January 2016

Off the Grid




Letting Mother Nature Work for You

An Alternative to Living Off the Grid

While some might imagine success as an enormous house with countless rooms and over-the-top amenities, some find that living within their means is the way to go. A recent trend with young first-time homebuyers is finding new and unique ways to live off nature and bring downsizing to the extreme.

Summer Stan recently downsized her family’s home by a third, currently living in a 1,000 square foot house. She and her family decided after overwhelming utility bills to take drastic action to cut costs and waste.Along with physically downsizing, Stan is involved in a permaculture club in hopes of reusing her family’s garbage to help grow her garden. Stan uses waste such as old fruits and vegetables as fertilizer for her crops that she and her family harvest.

The notion that people can live off the grid, away from “big brother,” is not entirely accurate.According to Joshua Gellers, a political science professor at the University of North Florida, “you are legally obligated to maintain a connection to the water supply, but it’s not necessarily the case that you need to be connected to the larger electricity grid.”



Gellers says local city ordinances require homeowners to be connected “to the grid” through utilities, but that nowhere does it say you must run the water or turn on the lights. You are not required to actually use the amenities, but due to safety and health concerns, you have to be connected.Since some homeowners are not required to be connected to local electric companies such as Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA), one possibility is utilizing sun power through solar panels.

A1A Solar is just one company that offers consultation and products for homes to help diversify energy consumption from simply local utilities, allowing homeowners to cut costs and reliance on the city.

Solar Panels.png

Pete Wilking, president and founder of A1A Solar, says that most times he meets with clients it is about compromise. While the idea of solar power can be fueled by the desire to be independent from JEA, some homes can only cut a portion of reliance from local energy utilities.


Due to many factors, including the size of the home and the budget of the homeowners, some families can cut 20 percent of their reliance, while others can fully cut away from the grid.


Alternative Fitness



A common theme among members of the First Coast community is the desire to better themselves, both physically and mentally. For many, traditional forms of fitness fail to keep them inspired, often preventing them from results they want to achieve. Staying motivated can be challenging, and finding what encourages you is an important part of keeping up with any fitness program.

Alternative fitness covers a variety of different methods, as many people realize that a disinteresting workout routine is an unnecessary burden toward getting in shape.For Sam Jubran and his son, Jonathan, staying fit is often a result of simply enjoying the great outdoors. On weekends, they can be found biking through the trails at one of Jacksonville’s local parks. “It’s very peaceful out here. It’s relaxing, and at the same time we get a lot of physical activity,”said Sam.Jonathan is involved in various other sports, but says mountain biking is his favorite activity because it works out his whole body.


The great part about alternative fitness is that the possibilities are endless. While some community members prefer to stay on two feet, others take the term alternative to more creative heights. Aerial silk is a form of fitness rooted in ancient chinese acrobatics, often taking its participants well over ten feet into the air. Performers learn to hold strenuous poses while grasping silken strands flowing from the ceiling, drawing from a whole set of muscles most people did not even imagine existed.

Tumbling, twisting, flipping and flying is part of the process. While aerial silk has traditionally been held by a closed group of acrobatic performers, it has been opened to anyone willing to give it a try in recent years.


However daring and intimidating some of the poses may seem, everyone has a starting point, and no one is expected to learn on their own.In fact, the aerial silk community is proud of the family feel everyone has come to experience while members push one another to learn new techniques.“The difference between us and a traditional gym are the different forms of training,” Summer Vyne said. “It is kind of like a personal one on one class, and it is fun.”Mountain biking and aerial silk are similar in that both offer a full body workout, allow participants to regulate their own pace and can be mentally rewarding.

“There is emotional gain and mental gain,” said Tempestt Halstead. “When you come in here, not matter what you are going through throughout the day, it all goes out the door.”

Special Diets




Getting in shape can be hard work. Diet and exercise, while effective, requires a serious commitment before you’ll see the benefits.

There are alternatives… Including what’s called cleansing. Its proponents say cleaning helps with weight loss, boosts your body’s immune system and can help your body function more efficiently.

So, what is cleansing?


It’s basically going on a fruit and vegetable diet for several days with the goal of removing toxins from your body that naturally build up over time.

