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Organic Food and Farm-to-Table Pioneer Alice Waters Is Creating a Revolution in School Lunches
By Don Hazen
When I spoke with Alice Waters, we didn't focus on her famed restaurant, Chez Panisse, or her profound impact on the way we eat today, starting with the concept of farm to table. Rather, we talked about her passionate, decades-long campaign to provide organic school lunches to kids across the country.
Waters has long advocated that growing, preparing and eating food should be considered a centerpiece of the school curriculum, and she is making progress; thousands of schools across America and around the world have adopted some aspect of her Edible Schools Program.
Waters' vision has become the polar opposite of the fast-food industrial complex. Fast food, fast technology, fast everything is the enemy of Waters' reverence for feeding our bodies and souls in healthy and thoughtful ways. The student body in the U.S. totals somewhere between 50 and 60 million students—the population of a medium-sized country. Waters' attempt to prepare and feed nourishing meals to these kids threatens a system that packages and hurdles our kids through lunchtime.
At a time when President Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos champion the privatization of the public school system via vouchers and charters, Waters' vision can almost seem quaint or even a bit far-fetched. The school privatization movement is being aggressively led by the wealthiest people in the country, including the Walmart family, Bill Gates, Mike Bloomberg, Reed Hastings and many others. DeVos is proud of cutting funding for school lunches for poor kids—and those lunches are not even remotely like the nourishing, locally sourced lunches Waters has in mind.
Interestingly, the wretched political situation many of us find ourselves in doesn't seem to faze Waters. She does not blink. She is certainly aware of it, but she ignores the Trump apocalypse. She does not wring her hands, waver or go into shock—whatever it is that many of us have done as we suffer symptoms of Trump trauma. Waters simply persists in a straight line with her message, her vision and the eternal hope that eventually people in large numbers will come to understand what is right and true about healthy eating—which is, as far as she is concerned, a hell of a lot of fun.
It was an empty seat that led me to interview Alice Waters. We met a month or so ago. I was at Chez Panisse because Waters' longtime friend Hamilton Fish threw a luncheon to introduce Win McCormick, the new owner of the New Republic. In effect, Fish was introducing himself as the new publisher. Fish had invited a friendly crowd of local independent journalists and media types, including the likes of powerhouse duo Adam and Arlie Hochschild; Deirdre English, once editor of Mother Jones and now at UC Berkeley's School of Journalism; and the documentary producer Steve Talbot.
I was sitting across from Mark Schapiro, author of countless books and articles about the environmental destruction at our doorstep. Meanwhile Waters was gliding around in the background, making sure all was well with the food and the service. She seemed to have a clear sense that she was going to enjoy the festivities and that everything was under control. At some point, she must have spied the open seat at our table, and gracefully welcomed herself to it. It wasn't long before our conversation headed in the direction of healthy food for school kids. I had been aware of Waters' relationship with a local junior high in Berkeley, and how she helped transform it into a dynamic expression of equitable food systems, where students learn and engage with healthy, local, organic foods.
A note: I put this interview together after a bit of time off, and in the meantime, I was upstaged by a long profile of Waters in the New York Times, written by Kim Severson, about Waters' new memoir, Coming to My Senses, The Making of a Counter Culture. In the article, Severson lovingly recognizes Waters' outsized role in the food revolution, even as she's content to be at the controls of just one restaurant. As Severson wrote, "Sprinkled with photographs, the book traces Ms. Waters' years as a European backpacker smitten with France and as a young radical cooking for the Bay Area's antiwar intelligentsia."
Qualities and experiences like these have helped Waters become the rarified mind and voice of a new food movement. I offer a few excerpts from Severson's piece to save me the trouble of more biographical material, and to do her work honor:
"Waters has not set foot in a conventional grocery store for 25 years. She remains devoted to the idea that all food should be organic, beautiful and eaten communally. That approach, which once seemed strident and economically tone deaf, has seeped into everyday food culture. Ms. Waters' image has softened into that of a grandmotherly sage whose wisdom young people especially seem eager to hear."
"'She is responsible for radicchio in the supermarket and the slice of blood orange on your airplane meal,' said the writer David Kamp."
"Yet she continues to play a kind of small ball that, over the years, has proved powerful. She has never expanded Chez Panisse to other cities, or jumped fully into celebrity in ways that could have promoted her agenda. Rather, she prefers to personally cajole every politician, journalist and philanthropist she meets."
And Diego Galicia, owner of San Antonio's Mixtli, called her, "one of the titans of the mythical chefs in this country."
As Severson makes claim, "Ms. Waters is the reason restaurants started naming farms on menus and serving mesclun salads and American-made goat cheese."
Such a reverent profile is no surprise, and I found it easy to engage with Waters' charm, intellect and passion for equitable food systems and her creativity to engage students. With that in mind, on to our interview.
Don Hazen: Let's start out at the beginning with you telling us a little bit about the edible food program and how it came to be.
Alice Waters: The program came to be about 22 years ago when Neil Smith, the principal of Kings School, called and asked me if I would like to come and help him beautify the school. I had been interviewed by someone and I was asked about public education at Berkeley and I said, it's just so depressing that I go by this middle school every day on my way to the restaurant and it looks like it's abandoned. There's graffiti on the walls. The grass isn't kept. It just looks ... What's happened in this city so close to the University of California? How could this happen?
