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The post Coming In – alive Canada – May 2019 appeared first on alive.

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Can one person really make a dent in fixing a problem as major as food waste? What’s the absolute best strategy for reducing plastic pollution in 2019 (hint: not recycling)? In our April issue, we tackle some BIG questions and prove that yes—each one of us can totally, seriously, actually make a difference.

Delve into how Canadian food rescuers are combating food waste and hunger. Try no-scrap-wasted recipes that use ingredients you might usually throw out (who knew kale stems could taste so good?). And discover the truth about our plastic consumption, plus exactly how you can embrace that zero-waste—or at least less-waste—life.

Want to get your hands on a copy?

Head to your nearest natural health retailer ASAP. If you have no idea which retailer near you carries alive, no worries! Just punch your postal code into the Find a Retailer box at the bottom right of our homepage.

The post What’s in alive: The Eco Issue appeared first on alive.

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Aiming to become the most environmentally progressive brand on the planet sounds like an outlandish, grandiose goal—if not idealistically romantic. But after chatting with Sasha Bricel, marketing manager of the clothing and lifestyle brand tentree, it’s clear this company means business.

One billion trees

What sets tentree apart? It plants 10 trees for every item sold, and produces products with the highest sustainability standards on the market. Their goal? Planting 1 billion trees by 2030.

In the words of Bricel, “We aim to create a new path for the textile industry, one that prioritizes the health of the planet at every stage of production. We are committed to educating and supporting those in their path toward sustainability and providing our consumers with products they can feel proud to wear along the way.”

A seed of an idea

In 2011, Kalen Emsley and David Luba found themselves hiking in Hawaii, in awe of the breathtaking landscape and wishing to do something to help protect the environment. Kalen, with a background in tree planting, and Dave, with a background in sales, began brainstorming how to combine their skills.

They realized that if they were to make and sell shirts, they would make enough to plant 10 trees per garment. They brought Kalen’s brother Derrick Emsley on board as CEO, and “tentree” was born.

The nitty gritty

To date, tentree has planted more than 25 million trees. The beautifully simple business model of planting 10 trees for every item sold “helps to offset carbon emissions, absorb CO2, restore ecosystems, combat deforestation, and provide food and shelter for animals,” says Bricel.

But it doesn’t end there. Everything from the materials to packaging and transportation are carefully thought through based on the environmental impact.

“We ask ourselves: ‘Where is it coming from and how is it transformed?’; ‘Are there any environmental and/or ethical questions?’; ‘What happens to that material at the end of its use or life?’; and ‘Is there a preferred option out there?’” explains Bricel.

“True sustainability for us is achieved when a material is fully renewable or indefinitely recyclable, that is, when it meets the principles of cradle-to-cradle rather than cradle-to-grave.”

They work closely with groups such as Textile Exchange and Sustainable Apparel Coalition, as well as accreditation and/or certification bodies, including Global Organic Textile Standard, Organic Cotton Standard, and Forestry Stewardship Council.

Conscious clothing consumption

The typical consumer purchased an estimated 60 percent more clothing in 2014 than in 2000, but only kept each item for half as long. We can be better consumers by buying responsibly, and maintaining clothing responsibly.

  • Befriend your tailor and cobbler— repair before rebuying.
  • Read clothing labels.
  • Reach out to companies and let them know you care.
  • Buy second-hand.
  • Stay informed about the issues.
  • Help educate others.

Looking ahead

I asked Bricel what motivates tentree, and her answers brim with enthusiasm and positivity: “Tentree is motivated by the hope to help end climate change and the destruction of our planet, through planting trees … by providing jobs, food, and shelter to hundreds of people in developing countries … by creating a culture of sustainability, and helping make sustainability accessible to everyone.”

And she assures me that they’re just getting started. They have a series of goals, starting with the aim of ensuring all their cotton is Fair Trade Organic or recycled by 2020. By 2025, all their products will be fully circular (either biodegradable or fully recyclable). By 2030, all their products will be C2C (carbon-neutral), with tree planting as the bonus.

“At tentree we built our business model on sustainability; that makes production and scaling a much harder and longer process, but we know it’s worth it,” says Bricel. “We hope to inspire a movement of people who want to make a difference and leave the planet better than they found it.”

And she assures me that they’re just getting started. They have a series of goals, starting with the aim of ensuring all their cotton is Fair Trade Organic or recycled by 2020. By 2025, all their products will be fully circular (either biodegradable or fully recyclable). By 2030, all their products will be C2C (carbon-neutral), with tree planting as the bonus.

“At tentree we built our business model on sustainability; that makes production and scaling a much harder and longer process, but we know it’s worth it,” says Bricel. “We hope to inspire a movement of people who want to make a difference and leave the planet better than they found it.”

A fashion fact

The fashion industry is responsible for an estimated 92 million tons of solid waste dumped in landfills each year.

