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Displaying items by tag: newsletter how to make simple changes towards an eco-friendly lifestyle? Have you wondered where to buy your organic food and goods locally? Or how to be more energy efficient? Do you know what is recyclable in Belgium? We do - or we know someone who does! This site is intended to be an information rescource and focal point for ecologically minded people living in and around Brussels. Please revisit the site often, because we update it on a regular basis. http://sunbeams.eu Sun, 26 Mar 2017 22:51:11 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb It’s springtime! Lighten your load! http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/219-it’s-springtime-lighten-your-load http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/219-it’s-springtime-lighten-your-load It’s springtime! Lighten your load!

It's springtime! Nature is waking up – blossoming with growth and rejuvenation. We too are part of nature and springtime is detox time for us humans! There are plenty of solutions in nature to help us rejuvenate.”

 

In traditional Chinese medicine, spring is associated with the liver and the gall bladder. Both of these organs work together as blood cleansers, and have probably been working hard these last few months. In winter, we typically have heavier foods, move less and have fewer fresh vegetables and fruits. As a result, it’s easier to accumulate toxins. As we transition to warmer weather, we can help our bodies clean out the liver and the gallbladder so they can function at their maximum potential.

Liver dysfunction is the root of a lot of diseases. The symptoms of a sluggish liver can include many things such as chronic fatigue, increased irritability, skin problems, and digestive issues, amongst others.

Here are some easy ways to lighten your load:
• First thing in the morning, drink some freshly-squeezed lemon juice (1-2 tablespoons) in warm water to encourage detoxification.
• Remember to stay hydrated all day by drinking more water than you normally do to help flush toxins (6-8 glasses of spring water is ideal).
• Eat clean, high-quality food – including organic vegetables, grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, wild-caught fish, and good fats like olive and coconut.
• Eliminate processed foods as much as possible. Stick to whole foods to increase nutrition and minimize toxins.
• Incorporate detox-specific foods into your diet. Beetroot, apples, carrots, garlic, onions and artichokes are some of your liver’s best friends. They help get rid of toxins, have antioxidant properties and can even help in the elimination of heavy metals.
• Increase movement to get your lymph moving which moves the toxins out of your body. Toxins are released through body fluids so move and make a cleansing sweat.
• Another important way to move toxins out is through breathing – make time for deep cleansing breaths throughout the day.


Spring really is the perfect time of the year for cleaning. Detoxification means cleaning our bodies from the inside out. Feel lighter and have more energy in time for the warmer weather so you can make the most of your time outdoors and of your coming summer vacation. Your body will thank you for it!

Nüket is a coach with a holistic approach to living a healthy and fulfilling life. She lives in Brussels and works with individuals and companies, supporting them in making positive changes to create lifestyles and environments that are more balanced and healthy. If you would like more information, or a free sample session, contact her by email at nuketveral@globalwellbeing.org

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Articles Sun, 29 Apr 2012 14:07:15 +0000
Early spring vegetables: to eat or not to eat? http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/218-early-spring-vegetables-eat-or-not-to-eat? http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/218-early-spring-vegetables-eat-or-not-to-eat? Early spring vegetables: to eat or not to eat?

Early spring vegetables feed our eyes with vivid colours, provide us with vitamins and minerals and revive our pallet with crisp, tasty choices. Popping up in grocery stores and markets, they are calling out to be bitten into. Flavourful and juicy, they’re a long-awaited change to the root vegetables available during endless winter months. Especially because at the beginning of spring, our bodies crave for a vitamin boost and a bit of variety in our everyday diets. But are the early spring vegetables really so healthy?

Chemical fertilisers - Mendeleev's table

Unfortunately, despite their beautiful colours and memorable fresh taste, the early spring vegetables may contain many chemicals which stimulate their growth and artificially enhance their healthy fresh appearance. Early vegetables are usually not grown in natural conditions, they lack sunshine and therefore, need to be heavily fertilised. Many of them contain harmful compounds - nitrates, nitrites, lead (found especially in vegetables grown near traffic) and pesticides.

Many common vegetables such as celery, radishes or beetroot contain nitrates, but the real problem occurs when the nitrogenous substances are artificially accumulated in vegetables. When fertilised, plants don’t absorb as much nitrates as they need, but as much as they get. These substances are not hazardous to the plants themselves, but in humans, they can be converted to nitrites and then to cancer-causing compounds called nitrosamines.

Everything in moderation

Despite some disadvantages, don’t avoid eating early spring vegetables! They’re full of vitamins and minerals; they give us the foretaste of summer and improve our mood. Even just a variety of colours on your plate will make you feel so much better. If you buy your vegetables from an unknown source, you should fear the harmful consequences of chemical substances only after eating large quantities. A spring vegetables salad once in a while will do no harm to our health. Moderation is the key - have a balanced diet and consider early vegetables as a nice and healthy addition to your spring meals. Eating vegetables is so much better than not eating them at all, just make smart choices - be aware of what you buy, where you buy and how you store.

What are the smart choices?

1. Go organic! Organic vegetables are free from artificial fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. Organic crops are subject to careful control from fertilisation to growing, right up to packaging and labeling. Organic vegetables are predominantly more expensive, but it’s a choice worth considering...

2. Grow your own...if you’re lucky enough to have a garden. The best would be a small piece of land located at least 100 metres from a busy road. Besides, growing your own vegetables equals not only chemical-free salad, but also a lot of fun!

