Tips for Staying Outside All Winter Long

While we’re no strangers to staying in on a chilly day and enjoying all that a cozy home has to offer (those home improvement projects will come in handy!), most Toads can agree that getting outdoors is what feeds our souls. But when Winter comes around, finding ways to stay outside requires a little more imagination. Here’s our list of handy Toad tips to help you stay outside all winter!

  1. SOAK IN A HOT TUB – Natural, homemade or pre-fab, soaking in a tub of hot water on a cold day brings about a bliss that is simply primordial. While not everyone is lucky enough to live in hiking’s distance to a natural hot spring, there are plenty of ways to wrangle up a hot tub in your backyard. We’ve been dreaming about building cedar tubs in each of our yards (ambitious? no way). 

 

  1. GET YOUR HEART PUMPING – Hike, run, do jumping jacks or spin around in circles (but not too fast). All these movements will get your heart pumping and blood circulating to keep you warm while you breathe in that fresh cold air.

 

  1. BUILD A BONFIRE – Gather up your friends, family and neighbors for a night of pure backyard bliss — bonfires are known to bring out the best in folks. From singing to roasting marshmallows, there’s no better way to lively up yourselves than circling around a fire pit on a cold night. Cue “Lively Up Yourself” by Bob Marley and The Wailers.

 

  1. GO FOR A SKATE – For Toads living in truly wintery wonderlands, lace up your skates and hit the local ice rink for an afternoon outdoors. Don’t have an ice rink? Here’s a DIY video on how to build one (warning: this is not for the faint of heart). 

 

  1. JUST LOOK UP – If you can muster up the courage to brave the weather, stargazing in the Winter is the best time to do it. Cold weather and clear skies provide unbridled views of constellations and planets. Bring out a telescope and prepare to have your mind blown. Don’t believe us? Winter is the best for stargazing, we promise. 

 

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You’ll probably want some warm layers to go with those outdoor adventures. Shop Men’s and Women’s jackets and layers.  

5 Fall Road Trips for Leaf Peeping

We can’t think of a better time to go enjoy what nature has to offer. Maybe you’ve been working from your kitchen table for months, maybe you’ve been on the front lines at the hospital, or teaching little ones via Zoom – and no matter what you’ve been up to, you’ve likely had big travel plans cancelled…

So it may be time for a little leaf peeping adventure (full disclosure: as a California-headquartered company, some of us are pretty new to the idea of ‘leaf peeping.’ But we have trees here too, so we figure it’s fair game). 

First of all, this 2020 Fall Foliage map will tell you exactly where you need to be to see fall leaves at their peak. Start there, and then try these 5 tried-and-true destinations for leaf peeping road trips.

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VERMONT

When it comes to leaf peeping, New England has it down. Check out Vermont’s fall foliage report to make sure you’re headed at the right time. Then take a cruise down the Green Mountain Byway, or try one of these scenic drives

Vermont

BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY

Not only does the 469 mile Blue Ridge Parkway consist of two states (Virginia and North Carolina), but it also squeezes in two national parks along the way (the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah). With overlooks and viewpoints the whole way, the Parkway’s speed limit is 45, so take in the fall colors and take it slooooow. 

LAKE SUPERIOR CIRCLE TOUR

For the more determined and committed leaf peepers out there, one state may not be enough. The Lake Superior Circle Tour is a 1,300 mile loop that takes you through three midwestern states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan) and the Canadian province of Ontario. Do it in stages or all at once.

Lake Superior

FINGER LAKES

New York’s southern Finger Lakes region gives off peak fall vibes. Try one of these scenic drives with farms, cheese companies, cider tasting, museums, and brewing companies along the way. Just remember to bring your mask and sanitizer for the pit stops. 

NEW MEXICO

The East Coast doesn’t get to have all the fall fun. New Mexico’s Aspen trees turn to vibrant gold in the fall, but it doesn’t last for long. Hit the road and hop on the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway (if that name doesn’t say it all…) or the Santa Fe National Forest Scenic Byway. Camera required.

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And if you’re looking to double up on fall activities (the more festive you can be, the better if you ask us), check out this list of best places for apple picking and see if you can make some extra stops along the way. 

And whatever the fall activity, you’ll want to make sure you’ve layered up. We can help you pick the right men’s jacket and women’s jacket for the photo opps. 

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True Nature: Your Weekly Voting Update

Now, more than ever, every intention, every voice, every action, and every vote matters. Get in touch with your true nature, and vote like your community, people, and planet depend on it. Here’s our weekly round-up of important voting FYIs.

WEEK 12: ELECTION DAY CHECKLIST

As election day comes rolling in, we’re re-capping all that we’ve shared about the hallmark of America’s democracy known as the right to vote. From the Electoral College and the plurality system, to mail in ballots and state/local measures, the ins and outs of election in the United States can be a bit of a doozy. Here are some links to help you navigate the terrain.

