Mississippi Communities Share Food and Conversations for Better Health

Kait Sukiennik, co-owner of Greenhouse on Porter, volunteers as Chef of the Week for the East Biloxi Garden Supper.

Kait Sukiennik, co-owner of Greenhouse on Porter, volunteers as Chef of the Week for the East Biloxi Garden Supper.

Feed the Seed is an urban food systems and community revitalization program that connects residents living in food insecure neighborhoods to local growers and chefs to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables. It began in 2016 as a partnership between Mississippi State University’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio and Climb Community Development Corporation to build a community garden in Gaston Point, a Gulfport, Mississippi neighborhood where much of the population does not live within walking distance of a reliable food source and fresh produce. Today the community garden is co-managed by Climb’s Conservation Corps and the West Gulfport Civic Club.

In 2017, Feed the Seed began hosting Garden Suppers where participants work together to prepare and share a healthy meal. Produce is purchased from community gardens and local farmers’ markets and then the meal is planned based on what is available and in season. The Garden Suppers use Good and Cheap, How to Eat well on $4 a Day, by Leanne Brown, as a guidebook, and everyone goes home with a copy of the book and $10 vouchers that are redeemable at 3 local farmers’ markets.

Additional funding from the American Heart Association provided for expansion across the three coastal Mississippi counties. The hope is that each host organization gleans ideas and tools to continue sharing knowledge and healthy food around a supper table in their community. The participants have fun trying new-to-them vegetables and recipes and discussing healthy food, homegrown veggies and the importance of supporting local growers.

“The most interesting outcome has been how much participants learn from one another, and how valuable the social aspect of preparing and sharing food together has been to the process,” says facilitator Tracy Wyman. At recent suppers, people have shared how diet change and exercise helped them lower cholesterol, control diabetes and lose weight. 

“One participant recently diagnosed with diabetes, says that she and her husband have already lost weight since participating in the series, and are truly benefitting from learning from other participants,” says Wyman who recounts many similar stories that demonstrate how Feed the Seed is impacting community health by increasing knowledge and consumption of fresh foods. She says, “It’s exciting to see how excited people get about this and all of the good that comes from sharing in that experience together.”

The next series will begin July 11 for four consecutive Thursdays at King’s Kitchen in Bay St. Louis. For more information, call 228-436-4661 or visit Facebook.com/FeedTheSeedChallenge.

CBD 101

Jeff Sheldon on the Basics of Cannabidiol

The Health Hut has been serving Lower Alabama for more than 30 years. With a knowledgeable staff and a focus on high quality, whole-food vitamins, herbs and supplements, their stores started carrying a range of hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) products last year. As more people consider cannabinoids to be essential to overall health, Natural Awakenings asked owner Jeff Sheldon about CBD—what is it, who needs it and how to shop for it.

What is CBD?

CBD is cannabidiol, which is a plant-based cannabinoid that is almost identical to endocannabinoids—the cannabinoids that our body produces. Our endocannabinoid system is important because it’s like the conductor of the orchestra—it helps coordinate and maintain all the systems in our bodies. When we take CBD oil, it mimics the body’s endocannabinoids, filling the receptors and promoting balance. This gets all the body’s systems working more efficiently.

Why are people taking CBD?

Many of our customers are finding out about it by word of mouth from friends who are getting really good results. Most often they want it for pain and inflammation or stress and anxiety, but also for sleep issues, blood sugar regulation, PTSD or to help with symptoms of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Full-spectrum products like the ones we sell have so many beneficial properties and nutrients—anti-inflammatory, high in antioxidants, anti-convulsive, anti-psychotic. Studies have found that CBD is good for gut health too, enhancing the growth of good bacteria while preventing the growth of bad, and it mediates the permeability of the intestinal wall. There are benefits for almost everyone.

How can you enhance the effects of CBD?

Research is finding that the more inflammation someone has, the less benefits they experience. With higher omega-3 concentrations in the body, they will feel the effects of CBD more. So if you’re not getting enough omega-3 in your diet or through supplementation, you will not receive as great a benefit from taking CBD oil. Omega-3 can actually help synthesize cannabinoids within the body and regulate the whole endocannabinoid system. Also, the longer you use CBD, the better it works.

What are some common misconceptions about CBD?

That it’s marijuana. CBD comes from the hemp plant and has no psychoactive qualities. You can think of them as different subspecies of the cannabis plant.

Another misconception is that it’s a cure-all. It’s just one more feather in our cap of good health practices. We still need to hydrate, exercise, eat less sugar and more fruits and vegetables. This is just one more thing to add to our daily routine to improve our health.

What should consumers look for when they’re shopping for CBD?

Look for brands that are transparent with third party testing. With independent lab tests, as a consumer I can look at that analysis and see for myself how potent the CBD is and whether it contains things like pesticides, toxins or bad bacteria. Find someone knowledgeable to ask about the differences between products because not all CBD is created equally. We’re not going to know everything, but we’re trying to train our staff to be the best educated in the area.

For more information, visit HealthHutAL.com.

Tips for Growing Herbs on the Gulf Coast

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by Rain Keane

• The warm season is the time to plant annual and tropical herbs. Basil is the number 1 herb of summer. Warm temperatures and plenty of root room are a must because basil is a root­hog. Tropical herbs like lemon verbena, pineapple sage, gingers, Cuban oregano and lemongrass are the same, with the benefit of being savable from year to year if given some protection in the winter.

