Biodiversity is the hallmark of a healthy ecosystem. The rain forests, the African savannahs - wherever there is a significant amount of biodiversity, you can be sure that the natural environment is running in top form and with little human interference. However, where human settlement encroaches, things often change, with habitat destruction as the seemingly inevitable result, and plummeting biodiversity just behind.
For those of us who live along Brussels' busy streets and its neighboring cities, Sunday, 18 September, began in a rather unusual way. Rather than waking to honking car horns or halting brakes, Brussels residents were greeted with quiet. If there was any noise to be heard, it was not from the typical cacophony of screeching engines and rattling old mufflers, but from the joyous notes of laughter shared by cycling families.
Last September 8, Sunbeams, in collaboration with the Jane Goodall Institute of Belgium and the Commune of Molenbeek, and with the support of a grant from Levi Strauss & Co., organized the Levi's Team Day. Several excited volunteers attended the event and spent the entire day cleaning up a park in Molenbeek, Brussels. It was a very typical Belgian day with lots of rain and a chill in the air, but the Levi's people showed up, ready to rock. They strapped on their gardening gloves and split into two groups for the cleanup. One group was in charge of clearing as much Japanese Nut Weed (a poisonous plant found growing on the property) as possible. While the other group, led by Sunbeams founder and president, Ilke, helped to improve the park by building an herb spiral.
Spend time in nature and you might just be curing what ails you. Easier said than done, you might say. After all, the weather in Belgium isn't always kind to those who spend time in the outdoors. Those gloomy grey skies with the ever present rain clouds? How can they amount to any good apart from keeping Belgium a very green place to live? And what about all the puddles, mud and cold weather? It doesn't sound like the recipe for a fun time (although you have to admit, it sure looks like fun when you see scouts running around in shorts and muddy boots in the parks on the weekends).
Now is your chance to introduce some healthy routines to help keep your child fit and in good health throughout the school year. You can plan routines for everything from physical activity and sleep, to healthy meals and snacks at home and at school. Incorporating some natural solutions can also keep those pesky lice bugs at bay!
"Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike."
Do you know who said this line? John F. Kennedy did. You, too, can enjoy this simple pleasure without even owning a bike. For a few years now, bicycle sharing schemes are popping up like mushrooms: more than 200 all over the world, according to the New Zealand Herald. Their aim is to make bicycling available for the masses at a reasonable price. This is intended as a contribution to "soft mobility" and as a complement to public transport. You can just go to one of the stations of the network and grab a bike whenever you need one. You pay for the time you use the bike and you don't have to worry about maintenance and repair. A study on Bicing, the sharing scheme in Barcelona, has even shown that "[as] a result of physical activity, 12.46 deaths were avoided [and] annual carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by an estimated 9 062 344 kg."
As a foreigner coming to Belgium, one of the first ‘checks’ I needed to make on my expat list was finding organic grocers and restaurants in Brussels. In my search, I discovered that Belgium has whole-heartedly embraced the au naturel food movement and has a well-established organic scene. Not only is Belgium one of the strictest European countries when it comes to monitoring the production of organic food, but it also has an abundance of delightful little restaurants and markets hidden all over its capital city, just waiting to serve you!
A second life
Do you want to get rid of something and it is still in good shape? Here are some options:
Summer is the season of abundance. We are spoilt for choice with wonderful fruits and vegetables full of juicy goodness. Now is a great time to head out to the local farmers markets and really experience the variety of the season with delicious, fresh local produce. For those who have yet to take the step to organic produce, summer is a great time to get healthy and start your adventures.
On a beautiful spring day, people of all ages and backgrounds planted the second Sunbeams forest in Belgium. International and Belgian schools, scout groups and girl guides, ambassadors and children, Belgian and expat organisations, all had the same task on that sunny day: to turn a meadow into a forest. Together, they planted 4300 trees in one day in the outskirts of a village called Oetingen (Gooik)!