Greening Our Schools

I’ve given lots of talks and have done plenty of media spots over the years. But a special local presentation this week was the most exciting appearance I’ve had in a long time.

My children’s elementary school held their first annual Earth Day this week, and I was thrilled to be included as one of the speakers for the day. I was asked to teach the fourth graders (of which my son is one) about environmental health issues. But what was I going to do for 35 minutes with groups of 9 and 10 year olds? I thought about what would be important and meaningful to them, something they could take away with them to impact their lives. I already knew that some were members of a school club dubbed the “Planet Protectors.” As part of the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center’s “Greening Your School” initiative, we hosted the group at Hackensack’s all-green Children’s Hospital for a tour recently. So I knew they were really interested in learning about ways they could contribute to greening their school.

After learning that all the classrooms were stocked with Purell, I decided I would devote most of the session working with them to make our own “green” hand sanitizers. We discussed the problem with alcohol-based cleaners, most of which also contain chemicals that are potentially endocrine-disrupting, neurotoxic and carcinogenic. The labels on many actually state in bold letters: “Keep out of reach of children.” Armed with water, aloe vera and a handful of essential oils, we mixed our own spray bottles with great smelling, nontoxic hand sanitizers. The kids loved it – the hands-on aspect, now armed with the knowledge that they could make something so much better for them, and for the environment – and that they could go home and teach their parents about what we had done as well.

I think they especially got into the story of the recipe I used for our mixture – the infamous “Thieves” blend popularized by Young Living Essential Oils. This brew of lemon, cinnamon, clove, rosemary and eucalyptus oils is rumoured to have been used by a band of thieves in the middle ages who robbed victims of the Black Plague and lived to tell the tale. They were apprehended, though, and confessed their secret to King James, and the legend was born. In fact, studies have shown the Thieves blend (and the individual oils) to have potent anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.

Which brings us to this oft-quoted parable regarding the circular nature of medicine.

2000 B.C. “Here, eat this root.”

A.D. 1000 “That root is heathen. Here, say this prayer.”

A.D. 1850 “That prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion.”

A.D. 1940 “That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill.”

A.D. 1985 “That pill is ineffective. Here, take this antibiotic.”

A.D. 2000 “That antibiotic doesn’t work. Here, eat this root.”

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