Forest Bathing: Recycle and Save a Tree for Your Daily Forest Walk

by Cindy Pantea

America Recycles Day Poster Winner

America Recycles Day first place poster.

You may think this is another Keep Akron Beautiful post about recycling to save the environment, but it isn’t – well…not exactly. It is actually about you, the environment and your well-being. It is about a project that is studying how trees, flowers and overall nature can really be beneficial to you healthwise, especially when it comes to reducing stress.

The project, by the Forestry Agency in Japan, funded by their government since 2004, is proving that shinrin-yoku or forest bathing is lowering blood pressure, reducing cortisol (the stress hormone), decreasing heart rate, lowering sympathetic nerve activity, and hopefully eliminating, karoshi — death by overwork.

What is shinrin-yoku?

Shinrin-yoku is similar to aromatherapy, yoga and/or meditation and is inspired by Shinto and Buddhist practices. It involves taking in nature through all your five senses and breathing in nature’s essential oils.

Sixty-seven percent of Japan’s landmass is covered by forest, and right now 48 official Forest Therapy trails are designated for the Forestry Agency and their rangers to collect data from visitors, like blood pressure, heart rate, etc., for the shinrin-yoku project. It is their goal to have 100 of these sites within the next 10 years.

Their data of 600 research subjects is proving that compared to urban walks, the visitors/research subjects of their Forest Therapy trails have shown a:

  • 12.4 percent decrease in the stress hormone cortisol
  • 7% decrease in sympathetic nerve activity
  • 1.4% decrease in blood pressure
  • 5.8 percent decrease in heart rate

On subjective tests, study participants also report better moods and lower anxiety.

Of course, now I have to say it: All the more reason to recycle paper and save the trees ;-).

Keep Akron Beautiful is for Quality of Life

downtown Keep Akron Beautiful flowerscape

Downtown Akron Keep Akron Beautiful flowerscape.

At Keep Akron Beautiful, our mission is: Improving Akron’s quality of life through beautification and responsbile environmental management. We hope that our beautiful Flowerscapes do their part to lower your stress and improve your quality of life, but don’t forget to take time to get away from town, too, and do a little forest bathing.

Thank you to America in Bloom whose article on the subject first caught my attention. Click the link below for the originating article: http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/wellness/Take-Two-Hours-of-Pine-Forest-and-Call-Me-in-the-Morning.html?page=1

 

 

Norfolk Pine Houseplant: Eco-Friendly and Versatile

by Cindy Pantea

norfolk pine houseplant, another good environmental choiceJacqui made great points with her blog post: Real Christmas Trees: The Environmental Choice. Yet, I was still dreading having to clean up those needles as they dry out. So, I decided to buy a Norfolk pine houseplant.

From my research, I found that the Norfolk Pine likes high humidity, full or indirect light, its soil kept moist to the touch and fertilizer in the spring and summer months only. It is also slow growing but can reach a height of 8 feet.

Grocery store floral departments carry Norfolk Pine houseplants around the holidays…already decorated. Once Christmas is over, you can replace the decorations with another seasonal theme, enjoy it on the patio in the summer months, and/or reap the benefits of added oxygen in the air of your home.

Will the houseplant really last? I asked the lady in the grocery store floral department who said that she had given her daughter one 10 years ago and she still has it.

I was sold!

 

 

Video: The Summit of Sustainability Awards 2012 Keynote Speaker

by Cindy Pantea

Keep Akron Beautiful has been sharing with you the sustainability efforts of all the applicants of The Summit of Sustainability Awards (SOSA) 2012 for awhile now. We are so impressed with how these Akron businesses are doing so much for the environment and the community! Although we still have about seven more emerging businesses in sustainability to share with you, we wanted to take a little break here to share a video taken at the SOSA ceremony (shot by Chris Miller, Akron Digital Media Center). The video is the presentation, Reinventing Fire, by SOSA keynote speaker, Elaine Gallagher Adams of Rocky Mountain Institute.

Whether you are a business, a city official, or a community member, we hope you are as inspired about doing your part to save energy as her words made all of us in attendance. We also hope it makes you really think about the answers to these questions: Do you really know from where energy comes? When you throw something away…where is away? When it comes to sustainability, are you just going the easy route, or are you really challenging yourself with big goals? Do you use the fifth fuel?

Please enjoy…

The Summit of Sustainability Awards is a part of Greenprint for Akron, which is  facilitated by Keep Akron Beautiful. For more information, visit http://www.summitofsustainability.org/.

Real Christmas Trees: The Environmental Choice

By Jacqui Flaherty, Program Manager

Celebrating the holiday season with a Real Christmas Tree is a long-standing tradition. Each year, 30 to 35 million American families celebrate the holiday season with a fresh, farm-grown Christmas Tree. Christmas Tree enthusiasts believe the aroma of a Real Christmas Tree is a strong reminder and symbol of life, family traditions and the innocence of childhood itself.  A farm-grown Christmas Tree provides food for the soul, for many people!

For my family, the real versus artificial Christmas Tree debate seems to replay itself each year.  “Should we get a real tree?” or “Should we just put up the artificial one?” — these are the questions we hear over and over at my house. But, as I do my research, it seems to me that the real Christmas Tree is the environmental choice!

For those of you artificial tree-lovers out there, why do you always put up the artificial tree? I know in my family, GUILT happens to be the reason my parents usually put up their artificial Christmas Tree. My mom feels guilty cutting down a new tree each year, however, this year, I may be able to persuade her into getting a real tree after doing some research and finding out that real trees are truly more sustainable and environmentally safe than the artificial option.

Things to consider when making your decision are:

  • While they are growing, Real Christmas Trees support life by absorbing carbon dioxide and other gases and emitting fresh oxygen.
  • Real Christmas Trees are grown on a farm, just like any other crop. Harvesting a Christmas Tree is no more damaging to the environment than harvesting vegetables!
  •  According to the Ohio Christmas Tree Association, for every real Christmas tree harvested, up to 3 seedlings are planted in it’s place the following spring. The seedling planting helps to ensure a healthy supply of Christmas Trees each year.
  • The average family uses an artificial Christmas Tree for six to nine years before throwing it away, where it will remain in a landfill for centuries after disposal.
  •  Farm-grown trees are biodegradable  which means they can be used or recycled for many other purposes.
  • The polyvinyl chloride (PVC) used in most artificial trees has been boycotted by environmental and health groups.
  • American Forests, a world leader in tree planting for environmental restoration, has publicly endorsed the commercial growing and use of farm-grown Christmas Trees.
If you are interested in finding a real Christmas tree, but don’t know where the nearest tree farm is, head over to The Ohio Christmas Tree Association to search for the nearest tree farm, by your zip code. Most of the real Christmas Trees are now being recycled at the end of the season in a process called “treecycling”. To learn more about recycling your Christmas Tree, visit the National Christmas Tree Association.
Happy Holidays to you and your family from the staff at Keep Akron Beautiful! Obviously, real trees top our charts this year. We hope that you will go ‘green’ this season and buy a real Christmas Tree. They may shed needles on the floor, but investing in this U.S. based product and helping to keep many local farmers in business is an ‘A’ in our book!