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Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

A waiter with two plates of food
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Let’s face it, it’s really nice to eat out sometimes. You don’t have to prepare food or do the dishes, and can order what you want. However, eating out can leave a large footprint on the environment, depending on what you order, how its served, and what you do with leftovers. Food waste, single use items, and resource intense foods contribute to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The good news is that you can eat out more sustainably by making some small changes. Here are some easy tips that you can do when eating out to help the environment:

  • Choose more plant based foods, smaller portions of meat and fried foods. Plant based and fresh foods are usually less resource intense to produce. Guess what? They’re healthier too!
  • Refuse single use straws, utensils, cups, and bags. Bring your own reusable ones.
  • Take home leftovers. Food waste contributes to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as it rots in landfills. Bring reusable plastic containers to use as a doggy bag for example.
  • Compost or recycle unsoiled paper products such as pizza lids, bags and boxes.
  • Choose restaurants that you feel are ethical and sustainable. You might have to do a little bit of research. Find out if they support your values. Do they pay workers a livable wage, do they source locally, do they offer healthier and sustainable menu items?
  • In general, try to eat out less often. When you eat out, there is also a chance you are leaving food at home to spoil.

Behavior change is hard, so try not to do too many things all at once. Consider setting some small goals. Small goals can lead to big impacts collectively and over the course of time. Think of all the plastic straws you would save from landfills by refusing them over the rest of your life. Choose goals that are really simple and attainable. For example, make a box of reusable items that you could use at restaurant and place in your car. If you go out to lunch 3 days a week, consider cutting back to one day a week.

Author: Dan Remley, PhD, MSPH, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, and Wellness

Reviewed by: Jessica Lowe, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, lowe.495@osu.edu

Sources:

Lobb, Jenny. (2022). Starting the Year with a SMART goal. Retrieved at https://wordpress.com/post/livehealthyosu.com/12600

Sabate, Joan. (2014). Sustainability of Plant-based Diets: Back to the Future. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/100/suppl_1/476S/4576675.

United States Department of Agriculture. (n.d.) Food waste and It’s links to Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change. Retrieved from https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2022/01/24/food-waste-and-its-links-greenhouse-gases-and-climate-change.

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Plastic bags overflowing with empty plastic bottles

I used to pride myself on my recycling efforts. I would compare my overflowing recycling bin with my neighbors and wish more people recycled. I felt it was our duty, responsibility, and obligation to protect our planet.

However, my recycling pride was deflated when I read a report from the Department of Energy that showed only 5% of plastics were recycled in 2019. A whopping 86% of plastics end up in landfills and the rest is burned to generate electricity. I finally realized that just because a product has a recycling arrow on it, does not mean it’s being recycled, especially if it is plastic.

So how do we reduce our plastic consumption? Let’s examine four common household purchases and see why plastic should be avoided.

1. Food: Paper Box Rather Than Plastic Cups
Sometimes, there is a hefty economic and environmental cost to convenience, like this example with macaroni and cheese. Turns out mac and cheese from the box is 17 cents/ounce, while the plastic cups cost 61 cents/ounce. Even worse, the consumer is left with four #5 plastic containers, which are one of the least recycled post-consumer plastics, at a rate below 1%. Compare this to paper and paperboard, which have a recycling rate of 68%.

Box of Mac N Cheese next to 4 plastic cups of Mac N Cheese

2. Fruit: Metal Cans Rather Than Plastic Cups
The cost difference between pears in a metal can and in plastic cups is negligible. However, the environmental cost is substantial. As mentioned above, #5 plastic has a recycling rate of less than 1% while the recycling rate for steel cans is 71%. Of course, fresh pears are package free. To have the smallest environmental impact possible, shop with reusable produce and grocery bags, then throw the pear core in a compost bin.

A metal can of pears next to pre-packaged cups of pears

3. Soda Pop: Cans Rather Than Bottles
There is little cost difference between pop cans and bottles. But once again, the environmental difference is noteworthy. Aluminum cans are the most recycled category of aluminum at 50%, compared to the recycling rate of #1 plastics which is 29%.

Aluminum can of Diet Mountain Dew next to a plastic bottle of Diet Mountain Dew

4. Soap: Bar Rather Than Liquid
Again, the cost between bar and liquid soap is minimal, so let’s compare the packaging. Soap bars are often packaged in paper, which have a recycling rate of 68% while liquid soap is often packaged in #2 plastic containers, which have a recycling rate of 29%. This information also applies to laundry detergent. If you are looking to avoid the large, #2 plastic jugs of laundry soap, consider plastic-free laundry powder, bars, tablets, or sheets.

Body wash in a plastic bottle next to 6 bards of soap

Stay Informed
The dos and don’ts of recycling changes frequently. Stay up to date on what you can recycle curbside and look for additional opportunities to recycle in your community, through zero-waste organizations or your solid waste district.

Final Thoughts
As summer winds down, it’s a great time to start planning waste-free lunches for your kids. The goal is similar: reduce waste and reliance on convenient, single-use, hard-to-recycle items. The next time you are at the store, reach for the apple sauce in the glass jar rather than the plastic one. Mother Earth will thank you.

Note: Item descriptions, prices, and photos were retrieved by the author at a local grocery store that is affiliated with a national supermarket chain on 7/18/2022.

For more information about plastic and recycling, visit:

Written by: Laura M. Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Warren County. Email: stanton.60@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Courtney Warman, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Program Specialist, Healthy Finances. Email: warman.44@osu.edu

Photo Credits: Cover image by rawpixel.com. All other photos by Laura M. Stanton, 2022.

References:

Bollas, B. (2021). Reducing your single-use plastic waste. Ohio State University Extension. https://fcs.osu.edu/sites/fcs/files/imce/PDFs/Single_Use_Plastics.pdf

Leblanc, R. (2019, May 9). An overview of polypropylene recycling. The Balance Small Business. https://www.thebalancesmb.com/an-overview-of-polypropylene-recycling-2877863

Milbrandt, A., Coney, K., Badgett, A., and Beckham, G. (2022). Quantification and evaluation of plastic waste in the United States. Resources, Conservation & Recycling, Volume 183. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2022.106363

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

Stanton, L. M. (2021). How to pack waste-free lunches. Ohio State University Extension. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wv_zyW-WzZY

United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2021, November 15). Ten ways to unpackage your life. https://www.epa.gov/trash-free-waters/ten-ways-unpackage-your-life

United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2022, July 9). Facts and figures about materials, waste, and recycling. https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling

Woelfl, C. (2021, June 7). Our plastic problem. Ohio State University Extension. https://livehealthyosu.com/2021/06/07/our-plastic-problem

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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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