A fashion wasteland

“The average consumer has no idea how many steps go into the making of a t-shirt,” says Bricel. “From growing cotton or extruding polyester filament to getting the finished product ready to be shipped to the end consumer, there could be over 20 different business entities involved, each with their own understanding of social and environmental compliance.”

Detail driven

Washing and drying clothing made from synthetic fibres releases microplastic into the water supply—including our drinking water. Enter tentree’s “guppyfriend washing bag.” Washing clothes in this keeps any microfibres from entering into waterways and also keeps clothes lasting longer.

What are you wearing
Clothing label term What does it mean?
zero waste no waste created in the manufacturing and/or at the end of the garment’s life
vegan no animal products used
dye free no dyes used to colour the garment
Certified Organic no toxic pesticides/fertilizers or genetically modified seeds used; healthy soil practices followed (look for a certification label such as GOTS for cotton)
local no standardized definition: look for products made by companies, craftspeople, or entrepreneurs in your city/province/country
Fair Trade Certified fair labour standards, such as no child labour used (look for a certification label)
Oekeo-Tex Certified textile-specific certification that tests products for harmful substances
bluesign Certified textile-specific certification that focuses on sustainability and safety through the production process
B Corp Certified business certification that examines factors such as social responsibility, public transparency, and environmental performances

The post Clothing For People and the Planet appeared first on alive.

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Alive - A Natural Health & Wellness Maga.. by Irene Mcguinness - 1w ago

The world throws out far too much food. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), close to one-third of global food production gets lost or wasted—nearly 1.3 billion tonnes!

Certainly, the world would be far better off if we reduced food waste.

But the truth is that Canada alone throws out $31 billion worth of food annually—and that doesn’t include the amount of food waste from institutions (hospitals, prisons, and schools) and from the travel industry—especially cruise ships. That’s a tragic loss of foodstuffs—and it’s also extremely costly.

Banking on food

More than 850,000 Canadians use food banks, 36 percent of them children. The numbers have increased by 26 percent since the 2008 recession.

Not only is it a tragic loss of food, but, according to FAO, it’s also a major squandering of resources, including water, land, energy, labour, and capital. Wasted and tossed food also needlessly produces greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming and climate change.

One clear way we can do our part to reduce food waste is to use up as much of the produce we buy as possible in our cooking. This could include vegetable peelings, fruit cores, vegetable stems, and roots. Most of us are accustomed to tossing these often very nutritious components into the compost bin along with our coffee grounds and tea bags.

Freeze peels and roots!

Drop unused peels and root stems into a large sealable tub as they accumulate from your cooking. Then pop the sealed tub into your freezer for the next time you’re in the kitchen. Fruit peels are ideal for fermented recipes such as ciders, delicious in fruit butters, and excellent whirled into smoothies or baked into muffins or breads.

When shopping, the important thing to remember is to source the best local produce. If it’s not considered pesticide safe by the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) or in the top 15 products regarded as clean, then hunt for organic—particularly when using skins and peel.

The circle of life

Another way to reduce food waste is to give leftover produce new life indoors. How? There are countless online sites that show how easy it is. From growing new stalks with that celery bulb to growing your avocado seed into an avocado tree, there are plenty of ways of regenerating instead of rejecting these treasures!

In our feature, we’ll show you how your accumulated (previously discarded) bounty can make perfect ingredients for such kitchen necessities as stocks and sauces. Try these no-scrap-wasted recipes and you’ll soon be advocating all the waste-not-want-not pleasures of embracing each important part of your flavourful, nutrition-packed food.

Recipes Tomato, Eggs, and Beans with Creamy Kale Pesto

Vegan Herbed Soup Stock

Fruit Peel and Apple Cider Vinegar

The Ultimate Vegan Burger

Refreshing Watermelon Rind Gazpacho

Composting—what’s up?

It’s not just food items that you can compost. We’ve listed a few items that just might surprise you. For more things not on this list, check out your local recycling facility.

  • used paper napkins
  • paper towels
  • unwaxed pizza boxes and paper bags, torn into pieces
  • used paper plates
  • paper cupcake or muffin cups
  • toothpicks and bamboo skewers
  • wooden chopsticks
  • hair—yours and your pets
  • toilet paper rolls
  • pencil shavings
  • sticky notes
  • business cards
  • latex balloons
  • vacuum cleaner contents
  • fireplace ashes

Best way to compost in your home

Whether you live in an apartment or a house, there are many ways to compost effectively. Most importantly, it must not smell. If it does, you’re adding something you shouldn’t.

  • Purchase a sound indoor compost bin. Or make your own. There are many DIY compost ideas online.
  • Be sure to only compost food items that will decompose quickly without creating a bad odour.
  • Practise indoor worm composting for speedy results.
  • Compost correctly and you’ll be turning soil in no time at all.

