Putting the Green in Fourth of July

I’ll be the first one to admit it- I love fireworks!!  Every summer as a kid going to the park to watch the bright lights soar across the sky was definitely a highlight and an unforgettable experience.  So, as much as it pains me to say, should we think about the environmental effects of fireworks?  In an article courtesy of Mother Nature Network the author takes a look at what some of the environmental implications could be, and some alternatives we could take advantage of to continue making Fourth of July a special holiday.


The good news?  There are always parades, cook outs, and light shows as possibilities.  Also fireworks manufacturers are becoming more aware of their environmental footprint and are starting to roll out eco-friendly products as a result.  So keep the holiday celebrations coming- just try to add a little green to your red, white, and blue!


National Park of the Month: Fort McHenry

National Park of the Month:

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

By: Christopher Falzon




Time for my favorite article of the month! In this edition we will explore a national park rich with American history and pride- Fort McHenry, located in Baltimore, Maryland. Having the pleasure of personally visiting the park last summer with Alli during the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, I strongly encourage others to make a trip of it! Let’s take a deeper look at this iconic landmark.



Tell Me About Fort McHenry

Fort McHenry was constructed between 1798 and 1800 on a peninsula near the entrance to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, one of the most important American seaports during this time period. Named after Secretary of War James McHenry, the fort was designed in a five-pointed star layout with a surrounding dry moat. In the Battle of Baltimore (September 13-14, 1814) during the War of 1812, 1,000 Americans staved off an over 24 hour assault from the British navy at the fort and successfully saved the city. Lawyer Francis Scott Key, inspired by the valiant defense and the sight of the American flag still flying above the fort on the dawn of September 14th, wrote what would become the Star Spangled Banner and our national anthem.



The National Park Service began administering Fort McHenry in 1933- what makes Fort McHenry unique compared to all other national parks is that it is the only one designated both a National Monument and a Historic ShrineFort McHenry is a 42 acre park with numerous walking paths, such as the Sea Wall Trail, a museum, and intact historical buildings with historical actors determined to take you back 200 years to days of early America.


Making the Most of My Fort McHenry Visit

Feeling patriotic, eager to learn more about America’s history? Or maybe looking for a scenic escape other than the beach? Well Fort McHenry offers all of this and more! The park is a great place to bring your dog or have a picnic, with lots of open lawn and trees to catch some shade during a hot summer day. If you’re lucky you can also see the Fort McHenry Guardperform some drill, musket, and artillery demonstrations (did I mention how cool the cannons are at the fort?!). Also on July 4th the park has a very special day planned with activities ranging from fife and drum concerts, public readings of the Declaration of Independence, and even cannon-firing!!



So there you have it- Fort McHenry offers a truly patriotic experience with unforgettable views looking out over the Baltimore Harbor. It’s not too late to fit it in to your 4th of July plans!! If you are a history nerd like me and would like to learn more about the history of Fort McHenry, here is a cool trailer courtesy of NPS to get you started.


Composting Required!

In the latest of his sweeping wave of health and environmental reforms, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced a new voluntary city composting plan that the current government hopes will become mandatory by 2015 or 2016.  Initially the city’s composting plant will handle up to 100,000 tons of food scraps a year- 10% of the annual total food thrown out each year in NYC.


Although this maybe seem like a small amount, 10% composted each year will 1) reduce the amount going to landfills by 100,000 tons and 2) add productivity to local farms/gardens, improving the local economy and bringing more fresh food to the market!  This is only one example of a number of cities that have recently upped their composting and recycling efforts; we hope to see more cities join the trend and make our communities greener!!

The Dirt on Hand Sanitizer

The Dirt on Hand Sanitizer:

3 key takeaways for staying cleaner and healthier daily



By:  Christopher Falzon










Nearly every store, gym, and office building I walk in to has a hand sanitizer dispenser in it with a label reading something along the lines of “Kills 99.9% percent of all germs,” which people like me take for face value. However, this statement is not as squeaky clean as we might naturally think- here is a deeper dive into the world of hand sanitizers from which we can draw a few conclusions to keep us cleaner and healthier on a daily basis.







How does hand sanitizer work?



The basic concept of hand sanitizer is that once hand sanitizer is applied to a surface it removes the layer of oil from your skin. Removing that layer of oil eliminates with it all bacteria that might have been residing there, hence making for a post-application clean surface. Sounds good in theory, right?







So why doesn’t it work?