3. If you’re unfortunate enough to live somewhere in the city centre, you can still have a small garden on your window sill. Cress, chives and even radish can be easily grown in pots. Those plants don’t require too much care; they just need sufficient sunlight and frequent watering.

Some tips for buying and storing

If you have no means to grow your own vegetables, here are some tips that you can follow when buying them.

1. Carefully choose your vegetables. They should be fresh-looking with no signs of mildew. Smell the vegetables before purchasing. Obviously, they will never smell as intense as those picked in the middle of summer, but they should have a nice, delicate aroma.

Root vegetables like radishes or carrots should be firm and smooth and have intact greens. Unless they are organic, avoid the temptation of buying overgrown radishes - large and shiny ones probably received a lot of chemicals during intensive fertilisation. Lettuce should have green leaves and be crisp - if you see any evidence of decay or discolouration, better not buy it. Good-quality spring onions have green, crisp tops and white necks, avoid the ones that are yellow or wilted.

2. Proper storage is important. Don’t keep your vegetables in plastic bags, they accumulate the moisture and accelerate the conversion of nitrate to harmful nitrite. Wash the vegetables thoroughly before eating - lukewarm water will help remove some of the harmful chemical substances. Lettuce and spinach should be washed and dried before being stored inside the refrigerator, this will remove excess moisture.

Are you craving for a mouthwatering spring recipe? Try these Smoked Salmon Spring Pots - easy to make and absolutely delicious!

Ingredients:
- 6 thin slices smoked salmon (about 140g) (preferably wild Alaskan salmon which doesn’t have chemicals found in farm-raised varieties)
- 150g cream cheese
- 3-4 radishes, grated (about 60g)
- 2 spring onions, chopped (about 40g)
- 1 tablespoon of dill, chopped (about 8g)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons cream
- watercress for decoration

Directions:
1. Line each cup of the muffin tray with cling ?lm, press it inside until it sticks to the sides of the cup. Line each cup with one slice of salmon, press the salmon inside.
2. Prepare the cream cheese. Mix the cheese, the lemon juice, the cream, the dill, the chives and the radishes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
3. Fill the muffin cups with the cream cheese. Fold overhanging salmon and press down lightly to compact the filling. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
4. Remove the pots from the muffin tray using the edges of the cling ?lm. Place them upside down on a plate. Make a small cut in the middle of each pot and decorate it with the watercress, some ground pepper and olive oil.

Cooking Tip: if you don’t have muffin tray, try using coffee cups.

You can find more healthy recipes at http://www.midnightspoon.com


Magdalena Wawrzonkowska

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Articles Sun, 29 Apr 2012 14:54:22 +0000
You, Me, and Biodiversity http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/217-you-me-and-biodiversity http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/217-you-me-and-biodiversity You, Me, and Biodiversity

We humans are not an isolated species. Due to globalization, industrialization, and our number, we have an enormous impact on this planet. All the things we do and those we choose not to, have repercussions on the world we live in.

Interconnected

If we each started practicing a no-impact lifestyle today, without electricity, shops, or technology; if we just picked and ate berries and only used hand-made tools, one can argue that the planet would not be able support the current population. However, the opposite is certainly true. The planet cannot sustain every individual living an average Western lifestyle.

Ecosystems are neither static, nor isolated entities. Relationships between animals, humans, and plants are radically intertwined. If bees become extinct tomorrow, our main pollinators would disappear, and the effects on our food supply would be devastating. Ecosystems are delicate. Like houses made of playing cards, they collapse when a single card is removed.

Changes in ecosystems, caused by man or nature, can both have positive or negative results. An article in the National Geographic issue of March 2010, illustrated this well. Wolves were reintroduced to Yellow Stone National Park in the mid-90s after a fifty-year absence. The result: a change in the park’s entire appearance and cycle of life and a return to a richer bio-diverse ecosystem. The park’s rivers, fish, shrubs, trees, and its small and big mammals all went through a metamorphosis as a result of one single change in the jigsaw puzzle. It is a powerful example of the interconnectedness of all living things.

Our role: a choice to make

Throughout history, species have been coming and going even before mankind emerged on the scene. We, as human beings, are not the sole factors affecting evolutionary change; however, it is undeniable that we are mainly responsible for species’ and ecosystems’ disappearance at an alarmingly accelerated rate during the last decennia. We do have a crucial role to play.

We can start making a difference through our daily choices as consumers and producers. We can continue destroying ancient forests by buying paper tissues for nose-blowing, or we can find ecologically-sound alternatives to do the same job. We can try to control species by genetically altering them for disease/pest resistance, or we can place our trust in biodiversity and follow more natural solutions- like permaculture or integrated pest control management - when growing our food. We can support monocultures and their ecosystem consequences, or we can incorporate livestock and interplant species and rediscover “forgotten species” of vegetables and fruits, thus encouraging biodiversity. We can continue buying, believing there are no consequences for our actions, or we can reduce and change our consumption and start repairing, pre-cycling, recycling, and reusing things.

Why contribute to biodiversity?

There are many reasons to promote biodiversity. There are ethical reasons (our duty to the next generations), ecological reasons (protecting fragile ecosystems of which we are part of), economical reasons (we depend upon natural resources) and emotional reasons (preservation of endangered species like the polar bears). Whatever motives, there is one overall reason we must bear in mind: no one knows exactly what the consequences are when one piece of the domino set-up in our ecosystems is removed. No one knows when the tipping point will be reached that will cause irreversible changes for humankind.

