pataBee’s Mission — Sustainable Living and Reducing Single-Use Plastics

Yesterday I stopped at our windy, Wyoming mailbox and discovered an envelope from pataBee in Europe.

I was both curious and confused.

Mel and Patrick, owners of the Swiss-based company, Patabee, eating sandwiches in beeswax wraps.

Inside were two stainless steel straws, a straw cleaner, and a hand-written tag that read, “Thank you.”  

And the accompanying note said the straws “. . . will come in handy on your ongoing journey to reduce plastic waste.”\

A couple of years ago owners Melinda and Patrick gave handmade gifts to their families.

And that’s what inspired the small, Swiss enterprise to form and focus on reducing single-use plastics with a sustainable living approach to commerce.

I feel good about the company and better about the lonely business that sometimes accompanies efforts to live sustainably. 

Their products offer alternatives.

Beeswax wraps take the place of plastics.

Small cotton bags eliminate grocery store throw away ones for produce and fruit.

And portable, reusable bamboo cutlery makes plastics spoons and forks unnecessary.

Organic beeswax, jojoba oil and GOTS (global, organic, textile standard) cotton form the bulk of the ingredients.

Last year on Amazon, I made two purchases .

And I’m sure to buy from their company again.

Because of the beautifully-crafted letter and useful gift, I feel solidarity and a deep appreciation for their mission.

Resonating with sustainable products and values

My values align with pataBees.

And that feels like a win for all of us. 

To pataBee I am valued customer. 

At the same time, I feel good about the company and better about the lonely business that sometimes accompanies efforts to live sustainably. 

Besides all that, I now have sunny faces to link to a business that’s helping me live consciously.

I return thanks to you, Melanie and Patrick.

And I share in this post a 20% discount for Patabee on  ECOANGEL

.   .   .

Take Action!

•  Read about the don’t-ask’don’t-receive plastic straw policy at Sweet Melissa’s Vegetarian Cafe in Laramie, Wyoming.

•  Watchow to use, and reuse, pataBee beeswax wraps.

•  Take a look at Blue Willow if like me you enjoy a good cup of tea. Ali Roth is the owner who responsibly sources the teas.

.   .   .

Ellen is a native of northern Maine. Her interest in getting to know Wyoming focuses on ways people and organizations help and protect individuals, wildlife, beauty, and rights. She is a HeartMath® trainer and coach, a Connection Practice trainer and coach, and a biodynamic craniosacral therapist. Her website is: and her email is

“Remember that justice is what love looks like in public.” – Cornel West

Preventing Alzheimer’s and Slowing ALS: The Focus of Jackson Hole Medical Research Non-Profit

Brain Chemistry Labs is breaking rules and shattering the mold of how medical research is done.

And they’re doing it solely with small grants and private donations.

Dr. Sandra Banack, senior scientist at Brain Chemistry Labs.

What began as work focused on the motor neuron disease ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) has been led by research to include Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“I think we can change the world,” said Sandra Banack, senior scientist and ethnobotanist.

“What we’re doing takes a fraction of the time and a fraction of the cost,” she said.

Their work examines what is happening to people and what can be done about it.

“We’re close to a prevention, and I think that’s better than a cure.”    – Dr. Rachael Dunlop

Research shows that chronic exposure to the neurotoxin BMAA (β-Methylamino-L-alanine) found in cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae and most often pointed out by someone in my family as “that green stuff” on lakes and ponds) is a potential risk for neurodegenerative illnesses.

So they are testing and working with an amino acid called L-Serine that may counter BMAA and appears to be neuroprotective in its own right.

BMAA Surrounds Us

“We know that human health is related to environmental health,” Dr. Banack said.

People come into contact with BMAA through contaminated seafood and freshwater fish — possibly grains if they are watered by contaminated water.

And it can be in the air we breathe.

