If you need a vacation and lack funds and resources for the traditional trip, consider becoming a WWOOFer. The WWOOF movement originally started in 1971 so workers in London could spend weekends in the country while learning about growing food. WWOOF refers to farms participating in the World Wide Organic Organization of Farming, a network of farms spread out across the U.S. and the globe that hosts visitors to their farms.
Visitors work at assigned tasks on the farm in exchange for meals and board. As many of the hosts have minimal restrictions around lengths of time for WWOOFers, vacationing or time off in between jobs can be an excellent opportunity to get your hands dirty and learn more about growing food. When planning your time as a WWOOFer, make sure to double check expectations for each farm and plan carefully.
Here are the top five reasons to WWOOF as a vacation:
1. Spending time outside can be an excellent way to combat stress. A study published by Landscape and Urban Planning found that adults living in areas with the largest amounts of green space reported less feelings of stress than of those who spent most of their time in urban settings. Just think of your stress levels dropping for each day spent in the sun and fresh air.
2. It is an affordable option for travel. With room, food and board covered, your only expense while volunteering as a WWOOFer can be for traveling. Many of the farms exist far from populous centers with little distractions for spending money.
3. Don't worry if you don’t have any farming experience. If you are concerned about lack of experience while volunteering as a WWOOFer, most farms take volunteers of all levels of experience. They only expect you to show up at a farm armed with a positive attitude and flexibility to suit the daily needs at the farm. Keep in mind that you may have to assist with some mundane tasks like weeding, but plant care and upkeep at an organic farm can be labor intensive.
4. An important component of WWOOFing involves the educational aspect. If you want to know about growing your own food, hands on education is the best way to educate yourself about food growth. Even if you have no outdoor space, any knowledge about gardening can be employed for indoor and smaller spaces. Many farms provide more than just an opportunity to grow food. As a WWOOFer, you can also learn how to build structures, make food, and care for animals.
5. The community and networking potential is an amazing opportunity within itself. Many of the farms have a variety of volunteers coming in and out on a weekly basis. With more than 1,000 hosts in the U.S. and more spread out across the planet, becoming a WWOOFer can provide countless contacts for meeting other guests and volunteers.
With careful planning, WWOOFing can be an excellent time away from daily life to unwind and connect with nature. Rebecca D’Angelo, a past WWOOFer, decided to spend time on a farm after she graduated from college. “I didn’t have a job after college and I love working outdoors. Doing so has gotten me through some tough transitions,” said D’Angelo. She added that she WWOOFed at farms in Maine and Connecticut.
Make sure to research and communicate with your potential farming hosts while organizing your WWOOFing adventure. Ensuring that you and your hosts are on the same page before you arrive will definitely make your WOOFing experience a positive one.
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By Gwen Ranniger
Fertility issues are on the rise, and new literature points to ways that your environment may be part of the problem. We've rounded up some changes you can make in your life to promote a healthy reproductive system.
