Tips and tricks to make spring cleaning more eco-friendly

April 3, 2019 by  
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When the spring cleaning season comes around, many homeowners turn to their favorite cleaning products to tidy up. But not all of your go-to cleaners are good for the environment. Many products on the market feature harmful chemicals that leach into the ecosystem, causing harm to people and the environment alike. If you are looking to get into spring cleaning mode without potentially hurting your health, here is a quick guide on what chemicals to avoid and how to clean with the environment in mind. Chemicals linked to health problems Cleaning chemicals may eliminate harmful bacteria from your home, but they also can lead to serious health problems. This includes irritating eyes, skin and respiratory systems. The most obvious health issues that arise are due to skin contact with toxic chemicals that are absorbed by the body. According to AcuuWeather , harmful chemicals can also enter the air and cause respiratory problems. Individuals who clean on a daily basis are more susceptible to these issues, especially when it comes to long-term health concerns. Identify harmful chemicals There are a number of different chemicals that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has deemed volatile. According to SF Gate , this includes ammonia, nitrogen and phosphorus, all of which are commonly found in household cleaning products. For example, most dishwasher detergents contain about 40 percent phosphorus, while nitrogen is a common ingredient in glass cleaner. Related: How to decode confusing labels on common household cleaners Keep chemicals out of the water Many of the chemicals you use in the spring cleaning process end up in the sewage, whether they are rinsed down the sink or flushed in the toilet. Fortunately, the majority of chemicals are filtered out in sewage plants before the water goes to rivers and lakes. That said, nitrogen, ammonia and phosphorus are not removed in treatment plants. Instead, these three chemicals usually end up in waterways, where they contaminate larger bodies of water like lakes and oceans . Once they enter freshwater environments, they can wreak havoc on aquatic life and plants. These chemicals can also contaminate water supplies if they are dumped in large concentrations. Avoid air contamination As noted earlier, harmful chemicals in household products can enter the air and cause respiratory issues. If you open windows while cleaning for better ventilation, you are simply pushing these volatile chemicals into the atmosphere. In fact, the EPA has found that cleaning chemicals contribute to pollution and smog, which is why some are restricted in select locations, such as California. Ventilating the harmful chemicals outside may be better for the indoor air quality , but it is more harmful for the environment in the long-term. Although using harmful chemicals has major side effects, there are plenty of ways you can keep your house clean without harming yourself or the environment. Use eco-friendly cleaners The best way to avoid harmful cleaning products is to look for non-toxic chemicals. These products are usually equipped with an eco-friendly or biodegradable label. You should also avoid buying products that are known to irritate skin or are flammable. Related: Truman’s wants to reduce single-use plastics in the household cleaner industry You can also make your own eco-friendly cleaning products with a few household staples. Ingredients like lemon, vinegar, baking soda and glycerine are great at combating dirt and grease. A mixture of soap and water or water and vinegar can easily remove tough stains while eliminating germs. You can also add a little baking soda for some added abrasion. Get rid of paper towels You can burn through a lot of paper towels during spring cleaning, which is not great for the environment in the long run. As an alternative, try buying reusable towels to clean. You can pick up some affordable towels at your local grocery store or cut up old T-shirts. Using old clothes will also keep waste out of the landfill. Clean up the laundry There is no denying that dryers are a big convenience of modern society. But, according to Planet Aid , you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint by hang-drying your clothes on a regular basis. Dyers consume a lot of electricity, so only using them on rainy days helps the environment and puts some money back in your pocket. Related: Get ready to use soapnuts for everything from cleaning to self care When it comes to washing, look for detergents that have an eco-friendly label. Although these cleaners used to be expensive, the costs have come down considerably, and you can usually find natural alternatives at competitive price points. You can also purchase cleaners in bulk to save even more money. Reuse household items for cleaning Instead of throwing away old clothing items or toothbrushes, use them for cleaning. Toothbrushes are great for reaching tight corners, and even an old sock can be put to work dusting. If you are really creative, you can even sew together old towels to create a makeshift mop cover. Once you are done with these items, you can either wash and reuse them or put them in the recycle bin. Images via Public Domain Pictures , Fotoblend , Pasja1000 , Alex and Stevepb