“Found in habitats ranging from the hot pools of Yellowstone to the deserts of the middle east to the middle of the oceans, cyanobacteria are nearly ubiquitous on the earth’s surface.” – Brain Chemistry Labs’ website

“This is like a slow toxin and a silent killer in a sense because we don’t know that it’s in the water that we’re drinking.

“We don’t know that it’s in the food that we’re eating.

“But we do know that it can cause neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s,” said senior research fellow, Rachael Dunlop, in the film Toxic Puzzle.

But hope is on the horizon.

“I think we can change the world,”  – Dr. Banack

Can L-Serine Forestall Alzheimer’s?

What’s already been shown in Phase I clinical trials is that L-Serine is safe for ALS patients to take at doses as high as 30 grams per day.

The data suggest that L-Serine can slow down the progression of ALS by as much as 85%.

“Our research also suggests that L-Serine may be able to push off the onset of Alzheimer’s, but there are still many experiments to do,” Dr. Banack said.

Currently L-Serine is accessible as an inexpensive and safe supplement.

And it is found in abundance in foods like sweet potatoes and soy products.

Alzheimer’s impacts millions of patients and even more family members, so the swift work of Brain Chemistry Labs matters.

Because of the positive results shown in Phase I clinical trials, the FDA has fast tracked L-Serine into Phase II Alzheimer’s trials.

The swift work of Brain Chemistry Labs matters greatly.

Alzheimer’s impacts millions of patients and even more family members.

And for ALS patients any slow down in progression translates to hope.

Once diagnosed, life expectancy averages 2.5 years.

The urgency is understood in Jackson where the time from research to clinical trials has only taken about five years.

That nimbleness is more than surprising to those of us who know the legend of drug development exceeding decades and costing billions of dollars.

Non-Profit Medical Research

Drs. Sandra Banack and Rachael Dunlop

The lean research team has fewer meetings and less bureaucracy, and that’s appealing to the scientists who work and answer the phones at Brain Chemistry Labs.

To join the research team, Sandra Banack gave up tenure-for-life in the California State University system.

And similarly, Dr. Dunlop left a Sydney, Australia university position and moved to Jackson.

“The possibilities were too big to turn down,” Dr. Banack said.

“We’re not beholden to stock holders or the stock exchange.

“It’s a different model from anything else that’s been done,” she said.

“We owe it to society to give something back,” Dr. Dunlop said.

“We exchange wisdom and pool it to solve problems.”
– Dr. Sandra Banack

Yet the work isn’t limited to this small group in northwestern Wyoming.

The Jackson team collaborates with more than 50 scientists in 28 disciplines worldwide.

“We exchange wisdom and pool it to solve problems,” Dr. Banack said.

Dr. Dunlop said, “We’re close to a prevention, and I think that’s better than a cure.”

Asked if what they’ve learned has changed their eating habits, Dr. Banack said, “I don’t eat seafood anymore.”

And Dr. Dunlop has increased her intake of soy — edamame, in particular — that she said is loaded with L-Serine.

My first order of the supplement should be here any day.

Take Action!

•  Donate to Brain Chemistry Labs.

•  Absolutely watch the 80-minute documentary, Toxic Puzzle, about BMAA, L-Serine, research and the founder of Brain Chemistry Labs, Paul Cox.

•  View Brain Chemistry Labs’ website.

•  Read a number of newspaper articles about this work.

•  See Paul Cox’s, TedX talk.

•  Read related research articles:

“Mapping amyotrophic lateral sclerosis lake risk factors across northern New England,” Nathan Torbick et al, International Journal of Health Geographics, 2014; 13: 1, (

“Phase I clinical trial of safety of L-serine for ALS patients,” T.D. Levine, et al., Feb 18, 2017, (

“Traditional Food Items in Ogimi, Okinawa: l-Serine Content and the Potential for Neuroprotection,” Paul Cox and James Metcalf, Current Nutrition Reports, 2017; 6(1): 24–31, (

•  Previous posts of interest: Civility Leads Climate Discussion and  Charity and Social Justice:  “Distinct but Complimentary”

