Spray Suncreen

June 25, 2011 by  
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E – The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Isn’t spray sunscreen a health and environmental nightmare when it seems that more of the sunscreen ends up going up my nose than on the kid at the beach next to me?
— Lillian Robertson, Methuen, MA

Spray cans of sunscreen may no longer contain chlorofluorocarbons (also known as CFCs, which were phased out in the 1990s for causing holes in the stratospheric ozone layer), but many contain other chemicals that are no good for our health or the environment. Researchers have found that the chemicals and/or minerals in the vast majority of commercially available sunscreens—even the rub-in creamy or oily varieties—can cause health problems just from ordinary use; inhaling them only magnifies the risks.

And just what are the risks? According to the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG), there are two major types of sunscreens available in the U.S. “Chemical” sunscreens, the more common kind, penetrate the skin and may disrupt the body’s endocrine system, as their active ingredients (e.g., octylmethylcinnamate, oxybenzone, avobenzone, benzophone, mexoryl, PABA or PARSOL 1789) mimic the body’s natural hormones and as such can essentially confuse the body’s systems. Quite a risk to take, considering that the chemical varieties don’t even work for very long once applied.

Meanwhile, “mineral” sunscreens are considered somewhat safer, as their active ingredients are natural elements such as zinc or titanium. But “micronized” or “nano-scale” particles of these minerals can get below the skin surface and cause allergic reactions and other problems for some people. EWG recommends sticking with “mineral” sunscreens whenever possible but, more important, taking other precautions to avoid prolonged sun exposure altogether. “At EWG we use sunscreens, but we look for shade, wear protective clothing, and avoid the noontime sun before we smear on the cream,” the group reports.

As for spray varieties, EWG recommends avoiding them entirely: “These ingredients are not meant to be inhaled into the lungs.” With so little known about the effects of sunscreen chemicals on the body when rubbed into the skin, we may never know how much worse the effects may be when they are inhaled. But suffice it to say: When your neighbor at the beach is spraying down Junior, it’s in your best interest to turn away and cover your nose and mouth.

The root of the problem, according to EWG, is failure on the part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), despite repeated requests from public health and consumer advocates, to implement sunscreen safety standards, some of which were proposed by government scientists more than three decades ago.

EWG only considers a small percentage of the sunscreens on the market—none of which come packaged in spray cans—safe for human use. Some of the top rated varieties come from manufacturers including All Terrain, Aubrey Organics, Badger, Blue Lizard, California Baby, La Roche-Posay, Purple Prairie Botanicals, thinksport, and UV Natural. None of the mainstream drug store variety brands appear on EWG’s recommended list. The full list is available on the sunscreens section of EWG’s Skin Deep website. With summer now upon us, stock up on good sunscreen before it’s too late.

CONTACT: Skin Deep, www.ewg.org/skindeep.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

Cleaning Products

April 9, 2011 by  
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Dear EarthTalk: Why don’t cleaning products have to list their ingredients, and are these products tested for what they might do to your health? — Patricia Greenville, Bethel, CT
Since cleaning products aren’t food, beverages or drugs meant to be ingested, they aren’t regulated, per se, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, makers are required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to list ingredients that are active disinfectants or potentially harmful. Otherwise, they usually keep their other ingredients secret, presumably so competitors can’t copy their formulas.

But consumer advocate Sloan Barnett, author of Green Goes with Everything, doesn’t give manufacturers the benefit of that doubt. “Call me suspicious, but I honestly don’t think it’s because the recipe is top secret,” she says. “If it was, there wouldn’t be so many competing products with identical ingredients.” Barnett thinks manufacturers don’t want to scare off consumers by disclosing how many potentially harmful chemicals are flying under the EPA’s radar in their products.

“The government only requires companies to list ‘chemicals of known concern’ on their labels. The key word here is ‘known’,” she says. “The fact is that the government has no idea whether most of the chemicals used in everyday cleaning products are safe because it doesn’t test them, and it doesn’t require manufacturers to test them either.”

She adds that the EPA, under the terms of 1976’s Toxic Substances Control Act, “can’t require chemical companies to prove the safety of their products unless the agency itself can show that the product poses a health risk—which the EPA does not have the resources to do since, according to one estimate, it receives some two thousand new applications for approval every year.” She cites a recent study by the non-profit Environmental Working Group, which found that the EPA approved most applications within three weeks even though more than half provided no information on toxicity whatsoever.

Regardless, consumers should be familiar with what warning labels are on cleaning products. “All household cleaners that contain known hazardous chemicals must carry a warning label that spells out potential risks, along with precautionary steps and first-aid instructions,” reports Consumer Reports’ Greener Choices website.

Some manufacturers are beginning to be more transparent about their ingredients. The Clorox Company, for example, one of the largest manufacturers of cleaning products, now publishes full lists of the ingredients for all of its brands on its corporate responsibility website, CloroxCSR.com. Many praise Clorox for doing so; others argue that, whether or not ingredients are disclosed, the company—like many others—is still in the business of making products that pose health and environmental hazards.

Generally speaking, if you’re looking for safer alternatives, browse the cleaning products sections of natural foods markets such as Whole Foods, which are populated with lesser-known but more green-friendly brands. For do-it-yourselfers, the Greener Choices website also lists recipes for eco- and health-friendly homemade household cleaners using ingredients like baking soda, borax, lemon juice and vinegar.

CONTACTS: Greener Choices, www.greenerchoices.org; Clorox, www.cloroxcsr.com.


EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine ( www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Houston to SPARC Community

April 3, 2011 by  
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  • Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Houston to SPARC Community

  • EO Houston set to host SPARC (Swap Places, Ask, Receive, Connect) as part of international EO conference event called EO Texas University being held in Houston, TX April 6-10, 2011.
  • The initiative will bring together 700 entrepreneurs from around the world and disadvantaged citizens of the Greater Houston-area to engage in mutual learning and idea-swapping.
  • SPARC will take place at the George R. Brown Convention Center on Saturday April 9, from 1:30pm to 5:30pm.