• Accept that a few herbs like French tarragon, narrow­leafed culinary sages and young, newly planted thymes will do poorly in the hot months. Texas tarragon and Berggarten sage are excellent heat-tolerant varieties for the Gulf Coast. 

• Fall is the best time to start dill and cilantro and plan to replant them often. These particular herbs go to seed as soon as they are mature. Dill and cilantro have both leaves and seeds that are delicious, and their seeds can be saved from year to year. Cilantro seeds are a spice commonly called coriander.

• Plant your perennial and biennial herbs in the fall or early winter for the best results—especially parsley, thyme and lavender.  

 Rain Keane is the owner of Good Scents Herbs and Flowers in Robertsdale, AL. Connect at Rain.Keane@yahoo.com.

Salon Offers Ayurvedic Spa Treatments

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TMAC’s organic holistic salon is now offering Shirolepa, an Ayurvedic hair treatment that utilizes a powerful combination of medicinal herbs on the scalp and a medicated oil on the head and body. Once the herbal paste is massaged into the scalp, the head is covered with nourishing leaves. As the eyes are covered with an eye mask, the client enjoys an upper body massage before the paste is removed and the oil is wiped off. The treatment can reduce headaches, relieve tension, nourish the skin, prevent the graying of hair and stabilize the nervous system, ultimately leading to extreme relaxation.

Some of the Ayurvedic herbs used in Shirolepa include jatamasi for anti-stress and anti-fatigue; brahmi to regulate the hormones involved with the stress response; ashwagandha, which is a combination of amino acids and vitamins to boost energy, stamina and endurance power; vacha to improve sleep, calm an anxious mind and improve memory; amla, which is rich in antioxidants and can improve eyesight; and gotu kola to increase blood circulation in the brain.

In addition to spa treatments and organic hair services, TMAC sells supplements such as CBD and superfood mushroom blends.

Locations: 2101 Highway 98, Ste. E, Daphne, AL (251-725-4334) and 1861 Old Government St., Mobile, AL. (251-607-6666). For more information, visit TMACsHairStudio.com. 

Mobile Restaurant Goes Plastic-Free

OK Bicycle Shop, in downtown Mobile, is the first restaurant in Alabama to officially join the Plastic Free Gulf Coast initiative that started in Mississippi last year. A launch party during happy hour on July 18 will celebrate their commitment to being plastic-free with drink specials, music and giveaways.

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With funding from the 2018 NOAA Marine Debris Prevention grant, Plastic Free Gulf Coast is focused on reducing single-use plastics, Styrofoam and plastic-lined food and beverage containers within the five Gulf states through outreach, education and improving consumer access to alternatives. “Our economy, human health, recreation and ecology all depend on healthy and plastic free water,” says Plastic Free Gulf Coast organizer Elizabeth Englebretson. “Every step that we take, even if it seems small, has a direct and immediate impact on the pandemic of microplastics and plastic pollution.”

Consumer action is vital and Englebretson’s main focus is to consult with restaurants, businesses and organizations to determine a model for implementing alternatives to plastics that are cost effective and sustainable. OK Bicycle Shop has committed to doing away with single-use petroleum-based plastics and Styrofoam by switching to paper straws, plant-based plastic to-go containers and reusable sushi mats instead of plastic wrap.

Other downtown restaurants are joining the movement by adopting “straws on request” policies, switching to plant-based straws and/or moving away from Styrofoam. Mobile Baykeeper has been instrumental in connecting these businesses to the collaborative, multi-state movement and in the creation of a soon-to-be-released interactive map of all Plastic Free Gulf Coast restaurants.

Location: 661 Dauphin St., Mobile, AL. For more information, email PlasticFreeGC@gmail.com and find Plastic Free Gulf Coast on Facebook.

Trading Clutter for Calm

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The Minimalist Family

by Meredith Montgomery

When Denaye Barahona, of New York City, became a parent, she felt compelled to buy everything for her son. “We are inundated as a culture with so many products for our kids that it’s hard to differentiate what we need; it really wears us down,” she says.

While working on her Ph.D. in child development, Barahona discovered—both in research and personal experience—that kids actually thrive with less stuff. And so she began her journey toward minimalism by purging toys and clothes, eventually founding SimpleFamilies.com.

Cary Fortin and Kyle Quilici, of San Francisco, believe time is better spent experiencing life with people than managing, organizing, cleaning and buying things. Their book New Minimalism: Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living is a call to adopt a more mindful life. Fortin says, “You decide first what you value, how you want to spend your days, how you want to feel, and then reflect these values in your physical space.”

“Minimalism is not about living in a tiny home and never owning more than 100 things; it’s about figuring out what brings value and purpose to your life and letting go of the rest,” says Atlanta’s Zoë Kim, author of Minimalism for Families: Practical Minimalist Living Strategies to Simplify Your Home and Life.