So he invited me over to his school.
DH: He read the interview.
AW: He read the interview. Yes. And so we took a walk around the school and all of a sudden the whole idea came to me.
This is a middle school that was built in 1921 for 500 kids. Now, there are 1,000 kids. The middle school kids—sixth, seventh, and eighth graders—they speak 22 different languages at home. So it's a really good mix of kids and they used to eat in the cafeteria that accommodated 500 kids. As the school grew, they abandoned the cafeteria and they had a snack bar. The kids would pick up food there, or not, or bring it from home, or not eat anything.
DH: That does not sound healthy.
AW: I was walking around and seeing the land and there was a vacant lot. But it was a broken-up black top and weeds and just garbage. I imagined immediately a productive vegetable garden here. I just saw it. I looked at the edge of the school yard where the snack bar was, it looked like we could build a center for the study of gastronomy there. And I saw a cafeteria that could accommodate all of the kids and big enough so that the kids could sit down every day to eat their school lunch.
I was thinking from the very beginning that school lunch would be part of academia. Every kid could feel connected in this way. They would sit down together and they would eat this organic, nutritious, delicious lunch.
DH: So weaving the education of food into the curriculum was always important?
AW: This is learning by doing. It was always in my mind that there would be a garden, not a garden for growing vegetables, but a classroom where every subject could sort of come alive. Whether it's math or science, an art class or even a history class, it could happen in the lab of the garden. Then I imagined that we would take over the old cafeteria, restore it, and make that a kitchen classroom. So that you would be, again, cooking and measuring. It's a math class. You could be writing down recipes and it's an English class. It could be connected in some way with what you were studying.
DH: And this is probably different from the old model of home economics?
AW: Way different. But I always, from day one, imagined a free, sustainable school lunch for every child. I always wanted it to be sort of in the spirit of the project that you'd buy food locally, seasonally, and that the farmers would come to the school, deliver the food. That their values would come into the institution.
When Neil Smith, the principal, came back to me he said, "Oh, this is a little big for me right now." He said, "I'll be back to you," and I never expected to hear from him again. When he called back six months later, I said, "Well, Neil, it's all or nothing." You know?
And he said, "I'm ready to do all of it but just don't talk about the free school lunch part right now. That will be our little secret because I think you'll frighten them with that. They'll wonder how you're getting the money. They're wondering how you're gonna do that. Just let that be our secret and we'll begin with the garden classroom."
Which is what we did.
DH: How were you able to amplify that project to 5,500 edible school projects? There's like a huge leap, right?
AW: I wanted a place that was so compelling that anybody who came to visit would understand it. They'd say, "Oh, I get it. I get that. This is just right as rain. I understand."
And how uncomplicated it is. It really isn't difficult at all. It's a delicious way to think about it.
It really caught on at the school and all the teachers began to use those two rooms as interactive classrooms. They know that when the kids are going to the garden or the kitchen they never miss a class.
We're operating on the Montessori principle that children need to be won over. You don't tell them what they can't eat or can't do, you just bring them into a relationship. There's something irresistible. They are empowered and engaged differently and that's really what has happened. It really is the truth that if kids grow it and cook it, they all eat it. My priorities have been teaching three values that we need in order to live on this planet together: stewardship of the land, nourishment, and communication.
So that's at the base of what we're doing. That no matter what class they're taking, they're deeply engaged with nature. That three years they're in school there, they know about real food. They're eating whole grains. They're eating vegetables and fruits. They're falling in love with them. They're really learning how to cook them. They're also doing their math class, yeah.
DH: And of course, those are things they can take on for the rest of their life.
AW: I always say they could give a TED talk… they're very able.
When 85% of the kids in this country don't have one meal with their family, just imagine what that means. Just imagine, life is like a run-on sentence, you never pause. You're always grabbing something. You're eating in front of the television. You're out grazing with your friends, and you're learning and digesting the values of the fast-food culture. And that's what I really believe is destroying this world. We've been indoctrinated from early childhood that more is better.
DH: Do you see any ray of hope that the fast-food industry is coming to understand any of these principles?
AW: You know, people would be hopeful saying, "Well it seems that they're focusing more on health" or "They're not putting so many additives in the food." It's not that there couldn't be fast slow food. I remember this guy who was selling little fish sandwiches on the street. I just thought, "Yeah, that's fresh. That's fast slow food."
It's the way we're packaging and selling. It's as if advertising confers value, and that time is money. You don't want to stand in line anymore. If that guy can make that sandwich faster....
DH: You gotta get out of your car.
AW: Twenty-five percent of people eat in their cars. Of course, it's okay to do that. You know, time is money. Kitchen work is treachery. You know, just order in. Part of it is about taste. The other part is that I want people to come back to their senses. I want them to have the time and focus to really digest the human values. The touching, the smelling.
Maria Montessori was about the education of the senses. That was her big thing. She was very successful in the slums of Naples and in India where people were very poor, very hungry and very deprived. It's interesting that we are sensorially deprived. And not always because of poverty or hunger, but because we have been really indoctrinated into such a way that we don't sit in the present. Technology takes the place of food often.
So it's something way bigger that we're attempting to do. These 5,500 [edible schoolyard programs] are schools that have found us on the internet. They've heard about us in some way and they have taken the time to put their information onto our internet site.