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski (she/her/hers) lives in Laramie, Wyoming. She is a HeartMath Certified Trainer and Coach, and certified through HeartMath to administer the Stress and Well-being Assessment tool; A Connection Practice Trainer, a Trainer’s Trainer, and Coach; and a Registered Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist (RCST®). Her website is

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.  — C. West

Returning a Sacred Rock’s Name — Bear Lodge, Mythic-Owl Mountain, Tree Rock, Mato Tipila . . . Just Not Devils Tower

Last month my husband, son and I traveled north to Bear Lodge (aka Devils Tower), the first National Monument in the country.

Approaching from the south the land sweeps up — like a lifting cloud into rolling round hills dotted then filled with pines.

Solemnity of place abounds.

Before Europeans

Long before Europeans took this beautiful land as their own, the rock was sacred to those who lived in the Black Hills.

Pilgrimages were part of Native American rituals.

Arapaho • Crow • Cheyenne • Eastern Shoshone • Lakota • Kiowa

The National Park Service’s website states that these tribes were gradually extirpated.

Definition: “Extirpate . . . to root out and destroy completely.”

In the context of American history, this word takes my breath away.

.  .  .

Translated to English, the tribes’ names for Devils Tower include:

Bear’s Tipi • Bear’s Lodge • Bear’s House • Bear’s Peak • Mato Tipila (aka Bear Lodge) • Bear Lodge Butte • Grizzly Bear’s Lodge • Mythic-owl Mountain • Grey Horn Butte • Ghost Mountain • Aloft on a Rock • Tree Rock (associated with astrological knowledge).

And clearly none of these relate even remotely to “devil.”

Yet this unfortunate and disrespectful mistranslation stuck.

“Extirpate: . . . to root out and destroy completely.”

Returning the Name to Bear Lodge

In 2015, Chief Arvol Looking Horse, a spiritual leader of Lakota, Dakota and Nakota nations, petitioned President Obama to reunite the place with its native name, Bear Lodge.

But it didn’t happen.

Then in 2017 to permanently end present or future Native American appeals, Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) introduced H.R.401 to block the name Devils Tower from ever changing.

And she justifies it with commerce.

“. . . Devils Tower attracts crucial tourism and revenue to our communities,” she said.

So Devils Tower is now a brand.

Yet Liz Cheney has the power to introduce a bill that restores the name, Bear Lodge, and secures funding to rebrand the name over the next five years.

Commerce would be sustained and the offensive mistake corrected.

But it would take great courage and deep regard for Native Americans to do this.

It would be the right thing to do while removing none of the magnificence from the site.

Representative Liz Cheney has the power to introduce a bill that restores the name, Bear Lodge, and secures funding to rebrand the name over the next five years.

Native American Stories

No geological explanation can definitively account for this towering stone’s formation.

Yet each tribe has creation stories that ascribe meaning to it.

There is nothing but beauty and safety in the stories of this tower that reaches nearly 900 feet from ground to summit.

I am most drawn to the one from Kiowa.

In it, seven little girls playing together are chased by bears.

The friends jump on a low rock and one prays, “Rock take pity on us, rock save us!”

And in response to their pleas, the rock lifts from the ground.

The bears try to reach them, but fall backwards leaving vertical claw marks on the ascending tower.

Still higher the rock rises until the girls are pushed up and into the sky where even today they safely remain as the star formation, the Pleiades.

There is nothing but beauty and safety in the stories of this tower that reaches nearly 900 feet from ground to summit.

Certainly my own treks there have just begun.

And the only thing better than standing quietly in awe at the base of this rock would be to see its name returned.

Restore Bear Lodge, Tree Rock or any other Native American moniker that honors the reverence and history of this place, please.

Take Action!

