Where Did My Essential Oil Blog Posts Go? i.e. How I Lost 67% Of My Blog Traffic

Where Are My Essential Oil Blog Posts and Pins? | Living Consciously Blog

So hey, apparently upwards of 20,000 of you used to visit my blog every month from Pinterest for my essential oil recipes. Recipes that I still use literally every single day, multiple times a day. Where did my essential oil blog posts go? Well, I was forced to remove them all from my blog. Not only my own blog posts, but my entire Pinterest board of other peoples’ blog posts, as well any Twitter or personal Facebook posts where I mentioned how I used essential oils or how they work.

For the record, I’ve never really made discernible income from selling essential oils. I published the recipes for literally thousands of visitors to use and fewer than 20 people ever actually bought oils from links on this blog over 3 years. Even when those people bought oils from my site, I only got gift certificates for the purchase of more oils, at a ridiculous percentage like 5% or 10% of their purchase (I don’t even know because it was insignificant. I think the most I ever got was $10. Which required me to buy product to utilize.). When someone “signed up” under me, I got a one-time payment, but only if I had spent enough on product in the last few months, myself. I have had less than 40 people sign up “under” me in 3 years because I have never pushed oils on anyone. I never contacted anyone who signed up “under” me in order to pressure them to buy or sell oils. I also made sure to always post recipes that could be used with any brand of oil, not just the one that I sold.

I offer all these qualifications, not because I owe them to anyone, but because I want you to understand that I was not making money hand-over-fist from this endeavor. The only entity making money from the posts on this blog were the companies who sold the oils. The same company that came to me and told me that they would disconnect my account if I did not remove all these posts.

Not only was I asked to remove the posts on this blog, but also all the Pins of recipes I had pinned on Pinterest from other people’s blogs. You might say, “hey, no one can tell me what to Pin!”. That’s what I thought too, but apparently I was wrong. Because I tried to preserve some of the recipes on the Pinterest board and the company DID disconnect my essential oils account until I had deleted the entire board. All of the saved recipes, gone. So if you followed that board on Pinterest, that’s why you can’t find them anymore.

Why? Because of the FDA. In January 2015, the FDA sent warning letters to the two primary essential oil companies, who are both network marketing organizations {definition}, to alert them that their company representatives were making health claims about oils that are restricted only to drugs in the U.S. You can read the letters here. If you don’t live in the U.S. or aren’t familiar with the way the FDA works, it is an governmental organization that takes craptons of money from large corporations to put it’s stamp of approval on their products saying those products are safe. This organization is responsible for approving such chemicals as trans fats, in which evidence of serious harm built up for nearly 20 years before the organization finally admitted that the substance was clearly toxic. It had to wait that long to say something because it’s primary source of income is from drug companies, most of which sell drugs that combat the effects of trans fats.

Was it ridiculous that some people selling oils were claiming they could cure cancer and ebola? Probably so. There are also plenty of uninformed people out there advocating the misuse of oils without proper dilution, even now. And yes, that kind of abuse should be regulated by someone. But how far is it ok to take this? For example, a “headache” is a symptom of a number of diseases including glaucoma, brain cancers, and migraines. In the U.S., diseases are only allowed to be treated by FDA approved drugs. Only companies that have paid the FDA for review and approval can claim to cure disease. Therefore, according to the FDA, I cannot tell you that essential oils can help your headache, because that is the same as claiming the oils cure cancer or glaucoma (even though that’s not what I said). Because the essential oil companies didn’t pay the FDA for the right to say that.

As a Pinterest user, you’ll find that Pins about essential oils are being deleted from your boards or that the Pins now link to pages that no longer exist. All the recipes are gone, slowly being removed by the bloggers if they want to keep their personal access to the source of the oil.

For now, if you want to use essential oils daily for wellness as I do, my recommendation is to buy an essential oils pocket desk reference (affiliate link), which contains an extensive index of health issues and the appropriate oils and safe usage to treat them, as well as scientific research to back it all up.

I have deleted all references to the brand I use on this blog and also deleted the personal web site portal that I paid the company to allow me to offer the oils for sale directly online. Honestly, I have considered ending my relationship with the company. Right now, that’s still not off the table completely. But as I mentioned, I do use oils literally every day and believe in their effectiveness. I just can’t tell you about that anymore.

