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Posts Tagged ‘environmental wellness’

Group of diverse volunteers

And I think to myself…. what a wonderful world.
~ Louis Armstrong

Being environmentally well means “recognizing the responsibility to preserve, protect, and improve the environment and appreciating your connection to nature.” In other words, environmental wellness happens when the different surroundings in your life enhance your health and wellbeing. This includes your home, your workplace, your local community, your natural surroundings, and the planet.

Three aspects of environmental wellness include: paying attention to the different environments that you spend time in, making an effort to spend time outdoors, and being more sustainable (AKA “going green”).

Health Benefits of Environmental Wellness Across the Lifespan

No matter what your age, research demonstrates the far-ranging health benefits of environmental wellness. For example:

  • Children who play outside in nature develop superior motor skills, balance, and coordination compared to children who play on traditional playgrounds.
  • Teens and young adults report feeling calmer, less stressed, and lower anxiety after spending time in nature.
  • Adults reduce their risk of chronic diseases including asthma, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke when they spend time in green space.
  • Senior adults who garden reduce their risk of dementia by 36%, even more than those who walk every day.

How can you start improving your environmental wellness? Commit to spending more time outdoors, being more green in your purchasing decisions, and actively caring for the environment. You can also try these simple activities:

  • Write nature into your schedule. Grab a bag and pick up litter while you are out.
  • Bike or walk rather than drive. If you drive, carpool when possible.
  • Use reusable water bottles, mugs, and shopping bags to limit waste.
  • Add houseplants to your home and work environments to improve indoor air quality and to psychologically link us to nature.
  • Learn about recycling in your community and recycle as much as possible.
  • Avoid purchasing single-use plastic and pack waste-free lunches.
  • Plan your food purchases to avoid food waste and compost food scraps.
  • Encourage local schools to recycle, compost, and host community gardens.
  • Decrease your use of energy and water.
  • Grow native plants to provide shelter and food for wildlife and support pollinators.
  • Donate your time or money to organizations that protect the environment.

Satish Kumar said, “We are nature.” Environmental wellness helps us recognize our connection to the natural world and realize that when we help our environment, we help ourselves. It is important, however, to point out that not everyone has equal access to nature or green environments, due to limited green space, accessibility limitations, safety concerns, and financial resources. We all need to work together not only to protect the natural world but to also ensure that everyone can reap the health benefits of environmental wellness equally.

For More Information:

  • On sustainability, visit the OSU Extension Sustainability website to find Trash-Free Trails, Reducing Your Single Use Plastic Waste, and many other tip sheets. In addition, there are many educational videos as well as a sustainable home tour: https://fcs.osu.edu/programs/resources/sustainability
  • On the importance of nature and spending time outdoors, visit the Nature Matters website created by OSU Extension, Warren County: go.osu.edu/nature-matters

Written by Laura Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, stanton.60@osu.edu.

Reviewed by Shannon Carter, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu.

Photo Credit: Image by rawpixel.com

References:

Bickel, N. B. (2021, September 13). Youth report feeling physically, mentally better after spending time in nature. University of Michigan Health. https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/wellness-prevention/youth-report-feeling-physically-mentally-better-after-spending-time-nature

Ingunn Fjørtoft. (2004). Landscape as playscape: The effects of natural environments on children’s play and motor development. Children, Youth and Environments, 14(2), 21–44. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7721/chilyoutenvi.14.2.0021

Kumar, S. (2019). Elegant Simplicity: The Art of Living Well. New Society Publishers.

Melnyk, B. M., and Neale, S. (2018, January). Nine dimensions of wellness. American Nurse Today, 13 (1). https://www.myamericannurse.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/ant1-Wellness-1218.pdf

Simons, L. A., Simons, J., McCallum, J., & Friedlander, Y. (2006). Lifestyle factors and risk of dementia: Dubbo study of the elderly. The Medical Journal of Australia, 184(2), 68–70. https://doi.org/10.5694/j.1326-5377.2006.tb00120.x

Stanton, L. (2021) Ten tips for packing waste-free lunches. Ohio State University Extension. https://go.osu.edu/waste-free-lunches

Twohig-Bennett, C., & Jones, A. (2018). The health benefits of the great outdoors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of greenspace exposure and health outcomes. Environmental Research, 166, 628–637. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2018.06.030

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Picture of Trash

I can remember growing up in Michigan in the 70s and 80s, we would get our first snowfall around Thanksgiving, and we wouldn’t see grass until late March. Every year here in southern Ohio, it seems the idea of a white Christmas is a thing of the past. The past decade has seen the warmest average temperatures on record. Climate experts paint an ominous picture for our planets’ future and our overall quality of life. Issues such as plastic pollution and food waste contribute to climate warming and also immediate wellbeing.

