When we think of biomes, we think of large areas of Earth that have distinctive physical characteristics, like the desert, rainforest, or grasslands. However, there is one biome that we don’t think of much: ourselves. That’s right; our bodies are biomes. We each contribute to our biome. However, some of us do not understand that our contributions to our biomes negatively affect others. When you do not learn about your biome, you could be negatively affecting it in ways that you may not even understand.
Skincare company Crude and cannabis education and advocacy organization Humble Bloom collaborated to put on a summit on April 6. Entitled “Balancing The Biome Summit,” this summit invited people to learn more about their own personal biome, the biomes of others, and how we all contribute to the biome we live in. Experts and advocates came together with viewers to help share their knowledge on sustainability, the science of our microbiome, getting activists together, and how what happens to us as children can change us.
In Conversation One: Science of Bacteria
Panelists Dr. Kristin Neumann, a microbiologist and founder of the science education website MyMicrobiome.info, and Dr. Cindy M. Duke, founding physician of the Nevada Fertility Institute and America’s only dual fertility expert and virologist, gathered with moderator and Crude founder Denise Cartwright to speak about how we need to change our routines to better take better care of our biome—or, as Kristin and Cindy call it, our “microbiome”—and how to navigate an ongoing pandemic without damaging our microbiome.
Our microbiome takes place both within and on the surface of our bodies. We are covered in bacteria, but, as Dr. Cindy M. Duke pointed out, they are not always bad bacteria. They help make up our microbiome. However, there can be issues with good bacteria, and Dr. Duke spoke upon the necessity that we all need to move away from the language of “good” and “bad” to transition to focusing on speaking about personal balance within our microbiome. We each have a specific balance of bacteria within our microbiome that differs for each person based on genetics.
Most people do not understand how to take care of their microbiome, and this includes how we clean our bodies. We want to make sure our routines, application of body products, and exposure to outside sources are not hurting our microbiome by throwing off our balance. Your skin is supposed to be acidic. However, if you use a large number of harsh soaps, wash your hands too often or use hand sanitizer too much, you will end up stripping your skin of its natural acid. This throws off the balance in a very negative way.
Washing our hands and applying hand sanitizer frequently a ton is something we are all doing nowadays. We find ourselves leaving grocery stores and quickly sanitizing to keep us safe. Then, even when we get home, we may wash our hands constantly or find ourselves showering multiple times a day because we feel as though it will help prevent us from contracting COVID-19. We must understand that viruses are not living outside; they only begin living when they are inside of your bodies and in a cell. Preventing yourself from contracting the virus is necessary, but there are certain ways to do so that will also protect your microbiome. Using a mask and not touching your face is the most important way. Preventing the virus from entering your body is also important. Finally, make sure to wash your hands over using disinfectant if that is possible for you. By following these steps, you can protect your health without endangering it in other ways.
Panel + Q&A: Building A Better Biome
Leah Thomas, the founder of the environmental media hub Intersectional Environmentalist, moderated a fascinating conversation between digital creator and photojournalist Aditi Mayer, environmental educator Isais Hernandez, and sustainable living entrepreneur Jhánneu Roberts at the summit. These knowledgeable activists, experts, and panelists spoke about how we play a key role in keeping our environment safe (our “environmental biomes,” we can call them), and they provided insights into how people can move toward a more sustainable lifestyle.
We may have heard about sustainability and how we must understand that sustainability starts with our community. Even though you might see action within your community, you still must be one to take action within your own life. Not only must we work to sustain our environment; we must work toward a more sustainable lifestyle for ourselves. A sustainable lifestyle should also mean prioritizing your mental health and creating healthy boundaries for your life. Setting work boundaries is a priority amid the shift for those who are working from home. Before smartphones and other current technologies, when you were off the clock, you did not have to work. Now we are being called upon to do tasks at all hours of the day. This is damaging to our mental health. We must set boundaries within our work environment and assert that we will not be available after hours and before work starts, especially if we are not being paid for overtime hours. Problems can be solved within your work hours; they should not be damaging your mental health on your own time.
We also must educate people on what is damaging the earth past what meets the eye. It was spoken about within the panel that we know plastic is very bad for the environment, yet some do not know the history and process of how plastic can hurt the environment even before it ends up in a landfill. The plastics industry is not only harming the environment but is also hurting Black and Brown communities, “Low-income communities, including those in San Diego, are targeted with more plastic packaging and single-use products that end up polluting neighborhoods and waterways” says Linda Rodriguez and Vincent Ha in their article on the plastics industry.
Panel and Q&A II: Connections From Birth to Earth: Restore, Repair, and Replenish
Kimberly Seals Allers, an award-winning journalist, and creator of the Black-focused prenatal and birthing app IRTH fostered a powerful conversation with panelists Eric Mosley, founder of Black Mat Yoga; childbirth educator and doula Jillian Christofferson; and Hannah Kleinfeld, Chief Operating Officer of AllergoSan USA, responsible for introducing probiotic company OMNi-BiOTiC® to the United States. Kimberly Seals Allers spoke about a vital period within the journey between mother and child: breast or bottle/formula feeding. This is an intimate decision, but some favor one over the other for an array of reasons. We can gather from the obvious absence of less plastic shows that breastfeeding is better for the environment but not all parents have the ability or desire to breastfeed so there are ways for them to help make sure they are using as little plastic as possible throughout the bottle/formula process.
Jillian Christofferson is a birth worker, and she took time within the panel to talk about how people can help new parents. We need to support each other within our communities, especially in these hard times. When it comes to parents who recently had children, don’t just ask if they need any help because most will thank you but never take you up on it because these gestures are too vague and passive. Instead, do active things to help them. Drop off food for the parents and supplies for the baby. Offer your time after you have taken other actions. You never know when someone needs extra help, so it is best to be proactive within your community.
Balancing the Biome Summit took time to entertain viewers, help them relax, and inform them on how to actively help their biome become better, whether it be intrapersonally or interpersonally.