March 28, 2011 (Houston, TX)—Entrepreneurs’ Organization Houston in partnership with Entrepreneurs’ Organization Global and the Houston Food Bank have announced the visionary SPARC (Swap Places, Ask, Receive, Connect) program. The event will take place on Saturday, April 9, 2011 from 1:30pm-5:30pm at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, TX and is the closing event for EO Texas University.


SPARC will unite 700 CEO’s from around the world with hard working, but economically disadvantaged members of the Houston community to eat together and engage in a meaningful discussion about the challenges we face as human beings. The program is about bringing new ideas and hope into the minds and hearts of all participants.


“SPARC is a name, a method and an expectation in one repeatable word,” said SPARC program chair and EO Houston president, Steve Satterwhite. “We hope that the sparks created at this event are the beginning of new ideas for solving social problems and getting entrepreneurs more involved in the community. Our goal is a simple one; not to change the world in one afternoon, but to share in a moment of dignity, to offer both the citizens of Houston and our members a dynamic new source of inspiration that they can take with them into their daily lives.”


The Houston Food Bank has recruited over 30 non-profit agencies to participate in the event and expects a great response from all parties, who will join EO members from around the world to take part in a program that EO leadership hopes will grow into an ongoing event.


“This program has tremendous potential to positively impact communities globally. Any group can give money. Our group wants to apply the entrepreneurial spirit to solve important problems in our community,” said Satterwhite. “This is the start of something bold in the business world and we are proud to launch it in Houston.”


SPARC – “Swap Places, Ask, Receive, Connect” – hosted by Entrepreneurs’ Organization Houston is about infusing new ideas and hope into its participants. Business owners and working-class and disadvantaged citizens will unite for one afternoon to share coffee and cookies together and engage in meaningful discussions and idea-sharing.


By putting an unlikely group of people together, one-on-one, for the first time, SPARC allows each participant to gain a new perspective on daily life. The event aims to generate conversation among two different groups and spark action after it concludes.



The Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) – for entrepreneurs only is a dynamic, global network of more than 7,500 business owners in 38 countries. Founded in 1987 by a group of young entrepreneurs, EO is the catalyst that enables entrepreneurs to learn and grow from each other, leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life.

Love Makes You Do Stupid Things

March 21, 2011 by  
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“I did not marry you to be married to a bartender!”

I should have paid more attention to the truth of her words, they clearly stated that she did not love me for who I am. In retrospect, it was the most obvious red flag she ever waved, but I was young, naive and in love, and the real meaning went right over my head.

“I’m not a bartender; I’m a writer,” I replied defensively.

“You’re not a writer; you’re not published.”

It was a sucker punch! She knew I was writing eight hours a day, five days a week, and had for years. She knew I had completed dozens of short stories and two novels. She also knew… I had a stack of rejection letters to show for each.

My wife of three years was saying the same sort of things that my father had said. It was a sore spot for me, and a fight we would repeat many times.

A short time later, she asked me to become a partner in her business. She explained that she wanted to expand the business into several new states, and needed help to do it, but couldn’t afford to hire someone. She said my experience in advertising would be beneficial to the company.

I was already feeling guilty that I was not more a of success in her eyes; and thinking I could win her love for good, I acquiesced. My decision meant working up to sixteen hours a day in an industry I hated. It meant traveling alone all over the southeastern United States by car, selling a product I didn’t understand or believe in. Worst of all, it meant giving up writing full time. It was the biggest sacrifice I have made in my life. And, in the end, it went completely unappreciated.

Four years later a change in the industry caused us to close the business. By that time, I’d lost the momentum of writing fiction. On the other hand, I had learned so much from the experience of marketing my own company that I was able to take that knowledge and assist other companies in growing their business. But, the biggest benefit I gained from the experience wouldn’t come until years later when we divorced.

As our marriage deteriorated and the fighting escalated, one day she yelled at me, “You’ve never done anything for me.”

“Are you kidding me?” I cried. “I gave up my biggest dream for you! I quit writing fiction to help you build your business, and I’ve never been able to get fully back into it.”

She said, “That was a long time ago. I’m talking about now.”

I was shocked, my loving gift had meant nothing to her.

Love is a powerful motivator that drives us to do all sorts of things. It puts a spring in our step, and at the beginning will even make us believe we live in a perfect world. Too often, however, we fail to begin the process in the right place.

The good news for me is that my divorce started me asking questions about myself. I needed to understand why my marriage didn’t work. And, what my part had been in its demise. Surprisingly, I was eventually led to the wisdom of William Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

I learned that in order to win true love, that you must love yourself first. When you love yourself, that is, take care of your needs and dreams, you develop the self-confidence to attract a lover who will respect you. And, while there may be compromises, there will never be sacrifices.

Nowadays, when I find myself acting all goofy around an attractive woman, I start singing these words from rocker Big Bopper’s Chantilly Lace:

“Chantilly lace had a pretty face; And a pony tail hanging down.
That wiggle in the walk and giggle in the talk; Makes the world go round.
There ain’t nothing in the world like a big eyed girl;
That make me act so funny, make me spend my money;
Make me feel real loose like a long necked goose. Oh baby that’s what I like!”

Then, I laugh myself back to reality.

Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. For more information on Robert’s programs please visit http://www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com

Keep Your Power

January 17, 2011 by  
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“Baby Bobby! Baby Bobby!” The words stung and Mike knew it – he could read it in my face.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!” I yelled back.

Mike just laughed; he knew I didn’t believe it. Bolstered by figuring out how to push my buttons, he continued to torment me as I walked home from school.

“Baby Bobby! Baby Bobby!”

The charge had an element of truth because I had cried several times in first grade, but I was now in fifth grade and had long outgrown my fear of school. I recalled the menacing teacher who pounded her paddle on our desks and threatened to spank us if we kept talking in class. She made several kids cry, but I was the one who got the reputation. It wasn’t fair, but four years later I was still ashamed of my crying and Mike knew it. He continued the harassment.

“Baby Bobby! Baby Bobby!”

He stuck his face right in mine and stated deliberately, “Baby… Bobby!”

I punched him in the nose, and suddenly he was the one crying. I had to fight several more boys that year before the name-calling stopped. It was not the solution I wanted, but it worked. It took me years to learn that the problem was mine; that I was giving away my power every time I reacted to taunting and teasing. And, it’s a problem that doesn’t go away with childhood.