The post All In appeared first on alive.

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How many people reading this article actually enjoy being bogged down by a cold or flu infection? Of course: no one.

And because of this fact, I’ve observed first-hand in my practice that more and more people are interested in how they can leverage nutrition, supplementation, and physical activity to bolster their immune system and minimize the frequency, severity, and duration of illness.

Similar yet different

The common cold and the flu share many symptoms and are both illnesses of the respiratory system, although they’re caused by different viruses. The flu, however, comes on more abruptly, is more severe, and is often accompanied by chills and fever.

Vitamins, minerals, immunity

Where does nutrition and supplementation fit in? When it comes to preventing colds and flu, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is a very good idea. Many studies point to the fact that the abundant nutrients in a healthy diet—one that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables—help our immune systems fight viruses and bacteria.

Vitamin D

One nutrient important in maintaining our immune system is vitamin D, though it’s difficult to get enough through diet or, during Canada’s dark winter months, from the sun—vitamin D’s most abundant source. An increasing body of evidence suggests a link between our vitamin D status and our immune functioning.

Supplement with Vitamin D

More than one in three Canadians who don’t use vitamin D supplements have circulating blood levels of vitamin D that are suboptimal in winter.

In a US study involving 18,883 participants 12 years and older, those with higher circulating levels of vitamin D in their blood were less likely to report upper respiratory tract infections, including the flu and common cold.

Vitamin C and echinacea

According to a large 2018 systematic review of 30 studies involving the use of vitamin C and 24 involving echinacea, supplementation with vitamin C may help reduce the duration and severity of the common cold, while supplementation with echinacea showed potential for shortening their duration.


In the same large systematic review, the authors concluded that “many studies agreed supplementation of zinc is helpful in reducing the risk of pneumonia and common cold and the incidence of respiratory tract infection, specifically in the elderly and in children.”

Exercise and immunity

Plenty of studies have pointed to the positive effects of physical fitness when it comes to frequency and severity of illnesses like colds and flu. In one study, those who were aerobically active and physically fit experienced a 41 percent reduction in upper respiratory tract infection severity and symptoms versus those who were sedentary.

More is not better

What’s particularly interesting, when it comes to the effect of exercise on the immune system, is that research shows more is not always better. The stress that frequent and intense physical activity can put on our body over time may also put a strain on our immune system.

A study looking at the effect of incorporating exercise regimens of different intensity and duration on women who were previously inactive found that although both regimens stimulated the immune activity of white blood cells, there was a greater inflammatory response in those who exercised more intensely.

In the context of our busy and hectic lifestyles, it’s much more likely that most of us get too little physical activity and probably don’t need to worry about compromising our immune systems with excessive exercise.

If you’re currently inactive, increasing physical activity levels, especially through cardiovascular activity, will have positive effects on your body’s immune system, among many other benefits.

Here are six exercises of varying difficulty that will help get you started on the path toward a stronger immune system.


Muscles targeted: full body, chest, legs

  • Lower your body into a squat by pushing your hips back and bending your knees.
  • Shift your weight onto your hands by placing them in front of your feet.
  • Jump back softly and land in a plank position, keeping body straight and core tight.
  • Jump your feet back, landing outside your hands.
  • Jump up, reaching hands in the air.
  • Complete10 repetitions.
Jump Lunges

Muscles targeted: quads, hamstrings

  • Start in a lunge position by stepping one foot forward and sinking down.
  • Jump straight up, switch legs mid air, and land again softly in a lunge with the opposite leg forward.
  • Complete 10 repetitions per leg, 20 total.
Jump Squats

Muscles targeted: quads, hamstrings

  • Lower into a squat by pushing your hips back and bending your knees.
  • Jump up explosively.
  • Land as softly as possible, lowering back into a squat again.
  • Complete 10 repetitions.
Push Press

Muscles targeted: shoulders, quads

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms in, and curl the weight up. This is your starting position.
  • Drop down into a partial squat.
  • Press through heels, driving weights overhead in a shoulder press motion.
  • Complete 10 repetitions.
Side Plank

Muscles targeted: static core-engaging exercise, important for stability and injury prevention

  • Lie on your right side, elbow in contact with the ground and beneath your shoulder.
  • Place your left hand on your hip, both legs elevated on a bench.
  • Engage torso, creating a straight line with your body.
  • Keep your abdominal, glute, and quad muscles tight.
  • Hold for 60 seconds and repeat on your left side.
Downward Dog

Muscles targeted: shoulders, hamsptrings, lower back

  • Start on your hands and knees with hands below shoulders, knees below hips.
  • Tuck your toes, spread your fingers.
  • Lift your knees off the floor and press your hips toward the ceiling while drawing your heels down toward the floor.
  • Press your hands into the floor, push your shoulder blades against your back and pull them down toward your tailbone.
  • Breathe, hold for 60 seconds.
Maximize your immunity-boosting workouts Get your heart rate up

A number of studies into the effects of exercise on immune function demonstrate immune system benefits from cardiovascular activity.