For starters, hand sanitizers are tested on inorganic surfaces. Inorganic surfaces have much easier variables to control, however the human hand is a very complex surface with many variables that are hard for us to control and predict.  Therefore, the stated results are not necessarily reflective of reality.  Secondly, even though the surface bacteria are destroyed by hand sanitizer they can grow back, and bacteria lying below the surface can still emerge afterwards.  By failing to truly eliminate all the bacteria this could also make the remaining microorganisms more resistant to antibacterial solutions, leading to more serious and prolonged health complications.  All of these unknowns make it difficult to truly confirm hand sanitizer’s effectiveness.

Additionally, you may notice that hand sanitizers will sometimes be labeled as “natural” ie no alcohol or myriad of complex chemicals in the solution. Do natural versus non-natural hand sanitizers make a difference? Well they actually do, but not in a way that you might think. In a study done at the University of Maryland researchers found that using hand sanitizers with 60% alcohol led to significantly fewer bacteria colonies post-application compared to natural hand sanitizers containing 0% alcohol. So, if you use hand sanitizer (as a temporary solution) it is best to pick one with 60% alcohol or more.

**Note- even though we normally champion natural ingredients, in this case natural ingredients wouldn’t keep you healthy.  Although we hope hand sanitizer would be a last resort solution, if you do use it make sure to use a hand sanitizer that will actually work!




What I can do to keep clean



Here are a three key takeaway points we can apply daily to keep cleaner and healthier:



1) When given the option always pick traditional soap and water over hand sanitizer



2) Wash your hand for at least 20 seconds. The 5 second routine unfortunately doesn’t make a dent on bacteria



3) If you do use hand sanitizer, use it as a supplement between hand washing opportunities, and pick a hand sanitizer that has 60% or more alcohol to really get rid of all surface bacteria

Wacky Science Museums Worth Checking Out!

As a kid I loved going to science museums.  My favorite was the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, NJ where I could crawl through the creepy pitch black tunnel or learn more about my favorite animal (the bat of course).  If you are looking for some cool science museums to check out this summer, here are a few special ones that are definitely worth seeing.  Among my favorites from this list:  the John C. Freeman Weather Museum in Houston, TX that has it’s own tornado chamber.  If you’re in Montreal, Canada, the Insectarium has a wild experience for any bug lovers out there.


Needless to say, if you’re into science and nature, why not make a fun trip out if it?!

Drink to Your Health Part Two: Organic Wine

Drink to Your Health Part Two: Organic Wine

By: Christopher Falzon



What better to write about on a dreary, rainy day than drinking? Last month I explored the world of organic beer and today I’ll be taking a deeper dive into what makes up organic wine and how to get your hands on some.


What is Organic Wine?

Every stage of the winemaking process is scrutinized during the organic certification process conducted by the USDA National Organic Program to ensure everything from the soil to the grapes to any added yeast is organic and any approved non-agricultural ingredients are less than 5% of the product. The main difference between organic wine certification and organic beer certification is the sulfite level testing for wine. Although sulfites are naturally produced by wine, they are usually added artificially to extend the wine’s shelf life. Under the organic certification program, however, organic wines cannot have any added sulfites. **Important Note: wines labeled simply “organic” only need be 95% organic ingredients; to buy truly organic wine look for labels stating “100% organic”.

Why Drink Organic Wine?

French study done in February 2013 revealed that 90% of more than 300 French wines tested contained at least one pesticide, some containing up to 9 different kinds! Pesticides are not really the best for our bodies, and actually the French government in 2012 formally acknowledged the link between pesticides and Parkinson’s disease in agricultural workers. Another reason to drink organic that our prior article pointed out is to support local businesses, who not only sustain the local economy but also usually produce lesser environmental effects as well.

So What Organic Wines Should I Try?

One of the nice things about organic wine- you can find it practically anywhere! From the US, to FranceChileNew Zealand or even South Africa there are organic wines abound!  Again, the key to picking an organic wine is reading the label- go for the brands that say “100% organic” on their labels, as they will avoid non-agricultural ingredients altogether.


Too Much Work and Not Enough Play in the US

Who ever thought the US would rank poorly among developed nations when it came to work-life balance??  In a recent study the US ranked 28th in the category, largely do to a relatively large growth in the number of single mothers in the workforce.  The study concludes that single moms in the US, who lead 1 in 4 households, have significantly less free time than do single mothers in other countries.  This, to say the least, is a startling and unhealthy trend for both the single mothers and their families.  What can we do about it?


Read more here!