The Benefits

Time is precious, especially for parents. More free time is gained when a toy collection is significantly reduced, but other benefits result, as well. A 2018 University of Toledo study published in Infant Behavior and Development suggests toddlers engage in more focused and creative play when faced with fewer choices. “Kids who previously tore through bins or who didn’t care about their belongings immediately begin engaging with toys more appropriately and for longer periods of time,” says Barahona, the author of Simple Happy Parenting: The Secret of Less for Calmer Parents and Happier Kids

Research also indicates that our limited stores of willpower are depleted more quickly when we are flooded with decisions. “When you have less stuff in a room and less choices to make, your mental state actually improves—you have more clarity and can focus better,” she says. “Because kids are so much more easily stimulated, they feel the impact of a chaotic room even more than adults.”

Minimalism also arms children with self-reflection tools and introduces them to the process of letting go and donating. “They learn to ask ‘Am I enjoying this? Could I repurpose it?’ while understanding that some things we can mend and enjoy for long periods of time, and other things we outgrow—which we can then give away,” says Fortin.

Where to Start

Minimalism starts with a reset—a clearing out of accumulated possessions—so that a clutter-free space can be maintained. Experts agree that in family households, the shift toward minimalism should begin with the adults. “It gives them time to understand how the process feels and models the behavior for their children,” says Fortin.

Barahona streamlines her home by focusing on active spaces. “Active items are the things you use regularly, such as your two favorite pairs of jeans—not the 13 pairs you rarely wear.” She encourages parents to start with one space, such as a mudroom, and make it active. Leave only the items that are being worn this week and put away out-of-season belongings such as hats and mittens. When active and storage items accumulate in the same space, the need to sort through extra “stuff” wastes time and energy, she says. “We’ve all lost our keys when we’re already running late and then suddenly we’re yelling at our kids. Simplifying so we can prevent these scenarios positively impacts our mood and our ability to be present with our kids.”

       Although the decluttering process starts with the parents, children should be involved as much as possible, and in a positive light. “Kids don’t like cleaning up, but with ongoing conversations and small consistent shifts, children see how less stuff can lead to more time for enjoyable activities,” says Kim.

Quilici, who studied interior design with an emphasis on sustainability, notes that she was not born a minimalist and had her parents forced major clean-outs she might not be eager to do the decluttering work she’s doing now. “As parents you can set standards for common rooms of the home but allow kids to have total domain over certain areas so they can be themselves,” she advises.

Minimalist strategies can be applied across many realms of life, such as scaling back the family calendar and hovering less as a parent. “Family life always seems to speed up, but we can break the cycle of busy by scheduling blank time. Being intentional with time goes hand-in-hand with minimalism,” says Quilici.

To stay inspired, find social media pages and websites to follow for ideas. “You’re going to hit roadblocks, so it’s important to surround yourself with inspiration,” Kim says. “Now that I’ve let go of the lifestyle I thought I needed, it’s nice to have less, but it’s even better to want less.”


How to Keep the Clutter Out

Set Physical Boundaries

Establish rules for what can be stored, where and how much. Childhood keepsakes, artwork, craft supplies and school papers can accumulate quickly. Limit how much can be kept by designating a box for toys or a wall to display art. Digital photos allow the memories to be kept without taking up physical space.

Create a ‘Why’ Statement

Determine how we want to feel in a space, document it and refer to it for inspiration and guidance, especially when feeling frustrated or lost.

Practice ‘One In, One Out’

Every time a new item enters the home, an old item needs to leave.

Buy Better Toys

The right toys invite kids to play more creatively over many years. Character toys may invoke more initial joy and giddiness, but a great block set will manifest longer-lasting value for kids

The Prevention and Treatment of Dementia

Dr. Douglas Brown

Dr. Douglas Brown

Dr. D. Douglas Brown, DC, DACNB, owner of the Mind Performance Center, LLC, in Foley, Alabama, improves quality of life by providing non-drug rehabilitation for a range of brain disorders including dementia, traumatic brain injury, autism, stroke and depression (even treatment-resistant depression). He is one of only a few functional neurologists in the U.S. combining the Bredesen protocol with the use of brain pathway activation therapy and deep transcranial magnetic stimulation. Because his multi-faced approach can treat and sometimes reverse Alzheimer’s, we asked Brown for tips on the prevention and treatment of dementia.

What steps can individuals take to prevent dementia?

The number one thing you can do to protect yourself from cognitive decline is to get sugar out of your diet. Don’t switch to diet sodas—all sugars are bad whether they’re artificial or natural. If there is a history of Alzheimer’s in your family, even fruit should be eaten in limited amounts due to its naturally-occurring sugar content.

      Being social is also very important because when we’re interacting with others, it makes our brains think and it makes us feel valued. I want my patients getting out of the house regularly to join clubs, go outdoors, dance, whatever they like as long as they’re with other people.

What other diet recommendations do you have?

Eat like your grandmothers and your great grandmothers ate—avoid artificial ingredients and processed junk food. Choose organic as much as possible and focus on whole foods. Low-mercury fish is the best choice for meat. Refer to [Alzheimer’s researcher] Dale Bredesen’s SMASH acronym, which stands for salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring.

What are the first signs of dementia?

When you begin forgetting things and having to make lists for things that are not typically forgotten. Taking a list to the grocery store is normal, having to write down a familiar nephew’s name is not. If doing math in your head is suddenly a struggle and it wasn’t before, that is also a symptom of dementia.

