Roasted, Lightly Salted Brazil Nuts—The Gift that Saves the Amazon Rainforest!



Need an easy gift for someone at the office, a neighbor, teacher or dear friend? Here’s one that has the added bonus of helping to save areas of the Amazon Rainforest: Brazil nuts!

You’ll be giving something really special as Brazil nuts are deliciously decadent, healthy and most of all, meaningful. Better yet, it takes very little time to salt and roast them in the oven to bring out their unique flavor.

But first, here’s the 411 on the Brazil nut-Amazon rainforest saving connection…

How Giving Brazil Nuts Saves the Rainforest

Brazil nut trees have a unique distinction that makes them important to the preservation of the Amazon rainforest — they flourish only in the Amazon’s untouched rainforest. Growing Brazil nut trees is quite difficult. Cultivation requires a particular species of bee as well as unique soil-content characteristics.  Accordingly, attempts to cultivate Brazil nut trees on plantations have largely failed with only a few exceptions. Basically, if you want to harvest Brazil nuts, you can only do it in healthy tropical Amazon rainforest. That’s the great news. A thriving Brazil nut trade keeps significant areas of the Amazon rainforest intact! In fact, Brazil nuts are considered the most viable non-timber forest product (NTFP) in the Amazon, and they are the only wild-harvested tree nut in the world. Simply buying them helps support this mutually beneficial trade.

Brazil Nuts are Exotic, Delicious and Healthy!

Brazil nuts make a great gift because they come from the exotic Amazon rainforest and they are both delicious ad healthy. You can chop and add them to salads, pasta or rice dishes, baked goods, cereals, and sauces or have them by themselves as a snack. My personal favorite way to enjoy them is by adding them to chocolate chip cookies. Yum!

The Brazil nut holds a treasure trove of nutrition too! Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, copper, magnesium, fiber, vitamin E, amino acids, and essential fatty acids. They are one of the few nuts to have enough amino acids to make a complete protein (important to vegans and important in a snack). The fiber adds to a feeling of fullness, and selenium is a powerful antioxidant that is believed to help protect against breast and prostate cancer. One Brazil nut contains 780 percent of the U.S. selenium recommended daily allowance!

All you have to do is stop by your local health food or grocery store and pick up a pound or two of Brazil nuts (preferably organic). Come home and spread them out on a couple of cookie sheets. Preheat the oven to 375°, drizzle some high quality virgin olive oil on the nuts and sprinkle them lightly with sea salt or Himalayan salt and slip them in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Take them out; let them cool, and voila! You’ve got your nuts ready to go. Just fill them into a few canisters, boxes or mason jars that you can pretty with a red or green ribbon and you have several lovely, personal gifts.

The Gift that Gives

Enjoy Brazil nuts this holiday season whether giving them or eating them personally, and take extra pleasure in knowing that you are feeding your body something good as well as helping to bring sustainable income to those who live in the Amazon, which helps preserve the greatest rainforest on earth!


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Get In the Flow, Get It Done! Amazon/Machu Picchu Writing Adventure!

Hey, check out my new writing workshop next summer in the Peruvian  Amazon and Machu Picchu. Here’s the description and a link to ACEER–the group sponsoring it.

Get in the Flow/Get it Done: A Creative Writing Workshop

This workshop will be led by Kim Henderson. Kim is an award-winning environmental author, reporter and seasoned publishing professional. Having met hundreds of deadlines as both a writer and magazine editor, she knows how to manage the creative process to completion. She uniquely encourages writers to spend time in nature and practice informal meditation as sources of both inspiration and restoration. And by setting doable writing commitments, she helps writers get in the flow. She gets writers writing—and writing to completion. As Kim notes, “You can think it and you can feel it, but if you don’t put in into words, it will never delight, inform or move another human being—or shape our world. My job is to empower the writer to commit to the process and get words on the page. The rest falls into place.”

Kim spent three years researching the impact western lifestyle choices have on tropical rainforests as well as the deep connection and dependence westerners have on the rainforest for survival. She discovered the power consumers have to shape environmental practices in tropical regions and to bring income to impoverished communities. But perhaps most importantly for this workshop, she experienced firsthand the effects the tropical rainforest have on the human spirit. “The rainforest connects us to our primal roots. What’s essential comes to the surface. You cannot spend time in the rainforest and leave unchanged. You hear your own voice clearly and find new inspiration. What’s more, in this workshop, you will literally ascend from the Amazon to the heights of Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas!”

A final itinerary and cost will be posted here soon, so please check back. In the meantime, additional details can be obtained from ACEER

Link to ACEER:

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Writing Workshop Series with Kim Henderson

Come join my next writing workshop in Thousand Oaks, CA on November 22! It will get you writing!

