I spent two months in 2010 living and working on an organic cacao farm in Mastatal, Costa Rica as a WWOOF volunteer (Willing Workers on Organic Farms).
What do you think was the most exciting thing about this location?
Mastatal is a small community of only 150 people hidden away in the steep mountains and pristine rainforest of Costa Rica. There is no running hot water, no pavement, no garbage take-out, and one road, which while I was there during the rainy season was washed out. What surprised me most about Mastatal is that the people there own very little; yet despite their isolating, rural environment, they manage to make a steady income and live healthily and, above all, happily.
Was there anything related to environmental awareness or sustainability worth sharing?
Mastatal welcomes travelers to come and volunteer on one of four WWOOF farms in the area, all meant to teach and promote sustainable, organic agriculture. I chose to stay on the organic cacao farm because after having worked at an organic chocolate factory in Seattle for three years (Theo Chocolate), I wanted to truly understand and experience the effort required to cultivate and harvest cacao organically.
I eat local. There is no daily habit more delicious than to enjoy the fruits of the harvest.
Why do you think Sustainability or environmental awareness is so important to our generation?
Sustainability and environmental awareness have been important values for many people and cultures throughout time; unfortunately, our Western culture is only just beginning to appreciate their significance. The problem is, it’s too late. Many damages done to the environment are irreparable at this point. It is the requirement of our generation to realize and live as a part of the environment we have been exploiting.
In 2010 I graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Arts with honors in Environmental Studies.
If you could travel to one place in the world where would it be, and why?
Just before I graduated college I asked myself that question. Then I took out a world map and marked all the places. Now I am in my 7th month of my round-the-world trip. I have been to Costa Rica, Colombia, Uruguay and Argentina. I hope to also spend time in Brazil, France, Spain, Italy and England. I just can’t choose one place!
If you could be one animal in the world what would it be?
A sea turtle, to experience and better understand the mysteries of the ocean.
Checkout more on Nicole and her adventures! She has her very own blog called “Our World in Food”. From organic farming to Cows and c-sections, it’s an awesome site!
With over 1 million views a day the Environmental Working Group is the largest cosmetics database on the internet. It represents 63,505 products with 7,771 ingredients. As a nonprofit research organization it aims to protect human health and the environment by urging the cosmetics industry to use safer ingredients in their products. As they highlight, “Under federal law, companies can put virtually anything they wish into personal care products, and many of them do. Mercury, lead, and placenta extract — all of these and many other hazardous materials are in products that millions of Americans, including children, use every day…” (EWG)
Specifically some of these chemicals have been linked to cancer, immunotoxicity, and reproductive toxicity. Phthalates and parabens, chemicals that can be traced back to certain grooming products may potentially have an effect on a man’s hormones.
“‘In rat studies, phthalates in higher doses than those found in grooming products have been shown to reduce testosterone during fetal development. Parabens, also in higher doses, have been shown to decrease sperm production in rats,’ says Kenneth Korach, PH.D., director of the environmental and medicine program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.” (Men’s Health November 2010 pg. 33)
Check out Avalon, Aubrey, or Burt’s Bees for more natural products on your body and the environment. If you want to be absolutely certain about the chemicals or ingredients in your grooming products search for them in the EWG database online at cosmeticsdatabase.com