If you are looking to set a New Years resolution, consider some ideas that are eco-friendly. Here are a few ideas:

  • Buy and use reusable straws. Keep them on hand and refuse single use straws at restaurants.
  • Stop using single use plastic bags. Keep reusable bags in your cars so you don’t forget them when running into the grocery store.
  • Freeze left overs and use ingredients later in smoothies, soups, etc.
  • Start a compost pile for food waste. Keep an old coffee bin in the kitchen to discard food scraps.
  • Start using bar soap or refill soap containers to avoid purchasing plastic bottles.
  • Reuse glass jars, Tupperware, and beeswax wrap to store food and leftovers instead of single use plastic sandwich bags.
  • Refill a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water.
  • Participate in a neighborhood clean up or roadside garbage pick up.

These are just a few ideas. Small changes can really add up over a lifetime. The actions of millions of people can can collectively reduce the amount of plastic and food going into landfills and contributing to climate change.

Author: Dan Remley, Ph.D., M.S.P.H. Associate Professor, Field Specialist, OSU Extension

Reviewer: Jenny Lobb, M.P.H., Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension

Sources:

Beyond Plastics. (2021). THE NEW COAL: PLASTICS AND CLIMATE CHANGE. REPORT: The New Coal: Plastics & Climate Change — Beyond Plastics – Working To End Single-Use Plastic Pollution

Ohio State University Extension. Sustainable Action through Video Engagement (S.A.V.E.). Sustainability in the Kitchen. Left-overs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlDXy80yraY

Ohio State University Extension. Sustainable Action through Video Engagement (S.A.V.E.). Sustainability in the Kitchen: Single Use Plastics https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CangcvETxk

Ohio State University Extension. Sustainable Action through Video Engagement (S.A.V.E.).Composting. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lOMPTRj7eE

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Man thinking about a tangerine

As consumers, we all are philosophers whether we know it or not. We practice philosophy at the grocery store, the restaurant, when we prepare meals, when we eat, and when we dispose of unused food. We practice food ethics. Our decisions, actions, and judgements about food are guided by a set of values, and are made for the perceived common good for ourselves, often our families, and perhaps the larger community and society. The set of food values that we prioritize in our decision making differs from person to person, stage of life, culture, and situation. Food values and their definitions include:

Healthfulness– Healthy foods are nutrient dense and minimally processed (low in fat, sodium, added sugar, and high in fiber).

Safety– Preparation minimizes cross contamination, foods have been cooked to proper temperature, foods are stored properly, food packages are not spoiled or damaged.

Quality– Foods are fresh, visually appealing, and/ or tasteful.

Food Waste Avoidance– Foods should not rot, expire, or become inedible. Food should be consumed only by humans. Foods not eaten can be composted and used to produce more food.

Low Cost– Foods are inexpensive per unit (ounce, calorie, etc).

Convenience– Foods are easy to prepare. Foods are easy to store, or have a long shelf life. Minimal time and effort is needed to acquire food.

Social and Cultural Acceptability– Foods are preferred by a cultural group. Foods are acceptable according to religious beliefs. Foods are accessed appropriately according to cultural or social standards and without stigma. Foods can easily be stored, prepared, and consumed using available resources and knowledge.

Localness– Foods that stimulate the local economy via local production and retail. Foods that stimulate social connections between producers and consumers.

Environmental Sustainability- Food is produced, acquired, and consumed in ways that preserve environmental value for future generations. Limits water pollution and soil degradation. Preserves fossil fuels and fresh water. Reduces greenhouse gas emission.

Workers Rights– Food is produced by workers who receive fair compensation, have legal rights, and opportunities for education and advancement. Farms and factories are safe and clean.

Animal Welfare– Meat production avoids cruelty at animal housing, transport, and slaughter.

Food For Thought…What are your top five values when making decisions about food? Have they changed over the course of your life? Perhaps there is a value that you hadn’t thought much about, and would like to do some more research on. Have you ever noticed that your values conflict with those of others in your family or community?