Insecure adults wanting to feel superior will seek out your weaknesses and attempt to make you feel bad. Several years ago, I was invited to speak on Creative Thinking in Business to a civic club luncheon. During the meal, a man at my table sneered, “Sooo, you’re a motivational speaker. Well, motivate me!” His tone of voice said it all – the difference between him and a school yard bully was the accompanying, “Na Na Na Na Nah.”

I was shocked by the un-professionalism, and thought, “I’m getting heckled, and I’m not even on stage yet.” So, I laughed and said, “Dude, nobody can motivate you, but you.”

He shocked me a second time by apologizing after my presentation. He explained that the club had a new speaker each week who tried to sell something, and that most of them were boring. To his surprise, he said he found my presentation entertaining and motivating.

If we give in to bullies, they can rob us of our confidence and our motivation. Lately, I’ve worked with my children on how to not give their power away when kids assault them verbally. “Laugh it off,” I tell them, “even if the words hurt. Fake it if you have to; the trick is to fool them into thinking it doesn’t bother you.”

My friend Rob Maxwell uses what he calls Verbal Judo to fend off words that hit like a fist. “In some martial arts,” he explains, “you don’t meet force with force. Instead, you take your opponent’s thrust and redirect it away from you. Often their own energy works against them.”

As an example, he told me of a college friend who was teasing him about losing his hair. Rob replied, “It’s true John, I am losing my hair, but you were always the handsome one.”

Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. For more information on Robert’s programs please visit http://www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com

The Greening of Professional Sports

January 17, 2011 by  
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Dear EarthTalk: What’s being done to “green up” professional sports? I know that the last two Olympic Games both made some effort, but are there others? — Rob Avandic, Chicago, IL

The last two Olympics were indeed greener than any before, but environmental awareness isn’t limited to the realm of international amateur competition. In fact, in just the last few years all of the major professional North American sports leagues have made strides in greening their operations.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has helped blaze the trail through its “Greening the Games” initiative. Since 2003, when the National Football League’s (NFL) Philadelphia Eagles turned to NRDC for help saving energy and reducing waste, NRDC has helped dozens of pro teams evaluate their environmental impacts and make changes. Today the Eagles obtain all of their energy at Lincoln Field from wind power, pour fans’ beverages in biodegradable corn-based plastic cups, power their scoreboard with solar panels and have reduced electricity use overall by a third. The NFL itself has also jumped on the bandwagon, implementing various green initiatives at the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl and other big events.
In 2008, NRDC teamed up with Major League Baseball (MLB) to first green the All Star Game and, the following year, the World Series. Subsequently, NRDC assessed each team’s environmental footprint and made recommendations for improving it. Several teams have gone on to build or refurbish their stadiums with sustainability in mind. Boston’s Fenway Park, Atlanta’s Turner Field, Washington, DC’s Nationals Park, and San Francisco’s AT&T Park all get high marks for pro-environment features and operations.

In 2008, NRDC began working with the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) to green its signature event, the U.S. Open. For one, this led to a move to 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper for tournament programs. And an environmental review of all operations at the National Tennis Center in Queens, New York led to a number of green improvements, including the switch to 90 percent post-consumer recycled paper for some 2.4 million napkins and a move to wind turbines for the tournament’s electricity.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) jumped on the NRDC sports bandwagon in 2009, working with the group to organize its first annual Green Week in early April whereby the entire league works in concert to generate environmental awareness and funding for related causes. As part of the festivities, which took place in 2010 as well and will happen again in April 2011, each NBA team hosted community service events including tree plantings, recycling drives and park clean-up days.

NRDC got the National Hockey League (NHL) in on the act as well, helping to green the Stanley Cup Finals and working with individual teams as it did with baseball and football. In announcing the launch of the NHL Green program, league commissioner Gary Bettman commented that it’s only fitting for professional ice hockey to care about staving off global warming: “Most of our players learned to skate on outdoor rinks. For that magnificent tradition to continue through future generations we need winter weather—and as a league we are uniquely positioned to promote that message.”

CONTACTS: NRDC, www.nrdc.org/greenbusiness/guides/sports/; MLB Team Greening Program, mlb.mlb.com/mlb/official_info/community/team_greening.jsp; NBA Green, www.nba.com/green; NHL Green, www.nhl.com/ice/eventhome.htm?location=/nhlgreen; USTA, www.usta.com.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. E is a nonprofit publication. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe; Request a Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

5 Tips for Beating Holiday Stres

December 16, 2010 by  
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Remember these five tips for relieving stress, now and throughout the year:
1.    Do less.  While it is the season when people tend to want to go overboard doing for others, you should back away from that impulse. Say “yes” too often, and you may get overwhelmed. Simply tell some people “no,” and share the load by delegating where possible.
2.    Live simply. While you may be bombarded by ads to Buy! Buy! Buy! — you can choose not to participate and add that stress to your holiday season. Skip the shopping, opt for a few homemade gifts, and spend quality time with those you love. And your credit cards will thank you come January!
3.    Slow down.  Maintaining your normal routine as much as possible during the holidays can help to ease stress. We are creatures of habit and when our routine is off we feel the sting. Find a good book, and read in bed.
4.    Find outlets.  (and we don’t mean shopping outlets!)  Everyone needs healthy outlets or ways of discharging pent-up emotional and physical tension. Consider calling a friend to vent, journaling about your feelings, taking an exercise class, or enjoying a long bubble bath.
5.    Take care. It is especially important during stressful times to take good care of your body. During this holiday season, make wise nutritional choices; get plenty of exercise; and do things that will help restore your energy, such as meditating, or getting a massage. Loving touch heals the body and the mind.

“It is important to do all of these things throughout the year, but especially during the more stressful holiday period,” adds Dr. Kaplan. “By taking care of yourself and taking steps to decrease your stress level, you can also help fend off illness.”

This year make a commitment to yourself not to allow stress to overwhelm your holidays. Tell those you love about your commitment to de-compress, take the steps to make it happen, and you may sail through the season feeling “chill!”

If you do find that you are feeling overwhelmed, over-stressed, or depressed, remember, you’re not alone.  This can be a difficult season. Don’t hesitate to seek the help of a physician.