Why not cherish the planet? Pay it respect through your actions. Take small steps to make changes in behaviour which can lead to positive consequences. Why wait? There is still hope left, if we all start today.

What can we do?

As consumers, we can become aware of the story behind the items we purchase. Increased research provides us with knowledge of the implications of the lifetime cycle of a product: the materials used and waste generated in production, the transportation distance and energy needed before the product ends up in the shop, as well as the ethical standards adhered to throughout the production process. We can keep ourselves informed.
Whether you are a child, a student, or an adult, you can make a difference and help turn the tide. All changes cannot be accomplished overnight; however, you can start today by taking small steps, one at a time. Looking at organic, fair trade and energy usage labels is a good start. You can choose clean and renewable energy at home. You can find products with strict eco-labels that respect your body, home, and garden. You can use green dry-cleaning. These are all available in Belgium. Not all changes are difficult: you can eliminate junk mail by placing a sticker on your mail box and use reusable mugs and cutlery when not at home. Nor do they have to be expensive: you can switch your diet to more local, fresh, and organic food, buy in bulk, and reduce the meat on your plate. Take on the challenge. Preserve and cherish our planet’s rich biodiversity on which we all depend on.

Links
http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-stuff/ : this animated video provides very accessible information on the impact of the production and consumption-oriented world we are living in;
www.fao.org has many fact sheets and background studies with figures and estimates on developments in biodiversity, especially in relation to food and agriculture;
http://www.belgium.be/en/environment/fauna/index.jsp provides information on who is responsible in the three Belgian regions on aspects of biodiversity;
www.biodiversity.be gives an overview of research and science focusing on biodiversity in Belgium.

- Ilke Pedersen-Beyst

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Articles Sun, 29 Apr 2012 15:48:56 +0000
Increase Your Energy Efficiency - Juice it Up http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/216-increase-your-energy-efficiency-juice-it-up http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/216-increase-your-energy-efficiency-juice-it-up Increase Your Energy Efficiency - Juice it Up

As my days get busier and time seems to get shorter, I decided to start the new year with a plan to simplify my life and do things more efficiently.   I finally got myself signed up for delivery of organic veggies (thank you, Reason2.be!) and wonder why I didn’t start earlier.      Every week, I receive a box of fresh organic produce delivered straight to my door.   I no longer have to make a few trips a week to get my shopping done; hoping that the ingredient I am looking for is in stock, fresh and available in the quantity I’m looking for.  I’m saving time, gas and shopping stress (yes, there is such a thing)!

 

An added side benefit to all of this is that eating healthy has gotten easier and more efficient as well.  Since the deliveries began, I’ve found it easier to plan out our meals.  I’ve also been juicing more regularly because it’s so much easier when I have all the ingredients on hand – no more excuses!  And, when there are a few veggies or fruits left over that I can’t seem to fit into a meal, I just toss them into the juice!

So I now have a new daily habit of juicing and drinking a delicious and healthy vegetable juice with fresh, organic ingredients.

Juicing, like a lot of things in life, can be simple with a little planning.  Apart from getting a juicer, if you don’t already have one, it really can be quite easy.  Here are some tips to making it a fun and more common happening in your home.

Juicing prep

  • Buy enough veggies for juicing to last the week.
  • Keep it simple and seasonal with the ingredients – you don’t necessarily need a new combination for every day of the week.  Two recipes for the week will keep it interesting.
  • For vegetables that store well, wash them up once in the week and put them in containers or bags – one for each day. 
  • Keep your juicer outside your cupboard so you have an inviting juicing station (out of sight means out of mind).
  • In the morning or whenever you want to juice, grab a container and start juicing!
  • Kids love to help  - my daughter is a great juicer assistant, pushing down the vegetables, and even daring to try different combinations of ingredients until we find one that works for her.

Getting the most out of your juice

  • If you want to make some for later in the day, keep in mind that juice oxidizes very quickly so make sure to store them properly in containers that are filled to the top and air tight, shielded from light and stored in the refrigerator.  I use an extra large thermos. You can also try canning jars.
  • Use the pulp as additional fiber in your dishes, as mix to pet food or as compost.

Clean up

I have to admit, when people say “Cleaning the juicer is a pain!” I get it.  But I’ve found there is a way to make it easier!!  

  • After I make the juice, I first sit down and enjoy my juice, savoring the flavor and marveling at whatever new combination I’ve come up with for the day.  
  • Once I’m done with drinking, I wash the juicer immediately after I use it.  It takes just a couple of minutes and then it’s done, drying and ready to go for the next day. 

Why is raw juice so good for you?

  • Juice provides concentrated vitamins, mineral and anti-oxidants.
  • Juice provides easily digestible nutrients.  Juicing extracts the liquid nutrition and leaves behind the pulp (fiber). (Not to say that fiber is something to avoid – your body needs fiber – juicing just provides a way to get a lot of nutrients in a very digestible form).
  • Juicing is an easy way to consume a lot of vegetables that would otherwise be difficult to eat.  
  • The nutrients are intact and haven’t been altered by heat and oxidation.  
  • Juicing gives you the life-force of the plants! 
  • Juicing helps to suppress appetite as it gives real nutrition and helps reduce cravings.
  • Drinking fresh juice is alkalizing for the body, helping keep your body and immune system strong.

What can I juice?