Every time I travel there are people that had never even heard of the Edible Schoolyard, but they have gardens at schools or kitchens or they're doing something about the cafeteria. And in other countries around the world. I was just talking to someone on the phone in South Africa and they want to come and study the Edible Schoolyard Project, but they mentioned three or four garden projects that were happening in Cape Town and I said, "Please tell them to put them on the internet."
DH: I want to hear you say that this movement has so much momentum it's not stoppable, because as you know, we are now in the dark ages politically.
AW: I know. We are. But this is kind of an underground movement. I feel like we're in the underground, and we're passing notes back or we're passing meals to each other. You know, take this and tell that person and do that thing. When I was in Italy last, I heard about the forest schools. This has been going on for probably 10 years, it started in Germany.
Kids are dropped off at the edge of a park or a forest and they are preschool age particularly, three to six, and they just play in nature. Somebody brings in the food that they cook. They're kind of being watched so they don't do something really dangerous. But they're just playing in nature.
And they just started the ocean schools where they go to the seaside and the same thing.... Get reconnected. There's a waiting list of a couple hundred at the school in Rome. It's an international movement.
It allows us to fall in love with nature because she's our mother.
DH: But isn't everybody worried about insurance and accidents and protecting, so that needs to be overcome.
AW: Well everybody is, but that is the fast-food culture indoctrinating us to buy equipment from the stores rather than go out into nature. Make sure you have a backpack. Make sure you have rain umbrellas. Get the special kind of hiking boots, the really expensive kind cause you don't want to fall. Get all of the equipment in case you're in a dark place in the middle of the night and you have to put up a flare. You're so overburdened by the thought of the expense that you don't want to go out there.
DH: Some critics are saying kids do not like the food. Now, under Trump, all the Obama school food programs are hitting a stone wall. What do you think about all this?
AW: You can only imagine what I think.
DH: But for the record …
AW: In terms of kids not liking the food, I am shocked. I know that it's not true. I know that when kids are not educated about healthy food, they have a resistance to it. The resistance comes, again, from the fast-food culture.
DH: What is the big picture you see for the future?
AW: I think we need these models around the state of California. Because we want to focus here first. I think there are other right places, you know, in Vermont, maybe even in Virginia, New Orleans, and other places that I have visited recently that have farmers that are organized, that have great need, that love children, and really have interesting people in government positions. And actually have the possibility of growing that food for the schools.
The biggest thing right now, is supporting the people who take care of the environment. We must take care of the people who take care of the land. And so, if 20% of the population is in school, and they are asked to buy this food from farms. I mean at the real cost without a middleman, it could be amazing. It could change farming overnight.
DH: How about one overarching, inspirational, motivational statement about your passion. What would it be? How would you weave all the elements together?
AW: We still need to learn how to talk about food and education, because they haven't been talked about together, really. Education depends on our good health. It depends on our understanding of the environment and somehow we got those separate. I mean, John Dewey understood that. We went down another path and we have to come back to it.
If our public school system is a truly democratic institution. It's the place where we can reach every child in this county from kindergarten. What an opportunity to edibly educate them. I don't just mean a glorified cooking class. I've never thought of it that way. I have always thought of it as a way to empower students to learn, to give them confidence, and to nourish them. So, I think the centerpiece has to be a free, sustainable school lunch for every child.
DH: What about charter schools? What about voucher programs? What about, Reed Hastings, the Netflix guy, who wants kids to sit in front of their computers all day, not even in school, and learn?
AW: Well, I'm talking about every child. I'm talking about equality. That's right, never wrong. We all deserve an education and a nourishing school lunch.
DH: How will we get a free school lunch for every child? Through private programs like the Edible Schoolyard? Or through legislation?
AW: I think it's going to happen through education. We have a health care crisis. One in two kids is going to have diabetes. Now we need to educate children about health basically from birth. It's just ... crazy to think that we don't have to worry about it, the health care cost. So we really need an edible education. It's about kids. It's about getting politicians' attention to help to figure out how this could happen. Maybe it's a soda thing. Maybe it's a real estate tax. Maybe it's a rural development. Maybe it's all of these things together that make this happen, but it's essential that it ... I mean, we're, as Carlos Petrini [founder of the International Slow Food Movement] says, we're on a train and it's going off the edge of the cliff.
We have to stop the track and get off. Now we're in a jungle. We don't know how we're going to get out but we'll find a way. I've always believed in people power. I saw it happen when we organized around the AIDS crisis....We made an AIDS quilt that covered the entire mall. Everybody had a part in it and we can do this. I want to partner with Habitat for Humanity and rebuild every school in the state of California. We haven't paid any attention to what's happened to our schools for at least 30 years.
I remember when I came to Berkeley. That was in '64. We were the number-one university on the planet and we were number one in academic excellence from K-12. We are now number 47. It's so sad. And fast food has taken over our public schools so that we're trying to educate kids to make money. I mean, that's the goal, to get online, to do it fast, cheap, and easy. Whatever it takes.
DH: How about getting a real education?
AW: How about getting to meet, to know the people who are in your class? How they're touching your life. There are other pathways into our minds: touch, taste, smell, hearing, seeing, and we've closed these down. We don't go into a market and see anything out in the open. It's all in a package. You don't smell it.