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The sustainable wardrobe: its more accessible than you think

January 29, 2019 by  
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When it comes to making sure our homes are eco-friendly, it is easy to neglect the closet. Your clothes, however, might just be the biggest culprit. All those synthetic fabrics will take over 200 years to fully decompose, and the microfibers often end up in the ocean and in the bellies of sea creatures. The fashion industry produces 20 percent of all wastewater, and the amount of pollutants it emits is the second largest in the world (the first is oil). This is all while generating 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined total from all international flights and maritime shipping. So what can you do to build a more sustainable wardrobe? First and foremost, educate yourself. Before you do anything, learn why you’re doing it. Start out by doing some research to figure out what your biggest priority is. Vegan and cruelty-free? Non-toxic materials? Organic materials? Do you care more about what the clothes are made out of, or who made the clothes? Arming yourself with information makes it easier to make better decisions for yourself and the environment. Support ethical businesses The rise of fast fashion has brought about high demand for cheap, trendy clothing items. The cost of manufacturing these inexpensive clothes has led many factories to turn toward cheap labor and sweatshops in developing countries — often with dangerous work conditions on unlivable wages. When you do purchase clothes, read the label and see where it was made. If you’re not sure about the country, opt for the U.S. and the U.K. where the labor laws are more strict and regulated. Invest in higher quality, eco-friendly fabrics Growing materials for certain fabrics take a heavier toll on the planet, so buying clothes made from natural materials like organic cotton, linen or hemp can help offset the environmental impacts. Not only do certain fabric materials take huge amounts of water to grow, but the chemicals used to rid these crops of pests also seep down into the soil and natural water supply. The upside is that not all crops are grown this way. Organic cotton is grown without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Hemp is versatile, strong and requires much fewer pesticides or fertilizers to grow. Linen, made from flax, demands less water and energy sources, and it is naturally biodegradable. Related: Faux fur or real fur, which one is better for the planet? Don’t throw clothes away This seems simple enough, but it’s surprising just how many pieces of clothing end up in the trash every year. In 2015, there were 10.5 million tons of textiles in landfills, and many of those were synthetic fibers that don’t decompose. When a favorite piece of clothing gets torn, mend it up rather than tossing it in the trash — you’ll save more money, too! Not a master sewer? Take it to a tailor. If you really want to get rid of something, take it to a donation center or thrift store. Or, try a clothing swap with a friend — you’ll both get new pieces for your wardrobes without anything ending up in the trash can. Related: Eco-friendly options for decluttering waste Shop vintage and thrift When it comes to fashion, choose timeless over trendy. Buy clothes that will work year-round rather than just for a season. Think multi-purposefully. Most importantly, don’t think that being on a budget means limiting yourself to cheap clothes or fast fashion trends. Shop mindfully Stop to ask yourself: do I need this, or do I just want it? There’s a big difference there. If you really need something new for a wedding or special event, buy with purpose. Don’t just go into a store to shop for nothing in particular, or you’ll most definitely end up with something you don’t need. Also, if you buy items that are more versatile, it will actually help you in the long run. You’ll have more outfit choices and less clutter to worry about in your closet. Take good care of the clothes you have Using a lower temperature in your washing is not only less damaging to fabrics, but it’s a win for the environment, too. Heating accounts for 90 percent of the energy used from doing a load of laundry. If you can swing it, skip the dryer altogether and hang-dry your clothes (of course, this works better in a dry, warm climate). You can also try washing your clothes in larger batches, because this will waste less water and electricity. Consider switching to an eco-friendly brand of detergent as well. Keep an eye out for ones that are biodegradable , phosphate-free and made from plant-derived ingredients. The better shape your clothes are in, the longer they will last. Related: How to decode confusing labels on common household cleaners DIY Here’s the good news: there are more ways to express your personal style than buying clothes. Learn to make your own accessories or bags; it might turn into a fun new hobby or a skill you never knew you had! Rather than throwing old clothes away, repurpose them into something new. Old T-shirts make great dusting rags, and soft materials like cotton can be made into pillowcases or quilts. Check out these great ideas for recycling old clothes from DIY for Life. Images via Charles Etoroma , MNZ , Prudence Earl , Raw Pixel , Peggy and Marco Lachmann-Anke , Egle and Shutterstock