  • You can juice lots of different things.  To get real health benefits, the best juice is made primarily from vegetables.  
  • The idea is to get the benefits of the vegetables and limit the sugar intake from fruits.  One apple or pear for example is a good option if your juice is really green and you want to smooth it out a bit (carrots and beets also have high sugar so keep their amounts down in your juice combinations).
  • Lemons and limes give juice a nice zing and just a bit can make a big difference.
  • Some juicing basics include a few celery stalks, 1-2 carrots, ½ beet, ½ cucumber, 1-2 cm of ginger root, and a handful of parsley or spinach.  
  • Check out http://www.living-foods.com/recipes/juicerecipes.html for 20 simple juice recipes. 

Nüket is a coach and health consultant with a holistic approach to living a healthy and fulfilling life.  She lives in Brussels and works with individuals and companies, supporting them in making positive changes to create lifestyles and environments that are more balanced and healthy.  If you would like more information, or a free sample session to experience coaching and determine if it’s right for you, contact her by email at nuketveral@globalwellbeing.org

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Articles Mon, 13 Feb 2012 19:54:53 +0000
Keep Your Joules - 15 Tips to Help You Save Energy http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/214-keep-your-joules-15-tips-to-help-you-save-energy http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/214-keep-your-joules-15-tips-to-help-you-save-energy Keep Your Joules - 15 Tips to Help You Save Energy

There are plenty of good reasons you should reduce your, and your household’s, energy intake: to save money, to lessen your dependence on the grid, to help planet Earth. Whether the motivation is economic, environmental or just plain experimental, there are numerous ways to achieve this goal. Energy-reducing tactics can be applied to your use of electricity, water, heating and cooling systems, as well as to your driving habits and food intake. While there are many avenues for diminishing your joule-dependence, let me give you 15 relatively easy tips to help get you on your way!

  1.  Replace the light bulbs in your home and office with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). CFLs not only use less energy (one third to one fifth of that of an incandescent bulb) but they also have a longer life expectancy! This straightforward method can save you up to 75% on lighting costs. CFLs can be found in most local hardware stores or Brico downtown.
  2. Another very simple way to reduce your electrical energy intake is to turn off unnecessary lighting and use task or desktop lamps with CFLs instead of overhead lights.
  3. Unplug all the electronics, battery chargers and other equipment when they are not in use. Taken together, these small items can use as much power as your refrigerator.
  4. Enable "power management" on all your home and office computers and make sure to turn them off at night (computers still use energy in sleep mode). Additionally, a laptop uses up to 90% less energy than bigger desktop models, so I guess it is time to think about getting that new Mac Book Pro! On a related note: if you’re still using screensavers, stop! They provide no benefit for LCD screens, and they use up your precious joules.
  5. When it is possible, wash your clothes in cold water rather than warm or hot. Approximately 90% of the energy used in a clothes washer goes to water heating.
  6. Reduce heat and air leaks in your home. The biggest utility expense for most households is heating, so reducing how much heat leaves the house is key to lowering this cost. Here is a fun way to do it! On a windy day, carefully hold a lit incense stick next to your windows, doors, electrical boxes, plumbing fixtures, electri­cal outlets, ceiling fixtures, attic hatches, and other places where air may leak. If the smoke stream trav­els horizontally, you have located an air leak that may need caulking, sealing, or weather-stripping.
  7. You know those times when you run the tap to get the water hot enough? Well, instead of letting that water and cents flow down the drain, put a jug under the tap and collect the water. Once the water is hot, remove the jug and go give your indoor plants a drink (plants usually prefer lukewarm to warm water anyway so they will be happy with this idea).
  8. When getting ready to drive on a cold day, avoid idling. Think about it—idling gets you 0 miles per gallon. The best way to warm up a vehicle is to drive it. No more than 30 seconds of idling on winter days is needed. Anything more will simply waste fuel and increases emissions.
  9. When you are in the kitchen, make energy-efficient cooking choices by using small appliances, such as the toaster oven, electric skillet or slow cooker for specialized jobs. Quite simply- small appliances use less energy.
  10. This tip is only for those households with a very effective dishwasher- skip rinsing the dishes! Rinsing dishes before loading them into the dishwasher only wastes energy. For those of us with less than desirable dishwashing machines, just rinse with cold water instead of warm or hot.
  11. Put a lid on it! Another crafty kitchen technique to reduce energy use is to cook food and boil water in a covered container whenever possible. This traps the heat inside and requires less energy.
  12. Turn off the water when you are brushing your teeth or shaving, especially if it is warm water.
  13. Don't use the toilet as a wastebasket or ashtray - water is wasted every time you flush.
  14. One way to reduce your energy footprint on a global scale is to be diligent about recycling all your newspapers, cans, bottles, plastics, cardboard and other materials. It takes a lot of energy to make new containers, paper products and packaging so let’s all try and make sure we are not being lazy about using the green, blue and yellow bags!
  15. And here is the last one. It is a little controversial but I think will make all the Sunbeams readers feel good! Rely on online news sources rather than printed newspapers or magazines. It takes a lot of energy to make the paper, print and deliver these publications to your door.
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Articles Mon, 13 Feb 2012 13:11:18 +0000
Reconsidering 'New': A Guide to the Best Second-Hand Clothes Shops in Brussels http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/213-best-second-hand-clothes-shops-in-brussels http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/213-best-second-hand-clothes-shops-in-brussels

Anyone who loves clothes will tell you that the feeling of buying something new and imagining the various ways you can incorporate it into your wardrobe is strangely exhilarating. Adding a beautiful piece of clothing to your fashion repertoire and feeling great in it the next day can make us all feel a little like fashionistas. But, how often are we limited to thinking that this fabulous, fashion-induced feeling can only come from purchasing something on Rue Neuve or Avenue Louise? When we think of buying something 'special' and 'new' do we think outside of the never-been-worn-before box? I would dare to say - not very often. But this thinking is a shame considering all the avant-garde gems that hang neatly on vintage store racks. And if there is ever a place to experiment with second-hand shopping, it is in Brussels.