INTERESTED IN VOLUNTEERING AT YOUR LOCAL POLLING PLACE? Awesome! Get info here

WANT TO LEARN ABOUT YOUR STATE’S BALLOT MEASURES? Good idea. Check it out

CURIOUS ABOUT THE WHO’S WHO OF CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATES? Take a look

ARE YOU READY TO VOTE FOR THE PLANET? Review this scorecard

And remember, we’re in this together. Make your plan:

STEP 1: Make sure you’re registered.

STEP 2: Research the candidates and ballot measures.

STEP 3: Locate your polling place (it might have changed).

STEP 4: Check your state’s rules (some don’t allow campaign merch or ballot selfies).

STEP 5: Plan out your transportation and work schedule.

STEP 6: Come with snacks, water, masks and sanitizer if you’re expecting long lines.

STEP 7: Stay in line. You’re allowed to vote no matter how late it gets (camp chairs encouraged).

STEP 8: Spread the word/tell your friends how cool voting is!

WEEK 11: CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS

While the presidential election may be on the forefront of everyone’s minds and social feeds, there’s just as much on the line when it comes to congressional elections.

WHAT?

With a total of 470 seats in the U.S. Congress (35 in the Senate and 435 in the House) up for election on November 3rd, and with many of those seats in key battleground states, the stakes are about as high as Mt. Everest.

WHY?

Congress makes the laws that influence our daily lives and is essentially the body of government that speaks for the American people. Who we choose to sit in those seats matters.

BACK UP A SEC. 

Quick history lesson. When writing the U.S. Constitution, the framers referred to Congress as the “first branch,” giving it the power to “levy taxes, raise and maintain an army and navy, regulate interstate commerce, and pass any law it deems ‘necessary and proper,’ among a host of other powers.” The Senate was initially intended to represent the states, while the House was designed to represent the nation. Today, about 15,000 bills are introduced in any given Congress, but only a few hundred receive votes on the House or Senate floors. Get more history here and check out this roundup of greatest speeches from the Senate

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Find out who’s who on the ballot, and register to vote if you haven’t yet. 

WEEK 10: EARLY VOTING

The early bird may get the worm, but where did early voting come from and why do we do it? Here’s the 411:
 
In the late 1970’s, after realizing that voters were making up excuses for needing absentee ballots (when in reality they just wanted to bypass long commutes and even longer lines), California adopted the first “no excuse absentee ballot.” For similar convenience reasons and to reduce pressure on polling places during Election Day, states have continued to adopt measures to make early voting more accessible. Today, the majority of states now offer at least one method for eligible voters to cast their ballots early, and some states even allow early voting to occur in person. Due to pandemic concerns during this year’s election, more voters than ever are expected to vote by mail, making early voting a critical topic of discussion.

WANT TO GET AHEAD? HERE’S HOW.

Step 1. Register to vote. Quick n’ easy. 

Step 2. Find out your state’s policy.

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(Source: NCSL.org)

Step 3. Cast your vote. It really, really matters.

WEEK 9: RANKED CHOICE VOTING

The U.S. federal election system is a complicated one (lookin’ at you, Electoral College). We don’t have a “majority wins” approach, but a “plurality wins” approach — the candidate with the highest number of electoral votes wins, period. It doesn’t matter whether that candidate earned the majority of the actual votes cast.
 
ENTER: THE IDEA OF RANKED CHOICE VOTING (RCV)
Ranked choice is just that — voters rank candidates by preference. Instead of checking one box for one candidate, you rank all the candidates in order of preference (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc). In a RCV system, the winning candidate ends up with a majority of votes — even if some voters selected the candidate as a second or third choice.
 
HOW RANKED CHOICE VOTING WORKS
  1. 1. Voters rank all the candidates for a given office by preference (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc).
  1. 2. If a candidate wins an outright majority of 1st-preference votes (i.e., 50% + one vote), he or she will be declared the winner.
  1. 3. If no candidates win an outright majority (50% +1), the candidate with the fewest 1st-preference votes is eliminated.
  1. 4. The eliminated candidate’s votes are then redistributed to the remaining candidates based on the ballot rankings.
  1. 5. A new tally with the adjusted votes is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won an outright majority.
  1. 6. The process repeats until a candidate wins a majority of votes cast. 
 
 
PROS AND CONS? 
Ranked choice voting advocates argue that the plurality system doesn’t always reflect the true will of the people — hence the difference between the popular vote and the electoral vote. Critics say that a RCV system could make elections much more complicated for voters and parties could abuse it to game the system. As of 2020, one state (Maine) has adopted RCV at the state level, but it continues to be a hot topic when it comes to elections.
 