Annie Tuttle, owner of Watts Juicery, explains why she chooses to juice. “Through the juicing I feel better. I’m a mom of four,” she said, “I don’t feel as tired as I was before. So I mean you get a nice little boost of energy from the juice. It’s a very natural boost of energy.”

Tuttle also explained that juicing is difficult at times but it gets easier after the first day. She said your body resets and it no longer wants fattening foods, like a cheeseburger, any longer.

If you choose to juice you’ll be drinking six 16-ounce servings a day… and that’s it. Nutritionists say any cleanse shouldn’t last longer than five days and there are risks.


“Significantly reducing your calories, which is what a juice fast is gonna do, can be unsafe and sometimes harmful,” Jenna Braddock, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist said.

Braddock continued and said, “What the juices provide are a high flood of antioxidants and phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables that then support the body’s natural detoxification system.”

As with any special diet, you should always consult your doctor before and during the process. It may not be suitable for everyone.



Alternative Medicine





With the growing cost of medical care, the uninsured are facing issues being able to afford proper health care. However, a local First Coast clinic is changing that. Volunteers in Medicine Jacksonville is a non-profit organization that offers free health care to low income, uninsured adults and their family.

Eye Chart

The clinic opened over a decade ago and now serves more than 1600 patients annually. CEO, Mary Pat Corrigan said that it’s all about people helping each other. “Bottom line we are here to keep people working, keep them healthy, and keep them out of the emergency rooms. We see between 1700 to 2100 people a year who otherwise would not have access to our primary care doctors and our specialists, or mental health services, medications.”


Physicians like Victoria Findley says she can relate to patients who are in need “The people that are here, all the volunteers, even those of us who are on staff. We’re here because we want to help people. I did not grow up with money; I grew up in a single-parent home. My mom was a teacher. I understand when people say I had to make the decision between getting my medications or having enough food.”

The doctors at volunteers in medicine are proud to provide their patients with quality healthcare, and patients are equally as proud to receive the healthcare. Patients of a few years William Francisco said that he appreciates the clinic in its entirety. He said “they have done everything from EKG’s, where they check my heart, weight, dietary issues, lots of pamphlets on how to better maintain, and to just kind of be a better person as far as where you are physically.” He went on to say that the clinic even helps with medication cost.

Alternatives like VIM vow to continue keeping Jacksonville residents healthy. For more information regarding becoming a patient or a volunteer, you can visit vim-jax.org

Natural and Organic Products

Natural and Organic products in high demand

Natural and organic products seem to be making their way across the First Coast, as more people are flocking to farmer’s markets looking for foods and natural healthcare that support their lifestyle of green living. But what is green living?

“Green living,” “living green,” or “going green” are all phrases used to describe a method of conscious living to become not only become more eco-friendly, but to also become more aware of the foods they eat and the ingredients in the products they use.


Efforts to provide natural and organic produce and products have been underway for years, as vendors at the Beaches Green Market provide a variety of these items to patrons who have come to view the market as a community staple.

“Just start walking around a farmer’s market” says Sonya Maya, owner of Blue Planet Organic Foods. Maya, who has been a vendor at the market for several years, says that a lot of people aren’t aware of the markets around town, and are subsequently missing out on the benefits of fresh, organic produce.

“Try an organic apple and taste the difference, which you will see right away organic food always tastes more alive, has more flavor,” says Maya.


Taste isn’t the only benefit vendors boast about. Knowing what’s in the products you consume and use, and knowing that the ingredients are minimal, is something the patrons appreciate according to Brenda Hall, vendor at the Beaches Green Market, and owner of Eden’s Leaf. Hall produces a number of natural products including soaps, facial masks and scrubs, lip balm, candles, and a number of hygiene products for both men and women.

Hall explains, “We use coconut oil and shea butter, things that are really good for your skin.” Hall also uses ingredients like organic oatmeal, green tea, and essential oils which customers seems to appreciate, as Eden’s Leaf is one of the most highly visited booths at the market.

It can be argued that what you get at farmer’s market or local business may be healthier, but there are some concerns about going green, one being the cost.

It’s no secret, buying natural and organic can be costly. For example, a bar of natural soap can start at $5, opposed to the conventional $2 or less for three bars of Dial soap from any local store that carries the item. Then there’s the produce, with fruits like organic oranges, which can cost upwards of $6.99 per bag, whereas, buying a bag of non-organic oranges can cost around 4.99 in local groceries stores.