 

Brussels has some of the best consignment shopping in the world. With a combination of a fashion scene dating back to the 1900's, feted designer boutiques decorating the boulevards and a transient community, the chance of finding an amazing treasure in a second-hand store is good. Sometimes, actually locating these stores is what makes vintage shopping the most daunting – but Sunbeams is here to help with this problem!

There are six great stores to start with. The first is Gabriele Vintage (rue des Chartreux 27). Gabriele specializes in eveningwear and party gear. If you are looking for something divine and original to wear to a ballet, opera or a classy dinner party, and you don't want to spend a fortune, look no further. Unless it is to Burlesque at rue du Midi 64, which is another second-hand gem offering dressier options.

If you are looking for something a little less dressy but a little more jealousy-evoking, visit Ramon & Valy Vintage Shop at rue des Teinturiers 19. This delightful store holds some of the most coveted names: Hermes, Chanel, Dior, YSL, to name some, but for affordable prices. Les Enfants d'Edouard, placed idyllically on Avenue Louise (175-177 avenue Louise), offers the same level of fashion as its retail neighbors, which include Ralph Lauren, Moschino and Alaia, but for a fraction of the cost.

Alternatively, Sussies at rue du Lombard 74 is a hub of quirky, kitschy items that diversify your wardrobe and add to the uniqueness of your overall style (and clothes are sold by the kilo!). Look, (rue du Midi 40) just down the street from Burlesque, is another low-key retro shop where you can purchase everyday attire at everyday prices.

Now - I know that there are times when we will still travel to Avenue Louise or Rue Neuve to satisfy our fashion fix. This is okay. But I challenge everyone out there who loves great clothes to give second-hand a chance and add these great stores to your shopping destination list. Most importantly, rethink what 'new' means when it comes to your wardrobe. Everyone can go buy something 'new' at H& M or Zara, but what you buy in a consignment stores is the only sure way to know that your 'new' shirt won't also be someone else's 'new' shirt at work the next day. Happy shopping!

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Articles Mon, 05 Dec 2011 11:16:14 +0000
Simple Ways to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/212-simple-ways-to-reduce-reuse-and-recycle http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/212-simple-ways-to-reduce-reuse-and-recycle Simple Ways to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

You hear it all the time - "the three R's" in the world of everything green. But what does it really mean to "Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle?" Here, you will learn what it means to put these three terms to use. Did you know: the more you reduce, the less you need to reuse; the more you reuse, the less you need to recycle; and the more you recycle, the less waste there will be! But it all starts with reducing as much as you possibly can. Make it a game! Involve your kids, see how little waste you can have at each garbage collection. Try to have less and less each month until you reach your ultimate goal.

 

Reduction is easily the most important step but it is also the most challenging and time-consuming. The thought of this may be a bit overwhelming, but once you have learned to reduce the amount of waste-producing products in your household, it will be much easier to reuse what you can and recycle the rest and end up with as little rubbish as possible.

In order to properly reduce, you have to start off by purchasing less. When you are at the grocery store, consciously think - "do I really need this?" You will be surprised that many times, the answer is no. Reduction can lead to not only a more eco-friendly lifestyle, but also a healthier one as well. This is true because it will cause you to purchase healthy food that create less rubbish such as fresh fruits and vegetables and minimize the amount of pre-packaged items such as potato chips, candies, and other unhealthy snacks.

If simply having healthier foods doesn't convince you to be committed to reduction, consider this: psychologists believe that the less "stuff" we have in our households, the happier we will be. People get overwhelmed by "things." Whether this means too many "knick knacks" on your shelves or too many non-eco friendly items piling up like paper cups, napkins, paper towels, and soap bottles. So what can one do to help solve this problem? Reduce, reduce, reduce! Having less meaningless items or waste products around the house will certainly make you happier but, psychologists also believe that the simple act of clearing all that clutter will also offer a significant boost in happiness! In other words, no need to wait for spring to start that "spring cleaning." Try it right now! For more information on happiness and reduction, check out this TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/graham_hill_less_stuff_more_happiness.html

Here are some more ideas for reduction:

  • Always use glass or re-usable cups
  • Drink water from a re-usable water bottle
  • Compost!
  • Don't buy paper napkins, use cloth instead
  • Avoid items that are individually wrapped such as yogurts and puddings. Instead, purchase one large tub of these items and serve them in a glass dish!

Of course, it is simply not possible to purely reduce; otherwise, you would have nothing! So, try to think about what things you have which you are not using anymore and instead of throwing them away, think about how they can be reused! This can range from refilling water or soda bottles rather than buying new ones, to using what you may think of as garbage (egg crates and crisp bags) for storage or for your children's art projects! Consider purchasing some reusable bags for grocery shopping. Or, dig up some old bags you may already have. This will not only help you to reuse but will also save you from having to purchase plastic bags!

