Growing global awareness on environmental issues, sustainability, preventative health, and community has kindled a newfound precedent in our daily lives whereby we are acting locally while thinking globally.  The Penticton Lakeside Resort is proud to be apart of this worldwide revolution.  Our newly established biological smallholding, Valleyview Farm, now supplies our hotel with quality, healthy, environmentally-friendly organic produce, while our geothermal heating system uses natural sources of energy to mitigate energy consumption.  We believe going green should go beyond the celebrated slogan, to befit an integrated ethos and a comprehensive lifestyle.  In keeping with the thought-think of everything green, this week we take pause to consider the far-reaching effects of the individual, the importance of local awareness and consumerism, and the butterfly effect of the think global act local stimulus.

Convenience seems to be the hook line and sinker of commercialism.  Lost in a hedge maze of economic materialism, consumers grapple to simplify the daily routine by taking, (what is perceived to be) the easy way out with marketed convenience foods, convenience packaging and convenience products.  An indoctrinating commercial agenda leads consumers to believe and trust in a system based solely on profit gain rather than environmental integrity, sustainability and general health.  It is not surprising that of the some 17,000 chemicals, which appear in common household products, only 30% have been adequately tested for negative effects on our health.  Studies conducted by The American Federal Environmental Protection Agency found that airborne chemical levels in homes were as much as seventy times higher than the outside.  Incidentally, childhood asthma has nearly doubled in the last twenty years.  Many products that are marketed as “healthy” and “natural” in fact contain harmful chemicals such as parabens and phthalates, highly disruptive compounds used in most skincare, cosmetic and hygiene products, that are now linked to certain cancers, hormonal dysfunctions, as well as a broad range of adverse health affects in pregnant women, children and adults.  Evidence of the detrimental effects of environmental toxins is escalating.  It’s time to return to our common sense.  Natural products made with plant and mineral-based cleaning ingredients derived from biodegradable proponents and homespun solutions made from vinegar, baking powder and lemon juice, are great alternatives to chemical-based cleaning products.  Natural skincare and hygiene products that are paraben and phthalate-free, will absorb less toxicity through the skin, containing biological alternatives to synthetic preservatives such as grape-seed oil and grapefruit seed oil.

One of the major environmental impacts on our planet is the supply and demand of our food system. While the fundamentals of organic farming support crucial environmental principles such as biodiversity, ecological balance, sustainability, natural plant fertilization, natural pest management and soil integrity, all of which synergistically work to reduce our carbon footprint, new research demonstrates the beneficial affect of organic produce consumption on our health.  For example, organically reared cows that consume high levels of fresh grass, clover pasture and grass clover silage, produce, on average, milk 50% higher in Vitamin E, 75% higher in beta carotene (Vitamin A) and milk two to three times higher in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthine than the non-organic equivalent.  Side-by-side comparisons of organic and conventional strawberry farms, demonstrate that organic farms produce more nutritious and flavorful berries while supporting healthier and more genetically diverse soils.  Other findings have yielded the nutritional benefits of organic produce, such as more dry matter, minerals and antioxidant micronutrients, as well as significantly lower amounts of nitrates and residues of toxic chemical pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.  Moreover, while many look to our oceans for healthy alternatives, it’s also important to realize the far-reaching impact contamination, farming and over-fishing has had on this dwindling resource.  However, some seafood, like Albacore Tuna, Alaska’s wild-caught salmon, farmed oysters, wild-caught pacific sardines and farmed rainbow trout, have low levels of contaminants with health-promoting omega-3 fats, and are sustainably managed by environmentally friendly practices.  On the other hand, Bluefin tuna, Chilean sea bass, monkfish, orange roughy and most farmed salmon, are either considered a threatened species, contain high levels of mercury and contaminants, and/or are mismanaged by inhumane, environmentally disruptive practices. There are solutions, there are alternatives, but we must take the initiative.  We must arm ourselves with knowledge and eat smart.

Small measures taken to reduce our energy consumption, such as cold-wash cycles, air-drying, energy efficient appliances, solar technologies, compact fluorescent light bulbs, and resetting the thermostat, can have far-reaching effects when carried out collaboratively. On Saturday night, March 31rst, for one hour, a record 150 countries and territories across 6,494 town and cities participated in Earth Hour 2012, which saw up to 10% reductions in energy consumption in certain areas and cities worldwide.  Reducing our carbon footprint can mean as little as walking, biking or carpooling to work.  Taking it perhaps a step further, would be to lobby our local government in collaborative affect, to increase spending on sidewalks and bike lanes.  And why not take advantage of secondhand or invest in high-quality, long-lasting products while donating and recycling responsibly?

The more knowledge we have about these issues, the more we can focus on solutions and ultimately save ourselves from ourselves.  It starts with awareness.   It begins with initiative.  Thinking before buying.  Reduce and recycle.  Shopping local.  Buying organic.  It’s about understanding on a fundamental level the deep interconnection we have with our planet and everything on it.  This week we take pause to review environmental issues, sustainability and preventative health, and to remind ourselves not about the way we should be, but who we really are and what we are capable of.  Think global, act local.

-Elizabeth Cucnik




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