Patients often dismiss signs early on and then they begin using tricks to hide symptoms from family and friends. When names become hard to remember they may start calling you “buddy” or saying, “How’s it going, friend?”

We also work with subjective cognitive impairment cases, where a patient knows there is a decline even when tests don’t detect the change. Attorneys see me for this—neurological tests may indicate that everything is normal but they insist that they aren’t as sharp as they were. We can work with them to improve their brain health.

How do you manage and reverse dementia when symptoms become apparent? 

We use the Bredesen Protocol, which requires a full neurological exam and detailed bloodwork so we see how well the brain is functioning and where the weaknesses are. Whatever we find wrong, we fix it. In addition to an individualized science-based nutrition program, we use deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to wake up the brain. TMS functions like a volume switch; we turn up the volume on the brain so that it works better. We also have special exercises and therapies to improve balance and dexterity. These exercises correlate to specific parts of the brain which stimulates those areas. Plus, we use speed of thinking therapies.

What is your number one piece of advice?

The biochemical cascade of events begins when we are in our 30s and 40s. By the time we are forgetting things, a lot of damage has been done. The most important thing is don’t wait. I can’t overemphasize that the longer you wait the more damage that’s done. Plus there’s no harm in a preventative evaluation—we call them cognoscopies—where we’ll do tests and bloodwork to see how the brain is functioning and let the patient know what areas they need to focus on. Brain disorders such as dementia are correctable, but the sooner you act, the more we can do to help.

For more information, visit MindPerformanceCenter.com.

Massage-Like Therapy Reduces Inflammation

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Electro-lymphatic therapy is offered at ThermographyAdvantage to reduce inflammation and support the immune system. As the body’s natural waste removal system, the lymphatic system carries toxins out of the body. When it becomes sluggish, the lymphatic fluid becomes jelled and gets stuck in different areas of the body, causing inflammation, which can lead to disease and sickness.

“Since lymphatic organs play an important role in the immune system, the proper flow of lymphatic fluid can have a positive effect on many conditions faced by our clients,” says ThermographyAdvantage owner and certified lymphatic therapist Carolyn Olson. Electro-lymphatic therapy has been used to help patients with general inflammation, lymphedema, edema and water retention, cancer, heart disease, cosmetic enhancement, pre- and post-athletic application, enlarged prostate and general detoxification.

Sessions last approximately one hour and feel similar to having a light touch massage, as two small handheld wands are gently moved across the body to break up the lymphatic fluid and promote its proper flow.

ThermographyAdvantage is based in Mobile with locations across the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida. In addition to electro-lymphatic therapy, they offer breast thermography, full body thermography, biofeedback technology and infrared sauna sessions.

For more information, call 251-623-2225 or visit ThermographyAdvantage.com

Explore Biloxi by Bike

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This month’s Bike Biloxi ride will leave the Biloxi Visitors Center at 6 p.m., June 18 for a leisurely ride through downtown Biloxi to Cadet Point. The ride takes place every third Tuesday and ends at a local restaurant so participants can enjoy dinner and drinks together. This free and fun 7-mile ride is open to beginners, with police officers riding at the front and back of the group.

“This is a great way to show people around downtown Biloxi while supporting local eateries,” says Corey Christy, the Vice President of Mainstreet Biloxi. “It looks difficult to get around downtown on bike but once you try it, you realize how easy it is to navigate and how much there is to enjoy like art and restaurants and events.”

Helmets and lights are recommended and bike rentals are available through the Zagster app if needed.

For more information, call 228-435-6339, email MainStreet@biloxi.ms.us or find Bike Biloxi on Facebook.

A Holistic Approach to Breast Health

Thermography Advantage Offers Preventative Care and Early Detection

Carolyn Olson has always been fascinated by holistic solutions. She vividly remembers being stung by a wasp at the age of 3 and how her pain immediately dissipated when a neighbor put tobacco on it. “I think there is a natural solution for everything. We just have to become aware of what’s available to us,” she says.

Carolyn Olson

Olson’s family has a significant history of cancer and she was never pleased with the treatment plans she witnessed. She says, “I have always been looking for better options and methods of preventative care.”

With a background in nursing, Olson first learned about thermography in a cancer prevention seminar for continuing education credits. As a Mobile resident she searched for local thermographers, but ended up having to drive to Atlanta for her first breast thermography appointment. After making the multi-state commute, she decided to open Thermography Advantage in Mobile. With a decade of experience as a certified thermographer, she now serves clients in nine locations from Louisiana to Florida.

“Since I’ve always leaned toward holistic care, this was a good match because it is radiation-free, non-invasive and highly effective,” says Olson, who utilizes the only thermography camera that is registered by the FDA as a medical device. The digital infrared thermal images are interpreted by a panel of certified medical doctors and that information is utilized for the prevention of and early protection from diseases.

Thermography is most known for breast screening—a procedure that takes 15 minutes and requires no compression of the breast tissue. This natural approach helps women of all ages detect breast disease at an early stage, and is particularly useful for women under 50 where mammography is less effective.