Conversations Starters…Looking for something to talk about at the dinner table? Pass out this list and ask your family members what their top 5 food values are. You might find that youth have a completely different set of values than you have. Older generations also might have different values as well. After listening to everyone’s top values, lead off your questions by asking “what, how, why” and withhold judgement. By listening and learning about their values, you can learn about the experiences and attitudes of different generations. These conversations might also change your values when it comes to food.

Author: Dan Remley, PhD, MSPH Associate Professor, Field Specialist, OSU Extension

Reviewed by: Susan Zies, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Wood County

Sources:

Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. Core Ethical Commitments. Accessed on 5/11/2021 at Core Ethical Commitments – Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics (jhu.edu)

Streiffer, R., Piso, Z., Sweeney, G., Remley, D., & Forcone, T. (2007). An Expanded Understanding of the Ethical Importance of Civic Engagement in Food Sourcing Decisions at the Institutional Level. Internal Medicine22(7), 1018-23.

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Green Santa eating cookies

Waste is becoming a bigger challenge than ever before. The average American produces over 4.6 pounds of waste every day. Around 251 million tons of trash are produced every year and 1/3 of all trash is recycled. Plastic and garbage gets into watersheds, winds up on beaches, is consumed by sea life, and eventually goes into our food supply. Trash is found increasingly in national parks, scenic rivers, and in our communities.

Normally, when we take our trash out to the curb, some of it doesn’t even make it to the landfills, but gets blown away and winds up in storm drains and eventually rivers, oceans and beaches. Trash that makes it to landfills has its own set of problems. Most trash takes years to decompose and landfills need to be maintained for 30 years after they are full.

Waste increases 75% during the holidays. Major source of waste include wrapping paper, cards, gift packaging, and broken lights. Many gifts, from jewelry to electronics, use a lot of resources to produce . New electronics and toys replace the old which wind up in landfills.

We can all become green Santas by reducing, recycling and reusing this holiday season. Here are some tips for gifts…

  • Secondhand gifts- Consider shopping at secondhand stores such as goodwill for gifts. Anything in good condition can become a gift. Young children and baby toys especially can be cleaned and gifted.
  • Minimally packaged gifts- Most packaging can’t be recycled.
  • Durable gifts- Do some research on quality and durability when it comes to gifts. Sometimes the more expensive TV set will be the one that lasts longer.
  • Non-physical gifts- Gifts of time and service are special. Offer to baby sit, take someone out to dinner, buy zoo passes, museum passes, dance classes, scuba diving lessons, hot air balloon rides, etc.
  • Charitable gifts- Give money to a college endowment, red cross, etc. in someone’s name.
  • Waste reducing gifts- Gifts such as nice coffee mugs, reusable water bottles, metal straws, mesh produce bags, school lunch boxes, wool dryer balls, Tupperware, cloth napkins, bamboo utensils, reusable dish rags, insulated bags, brew your own k pods (for Keurig) will all reduce the need for disposable products.
  • Make your own gifts- Make sock puppets, boxes with different clothing items (make-up kits) for kids, crafts, etc.

Recycle and reuse as much as possible during the holidays. Lights can be recycled at places like Lowes, and wrapping paper can reused. Some people use cloth for wrapping paper. Gift bags can also be reused as well.

All of these actions, although small individually, can make a big difference collectively in terms of reducing trash, protecting natural resources and even mitigating climate change. Hope there is much green in your Holidays!

Sources:

Money Crashers https://www.moneycrashers.com/green-eco-friendly-gift-ideas-holidays/ Accessed on 12/10/2019

How Stuff Works https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/conservation/issues/recycling-reality1.htm Accessed on 12/10/19

World Wildlife Fund https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/how-does-plastic-end-ocean Accessed on 12/10/19

Author: Dan Remley, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, and Wellness, OSU Extension

Reviewer: Susan Zies, Extension Educator, OSU Extension, Wood County

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drink colorful color tube

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My teenage daughter lectures me from time to time about overusing plastics, especially those that can’t be recycled. We’ve bought reusable straws to use at home, and I get dirty looks if I take a straw at a restaurant. I’ve been wondering why using a plastic straw would be detrimental to my health and well-being. Turns out there is a dimension of wellness called Environmental Wellness. We may not think much about Environmental Wellness as part of an overall wellness plan that might include eating more fruits and vegetables, but our environment and how we feel about it can have a huge impact on the way we feel overall.

