Monday, October 26, 2009

B is for Bamboo

What’s softer than cotton, as strong as steel, and able to renew itself and reach full maturity in just 5 years? Nope… It’s not a bird or a plane… it’s SUPER Bamboo!

Bamboo made its way into the “mainstream” eco-world (primarily as an alternative construction material) several years back, and we’ve continued to see its uses proliferate in everything from eco-housing and bamboo flooring, to textiles and bamboo clothing, to bedding, towels, furniture, recreational products, technology, etc., yet many folks don’t know why bamboo is considered eco-friendly and what makes it the ideal material for so many things.

Let’s start with a little background on this panda-loving product (bamboo 101 if you will).
• Technically, bamboo is a grass not a wood, though it’s frequently referred to as a “woody grass”. It also happens to be the fastest growing grass in the world, with some of its more than a 1000 species able to grow at a rate of up to 4 ft. per day (definitely giving Jack’s beanstalk a run for its money)! Its extremely fast growth is part of what makes it such a fantastic renewable resource, available for harvest in just 3 years versus 120 years for oak.
• Bamboo regenerates itself - It can be harvested without damaging the original plant, unlike wood that takes an average of 30 years for a reforestation project.
• Bamboo grows more abundantly than wood – a single stand can generate 200 poles in 5 years, the same time it takes a single tree to grow large enough for minimal use.
• Both trees and bamboo remove CO2 from the atmosphere but bamboo produces over 30% more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees. (Perhaps we should think about planting bamboo in a our city-wide tree planting efforts rather than trees)
• Bamboo is an amazing natural antibacterial agent. Called “bamboo kun”, bamboo has a natural antibacterial, antifungal so it doesn’t require pesticides and herbicides, making it one of the most maintenance free plants on the planet.
• And since its diverse species can be found all over the world, in places such as…East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Northern Australia, and even in parts of the South Eastern United States and South America, its supplies are endless.

Pretty cool if you ask us!

But all bamboo isn’t created equally green. The difference comes in the manner in which bamboo is processed for our consumption in the form of clothing, household goods, furniture, building materials, etc. Because of this it’s very important to look for two things when purchasing bamboo
1. Look for bamboo that’s been made with water-based, formaldehyde-free adhesives with low/no-VOC finishes, and of course bamboo which uses the “mechanical” method (the crushing of the woody parts and use of natural enzymes to create a mushy substance that can be combed out and spun into yarn) of processing, especially when purchasing fabrics.
2. Ask if it’s FSC Certified. This certification is provided by the Forest Stewardship Council ( which ensures the bamboo has been harvested in a sustainable fashion requiring the bamboo not come at the expense of deforestation of already existing natural forests.

All this said, there’s no denying that bamboo is still a highly renewable and highly sought after resource, and one that you should feel good about purchasing as an alternative to less green options, as long as you’re educated and know what to look for.
As a flooring or furniture option, not only is it beautiful (check out the creator of Sprout’s own bamboo cabinetry right here) and sustainable, it’s also extremely durable and strong. In fact, the tensile strength of bamboo is comparable to steel, and much harder than either maple or oak.

Good sources for great flooring and furniture options are Smith & Fong’s Plyboo, Teragren Modern Bamboo Furniture, and Room and Board

And, while bamboo may not be the #1 most eco-friendly product for use in clothing and other fabrics, it still has amazing health and wellness oriented qualities that you simply may not find in other clothing and bedding products.
• It’s naturally anti-microbial and anti-fungal
• It contains a natural agent (bamboo kun) which requires no harmful chemicals to prevent bacteria and fungus from cultivating on it
• It’s softer than cotton, cashmere and silk, making it ideal for wearing or snuggling up in, especially for little ones!
• It’s practical – more durable and less expensive than silk or cashmere and can be conveniently cleaned in your washer and dryer
• It’s comfortable and breathable, which helps keeps you drier
• It’s hypoallergenic, and non-irritating to the skin.

Check out Kicky Pants bamboo kids wear, Sprout Kids Clothing (unrelated but great name), and Green Earth Bamboo for great bamboo bedding, bath and other apparel options.

Here's to living your best possible life!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A is for the Antioxidants

Did you know our bodies rust due to old age and exposure to the environment?

Yep. Our bodies, just like our cars, are susceptible to oxidation. Over time our bad habits and indulgent activities such as smoking, poor diet, vigorous exercise, sun worship and those nasty hangovers take their toll on our bodies at the molecular level, causing our cells to oxidize, breaking down and destroying the very structure that holds us together and helps us fight off disease. And unfortunately this gets worse the older we get and the more oxidative stress our cells are under.