Unless we go to a farmers' market we don't experience that. We don't cook anymore. We just order in. It's not just what we're eating, it's how we're eating. And that's what I'm really drawn to address with this project. The dinner table is a rite of civilization and we need to participate in that to keep our families together, to keep our communities together.
They're talking about rural development. How to keep people on the land, how to bring them back to the land, which is exactly what we need to be doing in this country and which is exactly what this project could do, this initiative. If we purchase food from local people it will put people into business in Bakersfield. And we're supporting the small local companies.
But fast-food culture would have us believe that this is too much work. Well, at Chez Panisse we have 85 people we buy from during the whole course of a year. We only feed 500 people a day. But it's a pleasure to talk to the farmers. That's my favorite part, always was.
It's really the communication and exchange that builds communities. It's not something you can legislate. It's that you're giving me the best bread I ever had and I'm so happy to give you money for it. I can't think of anything I'd rather do than stand in line and give money for your bread.
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
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By Kristeen Cherney
Skin inflammation, which includes swelling and redness, occurs as an immune system reaction. While redness and swelling can develop for a variety of reasons, rashes and burns are perhaps the most common symptoms. More severe skin inflammation can require medications, but sometimes mild rashes may be aided with home remedies like aloe vera.
When Aloe Vera for Redness May Treat Irritation and Inflammation<p>Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory properties that may help <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/home-remedies-for-rashes" target="_blank">soothe skin rashes</a>. As a bonus, aloe is also thought to have antimicrobial capabilities, which may in turn help to prevent infections. Additionally, aloe vera gel is known for its ability to help moisturize your skin without leaving any residue that heavy creams sometimes can.</p><p>While aloe vera can't cure any skin disease or treat every single instance of skin inflammation, here are the instances where it could possibly help:</p><h3>Burns</h3><p>Aloe vera gel is perhaps best known for its ability to help treat burns. If you've ever had a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/skin/aloe-vera-for-sunburn" target="_blank">sunburn</a>, you may have used an OTC gel to help reduce itchiness, redness, and overall irritation. The same concept may apply to mild heat or chemical burns.</p><p>To use aloe vera for burn treatment, apply it liberally to the affected area multiple times per day. You may know it's time to apply more if your skin starts feeling hot. Aloe vera is safe to use until symptoms of your burn start to improve after a day or two.</p><p>While aloe vera may provide temporary burn relief along with a cooling effect, it won't reverse any damage that may have been done to your skin. It also isn't an appropriate treatment for <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/burns" target="_blank">more severe burns</a>, which can include symptoms such as boils, blisters, and peeling skin.</p>
When Aloe May Worsen Symptoms<p>Aloe can help alleviate symptoms of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/rashes" target="_blank">skin rashes</a> that are mild in nature. However, it's not considered an effective treatment for more serious inflammatory skin conditions. Aloe vera may also—in rare cases—cause skin inflammation. Don't use aloe vera if you have an allergy to it.</p><h3>Can aloe vera cause a skin rash?</h3><p>While considered safe for most people, there is a risk of an allergic reaction to aloe vera. In such cases, you might see signs of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/contact-dermatitis" target="_blank">contact dermatitis</a>, which can develop when your skin comes in contact with an irritating or allergenic substance. Symptoms may include:</p><ul><li>redness</li><li>hives</li><li>itching</li><li>skin rash</li></ul><p><span></span>If you've never used aloe vera before, you should conduct a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/allergy-testing#testing" target="_blank">patch test</a> to make sure you're not allergic. This involves applying the gel to a non-conspicuous area of skin, such as the inside of your elbow. The downside is you have to wait at least 24 hours to see if any irritation develops. If no such reactions occur, then it should be safe to use the product on your skin rashes.</p>
Can Aloe Vera Make Eczema Worse?<p>Aloe vera won't likely make eczema worse unless you're allergic to it. The greater risk is relying on aloe for eczema treatment when it may not actually work. Aloe vera gel could temporarily alleviate feelings of burning, but it can't treat the underlying causes of your eczema rashes.</p><p>Sometimes eczema rashes may bleed due to scratching. You should not apply aloe to broken skin, as this can increase burning sensations.</p>
When to See a Doctor<p>Aloe vera can help soothe certain cases of skin inflammation, but most effects are temporary at best. If your symptoms last longer than a few days, get progressively worse, or spread throughout your entire body, then it's time to see a doctor to evaluate your skin rash.</p><p>A doctor may also refer you to a dermatologist, who specializes in the treatment of skin disorders. They can help diagnose the cause of your rashes and help treat the underlying source of inflammation, rather than the symptoms alone.</p><p>You should also see a doctor if you experience any negative reactions after using aloe gel. This could indicate an allergy to aloe vera. If you suspect an allergic reaction, stop using aloe right away.</p><p><em>Never </em>take aloe vera gel or cream, aloe latex, or whole-leaf extract orally.</p><p>Seek immediate medical care if you suspect your rash <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/skin-infection" target="_blank">is infected</a>. Signs may include fever, blisters, and pus-filled lesions in your rash. Extremely painful rashes also require medical attention.</p>
Takeaway<p>Due to its ability to soothe inflammation and wounds, aloe vera can be a temporary solution to treat the symptoms of a mild burn or skin rash. However, aloe vera isn't a viable treatment option for more severe burns or severe inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema and rosacea. Stronger medications are needed for more severe skin rashes.</p><p>While rare, aloe vera may also cause an allergic reaction in some people. Always conduct a skin patch test for use, and discontinue any aloe gel products if you notice any new rashes.</p>