Fortunately, I’ve never been an essential oils blogger. This blog is a chronicle of my ongoing journey for health and wellness. It is indeed unfortunate that I am not longer allowed to share this facet of my journey with you. I hope to be following this blog post with another post about what direction I’d like to take with the blog in the future, as the drastic decrease in traffic leaves me with a bit of a challenge. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Taking small bites: Ask Quaker to stop funding GMO Labeling opposition

What to elephants and GMO labeling efforts have in common? | Living Consciously Blog

Have you ever heard the old proverb about how you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

OK, so elephants are majestic and in some religions, even sacred, so we wouldn’t really eat an elephant. But you know what most of us probably do eat regularly? Oats. If you are someone who consumes grains, this is a major one. Quaker is a company that made it’s name known by selling oatmeal, something most Americans ate nearly every day a generation ago. Now that they are owned by Pepsico, they are one of the largest corporate influencers in politics. Many of us have actually moved away from their oats since they do not currently have a gluten-free version. As a company, Quaker has also moved on to many other products like cereal bars, sugary snacks, and processed foods with little to no nutritional value. Away from where most of us reading this blog are probably headed.

The fact is, Quaker/Pepsico has significant political and monetary influence in the U.S. And right now, they are using that influence to fund anti-labeling effort for genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Organizations like Just Label It are working to convince our lawmakers to give every American the right to know what is in their food, while companies like Quaker/Pepsico are throwing a huge amount of resources toward keeping us in the DARK — read more about the DARK Act currently being debated by our legislators here. It’s intimidating how much more funding is on the anti-labeling side of this fight. It’s such a large disparity that it’s easy to get discouraged. What can we do as individuals? We don’t have millions of dollars to make our voices heard!

Back to the elephant. What we can do is work hard to convince corporations to stop funding the anti-labeling legislation. Maybe we can’t convince every corporate entity. But we can approach one corporation at a time with an ask, and we can keep asking until they respond.

The facts: The vast majority of Americans (92 percent) support mandatory GMO labeling and want to know what’s in their food according to a recent Consumer Reports national survey.

We want large food companies to stop blocking our right to know through the DARK Act or other anti-mandatory labeling initiatives. We also want to call upon Congress and the FDA to institute mandatory GMO labeling.

How: Go to www.JustLabelIt.org to ask Quaker to:

1) Publicly support mandatory FDA labeling of GMOs

2) Stop funding anti-mandatory labeling efforts

3) Stand up against the DARK Act

The Vision: Working together, we will hold food companies accountable for refusing to support mandatory FDA labeling of GMOs, expose their contributions to anti-mandatory labeling efforts, and show overwhelming support for mandatory labeling. Consumers will know that GMOs have dramatically increased the use of probably carcinogenic herbicides and will be able to choose foods with all the information they deserve.

On the positive side: to support companies that are actively contributing money from their bottom line to promote GMO labeling, buy from this list.

Will you join us?

 

Backyard Chickens: what no one tells you before you start

Backyard Chickens What No One Tells You | Living Consciously Blog

We’ve had our backyard chickens now for almost 3 years. Overall, if I had to do it again, I would. Just today I was talking to my chickens through the storm door while I fixed dinner and they were clucking pleasantly at me…

…while they covered the back door stoop in poop that I will inevitably step directly into the next time I go out the back door.

There are few things stinkier or stickier than chicken poop. It’s so difficult to remove yet you want to remove it so quickly.

I realize that there are things no one tells you before you start with backyard chickens. I think I need to make a list of those things. There might be people who would wait until a different life stage before getting into this, if only they knew. You can do a search for backyard chickens and get a million blog posts telling you how easy it is, how fun it is, how wonderful the eggs are. You can see hundreds of Pinterest-worthy chicken coops, including one from a friend of mine which is actually the bottom story of an enormous tree house/play fort. All very inspirational.

What I am here to tell you about today is what no one tells you about backyard chickens in a semi-urban or urban setting. In case you knew nothing about farm animals, like I did (or didn’t. or still don’t) beforehand.

In the past 2 years, here are the things I have encountered that you are likely to encounter too, at some point.

Poop – So much poop. If you let them “free-range”, please know that you ceding your backyard to them. It’s theirs now. You can never walk out there barefoot again. Even walking out the back door, you will find poop on the mat. If you don’t let them free range, you will be scrubbing, scooping, and sweeping poop out of the coop and chicken run (if you have one).