Recycling is the last step in the three R's. Before you throw anything in the trash, think, "can this be recycled?" Paper, bottles, cans, etc. can all be put in their designated recycling bins. If you are unsure of whether something can be recycled, remember to check the packaging for the recycling symbol.

For more questions on recycling or to simply learn more about sorting and collection in your commune visit this link (you can choose the English version available). You will be able to get all the information you need right here or you will be redirected to the website of your commune where you can learn exactly what you need to do to recycle.

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Articles Mon, 05 Dec 2011 11:08:09 +0000
Top 10 Tips for a Real Holiday Season http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/211-top-10-tips-for-a-real-holiday-season http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/211-top-10-tips-for-a-real-holiday-season Top 10 Tips for a Real Holiday Season

Champagne corks flying.... late nights out... 5 course dinners... gifts... swinging parties... tempting sweets... socializing with family and friends... piles of wrapping paper... cocktails... traveling across town (or the world)... shopping... decadent chocolates... Welcome to the Holiday Season! With all the festivities and so many things to prepare and do, the holidays can easily throw us off kilter, and lead to feeling rundown, even stressed by it all! With a little planning and positive intention, you can get through the season and come out of it feeling and looking great, and even help others and the environment along the way. To help create balance in and around your life, read on!

Grazing – eat smaller portions

As difficult as it is to resist all the holiday goodies that are out there, remember the golden rule: if you aren't hungry, stay away from the food table. While socializing, it's easy to forget how many of those cheese pastries or truffles you gulped down while sipping your drink.

One trick is to eat some healthy, fiber- rich foods before you hit the party scene. Then you can graze at leisure without the risk of overindulging from hunger. Also, try to take half portions to satisfy your sweet tooth without overburdening your body. If you are the host, be part of the solution by serving smaller portions of everything so guests can indulge without overdoing. Offer healthy alternatives such as veggie sticks with a humus dip, lots of greens, and other whole foods.

And when you are in between activities, keep your fridge stocked with healthy foods so that you aren't tempted to take in more sweets and heavy foods. Plan your grocery shopping so you can prepare lighter meals to compensate for all the rich dishes elsewhere. Eat regularly to avoid overdoing it at the next occasion. With all of this planning, how about considering these actions as the start of a healthy habit!

Homemade

While on the subject of food, consider making it homemade. Leave the over packaged and processed stuff in the stores this season and go for some real food when entertaining. Have you ever thought about all the food that is inside of a grocery store? Amazingly, most of it doesn't even qualify for whole, healthy, or even real food. Nearly everything that is inside the outside aisles of the store is packaged and processed "food". Do your body and the planet a favor by buying most of your product from the perimeter and avoid the inside aisles.

Gifts – think outside the box

I love finding a great gift for giving and for me that means really nailing it when it comes to thinking of what is meaningful for the person I'm giving it to. So skip the usual trinkets and go for something really irresistible. You might be surprised to know how often the most loved gifts are the ones that recognize a creative talent, neglected interest, or a need for pampering. You can buy a gift certificate for a treatment or donate to a charity in the person's name. Or look for hidden talents yearning to come out of hiding - treat the person to a session of classes like salsa, art, cooking, or singing. Acknowledging someone's interests and aspirations can be very healing and empowering. Nice! And think of all the trees you'll be saving by avoiding all the big packaging.

Drink – get lots of H2O...

Alcohol and all of that chocolate can be very dehydrating. Too much alcohol can disrupt your sleep, inhibit your immune system, make you feel sick or sluggish the next days, dehydrate your body, and make you more susceptible to cold viruses and the flu. Here's a little trick to help keep things in check. Drink one glass of water for every alcoholic drink and you will cut down on your alcohol consumption and keep your body liquids in better balance. Water also helps to get rid of toxic waste and keeps energy in check.

Move! (And I'm not talking about away from that dessert table (a good idea nonetheless.))

It's really important to maintain some routine of exercise to keep your energy flowing, burn off those calories and relieve stress, all at the same time.

Yes, that holiday shopping can add up. Take public transport and walk around while shopping. If you are driving, park your car far from the shops and walk the extra bit, take the stairs instead of the elevators, basically take any option that offers movement.

Between all of the holiday activities, kids on school holiday, and relatives and friends visiting, it's important to keep some semblance of an exercise routine, even if Ii's only the abridged holiday version!

Release it!

Stress that is. High amounts of stress, especially prolonged stress, create a lot of havoc for your body and your mind. Stress lowers your immune system, reducing your body's capacity to react to infection. So in addition to regular exercise, ensure you are getting those adequate hours of sleep every night. Sleeping at least 8 hours a night for most people helps keep inflammation in the body down and the immune system functioning. Also consider a Vitamin C supplement that can raise the body's resistance to colds. Its powerful antioxidant effect assists to increase vital cellular processes and protect DNA from damage. Find a good source of non-acidic vitamin C supplements to help keep your health and keep away colds and the flu.

Keep breathing!

When you feel your stress level rising, try yoga breathing (ujjaiyi) to help regulate your blood pressure and calm things down. Also helpful is two for one breathing. Exhale for twice the count of your inhale. This can slow your heart rate, calm your mind, and lower your blood pressure. Try these whenever you feel your stress level rising.