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Blue Light Disrupts Your Sleep<p>Your body has an internal clock that regulates your circadian rhythm — the 24-hour biological cycle that influences many internal functions.<span></span></p><p>Most importantly, it determines when your body is primed for being awake or <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-reasons-why-good-sleep-is-important" target="_blank">asleep</a>.</p><p>However, your circadian rhythm needs signals from the external environment — most importantly daylight and darkness — to adjust itself.</p><p>Blue-wavelength light stimulates sensors in your eyes to send signals to your brain's internal clock.</p><p>Keep in mind that sunlight and white light contain a mixture of various wavelengths, each of which has a significant amount of blue light.<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18075803" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Getting blue light, especially from the sun, in the daytime helps you stay alert while improving performance and mood.</p><p>Blue light therapy devices may help treat depression, and blue light bulbs have been shown to reduce fatigue and improve the mood, performance, and sleep of office workers.</p><p>Yet, modern light bulbs and electronic devices, especially computer monitors, likewise produce large amounts of blue light and may disrupt your internal clock if you're exposed to them during the evening.</p><p>When it gets dark, your pineal gland secretes the hormone <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/melatonin-and-sleep" target="_blank">melatonin</a>, which tells your body to get tired and go to sleep.</p><p>Blue light, whether from the sun or a laptop, is very effective at inhibiting melatonin production — thus reducing both the quantity and quality of your sleep.</p><p>Studies link melatonin suppression in the evening to various health problems, including metabolic syndrome, obesity, cancer, and depression.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Blue light in the evening tricks your brain into thinking it's daytime, which inhibits the production of melatonin and reduces both the quantity and quality of your sleep.</p>
Tinted Glasses May Help<p>Amber-tinted glasses offer the easiest and most effective way to avoid blue light exposure at night.</p><p>These glasses effectively block all blue light. Thus, your brain doesn't get the signal that it's supposed to stay awake.</p><p>Studies show that when people use blue-light-blocking glasses, even in a lit room or while using an electronic device, they produce just as much melatonin as if it were dark.</p><p>In one study, people's melatonin levels in the evening were compared across dim light, bright light, and bright light with tinted glasses.<a href="http://press.endocrine.org/doi/full/10.1210/jc.2004-2062" target="_blank"></a></p><p>The bright light almost completely suppressed melatonin production, while the dim light did not.</p><p>Notably, those wearing the glasses produced the same amount of melatonin as those exposed to dim light. The glasses largely canceled out the melatonin-suppressing effect of the bright light.</p><p>Likewise, blue-light-blocking glasses have been shown to spur major improvements in sleep and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-brain-foods" target="_blank">mental performance</a>.</p><p>In one 2-week study, 20 individuals used either blue-light-blocking glasses or glasses that didn't block blue light for 3 hours before bedtime. The former group experienced major improvements in both sleep quality and mood.</p><p>These glasses have also been found to greatly improve sleep in shift workers when worn before bedtime.</p><p>What's more, in a study in older adults with cataracts, blue-light-blocking lenses improved sleep and significantly reduced daytime dysfunction.</p><p>That said, not all studies support the use of blue-light-blocking lenses or glasses. One analysis of several studies concluded that there's a lack of high quality evidence supporting their use.</p><p>Nevertheless, blue-light-blocking glasses may provide some benefits.</p><p><strong>Shop blue-light-blocking glasses <a href="https://amzn.to/2WmW4M8" target="_blank">online</a>.</strong></p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Some studies suggest that blue-light-blocking glasses may increase melatonin production during the evening, leading to major improvements in sleep and mood.</p>
Other Blocking Methods<p>If you don't want to use glasses every night, there are a few other ways to reduce blue light exposure.</p><p>One popular way is to install a program called f.lux on your computer.</p><p>This program automatically adjusts the color and brightness of your screen based on your timezone. When it's dark outside, it effectively blocks all blue light and gives your monitor a faint orange hue.</p><p>Similar apps are available for your smartphone.</p><p>A few other tips include:</p><ul><li>turning off all lights in your home 1–2 hours before bedtime</li><li>getting a red or orange reading lamp, which doesn't emit blue light (candlelight works well, too)</li><li>keeping your bedroom completely dark or using a sleep mask</li></ul><p>It's also important to expose yourself to plenty of blue light during the day.</p><p>If you can, go outside to get sunlight exposure. Otherwise, consider a blue light therapy device — a strong lamp that simulates the sun and bathes your face and eyes in blue light.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Other ways to block blue light in the evening include dimming or turning off the lights in your home and installing an app that adjusts the light your laptop and smartphone emit.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Blue light, which is emitted from smartphones, computers, and bright lights, may inhibit your sleep if you're exposed to it at night.</p><p>If you have a history of sleeping problems, try reducing your exposure to blue light during the evenings.</p><p>Amber-tinted glasses may be particularly effective.</p><p>Several studies support their ability to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/17-tips-to-sleep-better" target="_blank">improve sleep quality</a>.</p>
Junjira Konsang / Pixabay
By Matt Casale
For many Americans across the country, staying home to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) means adapting to long-term telework for the first time. We're doing a lot more video conferencing and working out all the kinks that come along with it.