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Crayola Colorcycle initiative offers free recycling for markers used in K-12 classrooms

January 29, 2019 by  
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In the blur of school activity, students read, write, calculate and doodle. With that vision in mind, no company has created a bigger connection with the educational world than Crayola, monarch of colored pencils, crayons and markers. With that title comes a wave of concern regarding toxins and waste . After all, Crayola manufactures 465 million plastic markers alone each year, which begs the question of corporate responsibility. Fortunately, Crayola’s ahead of the curve on this one with the introduction of a voluntary marker recycling initiative for K-12 classrooms. ColorCycle, the cleverly-named program, came into being a few years ago when Crayola decided to take steps to divert billions of markers “marked” for the landfill . Since the ideology of the company focuses squarely on education, they feel it makes sense to take part in educating students about social and environmental responsibility. “The ColorCycle program has repurposed more than 70 tons of expended markers in the United States and Canada since 2013, and uses the most advanced plastic conversion technologies available today to make wax compounds for asphalt and roofing shingles as well as to generate electricity that can be used to heat homes, cook food, and power vehicles.” In conjunction with teachers, the front line in education, Crayola is backing the environmental movement with the ColorCycle plan that also includes educational-support tools. These lesson plans list supplies and activities that facilitate classroom learning about topics such as coral reefs, inventions, and how pollution travels across the planet. Related: 13 eco-friendly back-to-school supplies for a sustainable school year To participate in ColorCycle, school administrators or PTO members are informed about the program and an ambassador is chosen at the school. Collection boxes are then placed in classrooms or central locations around the school. When it’s time to ship the markers back, they are counted and packed into a plain cardboard box. A quick visit to the Crayola website will provide a shipping label and then FedEx ships the box on Crayola’s dime. To encourage involvement, Crayola also provides a letter that ambassadors can send out to parents and the community, informing them about the program along with signs that can be printed and posted around the school. There are no costs to the school or teachers so the time to set up, monitor, count and package the markers seems like a worthy investment both towards teaching children about eco-friendly practices and in promoting behaviors that help the environment. The Crayola ColorCycle program is currently available to K-12 classrooms across the United States and parts of Canada. Although not currently available outside the public schools, the company encourages daycares and other community members to take advantage of the drop boxes. Crayola will accept all brands of plastic markers, including dry erase markers and highlighters. See the Crayola website for more information about the program and how to sign up. + Crayola Image via ParentRap

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Crayola Colorcycle initiative offers free recycling for markers used in K-12 classrooms

How to Choose Eco-Friendly Fabrics

October 16, 2018 by  
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How green are the clothes you are wearing? It can … The post How to Choose Eco-Friendly Fabrics appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Rags to Riches: Ditch Fast Fashion and Earn Cash From Your Clothes

June 26, 2018 by  
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Today, we want fast likes, fast friends, and fast coffee. … The post Rags to Riches: Ditch Fast Fashion and Earn Cash From Your Clothes appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Rags to Riches: Ditch Fast Fashion and Earn Cash From Your Clothes

The Agraloop turns food waste into sustainable clothing fibers

June 18, 2018 by  
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Don’t throw it out — throw it on. The Agraloop Bio-Refinery , a new technology developed by materials science company Circular Systems S.P.C. , is capable of turning food waste such as banana peels, pineapple leaves and hemp stalks into natural fiber that can be woven into clothing . “We want to enable food crops to become our primary fibers,” Circular Systems CEO and co-founder Isaac Nichelson told Fast Company . The waste materials mentioned, plus sugar cane and flax stalk, could generate up to 250 million tons of fiber each year if processed through the Agraloop, meeting the global demand for fiber two and a half times over. Farmers are encouraged to acquire their own Agraloop systems, so that they may earn extra income from creating natural, sustainable fiber from materials they would otherwise compost . While the Agraloop is a novel technology, its values are aligned with the clothing industry’s past. In 1960, 97 percent of the fibers used to produce clothing came from natural sources. Today, only 35 percent is naturally sourced. The return to natural form for the fashion industry is desperately needed in a moment where many acknowledge the need for reform within the industry, from its labor practices to its environmental impact. Related: Biotech company Nanollose could offer plant-free alternatives for the textile industry “Right now, it’s so extractive and so destructive, and we’re looking at these resources becoming more and more finite as the population grows,” Nichelson said. “If there’s not collective and very swift action, it’s going to be catastrophic for the industry from an economic standpoint.” Enter the Agraloop. “[It’s a] regenerative system that uses plant-based chemistry and plant-based energy to upgrade the fibres whilst enriching the local communities and creating a new economic system,” Nichelson explained. Ultimately, a move towards sustainability will be beneficial for both the environment and those seeking to make a profit. Nichelson said, “All of our industries need to be retrofitted for real sustainability and become regenerative by nature, and it will be better for business.” + Circular Systems Via EcoWatch and Fast Company Image via  Depositphotos