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Getting Hip to the Rainforest Destructive Nature of Rayon


The Rainforest Action Network’s recent launch of its new campaign “Out of Fashion—A Campaign for Forest-Friendly Fabrics” got me thinking that it’s a good time to share a chapter from my book about rayon. Aside from one type of rayon that is more eco-friendly, the production of this textile is hugely destructive to tropical rainforests particularly in Southeast Asia. The problem is that many of us Westerners unwittingly feed this destructive trade with everyday clothing purchases. Awareness can reverse this issue—so please share this freely with as many people as possible.




Who would think that something as innocuous as a rayon Hawaiian-print shirt might be linked to rainforest destruction? But indeed it is. Many of us have no idea that rayon—this seemingly harmless textile so popular in warm-weather clothing—is made from wood or pulp through an intensive chemical process, requiring vast amounts of water. Rayon is not a natural fiber, yet it’s not completely synthetic either. It’s a hybrid of sorts or what’s called a semisynthetic fiber derived from a reaction of carbon disulfide and cellulose (sourced from wood pulp) through a long and intensive chemical process. Unfortunately, in tropical areas, the wood pulp comes from either healthy or degraded rainforest or deforested areas replaced with tree plantations. The tropical rainforests of Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries provide an ideal habitat for rayon mills, as environmental laws are not strictly enforced and there’s an abundance of cheap labor, water and wood sources, making it a top supplier, followed closely by Japan and Korea.


Conservation groups are very concerned about existing rayon mills and their continued expansion. “Rayon mills are rapidly destroying native rainforests and coastal mangroves and causing grave water and air pollution problems in many places, “ reports “The rayon mills are huge consumers of rainforests,” adds Borneo Orangutan Survival.


These rayon mills are affecting the habitats of endangered species such as the Sumatran tiger, rhino, elephant and orangutan—as well as the livelihoods of subsistence farmers and locals who depend on the forest for survival. Chemical byproducts from rayon mills such as zinc and hydrogen sulfide are emitted into the air and wastewater, which find their way into the surrounding environment and drinking water.


Rayon mills are inherently unhealthy for workers due to chemical exposure. Studies of the impact of exposure to carbon disulfide on rayon plant workers have revealed that the risk of death from cardiovascular causes is greatly increased (as much as two to three times fatality risk) if the levels of this toxin are high, according to a Super Eco report. Labor abuses have been an issue as well, according to reports from the organization Down to Earth.


But perhaps what’s most detrimental of all is the disappearing forest and degraded forest replaced by tree plantations to feed the rayon mills’ incessant need for wood. Local populations that depend on the forest for food and other resources are displaced. And as journalist Chris Lang has argued, what some rayon manufacturers and governments define as “degraded” forest is actually quite viable, providing many resources to local populations. While the industry and government may accept eucalyptus plantations as “reforestation,” the experience of locals whom Lang has interviewed shows that plantations offer very little in the way of resources to locals compared to even the most degraded forest.




You can help rainforests and those who are suffering directly from their loss by simply avoiding rayon. Rayon can look like silk, wool, cotton and linen. Check labels when purchasing clothing, linens, drapery, pillows—any item involving textiles.


It can be tricky to identify rayon sometimes, because it has several names and some safe textiles have names that sound like rayon. For instance, in Europe, rayon is more commonly called viscose or viscose rayon. And acetate rayon is actually not rayon made from wood, but rayon made from cotton that is not destructive to rainforests—so it is okay. There are some trade names for different types of rayon as well. Bemberg is the trade name for cuprammonium rayon, produced in Italy. It is the most chemical-intensive form of rayon and a good one to avoid, whether produced in tropical environments or not. Tencel is the trade name for lyocell rayon produced in a nontoxic organic solvent solution that’s reclaimed and recycled in a closed-loop spinning process that conserves both energy and water. The wood pulp is sourced most often from eucalyptus plantations certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). It’s a better choice than rayon, but we are hesitant to heartily recommend it as tree plantations are not equivalent to forests.


To summarize, these are the most common names for rayon and should be avoided:


•           Rayon

•           Viscose

•           Viscose rayon

•           Bemberg

These types of rayon are better choices:


•           Tencel (the more eco-friendly type of rayon)

•           Acetate rayon (made from cotton, not wood pulp)


Look for organic cotton, linen, washable silk or hemp instead of rayon. These textiles will keep you as cool as rayon in the warmer months—and you’ll be additionally cool for avoiding harming rainforests!



Here’s a link to RAN—join the campaign:


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Personal Care for the Rainforest!

While taking action to save our rainforests is a serious matter, it can also be fun and easy when you make it a simple part of your everyday life. For instance, there’s nothing like luxuriating your body with the rich oils, tropical scents and restorative herbs that are sustainably extracted from rainforest botanicals. Yes, simply doing this regularly is a fantastic rainforest-saving action you can take that will make you feel great inside and out!