 

WEEK 8: VOTING FOR MEASURES

A ballot measure is a piece of proposed legislation that gets put to voters (vs. being proposed and adopted by a legislature, then turned into law) and they are SUPER important for state and local elections. Allow us to break down that part of the ballot that you never completely look at.
 
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
 
Ballot measures are also known as propositions or questions. Once they are passed, they become a law. (And since we’re getting technical, an amendment is a proposed change to an existing law in a state’s constitution.)
 
WHAT DO THE NUMBERS AND LETTERS MEAN?
 
The letter or numbers listed after each measure explain where they came from. Ballot measures labeled with a letter – Measure M, for example – were referred to the ballot by state lawmakers. Amendments or propositions with numbers, Prop 4 or Prop 98 for example, are citizen-driven initiatives and went through the signature-gathering process to get on the ballot.
 
OKAY, BUT WHAT DO PROPS AND MEASURES DO?
 
Props are your state law and decide everything that isn’t a federal law — things like how your state criminal justice system works, how your state taxes are spent, and changes to the local school system — to name just a few. For example, Prop 64 in California legalized adult use of marijuana (another reason we love living in the Golden State). Props and measures have a significant impact on your day-to-day life.
 
WHERE DO I LEARN ABOUT MY BALLOT MEASURES AND PROPS?
 
Do your research! Look up the measures online (that’s why you get a sample ballot AHEAD of time) or check out your preferred local news organization for their endorsements. 
 
You can also find out about your state’s ballot measures here
 

WEEK 7: NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION DAY

September 22 is #NationalVoterRegistrationDay, so we’d be doing everyone a disservice if we didn’t focus this week’s topic all around registering to vote. For the most part, you’re eligible to vote in U.S. elections if you:

  • • Are a U.S. citizen
  • • Meet your state’s residency requirements
  • • Are 18+ years old (BTW, in most states you can register to vote before you turn 18 if you’ll be 18 by Election Day)
  • •Are registered to vote by your state’s registration deadline
Each state has its own fine print so make sure you check your state’s election office website, but if it sounds like you are eligible then hop on that registration train! First stop: The General Election on November 3rd.
 
We borrowed these easy action items from these easy action items from Vote.org. Make your plan now, so you can be sure your voice is heard.
 
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WEEK 6: THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE

The electoral college is made up of 538 electors from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Each state has a certain number of electors based on population — California has almost 40 million people and 55 electoral votes, for instance, while Wyoming has 579,00 people and 3 electoral votes. To win the presidency, a candidate must win at least 270 votes, the majority of the electoral votes. 

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ELECTORAL VOTE VS. POPULAR VOTE
 
The popular vote is the number of individual votes cast for a candidate — In 2016 Hillary Clinton won the popular vote with 65,845,063 votes — 2.9 million more than Donald Trump. BUT individual votes don’t elect the president — electoral votes do. It’s a winner takes all system, not majority rules.
 
WINNER TAKES ALL
 
When you vote, you are voting for where your state’s electoral votes will go. For example, in 2012 4 million Californians voted for Mitt Romney, but Barack Obama had more votes, so her took all 55 electoral votes. When it comes to states, winner takes all.
 
PARTY POLARIZATION
 
The winner takes all approach is what creates the two party system: voters can’t afford to waste their vote, so they stop voting for people who reflect their values and start voting for candidates they think can win…. So we end up with a 2 party system.
 
Watch Patriot Act’s Hasan Minhaj break it down here
 
WEEK 5: VOTE FOR THE PLANET
 
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November 3rd is the new Earth Day. Because whatever side of the political spectrum you fall on, the environment matters — clean air, running water, and healthy forests should be a priority for all Earth dwellers (that’s you). And since we live in a democracy where we elect people to make decisions on our behalf, voting for candidates committed to environmental causes matters, too. 
 
CANDIDATE SCORECARDS
 
Curious how your elected officials stack up? The League of Conservation scorecard shows elected officials’ records on voting for or against the environment.
 
WHAT ABOUT THE EPA?
 
The Environmental Protection Agency is a branch of the US government tasked with environmental protection matters; its administrator is nominated by the President and confirmed by a vote in the Senate (2 positions you can vote for). Since 2017, the EPA has set out to reverse over 100 environmental rules — and guess who’s challenging them? State, county, and city governments (yep, more positions you vote for).
 
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Learn more about all 100 rollbacks
 
THE FUTURE STEWARDS
 
18 million+ youth are eligible to vote in the 2020 November elections, but historically only 1 in 5 turn out to vote. So if you know any 18-25 year olds, encourage them to register and vote like their future depends on it — because it sure does.
 
