Green City Escape: Reykjavik

Summer in Iceland (read: July) may seem a bit of an oxymoron. After all, the country is well known for its icy landscape offering everything from snow-covered caves, volcanic treks and geysers, to the infamous bubbling Blue Lagoon. But if you’re looking to explore its capital city, Reykjavik, on its own, summer is your best bet, when warm(er) temperatures allow you to explore on foot all there is to offer in this quirky city.  And 24-hour sunlight through July gives you more daytime hours to explore. Flights from the US are relatively inexpensive, especially if you choose to do a stopover between the US and Europe.

Eat

Maybe it’s that summer never entirely settles in Iceland or the short-winter days, but the capital city is crammed full of colorful, cozy cafes and shops. Here you’ll find ones serving traditional Icelandic foods from fermented shark to hot dogs. Yes, hot dogs! There are numerous street stands through the city.

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Walk the narrow streets of the city exploring the many cafe’s, shops, and bookstores. A trip to the National Museum of Iceland will tell you all about viking history. You can also try one of the many geothermal hot springs located within and just outside of the city.

Sleep

Reykjavik has a variety of accommodation types from hostels to Airbnb. If you’re looking for an affordable option, Airbnb is the way to go. You can find one in the city center or 101 or just outside of the center. It may be worth paying a bit more to walk to everywhere. Uber and Lyfts don’t exist here.

If you’re looking to explore outside of Reykjavik, you can arrange a tour online or rent a car to the Secret Lagoon or drive along the Golden Circle, which loops around giving you access to waterfalls, geysers and geothermal springs.

5 plastic straw alternatives the environment will thank you for

Whether you believe in climate change or not, environmental pollution is real. Marine pollution from man-made industrial particles and agricultural practices account for approximately 80% of marine pollution, globally, according to the United Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) web site. In the U.S. alone, over 500,000,000 plastic straws are used each day, according to the Plastic Pollution Coalition.

As of 2018, six American cities have either banned or limited the use of plastic straws in restaurants. The New York City council is considering a current proposal to ban straws all over the city.  In 2019, the U.K. will become the first country to ban plastic straws.

So, before you grab that beach daiquiri or soda with the bendy straw, consider one of these plastic straw alternatives that you can pack in your beach bag alongside your sunblock and sunnies.

Paper. Paper straws are the easiest and cheapest alternative to plastic straws. They’re perfect for adding a bit of color to parties and usually come in a variety of colors and designs and can be disposed of after each use while not causing any potential harm to the environment. This is also the best kid-friendly option. Try Creative Converting paper straws sold at major retailers like Target and Walmart.

Glass. For grown up use only, these straws are perfect for all temperature drinks. They

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can be washed and re-used. Check out mightynest.com’s selection of glass straws in both straight and bent styles.

Stainless steel. Refrigerators, countertops, cutlery, straws. This material is easily washable and reused and straws from stainless steel can be straight or bent. They can also be found at mightynest.com. Like special occasion dishes, they should be brought out during events.

Bamboo. It seems these days that bamboo can be made into anything from furniture to clothing and dish ware. Add straws to the mix and you get a cool reusable, sustainable straw that will eventually breakdown and not contribute to the landfill. Bamboo straws also have the shortest lifespan, so may be used for people who crave an all-natural alternative. Try these Buluh straws on Amazon.

Silicone. Easy to use and washable, this is the latest material used in making drinking straws. It’s more durable and insulated, perfect for use in hot and cold drinks.

If you have to have plastic over paper, check out Eco-Products. The site sells renewable and compostable plastic straws in solid and multi-striped colors. They also sell biodegradable flat ware and food storage containers.

17 fabulous ways water makes us happy

A glass of cold water with lime. A steep waterfall. A luxuriously scented bubble bath. Water is all around us. It can help to calm and to clear our minds, relieving stress and anxiety. Ancient peoples have looked at water as a powerful source of birth and renewal. It’s no wonder it’s the one vital thing we need to survive. As we begin a new year, one full of new energy and possibility, we can invoke the ancient healing power of water to be happier.

Marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols wrote about the transcendental effects of water in his book, Blue Mind: The surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On or Under Water Can Make you Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What you Do (Little, Brown and Company, 2014). In it, he combines scientific explanations with personal stories of people who have experienced life-altering changes from being near or in water.