Take a rest day

To get the best immune benefit out of your workouts, exercise frequently, but don’t burn yourself out.

Give your workout a caffeine boost

Caffeine is well known to help improve exercise performance, so a caffeine hit before your next workout may give you the boost you’re looking for.

Recover properly by stretching

Everyone loves breaking a sweat and getting a good pump; help your muscles recover following sweat sessions by engaging in low-intensity stretching.

The post Move Toward a Stronger Immune System appeared first on alive.

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When facing a cancer diagnosis, people often pair natural therapies with their prescribed course of oncology treatments. Sadly, many do not share this choice with their oncology team, leaving patients to sift through an overwhelming amount of information alone. There is a different option.

As a naturopathic doctor (ND) with the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre (OICC), I accompany people with cancer from diagnosis through treatment and beyond. The goals of my work are as diverse as the patients who come in to my office.

Common concerns of my patients include managing treatment side effects, speeding healing and recovery, and minimizing factors that contribute to cancer growth. In this article, I explore the concerns of the real people that I work with and share the approaches that we use together.

Navigating integration

In my daily patient visits, I help patients to understand possible interactions between supplements and other treatments they may be receiving. I review which plants and nutrients may benefit treatment side effects and which pose a risk of interaction.

See the sidebar below for supplements that I often discuss with patients, along with a rationale for their use.

The foundations of health

While supplements often form part of my treatment plans, they must be viewed as add-ons to the foundations of a healthy lifestyle. In my view, good diet, exercise, sleep, and mental health practices must also be assured. I spend part of every visit reviewing these aspects with my patients.

For some people, food choices are a source of enormous stress. Patients fear making the “wrong” choice and inadvertently fuelling cancer growth. Others first see me in the midst of radical but unsustainable regimens, seeking guidance about whether they really need to give up coffee. Still others struggle with treatment-related digestive effects, trying to nourish themselves with the few mouthfuls they can keep down.

Make nutritious diet choices

I most often propose a low-carb Mediterranean-style diet. Sugar-free, antioxidant-rich coffee is welcomed, but alcohol is avoided (see sidebar for statistics linking alcohol to cancer risk). Recommendations are tailored to each person’s concerns, but this approach lets me provide evidence-informed, nutritious, flexible recommendations to my patients.

Move through cancer

Along with a healthy diet, movement and exercise are essential at any stage of diagnosis or treatment. Before surgery, I encourage exercise to optimize physical function and solidly benefit their recovery from surgery.

Gentle exercise during radiation and chemotherapy elevates energy levels, emotional well-being, and quality of life. For patients who will receive lifelong treatment, this is a particularly important tool.

In the context of cancer prevention, I place a heavy emphasis upon regular exercise. In nonsmokers, this is the single most powerful way of reducing ongoing cancer risk (see sidebar below). A minimum of 150 weekly minutes of moderate to intense exercise can help achieve this goal.

Sleep for healing

Sleep issues are common among my patients. Some people have had lifelong issues with sleep, while others find their rest newly disturbed by the shock of diagnosis. Drug side effects or pain from cancer or surgery render sleep ever more elusive. Furthermore, sleep dysregulation may be a factor contributing to cancer risk.

Magnesium and melatonin can calm the mind, relieve muscle pain, and induce restorative sleep to promote healing (see the supplements sidebar on page 76). I also teach patients breathing techniques and yoga postures to encourage activity of the calming parasympathetic nervous system.

Support emotional health

I hold the mental/emotional health of my patients in high regard. Emotional shock is common, a fact that translates into higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after cancer diagnosis.

Others feel betrayed by their bodies or let down by their lifetime commitment to good health habits. I explore some of these questions with patients but also suggest further support with psychiatrists, psychologists, or social workers. Some services may be covered by personal or regional health plans.

I have the good fortune to work directly with yoga therapists, a hypnotherapist, and other counsellors who provide alternative counselling options to patients. In addition, hands-on therapies ranging from reflexology to massage to osteopathy can be exquisitely calming to the busy mind while providing a safe, therapeutic space for emotional exploration.

To see a snapshot of a patient’s experience in my practice, please see “Cathy’s story” (below).

The world of naturopathic oncology is multifaceted and complex, but endlessly fascinating and rewarding. I feel privileged to accompany the patients that walk into my office every day.

Cathy’s story

In my 90-minute intake visit with Cathy, we discuss her recent biopsy for a lump in her breast. She is waiting anxiously for the results, and given her sister’s diagnosis last year, she fears the worst. Her health is otherwise excellent, but she wants to do everything she can to get through the surgery that she expects to need.