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Start ’em young — get involved
 
 
WEEK 4: LOCAL VOTING 101
 
Think global, ACT LOCAL. As exciting and important as national elections are, your local elections typically have a more immediate impact on your day to day life. Here’s a quick breakdown on what you might see on your local ballot on November 3rd.
 
COUNTY OFFICES
 
Everyone lives in a county so you’ll definitely see some of these on your ballot. Counties encompass a number of neighboring towns (Bridges of Madison COUNTY, anyone?), and each county has a central infrastructure and administration that takes care of things like land and water usage, emergency response, and the budget. Here are some of the elected positions at the county:
 
Board of Supervisors 5 regional members who oversee all county operations and manage the budget
 
County AuditorOversees the county’s finances
 
County EngineerResponsible for transportation and public works
 
County Sheriff Oversees law enforcement and often responsible for managing county jails and security
 
District Attorney Seeks justice in criminal cases, works to prevent crime, and serves to hold law enforcement institutions accountable (!) You can learn more about DAs here
 
CITY/DISTRICT POSITIONS
 
Within counties, cities and townships are comprised of districts that represent your district and your neighborhood (like The Hunger Games, but real). Your district will dictate which candidates are on your ballot (so if you don’t live within the city limits, the Mayor likely won’t be on your ballot). Here are some of the elected positions at the district level:
 
Mayor Head of the municipal government and oversees all city services and approve/veto city legislation.
 
City Council The primary legislative body with council members who represent each city district; the city council also appoints boards and commissions for various public works
 
School BoardSupervises the education system and creates policies to improve schools; made up of council members who represent each district
 
Water Board Oversees the water usage, sources and rates of water in a certain district 
 

WEEK 3: GET OUT THE VOTE

Here’s the deal: there are millions of eligible voters who don’t know when the election is (Tuesday, November 3rd), where to vote (depends on your address), or what they need to vote (depends on your state). Now that YOU know, here are some ways to spread the word and get out the vote.

WORK THE POLLS

America is in the midst of a nationwide poll worker shortage. Most poll workers are over 60, and due to COVID, fewer are signing up for the job. In-person polling locations will require at least a million workers and volunteers, so it’s all hands on deck. The Toads are getting the day off to volunteer, so if you can, join us. Learn more here

PHONE BANK

If you like a candidate, volunteer to phone bank for a few hours (or you can look for a text banking option if you’re feeling phone-shy). From the comfort of your own couch, you’ll typically call people who’ve been identified as supporters (public voting records are useful like that!) and you’ll run through a script to help them visualize their vote…

Are you planning on voting early?
What day will you vote?
How are you getting to the polling place?
Do you need a ride to the polls?
What time of day are you going to vote?
Will you be voting before or after work?
 
 
TALK TO YOUR FRIENDS
 
If phone banking is intimidating, simply run through that same set of questions with your friends and family. Root out the excuses and hold them (gently) accountable

WEEK 2: WOMEN’S RIGHT TO VOTE

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Even though 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing and protecting women’s right to vote, many American women of color didn’t get true voting protections until the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. So we like to think of voting as a great way to say “thanks” to the pioneers who took up the cause.

In 2020, 127 women serve in the U.S. Congress (23.7%), and hold 28.9% of statewide elective executive offices across the country. Whether your interest is running for national or local office, working on campaigns, or leadership training, we say, ‘the more the merrier’ when it comes to women stepping up in politics. Here’s an awesome list of resources we found for women looking to get involved, both locally and nationally.

WEEK 1: MAIL-IN BALLOTS

Forget what you heard on Twitter: mail-in ballots are just as copacetic as the ballot box. They’re also way less germ-y and way more convenient. Each state is different so make sure you’re signed up!

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This info was pulled from Fortune.com on 8/6, but make sure to check your state’s website for updates and to find out if you need an excuse to vote by mail (yep, that’s a thing). 

For more info on registering, head to vote.org. 

ALL eligible voters deserve the chance to let their true nature be known. Make sure you’re registered and ready for November. Here’s a little reminder of why it’s so important:

voting

Now, more than ever, making your voice heard matters.

And while you’re in the educating yourself type of mood, here’s a short history on voting rights. The more you know…

 
 
 

Repreve Recycled Fabrics

We’re big fans of recycling – cutting old jeans into new styles, repurposing household objects, and recycling our polybags into dog poop bags (yeah, we’re committed). And clothing made out of recycled materials tops that list. One of our longtime supply chain partners, REPREVE®, is one of the main reasons we love recycling.

Established in 2008, REPREVE is an American company committed to turning upcycling “trashed” materials into fibers (Quick textile lesson: Fabrics are made out of fibers – some fabrics can be all of the same fibers, like 100% cotton, or a blend of fibers like 50% cotton/25% polyester/25% Tencel®. Different fibers have different performance benefits that cause fabrics to perform in different ways. Lesson over).