Here are 17 ways you can surround yourself with water. So, go ahead and take a plunge, a toe-dip, a boat ride or a chic beach vacation and feel happier.  detox-684107_1920

  1. Drink cold water from a carafe
  2. Sing in the rain
  3. Swim in an infinity pool
  4. Catch a wave
  5. Water a plant
  6. Bathe in scented oil (try Floating Island Luxury Bath Oil by Lush Cosmetics)
  7. Bathe in sea salt (try Calm Dead Sea Bath Salts by Margaret Elizabeth)
  8. Watch fish swim in an aquatic tank
  9. Stand in a waterfall
  10. Wash your hands (try Shea butter Liquid Soap-Verbena by L’Occitane) aquariums-1867308_1920
  11. Take a hot shower
  12. Get a pedicure (for added benefit, try a variation with milk and honey or chocolate)
  13. Shampoo your hair (anything with lavender, mint or honey)
  14. Plug in a tabletop fountain
  15. Relax near a public fountain
  16. Take a cruise
  17. Have a hot or cold cup of tea

 

 

10 uses for coconut oil before 9 a.m.

With the myriad of articles that have been published touting the benefits and multiple uses of coconut oil, it’s no wonder coconut oil users feel are obsessed with this natural oil. It can be used as a skin and hair moisturizer, a cooking oil, makeup remover and a bug repellent, to name a few. But how many more ways can we incorporate coconut oil into our daily lives? I’ve pulled from some sources and found some awesome ways to add a bit of the essential oil to your healthy morning routine.

  1. Coconut oil as coffee creamer. A teaspoon or so of oil can be added to your morning coffee as a natural sweetener. Note: The American Heart Association recommends no more than 13 grams of saturated fat, one tablespoon (found in coconut oil) per day.
  2. Coconut oil can be used to make a natural soap that is both moisturizing and antibacterial.
  3. After showering, try slathering up with oil to damp skin before toweling off.
  4. If you prefer baths, add a teaspoon of oil to your bath along with an essential oil like lavender.
  5. Use coconut oil as deodorant as an alternative to store brands that often contain harsh chemicals.
  6. Coconut oil as face moisturizer. Cleanse your face and add oil to moisturize dry winter skin.
  7. Or use coconut oil as a cleanser using the oil cleanse method by applying coconut oil to your face and then following with a warm, wet cloth.
  8. Mix coconut oil, lemon juice and a dollop of your favorite essential oil to naturally strengthen eyelashes while you sleep.
  9. Coconut oil as toothpaste. Apply to teeth along with baking soda and essential oils as a naturally cleansing alternative.
  10. Apply a bit of oil to chapped lips.

Sources: health.com, wellnessmama.com

Green city escape: Kyoto

 

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Cherry blossoms decorate a traditional home in Kyoto, Japan.

Few cities in Asia are as charming as Kyoto in Japan. The ancient Japanese capital offers much to green seekers from a bamboo forest to nature hikes and outdoor floating cafes and hot springs. All of this is cloaked in a historic city full of temples and shrines. If you visit Japan and seek a quiet refuge from Osaka, this is the place to be. You can choose to stay in any of the many areas of the city and base your itinerary on the local attractions. And it’s super safe so feel free to explore the city at night with many business owners and locals that speak English.

Eat 

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Soybean doughnuts for sale.

Kyoto is home to Buddhist monks, and as such, many restaurants and cafes are known for its vegetarian fare (kyo yasai), with tofu being the rule, rather than the exception. Enjoy a variety of tofu and veggie dishes including miso soup, vegetable tempura, yuba (skin of heated soy milk) and a brown sea veggie called hijiki.

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Kyoto is also home to thousands of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. In fact, there are more than 2,000 within the city. Start your journey at Teramachi Street, home to Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine and numerous other shrines and temples, then move to areas like Gion, where you can also explore a bit of Geisha history.

After exploring the many temples and shrines, take a stroll through the Bamboo Grove in the Arashiyama area of Kyoto. Here, you can walk through towering bamboo stalks winding past small shrines and temples, leading uphill to Okochi-Sanso Villa.

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Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama.

Sleep

Sleep in a traditional Japanese inn called a Ryokan, where you can choose between Japanese and Western rooms and meals, with access to public baths (onsen). You can get a feel for the more traditional side of Kyoto and walk around in a yukata, or cotton kimono (www.ryokan.or.jp).  For a less traditional headrest, try sleeping in a capsule. One of the few capsule hotels that accommodate both men and women, Nine Hours Hotel (www.ninehours.co.jp) offers an alternative to a traditional hotel room and is located on the main drag in Kyoto. More like an upgraded hostel, it includes private showers, a break room and a computer lounge area. Although an attractive option for backpackers, it also offers a less expensive option for an overnight stay in the city especially for those interested in this unique experience.

Kyoto is a convenient stop on both the JR Line and Hankyu line that both run through central Osaka.