•  Email Liz Cheney and ask her to:  1) change the name Devils Tower to Bear Lodge; 2) seek funding for a 5-year rebranding plan

•  Devils Tower National Monument

•  National Park Service, Devils Tower: A Sacred Site to American Indians

•  Who File, Rep. Liz Cheny

•  Devils Tower: First Stories:

•  Reuters:  Native Americans want name change for Wyoming’s Devils Tower, by Laura Zuckerman,

•  The Spaniards brought horses to The United States. Read about Deerwood Eco Ranch that is caring for some in that now populate (over populate) the state.

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.1  — C. West

Giving Up Single-Use Plastic Comforts and Conveniences

We just returned from 10 days on the road.

1,900 miles and only about 5 of those outside of Wyoming.

It’s a big state and a long way to travel without plastics.

But we didn’t do that.

I watched as the soda bottles, caps and food wrappers piled up, and clothes needing washing were shoved into plastic hotel laundry bags.

And all the while discomfort seeped in.

It’s impossible to ignore that I am an active part of the single-use plastic problem that plagues the world.

What to Do?

A recent Scientific American article said we’re being hoodwinked if we think good recyclers / bad recyclers — simply recycling — is the answer.

“Our huge problem with plastic is the result of a permissive legal framework that has allowed the uncontrolled rise of plastic pollution . . .” Matt Wilkins

It’s true, we should do simple things like decline plastic straws and supply our own beverage containers and grocery bags.

And we should encourage others to do the same.

But the bigger battle is all uphill when vested interests fight legislation.

A $6 million ad campaign financed by the plastics industry impacted plastic bag ban legislation in California.

And the beverage industry poured $14 million into averting a National Bottle Bill.

Shockingly, experts think that by 2050, there will be more plastics then fish in the oceans.

“Some 8 million metric tons of plastic enters the ocean every year from land. And to put that into perspective, that’s one New York City garbage truck full of plastic going into the ocean every minute of every day for an entire year.”  – Nick Mallos, Ocean Concervancy

Hope on the Horizon

McDonald’s says it will end styrofoam use by the end of 2018.

Meanwhile, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation is looking at alternatives.

They are partnering to create a “circular economy model.”

It’s also referred to as “cradle-to-cradle” use of plastic materials.

And it involves innovative thinking to minimize waste by including plans from the getgo for reuse and recycling.

Additionally, National Geographic recently announced a multiyear initiative to reduce single-use plastics.

•. •

After our trip I set aside plastics to recycle and forgave myself for what I could have done better.

Any of us can speak up alone or collectively and demand change.

Yet if we do, we should be prepared to alter our own habits.

And that means foregoing comforts and conveniences that lure us to plastics in the first place.

If I’m truthful, that may be the hardest part of all.

.  .  .

 Take Action!

Join me in taking the plastic-reducing pledge through National Geographic

And see how one Laramie restaurant, Sweet Melissa, has changed the culture of straws

Read More Recycling Won’t Solve Plastic Pollution, by Matt Wilkins, Scientific American Blog Network, July 6, 2018

Listen to Here and Now, Americans Throw Out Millions of Plastic Straws Daily, and Here’s What’s Being Done About ItMay 2, 2018

Read about the plastic bag ban legislation in CaliforniaEnvironmental Nuisance or Grocery-Store Necessity? California Voters to Decide Fate of Plastic Bags, by Taryn Luna, October 8, 2016

Explore innovative collaborations regarding plastics at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Read the New York Times Article, Your Recycling Gets Recycled, Right? Maybe? Or Maybe Not, by Livia Albeck-Ripka, May 29, 2018

And read more in the New York Times Article, Six Things You’re Recycling Wrong, by Livia Albeck-Ripka, May 29, 2018

Read National Geographic’s “Planet or Plastic?” accessed July 23, 2018,

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.1  — C. West


Sweet Melissa Vegetarian Café in Laramie: Few Plastic Straws and No Animals Sacrificed

Sweet Melissa vegetarian cafeIn 1999 Melissa Murphy didn’t know if a Wyoming vegetarian restaurant would last.