REPREVE makes fibers like nylon and polyester out of recycled materials, then we blend those fibers into many different fabrics across many different styles. And using recycled fibers is all part of our commitment to sustainability.

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So how is REPREVE recycled polyester made?

It all starts with some uncomfortable truths about plastic bottles. About 80% of used plastic bottles end up in landfills every year – that’s 35 billion plastic bottles that get thrown away every year.

So REPREVE starts by accumulating lots of recycled PET plastic bottle at its recycling facility in North Carolina. (Another quick lesson: PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate — a form of polyester that’s derived from oil that’s molded into all sorts of consumer products). The used bottles are sorted, washed and shredded into flakes that look like fish food. The clean flakes are blended, melted, and turned into chips that are loaded in big silos. Just like a grain silo, each REPREVE silo holds the equivalent of 27 million plastic bottles.The chips enter the extrusion and texturing process, which transforms the chips into fibers with distinct performance benefits like wicking, thermal reg, odor control, and conditioning.

Okay, so how many bottles has REPREVE recycled?

Since 2008, they’ve recycled more than 20 billion (yes BILLION with a “B”) plastic bottles! Just for context: What does a billion bottles look like? If you place 8-inch plastic bottles end to end, they would circle the Earth five times. So multiply that by 20. WHOA.

When you go to the REPREVE website there’s an updated ticker counting the number of bottles that have been recycled. It’s a constant reminder that recycling your plastic bottles may seem like a small step, but that small act has become a global force. Just by recycling we can reduce plastic pollution and help to preserve natural resources by requiring less petroleum, energy and water to produce.

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Speaking of other resources, what else makes REPREVE sustainable?

This process isn’t just about finding new life for recycled materials – it’s also about reducing the amount of resources used to produce new fibers. Compared to making new fibers (or virgin fibers),  making REPREVE fibers offsets using new petroleum, emitting fewer greenhouse gases, and conserving water and energy throughout the production process (so if you’re wondering, “is recycled polyester safe?”, yep, it is). To give you an idea of the amount of resources using 20 billon recycled plastic bottles saves…

  • Enough energy to power 189,249 homes for 1 year
  • Enough drinking water to sustain 2.3 million people daily for 1 year
  • 517 million kilograms of C02 emissions

That makes a big difference for our future.

This sounds great, but is REPREVE certified recycled?

You betcha! It’s always good to confirm that recycled materials come from reputable sources that don’t rely on child or forced labor to collect recycled materials. REPREVE is certified by the U-Trust Verification system to certify recycled content claims.

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So what’s the difference between recycled fabrics made with REPREVE vs. virgin fabrics?

Well, nothing. Recycled fibers still have the same stretch, recovery, and performance as virgin fabrics – just with a sustainability factor. We guarantee that you, our customer, won’t be able to tell the difference in the hand feel and the care instructions. It’s exactly the same. The recycled nature doesn’t inhibit the fabric or performance in any way.

Great – where can I buy recycled clothing made with REPREVE?

Lots of places! Many major retailers and companies have incorporated recycled REPREVE fibers into their product lines – Toad&Co included! Shop our men’s styles and women’s styles made with recycled fibers – we swear it feels twice as nice.

The Benefits of Meditation

By Natalie, Sustainable Materials Manager and Toad’s resident meditation expert.

In its simplest form, meditation is the process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. A meditation practice depends on the individual and can take many forms. Anything done with complete mindfulness and intention can become a form of meditation.

I’ve found that the swath of meditation benefits are all interconnected. For example, if I’m less stressed, I sleep better and wake up happier and more focused. Here are some other benefits of meditation, according to the experts (and corroborated by me!):

1. It can reduce stress and all of the negative side effects of stress. No more “Sunday Scaries.”

2. It improves your sleep by helping you control your ability to relax and turn off the racing thoughts in your brain.

3. It helps control anxiety, which helps keep your stress down (Seeing a pattern yet?).

4. It promotes emotional health and decreases symptoms of depression.

5. It enhances self-awareness and grows a stronger sense of self and confidence.

6. It can lengthen your attention span, increase your ability to focus, and may even reduce effects of age-related memory loss.

7. It can increase your compassion toward others and yourself by helping you focus on the ability to be kind and forgive (Like forgiving your mother for gifting your dog a squeaky toy…).

8. It can help fight addictions. Trying to give up sugar this year? Meditation might be your secret weapon.

9. It helps control pain and can even raise pain tolerance levels (Time to get that tattoo!).

10. It can lower blood pressure and boost your immune system.


The Physical Benefits of Meditation

Your body loves meditation. Study after study has found that the benefits of the mind/body connection have a lasting impact on your overall physical health. The benefits of meditation and yoga, for instance, is that they help send breath to your muscles which increases your flexibility, which decreases your chance for injury.