About The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine
Located in McLean, Va., The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine has been finding solutions for individuals suffering with chronic pain and illness for over 25 years.  The Center’s founder Dr. Gary Kaplan is one of only18 physicians in the country who is a board-certified specialist in Family Medicine and Pain Medicine.  A leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, Dr. Kaplan is a Fellow of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, a Clinical Associate Professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine, and he has served as a consultant at the National Institutes of Medicine (NIH). The Kaplan Center’s team of physicians, physical therapists, and other health care providers combine the best of conventional medicine with the best alternative practices to address chronic pain and illness and to help individuals attain optimal health for life. To learn more about The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine, visit the website at www.kaplanclinic.com.

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December 16, 2010 by  
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From Simplicity to Sex—Food Values Are Changing

CHICAGO (Dec. 13, 2010) ¾ The Food Channel® (foodchannel.com) has released the much-anticipated  Top Ten Food Trends for 2011. By partnering with CultureWaves™ (www.culturewav.es), Mintel International and International Food Futurists®, The Food Channel has been able to identify the most significant food trends that will drive how people eat throughout 2011, from buying to cooking to consuming.

“The new economy has created a boldness and willingness to change how we work, how we cook and how we eat. All of our 2011 trends reflect that in some way,” said Kay Logsdon, editor of The Food Channel. “One example is Baby Boomers wanting to age well. Trend #10 explains they are eating for better sex, more energy and the ability to work longer.”

For 23 years, The Food Channel has uncovered food trends ahead of the curve. “The insights are fun for consumers, and give those who make their living from food a competitive edge when it comes to what drives their consumers’ choices,” added Logsdon.

The Food Channel Top 10 Trends for 2011

1.       The Canning Comeback – “Putting Up” is gaining popularity for both economy and health.

2.       Men in Aprons – Layoffs have led to more men cooking.

3.       Local Somewhere – We care about hand-tended no matter where it’s grown.

4.       Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – We’re tired of being told what we can eat.

5.       Appetite for Food Apps – Social media is our guide and our coupon source.

6.       Small is the New Big Business – Corporations are thinking like small businesses.

7.       Fresh Every Day – Rooftop gardens are just part of this trend.

8.       Chefs in Schools – Better flavor is possible in an institutional setting.

9.       Discomfort Foods – Change makes us comfortable with more change.

10.    Eating for Sex and Other Things – We are working longer, and want all the gusto.

Read the complete Top 10 Food Trends for 2011 at www.foodchannel.com.

Also look for the Top Ten Foods to Watch in 2011. They include sausage, moonshine, grits, fin fish and the latest in antioxidant-heavy fruit.

Plus, The Food Channel offers videos like the Mixology series, recently nominated for a Tasty Award, “the premier awards show celebrating the year’s best in Food, Fashion, and Home Lifestyle programs on Television, in Film and Online.”

About The Food Channel®

The Food Channel is a place for great food inspiration, the latest trends, the most compelling stories, and original perspective. This website offers insightful original content that is distributed everywhere foodies interact with culinary creativity by influencing, contributing to, learning from, gaining inspiration through, and being a part of the experience around great food. For more information, visit  foodchannel.com. Follow The Food Channel on Twitter at twitter.com/foodchannel or twitter.com/aford, or on Facebook at facebook.com/FoodChannel.


What’s Keeping You Awake?

December 10, 2010 by  
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The other day on the radio I heard these lyrics from the Shinedown song, If You Only Knew “It’s 4:03 and I can’t sleep… I toss and turn like the sea.” I thought, “Yeah, why is it always 4AM that I wake up when I’m worried about something?” The singer of this top 10 pop rock song was troubled by a woman. What’s keeping you awake?

Most of us, at one time or another, have spent sleepless hours in bed worrying about something. Then making it worse, you’re tired the whole next day.

Over the years, I’ve ruminated over all sorts of things. Big issues I have little or no control over like politics, the environment, terrorism, and the economy. Personal issues that I need to affect such as my business, my family, and my relationships. I have even worried over my volunteer work. Churning the same thoughts over and over again.

Some of us worry about the past – what could’ve been if only we had done something differently. Others worry about some future problem that hasn’t even occurred yet.

Worry feels like motivation because it is rooted in the desire to fix a situation, but it is actually a de-motivator. It robs us of valuable energy we need to live a productive life. I love this modern update to an old proverb: “Worry is a brisk ride on a rocking horse; you burn a lot of energy, but you don’t get anywhere.” It is an amusing proverb that creates an accurate metaphor, but it does not offer us an answer on how to deal with worry.

For a simple solution on countering worry, I’ve always enjoyed the lyrics of this Irving Berlin song from the movie White Christmas: “When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep; and I fall asleep, counting my blessings.” Although, I must admit that I didn’t really hear these sage words or make use of them for years.

When I finally did; I found that it really works. Sometimes we have to start with the basics, and remind ourselves of all that we do have and all that is going smoothly in our lives in order to put the troubling matter into perspective: “I have a roof over my head, I have my health, I have food in the house, I have a car, I have friends, etc.”

I recently revisited Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. It was written during the Great Depression and World War II. A period of time when most people had plenty to stress over. The advice still holds up today.

The trick is to divert your pensive energy into practical projects. Carnegie suggests that we focus on doing our best one day at a time and the future will take care of itself. In other words, keep busy! Get so caught up in your work that you have no time to ponder all the “What ifs” that have been running like a broken record in your mind.

He also suggests that you ask yourself, “What is the worst that could happen?” Then he says to either accept that or seek out the answers you need to fix it. If you choose the later, you must collect all the facts, analyze them, make a decision, then act on it.

I think his best suggestion is to spend your time helping others. When you focus on what you can do for others, you cannot at the same time focus on yourself. Or in the words of one unknown author, “When you dig another out of their troubles, you find a place to bury your own.”

Eventually you can utter the immortal words of Alfred E. Neuman, “What, me worry?”

Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. For more information on Robert’s programs please visit http://www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com

Gaido’s Historic Cookbook

December 6, 2010 by  
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Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant Commemorates 100 Years with Historic Cookbook

Galveston, TX (November 1, 2010) – – To commemorate 100 years of serving the freshest Gulf seafood from its infamous location along the Galveston seawall, Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant is releasing “Gaido’s Famous Seafood Restaurant: A cookbook celebrating 100 years” this November.

To satisfy palates and let patrons take a bit of Gaido’s into their own kitchen, the cookbook has 68 recipes, including one for the crustless pecan pie that has been named the best pecan pie in Texas by countless publications throughout the years. The recipes mimic the Gaido’s menus, which is infused with traditional southern deep frying, southwest open flame grilling and Creole flavor.

Choice recipes include:

–          Shrimp Peques: Named after a West Texas boy who became part of the Gaido’s family and served in the restaurant for most of his life, this recipe features jalapeño and cheese-stuffed Gulf shrimp, wrapped in bacon and covered with a brown sugar glaze. Perfection.

–          Cy’s Demise: Gaido’s is renowned for serving up the freshest, savory oysters. Cookbook creators were kind enough to share this Gaido’s insider recipe for oysters on the half-shell.

–          Angels on Horseback: Smoked Gouda cream sauce over oysters and bacon in a puffed pastry shell. That’s all you need to say to guests when sharing these devilishly addictive appetizers.

Gaido’s Famous Seafood Restaurant: A cookbook celebrating 100 years” and Gaido’s Famous Pecan Pie is available for purchase online at www.gaidos.com. It will also be available for purchase at Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant in Galveston, and all of the Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant properties.

Green Electronics

November 26, 2010 by  
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Dear EarthTalk: Where can I find information on which electronics and their manufacturers are greener than others, with regard to components, manufacturing processes and end use efficiency?

— John Franken, New York, NY

Now that many consumers are beginning to care about their own environmental footprints, manufacturers are responding with loads of greener offerings. One good place to find them is the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics, which ranks the 18 top manufacturers of personal computers, mobile phones, televisions and game consoles according to their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change. Greenpeace hopes that by publishing and regularly updating the guide they can both educate consumers about their choices and influence manufacturers to eliminate hazardous substances, take back and recycle their products responsibly, and reduce the climate impacts of their operations and products.

“Nokia got top honors from the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics for the second year in a row: All of the company’s new phone models and accessories for 2010 are free of brominated compounds, chlorinated flame retardants and antimony trioxide, three of the most toxic chemicals used commonly in most mobile phones and other consumer electronics today. Pictured: The Nokia N97.” Image: William Hook, courtesy Flickr.

According to Greenpeace, the top five electronics manufacturers from a green perspective are Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Philips, HP and Samsung. These companies get high marks with Greenpeace for eliminating or scaling way back on the use of hazardous chemicals linked to cancer and other health and environmental problems, which in turn makes recycling their products less problematic.

Nokia gets top honors from Greenpeace for the second year in a row: All of the company’s new phone models and accessories for 2010 are free of brominated compounds, chlorinated flame retardants and antimony trioxide, three of the most toxic chemicals used commonly in most mobile phones and other consumer electronics today. Toshiba, Microsoft and Nintendo are the last place finishers on Greenpeace’s list for various reasons, including backtracking on or failing to make commitments to phase out chemicals used in the production of vinyl plastic (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs).

Aother good place to find info on green electronics and related products is the new website of TopTen USA, a non-profit that identifies and publicizes the most energy-efficient products on the market. The goal of the group—which is part of a global alliance of like-minded non-profits—is to make it easier for consumers to find the most energy- and money-saving models, which in turn encourages manufacturing innovations that will shift the whole market in a greener direction. Besides listing the greenest individual models of desktop computers, laptops, monitors and televisions TopTen USA also lists the greenest refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, clothes washers and even vehicles.

The non-profit Green Electronics Council, initially set up to help government, institutional and corporate purchasers evaluate, compare and select electronic products based on various environmental attributes, has now opened up its EPEAT green certification database to consumers. Some 1,300 computers, thin clients, workstations and monitors from dozens of manufacturers now bear the EPEAT certification label ensuring compliance with green manufacturing and recycling standards. All federal purchasers are required to choose between EPEAT-certified models when possible, and the database has steadily gained traction across a wide range of industries. Now consumers can freely browse the listings to see how various items from the likes of Apple, LG, Panasonic, Lenovo and Sony, among others, stack up.

CONTACTS: TopTen USA, www.toptenusa.org; EPEAT, www.epeat.net; Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics, www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/toxics/electronics/how-the-companies-line-up.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. E is a nonprofit publication. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe; Request a Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

5 Ways 2 Keep Lbs. Off during Holidays

November 19, 2010 by  
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‘Tis the season to be merry and…overeat!  With turkey and trimmings, yams with marshmallows, Christmas cookies, eggnog, and other caloric holiday goodies within our reach practically every day, it is difficult not to overindulge.

Even people who are usually disciplined about their food intake tend to go overboard around the holidays. “Americans typically gain between three and five pounds (and sometimes more) during this period,” says Karen Mones, personal fitness trainer at Houston Area Adventure Boot Camp. “With all the parties and family gatherings, it is easy to forget sensible eating habits. But, the weight you put on in these few weeks will stay with you long after the festivities are over.”

Fortunately, there are ways to maintain your weight during the holidays while still enjoying an occasional splurge. The key, Mones says, is good planning:

·       Avoid the “ugly foods” that are bad for you and your weight. “Stay away from fast foods and anything that’s deep-fried, greasy, full of sugar, or heavily processed. These foods are fattening and unhealthy. That’s a good advice to follow any day of the year, not just during the holiday season.”

·       Before parties “eat a healthy meal or a snack that includes a lean protein. Since protein takes longer to digest, it will help you feel full for much longer so you don’t start grabbing everything off the buffet table – most of which is probably calorie-laden.”

·       Drink 8 glasses of water every day “because it suppresses the appetite and helps the body metabolize stored fat. And keep in mind that we are talking about water, not soda, diet drinks, or alcohol.”

·       Practice portion control. “Sure, you can enjoy turkey, ham, or whatever is on the holiday menu. You can probably have a slice of pie too once in a while. However, use common sense and good judgment in how much you put on your plate and – no second servings! Most people are satisfied with just one serving, so if you don’t feel hungry, resist the urge to eat more than you need to.”