As a test of physiology, thermography can detect subtle changes in breast temperature that accompany breast pathology, whether it is cancer, fibrocystic disease, an infection or a vascular disease. Although it can offer the opportunity of earlier detection than mammography alone, thermography is an adjunct to the appropriate usage of mammography, not a competitor. “What one might miss, the other can catch; it’s important to look at it from all angles,” says Olson, who advises using thermography prior to a mammogram. “Mammography might damage the tissue which will show up in thermography, plus if we see something in the thermogram, a doctor can then focus on that area in the mammogram.”

In addition to being used by a patient’s doctor for diagnosis of disease, many of Olson’s clients use thermography to form a baseline for future routine evaluations so they can watch for changes from year-to-year.

“If changes occur in the thermogram yet a mammogram reveals that nothing is wrong, we still encourage clients to focus on that area of inflammation to prevent disease down the road. We offer electro-lymphatic therapy which is a noninvasive way that we can get rid of inflammation, help heal the body and keep you well,” says Olson.

The lymphatic system removes waste from the body and plays a vital role in the immune system. When it becomes sluggish, fluid can get stuck in different areas of the body causing inflammation, which can contribute to myriad symptoms and illnesses from colds and excess water retention to hypertension and cancer. A lymphatic therapist can foster the flow of lymph by lightly and smoothly moving small handheld wands across the body. “It’s painless and very calming—it’s similar to having a light touch massage,” Olson explains. Another thermogram can be taken after electro-lymphatic therapy so clients can see how effective the treatment was.

Full body thermography can monitor inflammation beyond the breast and detect dysfunction of organs. If someone is experiencing digestive issues, a thermogram of their abdomen will reveal what part of the body is causing the issues. If inflammation shows up on the imaging of someone without symptoms, the client is encouraged to take preventative measures before dysfunction occurs.

Thermography Advantage’s additional services include biofeedback technology and infrared sauna sessions. Olson says, “Everything I offer is something I truly believe in. I believe in them for the well-being of my clients, but I also believe in them because they’re healthy for me.”

For more information, visit ThermographyAdvantage.com.

Health Food Store Renovations Embrace Nature

Wellness by Design

Health Food Store Renovations Foster Health and Embrace Nature

by Meredith Montgomery

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Fairhope Health Foods employees smile when they hear customers say, “We love your new expansion!” When you walk through the new double-door entrance, the updated space does feel bigger, but in reality, it’s not.

“It shows you how much good lighting, fresh color and views to the outdoors can transform your experience of a space,” says architect and owner of WATERSHED, Rebecca Bryant, who guided the design of the store’s recent renovations. 

Fairhope Health Foods, the first health food store in Lower Alabama, opened in 1975. Along with Virginia’s Health Foods (their sister store in Mobile), they are known for excellent customer service and expansive product inventory. In addition to supplements and health foods (including fresh, organic produce), the stores stock a variety of products that include natural cosmetics, natural pet food and products, eco-friendly cleaning supplies and fair trade gifts. Bryant has been working on plans for their remodel with owner Lynnora Ash since 2017 and construction started around Thanksgiving of last year.

Lynnora Ash, owner

Lynnora Ash, owner

“It’s like we do with our bodies—you say you want a healthier, newer you. That’s what we wanted for our store,” says Ash. This health-centered mission inspired Bryant to focus on two strategies—active design (which promotes physical, mental and social well-being) and biophilia design (which connects people to nature).


Healthy Design

WATERSHED used the Fitwel guidelines, created by the Center for Active Design, to inspire the design. Custom bike racks are being installed to accommodate customers and employees who wish to take advantage of the sidewalks and bike lanes that are accessible from the store. Inside they used certified low-emitting materials for the floor, ceiling, paints and adhesives, and care was taken to protect the store from indoor air contaminants during construction. The implementation of a green cleaning program for after construction is also required by the certification.

To foster the health of their staff, the break room was made more private and includes an area for breastfeeding employees that need to pump, plus space for everyone to store their own fresh foods. Better ergonomics is a priority that influenced the addition of sit-to-stand desks.

Accessibility upgrades for disabled customers and employees (including restrooms) is a part of Fitwel’s standards and something Ash emphasized early in the process. Since moving to their current location in 2001, they have expanded several times. “That’s why there were poles in the middle of some of the aisles—the current space used to be three separate stores. Lynnora started in one of the spaces and expanded her store into two more,” explains Bryant. By shifting the aisles so the poles are no longer blocking the path, they appear wider and are now more accessible for wheelchairs.


Connecting With Nature

Biophilia, a term coined by Alabama native E. O. Wilson, describes our innate affinity with nature. When applied to design, biophilia tries to connect people to nature using spatial relationships, materials, lighting, ventilation, views and actual nature (often in the form of plants). 

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To open the store to outside views, the mirrored tint on the storefront windows was replaced with a transparent, energy efficient window film that reflects heat. A louvered screen wall made out of naturally weathered cedar is also being installed. “The west-facing windows act as an oven in the afternoon and the wooden screen filters the strong afternoon light while still allowing people to see in and out of the store,” says Bryant. “We also looked for opportunities to introduce natural materials because people respond physically and emotionally to them like they respond to views of nature.”

The base of the checkout counter will mimic the window screen with the same maple and the top is granite. To reduce waste they used existing shelving but updated their look by painting the backboards black and enlisting a local cabinet maker to build endcaps with another natural material—maple. 