Meditation and running and meditation and swimming have a similar effect. When you exercise at a low-impact, consistent pace with intention, your body and mind can align to enter a state of flow – or being “in the zone.” So think of meditating like a runner’s high that you can tap into at any time.

Meditation also benefits the brain by strengthening your neural connections. When you practice the skill of mindfulness, you’re also sharpening your willpower. You can increase your attention span, manage your stress better, and master self-control.

Meditation can actually alter your brain structure – in a good way. Studies have found that meditation adds wrinkles to your cortex – the outer layer of your brain that helps us think critically and introspectively (more wrinkles = better problem solving). It can also increase the volume and density of the hippocampus – the area in the brain that helps us with our memory. Here’s a great Harvard Gazette article on the brain science behind mindfulness.


How to Meditate

This is a complex question, but luckily there are many types of meditation and many ways to incorporate a meditation practice into your life. We’ll cover some of the most basic types of meditation.

Mindfulness meditation – Keeping your attentions fixed on your thoughts and physical sensations in the present moment.  This is great for meditation before bed – or in bed!  

Guided meditation – Exercises guided by an instructor (or an app) to walk you through various techniques and breath work.

Body scan meditation – a guided meditation meant to sync body and mind by observing the state of your body from the crown of your head to the tips of your toes.

Transcendental meditation – this is the champagne of meditations. It’s a complex practice that involves multiple sessions per day using various mindfulness and mystical techniques – and it’s technically only taught by specialized instructors and comes with a price tag.

Loving kindness meditation – directing positive energy, compassion and goodwill toward ourselves and then toward others.

Yoga meditation – not high-intensity work-out yoga, more slow and intentional yoga designed to strengthen the nervous system. Yoga Nidra and Kundalini yoga are common forms. Extended savasana (“corpse pose”) is a founding principle of Yoga meditation.

Moving meditation – just like it sounds: keep it moving! Tai Chi, walking or gentle hiking are all forms of moving meditations.

Mantra meditation – focusing your mind through repetition. It’s not an affirmation, more of a repetition of sounds to deepen breathing and sense of peace. “Om” is just the beginning!

There are so many types of mediations, so try a few versions and find the one that feels right for you. And remember: what’s right might vary from day to day. I integrate all kinds of meditation into my life, depending on what I need or what my schedule allows.


Start Your Practice 

The most important part of meditation is that you aren’t forcing it. You don’t need to practice meditation 3 times a day – even meditating for 20 minutes a day might be too much at this point. So start with a small goal – 5-minutes of mindfulness or a quick morning breathing exercise – and work your way up.

Check out my blog on meditation techniques for beginners for some quick pointers for getting started! 

5 Ways You Can Help Save The Ocean

Our oceans are indisputably incredible. Not only home to over 700,000 species, and an epic playground for surfers, swimmers, and beach-goers alike, but they also generate half the oxygen we breathe (we love you too, trees, but today it’s all about the sea). As the largest ecosystem on Earth, the ocean is our planet’s life support. But we all know this super blue giant is in trouble and it’s up to every single one of us to help save it. So just in time for World Oceans Day, here are 5 ways to defend our ocean.

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No more plastics.

Plastic is so 1900s. If there’s one thing we’ll risk sounding like a broken record about, this is it. It’s estimated that up to 12 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans each year. That’s the equivalent of a truckload of trash every. single. minute. If we don’t take serious action, there will be MORE plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050. Now for the good part: Single-use plastic alternatives are easier to find than ever, plus we like to think they cause an amazing ripple effect (see what we did there?). When someone sees you bringing your reusable coffee mug to your local coffee shop, or busting out your reusable produce bags at the grocery store, they’ll take notice and think about their own plastic choices. Plus, it’s always smart to have a spork on hand for whatever life throws at you (and we just love saying “spork”). So bye, Felicia (forever) to water bottles, grocery bags, plastic straws, Saran Wrap, and forks. The fish will thank you.

Clean up your beaches. 

If you see a piece of trash on the beach, pick it up before it makes its way into the waves (and endangers the fish, the reef, and the mermaids). And if you’re looking for something a little more organized, look for local beach cleanups through organizations like Surfrider—or better yet, grab some friends or coworkers and organize your own. And whether you live near the coast or thousands of miles away, remember that all waterways lead to the ocean so every cleanup counts.

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Support ocean-friendly organizations.

Surfrider, Greenpeace, the Environmental Defense Fund, Ocean Conservancy—the list goes on, but all these orgs are working hard to make big waves environmentally and a small donation can go a long way. You can also shop brands that are members of 1% for the Planet and feel good knowing that 1% of the proceeds went straight to environmental nonprofits.