Salmonella from chicken poop – If you have children or perhaps forget to wash your hands very well at some point, you will get a nasty stomach bug. It’s just salmonella, which isn’t usually terribly severe. But it is no fun. If your chickens are free-ranging and you have children under the age of 4, understand that you are definitely exposing them to salmonella in the chicken poop that will be everywhere.

Mites – The standard answer to this problem on all the internet forums, boards, and blogs is “just sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the coop and nesting box and you’ll never have mites!”. That is a complete lie. I have gone through something like 25 lbs. of DE since last summer and it never did anything to either repel or quell the mite infestation. When your flock gets mites (which can actually come from wild birds, no fault of your own), you will have to treat them ALL (as in, catch each individual chicken and douse them) with either an herbal essential oil pesticide or DE (good luck with that). Then you have to empty and clean the coop and treat it with the same substance. You will have to do this every 6-7 days until the infestation subsides. I did this for 2.5 months last summer until the cold weather or the fact that I resorted to heavier pesticides finally worked. I had to wear protective clothing and a mask in 110 degree heat to keep from inhaling DE as the chickens squawked and clawed and pecked at me. I did that every week for around 10-12 weeks. Think about doing this before you commit to chickens.

Not all chickens are friendly – Our Buff Orpingtons were very shy, and their shyness came out as attacking when cornered. This is super fun when you have to catch them every 6 days to treat them for mites. The Red Sex Link that we have bit everyone for the first 1.5 years we had her. They also bite, peck, and attack each other. They will tear each other’s feathers out and make each other bleed. Sometimes you have to separate them.

Predators – We have lost two chickens to a bobcat and one to a hawk so far. Remember, every animal loves to eat chicken. They are easy to catch, have no natural defenses, and aren’t known for being intelligent. And they are delicious.

Death in the flock – Make sure you and/or your children are prepared to face death. In addition to the chickens killed by predators, we have also lost one to some kind of sudden illness that could have been egg bound or possibly liver disease My kids have taken each death in stride and never seemed particularly phased. We have been honest with them about what happened and they seem to appreciate that. But if you have qualms about discussing the death of a pet with your children, owning chickens might bring that fear to fruition sooner than you’d like.

Broody hen – Sometimes a hen will become convinced that her eggs have baby chickens in them and she MUST SIT ON THEM. This is called “going broody”. She thinks she has a brood. Unless you have a rooster in your flock (illegal in most urban/suburban areas), she obviously does not have a brood, but she doesn’t know that. She will chase the other hens out of the nesting box and peck anyone who comes near her. If she doesn’t allow the other hens to lay eggs in the box, they could hold their eggs inside and become egg bound (which is fatal to a hen). Unless you are prepared to find some fertile eggs and allow her to raise chicks, you will have to sequester her in a crate with an open bottom where she can’t sit down without adequate airflow under her bum for 2-3 days. When her internal body temperature cools, she should break the broodiness. Most people use a dog crate with the poop tray removed. We didn’t own a crate so we had to buy one ($60) the first time one of our hens went broody.

Finding a chicken sitter – It’s not as easy to find a chicken sitter as a dog sitter, because despite the free eggs, there are a number of things that could go wrong. There is a LOT of poop in the coop, so it has to be someone who is OK with walking through chicken poop. It’s possible the chickens might peck. Several times we’ve had chickens escape when the sitter opened the door and later had a neighbor call about our chickens wandering around the neighborhood (see Predators, above). Then you have to call another person who is comfortable both chasing and catching a chicken, and who is OK with being pecked by an angry chicken.

Mud – Chickens eat all vegetation in their area. They pull up any grass directly by the roots. Any area in which you keep chickens will have no grass at all. No grass when it rains means mud. Lots of mud. We had record rainfall in Texas this year. The coop was muddy for months. Did you know mud is the same color as poop? So who knows what all that stuff is that you’re wading through to gather eggs. The chickens are covered in it, the coop is covered in it, and you have to almost take a shower after feeding and watering them, which must be done every day since the food and water from the day before is already covered in mud. There’s nothing less fun than having to leave your warm couch and PJ’s and get dressed in what is basically hazmat gear to go out into the freezing cold mud to feed angry chickens.

I sincerely hope that you still want backyard chickens. They can be a fun adventure. They are not cheap and they are not easy. You will not be saving any money, but you will be more connected to your food and to your little vacuous, pea-brained pets!