I follow the intake with a short physical exam and then provide my recommendations, which include daily flaxseed and cruciferous vegetable consumption, moderately intense daily exercise, and a referral to our yoga therapist. We agree to meet after she receives her biopsy results.

Two weeks later, Cathy is mentally preparing for her surgery—the cancer has been confirmed. She is scared, but the yoga practice is helping with her breathing and anxiety. In our 40-minute follow-up visit, I recommend a high-protein diet before and after surgery along with probiotics and vitamin D to reduce the risk of post-surgical infection.

A pre-surgical visit with our massage therapist will help relax her mind and body. We talk about supplements and intravenous therapies that could be supportive during chemotherapy, if this is required.

Cathy returns to my office a couple of weeks after her lumpectomy with good news: the cancer was caught early and she will not need the chemotherapy that her sister required. Her radiation treatments will start in the coming weeks.

I reiterate the need for daily exercise to help her energy levels and suggest a calendula-based cream to soothe her skin during radiation. She makes an appointment with our physiotherapist to support her range of motion after her surgery.

A quick check-in during the radiation shows that Cathy is tolerating her treatments very well, and we decide to reconvene a month later.

At her next visit, Cathy has completed radiation, and both she and her team are very happy with how well she got through the month of treatment. She is now on a hormone-blocking drug to prevent cancer recurrence, but is finding her sleep disturbed by hot flashes and sweats. I suggest melatonin to support her sleep and send her off to our acupuncturist for treatments to manage the hot flashes.

Three months later, Cathy is settling back into life post-treatment. She doesn’t feel ready to return to her high-stress job yet, and even hints at a career change. We discuss annual vitamin D tests and post-treatment goals, which include maintaining her regular exercise schedule, making time for food preparation if and when she returns to work, and continuing her yoga practice to help her sleep and stress levels. I continue to follow Cathy at six- to 12-month intervals to help keep her on track with her goals.

Managing treatment side effects Nausea
  • acupuncture or acupressure
  • reflexology
  • reiki
  • massage
  • physiotherapy
  • yoga
  • meditation
  • physiotherapy
  • massage
  • Fatigue
  • exercise
  • physiotherapy
Depression and anxiety
  • group or individual counselling
  • yoga
  • hypnotherapy
Sleep disturbance
  • reflexology
  • acupuncture
  • yoga

An ounce of prevention

A 2012 study found that more than 40 percent of cancers are preventable.

Factor Percentage of cases linked to this factor
smoking 15.70%
physical inactivity 7.20%
being overweight 4.30%
inadequate fruit/vegetable intake 1.80%
alcohol use 1.70%

Groundbreaking research

In addition to daily clinical care, I am part of an exciting collaborative research study with the Ottawa Hospital.

The TPOISE (Thoracic Peri-Operative Integrative Surgical Care Evaluation) trial unites oncologists, surgeons, and NDs to provide fully integrated naturopathic care to patients in treatment for stomach, esophageal, and lung cancers. This study will not only shed more light on the role of naturopathic medicine in cancer care, but also foster relationships between NDs and oncologists. This care model is the way of the future!

Supplements during cancer treatment

These supplements are often considered in my treatment plans.

Vitamin D insufficiency is linked with cancer risk. Many Canadians have low levels.

Melatonin may help initiate and maintain sleep; it also provides possible anticancer action.

Ginger may be useful for nausea and can be taken as a tea, lozenge, tincture, or capsule.

Magnesium may reduce muscle cramps, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and constipation.

Intravenous vitamin C may be supportive of quality of life during treatment.

Fish oil may improve dry skin and cognitive function; it may also support cardiovascular health.

Glutamine may reduce neuropathy, diarrhea, and oral irritation.

Step it up

Flax is fine and soy is super!

  • is associated with reduced risk of breast cancer
  • provides fibre and reduces constipation, which both have an impact on cancer risk
  • reduces recurrence of cancer and improves survival, especially hormone negative cancers
  • is safe in hormone positive women
Aim for as-whole-as-possible soy foods such as
  • edamame
  • soy nuts
  • tofu
  • unsweetened soy milk

The post Naturopathic Medicine Meets Oncology appeared first on alive.

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Growing a garden typically conjures the image of a tidy plot of soil planted with rows of neatly tended veggies, pulled up in the fall and sown anew each spring. But there’s another way to raise food, one that more closely mimics a natural community of plants growing year after year without tilling or tending: a perennial food garden.

Practical perennials

Whether it replaces or simply complements that annual veggie patch, a perennial food garden can hold both dietary and ecological rewards.

If you have so much as a raspberry cane or a tuft of chives, you’re already acquainted with edibles that reappear every year. Expand that into a mixed berry patch or collection of herbs and you’re getting closer to a perennial food garden. Integrate plants that complement one another through a diversity of sizes and functions and you build something that resembles how nature gardens, something you could call a “food forest.”