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The Agraloop turns food waste into sustainable clothing fibers

Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupts, forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate

May 4, 2018 by  
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Kilauea, the most active volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island, erupted late yesterday after a spate of earthquakes . The state’s governor, David Ige, declared a local state of emergency. There are active volcanic vents on the Makamae and Mohala streets, and hundreds of residents have been ordered to evacuate. The eruption on Thursday took place at Kilauea volcano’s East Rift Zone — and Hawaii News Now said Leilani Estates subdivision residents fled with little but the clothes they were wearing. There was another eruption on Friday, and at least a dozen more earthquakes have shaken the area. Related: After 250 earthquakes in 24 hours, Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano might erupt In the wake of the eruption, schools have closed, and so has a geothermal power plant. The Hawaii Fire Department reported “extremely high levels of dangerous sulfur dioxide gas detected in the evacuation area.” The County of Hawaii Civil Defense Agency has ordered mandatory evacuations for multiple subdivisions, and Gizmodo reported  that around 1,700 people reside in the immediate evacuation area, although more than 10,000 people live in the volcano’s vicinity. Emergency shelters opened at community centers. Ige has activated Hawaii’s National Guard, and Hawaii senator Brian Schatz said on Twitter that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is mobilizing resources and is monitoring “for forest fires , power outages, and water supply disruption.” Hawaii News Now spoke to Ikaika Marzo, who was one of the first people in Leilani Estates to see active lava , and he reportedly saw fountains about 100 feet high. Another local resident told the news outlet, “My family is safe, the rest of the stuff can be replaced. When I bought here 14 years, I knew that this day would eventually come. But the reality is sinking in now.” + County of Hawaii Via Hawaii News Now and Gizmodo Images via U.S. Geological Survey

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Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupts, forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate

Historic Australian church transformed into a stunning family home for five

May 4, 2018 by  
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Doherty Design Studio  has revamped a 1910 church in Hawthorn, Australia into a lovely light-filled house for a family of five. While the renovation isn’t the church’s first residential adaptation, the recent restoration has combined contemporary design with features representative of the building’s past, like the stunning stained-glass windows installed throughout. Before Doherty Design Studio got their hands on the project, the 1910 Hawthorn church had already been extended with an apartment as part of a larger residential complex developed over two decades ago. Still, some elements of the house of worship’s past were retained, such as the ivy-covered brick facade, arched doorways and windows, and original timber beams. Related: Architects convert old Dutch church into a gorgeous library As expected, natural light floods the bright and airy interior, which features crisp white walls offset by a variety of floor textures, from cool terrazzo in the bathroom to the wood parquet flooring in the office and kitchen. Stained glass adds color into the space as well as a nod to the building’s heritage. A custom-made, aged-bronze chandelier , designed by Christopher Boots, hangs opposite three stained-glass windows and provides a striking contemporary focal point. + Doherty Design Studio Via Yellow Trace Images via Doherty Design Studio , by Derek Swalwell

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Historic Australian church transformed into a stunning family home for five