In addition to switching to highly efficient LED light fixtures that are closer to the color temperature of sunlight, highly-reflective paint colors were used on the walls. Compared to the previous earth tones, the color palette is simpler but the walls are more dynamic, since they react to natural light as it changes throughout the day.

A green screen of vines outside the store will soften the views of the parking lot and create better outdoor seating for the Sunflower Café next door. This element will also establish a visual identity for the store so they are more easily identifiable in the long retail strip.

Additional standard practice environmental improvements include enhanced energy efficiency via new insulation that is formaldehyde-free and high in recycled content, plus the installation of Water Sense certified plumbing fixtures. Ash was immediately rewarded for the energy and water conserving updates with a savings of approximately $1,000 on her monthly utility bill.

Supporting Community

Bryant acknowledges the community that Ash has built around the store and café, noting, “Her customers really feel at home here—someone said walking into the store was like walking into ‘Cheers’ and I love that. It was important that this renovation was more than retail design; it was design to support that community.”

The store remained open during the entire renovation process and Ash expresses immense gratitude for the patience of everyone involved. “Our customers have been so supportive and complimentary along the way. They appreciate the green choices we made and were impressed that there were no toxic smells with all that was going on,” she says. “Some came into the store even when they didn’t need anything, just to see what was new since their last visit.”

Ash and her staff have prioritized the health of their customers for more than four decades. This renovation not only supports that commitment, it demonstrates an elevation in their wellness standards that will likely have an impact beyond the store’s walls. Fairhope Health Foods has raised the bar for smart design, and we look forward to seeing how their actions and intentions inspire others community-wide.

Location: 280 Eastern Shore Shopping Center, Fairhope, AL. For more information, call 251-928-0644 or visit Va-FairhopeHealthFoods.com.

John Butler Inspires Hope and Awareness

John Butler (photo credit: Kane Hibberd)

John Butler (photo credit: Kane Hibberd)

The Journey to Home

John Butler Inspires Hope and Awareness

by Meredith Montgomery

When singer-songwriter John Butler sees a performance that gives him chills, he leaves the show feeling like he could do anything. “If I can give that feeling to one person at every gig I play—because of what that experience gives to them, what it gives to me and in turn, what it gives to the world—if I can be a vehicle of that energy, then I’m doing my job.”

But Butler, who is now Australia’s highest selling independent artist of all time, never thought this would be his job. “I thought I’d be in Special Forces, a professional skateboarder, an artist or a teacher, never a musician,” he says.

Butler was 11 when his family moved from Los Angeles to Pinjarra, Australia. He lived a Huckleberry Finn-like life in this beautiful but isolated riverside town, but he also experienced xenophobia and racism firsthand. “It seemed my skin was the right color, but I had the wrong accent. Things could change really quickly when I’d begin to speak—like suddenly I was getting chased,” he recalls.

These experiences have kept him humble and down-to-earth through his musical success, but they’ve also helped fuel his outspoken and impassioned advocacy efforts for peace, environmental protection and global harmony.

“We live in an opulent society where everything is done for us. Our trash gets taken away—we put it in a bin, put the top on it and it’s like putting the top on your mind. We don’t know what hole it’s going in and there’s no sense of responsibility once it leaves our hands. And the opportunity to pollute and use plastic is getting easier and easier. It’s a convoluted situation,” he reflects.

His activism efforts are currently focused on the anti-fracking movement in Western Australia and speaking out against plans for the world’s largest coal mine to be built in North Queensland (which poses a threat to the Great Barrier Reef). A portion of his ticket and album sales often benefit charitable organizations, meet-and-greet experiences include a reusable water bottle and the band has utilized Globelet’s system to eliminate single-use plastic at some of his concerts. 

courtesy of Nettwerk

courtesy of Nettwerk

Butler carries his own straw, utensils and water bottle and has a garden and rain catchment system at home, but he wishes it was easier to do more, noting, “If we’re sending people to Mars, we should be able to have greater access to green energy.”

As a parent, Butler is careful not to discourage the future stewards of our earth, so he keeps his fatherly advice simple—treat others as you wish to be treated, and recognize that everything has a cost. “When our kids say ‘I want this’ or ‘I want that’, I remind them to think about the cost of having those things. What resources were used to make it? How does that affect the environment? Is it worth it?”

He also encourages his son and daughter to find a form of self-expression that they love as they navigate their teen years. “I want them to have a friend in something they can do on their own,” he says. “Whether it’s making something with their hands, playing music, sewing—there’s something really beautiful about escaping with yourself and your tools, something you can’t get with anybody else.”

For Butler, his guitar is that unwavering companion. While making his latest album, Home, a flood of emotions and anxieties surfaced once he stopped touring. “Bringing a song into the world is an enlightening process, and each one demands different things from me,” he says. He worked through intense introspection, which was challenging yet therapeutic and productive.

“Throughout the years that it took to make this album there were tears and frustration, confusion and chaos. But, there was family and friends, honesty and vulnerability, gardens and harvest, service and surrender. And amongst it all, ultimately, there was joy,” Butler reflects.