But why diverge from the familiar and well-loved plot of tilled loam to grow food? It turns out nature is something of an expert, and when we emulate her more closely, the benefits are many.

Less labour

Perennials endure for years, if not decades, so rather than planting every spring, we need only plant them once. And because we’re not digging into the soil each year, stirring up the weed seeds, there’s far less need for tedious pulling of those unwanted plants. Mulch and ground cover are allies in weed suppression, too.

Further, the annual chore of replenishing garden fertility can instead happen the same way it does in a forest, through plant-animal-fungi synergies and nutrient cycling.

Greater soil integrity

We’re just beginning to fully grasp the hidden workings of all the life forms in our soil and how crucial they are to everything above ground, including plant health. When soil is tilled, fungal networks and earthworm aerations can be damaged, plus valuable carbon can be lost to the air. And when earth is left bare, as it is after tilling or between rows in an annual garden, its structure and biology suffer under the direct blaze of the sun.

But in a perennial garden, the soil and microbes are left largely undisturbed and covered. Topsoil is actually built through the continual layering and decomposition of mulch and debris from plants left in place.


With sufficient diversity, a perennial food patch can be well equipped to bounce back from shocks in the environment and adapt to long-term shifts, just as natural ecosystems do. With several species serving overlapping functions (such as food, pollination, nitrogen fixing, or pest deterrence) the web will still function, and food can still be reaped if one or two members succumb to something like hail or insects.

Not only does that make for a resilient garden, but it also contributes a degree of food security to your neighbourhood.

Many yields

Perennial gardening offers so much more than just food for our efforts. It produces habitat for everything from bees to birds and, of course, all those happy soil micro-organisms. Water, whether from the hose or the sky, is captured, retained, and put to productive use through the network of roots and healthy, intact soil.

Plus, a patch of perennial edibles can easily become a space of beauty in your yard—the backdrop for a bench or hammock and a place to observe nature’s processes. It may even garner you a new friend or two in the form of a curious neighbour or berry-hungry youngster!


If you inherit a home from previous owners who gardened, you might be pleased to find yourself with a swath of yard cleared for planting. But if they had the foresight to populate the space with perennial foods, you will have really hit the jackpot.

By investing in long-lived edibles, we serve not only ourselves but also those who come after us, leaving a wake of ecological deliciousness within our lifetime and beyond.

Give these a try

Perennial edibles range from the utterly familiar to the forgotten and the novel. The options are vast, and the ones you choose will depend on your climate, space, goals, and preference.

Fruit Greens/Vegetables Herbs/medicinals Other
goji berry
sea buckthorn
fruit trees (apple, pear, cherry, plum, mulberry …)
hardy kiwi
ground cherry
stinging nettle
fiddlehead fern
perennial green onion
Good King Henry
nut trees (hazelnut, walnut, chestnut …) groundnut
mushrooms (oyster, shiitake, Garden Giant …)

Form a guild

Not a medieval club for craftsmen, a guild is a deliberate grouping of plants that form a complementary web, working together for their ongoing health and productivity.

Members of a guild can and should fill more than one role. For example, sea buckthorn will grip erosion-prone soil, fix nitrogen for surrounding plants, yield nutritious food, and produce oil for body care. Strawberries provide ground cover, food, beauty as leaves turn red in the fall, and mulch as leaves are dropped in place.

A guild can be a simple grouping of plants or a more in-depth layering of relationships from root to canopy. We can draw inspiration through observation—if ferns tend to thrive in the understory, we would do well to pair them with trees or shrubs that can provide that shade.

Guild planting is a chance to have fun while being creative and flexible. There’s no rule that says you can’t add some annuals to the mix or relocate a plant that isn’t prospering at any point. Perennial plantings will evolve over time; trees and shrubs extending their reach and herbaceous plants expanding or losing territory. This leaves us the choice to heavily prune and manage or let things unfold as they will.

Here are some guild ideas
Medicinal guild: Fruit and veggie guild:
Mediterranean herbs
apple tree
haskap berry
walking onion
scarlet runner beans

Expert guidance

Books and online resources can serve as useful guides to choosing and placing perennials.

Here are few of the best:

The post Perpetual Edibles appeared first on alive.

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Life never stands still. Neither does your immune system. As you journey through each chapter of life, your immune system evolves to tackle the different challenges it will encounter. Here’s how to give it everything it needs, no matter your age.

Tots & toddlers

The moment you leave the safety of your mother’s womb, your body is exposed to viruses, bacteria, and a host of new risks. Previously, your mother’s immune system helped shield you from danger, and moms still play a vital immunity role for children.

“Breastfeeding offers a baby the best form of immunity with antibodies that naturally pass through a mother’s breast milk,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Crystal Karges. “It’s an immune builder for babies.”

