Monthly Archives: January 2018

A Magic City Grown From the Garden of a Female Visionary

“On February 6th 1895, Florida was visited by the most devastating freeze in the state’s history. Virtually all of the state’s citrus groves were wiped out. Coconut palms as far south as Palm Beach were killed. The freezing temperatures did not reach Miami, however, and Mrs. Tuttle, who lived at Fort Dallas, site of onetime fort on the Miami River during the Seminole Indian wars, was quick to seize the advantage. Snapping a twig of green leaves and fragrant, white blossoms from an orange tree in her garden, she sent it to Flagler, then in St Augustine, together with a renewal of the offer she had made earlier.” – Nixon Smiley, Yesterday’s Miami

In 1893, Julia Tuttle asked Henry Flagler to extend his railway down to Miami from Palm Beach. He declined at the time, as there wasn’t much in Miami aside from primitive landscapes and wilderness. But Mrs. Tuttle had a vision for Miami that was far greater than an old fort. 

Luckily for us, Mother Nature intervened in 1895. Even though she had already heard the word ‘no’ from Henry Flagler years earlier, Julia Tuttle persisted. The simple act of sending Mr. Flagler clippings from her garden in Dallas Park (photographed below) was the birth of the Magic City. It wasn’t as simple as that, though. 

Dallas Park, home of Mrs. Julia Tuttle, originally stood between Southeast Second and Miami Avenue facing the Miami River. (Public Domain Photo)

As part of their deal, Mrs. Tuttle gave Flagler part of her land on the north bank of the Miami river so that he could bring his railroad and the Royal Palm Hotel into the budding city. She died just a couple years later in 1898, so she wasn’t able to see her vision for the city come to fruition.

Even though she was friends with the famous Rockefellers and a true visionary, most of the credit of Miami’s founding is given to the men that she had to convince of its potential. The city was almost named after Henry Flagler, but the name Miami won by a slim margin when put to a vote. 

Why was there never a vote to name Miami after Julia Tuttle? Probably because she was a woman. After all, she didn’t even have the right to vote at the time. 

The north bank of the Miami River circa 1890 (Public Domain Photo)

Miami is the only major American city founded by a woman. Many of our would-be historic sites have been lost to industrialization and development, so we seem to overlook our own history. However, if there’s any color that represents our city, it’s green. After all, it was the green clippings from Julia Tuttle’s garden that convinced Henry Flagler that Miami was a gem hidden behind the mangroves between Palm Beach and Key West.

If you think about it, taking a selfie on Miami Beach in the middle of winter has some historical significance. Is it really that different from what Mrs. Tuttle did in 1896 to show the advantages of living in an American city with a tropical climate?

It’s important for us to remember that Mother Nature played a role in the birth of the City of Miami, because she can just as easily play a part in the city’s demise if we’re not careful. This city wouldn’t be recognizable to the mother that gave birth to it. What was once a crystal clear river with an old fort on its banks is now a murky waterway filled with plastic and human waste.

Miami is still a beautiful place that we are lucky to call home. But we have to bring the city back to nature, as it was before steam engines, cocaine cowboys and high rises took over the landscape.

An aerial view of the Julia Tuttle Causeway in 1960 (Public Domain Photo)

Every Miamian owes Julia Tuttle a debt of gratitude for seeing the potential of our city before anyone else. More importantly, though, for seizing the opportunity that Mother Nature presented her to make her persistent vision a reality.

You can pay your respects to the Mother of Miami at her final resting place in the Miami City Cemetery at 1800 Southeast Second Avenue. She might appreciate some fresh clippings from your garden or a shout out as you drive over the Julia Tuttle Causeway on your way to Miami Beach.


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Houseplants: An Affordable Way to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

At the beginning of the year, we want to detoxify our lives after the excesses of the holidays. We eat clean, exercise and focus on our health more than any other time of year. But one aspect of our overall health is often overlooked: the indoor air quality in our homes.

Indoor Air Quality and Why It’s Important

As we’ve seen in Flint and countless other places around the world, the quality of the water we drink is directly related to our overall health. That’s why we invest in water filtration systems from companies like Brita and PUR. But what can we do to filter the air we breathe every day?

We love our electronics and household products, but they emit chemicals that can be hazardous to our health. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) come from many unlikely sources, including air fresheners, cleansers and disinfectants. Exposure can cause short term and long term health effects as listed on the EPA’s website.