This company makes leggings with biodegradable, compostable fabric

February 16, 2018 by  
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Have you ever heard the words ‘ biodegradable ‘ and ‘ compostable ‘ associated with activewear? Philadelphia-based fitness company Aqua Vida offers leggings and shorts made with Amni Soul Eco fabric that is 100 percent recyclable and reusable – and in an anaerobic landfill or compost heap, will decompose in under three years. Aqua Vida offers biodegradable leggings – created with Amni Soul Eco intelligent yarn from chemistry company Solvay . The polyamide yarn provides antibacterial benefits and UV protection, according to the company . Some other benefits: the clothing is lightweight, will far outlive cheaper fabrics, and includes intelligent moisture absorption, per Aqua Vida. The apparel is intended for yoga , surfing, working out in the gym, or other exercise activities. Related: Satva’s organic yoga-inspired clothing supports education for young girls in India Don’t worry about sweat – these biodegradable leggings won’t decompose while you’re moving in them. Instead, the fabric only begins to break down when it’s surrounded by bacteria in an anaerobic landfill or compost bin. Otherwise, its shelf life is as lengthy as that of traditional polyamides, according to Aqua Vida. The process to create the yarn is also sustainable – per Aqua Vida, the fabric “is produced in a closed cycle manufacturing system, a production process which collects and recycles scrap, wastewater, raw materials found in the water, and heat that is generated in some of the production phases.” Aqua Vida, which sells clothes and offers standup paddleboard yoga classes, highlights sustainability as one of their values on their website; they host ocean cleanups with the goal of removing 10,000 pounds of trash from waterways by 2020. With 16 cleanups behind them, they’ve removed 3,341 pounds of garbage so far. The company says for every dollar customers spend, they allocate one percent to local water conservation efforts, which includes their cleanups. Their Biodegradable Flow Legging costs $68; the Biodegradable Flow Shorts are $48. + Aqua Vida + Aqua Vida Eco-Friendly Fabrics Via Philadelphia Magazine Images via Aqua Vida and Aqua Vida Facebook

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This company makes leggings with biodegradable, compostable fabric