Outdoor therapy

Go outside and do something fun with your family. Walk around the neighborhood to look at holiday displays or organize a walk in the park during family get-togethers. Chances are, if your family gatherings are stuffy and something you don't look forward to, the rest of the party feels the same. Put a new spin on some of the old traditions to keep the energy positive and flowing. Taking walks, hiking, and enjoying other family activities with relatives will also help use up the energy from the extra servings.

Think Zen

Take time for yourself – even if its 15 minutes a day just to relax, disconnect from all the holiday commotion, and really go into yourself. Meditation is a good way to lower stress. Choose a place where you won't be interrupted – try it first thing in the morning or before going to bed at night, or even in the car before heading somewhere. Don't know how to meditate? How about an audio guide to meditation as another great gift idea!

Make a bird feeder

While holiday gatherings tend to be focused on indulgence, you can balance them with some quality time with your family. Outdoor projects with kids are fun and educational. A bird feeder is easy to make and draws a lot of birds during the cold winter months. Another idea is to help solitary bees find more nesting places by preparing nesting tubes in hollow branches or plant stems. Go to http://www.buglife.org.uk/getinvolved/gardening/beenestsforgardeners for more information. Wait and hang them out in March to be ready for spring buzzing. Creating an eco-friendly activity can help make children more aware of our impact on the environment, and if children grow up green, they help the earth stay healthy too.

And finally... Just say Yes!

Say yes to staying home...sometimes less is more and enjoying family time can be a lot more satisfying.

Happy Holidays!

Nüket is a coach and health consultant with a holistic approach to living a healthy and fulfilling life. She lives in Brussels and works with individuals and companies, supporting them in making positive changes to create lifestyles and environments that are more balanced and healthy. If you would like more information, or a free sample session, contact her by email.

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Articles Mon, 05 Dec 2011 11:03:50 +0000
Autumn Balance http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/210-autumn-balance http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/210-autumn-balance Autumn Balance

Autumn is a beautiful time of the year with leaves changing color.  It is also a time for accepting things as they are or have become.  Leaves fall, vegetables fade and everything is becoming settled, peaceful, quiet and calm.  The days become shorter than the nights.

 

In autumn, we need to store vital energy in order to make it through the winter in a healthy state. We are ready to start turning inward and slow down from all of the activity of the summer.   Early to bed and early to rise, we insure we have enough energy to finish up the last bits and pieces of projects and plans. 

The heat of the summer evolves to humidity and then gives way to dryness, the energy of the season.  Together with dryness, we have cooler temperatures as nature retracts.  Yang (warmth of the sun) begins to lessen and yin (cooler seasons of fall and winter) comes forth. With the cooler temperatures, the watery fruits and vegetables of summer like watermelon, peaches and cucumber give way to more concentrated foods like apples, the drier carrots, and sweet potatoes and seeds. These foods don’t risk freezing like the water-rich fruits and vegetables of summer.

All the colors of summer are fading and transition to yellow and eventually white, the color of the autumn season.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), autumn is the season of metal. The lungs and respiratory system, which are associated with the metal element, are more vulnerable during the dry days and cool autumn evenings.  It’s important to keep them moist and warm during the cooler months to come.  Problems in the lungs include colds and flu, allergies, chronic coughs, bronchitis, sinus infections and so on.  Keep the upper back, shoulders, and spinal column covered and warm.  You can also try massaging the chest area with pre-mixed oils which include eucalyptus essential oil to ease breathing and oxygenation problems. 

As the weather cools down, we also need to pay attention to our digestive system, ensuring it stays strong because it is the root of our immune system’s strength.  Avoid foods that destabilize your digestive system.  Eat a little less raw as well as cold foods.  It’s a good time to start baking and include warm foods that are sweet, mildly spicy, sour and salty, as these are all flavours that increase moisture and encourage feeling nourished and grounded.  Try starting the day with a warm bowl of porridge of oats, rice or quinoa that can be flavoured with maple syrup and cinnamon. The root vegetables of the season like pumpkin, carrots and sweet potatoes are densely-packed sugars and starches that are great in soups and good for a warming dinner.   You can also try cooked fruits like apple sauce for snacks and desserts. 

And remember warming teas - echinacea herb tea is a natural immune booster while   ginger tea is good for nausea, indigestion and helps alleviate sore throats and colds and the flu – perfect for the season!  Ginger tea is so easy to make you can have it regularly and it even helps stimulate your energy levels on days when you need an extra boost. Peel a few inches of ginger root and slice into thin slices.  Add it 

to boiling water, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Drink it as is or you can add some lemon or a little bit of honey to taste.  You can also make variations by adding spices such as cardamom, cloves, and organic orange peel while boiling the ginger. 

To help with any feelings of anxiety, try a cleansing breath.   Take a few deep breaths and then as you exhale, visualize everything that you feel is weighing you down or that is negative in your life.  With your exhale, you leave all of these negative energies to the earth.  As you inhale, imagine filling the empty space you just created with a color, smell, and image or sound that is positive for you.  Deep breathing in general will stimulate your lungs and is a great way to relieve stress.

As we prepare ourselves for the cooler temperatures in the coming months, a key objective is keeping our immune systems in top shape.