Environmental well-being includes trying to live in balance with the nature by understanding the impact of your interaction with nature and your personal environment, and taking action to protect the world around you. Protecting yourself from environmental hazards and minimizing the negative impact of your behavior on the environment are also central elements.

According to University California- Riverside leading a lifestyle that is respectful to our environment and minimizes any harm done to it is a critical part of environmental wellness. Environmental wellness involves a number of different aspects of personal and societal responsibilities, but generally relates to being aware of earths natural resources (soil, water, clean air) and their limits, understanding how daily habits impact natural resources, and being accountable by taking actions to minimize our impact on natural resources. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I recycle?
  • If I see something damaging to the environment, do I take the steps to fix the problem?
  • Do I volunteer time to worthy causes to protect soil, water, air, or wildlife?
  • Do I take time to appreciate my environment (go hiking, fishing, meditate, swim in stream or lake)?

If you answered “No” to any of the questions, it may indicate an area where you need to improve the state of your environmental wellness.

Recycling– Recycling saves energy and natural resources. For example, recycling one ton of office paper can save the energy equivalent of consuming 322 gallons of gasoline! Some cities offer recycling programs that pick up your recycled products at your curb. In other communities, you may have to collect your recycles and drive them to a designated recycle bin. The EPA offers some good information about what can and can’t be recycled, and recycling centers are all different in terms of what they can and can’t accept. In general, glass, cardboard, paper, food and beverage cans, jugs, plastic bottles, food boxes can be recycled. Other items such as Styrofoam, and soiled products can’t. Follow the rules, otherwise recycling centers have to spend time, energy and resources to filter out products that can’t be recycled.

Hazardous materials and situations– Some materials such as oil, paint, cleaners chemicals, and other products can pollute soil and water. Oil from one oil change for example can pollute thousands of gallons of water. Many commercial garages will accept used oil, and other businesses might accept paint and other materials.

Volunteering- Consider volunteering at a national, state or local park. Maintaining trails, planting trees, cleaning up streams and rivers are all volunteer activities that might contribute to your environmental wellness. The AARP offers some ideas on volunteering to help the environment.

Appreciate the environment– Appreciating the environment and natural resources will help motivate you and your family to change habits. Set a goal to get outside and appreciate the soil, air and water. Hike, fish, hunt, camp, swim, garden and even meditate outdoors!

Getting back to straws- although straws are only a fraction of plastics waste, they have become a poster child for single use plastics that wind up consumed by wildlife and found on beaches. In fact each human on the planet consumes around 88 pounds of plastic a year! Cutting back on straws can be a gateway to making many other changes in your life to improve your environmental wellness!!

Sources:

University of California Riverside. Environmental Wellness at https://wellness.ucr.edu/environmental_wellness.html

Environmental Protection Agency. Recycling 101 at https://www.epa.gov/recycle/frequent-questions-recycling

American Association of Retired Persons. 5 ways you can help the environment. https://www.aarp.org/giving-back/info-09-2012/fun-ways-to-help-environment.html

Author: Dan Remley, Field Specialist, Associate Professor, Ohio State University Extension

Reviewer: Susan Zies, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension

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If you had asked me last year my definition of wellness, I would have said eating right, exercising and lowering my risk of getting sick. However, wellness has many aspects and is connected to more than just those three areas. This last year has taught me how important some of those other areas are to my health and well-being.

The Ohio State University uses an integrative approach to wellness that promotes nine dimensions of well-being. Their student wellness center identifies each of the areas and gives a description.

wellness wheelEmotional Wellness
The emotionally well person can identify, express and manage the entire range of feelings and would consider seeking assistance to address areas of concern.

Career Wellness
The professionally well person engages in work to gain personal satisfaction and enrichment, consistent with values, goals and lifestyle.

Social Wellness
The socially well person has a network of support based on interdependence, mutual trust, respect and has developed a sensitivity and awareness towards the feelings of others.

Spiritual Wellness
The spiritually well person seeks harmony and balance by openly exploring the depth of human purpose, meaning and connection through dialogue and self-reflection.

Physical Wellness
The physically well person gets an adequate amount of sleep, eats a balanced and nutritious diet, engages in exercise for 150 minutes per week, attends regular medical check-ups and practices safe and healthy sexual relations.