The author (above) wrote this while working from home, baby in tow. Emily Anderson (author's wife/home office mate)<p>The coronavirus will pass, but it's looking more and more like remote work will stick around. This time has demonstrated that, despite the ups and downs many of us have experienced, <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/04/06/telecommuting-will-likely-continue-long-after-the-pandemic/" target="_blank">telework works</a> for way more of us than we knew.</p><p>Even before this we knew that there were several benefits for both employers and employees to sidestepping the office. <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrealoubier/2017/07/20/benefits-of-telecommuting-for-the-future-of-work/#3f278e0916c6" target="_blank">Studies have shown</a> that it can lead to increased productivity, higher morale and lower employee turnover. It can also reduce real estate and office operation costs for employers.</p><p>We may now also be seeing some larger societal benefits that make the case for taking telework even further. Our current situation has provided a window into how a reduction in driving, buoyed, in part, by a greater adoption of telework, could relieve some of the stress on our overburdened transportation system and help heal at least a portion of the environmental damage it causes.</p><p>Today, roads that would normally clogged at all hours of the day are <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/photos-empty-airports-trains-roads-during-coronavirus" target="_blank">virtually empty</a>, even during rush hour. And the reduced car travel leads to fewer crashes and less air pollution, which harms human health and contributes to global warming. Air that's usually cloudy with smog has cleared. Los Angeles, which has notoriously pollution-choked skies, could recently boast having the <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/07/us/los-angeles-pollution-clean-air-coronavirus-trnd/index.html" target="_blank">cleanest air in the world</a>. And this year, experts predict, the transportation transformation will contribute to the <a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-coronavirus-set-to-cause-largest-ever-annual-fall-in-co2-emissions" target="_blank">largest-ever annual decline in global carbon emissions</a>.</p>
Virtually empty Los Angeles streets on May 7. Chris Yarzab / CC BY 2.0<p>Clearly not every job can be done from home, and it's not just commuting for work that has come to a halt during coronavirus lockdowns. In 2017 only around <a href="https://nhts.ornl.gov/assets/2017_nhts_summary_travel_trends.pdf" target="_blank">28 percent</a> of total miles driven were work-related. Even if telework continues or expands on a much larger scale, non-work-related car trips — shopping, recreation, visits to doctors and the like — can be expected to go back to normal.</p><p>Still, telework's potential for taking cars off the road can clearly have an impact on global warming emissions and air pollution. Just how much of an impact could telework have? As it turns out, the answer is a significant one — and with a few important steps, the benefits can be even greater and more sustainable.</p>
How Much of the Workforce Could Reasonably and Permanently Transition to Telework?<p>According to the U.S. Census Bureau, <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/13/people-who-work-from-home-earn-more-than-those-who-commuteheres-why.html" target="_blank">5.2 percent of U.S. workers</a> — around 8 million people — worked from home in 2017. But that's still just a fraction of potential teleworkers. Earlier this month researchers at the University of Chicago found that <a href="https://bfi.uchicago.edu/wp-content/uploads/BFI_White-Paper_Dingel_Neiman_3.2020.pdf" target="_blank">37 percent of U.S. jobs can plausibly be performed at home</a>. The U.S. workforce reached <a href="https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CLF16OV" target="_blank">164.5 million</a> in February 2020, before the pandemic, meaning approximately 61 million of those workers could plausibly telework permanently once the economy starts up again.</p><p>Of course, the full economic consequences of this public health crisis are still unknown. It's possible that coronavirus-related job losses will impact the overall number of those employed for some time. But for these purposes, this assumption of 53 million new remote workers will be useful to illustrate the potential impacts of telework.</p>
How Much Driving Would Full-Capacity Telework Avoid?<p>In 2019 Americans drove a total <a href="https://afdc.energy.gov/data/10315" target="_blank">3.23 trillion miles</a>, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The DoE doesn't break that down by reasons driving, but we know that in 2017 there were <a href="https://nhts.ornl.gov/assets/2017_nhts_summary_travel_trends.pdf" target="_blank">683 billion total commute miles</a> driven. Reducing the commuting workforce by about 32 percent (37 percent of total workers who could telecommute minus the 5.2 percent of them who already do) would theoretically decrease commuting totals by about 219 billion miles.</p>
A traffic jam on January 17. Raphael Labaca Castro / CC BY-SA 2.0<p>Of course telecommuting won't let us avoid logging <em>all</em> of those miles, since people may occasionally still need to travel to an office for meetings and may need to make new trips they wouldn't otherwise have taken (you can't stop at the grocery store on the way home from work when you work at home). Various studies have found that telecommuting actually reduces driving somewhere between <a href="https://ww3.arb.ca.gov/cc/sb375/policies/telecommuting/telecommuting_brief120313.pdf" target="_blank">60 and 90</a> percent of commute vehicle miles traveled (VMT). We'll split the difference and calculate that telework reduces commute miles by about 75%, meaning the new teleworkers could avoid around 164 billion miles driven.</p>
U.S. Department of Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center<p>Still, that much of a transformation may not work for everyone, as people will still need to do face-to-face work — and, let's be honest, the other thing the lockdowns have taught us is to appreciate the value of regular social contact. That said, even if most people worked from home two to three days a week and the actual VMT reduction were closer to 2 or 3 percent, the difference would still be significant — especially considering that VMT has been <a href="https://afdc.energy.gov/data/10315" target="_blank">steadily rising</a> since the 1970s, except for a few years during economic downturns. Even if just a quarter of American workers started working from home one day a week, total vehicle miles traveled would fall by <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1063006473" target="_blank">1</a> percent — not a huge amount, but enough to make a difference on a grander scale.</p>