When your eco-friendly yoga mat is toxic

When your eco-friendly yoga mat is toxic - deciphering marketing speak to find a safe yoga mat | Living Consciously Blog

Over the past month, I have been on the search for a new yoga mat to take with me on retreat to complete my 225 yoga teacher training. For the past year, I’ve been using the prAna Indigena natural rubber mat (affiliate link), which I love! Barely any slipping. But, because it is all rubber, it is 7 lbs. Not ideal for squeezing into a carryon in a plane. And we’ll be sitting on the mat during our classroom times, instead of a chair. The prAna is 3-4mm thick, which is fine for my regular practice (I don’t need cushioning), but I wanted to move up to a 5mm thickness for the retreat.

Unfortunately, I’ve found the process of buying a toxin-free yoga mat fraught with difficulties, primarily in the form of deceptive marketing language. Sure, if you search Amazon or Google for “eco-friendly yoga mat”, you’ll come up with plenty of options. Or what companies present as viable options. But how do you really know if your yoga mat is toxic or not?

The phrase “eco-friendly” in the description of a yoga mat does NOT mean it is free of toxins

Here is a list of things that I have found companies to claim as eco-friendly in yoga mats:

  • uses PVC, but was manufactured within EPA standards for emissions at the plant
  • part or all of the mat will biodegrade (eventually)
  • eco-friendly manufacturing processes
  • doesn’t use 6 of the highest-toxin phthalates banned by the EU (which are NOT banned in the US)
  • marketing copy attaches the word “natural” to materials such as “polyurethane”
  • uses the phrase “eco-friendly” but does not disclose the materials of which the mat is composed AT ALL

Can you see what is wrong with each of these?? It’s possible that none of these mats are actually toxin-free!  It’s all marketing speak that means nothing. I will outline the problems with each of these bullet points.

Eco-friendly manufacturing processes. A phrase that could mean anything. It could mean that they recycle the trash in their break room. It could mean that they use low-flow toilets at the manufacturing plant. Or that they have an LEED-certified building. It could ideally mean that the plant producing the mats disposes of waste properly. That would be nice. However, “proper” disposal of chemicals does not equal ethical or environmentally friendly — remember that it is often perfectly legal to dump your toxic sludge into ponds and lakes as long as you have the proper permits. There is a huge amount of leeway in the claim of eco-friendly manufacturing, so much that it literally means nothing to me when making the decision to purchase the mat or not.

Biodegradable mat. There’s also a lot of wiggle room here because the most common phrase is “biodegradable components”. Meaning that only a percentage of the components used in the mat might be biodegradable. It might be 10%, 20% or even 50%. And perhaps it’s 100% — great! But I still want to know what chemicals the surface contains, regardless of whether they biodegrade.

Of course I want to buy a mat that is environmentally responsible in both manufacturing process and when it comes to the end-of-life of the mat (i.e., I want it to be fully biodegradable without leeching toxins in the breakdown process). But equally or more important is avoiding toxic chemicals coming off the mat when I’m using it.

PVC free. Definitely something I look for, but unless the company discloses what the mat IS made of, it’s not enough. The most common alternatives to PVC in a yoga mat are polyurethane (a highly off-gassing plastic, see the paragraph about phthalates, below), or Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPEs). TPE is a blanket term for any number of materials.  Here is a breakdown of all the materials that fall under the name TPE, including some forms of PVC! So just because the mat claims to be PVC-free doesn’t actually mean that it is. Even if the TPE’s used are PVC-free, they are wide open to contain plastics with phthalates.

Free of the Big 6 phthalates. Phthalates are a big deal to me because they are hormone disrupting chemicals. They are most often inhaled through the off-gassing of plastics, because most plastic contains chemical phthalates for softness and flexibility. Throughout the lifetime of a plastic, the surface constantly releases these chemicals as the material slowly breaks down. Plastics are not stable chemical products — you may have noticed that plastic becomes more brittle as it ages, due to the phthalates leaching out as the chemicals return to their original states. The phthalates released from plastics are not only inhaled, but also absorbed by the skin. The feet have the most pores in the body, and our feet are in constant contact with a yoga mat. So avoiding phthalates in your yoga mat is VERY IMPORTANT!

