Culture

Your ‘Palo Santo-Burning’ Habit Is Causing The Deforestation Of What Indigenous Communities Consider A Sacred Tree

With #Selfcare culture in full swing, Palo Santo has become quite the sensation when it comes to wellness. Instagram users and influencers have been quick to popularize alternative methods of self-care and taking them to the masses —eg. “Cleanse yourself of bad vibes and let the good ones flow in.”

In recent years people have been flocking to crystal shops, yoga studios, shamans and whatnot, to grow their stash of healing and instagram-worthy veladoras, sage bundlescrystalsand other elements of ancient indigenous cultures’ traditions. Well, turns out that one of these ‘trendy’ items is Palo Santo, and the demand for it has started to affect communities and ecosystems —so how about we read about it before we keep ignorantly burning what is an ancient ‘holy’ plant to some communities.  

First off, what even is Palo Santo? 

Palo Santo, is a tree found in Ecuador and Peru. Other varieties of the tree are found in parts of Beazil. Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia. Palo Santo, which is Spanish for ‘holy stick’, is a sacred tree for indigenous communities and their sacred practices. Shamans traditionally burn Palo Santo sticks in bundles, to cleanse their space and ward off spirits —a tradition which has been commodified and appropriated by self appointed shamans  in the west. 

The ‘holy stick’ has many therapeutic benefits.

The therapeutic benefits of Palo Santo are many— the tree is actually medicinal and healing. The only way to get the full benefit of this tree though, is by letting it die naturally, and allowing it a four to ten year resting period on the forest floor. The highest quality oils form in the aged heartwood, which is used in sacred ceremonies and to heal by specific local cultures.

Why is it a bad thing that we’re all burning it?

Credit: vidaconsciente / Instagram

“Cleanse yourself of bad vibes” read countless marketing emails announcing the cleansing properties of ‘Palo Santo’. For a few years now, wellness, beauty and homeware brands have been betting on the “good vibes” that are welcomed into your space by Palo Santo. 

What is a sacred and holy plant to some indigenous communities has now turned into an indie shop trinket. Sacred bundles of Palo Santo can be found everywhere from Urban Outfitters to farmer’s markets, and of course, your Instagram feed. It’s become commonplace to stop scrolling through selfies and vacation posts to see a photo of crystals, sage, and Palo Santo neatly arranged against some marble-top, basic af, backdrop. Sample caption: “Good Vibes Only.”

We should all know better by now. But if you don’t? Consider this your official notice: It’s time to stop burning Palo Santo. Here’s why.

1. It. Is. SACRED.

It is simply problematic to take an element of someone else’s culture simply because you like how it smells, it calms you or because everyone on instagram is doing it. It basically qualifies as cultural appropriation.

Not only are we picking and choosing part of Indigenous cultures that we like, while turning a blind eye to the things we don’t like, trends like this negate the actual importance behind the practice. We’ve turned something sacred into a commercial commodity. And ignoring the meaning that cultures have appointed to Palo Santo for hundreds of years further robs these sacred cultures of their revered traditions.

2.  The Palo Santo tree is currently endangered —and it’s on a watch-list. 

There are no more than 250 mature Palo Santo trees in the wild at the moment. And According to the United Plant Savers Medicinal Plant Conservation, those numbers are plummeting. While the tree is not extinct, it has been added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) list due to the over-harvesting that its been subjected to, which can lead to extinction. 

Fun fact: According to sacred beliefs; in order to gain the actual benefit of the tree, a Palo Santo tree should never be cut down, and it should not be sold as a commodity —LOL we’ve played ourselves. If you buy Palo Santo wood from ANY source, then you are contributing to the economic incentive that drives deforestation.

3. Burning the wood without being mindful of how it landed in your #selfcare kit, is the opposite of woke.

Acknowledging Indigenous communities, their traditions and rules when using the plant is key. Working with these communities, establishing a relationship and supporting their livelihood matters. However, most brands either don’t care about the process or have no idea where or how they get their Palo Santo.