·       Work out! “That’s an extremely important point because exercise will not only help you burn any extra calories, but also keep you healthy and fit. Even people who exercise regularly tend to be less active during the holidays, but try to stay motivated and don’t lose sight of your goals. What kind of fitness routine should you choose? Aerobic exercise will help burn off extra calories, which is an important factor in weight loss and weight management. Resistance training will increase the lean muscle mass and increase your metabolism. Combining all these exercises will provide a very effective workout which burns fat.”

# # #
About Karen Mones, Fitness Expert:
Mones, a certified personal trainer with over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry, can be reached at KarenMones@yahoo.com or 713-408-4709 and is available for media interviews on a wide range of topics related to health, wellness, fitness and the connection between mind, body and soul.

Meatless Monday

November 6, 2010 by  
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Dear EarthTalk: I know that some people abstain from meat on Fridays for religious reasons, but what’s the story behind “Meatless Mondays?” — Sasha Burger, Ronkonkoma, NY

Meatless Monday—the modern version of it, at least—was born in 2003 with the goal of reducing meat consumption by 15 percent in the U.S. and beyond. The rationale? Livestock production accounts for one-fifth of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and is also a major factor in global forest and habitat loss, freshwater depletion, pollution and human health problems. The average American eats some eight ounces of meat every day—45 percent more than the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommended amount.

An outgrowth of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future, the Meatless Monday project offers vegetarian recipes, interviews with experts, various resources for schools, organizations and municipalities that wish to promote the initiative—and regular updates on Facebook and Twitter. “Going meatless once a week can reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity,” the group reports. “It can also help limit your carbon footprint and save resources like fresh water and fossil fuel.”

The Meatless Monday concept actually dates back to World War I, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urged citizens to reduce their meat, wheat and sugar intakes, since such foods took more energy to produce than others. Americans willing to cut back—even just one day a week—would be supporting the troops and helping to feed starving Europeans. To encourage participation, the FDA coined the terms “Meatless Monday” and “Wheatless Wednesday” and published vegetarian cookbooks and informational pamphlets. The campaign was resurrected briefly during World War II, but then died down.

But as Meatless Monday President Peggy Neu reports in a recent issue of E – The Environmental Magazine, today the initiative has transcended its war effort origins: “The focus for the first couple of years was health,” Neu says, but the movement has begun to grow in part because of increasing awareness of the environmental impact of meat consumption.

Some of the municipalities and institutions that have signed on include the City of San Francisco, the Baltimore Public School System, and Harvard and Columbia universities (along with some two dozen other colleges). Similar campaigns have sprung up in two dozen other countries, while the city of Ghent in Belgium, Oxford University in the UK, and Israel’s Tel Aviv University have also pledged to participate.

In May of 2010, a Washington Post article reported that the meat industry is feeling the heat. “Over the past year, lobbying groups including the American Meat Institute, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Board and the Farm Bureau have launched a quiet campaign to try to reverse the momentum,” reported the piece. The Animal Agriculture Alliance and the American Meat Institute have railed that Baltimore schoolchildren are being denied protein—and have urged citizens not to allow Meatless Monday to spread. But Neu says the movement is here to stay. “I want this movement to be sustainable prevention,” she says, “not just a health or environmental fad.”
CONTACTS: Meatless Monday, www.meatlessmonday.com; Center for a Livable Future, www.jhsph.edu/clf; E – The Environmental Magazine, www.emagazine.com/view/?5295.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. E is a nonprofit publication. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe; Request a Free Trial Issue:

Instead of serving it cold… Don’t serve it all

October 11, 2010 by  
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By Robert Wilson

On a summer day in 1973, my 12 year old sister was riding her horse on the quiet streets near our house. There was a little more traffic than usual as two cars came toward her from opposite directions. Cindy rode onto the well-tended lawn of a stately two-story house to get out of the way. While she waited, her horse relieved himself. She then rode on, unknowing that her steed had left a pile of manure on the emerald zoysia grass.

Cindy was two hundred feet down the road, when a car sped past, then skidded to a tire-squealing halt in front of her horse. The startled horse reared up; throwing Cindy to the pavement below. A man leapt out of his car, then without asking if she was hurt, started screaming at her for allowing her horse to defecate on his lawn. Crying and in pain from bruises to her back and arms, Cindy struggled to her feet, then managed to catch her horse who had only wandered off a few feet.

She apologized profusely, but the hysterical homeowner would not be satisfied. He insisted she walk her horse back to his yard, where he forced her to remove the horse droppings with her bare hands. Then without offering her an opportunity to wash her hands, he ordered her off his property.

I was enraged when she told me the story. As a hormone-filled sixteen year old, I wanted to retaliate on her behalf. I told her I would get two hundred pounds of salt; then under the cover of night, use it to write a message on his lawn. Within a few days, alphabet-shaped sections of his grass would die. Revenge would be sweet as his neighbors read in brown letters the profane words that described the true nature of his character.

Fortunately, my sister is more forgiving than me, and refused to tell me which house the jerk lived in. Cindy’s wisdom probably kept me out of jail.

Revenge is a powerful motivator. It is a survival instinct that dates back to our caveman days. If we were attacked and did not retaliate, then our enemy would attack again and again until they succeeded in killing us.

The problem is that when someone hurts us today, that primal urge still rises quickly. It doesn’t take much – it can be an emotional injury, an insult or a rejection – to stimulate that response within us. If we act upon it, we usually find ourselves feeling worse than before the slight. And, if we get too carried away, we may find ourselves on the wrong side of the law. As Mahatma Gandhi observed, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

The trick is curbing that response, and using that powerful motivation in a positive way for ourselves. I like the way psychologist and author, Vijai P. Sharma, puts it, “It is better to let the other person get away with it, so that you can get away from it.”

We can control our instinct and put it to work for us instead of against us by using that energy in positive ways. Exercise is a great way to blow off that initial steam you feel. I like to get out on my in-line skates and skate ten or more miles. Not only does it burn energy, the repetitive activity is meditative and allows me to put things into perspective.

