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Posts Tagged ‘sustainable living’

Beach clean-ups can be exciting events with a large turnout where volunteers remove lots of waste. Sometimes there are bulky items; car tires, shopping carts, or shoes that people have left behind. I attended a clean-up recently and I am proud to report that there was little litter. My fellow Ohioans are removing the waste they bring with them. Since there were no big messes to clean up, we were able to spend more time on smaller things.

We spent two hours picking through the natural debris for small pieces of plastic. There were bottle caps, sandwich bags, and broken pieces of foam. For many of the plastic pieces, the source was unidentifiable. Trash found in and around our Great Lakes is called marine debris.

Plastic is the most common type of marine debris found in the ocean and our Great Lakes. Lake Erie breaks plastic down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics.  Microplastics are plastic pieces less than five millimeters long. The smaller the plastics, the harder they are to clean up and remove from the environment.

Plastic marine debris can have negative impacts on our bodies and those of other living organisms. Animals can mistake plastics for food. The smallest animal on our planet, zooplankton, has been shown to ingest microplastics. We also eat, drink, and breathe microplastics every day. 

One study found that microplastics were in 90% of table salts. Another study estimates that we consume a credit card worth of plastic each week. We do not yet know all the harmful effects of consuming plastic, but scientists say that it likely exposes us to harmful chemicals.

We can make an impact by seeking opportunities to reduce or cut plastics products from our lives. When eliminating is not possible, be sure to dispose of items properly and in ways that reduce the risk of entering our environments. Lakes in Ohio are some of the best resources we have available. Our individual choices can help keep our Great Lake and our bodies healthy!


Written by: Courtney Woelfl, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Cuyahoga County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Franklin County

References

Bartolotta, J. F. (2018, March 18). Plastic is Fantastic… Or So We Thought. Ohio Sea Grant College Program. https://ohioseagrant.osu.edu/products/twn25/plastic-is-fantasic-or-so-we-thought.

Loria, K. (2019, August 13). How to Eat Less Plastic. Consumer Reports. https://www.consumerreports.org/health-wellness/how-to-eat-less-plastic-microplastics-in-food-water/.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2008, November 14). What is marine debris? NOAA’s National Ocean Service. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/marinedebris.html.

NOAA. What are microplastics? National Ocean Service website, https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/microplastics.html, 04/13/16.

Parker, L. (2021, May 3). Microplastics found in 90 percent of table salt: potential health impacts? Environment. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/microplastics-found-90-percent-table-salt-sea-salt.

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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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 I love walking into the grocery store into the produce section! The colors and textures of the fruits and vegetables are bright and beautiful. Seeing my fridge at home packed with a bright selection of fresh produce is fun too if I have a plan to use them all.

One-third of the world’s food is wasted. Approximately 40 to 50 percent of food waste happens at the consumer level. In the US, the average person wastes 238 pounds of food per year or about 21% of the food they buy. This costs consumers $1,800 per year. Fresh fruits and vegetables account for the largest of these losses. 

Reevaluating your fridge can help not only the environment but your wallet as well. Consider these tips to help optimize your fridge and fresh food storage:

Prep: I often find a member of my household staring at the open fridge then uttering the famous words “there’s nothing to eat.” Doing a few minutes of prep work after grocery shopping can save time later and ensure your fresh produce gets used. Cut carrots, broccoli, celery, and other vegetables. You will be grateful this is done when you are reaching for a snack. Having these prepped also makes them a quick option to add to meals. Finally, unused fruits and vegetables that are already prepped can be added to a freezer-safe container and frozen before they spoil.

Clean: Set aside time each week to clean and take an inventory of your fridge and freezer. This task can be done in 30 minutes. Take time to throw away expired food and leftovers while wiping spills and cleaning surfaces. As the food is returned to the fridge take stock of what needs to be used and plan. Use this cleaning to check the temperature of your fridge and freezer. Your refrigerator should be at or below 40°F. The freezer temperature should be set at 0°F. Checking these temperatures regularly can help ensure your food stays fresh longer.

Glass Jars: Consider using recycled glass or mason jars for food storage. These are great to keep food fresh and are easy to see what is inside. Glass jars are easy to clean and their airtight seal will keep foods fresh. To reuse jars, just wash, remove the label, and they are good to go!

Throw in a Towel: Sounds weird? Wrapping fresh broccoli or cauliflower in a slightly damp towel will keep them crisp. Storing spinach or lettuce in a glass container with a dry towel on top will help them stay crisp and fresh.

Don’t Over shop: Try not to over shop.  You may get excited about a good deal, but if you don’t have a plan to use a large amount of something on sale that good deal may become food waste. Try to keep in mind how much of an item that you will use and avoid buying more than you need. Cleaning and taking regular stock of what is in your fridge will help avoid overbuying.

You know your fridge and your habits more than anyone else. Consider your habits and the foods you enjoy while you figure out a system that works for you. If you are storing food safely there is no right way to stock and maintain your fridge.

View Looking Out From Inside Of Refrigerator As Woman Opens Door And Unpacks Shopping Bag Of Food

Writer: Alisha Barton, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County, barton.345@osu.edu

Reviewer:  Dan Remley, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, and Wellness, Ohio State University Extension

Resources:

Are You Storing Food Safely? (2021) U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/are-you-storing-food-safely

Food Waste Is a Massive Problem-Here’s Why. (2021) FoodPrint.