Infertility and Environmental Health: The Facts<ul> <li>Sperm count is declining steeply, significantly, and continuously in Western countries, with no signs of tapering off. Erectile dysfunction is on the rise, and women are facing increasing rates of miscarriage and difficulty conceiving.</li><li>Why? A huge factor is our environmental health. Hormones (particularly testosterone and estrogen) are what make reproductive function possible, and our hormones are increasingly being negatively affected by harmful, endocrine-disrupting chemicals commonplace in the modern world—in our homes, foods, and lifestyles.</li></ul>
What You Can Do About It<p>It should be noted that infertility can be caused by any number of factors, including medical conditions that cannot be solved with a simple change at home.</p><p><em>If you or a loved one are struggling with infertility, our hearts and sympathies are with you. Your pain is validated and we hope you receive answers to your struggles.</em></p><p>Read on to discover our tips to restore or improve reproductive health by removing harmful habits and chemicals from your environment.</p>
Edit Your Health<ul><li>If you smoke, quit! Smoking is toxic, period. If someone in your household smokes, urge them to quit or institute a no-smoking ban in the house. It is just as important to avoid secondhand smoke.</li><li>Maintain a healthy weight. Make sure your caloric intake is right for your body and strive for moderate exercise.</li><li>Eat cleanly! Focus on whole foods and less processed meals and snacks. Studies have found that eating a Mediterranean-style diet is linked to increased fertility.</li><li>Minimize negative/constant stress—or find ways to manage it. Hobbies such as meditation or yoga that encourage practiced breathing are great options to reduce the physical toll of stress.</li></ul>
Edit Your Home<p>We spend a lot of time in our homes—and care that what we bring into them will not harm us. You may not be aware that many commonly found household items are sources of harmful, endocrine-disrupting compounds. Read on to find steps you can take—and replacements you should make—in your home.</p><p><strong>In the Kitchen</strong></p><ul> <li>Buy organic, fresh, unprocessed foods whenever possible. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/clean-grocery-shopping-guide-2648563801.html" target="_blank">Read our grocery shopping guide for more tips about food.</a></li><li>Switch to glass, ceramics, or stainless steel for food storage: plastics often contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that affect fertility. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/bpa-pollution-2645493129.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Learn more about the dangers of plastic here.</a></li><li>Ban plastic from the microwave. If you have a plastic splatter cover, use paper towel, parchment paper, or an upside-down plate instead.</li><li>Upgrade your cookware: non-stick may make life easier, but it is made with unsafe chemical compounds that seep into your food. Cast-iron and stainless steel are great alternatives.</li><li>Filter tap water. Glass filter pitchers are an inexpensive solution; if you want to invest you may opt for an under-the-sink filter.</li><li>Check your cleaning products—many mainstream products are full of unsafe chemicals. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Check out our guide to safe cleaning products for more info</a>.</li></ul><p><strong>In the Bathroom </strong></p><ul> <li>Check the labels on your bathroom products: <em>fragrance-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free</em> and organic labels are all great signs. You can also scan the ingredients lists for red-flag chemicals such as: triclosan, parabens, and dibutyl phthalate. Use the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/" target="_blank">EWG Skin Deep database</a> to vet your personal products.</li><li>Ditch the vinyl shower curtain—that new shower curtain smell is chemical-off gassing. Choose a cotton or linen based curtain instead.</li><li>Banish air fresheners—use natural fresheners (an open window, baking soda, essential oils) instead.</li></ul><p><strong>Everywhere Else</strong></p><ul><li>Remove wall-to-wall carpet. If you've been considering wood or tile, here's your sign: many synthetic carpets can emit harmful chemicals for years. If you want a rug, choose wool or plant materials such as jute or sisal.</li><li>Prevent dust build-up. Dust can absorb chemicals in the air and keep them lingering in your home. Vacuum rugs and wipe furniture, trim, windowsills, fans, TVs, etc. Make sure to have a window open while you're cleaning!</li><li>Leave shoes at the door! When you wear your shoes throughout the house, you're tracking in all kinds of chemicals. If you like wearing shoes inside, consider a dedicated pair of "indoor shoes" or slippers.</li><li>Clean out your closet—use cedar chips or lavender sachets instead of mothballs, and use "green" dry-cleaning services over traditional methods. If that isn't possible, let the clothes air out outside or in your garage for a day before putting them back in your closet.</li><li>Say no to plastic bags!</li><li>We asked 22 endocrinologists what products they use - and steer clear of—in their homes. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/nontoxic-products-2648564261.html" target="_blank">Check out their responses here</a>.</li></ul>
Learn More<ul><li>For more information and action steps, be sure to check out <em>Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race</em> by EHS adjunct scientist Shanna Swan, PhD: <a href="https://www.shannaswan.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">available for purchase here.</a></li><li><a href="https://www.ehn.org/st/Subscribe_to_Above_The_Fold" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sign up for our Above the Fold Newsletter </a>to stay up to date about impacts on the environment and your health.</li></ul>
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