The stronger a mother’s immune system, the better. Moms can even boost their own immune systems, says Karges, by “eating a diet rich in plant-based, whole foods, which are higher in antioxidants. Supplements, especially probiotics and omega-3 fatty acids, also help a mother’s immunity.”

Finally, consider your little one’s own gut health. “When your baby is old enough to begin eating solids, this is a good time to start introducing foods that are naturally fermented,” says Karges. For younger kids, baby probiotic supplements do the trick.

(Please note that it’s important for everyone, including pregnant women, breastfeeding moms, and babies to check with their health care practitioners before taking or giving supplements.)

A healing touch

Skin-to-skin contact exposes your child to the healthy bacteria on your own skin, which strengthens your baby’s immune system by making your baby less susceptible to unhealthy bacteria. “Keep your baby close to you to help naturally build immunity,” says Karges.

It’s all about immunity Bacteria are everywhere

Your clothes, public transportation, and elevator buttons are some of the dirtiest surfaces around you. Food matters, too. Even if you follow a healthy, balanced diet, you’d still eat approximately 1.26 billion microbes every day.

Don’t take immunity for granted

One in 40,000 to 100,000 people are born with “bubble boy disease” and have no active immune system.

Best-by date

It takes two to three months for a healthy newborn’s immune system to mature.

Laughter is the best medicine

Positive emotions may improve your immune system and help you recover from an illness faster.


Your teen is likely used to late nights, irregular sleep habits, and a packed schedule, but lack of sleep is nothing to sneeze at. While your teen needs nine to 10 hours of sleep a night, 85 percent of teens don’t get anywhere close to that number.

All of this sleep deprivation can lead to a weaker immune system and a slower recovery when your teen falls ill. Creating more structure, avoiding caffeine, and keeping digital devices out of the bedroom can help your child get a little more rest.

Diet is also key. Canadian teens eat more sugary foods and sweetened drinks than any other age group in Canada, and sugar makes our immune system’s “killer cells” less effective.

“Make sure they’re eating a balanced diet with protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates with every meal,” says Dr. Fiona Smulders, a naturopathic doctor in Vancouver.

Poor diet and too much sugar may be one reason why nearly 60 percent of Canadian teens have had at least one tooth cavity. Interestingly, oral health says a lot about our overall health.

“Bad bacteria in your mouth can lead to disease-causing bacteria in vital organs,” warns Dr. Michael Smith, MD, director of education at Life Extension.

Both experts suggest probiotics as a way to boost your teen’s immunity and improve their overall well-being. “Strengthening their intestinal microbiome with a good quality probiotic supplement has been shown to lessen the frequency, duration, and intensity of a cold or flu,” says Smulders.

And according to Smith, healthy bacteria may be the next frontier for fighting cavities.

Let food be thy medicine

Foods thought to help “boost our immune strength include garlic, ginger, onions, chicken or vegetable broth, and various culinary herbs like sage, thyme, and oregano,” says Smulders.

Adults & seniors

We have a stress epidemic on our hands. One in four adult Canadian workers report that they’re highly stressed, and three out of four Canadians say they have some level of stress on a regular basis.

Chronic stress reduces your white blood cell count, which leaves you more susceptible to getting sick. Stress also causes chronic inflammation in your body, which can raise your risks of asthma, cancer, and other diseases.

Meditation is one of the most effective ways to de-stress. Not only that, but studies have found that meditation may help protect your immune cells, increase your antibodies, improve the effectiveness of your immune system, and reduce inflammation.

That last point is critical for your long-term health. “As we age, we accumulate more inflammation and oxidative damage, which we see with increased rates of osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease in the older population,” says Smulders.

Inflammation and oxidative damage affect aging and healing, as well as the strength of your immune system. “Therefore, treatment strategies to reduce inflammation and oxidative damage can be very beneficial,” she suggests.

Much of it comes down to diet. Cut out sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods, and eat more fruits and vegetables. “Colourful produce contain compounds called flavonoids—potent antioxidants that protect the body against inflammation and oxidative damage,” says Smulders. Some of her favourite go-tos include berries, carrots, broccoli, grapes, and dark green leafy vegetables.

“Supplements can also help lower inflammation and oxidative damage,” she notes. Her top choices for immune health include omega-3 fatty acids; curcumin; and vitamins A, C, and E.

And while many people run to standard standbys, such as vitamin C and echinacea, when they feel they’re coming down with something, Smulders argues that zinc is the unsung superhero of the immune system.

“Zinc stimulates the production of our own immune cells so we have a better defence against viruses and bacteria,” says Smulders, pointing to research showing how people catch fewer colds when they take zinc supplements. “You can also try zinc-rich foods such as pumpkin seeds, nuts, seafood, whole grains, and egg yolks,” she suggests.