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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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Picture of toy teeth eating candy

Although I’m the son of a dentist, I can’t say that I practice the best dental hygiene all of the time. I love sweets, sometimes forget to brush on weekends, and don’t floss every day.

Oral health has been associated with overall health. Gingivitis (inflammation and swelling of gums), for example, has been linked to cardiovascular disease, arthritis, poor diabetes control, and even memory function. Therefore, in addition to preventing cavities and bad breath, there are many other reasons for practicing good oral hygiene.

Have you ever had arguments with others about how often, when and how to brush, floss or visit the dentist? There are many myths about brushing that should be addressed….

  1. If you don’t eat candy, you won’t get cavities.  Cavities form when bacteria in plaque form acids that wear away your enamel. Harmful bacteria like simple sugars, but they also like other carbohydrates such as the starches found in potatoes, pasta and breads. So yes, it’s better if you can cut back on sweets, but don’t think that brushing and flossing still aren’t important. Generally, it’s better for your teeth if you consume sweets during meals and have less sweets and snacks throughout the day.
  2. Diet Sodas won’t hurt my teeth. Diet sodas are better than regular soda because they don’t have the sugar. However, like other carbonated beverages, juices, wine, and coffee, they are acidic, which is harmful to your enamel. In fact, dentists recommend brushing 1 hour after eating or drinking beverages such as coffee in order to avoid brushing away small pieces of enamel.
  3. I should brush and floss after every meal. Actually, experts recommend only brushing in the evening (before bed) and one other time during the day, for at least 2 minutes. The evenings are important because saliva production decreases during the night, leaving the teeth more at risk for decay. Rather than brushing after each meal, chewing gum throughout the day can increase saliva production which can be helpful, as long as the gum is sugar-free. If you do brush after a meal, wait an hour to do so, and remember to floss once a day.
  4. Natural tooth pastes are better for you and better for the environment. There are many products marketed as eco-friendly or natural. If you choose these products, make sure they contain fluoride; otherwise, they won’t be as effective at preventing cavities. There are toothpaste tablets with fluoride that you can also purchase, so that you don’t have to use the disposable plastic tubes. Biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes are also available. Speaking of fluoride, it’s better just to spit, rather than rinse, so the fluoride stays in your mouth longer.
  5. I don’t need to visit the dentist if I don’t have any problems. See your dentist regularly. Cavities don’t always cause toothaches, and dentists can remove plaque which will prevent cavities. Most adults need a check-up and cleaning twice a year. A dentist or hygienist can discuss and demonstrate the best ways to brush and floss.

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

Reviewer: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

Sources:

WebMD. The Mouth-Body Connection: 6 Ways Oral Hygiene Helps Keep You Well. 2017. https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/gum-disease-health#2

WebMD. Myths and Facts about Cavities. 2016. https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/cavities-myths#3

Oral Health Foundation. Diet and My Teeth. 2019. https://www.dentalhealth.org/diet-and-my-teeth

American Dental Association- Mouth Healthy. Your Top 9 Questions About Going to the Dentist—Answered! 2019. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/dental-care-concerns/questions-about-going-to-the-dentist

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I couldn’t help but think watching the usual black Friday riots on TV- what all of our consumerism is doing to our environment, and the quality of life of future generations. What resources are we extracting from the earth so that we can satisfy our children with shiny new toys that lose their luster in a couple of days and wind up in basement? Fortunately, our consumer behaviors can become much more intentional and less wasteful. It is an opportunity to live more “sustainably.”

The concept of sustainable living was introduced to me at a workshop I attended at a national urban Extension conference by colleagues from the other OSU (Oregon State University). I went into the workshop thinking that I was going to be lectured by tree-hugging west coast academics about how damaging my Midwestern lifestyle and values were to the environment. I left the workshop feeling like I had more direction and purpose in life than ever before.

According to Oregon State University, Sustainable Living is defined as “living a life that is deeply satisfying, fulfilling, and appealing – and at the same time, environmentally responsible.” It is NOT living in the woods, eating only berries, guilt driven, not buying anything again, nor gloom and doom. It is deeply personal, intentional, practical, and puts our individual actions in a global context.

Extension offers a free on-line sustainability class at: http://www.extension.org/pages/62201/living-sustainably:-its-your-choice#.Uqdp2vRDspg. The class offers research-based suggestions on how you and your family can live more sustainably (recycling, starting a garden, eating local and organic, etc.). Following the instructions, you will need to create a password and username.

Sustainable living is more than just being aware of our own actions. It is ultimately about rethinking our consumer behaviors so that we can be happier and healthier. When consumerism runs amok we think that we need more stuff to be happy, so we have to work longer hours. As a result, we have less time to do things we really value and end up with junk that only clutters up our lives. During the workshop that I attended, we had to think about what we would save from our living room if our homes were on fire. Such activities really get you to think what is important in life.

Writer: Daniel Remley, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition and Wellness at OSU Extension
Editor: Lisa Barlage, OSU Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences

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