There are many alternatives you can use for space cleansing, or for creating a calming atmosphere —just steer clear of Palo Santo and Sage, another vastly appropriated plant. If you find that you want to burn herbs for their beneficial properties, look for alternatives that you can use that don’t affect Indigenous rituals or that harm the earth. 

You can always use herbs that are aligned with your unique heritage and ancestry. Look into your own heritage to participate and continue your rituals. The best thing to do is source herbs that are grown locally, or even better; grow your own!

Fashion Is The Second Most Polluting Industry In The World —And It’s Turning To Food Waste To Cut Down On Emissions

Fierce

Fashion Is The Second Most Polluting Industry In The World —And It’s Turning To Food Waste To Cut Down On Emissions

@recycle1az / Instagram

The world is in a dreadful mess if you haven’t noticed. And —surprise, surprise— a lot of it is caused by the fashion industry. Apparel and footwear production accounts for 8.1% of global greenhouse emissions —or as much as the total climate impact of the entire European Union. The current fast fashion “only wear it once” mentality is causing an unprecedented strain on the planet’s resources. And a few brands are taking note of the magnitude of the problem and see an opportunity. 

Both Fashion and the food industries are greatly responsible for an unprecedented strain on the planet’s resources.

twitter @seotaijilads

Analysts warn that the fashion market’s annual 5% growth is straining planetary resources “at an unprecedented level,” by raising production to more than 100 million tons by 2030. For those of us who don’t know, ’Fast Fashion’ can be defined as ‘the cheap, disposable clothing, made indiscriminately, imprudently and often without consideration for environmental and labor conditions’ by the companies we all love —like Zara, H&M, Forever 21 and Fashion Nova— it’s a disease and both the planet and the people are facing the consequences. 

Added on to the damage that fashion production causes, there’s the case of food production and waste. 

twitter @ajplus

Around the world, people eat around 100 billion bananas every year. That creates around 270 million tons of waste–from peels to stalks–which are often burned or left to rot. Crop burning pollutes the air, and rotting releases methane into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming. But here’s where we have good news; a few masterminds of the sustainable fashion industry took into consideration the magnitude of this waste and saw an opportunity. 

Single-use plastics and discarded fishing nets were among the first materials to be recycled into luxury products, but now it’s food waste that’s getting the sustainable spin. 

instagram @veja

US designer Mara Hoffman crafts all her buttons from tree nuts, while Hugo Boss and Veja sell sneakers made from repurposed pineapple leaves and corn starch, and Italian start-up Orange Fiber makes silk from scraps of citrus peel which has been used for Salvatore Ferragamo’s slinky floral printed scarves and dresses. 

The true pioneer of sustainable —and luxury— fashion is Stella McCartney who launched her eponymous line in 2001. 

instagram @stellamccartney

As one of the industry’s most vocal champions of environmental issues, McCartney is a strong example of the commercial potential of sustainable, ethically minded businesses. Sustainability —and an ethical standpoint— shapes the company’s policies, its underlying business model and its brand message.

Stella McCartney opted out of using animal-derived materials such as leather, silk, wool, etc. for ethical reasons as well as for the environmental impact their production causes. 

instagram @stellamccartney

The environmentally conscious brand makes buttery vegan leathers out of mushrooms. For spring/summer 2019, McCartney offered gauzy vests and T-shirts crafted from vegan silk made from yeast, and leather trousers in earthy mustards and burgundy hues.

Food waste is definitely on-trend right now.

instagram @clos19official

The huge luxury conglomerate who owns brands like Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Fendi —to name a few—LVMH, has teamed up with London charity Refettorio Felix for their ‘wine and spirits platform Clos19’ and host super fancy “supper clubs” where stellar chefs serve up three-course dinners using only waste produce — tickets cost £90, and each event sells out almost instantly. 

It’s a movement happening across different lifestyle categories from dining to beauty and fashion. “Food waste is definitely trending right now,” says Lisa Carolan, founder of the first waste-free wellness resort Our Retreat, in Sardinia; she introduced a waste-free policy after discovering that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted annually. 