Santa and the ‘Shrooms: The real story behind the "design" of Christmas

December 8, 2017 by  
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When we think of Christmas in the United States, we invariably think of Santa Claus — a man in a red suit and pointy hat with white furry trim and tall black boots, and his accessories, a bag of goodies in a sleigh pulled through the sky by a team of eight flying reindeer. And it’s a clear case of the clothes making the man, for a Santa in any other outfit would most definitely not still be Santa. (Does a fat, bearded, white-haired guy in cargo shorts and a Metallica t-shirt make you think of Christmas?) But when you think about it, it’s a pretty special outfit, no? Santa’s pretty much the only one who wears anything like it — a baggy suit with fur trim isn’t exactly stylish these days, and it wasn’t when Santa made his first appearance, either. His last known precursor, Father Christmas, wore a long red robe, sometimes with trim and sometimes without, like a cardinal — reflecting the link drawn between him and the historic Saint Nicholas, a Turkish cardinal in the 14th century who was known for his kindness to children. But the pants? And the hat? And the boots? They’re nowhere to be found on him. Popular legend has it that Santa himself, not to mention his outfit, was designed by Coca Cola, making his first appearance in their early-20th century ads and defining him for the ages by sheer force of commercial might. There’s a grain of truth in this: His generous shape and rosy cheeks came at the whimsy of Haddon Sundblom, the illustrator of so many of Coke’s well-loved ads from that period. Before Sundblom’s illustrations, Santa was commonly depicted as more of a gnome-like little man (editorial cartoonist Thomas Nast drew some of the best-known early dedications of him), often skinny and a little scary — but even then, wearing the same clothes he wears now. So the question is, where did that outfit come from? Where did Santa get such a unique sense of sartorial élan? The answer, according to anthropological research from recent decades, lies way further back than even Coke can be found. The roots of Santa’s style, and his bag of goodies, sleigh, reindeer, bizarre midnight flight, distinctive chimney-based means of entry into the home, and even the way we decorate our houses at Christmas, seem to lead all the way back to the ancestral traditions of a number of indigenous arctic circle dwellers — the Kamchadales and the Koryaks of Siberia, specifically. (So it’s true — Santa really does come from the North Pole!) And like so many other fantastical tales, it all originated with some really intense ‘shrooms. On the night of the winter solstice, a Koryak shaman would gather several hallucinogenic mushrooms called amanita muscaria, or fly agaric in English, and them to launch himself into a spiritual journey to the tree of life (a large pine), which lived by the North Star and held the answer to all the village’s problems from the previous year. Fly agaric is the red mushroom with white spots that we see in fairy tale illustrations, old Disney movies, and (if you’re old enough to remember) Super Mario Brothers video games and all the Smurfs cartoons. They are seriously toxic, but they become less lethal when dried out. Conveniently, they grow most commonly under pine trees (because their spores travel exclusively on pine seeds), so the shaman would often hang them on lower branches of the pine they were growing under to dry out before taking them back to the village. As an alternative, he would put them in a sock and hang them over his fire to dry. Is this starting to sound familiar? Another way to remove the fatal toxins from the ‘shrooms was to feed them to reindeer, who would only get high from them — and then pee, with their digestive systems having filtered out most of the toxins, making their urine safe for humans to drink and get a safer high that way. Reindeer happen to love fly agarics and eat them whenever they can, so a good supply of magic pee was usually ready and waiting all winter. In fact, the reindeer like fly agarics so much that they would eat any snow where a human who had drank ‘shroom-laced urine had relieved himself, and thus the circle would continue. When the shaman went out to gather the mushrooms, he would wear an red outfit with either white trim or white dots, in honor of the mushroom’s colors. And because at that time of year the whole region was usually covered in deep snow, he, like everyone, wore tall boots of reindeer skin that would by then be blackened from exposure. He’d gather the tree-dried fly agarics and some reindeer urine in a large sack, then return home to his yurt (the traditional form of housing for people of this region at that time), where some of the higher-ups of the village would have gathered to join in the solstice ceremony. But how would he get into a yurt whose door was blocked by several feet of snow? He’d climb up to the roof with his bag of goodies, go to the hole in the center of the roof that acted as a chimney, and slide down the central pole that held the yurt up over the fireplace. Then he’d pass out a few ‘shrooms to each guest, and some might even partake of some of the ones that had been hung over the fire. Clearly, this idea of using the chimney to get in and pass out the magic mushrooms (and other goodies) had sticking power. Interestingly, even as late as Victorian times in England, the traditional symbol of chimney sweeps was a fly agaric mushroom — and many early Christmas cards featured chimney sweeps with fly agarics, though no explanation of why was offered. Interestingly, in addition to inducing hallucinations, the mushrooms stimulate the muscular system so strongly that those who eat them take on temporarily superhuman strength, in the same way we might be affected by a surge of adrenaline in a life-or-death situation. And the effect is the same for animals. So any reindeer who’d had a tasty mushroom snack or a little yellow snow would become literally high and mighty, prancing around and often jumping so high they looked like they were flying. And at the same time, the high would make humans feel like they were flying, too, and the reindeer were flying through space. So by now you can see where this is going: The legend had it that the shaman and the reindeer would fly to the north star (which sits directly over the north pole) to retrieve the gifts of knowledge, which they would then distribute to the rest of the village. It seems that these traditions were carried down into Great Britain by way of the ancient druids, whose spiritual practices had taken on elements that had originated much farther north. Then, in the inevitable way that different cultures influence one another due to migration and intermarriage, these stories got mixed with certain Germanic and Nordic myths involving Wotan (the most powerful Germanic god), Odin (his Nordic counterpart) or another great god going on a midnight winter solstice ride, chased by devils, on an eight-legged horse. The exertion of the chase would make flecks of red and white blood and foam fall from the horse’s mouth to the ground, where the next year amanita mushrooms would appear. Apparently over time, this European story of a horse with eight legs, united with the ancient Arctic circle story of reindeer prancing and flying around on the same night, melted together into eight prancing, flying reindeer. That story then crossed the pond to the New World with the early English settlers, and got an injection of Dutch traditions involving the Turkish St. Nicholas (who came to be called Sinterklaas by small Dutch children) from the Dutch colonialists — and found immortality in its current form in early 20th-century America, with Clement Clark Moore’s famous poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Before this poem hit the press, different immigrant groups around the U.S. each had their own different versions of the Santa Claus legend. Then in the 1930s, Coca Cola’s ad campaign gave Santa his sizable girth and sent him back around the world. And so in that spirit, a merry Christmas to all who celebrate it! + Fly Agaric

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