However, the vendors, and even the patrons say the benefits far outweigh the costs. And for those who concerned about how “going green” adding up in cost, can always learn how to grow some of their own produce at home.

Flower Pot

Andre Arroyo of KYV Farms says that, “learning about agriculture, what’s in season, what crops grow best in this particular climate,” is a good way to start for people interested in knowing more about how to grow naturally and organically. Tips are available on their website.

For people like market patron Zach Roth, the benefits aside, it’s an opportunity to support businesses right in our own city. “It’s just nice to support local people, as opposed to some faceless corporation.”


Animal Therapy

Therapy and Service dogs work in ways that redefine the meaning of man’s best friend, providing life changing support and relief for people of all ages and needs.

Although Bristol comes from a generation of show dogs, his owner, Susan Winkler, had a very different vision for Bristol when he became a part of her family eight years ago. — Winkler wanted Bristol to help other people.


To this day, Bristol continues to work as a service and therapy dog and truly lives up to his name, The Honorable Baron.

“He’s on the show stage every day,” Winkler said. “[Bristol] spreads love and joy wherever he goes.”

Bristol is and English Springer Spaniel and became a therapy dog when he was only 10-months-old. He became a service dog shortly after.

People who have mobility issues, anxiety issues or just need extra help and support with certain tasks will benefit from a service dog, Winkler explained.

Bristol’s main job for the past three years has been helping Winkler’s husband, Jack Winkler, with his mobility and providing him with emotional support when he goes through chemotherapy. Mr. Winkler emphasized that Bristol plays an incredibly positive role in his life. Bristol also continues to volunteer in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.

“He provides tremendous help and relief that a person couldn’t provide,” Winkler said.

Bristol is a registered American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizen and a THD which is an AKC Therapy Dog. When you register a dog through AKC, the owner must select a unique name so there won’t be duplicate registrations – hence Bristol’s name the Honorable Baron, which means “master of the land.”


The process to become a registered therapy and service dog isn’t very long. To receive this certification, Bristol had to pass a 10-step-test which consisted of adhering to basic commands and evaluating his temperament when around people and in public. A service dog certification is similar; however, there are a few additional skills dogs are required to learn.

Lori Coleman has worked at the Clay County Humane Society for 20 years and one of her responsibilities is to coordinate the pet assisted therapy program. She is also an evaluator with Alliance of Therapy Dogs where she administers the testing process for therapy dogs to be registered.

“I can’t think of anybody that wouldn’t benefit from having the opportunity to spend some time with a therapy dog,” Coleman said.

For service and Therapy dogs, their vests are their uniform and they know that once it’s on, they are working.

Coleman is certain that her Australian Shepard, Deacon, thoroughly enjoys his job as a therapy dog because he is always eager to work. She explained that when she holds up his harness, Deacon becomes exited, animated, and even jumps in place, attempting to put the harness on himself. When he’s at hospitals he wanders the hallways and rooms determined to find patients to comfort.


Deacon went through five different homes before he found his forever home with Coleman, who adopted him when he was only one. Deacon is registered through an organization called Alliance of Therapy Dogs and provides therapy to people of all ages with different needs including handicap adults and people in the psychiatric unit at the Orange Park Medical Center.

Deacon recently became involved in a new program called Read, where he visits the Orange Park Library on the first Wednesday of every month to have story time with children of all ages.

Being around Deacon for storytelling provides younger kids with more of a tactile therapy and the opportunity to be around a dog that is non-threatening and friendly. When older kids read to therapy dogs, it gives them the opportunity to read without being made fun of by their peers.

“You can read to a dog and know they’re not going to correct you, they’re not going to laugh at you for not being able to pronounce a word properly,” Coleman said.

“It gives the kids confidence.”

Registering your dog as a therapy dog isn’t a long process but Coleman explained that it definitely takes a reasonably easy-going dog.

Although therapy and service dogs come in all different sizes and breeds and help people of all ages with a variety of needs, Winkler pointed out that there’s at least is one thing they all have in common:

“The Animal is able to provide the comfort, the healing, and the help that sometimes people can’t or aren’t available to do.”