And when it comes to buying clothes, look for things like bluesign® approval (which ensures the efficient use of resources like water, energy, and chemicals during dyeing and finishing processes), and companies that use closed-loop processes, which reduce waste and use natural resources to their full potential before they’re discarded. Take Tencel® for example: It’s made from certified sustainable eucalyptus wood pulp, which is processed with nontoxic solvents wherein 99% of the solvents are recovered and recycled to make yarn. The great news is more and more companies are catching onto this idea of circular fashion. Zero waste for the win (and more info on the sustainable materials we use here)!

Check that carbon footprint. 

Warmer waters are a real bummer for marine species and coral reefs. Bike to work, take the stairs, bundle up rather than cranking the heater, unplug your devices when they’re not in use, shop locally. All kinds of small changes in your day-to-day life can add up to make a big difference and help prevent the ocean from turning into one giant jacuzzi. Bonus: Lots of states offer credits for making energy efficient improvements to your home (energy-efficient light bulb moment, right?).

Enjoy seafood sustainably. 

Overfishing has become commonplace and is hugely disruptive to the balance of marine ecosystems globally. But the U.S. is the third largest seafood consumer in the world, giving us serious power to influence global fisheries. If you’re buying seafood, do it purposefully and don’t hesitate to ask questions about how it was caught. You can also look for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) labels, which ensure your fish can be traced back to sustainably-managed farms and fisheries. At Toad, we’re big fans of Seafood Watch for shopping guides and even super delicious sustainable recipes. And same goes for meat—if you choose to eat it, do your research to make sure you’re supporting responsible producers and distributors.

Our waters are troubled, but saving them is within our reach!

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Summer To-Do: Shakespeare in the Park

A warm summer breeze, an open bottle of wine, men in tights… it’s a midsummer night’s dream, or, Shakespeare in the Park. Whether you’re a longtime fan of The Bard or have fuzzy memories of that one high school English class, get thee to this summer tradition. The tradition goes back to 1954 (well, 1599 if you want to get technical), when a few New York visionaries wanted to make Shakespeare theater as free and accessible as library books. Well, turns out people love free stuff and outdoor drinking, so the idea was a hit and has since caught on with communities all over the world. So without further ado, here’s our list of the best FREE 2019 Shakespeare in the Park festivals in the US. Pack a picnic and bring your kin.

New York, NY – The grand dame of Shakespeare in the park and the one that started it all. Since 1962, over five million people have enjoyed more than 150 free productions of Shakespeare at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The New York Shakespeare Festival runs May through August and offers two shows: May/June catch Much Ado About Nothing staged with an incredible all black cast! and July/August is Coriolanus, a riveting political epic of democracy and demagoguery. Ah, art imitating life.

Asheville, NC – On a campy-but-lovable Olde English stage,The Montford Park Players put on North Carolina’s longest running free Shakespeare Festival. Prepare with bug spray or our new Debug clothes.

Kansas City, MO – Does it get better than sonnets and BBQ? Kansas’ City’s Heart of America Shakespeare Festival knows how to party. This season’s show is Shakespeare in Love (we’re sensing a pattern…) and you can reserve your seating online beforehand.

Boston, MA –  The 24th season of Boston’s Commonwealth Shakespeare Company goes off at the Parkman Bandstand 6 days a week. This year’s show is the little known mystical dramedy, Cymbeline, about the fates of King Cymbeline’s family. Expect mistaken identities, twists and turns, and the all-consuming quest for true love.

Louisville, KY – Coming in at the most ambitious company, The Kentucky Shakespeare Festival is putting on no less that 7 different productions. No tickets required, and dogs are welcome. All of Louisville’s a stage…

Buffalo, NY – Mark your cal for June 20th  when the 44th summer season of Shakespeare in Delaware Park kicks off. The first half of the summer will bring The Tempest and late July switches to Love’s Labour’s Lost (the story of a king and his comrades who swear off women for three years… hilarity ensues.)

Dallas, TX – Park your lawn chairs at Shakespeare Dallas’s series at Samuell Grand Park, now in its 48th season. Catch Shakespeare in Love (not technically by Shakespeare but hey, it’s on theme) and As You Like It, a classic rom com where “Love is merely a madness…”

San Francisco, CA – A little different than the traditional set-up, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival actually travels to 5 different venues throughout the Bay Area. This year they’re toting a musical version of As You Like It from June – September.

Los Angeles area, CA – From San Pedro to Hermosa Beach to Torrance to Venice (and many stops in between), Shakespeare by the Sea makes the rounds. This season catch The Comedy of Errors (two young visitors arrive in the city unaware that their long-lost twins already live there), and Henry V (Shakespeare’s most patriotic and inspiring play tells of a young King Henry V who seeks to unite his beloved England). Gird your loins and your flip flops.