Financial Wellness
The financially well person is fully aware of financial state and budgets, saves and manages finances in order to achieve realistic goals.

Intellectual Wellness
The intellectually well person values lifelong learning and seeks to foster critical thinking, develop moral reasoning, expand worldviews and engage in education for the pursuit of knowledge.

Creative Wellness
The creatively well person values and actively participates in a diverse range of arts and cultural experiences as a means to understand and appreciate the surrounding world.

Environmental Wellness
The environmentally well person recognizes the responsibility to preserve, protect and improve the environment and appreciates the interconnectedness of nature and the individual.

I like to think of these nine dimensions in relation to a wheel. When each area is full and evenly distributed around the wheel, it runs smoothly and is strong. However, if areas are missing or less than full then we have a weak, bumpy rolling wheel. Completing a self-assessment shows areas that are thriving and other areas that need greater attention. In examining your own well-being, where could you use some improvements? I encourage you to use that information and set a wellness goal for the next month. Make it something that won’t be too hard to accomplish. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator or add one more glass of water to your daily beverage intake. This makes it easier to create a plan towards a healthier well-balanced you.

 

Mazurek Melnyk, B., & Neale, S. (2018). Wellness 101: 9 dimensions of wellness. American Nurse Today13(1), 10–11.

The Ohio State University Office Of Student Life. (2018). Nine Dimensions of Wellness. Retrieved from https://swc.osu.edu/about-us/nine-dimensions-of-wellness/

 

Author: Amanda Bohlen, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County, bohlen.19@osu.edu

Reviewer: Dan Remley, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, and Wellness. Ohio State University Extension,  remley.4@osu.edu

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Plant a TreeDo you remember planting a tree for Arbor Day?  Do you know the meaning of Arbor Day?  This day was set aside for tree planting back in 1872 by J. Sterling Morton. He was a pioneer who traveled from Detroit, Michigan to Nebraska. The pioneers missed their trees and decided to set aside a day for tree planting.  The trees were important for fuel, to keep soil in place, for wind breaks, for building supplies and to offer shade from the hot sun. Want to learn more & see pictures of this historical day? Check out this brief online book.  Arbor Day History

As a young child I remember watching our principal plant a tree in the school yard in honor of Arbor Day.  Every year a new tree was planted and a little ceremony held discussing the importance of trees. Check out this interactive map and find out when your state celebrates Arbor Day.

Did you know that Earth Day started in 1970 to raise awareness of environmental issues such as clean air, climate change and clean water? In four years, we will celebrate the 50th Earth Day. Both of these special days encourage us to increase our awareness of our environment and to honor and nurture a wonderful natural resource, trees.

What can you do to honor our Earth?

  • Plant a tree
  • Plant a garden
  • Plant herbs
  • Teach a child about Earth Day
  • Take a hike in nature
  • Take a few moments to enjoy the beauty of spring
  • Pick up trash along the roadways
  • Plan an excursion to a National or State park
  • Read a story about planting trees
  • Schedule a tree planting in your neighborhood
  • Organize a tree identification hike
  • Teach a child about Arbor Day
  • Volunteer with a local tree planting organization
  • Find out the state tree for your state. Hint: Ohio’s state tree is the Buckeye.

Arbor Day

Did you know that college campuses can meet standards to become a Tree Campus? I was happy to see that Ohio State University met the standards to be a Tree Campus.

Does your favorite university honor Arbor Day? 

Writer: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewer: Carol Chandler, Regional Program Specialist, SNAP-ED, Ohio State University Extension, chandler.4@osu.edu

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Bench at lake shore

 

Where did the summer go? It seems like it was just the beginning of June and now the stores are filled with back-to-school supplies and fall clothing. If you have a vacation planned for the next few weeks, consider these suggestions from the Environmental Protection Agency for these easy ways to reduce your environmental impact.

Conserve energy while on vacation. Before you leave home, adjust the air conditioning – you will be surprised at how quickly your house can cool down. Reduce the thermostat on your water heater to conserve additional energy. If you leave a light on for home security, use a timer and use an energy saving light bulb.

• At the beach, use old buckets and other items from your house to build sand castles instead of buying new products at the store.
• Be an energy saver at your hotel room or condo. Turn off the lights and television when leaving the room. Enjoy moderate temperatures by keeping the room cool but not cold.