Loving yourself by investing in your personal growth and development is another way to thwart those primal urges. Use your time to get better at what you do – pour that energy into your business and hobbies. Treat yourself to a massage, a gourmet meal, or a mini-vacation. And, surround yourself with friends who know and love you best. As Welsh poet, George Herbert, said in 1630, “Living well is the best revenge.”

Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. For more information on Robert’s programs please visit http://www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com

Go Texans!

September 22, 2010 by  
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Be sure to gear up for the big game!
NFL Women’s Apparel is now “Fit For You” with formfitting cuts and cute designs. Women can show their
NFL passion for a night on the town, a day at the gym, casual Friday at the office or a Sunday at the stadium.

Touch by G-III.

Available at:

  • NFLshop.com
  • Team stadium shops
  • Kohl’s
  • JC Penny
  • Amazon.com

How Long Does It Take For A Plastic Bag to Decompose?

September 19, 2010 by  
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Dear EarthTalk: I’ve heard conflicting reports regarding how long it really takes for a plastic grocery bag to decompose. Can you set the record straight? — Martha Blount, San Diego, CA

Researchers fear that such ubiquitous bags may never fully decompose; instead they gradually just turn into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic. The most common type of plastic shopping bag is made of polyethylene, a petroleum-derived polymer that microorganisms don’t recognize as food and as such cannot technically “biodegrade.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines biodegradation as “a process by which microbial organisms transform or alter (through metabolic or enzymatic action) the structure of chemicals introduced into the environment.” In “respirometry” tests, whereby experimenters put solid waste in a container with microbe-rich compost and then add air to promote biodegradation, newspapers and banana peels decompose in days or weeks, while plastic shopping bags are not affected.

Even though polyethylene can’t biodegrade, it does break down when subject to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, a process known as photodegradation. When exposed to sunshine, polyethylene’s polymer chains become brittle and crack, eventually turning what was a plastic bag into microscopic synthetic granules. Scientists aren’t sure whether these granules ever decompose fully, and fear that their buildup in marine and terrestrial environments—and in the stomachs of wildlife—portend a bleak future compromised by plastic particles infiltrating every step in the food chain. A plastic bag might be gone in anywhere from 10 to 100 years (estimates vary) if exposed to the sun, but its environmental legacy may last forever.

The best solution to plastic bag waste is to stop using disposable plastic bags altogether. You could invest a few bucks in reusable canvas totes—most supermarket chains now offer them—or bring your own reusable bags or backpacks with you to the store. If you have to choose between paper and plastic, opt for paper. Paper bags can biodegrade in a matter of weeks, and can also go into compost or yard waste piles or the recycling bin. Of course, plastic bags can be recycled also, but as just explained the process is inefficient. According to the nonprofit Worldwatch Institute, Americans only recycle 0.6 percent of the 100 billion plastic bags they take home from stores every year; the rest end up in landfills or as litter.

Another option which some stores are embracing—especially in places like San Francisco where traditional plastic shopping bags are now banned in chain supermarkets and pharmacies—are so-called compostable plastic bags, which are derived from agricultural waste and formed into a fully biodegradable faux-plastic with a consistency similar to the polyethylene bags we are so used to. BioBag is the leader in this field, but other companies are making inroads into this promising new green-friendly market.

San Francisco’s pioneering effort to get rid of polyethylene bags is a positive step, but environmentalists are pushing for such bans more widely. A California effort to ban plastic bags failed again recently, but will likely eventually succeed. Washington, Florida, New Jersey and North Carolina are watching closely and considering similar laws depending on what happens in the Golden State. Worldwatch reports that taxes on plastic bags in South Africa and Ireland have been effective at reducing their use by upwards of 90 percent; Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Philippines, Taiwan and the UK are also planning to ban or tax plastic bags to help stem the tide of plastic waste.

CONTACTS: Worldwatch, www.worldwatch.org; BioBag, www.biobagusa.com.

Photo credit: Ret0dd, courtesy Flickr

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. E is a nonprofit publication. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe; Request a Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial

Rome Salon and Day Spa

September 18, 2010 by  
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Update: This spa has closed
Now Open: Rome Salon and Day Spa

By Laurette M. Veres

Modeled after America’s best destination spas, this beauty refuge is replete with a Venetian plaster rotunda, full-service relaxation lounge, 50-foot art corridor, appointed VIP suite with a private entry as well as a boutique offering a variety of exclusive product lines like SpaRitual®, and La Bella Donna. Rome Salon is now open in Houston.

The spa menu is extensive; however, technicians work hard to customize services to meet your body’s needs.  Clients can select luxury spa and salon services including body and facial treatments, hand and foot therapy and skin and hair care

Unlike most spas, Rome is open seven days a week and employs in-house spa concierges who customize treatments, whether it be for an entire day or for an hour-long express service.

Great for bachelorette parties or groups, the VIP lounge can be booked by the hour or the day.  The room is completely customizable whether you desire pedicures, massages or other treatments; all are available in the lounge.

A stand-out treatment, the Pleasure of the Face, is unlike any treatment we’ve seen.  For thirty minutes, each facial muscle is meticulously massaged, with special attention to lymph and acupressure points.  This restorative ritual revitalizes muscles and actually provides the same benefits as a full body massage.

2800 Kirby

713-526-ROME (7663)


Houston Premium Outlets

September 15, 2010 by  
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Shop Till You Drop at Houston Premium Outlets

By Sarah VanHoose

There exists an elite group of individuals, consumers that possess a certain zeal and endurance to withstand the physical and emotional exhaustion of fighting the crowds, going head-to-head with other shoppers for the same items, and arriving home so exhausted they actually “drop” after they “shop”.  If you happen to be part of this army of sale-scouters (and you know who you are!), we have an incredible addition for your list of stores to conquer this holiday season: Black Friday shoppers, we give you … Houston Premium Outlets!

We empathize with your inability to fall asleep even after the tryptophan has taken affect as midnight looms.  You’re worried about your place in line outside of the most popular store for the biggest sale.  We promise Midnight Madness at Houston Premium Outlets will be one of the biggest shopping events of the year.  Premium Outlets is your source for designer and luxury gifts at affordable costs.  They are also very excited to announce a major expansion of 145 new stores opening in November, including Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, as well as your regular favorites, including Burberry, BCBG Max Azria, Coach, Cole Haan, Elie Tahari, Kate Spade, Kenneth Cole, Michael Kors, Nike, Tag Heuer, True Religion and more.