Impact on Global Warming Emissions<p>The cars and trucks we drive every day are major sources of air pollution and global warming emissions. Transportation as a whole accounts for <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks" target="_blank">28</a> percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., more than any other source. Light-duty vehicles and medium- and heavy-duty trucks are responsible for<a href="https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/fast-facts-transportation-greenhouse-gas-emissions" target="_blank"> 82</a> percent of the transportation sector's emissions.</p><p>The average American car or SUV emits <a href="https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/greenhouse-gas-emissions-typical-passenger-vehicle" target="_blank">404 grams</a> of carbon dioxide (CO2) per mile traveled. So reducing commuting by 164 billion miles would avoid 66 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually. These are significant emissions reductions, but they'd only make a small dent in total transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, which reached nearly <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks" target="_blank">1.9 billion metric tons</a> in 2018.</p>
Impact on Health-harming Air Pollution<p>People across America regularly breathe polluted air, which increases their risk of attacks and other adverse health impacts, and even premature death. In fact, in 2018 <a href="https://uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/EnvironmentAmerica_TroubleintheAir_scrn.pdf" target="_blank">108 million Americans</a> lived in areas that experienced more than 100 days of degraded air quality. Our cars and trucks are a major source of this pollution, which includes ozone, particulate matter and other smog-forming emissions.</p><p>There's a reason the air has cleared over many of our major cities during the coronavirus lockdowns. When you remove cars from the road, you also remove smog. The lockdowns have resulted in an extreme reduction of VMT — between <a href="https://frontiergroup.org/blogs/blog/fg/america-pause-vehicle-travel-during-covid-19-and-what-comes-next" target="_blank">68 and 72</a> percent across the country (and in some places closer to 90 percent). Assuming that telework has contributed something close to its peak potential reduction of 7 percent, it seems likely that it has played at least a supporting role in helping to clear our skies.</p>
Additional Emissions Reductions From Reduced Traffic<p>The average American commuter wastes <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/22/us/traffic-commute-gridlock-transportation-study-trnd/index.html" target="_blank">54 hours</a> a year stuck in traffic. That's lost time with friends and families, lost productivity at work, wasted money, tons of unnecessary stress, and a lot more pollution from idling cars.</p><p>Traffic patterns are complicated because traffic is <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2014/12/4-steps-to-tackling-traffic-congestion/" target="_blank">non-linear</a>, meaning there isn't a one-to-one ratio of percentage of cars removed to percentage of traffic alleviated. As such, just a <a href="https://www.accessmagazine.org/spring-2017/the-access-almanac-traffic-congestion-is-counter-intuitive-and-fixable/" target="_blank">few extra cars</a> on or off the road can have an outsize impact on traffic. Reducing commute VMT by up to 7 percent would have a huge impact on rush hour traffic (when bottlenecks are at their worst and most of that driving occurs). A greater adoption of telework could give people back some of those 54 hours so they can spend it doing the things that matter to them. And slow moving or stop and go traffic results in <a href="https://www.accessmagazine.org/fall-2009/traffic-congestion-greenhouse-gases/" target="_blank">greater emissions</a> than free-flowing traffic. So freeing up the roads and alleviating traffic for the remaining will result in even greater emissions reductions.</p>
What Needs to Happen for Telework to Live Up to Its Potential?<p>It's clear that telework can have significant societal benefits, including less global warming pollution and cleaner skies. But significant benefits are only possible if everyone whose job could plausibly be done from home has that opportunity.</p><p>To reach that goal, several barriers must be overcome:</p><p><em>Technology: </em>We've all had technical mix-ups when using Zoom or Google Hangouts or one of the other conferencing platforms. But the real technological barrier is access to broadband. <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/fact-sheet/internet-broadband/#who-has-home-broadband" target="_blank">Roughly three-quarters</a> of American adults have broadband internet service at home, but the rate of access is much lower in rural parts of the country, according to a report by Pew Research Center. Those locations often don't have broadband infrastructure and even <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/04/06/telecommuting-will-likely-continue-long-after-the-pandemic/" target="_blank">14</a> percent of households in urban areas lack access, usually because they are not able to afford it. States should make funding available to develop broadband capacity in underserved areas.</p><p><em>Employer policies and managerial reluctance</em>: Coronavirus lockdowns across the country have forced employers and managers to adapt to large-scale telework quickly on an emergency basis, meaning these barriers are less likely relevant now than before. But general employer and manager <a href="https://www.gao.gov/assets/690/683455.pdf" target="_blank">reluctance</a> to embrace working from home has slowed this transition. Cities and states can encourage employer acceptance of telework by providing <a href="https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2019/07/25/gov-baker-proposes-telecommuting-tax-break-for-companies" target="_blank">tax benefits</a> or other incentives for greater adoption.</p><p><em>Car-centered transportation policies: </em>Our current transportation policies often incentivize driving or parking. From commuter and parking benefits to decades of outsized spending on <a href="https://uspirg.org/reports/usp/highway-boondoggles-5" target="_blank">highway infrastructure</a>, we tip the scales toward getting behind an automobile's wheel. In other words, our transportation policies are meant to move cars rather than incentivize things, such as telework, that would take cars off the road.</p><p>We need to rethink this approach and shift toward better "<a href="https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/plan4ops/trans_demand.htm" target="_blank">Transportation Demand Management</a>." This requires the implementation of a set of strategies aimed at maximizing traveler choices. Those strategies should include greater employer and employee incentives for telework, as well as policies designed to facilitate more walking, biking, ridesharing, vanpooling and public transportation use.</p>
