear consumption economy through reducing the stress put on the environment to support mass agriculture, reducing the fuel emissions of transporting mass-produced food products, supporting local farmers (and therefore the local economy), and becoming educated on the importance of fresh produce, the production of which does not contribute to pollution, toxins, and chemicals being released into the environment.

One of the businesses that I visited and learned about during this event is the Lowcountry Street Grocery. This business operates out of a retro, covered school bus. They deliver fresh, local produce and dairy products to residents all throughout the Lowcountry by acting as a traveling farmers market. They also deliver nutrition education through cooking demonstrations and informational packets that show consumers the importance of including fresh produce and dairy products into their diets and how they can do so.

The Lowcountry Street Grocery bus that displays fresh, local produce for consumers to purchase.

The Lowcountry Street Grocery truly captured my interest because I support every aspect of their mission. I think it is extremely important to purchase locally grown produce because not only are you supporting the local economy, but you are helping to reduce mass agricultural practices that are not healthy for the environment nor for yourself. I was also glad to hear that the Lowcountry Street Grocery provides nutrition education to customers. Consumers need to be educated in how they can proactively better their nutrition. In a state such as South Carolina, where obesity rates are very high, it is important that people in all areas have access to healthy foods and the knowledge and skills to incorporate them into their diets. In the future, I hope to work as both a pediatrician and a nutritionist, so I think it is especially important that children are exposed to healthy eating and living practices from a young age. The Lowcountry Street Grocery is working to improve the health of people, the economy, and the environment.

I also visited the booth for the College of Charleston’s Office of Sustainability during my morning at the event. I learned about the many actions of the food service on campus, Aramark, in their efforts to reduce food waste source foods responsibly. I learned that Aramark works to plan their menus, produce recipes, analyze portion control and nutrition, and manage waste effectively, all in order to be more environmentally conscious and challenge the linear consumption economy. At the end of my visit with the Office of Sustainability’s table, I was given a basil plant to take home and grow!

Aramark and the Office of Sustainability educate event attendees on their environmental efforts through informational graphics.

The Points of Intervention tour was a very valuable experience to see how companies and individuals are making efforts to challenge the linear consumption economy and improve the economic-social-environmental system. I am glad to live in Charleston, where citizens care about the world that we live in.

More information about the Points of Intervention Tour and the Lowcountry Street Grocery can be found at the following links:



Almond Milk, Dairy Milk, and Carbon Footprints: Freestyle Blog Post

In recent years, the ‘milk market’ has seen a rising trend in consumers switching from purchasing dairy milk to nut and other plant-based milks such as almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, and cashew milk. As a frequent consumer of almond milk (my personal favorite is Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Unsweetened Original Almond Milk, or on occasion their chocolate almond milk), I was interested in looking at how the carbon footprint of almond milk production and consumption compares to that of dairy milk. Upon further research, I came to find not only large differences in the carbon footprints of almond and dairy milk, but an ongoing debate over the legitimacy of plant-based milks having the title of milk to begin with.

Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Unsweetened Original Almond Milk

Almond milk is produced by blending almonds with water (and any other necessary ingredients that manufacturers use), and then straining out the almond pulp. To those who claim that drinking almond milk is the answer to saving the environment, critics remind them that the production of almond milk uses a very large quantity of water. According to the magazine Mother Jones, it takes 1.1 gallons of water to produce 1 almond! But, reports from SoDelicious, a manufacturer of almond and coconut milk products, have proclaimed that farmers have been working hard to reduce the amount of water needed to grow almonds and produce almond milk. The Almond Board in California has donated money for the purpose of helping farmers to do research to find methods of improving their techniques in reducing the amount of water they use when producing almonds. According to their reports, the amount of water it takes to grow a pound of almonds has been reduced by 33% since 1994. The almond farming industry continues to make efforts to reduce their water consumption, while the dairy industry not only uses large amounts of water, but also is one of the highest industry contributors to green house gas emissions.

The dairy industry is responsible for 4% of all total greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans, according to Georgina Gustin of Inside Climate News. Gustin describes the effects of dairy consumption in her article, noting that for every gallon of milk consumed, 17.6 pounds of carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere. Research done by Life Cycle Associates mentioned in the article describes that the production of 1 liter of almond milk produces 396 grams of carbon dioxide, compared to 1,467 grams of carbon dioxide produced from 1 liter of dairy milk. While Gustin does note that the dairy industry plans to make efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2020, the production and consumption of dairy milk has a significantly larger carbon footprint than almond milk. Despite the heavy water usage toll of almond milk production, the nut milk is a much more ecologically conscious choice than dairy milk when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the most interesting parts of the almond milk versus dairy milk debate is whether or not almond milk (and other plant-based milks) should even be able to be labeled and sold as “milks”. According to Gustin’s article, members of the National Milk Producers Federation do not approve of plant-based milks being labeled as “milks”, as they are using the positive nutritional branding of milk and using it for a product other than dairy milk, as the name was originally intended for. According to the federation, plant-based milk manufacturers are unfairly capitalizing on this. The DAIRY PRIDE was also brought before Congress, which would enforce stricter regulations on what products could be labeled as milks.

An advertisement in support of the DAIRY PRIDE Act, encouraging the FDA to place tighter restrictions on what can be labeled and sold as a “milk”.

Another advertisement calling for the end of almond milk being labeled as such.

Overall, I think the debate between the ecological and nutritional benefits of dairy milk and plant-based milks is very interesting. While I will continue to be an almond milk consumer, I plan to try different kinds of plant-based milks such as coconut milk or cashew milk, as these use far less water and have low greenhouse gas emissions during their respective productions.

Sources used when writing this blog post include


It Takes How Much Water to Grow an Almond?!