“EPA’s Office of Research and Development’s “Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) Study” (Volumes I through IV, completed in 1985) found levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than outside, regardless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas.”

The quality of the air we breathe directly impacts our quality of life. And we spend most of our time at home.  The Florida Department of Health recommends several companies that can check the quality of your indoor air. But most of us don’t have a budget for fancy air purifiers or new AC units. Luckily, NASA offers a more practical solution: add houseplants to the environment to process VOCs and pump out fresh oxygen.

A post shared by NASA (@nasa) on

NASA’s Clean Air Study

In the 1980s, NASA conducted several studies to find an efficient way to remove VOCs from indoor air. They concluded that root systems of certain houseplants do a good job of cycling the chemicals in the air and pumping out clean air naturally.

Thanks to NASA’s research, we now have an affordable (and aesthetically pleasing) way to purify our indoor air. Most houseplants cost as little as lunch at a fast food restaurant. Just one small plant can help purify the air in 100 square feet. They’re also pretty easy to take care of. How’s that for a value proposition?

Best Affordable Houseplants to Purify Your Indoor Air

NASA studied many different types of houseplants and determined that some do a better job than others. Among the top performers for air purification are the Peace Lily, Boston Fern, Spider Plant, Dracaena Janet Craig and Snake Plant.

Golden Pothos, Dracaena Marginata and Fiddle Leaf Figs are also great plants for air purification. These are used a lot by interior decorators, so adding them to your space will also bring some contemporary style to your home decor. You can find most of these houseplants at the garden center at your local Home Depot or Lowes.

If you’re in Miami, check out Midtown Garden Center in Wynwood. They offer a beautifully curated selection of affordably priced plants for inside and outside your home. It has a cool local vibe, with food trucks, classes and entertainment. Many of the plants listed by NASA to purify your indoor air can be found there.


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How to Fight Climate Change Using Social Media

I’m sick of hearing grim statistics about the oceans dying and biodiversity declining without doing anything about it. I figure social media is a good place to start since it won’t cost me much. Plus, I can reach more people there than I can anywhere else.

What Can I Actually Do to Help Protect the Planet?

Watching documentaries and hearing news reports about the effects of climate change can be disheartening. The oceans are becoming less and less hospitable to life. Sea levels are rising. We’re already experiencing super storms and record temperatures. 

As a Miami Beach resident, climate change is more than just a scientific theory to me. It’s a call to action. Most of this city will be underwater soon without a dramatic change in how we live our lives. Like most Miamians, I don’t want the city that holds all of my memories to be washed away with the rising tides.  

Mother Nature gave birth to the City of Miami and we owe it to her to pay it forward.

But what can I actually do to fight climate change? Being upset about the Paris Climate Agreement isn’t enough. The 2018 elections are still months away. What can I do now to help save Miami from being lost forever?

The CLEO Institute: Miami’s Only Climate Change Non-Profit

The mission of The CLEO Institute is climate change education, information and advocacy. It’s the only 501(c)(3) in Miami that is focused solely on climate change. Caroline Lewis, the organization’s Founder and Executive Director, introduces us to The CLEO Institute’s work in the short video embedded above. 

We all have our own reasons to care about the planet. For me, it’s to protect the beauty and the bounty of nature. The Industrial Revolution has allowed us to advance as a civilization, but it has also had an adverse effect on the environment. This needs to be addressed by our elected officials and business leaders.

I don’t want the coral reefs I saw when I went snorkeling as a kid to disappear forever. I want to be able to buy a home in Miami without worrying about its value plummeting or flood insurance costs rising. I want to live a sustainable life in Miami and have something to hand down to the next generation. 

My Social Media Initiative to Fight Climate Change in Miami

I decided to put up or shut up after watching The CLEO Institute’s YouTube video. Since it’s January and most people are paying off holiday debt, I came up with a social media initiative to help support the organization this month.

I just donated $25 (the cost of my average takeout order) to The CLEO Institute. It’s not much, but it’s an amount that most people can afford, even after the holidays. I’ve asked my friends on social media to match my donation.  And if money is tight, I’ve asked them to be generous with social media shares and likes. This is another form of currency that can be just as valuable to the mission of the organization.

The CLEO institute’s social media accounts are linked below. Please take a moment to like and share their content with anyone that wants to fight climate change in Miami and beyond!

Follow The CLEO Institute on Social Media

Thank you for liking and sharing! Click here to match my $25 donation to The CLEO Institute!


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