• If visiting a beach or park, be sure to take everything that you brought with you when you leave. Be a steward of the earth and pick up any stray pieces of trash that you find. Encourage children (& adults!) to throw their trash in the proper place.
Rainy vacation? Long drive in the car? Let your kids use your scrap paper to draw and play games.

Traveling outside the US?Sand Dune

If you are traveling outside of the United States, visit the CDC Travelers’ Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/ for information and health recommendations for US residents traveling internationally. You will find information about vaccines, medicine and other advice for travelers.

You can easily select the country or area of your travel location and see suggestions for your health and safety.

Another interesting link on this website includes Travel Notices. The travel notice section is updated with information about disease outbreaks, natural disasters, mass gatherings and other things that may affect a travelers’ health. Go to http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices to see if there are any notices for the area where you will be traveling. These are color coded with these warning levels:

RED               Warning Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel
YELLOW     Alert Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions
GREEN         Watch Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions

There are many things to consider while traveling or taking a vacation.

Be prepared, be safe, be resourceful and have a great time!

Writer: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, Heart of Ohio EERA, treber.1@osu.edu.

Reviewer: Marilyn Rabe, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, Heart of Ohio EERA, rabe.9@osu.edu

Sources: http://www.epa.gov/osw/wycd/summer.htm
http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/
http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices
Photo credits: Bench at lake shore by arinas74 retrieved from http://www.rgbstock.com/images/vacation/1
Sand Dune by RWLinder retrieved from http://www.rgbstock.com/images/vacation/2

 

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apple

According to the University of California- Riverside Wellness page: There are many dimensions of health: physical, spiritual, emotional, occupational, social, intellectual, and environmental. The dimension of environmental wellness includes “trying to live in harmony with the Earth by understanding the impact of your interaction with nature and your personal environment, and taking action to protect the world around you.” Protecting yourself from environmental hazards and minimizing the negative impact of your behavior on the environment are also central elements.” For the sake of today’s blog we will focus on the environmental wellness question that everyone faces at the grocery: paper or plastic?

When products are manufactured, stored, and transported to stores pollution can occur from extraction of raw materials, burning of fossil fuels, and production of garbage. Taken collectively, packaged products create societal problems for today and for future generations such as the production of greenhouse gases, growing landfills, dependence on fossil fuels and pollution of natural resources. Therefore when shopping think of the environmental impact when making purchases. By reducing the amount of waste you produce, you save energy and reduce pollution.

According “Enviroshopping: Buy Smarter” from the University of Florida Extension, consumers should buy products that make the best use of energy, don’t pollute air and water, are reusable or recyclable, made from plentiful resources and recycled materials, and use minimal of materials in design and packaging. Although packaging serves many useful purposes such as product preservation, consumer education, and consumer convenience much packaging is still wasteful. Before purchasing a product consider the following points:

• Buying larger food and beverages in larger containers produces less waste since they require less packaging. Be sure not to buy volumes that you can use before food spoilage.
• Is the packaging made from recycled materials- sometimes it will say on the package. Recycled plastics cannot be used for packaging food for it has not been approved by the FDA.
• Buy products with packages that you can re-use before they enter the waste stream. For example, drawstring mesh citrus bags make excellent laundry bags!
• Buy fresh fruits and vegetables with less packaging.
• Go inside restaurants and avoid the drive-thru when possible. Most fast-food serving materials end up in landfills.
• Ask yourself if the packaging is really needed or is just used to make the product more attractive.
• Avoid products that use several layers of materials when one layer would suffice.
• Ask if the materials can be recycled? Many plastics cannot be recycled. Check with your sanitation department if you have questions.

What about paper or plastic at the check-out? It would be better if you did not have to ask yourself this question. Purchase and use recyclable bags when you can. Both paper and plastic can be recycled. Therefore, consider if you can reuse the bags before they enter the waste stream. For example, plastic bags have some advantages over paper for some uses such as handling wet or moist products.

Our economy, culture, quality of life, and politics are closely tied to the environment. Sustainable practices enable us to meet our current needs without compromising the next generation’s ability to satisfy their own needs. We can preserve our natural heritage and conserve natural resources for the future by living sustainably.

Resources:

Enviroshopping buy Smarter
Accessed at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/he790 on 6/19/2014

University of California-Riverside Wellness Program
Accessed at http://wellness.ucr.edu/seven_dimensions.html on 6/19/2014

Author: Dan Remley, MSPH, PhD
Reviewer: Susan Zies, MS

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