There are hundreds of chemicals in the phthalate family. The EU has identified 6 phthalates that pose such a severe risk that they have been banned in EU countries. They have not been banned in the US. While it’s definitely a positive step for a company to make a mat without the top 6 most toxic phthalates, it doesn’t mean they didn’t use the hundreds of other phthalates available. So the marketing tactic of avoiding the Big 6 is really not enough to protect our health on the mat.

In the end, I have come back to the conclusion that I came to when I bought my current mat several years ago: the only truly non-toxic mat is one that is made of pure natural rubber. The prAna Indigena mat is one option, but the other mats prAna makes, including the E.C.O. mat, are not rubber. The not-so-E.C.O. is made of TPE’s and the prAna site contains no information regarding what components the company chose to use, whether PVC or phthalates or synthetic rubber.

I have finally settled on a Manduka eKo Lite mat, which I have experienced at the studio where I practice. It is all rubber but a tad lighter (~ 1-2 lbs lighter) than my current mat. It is, unfortunately, about the same thickness. I will definitely be bringing my grippy yoga towel (affiliate link) to sit on, and looking for another one at local stores.

What yoga mat to do you use and why? Do you know what your mat is made of?
 

Don’t Deny Americans the Right to Know – defeat the DARK Act

Stop the DARK Act - HR 4432 will prevent GMO labeling at the Federal level effectively killing all GMO Labeling efforts in the states. Take action today! | Living Consciously Blog

If I told you that there is actually bill in the U.S. Senate right now designed to prevent us from knowing what is in the food we eat, would you believe me? Or would you say this is some kind of crazy scare tactic, and that it could never happen in the USA?

Unfortunately, this is happening. It’s an example of just how much money Big Agriculture have invested that they were able to lobby our Senators to even propose such a bill and bring it to a vote. Here are the portions of H.R. 4432 that I find most concerning:

Preempts any state or local requirement respecting a bioengineered organism intended for a food use or application, or food produced from, containing, or consisting of a bioengineered organism.

Sets forth standards for any food label that contains claims that bioengineering was or was not used in the production of the food. Preempts any state and local labeling requirements with respect to bioengineered food.

Requires the Secretary to issue regulations setting standards for a natural claim on food labels. Preempts any state or local regulations that are not identical to the requirements of this Act.

Per the bold text (my emphasis) above, not only will this legislation prevent genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from being labeled in the U.S, but it will also automatically invalidate any mandatory labeling laws that have already been passed in individual states. H.R. 4432 has been nicknamed “The DARK Act” – Denying Americans the Right to Know what is in our food. As of the publication of this post, more than 70 initiatives to label GMOs have been introduced in over 30 states (source). Clearly, Americans want to know what is in our food. I know I do!

And it’s not an unrealistic request — foods that are manufactured by major food brands here in the U.S. are already exported to Europe with slightly different labeling to meet the GMO labeling requirements in other countries. See picture proof of different labels for the same products manufactured in the same American factories in this post. So the objection that GMO labeling will be “cost prohibitive” is false because major brands are already labeling their products for sale in Europe. They actually spend more money producing dual labeling now than they would if they labeled the products the same way in all countries.

We need to come together to speak out against this legislation.

If you’ve followed me long, you know that I rarely ask you to take advocacy action. There are so many important ways to be involved that it’s often difficult to take a stand on just one. So I save my social media and blogging influence for when it really matters. I believe that this really matters and that now is the time to act.

2 ways you can help

1. Sign the petition hosted by JustLabelIt.org. There is a handy option on the site where you can provide your address and automatically generate an email to your Senator(s). I did this from my iPhone in less than 5 minutes. [NOTE: In Texas, you will be asked to specify the topic of your email in a form – choose “Agriculture”]

2. Call your Senator personally. Our advocacy experts tell us that calling a Senator’s office personally holds so much more weight than a petition or even an email. Staffers take detailed notes of each call, so be polite and brief, but be honest and firm. Tell them why you care. They need to know we are serious! Use WhoIsMyRepresentative.com to find their phone number. I will update this post with a link to talking points when I have it. Until then, be authentic. Speak from the heart.

BONUS: Share on social media.
Facebook: follow and Share posts by JustLabelIt.org and Mamavation
Twitter: follow and retweet posts by JustLabelIt.org, Mamavation, and myself. @ your Senator, if you can!

Use the following hashtags: #StoptheDARKAct #WeekofAction

If you join me, please let me know! Join my Facebook group to discuss it or tweet at me! Thanks for sharing!