Bikeshare in Milan, October 2019. Guilhem Vellut / CC BY 2.0<p>That's important, because the potential gains we'd see from telework would only be sustained if that shift were paired with other policies to ensure those commuter miles aren't just replaced with other trips. We usually talk about this in relation to widening or building new highways, but when you open up highway capacity, it usually fills quickly. This is what the wonks call "<a href="https://uspirg.org/reports/usp/highway-boondoggles-5" target="_blank">induced demand</a>." People who otherwise would have driven at a different time of day, taken a different route, taken public transportation or would have avoided traffic on the highway some other way, come back to the road. The same could happen here if additional measures aren't taken.</p><p>It's likely that, even after the coronavirus lockdowns are over, telework is going to become more and more common in the American workforce. As it does, the environmental benefits will be significant. In a time when climate change presents an existential threat to life as we know it and millions of people across the world are subjected to unhealthy levels of air pollution, we need to be taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to solving these problems. Telework can clearly be a significant part of the long-term solution — especially if we take further steps to maximize its potential.</p>
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By Richard leBrasseur
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered humans' relationship with natural landscapes in ways that may be long-lasting. One of its most direct effects on people's daily lives is reduced access to public parks.
Making Healthy Places<p>Olmsted was born in 1822 but became a landscape architect rather late in his career, at <a href="https://www.olmsted.org/the-olmsted-legacy/olmsted-theory-and-design-principles/olmsted-his-essential-theory" target="_blank">age 43</a>. His ideas evolved from a diverse and unique set of experiences.</p><p>From the start, Olmsted recognized the positive effect of nature, noting how urban trees provided a "<a href="https://loa-shared.s3.amazonaws.com/static/pdf/Olmsted_Trees.pdf" target="_blank">soothing and refreshing sanitary influence</a>." His "sanitary style" of design offered more than mere decoration and ornamentation. "Service must precede art" was his cry.</p>
Olmsted's 1874 plan for the U.S. Capitol grounds in Washington, DC. Architect of the Capitol<p>Olmsted came of age in the mid-19th century, as the public health movement was rapidly developing in response to typhoid, cholera and typhus epidemics in European cities. As managing editor of Putnam's Monthly in New York City, he regularly walked the crowded tenement streets of Lower Manhattan.</p><p>At the U.S. Sanitary Commission during the Civil War, Olmsted led efforts to improve sanitation in Union Army military camps and protect soldiers' health. He initiated policies for selecting proper camp locations, installing drainage and disposing of waste, ventilating tents and preparing food, all designed to reduce disease. And in 1866 he witnessed adoption of New York's <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolitan_Health_Bill" target="_blank">Metropolitan Health Bill</a>, the first city law to control unhealthy housing conditions.</p>
Antidotes to Urban Stress<p>The insights Olmsted gained into connections between space, disease control and public health clearly influenced his landscape architectural career and the design of many urban park systems. For example, his design for the interlinked parks that forms Boston's <a href="https://ramboll.com/-/media/files/rgr/lcl/bgi_final-report_mit_boston_20160403.pdf?la=en" target="_blank">Emerald Necklace</a> foreshadowed the concept of green infrastructure.</p><p>This system centered on stagnant and deteriorated marshes that had became disconnected from the tidal flow of the Charles River as Boston grew. City residents were dumping trash and sewage in the marshes, creating <a href="https://landscapes.northeastern.edu/water-sanitation-and-public-health-in-boston/" target="_blank">fetid dumps that spread waterborne diseases</a>. Olmsted's design reconnected these water systems to improve flow and flush out stagnant zones, while integrating a series of smaller parks along its trailways.</p>
Parks in the Time of COVID-19<p>Today researchers are documenting many health benefits associated with being outside. Spending time in parks and green spaces clearly benefits urban dwellers' <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2007.09.009" target="_blank">psychological, emotional and overall well-being</a>. It <a href="https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph10030913" target="_blank">reduces stress</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916591231001" target="_blank">improves cognitive functioning</a> and is associated with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s40471-015-0043-7" target="_blank">improved overall health</a>.</p><p>In my view, government agencies should work to make these vital services as widely available as possible, especially during stressful periods like pandemic shutdowns. Certain types of public green spaces, such as botanical gardens, arboretums and wide trails, are well suited to maintaining social distancing rules. Other types where visitors may be likely to cluster, such as beaches and playgrounds, require stricter regulation.</p><p>There are many ways to make parks accessible with appropriate levels of control. One option is stationing agents at entry points to monitor and enforce capacity controls. Park managers can use timed entries and parking area restrictions to limit social crowding, as well as temperature screening and face mask provisions.</p>
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