The doors to this haven of holiday savings swing open at midnight on November 26, and the brave and determined shoppers that come busting in will be rewarded with incredible savings, even in addition to the usual 25-65%.  And, there is more.  Houston Premium Outlets offers more discounts at to VIP shoppers.  So, soldiers of Black Friday, start your evening (morning) at Houston Premium Outlets.  There’s a good chance you won’t need to make any other holiday shopping stops!

Change Please

September 12, 2010 by  
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THE UN-COMFORT ZONE with Robert Wilson

Change Please

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

These are the words of the woman who became the poster child for overcoming adversity. A woman who was isolated into the two dimensional world of touch and smell at the age of 19 months.  Yet, she went on to inspire millions around the world. Sightless and deaf, Helen Keller resolved to make something of her life. She lived with a keen understanding that change is inevitable, but growth is intentional. Unwilling to give in to her blindness, she chose to strive for a normal life.

Motivation is all about motion or movement. In other words, if you are comfortable, if you are happy and content, then you DO NOT move. You do not change. Why would you? On the other hand, if you are uncomfortable, if you’re unhappy, then you want to change.  You want to move back toward your comfort zone. There are millions of motivators in the world and all of us at any one time is being motivated by a dozen or more: Hunger, Safety, Sex, Love, Enlightenment to name just a few.

Interestingly, you can take all those motivators and boil them down to a variation of two basic emotions: Fear and Desire. You are either moving toward something you desire; or you are moving away from something you fear.

Fear, however, can become paralyzing and will keep us in one un-comfort zone because we fear the perceived discomfort that comes with change. We fear that change could open a Pandora’s Box of more and scarier changes. I’ve seen it in relationships and in business.

I know a married couple who over the years have drifted apart and their marriage has become stagnant. I know they both desire greater intimacy with the other, but they both fear rejection and so they do nothing.

I know a small business owner who watched his business shrink in the recent recession. His self-esteem is closely tied to his success and his falling income triggered fears of inadequacy. Frozen by fear into doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, he has not adapted to the changes going on in his market.

Helen Keller once again has wise words for such situations, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”

When couples try new things together they actually stimulate the receptors in their brains that invoke the feelings of romance.  Taking a class or starting a new hobby together is a great way for couples to renew their feelings for each other and discover a greater depth of intimacy.

For small business owners, a recession is a great time to try out a new idea or innovation. It attracts renewed interest in the business and can even create new customers and open new markets.

The trick is getting comfortable with change a little at a time. Start engaging in simple changes at home. Low risk changes will generate immediate rewards. Here are a few you can make that will help you get into a habit of adapting to change:

If you drink coffee every day, switch to tea for a week. If you always listen to rock music on the radio, switch to country, jazz, or classical for a week. Rearrange one piece of furniture in your house. Read a section of the newspaper that you’ve never read before. Take a continuing education class in a subject not related to your career. Join a hobby group on MeetUp.com. Taste an ethnic food that you’ve never tried before, (as an alternative revisit a food you think you hate).

Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist.  He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators.  For more information on Robert’s programs please visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com.

Water Privatization

September 12, 2010 by  
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From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Is it true that some countries have turned over public water supplies to private companies, effectively denying local communities much-needed access? — J. Johnson, Lancaster, PA

Water is such an important part of life that it has long been regarded as a public good worth entrusting only to public entities. But given the mixed track record of municipal, regional and national governments to properly manage water resources, outsourcing to private companies is becoming more common. But critics of such privatization point out that the end result for consumers is not always so positive.

Perhaps the best known example transpired in Bolivia in the 1990s, when water systems in poor regions were put up for sale to private investors at the urging of development agencies intent on steering poor countries away from state control of industries and toward free market systems. Bolivia hired U.S.-based Bechtel Corporation to take over and manage water in the Cochabamba region there. Bechtel made good on its pledge to provide water to many previously underserved Cochabamba areas, but it also raised prices significantly. “Many were unable to pay such high rates, and even though water was now available to them, they couldn’t access it because they couldn’t afford it,” reports the non-profit World Savvy.

In 2000 riots erupted in Cochabamba as hundreds of residents filled the streets, angry that a private, foreign entity was preventing them from accessing water. “The violence shook the confidence of the local government and international investors,” says World Savvy. “Bechtel was forced out, resulting in not only chaos in water delivery in the area, but also in a serious blow to foreign investment in the country.” Similar conflicts have played out in other parts of Bolivia as well as in Ghana, Uruguay and the United Kingdom.

In the U.S., the federal government ensured the protection of waterways and drinking water in the 1970s through passage of the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, which among other benefits increased funding for community water systems to help cities and towns maintain high standards and inexpensive access to fresh water. “However, since the 1980s, the federal government has been cutting back funding to communities for water infrastructure, with assistance falling to historic lows under the Bush administration,” reports the non-profit Food & Water Watch. Without federal funding, communities that can’t afford to keep fresh water supplies clean and safe are increasingly turning to private companies.

But at what cost? Food & Water Watch cites dozens of examples from across the country where water privatization has gone woefully bad: “[H]igh rates and bad service plague communities who transfer control of their water service to the hands of corporations.” Common complaints include skyrocketing rates, sewage flooded basements, broken pipes, bad water quality, and cost overruns. “The water barons prioritize stockholder returns over public wellbeing and leave municipalities to clean up the mess.”

Not everyone thinks water privatization is all bad, especially when governments can’t efficiently manage the sourcing, sanitizing and distribution of life’s most vital resource. “There is evidence that privatization may work when the cost of water is subsidized for poorer populations,” reports World Savvy. Regardless, the debate will rage on as more and more governments turn to water privatization as stress over accessing water becomes more commonplace in a quickly warming and increasingly drought-stricken world.

CONTACTS: World Savvy, www.worldsavvy.org; Food & Water Watch, www.foodandwaterwatch.org.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. E is a nonprofit publication. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe; Request a Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

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