The post Ageless Immunity appeared first on alive.

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In December 2007—while much of the world, and especially North Americans, were preparing for the most shamefully wasteful time of year—environmental advocate Annie Leonard debuted her 20-minute educational film, The Story of Stuff.

The film, which examines the materialist economy from extraction all the way to disposal, sheds light on the ruthless exploitation of people, materials, and land required to keep this unsustainable system going.

2007 to today

Since the film’s release, it’s been viewed more than 30 million times around the world and sparked the formation of the Story of Stuff Project (storyofstuff.org), a nonprofit organization dedicated to shifting the way we “make, use, and throw away stuff.”

The organization has created 14 additional online films tackling everything from bottled water to electronic waste; they’ve also campaigned against the use of microbeads (tiny bits of plastic often found in cosmetics), water privatization, plastic pollution, and more.

The Story of Stuff community now exceeds 1 million members globally, and they’re taking on their biggest opponent to date: plastics.

We have a plastic problem

According to a recent report, approximately 8.3 billion metric tonnes of virgin plastics have been produced globally to date. Of this, researchers estimate upwards of 6.3 billion metric tonnes have been disposed of in the following ways:

  • 9 percent had been recycled
  • 12 percent was incinerated
  • 79 percent was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment

In Canada, we’re sheltered from this harsh reality, since we have the infrastructure in place to dispose of our plastics and other waste. But the truth is, Canadians are some of the worst waste offenders in the world.

In 2016, residential sources of waste for disposal totalled more than 10 million tonnes, with non-residential sources nearing 15 million tonnes. Much of this waste, we can assume, is made up of single-use plastics.

What a waste

To give you a visual, 8.3 billion metric tonnes is the equivalent of approximately 1,500 of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Convenience is costly

Like the name implies, single-use plastics are designed to be used only once before they’re disposed of. To put it simply, single-use plastics are the result of a convenience-driven culture combined with corporate greed, and all over the world, people and the environment are paying the toll.

Plastic production relies upon a steady stream of crude oil, a finite resource that is dwindling by the day. Our insatiable appetite for crude oil has resulted in a long list of damaging environmental impacts, including catastrophic oil spills, habitat disruption, and unsafe drinking water.

Plastic disposal, in the form of incineration, releases dangerous toxins such as dioxins into the air and groundwater. According to the World Health Organization, dioxins can cause “reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones, and also cause cancer.”

The solution is prevention

Reduce, reuse, and recycle—for years the “three Rs” have been touted as the solution to our growing waste problem. However, overemphasis on recycling actually perpetuates the problem, since it doesn’t force us to look at our consumption habits.

In other words, recycling gives us a free pass to keep purchasing new products, so long as we put the packaging in the blue bin. We’re better off focusing on the other two Rs if we really want to make a positive impact.

Recently, Australia made headlines when the country’s two largest supermarket chains banned single-use plastic bags. In just three short months, this monumental decision prevented approximately 1.5 billion bags from entering the environment.

Vancouver has also been in the news for being the first major Canadian city to ban plastic drinking straws, effective this fall, along with polystyrene foam cups and containers. While this decision has garnered fair criticism (it’s by no means the “magic bullet to cleanse the oceans”), if handled responsibly, it could be a step in the right direction and an example of much-needed government action.

There is hope

In what could have been a bleak and apathy-inducing commentary, filmmakers of The Story of Stuff instead inspired viewers to take action and join a global community.

Their message is simple: together we can hold corporations and our governments accountable, and individually we can take action every day toward a safer, cleaner, and more environmentally responsible world.

“It’s just one bottle” …

… but it adds up to 13 million tonnes of plastic each year into our oceans

In May 2018, an eight-month old harp seal pup was found dead on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. Veterinary pathologist Andrew Brownlow necropsied the pup only to find it had ingested plastic. According to Brownlow, it’s rare to see intelligent creatures such as harp seals ingesting plastic, indicating how dire the plastic problem truly is.

In Indonesia last year, a dead right whale washed ashore with a large lump containing nearly 13 lbs (6 kg) of plastic waste in its stomach. Researchers from World Wildlife Fund said the lump of plastic contained 115 plastic cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, two flip-flops, a nylon sack, and more than 1,000 other pieces of plastic.

Kick the plastic habit

No one said redefining our relationship with things and, in particular, with plastic would be easy, but we must start somewhere if we want to kick the habit.

  • Instead of relying on a restaurant’s plastic or styrofoam containers for your takeout, bring your own reusable containers.
  • Drink your coffee at the cafe instead of getting a to-go cup, or bring your own reusable mug.
  • Say “no, thank you” to plastic bags and bring your own cloth bags for groceries and produce.
  • Instead of buying something new, see if you can pick it up second-hand or borrow it from a friend.

The post Stuff It appeared first on alive.

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