The growing demand for natural skincare and plastic-free packaging has seen the beauty industry wake up to waste too.

twitter @marieclaireuk

Earlier this year, The Body Shop unveiled a collection of cleansers and moisturizers crafted from organic, “ugly” carrots that are too crooked to be sold in supermarkets. UK beauty brand, Cowshed, makes its packaging from repurposed sugar cane while London-based brands UpCircle and MontaMonta have both partnered with coffee shops across the British capital to turn used coffee grounds into scrubs and serums that are sold at Cult Beauty and Liberty. 

Fashion brands will find that if they choose to use food waste, ‘The supply of material is plentiful.’ 

twitter @macrostar

Data proving that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted annually also predicts that the figure is expected to rise to 2.2 billion by 2025 —according to the United Nations. Other statistics say that one-third of the food grown or produced in the world is discarded. “The supply of material is plentiful,” says Tom Broughton, founder of London-based eyewear Cubitts and a pioneer in the design of sustainable eyewear. 

Cubitts produces opticals and sunglasses crafted from waste materials like corn husks and mushrooms. The specs even look like they’re made from wood, mais non, they’re made from corn starch. The brown finish is added from…wait for it… potatoes and coffee grounds. 

In recent years, as the fashion industry has started to acknowledge, and wake up to the impact it has on the planet —aka. being the second most polluting industry after oil production— sustainability has become a buzzword, and the only way out. It’s encouraging to see that brands are taking serious steps in innovation to mitigate their negative impact on the planet. And just as fashion brands and designers are opting to see the value in waste rather than the waste in it, consumers also need to take their share of responsibility and shop with awareness and ethics.

25 Witchy Tattoos To Wear Your Magia On Your Skin

Fierce

25 Witchy Tattoos To Wear Your Magia On Your Skin

@thehoodwitch / Instagram

If you’re a mystical mami looking for some ink inspo, we got you covered. From tiny crystal balls and Amethyst to sage and potions, these bruja-inspired tats will always remind you of the intuitive goddess you are.

Whether you’re a spell-casting badass, a tarot reader or simply a spiritual boss, these are the perfect designs to adorn your skin with magia.

1. This brujita soldadera, though.

(Instagram: @themexicanwitch)

2. We only see beauty in this witch’s hands.

(Instagram: thehoodwitch)

3. Explore your vision.

(Instagram: @charlie_crayons)

4. It’s in the cards.

(Instagram: @witchpoison)

5. Instill a sober mind with Amethyst.

(Instagram: @lethal.red)

6. Gaze into the crystal ball.

(Instagram: @anahiroart)

7. Femme brujita aesthetics.

(Image: @authenticarttatoo)

8. Cleanse the air of impurities.

(Instagram: @ebtattooing)

9. Heartbreak is inevitable, but you will heal.

(Instagram: @katiecaintattoos)

10. Eye of Horus

(Instagram: @l.lia.i)

11. Sage and Amethyst, what a lovely combination.

(Instagram: @sammiestattoostudio)

12. Magia is beautiful.

(Instagram: @cosmicjourneytarot)

13. Good ol’ Liquid Luck

(Instagram: alexiscraneart)

14. Amantes

(Instagram: hanahelizabethtattoo)

15. Grow every single day.

(Instagram: @twiglingss)

16. Bruja de nopales

(Instagram: @harmony805)

17. Complexities of the heart.

(Instagram: @gabrilandia)

18. Light your velas.

(Instagram: @dannibeebooth)

19. That tarot is sacred.

(Instagram: @alejo_artt)

20. Cleanse your aura and clear your space .

(Instagram: @billiejean_tattoos)

21. Look into your future and see choice.

(Instagram: @lamalart)

22. Floral witch.

(Instagram: @blacklanterntattoo)

23. Charmed for life.

(Instagram: @catsandlotls)

24. Last quarter.

(Instagram: @wwzacaria)

25. Peace and balance is ahead of you.

(Instagram: @kiarnatattoos)

Read: These Brujas Will Turn Your Instagram Feed Into A Space For Healing And Spiritual Guidance

Show us a photo of your bruja tat in the comments!