So here’s what’s happening to your body … when our body cells use oxygen they naturally lose an electron, producing a by-product called “free radicals.” These little buggers can create oxidative stress or damage to the many different cells in our bodies. When we develop bad habits such as overeating, smoking, and drinking, these free radicals can become more than our bodies can naturally handle. Normally, our bodies can handle these bad boys, but if we’re prone to over indulge, and we’re not as young as we used to be, these suckers become so abundant our bodies can’t control them. And low and behold, research is proving these free radicals are the culprits for many types of health problems including heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, and many types of cancers. (More to come on free radicals in a couple of weeks with the letter “F”)

Our biggest defense against these scoundrels is Antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances and nutrients in our food that can slow, and even prevent, the oxidative damage caused by free radicals. They can also enhance our immune system making us less susceptible to disease and infection. We like to think of them as our body’s version of Pac-Man munching through our bodies and gobbling up all the excess electrons rendering the free radicals powerless.

The best way to get your antioxidants is to “taste the rainbow!” No, we don’t mean eat a ton of Skittles. On the contrary, eating as many fruits and vegetables, in as many colors as possible, is your surest defense: the deep red of cherries and tomatoes; the orange of carrots; the yellow of corn, mangos, and saffron; and the blue-purple of blueberries, blackberries, and grapes. The most well known components of food with antioxidant activities are vitamins A, C, and E; β-carotene; the mineral selenium; and more recently discovered, the compound lycopene. The American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and the National Cancer Institute all recommend you get 5 servings of fruits and vegetables everyday.

Some of our favorite ways to get our antioxidants include drinking Yerba Mate or green tea every morning instead of coffee (the former claiming to offer 10,000 times the amount of antioxidants than blueberries). Guayaki Yerba Mate and Mighty Leaf Tea are our favorites and can be found in any Whole Foods (we especially like both of them for their sustainability and free trade practices).

Acai berries are another new food that’s chock full of these goodies. Sambazon, the foremost authority on acai berries, offers several different products. Their frozen non-sweetened smoothie paks are our favorites, especially when they’re mixed with frozen strawberries and bananas in apple juice – YUMMY!

Beware of processed foods touting their antioxidant benefits. 7-Up seems to be up to their old bad tricks. Harkening back to their “natural” campaign, they’ve just introduced Cherry 7-Up Antioxidant.

This is a huge red flag for us for several reasons. Vitamin E is found naturally in sources such as nuts (almonds), wheat germ and leafy greens, none of which are listed on the product's ingredient list along side the likes of high fructose corn syrup and “natural flavors”. What’s particularly unsettling is the ingredient list includes Vitamin E, but in its man-made form, Vitamin E acetate. And we’re curious to know why did they choose Vitamin E in its synthetic form rather than Vitamins A & C, which could have come from a natural source, and supported their Cherry natural flavor offering?

The best advice we can give when it comes to antioxidants is this ... eat real foods, especially fruits and vegetables … drink some hot tea to warm your bones in the winter months … if you’re older or worried about not getting the right amount ask your doctor about their daily recommendations, Dr. Weil is a great natural resource with a great website. And last but not least, make sure your indulgences are super good ones, and free radical worthy!

Here’s to living your best possible life!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Welcome to Sprout Strategy

Welcome to Sprout Strategy. We’re so happy to have the opportunity to share our passions of health, wellness and sustainability with you.

Sprout Strategy is a Brand Growth Boutique and was started because we wanted to do some good with our marketing talents. Let’s be honest. There are tons of products out there that people just simply don’t need – they don’t really truly make you, your life, or the planet any healthier, brighter, or more enjoyable; most of the time it’s just more stuff to fill our closets, time and minds and take our attention away from what really matters.

Now that’s not to say that we’re not all for a little indulgence, we’re all for exploring all aspects of our desires. A good friend described our mission best, “the ideal mix of inspiring intellectualism and debauchery and abandon” – so I guess you could say we Sprouts know how to live life to the fullest. So while satisfying our innate desire to let go and be free is definitely tops on our list, products and services that have no interest beyond making a buck are not OK by us.

Our blog is dedicated to bringing you our perspective on what’s happening in the world of health, wellness and sustainability. We hope in the days and months to come our blog will be a place you will turn to for news, updates, events, insights and ideas on new and existing products, events, people and places. In the process we hope to shed some light on who’s doing a good job and what lessons we could all learn. Our goal is simple. We want to provide that little spark of inspiration that helps all of us do a better job of helping each other live our best possible lives in this crazy mixed up world.

So with that, we’re kicking off our blog with “Health and Sustainability A-Z”. It all starts Monday, October 12, 2009 with, you guessed it, “A” – everything from Antioxidants to those little Acai berries that are so doggone hard to pronounce, but so yummy to eat and drink. Each Monday we’ll introduce a new letter and share with you ideas, products, initiatives, and services that start with that letter. We’ll touch on everything from music to carbon emissions and the best running shoes to delicious treats.

We hope you enjoy the next 26 weeks with us. If you’ve got any ideas on what you think we should highlight for a letter of the alphabet, we’re all ears and you can reach us at And, while Monday’s are specifically dedicated to A-Z we’ll still be tweeting and writing about anything and everything that catches our eye or interest.

Thanks again for joining us. Please let us know if there’s anything we can do to make your visits more enjoyable, informative or inspirational.

Live well,
The Sprouts.