Seattle, WA – In the mood for some hormone-induced teen romance? Romeo & Juliet is calling your name. Love the idea of love triangle in Elizabethan drag? Twelfth Night is for you. Get your fill as the Seattle Shakespeare Company tours the Puget Sound region all summer.

But what will you wear?! 

New Year’s Resolutions: 5 Easy Ways to Save the Planet

Start the year off right. Here are our 2019 sustainability resolutions:

01 wear sustainable

The apparel industry is the 4th largest polluter of air and water on Earth. Wearing eco-friendly or second-hand clothing can make a world of difference. We’ve got you covered: 100% of our products are made with eco materials.

02 recycle

Everything from food scraps to lightbulbs to shower water, start by cutting back on your consumption and reuse as much as you can.

03 no plastic

12 billion plastic bottles end up in landfills every year. Same for 6 out of 7 plastic bags. BYOB from here on out.

04 keep it local

Eating food sourced within 30 miles of your home cuts back on land, water and emissions pollution. Support local, support the planet.

05 ride your bike

By riding your bike instead of driving, you save 1 lb of carbon emissions for every mile you opt for 2 wheels. Bonus: it’s good for your health.

Want more? Join our movement to save the planet and download our Eco Cheat Sheet.

 

Romania: The Next Frontier

Romania is a rugged, complicated, beautiful place. Its ancient traditions rally in defiant opposition of a blossoming global economy, while the natural landscapes sit steadfast and majestically in peaceful protest of modernization. Here, at the crossroads of globalism and frontier, is where change is taking place.

We arrived in Romania to document the work being done by Foundation Conservation Carpathia (FCC), a local organization dedicated to conserving a vulnerable section of Romania’s vast Carpathian Mountain Range. Created by German-Austrian couple Christoph and Barbara Promberger, their short term goal is to create Europe’s first Wilderness Reserve for the protection of large carnivores in the Fagaras area. Their long term goal: A brand new national park, Fagaras National Park, Europe’s largest forested national park.

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The author, FCC Ranger Liviu Bulgaru, and Dan Dinu, photographer, overlooking the valley of the Iezer Lake. Andreea is wearing the Jetlite Crop Pant.

For over a decade they have been buying up forested lands, restoring 1,500 acres of completely destroyed forest, protecting wildlife, and creating an infrastructure for ecotourism. They work closely with local communities to ensure that conservation is mutually beneficial. Like the vast network of trails crisscrossing the Carpathians, the path to protection has been steep, winding and complex. But with each victory FCC establishes a new precedent that inspires more people to get involved and see the immense benefits of protected public land.

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Inside one of the bear hides built by the FCC as part of their ecotourism infrastructure in nearby Piatra Craiului National Park. Justin is wearing the Mission Ridge Lean Pant.

In early June we wandered into one of the FCC’s recent acquisitions accompanied by Liviu Bulgaru, a charismatic FCC ranger who knows every twist and turn of the steep, rugged Iezer Mountainside. Patches of snow dotted a pristine valley where the only trace of humans were the worn trails and a sturdy refuge. We were there to witness an early bloom of rhododendron which, due to changes in climate, have started to appear earlier every year. This year, the flowers peeked through snow. Surrounding us were trees, meadows, ridge lines, and an eerily quiet atmosphere. Nothing but wilderness, and a few witnesses to bear it.

After sunset we descended to a local village to deliver a fallen sheep to its shepherds. (Nothing goes to waste in this rugged heartland – even after the wolves have eaten, the shepherds will salvage the rest for pastrami.) The shepherds were young, soft spoken, and unfazed. Surrounded by twelve large, barking dogs, they took the sheep and casually mentioned they’d seen the wolf pack attack. Live and let live.

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This type of rhododendron comes out in late June or July, coloring the high meadows of the Southern Carpathians.

 

Up in the mountains, surrounded by clouds, a refreshingly uncomplicated world still exists. The line between human and wild, home and wilderness, continues to blur. It relies on an innate respect that each member shows to one another – human and beast alike. We’ll continue to monitor the work of Foundation Conservation Carpathian and the status of this incredible place.

Conservation Atlas is a 501(c)(3), US-based nonprofit started in 2017 by Andreea & Justin Lotak. Conservation Atlas aims to raise awareness of global conservation causes by appealing to intrepid travelers. Through leading online resources and annual international festivals, CA inspires people to visit unique places and support the mission of grassroots organizations. Through 2018, The Lotaks are touring 14 countries to document successful conservation projects, meet the people who are making these positive changes, and photograph beautiful landscapes and biodiversity.