To balance the demands of his career, Butler leans on family and friends for love and laughter, plus skateboarding, running and meditation to clear his mind. He regularly seeks solace in nature and is also very spiritual. Traveling with a portable altar while on tour, he carries a collection of tokens from his ancestors, candles, photos, feathers and sage—bits and pieces that represent the tapestry of his faith. “I am struck by spirituality’s ability to bind cultures in story, song, ethics and morals for generations to come, so we can somehow make life a little bit more doable,” he says.

Butler’s music and actions have a similar effect on the audiences it touches. The band’s deep layers of chant-like vocals and heart-pounding drums can bring a sea of strangers together in song and dance, while the words he speaks and the life he leads inspire reflection and action by multiple populations. He’s doing more than his job—he’s cultivating hope and awareness on a global level.

Tickle Creative Brings Biophilic Design to Judges Square

Ameri’ca and Jason Tickle

Ameri’ca and Jason Tickle

Judges Square, the initial project of Ameri’ca and Jason Tickle of Tickle Creative, seeks to integrate nature into the built environment. Construction has begun on the Daphne property that was once home to the iconic Judge Roy Bean, and concepts of biophilia (E.O. Wilson’s term for the need to connect people to nature for their well-being and happiness) and new urbanism are inspiring the design.

While mixed-use buildings with residential flats and unique-to-market shops and eateries are part of the plan, much of the nearly two-acre property will be used for village-green style outdoor spaces. Nationally lauded for his environmentally-sensitive projects, Campion Hruby landscape architect Kevin Campion plans for more than 125 trees to accompany native plants and water features that create natural habitats alongside pathways and sidewalks connecting Montrose and Daphne.

“Although we live in a highly connected and integrated world, it is easy to feel disconnected from both each other and from the natural world that surrounds us. Our vision for Judges Square is a place for community to come together,” says Jason. “A recent news story recounted a trend where doctors are prescribing vitamin-N—meaning nature—to treat anxiety issues. The movement to restore vitamin N to our built environment is a major influence on the design team behind Judges Square. We’re investing in the future of this community, investing in our children and the vitality of their environment for years to come.”

For more information, visit JudgesSquare.com.

Annabelle Vestal: Sidewalk Advocate

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As a kindergartener, Annabelle Vestal asked the Mayor of Fairhope if a sidewalk could be built to connect her neighborhood to the city’s sidewalk system. “I wanted to walk to the pier and to my Opa’s house,” Vestal recalls. When the Mayor explained the process of city planning and budgeting, the response did not deter the 5-year-old—it gave her a plan of action.

Upon learning that her neighborhood falls under the county’s jurisdiction, Vestal met with the Baldwin County Commissioners to request a cost analysis for the .2-mile sidewalk that would connect Meadowbrook neighborhood to the sidewalk at the intersection of Gayfer Road Extension and Bishop Road. When she was told that it would cost $75,000 and that funding was not available, she began documenting traffic patterns and initiated a petition, garnering 65 signatures in support of the sidewalk.

Armed with research and citizen support, Vestal asked Fairhope to partner with the county to fund the project. The Mayor then suggested that she present her proposal to the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Board. Moved by the student’s confidence and passion, the board unanimously agreed to earmark funds in the 2016 budget. In 2017, after 5 years of hard work—which included the baking of lots of cookies for local officials—Vestal finally got her sidewalk. She was also the first recipient of the Baldwin County Trailblazer’s Giraffe Award—an award for individuals who stick their neck out to make a difference in their community.

Walking on the sidewalk almost daily to Fairhope Intermediate School, she remains an ambassador for the walkway and advocates for its upkeep. “I am proof that every voice, no matter how small, matters,” Vestal says. “Even kids can make big and little differences just by doing the things that make us, us.”

Loren Roman-Nunez: Leading Sustainability On and Off Campus

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As an undergraduate studying environmental biology and the president of EcoEagles at University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Gulf Park campus in Long Beach, Loren Roman-Nunez is invested in sustainability. “As humans, we have an obligation to be the best stewards we can be, and this cannot be achieved by any one person—it takes many hands,” she says. “Getting involved with EcoEagles has taught me that there are many people out there who care, but they need a means to congregate and share ideas.”

EcoEagles is a student organization focused on outreach, community service and environmental stewardship to promote the social, economic and environmental tenants of sustainability. They collaborate with the school’s Office of Sustainability to promote the campus recycling initiative and encourage sustainable practices in day-to-day lives of students.

The group was awarded a grant last year to construct a community garden on campus to demonstrate how to grow your own food in an environmentally friendly manner. With vegetables, herbs and native flowers growing, the students are encouraged to help maintain the garden as well as provide input on what to grow.

EcoEagles fosters Roman-Nunez’s involvement in the community both on and off campus and has made strides in connecting the university with other community sustainability initiatives. The group partners with Mississippi State University Extension Services for their beach cleanups and they participate in the Pearl Riverkeeper’s Clean Sweep, using kayaks to collect trash from the river. In association with Plastic Free Gulf Coast, EcoEagles also promotes the Office of Sustainability’s efforts to move the campus away from single-use plastics.

Roman-Nunez says, “My hope is that future students will continue to engage with their peers and employers to push the limits on what we can do together to mitigate human impacts on the environment and make better choices in our daily lives.”

