By Julie Wilson
Our connection to nature is sacred, dating back to the beginning of our existence. It's no wonder then that our health is intimately intertwined with the earth—from the soil beneath our feet, to the food we eat, to the water we drink and to the air that fills our lungs.
In other words, nature determines our health, upon which much of our well-being—and even our happiness—depends.
This philosophy is the foundation for Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein's book, "The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil." Shetreat-Klein is a pediatric neurologist, herbalist, naturalist and urban farmer based in New York City, where she raises chickens (a lifelong dream) and grows organic fruits and vegetables.
Her New York Times bestselling book has been translated into 10 languages.
I was fortunate to meet Shetreat-Klein a few weeks ago in Houston, Texas, where she spoke at an event co-hosted by the Organic Consumers Association and the Organic Horticulture Benefits Alliance, a non-profit that educates individuals, gardeners, homeowners, landscapers and schools on the real-world application and benefits of organics.
Shetreat-Klein described her residency as a medical student and the complete lack of emphasis on nutrition and whole-body health. As a young medical student she was appalled to learn that it was the norm to prescribe multiple medications—sometimes up to six or seven different drugs—for children who, despite all those prescriptions, remained chronically ill.
Shetreat-Klein's experience as a pediatrician, and as the mother of a chronically ill child, led her down an alternative path where she began to explore the causes behind the widespread chronic illness we see in children today.
Her journey took her back to nature where she realized the importance of healthy soil and the tiny, microscopic organisms (microbes) living within it. These microbes, which until recently we've been told were bad and should be avoided, are actually the key to good health both in soils and our bodies.
The human microbiome, made up of trillions of microbes such as bacteria, fungi and protozoa, is often referred to as our "second brain," regulating a variety of processes including digestion, immune system function and brain function. Shetreat-Klein believes that it's our exposure (or lack thereof) to these microbes that plays a pivotal role in human health.
In her book, Shetreat-Klein writes:
Gut, immune and nervous system—and the many microbes therein—are a direct reflection of the food we eat and where that food comes from, from the soil it's grown in to the water it swims in to the synthetic chemicals that it's bathed in.
Fresh food, microbes (that's right, germs) and elements of nature—soil, sunshine, water, and fresh air—make children resilient and prevent or reverse their illness.
In "The Dirt Cure," Shetreat-Klein reveals the shocking contents of children's food and how it's greatly harming their bodies. She also offers solutions, including an organic diet rich in fruits and veggies, and how to encourage your child to get out in nature and play in the dirt.
Kids have the natural ability to be healthy, we just have to give them the tools to do so, she says.
To learn more about Shetreat-Klein's recipe for good health, sign up here for her newsletter.
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Julie Wilson is communications associate for the Organic Consumers Association.
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.