Nineteen years later on a family visit to Laramie, the first, second and even third food recommendations we solicited unanimously pointed to Sweet Melissa.

“And I’m not even a vegetarian! . . .” punctuated each endorsement.

Researchers at Carnegie Melon University found that eliminating meat one day a week has the same effect on greenhouse gas emissions as cutting 1,000 miles of driving a year.5

Vegetarian and no straws – environmental act

“A vegetarian restaurant is an environmental act,” Melissa said.

And in a similar way, so are her recent efforts to reduce plastic straws and water use.

One straw at a time, Melissa is cutting back on the 500 million plastic straws used and discarded each day in the United States.

Yet weaning café customers and staff off plastic straws has been a three-year process, she noted.*

Still, one straw at a time, Melissa is cutting back on the 500 million plastic straws used and discarded each day in the United States. 6

Other environmental acts at Sweet Melissa include a commitment to recycling that began in 1999.

Additionally, they participate in composting through the Acres Student Farm7 at the University of Wyoming.

And take-out cups and food containers are now corn-based versus petroleum.

When asked to define social justice, Melissa quoted a Unitarian Universalist principle: “The inherent worth and dignity of every person.”

“. . . and animals,” she added.

Melissa Murphy owner of vegetarian restaurant
Sweet Melissa Vegetarian Cafe owner, Melissa Murphy.


no straw, thanks!

For more information on plastic straws
please see the blog resource page.

Read about food rescue in Jackson.

*for now plastic straws are used on the Tavern side.

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.1  Cornell West


Hole Food Rescue Feeds 1,000 Hungry People Weekly in Jackson, Wyoming

Hole Food Rescue logo

Hole Food Rescue (HFR) founder and co-executive director, Ali Dunford,, is joy personified as she describes the one million pounds of food saved by her organization since 2013.

“It’s just the right thing to do. The right way to treat each other and the planet,” she said.

Her early days in Jackson included dumpster diving for goods discarded by grocery stores.

And what she found was high quality and plentiful. “It was an injustice,” she said.

“The flip side of waste is using something fully and respecting the planet and all the resources that go into the things we eat.”

With the support of 90 volunteers working seven days a week, HFR collects more than 5,000 pounds of edible items a week from local grocery stores and bakeries.

In turn, 31 recipient organizations take the fruit, vegetables, breads and dairy products and prepare or distribute this nutrients to at-risk and in-need clients including seniors, youth and families.

What can’t be used is given to a local pig farm.

“The flip side of waste is using something fully
and respecting the planet and all the resources
that go into the things we eat.”

Food insecurity in Teton

A 2015 Teton Public Health report2 found nearly 3,000 (13.5%) food insecure residents, a term that means “lacking reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.”3

In Wyoming, 1 in 8 adults experience hunger and 1 in 6 children are food insecure.4

Though Teton is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, much of its population works in the service industry. Between the high cost of housing, low hourly wages and off-season layoffs, families struggle.

Dunford said any town — small or large — that has a grocery store has waste, and you can be sure there’s also food insecurity, though it’s not always obvious.

She says HFR’s part in social justice isn’t just about providing food; it’s about offering nutritious food.

“We don’t rescue highly-processed nor junk food,” she said. “It’s not going to serve our clients, and our goal is to empower them.”

Ali Dunford
Ali Dunford, founder and co-executive director, at Hole Food Rescue in Jackson, WY

More About Hole Food Rescue and Additional Resources
•  HFR is a 501(C)3 nonprofit organization
•  They welcomes volunteers and donations
•  Their website is beautiful and fun
•  You can see Ali and HFR featured in a public television story
•  Interested in rescue in your town? Here’s the guidebook Ali used.
•  See if there’s a rescue organization near you.
•  Read the blog post, Rooted in Wyoming, that looks at school gardens in Sheridan.

•  •  •

Ellen Webster Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming. Her website is:

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”1  Cornell West