Chloe Duren: Leading Peaceful Activism

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Following the announcement of a national student-led march for tighter gun control earlier this year, Murphy High School student Chloe Duren, 16, organized Mobile’s March for Our Lives event. In addition to reserving Public Safety Memorial Park, creating publicity, enlisting speakers and carrying out other logistical tasks, she gave one of the most moving speeches of the day.

“I’ve practiced lockdowns and active shooter drills for as long as I can remember,” she said to the crowd of 500. “The first thing I think when I walk into a room is ‘Where am I going to hide?’” Duren called for attendees to register to vote and to vote out politicians who stand in the way of gun control.

With permission of school administration, Duren also organized a walk-out in solidarity with the Parkland students, which culminated in the reading of the names of the students killed in the school shooting. A few months later, she assisted Ellen Sims, pastor of Open Table Community of Faith, in a prayer vigil for local immigrants and community members concerned about families being separated at the Mexican border. The gathering offered an opportunity for prayer, sharing of stories and the spreading of awareness in support of immigrant children and parents. Most recently, Duren was helping a local animal shelter place dogs in homes in advance of Tropical Storm Gordon.

“This young woman is poised, bright, passionate and delightful,” says Sims, who has known her since she was 7. “I’ve been privileged to watch her grow up and live out a commitment to social justice and peace.”

Call for Yoga Photos

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Imagine yourself on the cover of the Natural Awakenings Yoga Month issue! Submit your photos by August 6th for the chance to be featured on our September cover or in our special Yoga Month section.

SUBMISSION DETAILS:

  • Both vertical and horizontal photos are acceptable but only vertical images will be considered for the cover.
  • Photos should be 300dpi and at least 8x11 for the cover. Photos for interior pages should be at least 4 inches wide.
  • All photos should be sharp and in focus. 
  • Photos can be of individuals or groups. 
  • The background of the photo should not be too busy and you should leave copy space—this is empty space (like a blue sky or white wall) in the photo where we can place words. It’s better to give us lots of extra background area that can be cropped to our needs, than too little.
  • All submissions are subject to cropping and minor editing by Natural Awakenings. Unless you have professional editing experience, please do not do very much editing before submitting your photos. It often reduces the quality of the image.
  • Need some inspiration? Visit our digital archive on Issuu to look at previous September issues. All of our September issues since 2011 feature locally shot yoga covers plus yoga photos in the yoga section. Note that we are interested in advanced yoga poses as well as basic poses. Here’s a link: https://issuu.com/meraiko/docs
  • Submissions are due by 8am Monday, August 6, 2018. Limit 3 submissions per person.
  • Email photos to publisher@healthylivinghealthyplanet.com as an attachment (not embedded in email body) with the following info:
    • where was the photo taken
    • who is in the photo
    • photo credit (who took the photo)
  • There is no cost to submit your photos. If you are interested in advertising your yoga business, contact us to request options and rates.

Mississippi Farm is Rooted in Wellness

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Roots To Home owner, Lilah Brown, was raised on a 40-acre farm in Lucedale, Mississippi, where they have always used natural methods to grow a variety of produce. While heirloom tomatoes have been one of their specialties—and they continue to grow them for local restaurants—elderberry is their newest focus.

“Our farm is rooted in health and wellness. I have been a nurse for 30 years and I wanted to go into prevention instead of treatment,” she recalls. “Natural approaches are better than medicine and food is the best place to start.”

When Brown discovered elderberry’s ability to boost immunity in the body, reduce inflammation and decrease cholesterol, she began producing organic elderberry extract. The American variety of the plant has grown on their property for years, but they primarily grow and use the black European elderberry (Sambucus nigra) because of its higher potency.

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Roots To Home now offers a total line of locally produced elderberry products, including extract, syrup, hand sanitizer and bath products, plus several topical arnica products for pain relief and a soothing massage oil. Their produce and wellness products can be purchased directly from them at local farmers’ markets and from a list of retailers in coastal Alabama and Mississippi.

For more information, call 601-791-0943 or 601-947-7692 or email Discvree7@gmail.com.

Urban Farm Provides Local Food Year Round

Angela & Dale Speetjens

Angela & Dale Speetjens

Shipshape Urban Farms is a new agritech company creating a zero-waste, localized food network by building hydroponic farms in upcycled shipping containers. Based in Mobile, Alabama and developed by Gulf Coast natives Dale and Angela Speetjens, Shipshape uses efficient farming practices to revolutionize health, the environment and dinner.

Hydroponic systems grow plants without soil in a controlled environment to eliminate the need for herbicides and pesticides. Requiring 90 percent less water and substantially less energy than traditional farming practices, Shipshape’s environmentally friendly process provides healthy, sustainable food that is harvested at the peak of ripeness.

From seed to harvest, LED lighting and drip irrigation systems are used to provide the optimal growing conditions for the produce. These innovative features, combined with vertical growth, allow Shipshape Urban Farms to produce the equivalent output of a 30-acre farm in less than a ¼ of an acre, for a fraction of the cost. The crops are also certified Homegrown By Heroes (FarmVetCo.org/homegrown-by-heroes).

Shipshape’s lettuce, leafy greens and herbs are available year round via a community supported agriculture program (CSA) which delivers weekly produce baskets to locations in Mobile, Fairhope, Gulf Shores, Foley, Pensacola and Biloxi.

For more information, visit ShipShapeUrbanFarms.com.