When in balance, our bodies will keep healthy all through the coming winter.  We often hear about the oncoming “flu season” and how important it is to protect ourselves with various “flu” solutions.  What is the “flu season” and how do we protect ourselves from falling ill?  Do bacteria really proliferate during these months or are we more susceptible to illness?  A quick look at the environment and our habits shows us what is really changing in these coming months…

During the colder months, we will likely spend a lot more time indoors and be less active.  And Vitamin D which is synthesized naturally by the body upon exposure to sunlight will be much harder to come by as the sun disappears for days on end.  It turns out that Vitamin D is such a crucial element in keeping our immune systems fully functioning that by maintaining adequate levels we severely reduce the risk of contracting the flu.  We can further support our immune system by eating well, minimizing our intake of processed sugars, getting regular exercise, having adequate rest and keeping a positive outlook on life and our surroundings.

Living in harmony with the season really does ensure harmony within us!

Nüket is a coach and health consultant with a holistic approach to living a healthy and fulfilling life. She lives in Brussels and works with individuals and companies, supporting them in making positive changes to create lifestyles and environments that are more balanced and healthy. If you would like more information or a free sample session, contact her by e-mail.

Parts of this article published in the November 2011 edition of the Sunbeams Newsletter.

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Articles Fri, 11 Nov 2011 20:16:38 +0000
The Carbon Paw Print http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/209-the-carbon-paw-print http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/209-the-carbon-paw-print The Carbon Paw Print

Do you recycle? Re-use? Buy locally-grown, organic produce? You might think you’ve got all the bases covered when it comes to being environmentally friendly.  But if you feel you’ve done all you can to reduce your carbon footprint, maybe you could try tackling a trickier subject: your carbon paw print, so to speak. While the greenest choice may be to forego domestic pets in favour of observing the wildlife in your garden (see articles on our website), or to opt for animals which help you to recycle some of your kitchen waste, like chickens, this doesn’t mean pet ownership and an environmental conscience need be mutually exclusive. Even if you choose a domestic animal, you can still make a difference.

 

Choosing an Environmentally-Friendly Pet

Just because an exotic animal is available in a pet store – or on the Internet – does not make it an environmentally wise choice.  In many cases, the animals are endangered or threatened species, caught in the wild and then smuggled into Europe.

The origin of exotic pets is not the only threat posed to the environment.  Often, these animals find their way back into the wild – in the wrong eco-system.  This might be because the animal escaped or because the owner tired of it and intentionally released it.  The introduction of new species into an eco-system can disrupt the balance of nature, with the new species either preying on existing species or consuming or destroying their habitat and source of nutrition.

The most ecologically sound pets are the most common domestic animals: cats, dogs, rabbits, goldfish, guinea pigs, etc.  Even better are the same animals, but adopted from a shelter (There are many in Belgium.  Search using the following:  dieren asiel or asieldieren in Flemish and/or refuge d’animaux, refuge animalier, refuge SPA in French).  Before taking home a new pet, always ensure you understand the commitment it will require of you: e.g. some wild animals (notably parrots and tortoises) have remarkably long life spans. 

Fluffy the Ferocious? 

Even the most common of domestic animals can be threatening.  Fido and Kitty are both natural predators.  Each month, wildlife rehabilitation centres, such as Bird’s Bay Revalidation in La Hulpe, receive dozens of wild animals injured by pets. 

The most common problems are hedgehogs attacked by dogs left outside at night and birds molested by cats.  Some simple steps can reduce the impact of your pet: 

  • bring dogs indoors at night and keep them on a leash in parks and forests
  • attach a small bell to the collar of your cat, or even better, try to keep him or her indoors at night, especially at dawn and dusk.  

Spring and summer are especially vulnerable times for wildlife, as young babies are born.  At those times, your cat or dog presents a very real threat.

What Goes In…

What goes in must come out.  When someone finds a pet that produces no feces I’ll be first in line to get one.  Until that day, we are left cleaning litter boxes and scooping poop.

Owners who don’t clean up after their dogs are a common complaint in Belgium.  But if you think you are doing the right thing by re-using your plastic grocery bags to clean it up, think again.  Dog waste in a plastic bag cannot decompose until the plastic bag decomposes.    For the eco-friendly dog owner, there are several options: 

  1. Use public dog toilets
  2. Buy and use biodegradable doggie bags
  3. Compost it (see box for instructions on building your own dog/cat waste composter.)

Cat owners need not feel too smug here.  Clay based cat litter is made of bentonite, a product retrieved through strip mining.  It isn’t the by-product of anything else, and it won’t break down any further than it already has.

Cat owners have the following possible options: letting their cat find their own spot outside (not my favourite), using a biodegradable litter available at pet stores (an inexpensive option is to use rabbit wood pellets, which will clump when wet) and composting the waste in their own home pet waste composter (compost exposed to cat feces should not be used as an additive  for food gardens because of their association with toxoplasmosis) or check with your commune which waste bin it can be put into.  And remember to use a biodegradable bag!

Putting a little extra thought and effort into how we care for our pets can make a large difference in their environmental impact.  For those of us concerned with our carbon footprint, it’s only logical that the carbon paw print of our pets is given equal consideration.

By Leanne Halewyck, for Sunbeams

Building A Dog Waste Composter

A dog waste composter is simple to build if you have a spare half a meter or so in your garden.  Purchase a large plastic garbage bin with a lid.  Cut out the bottom of the bin and drill several random holes into the body.  Dig a hole in your garden large enough to bury all but the top two inches of the bin. Put a layer of rocks or gravel into the bottom of the hole to serve as drainage.  Place the bin in the hole, and the lid on the top.  When you add dog waste, you can add a little septic starter as well (available at Brico and other DIY shops).  The waste will then decompose and join the subsoil.

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Articles Fri, 11 Nov 2011 20:10:11 +0000