So here’s the scoop…

The rainforest is rich with plants and herbs containing rejuvenating, healing properties for beautiful hair and skin. Responsible manufacturers are finding that sustainably extracting beautifying rainforest botanicals for their shampoos, body washes, soaps and moisturizers can be both profitable and impactful in the fight against deforestation. When you buy these types of products, new revenue streams are created for sustainable extraction of non-timber forest products from the rainforest. It helps to make the rainforest more valuable alive and intact than logged and cleared for cattle grazing and agriculture. For oftentimes poverty-stricken and desperate local populations and indigenous tribes, it means maintaining their way of life. In fact, the more ways these people have to make a living from the rainforest without destroying it, the more likely the rainforest will be preserved.

Here’s what you do…

Use personal-care products made from sustainably extracted rainforest botanicals! The key is finding quality products that work and that truly benefit the rainforest. These types of products are increasingly more available. You can find them online and at beauty-supply stores, pharmacies, department stores and health food stores.


To get you started, here are several companies that are making fine personal-care products and helping rainforests:




This is a fantastic story. Ojon, a Canadian beauty-care company (within the Estée Lauder Companies), sources wild-crafted ojon palm nut oil (the foundation of the entire hair-care line) from the Tawira people of northeastern Honduras. The Tawira, known as “the people of beautiful hair,” have harvested the rare oil from the ojon tree, which grows in this area, for centuries. A partnership with the Rainforest Alliance and the Mosquitia Pawisa Agency for the Development of the Honduras Mosquitia (MOPAWI), a local nonprofit group that works on behalf of indigenous communities in the region, ensures sustainable extraction, fair wages and rights to their resources for the Tawira as well as the Miskitos, Tawahkas, and Pech—other local indigenous tribes. The ojon oil and other ingredients such as cacao and swa oil are collected in a handcrafted process consistent with ancestral practices. Ojon products are pricey, but the customer reviews I saw were mostly favorable.


Alba Botanica


Alba Botanica has an entire line of rainforest skin and hair-care products. The Andiroba and Brazil nut oils it sources from the rainforest are certified by the Rainforest Alliance to Forest Stewardship Council standards. Alba Botanica also supports rainforest education and sustainability through the AmazonCenter for Environmental Education and Research. These products are widely available at health food stores and beauty stores. They are reasonably priced.




The owner and founder of Alaffia, Olowo-n’djo Tchala, was born and raised in Togo, Africa. His vision for the company was not only to create quality, natural products, but to help the women of Togo on the West African coast. And that he has done. Women source most of the ingredients sustainably, earning fair wages. Although shea nuts, the main ingredient used in Alaffia’s body-care products, are sourced from wild trees of the African savanna, not the rainforest, we include this company anyway as some of its ingredients, such as Kpangnan butter from the African butter tree, are sustainably sourced from the rainforest. Ten percent of Alaffia’s sales go toward community enhancement projects in Togo, West Africa and locally in Washington state, where the company is headquartered. These products are traditionally handcrafted, organic and effective. Their uniqueness and far-reaching positive impact on African women’s lives make them wonderful gifts too.


The Body Shop


The Body Shop has had a long-term commitment to fair trade that goes back nearly 20 years. Roughly 25,000 people in more than 20 countries now receive fair wages and working conditions thanks to consumer purchases. Some of these people are sourcing ingredients from tropical areas, giving them a viable alternative to rainforest-destructive activities.


The Body Shop products containing cocoa butter and Brazil nut oil are helping to preserve the rainforest.


The cocoa beans used to make cocoa butter come from the Kuapa Kokoo company in Ghana, a fair trade cooperative with more than 30,000 small-scale farmers. The money made by the cooperative enables the development of community projects such as schools and village wells in addition to providing the farmers with income to support their families. Many women now have been empowered and participate in the cooperative. The Body Shop gets community trade brazil nut oil from Peru, sourced through a unique fair trade program which ensures all producers and workers are paid a fair and living wage. The nuts are harvested from small farms and grown using traditional techniques, allowing the farmers to earn a fair income from an activity that fits their traditional way of life.


Another excellent skin care line that benefits the rainforest is called  Amazon Rain (formerly Lluvia) from the Amazon Herb Company. Each product is made with sustainably extracted organic and wild-crafted botanicals that are collected by workers from Amazon communities who are paid fair wages. A percentage of Amazon Rain profits helps fund the AmazonCenter for Environmental Education and Research.


There are loads of terrific products out there. Natural health retailers have fantastic personal-care product departments usually with knowledgeable staff available to help you. Ask them about products that benefit the rainforest and have fun exploring them.


There’s nothing more beautiful than pampering your body with products that keep the welfare of the rainforest and its people in mind!




Mostly hair-care and a few body-care products

Available online, on QVC,

at Sephora and fine

beauty-supply retailers


Alba Botanica

Available at Whole Foods and other fine health retailers



Available at  Whole Foods and other fine health retailers


The Body Shop




Alba Botanica


The Body Shop

Amazon Rain




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