Plastics: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle… and Wash

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It’s a good idea to reduce your use of plastics. The potential health consequences notwithstanding, we’re running out of places to sort and store this stuff as part of the process to recycle it.

Long story short: China used to be our go-to-country for plastics disposal. It was in their interest – they got cheap plastic from all over the world they recycled into new products, and the world got a place to send their trash. However, because China received so much plastic debris – expected to be 111 million metric tons by 2030 -, they closed their doors to most of it in November of 2017. It’s spilling over now into countries like Vietnam, Thailand, and South Korea. The rest of it is piling up in the countries of origin – the US included.

That’s as if every human on Earth contributed a quarter of their body mass in mostly single-use plastic polymers to a massive, abandoned pile of garbage.

The US is one of the biggest exporters of plastic waste. We owe it to ourselves and to the rest of the world to be responsible. There are things each of us can do to reduce our exposure to plastic for the health benefits, while simultaneously reducing our contributions to the growing garbage problem:

  • Eliminate single-use items. This really may be the easiest and most impactful you can do.
    • Replace your bottled water with a reusable beverage container. This keeps you hydrated, saves you money in the long run, and prevents the bottles from ending up in the ocean
    • Ditch the plastic straws. They are some of the worst offenders. Trade them for silicone or stainless steel alternatives.
    • Trade in for reusable shopping bags. Those flimsy plastic bags at the supermarket almost always get tossed. Buy a few large, sturdy canvas totes, consider an insulated one as well, and just keep these in the car. At the very least, ask for paper over plastic if you don’t live in a place like California that mandates reusable bags.
  • Wash your recyclables. Please, please, please wash your recyclables. As the article notes, contaminated waste (i.e. covered in food, debris, etc) will gum up sorting facilities and cause them to reject the item altogether. This means it goes into a landfill rather than be recycled at all. You don’t have to send your empty food containers thru the dishwasher, but just rinse them really well. t doesn’t take that much time to rinse them before placing them in a recycle bin.
  • Skip the plastic option altogether.
    • Buying produce at the grocery store? Skip the little produce bag-on-a-roll in the produce aisle. You’re washing your produce at home before using it anyway, right? Of course you are, so just put your fruits and veggies right in the cart (or in a multi-use bag), right on the check out conveyor, and then be sure to wash them before eating them at home.
    • Get the pasta sauce, the applesauce, the hummus, salsa, mayo, etc. that comes in a glass jar or a metal can – leave the plastic one on the store shelf.
    • Visit the deli. Instead of buying cheese and meats from the cooler section, where they come stored in plastic bags, go to the deli and buy it in bulk. Additional benefits including having the deli slice it just how you like, potential for a free taste sample prior to buying, reduced prices, and product recommendations. Ask the deli to wrap it in paper rather than plastic.
    • Visit bulk foods with your own container. Get a container with it’s tare weight (the weight of the container without any contents) printed on it so the checkout clerk can weigh it correctly – or use brown paper lunch bags – and get your rice, cereal, pretzels, candy, nuts, trail mix, and other dry goods from the bulk section. You’ll save money and get exactly what you want.
  • Other ideas – some easy, some complex.
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Reducing Impact for Earth Day 2018

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Earth Day 2018 is this Sunday the 22nd. Earth Day is the world’s largest environmental movement – and this year specifically targets plastic pollution.

Optimal Health Center is participating by, among other things, replacing all of our disposable beverage containers with reusable vessels that are repurposed, recycled, and, most importantly, non-toxic.

We’re loving our 100% silicone to go cups and have been getting raised eyebrows and questions from our favorite juice joints and coffee shops around town.

If you’d like more information, see our series of posts on plastic waste here and here.

Hydrate Responsibly. Really Responsibly.

Next in our series on medically and environmentally responsible hydration: The 16oz and 8z GoSili Cups from SiliKids.

What is it?

A cup/mug made from 100% silicone, with reinforced stainless steel ring embedded in the rim to hold it’s shape. At Optimal Health Center, the 16oz mug comes with the coffee lid and the 8oz cup comes with the SiliSkin sippy cover.

Why this vessel?

Silicone

It’s a great alternative to the other reusable vessels we often see. No plastic means no BPA/BPB. It’s dishwasher, microwave, and freezer safe. Silicone can even be boiled to sterilize (for the super sensitive among us). Leave it in the cupholder of your car on a Palm Springs summer day without worrying the heat will leech plasticizers or other toxins into your drink.

Silicone is a natural insulator. So hot beverages stay warmer longer and cold beverages stay cooler longer. The wide mouth allows any style of beverage – water, smoothies straight from your blender, coffee, tea, or your favorite juice.

The SiliSkin sippy cover that comes with the kids’ cup can be used on the original cup, the mug, or any other reasonable jar or bottle – allowing you to repurpose those mason jars and apple sauce bottles instead of sending them to the landfill.

These cups can be used over and over again – replacing paper and plastic options and reducing pollution. Step up your non-toxic hydration game.

Side benefit for those of us who love our hot beverages hot, but still want to sip and savor… you can relax and pop your GoSili mug in the microwave for a few seconds to reheat your coffee or tea without worrying you’ll decompose the mug into your beverage.

 

Bring Your Own… Cup

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Billions of disposable cups end up in landfills every year
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8 million tons of plastic is dumped in the ocean yearly

5.25 trillion pieces of plastic trash are floating in our oceans. The Pacific Garbage Island alone covers an area ranging from the size of the state of Texas to the size of the country of Russia (!). And there are 5 of these types of islands. Plastic degenerates into fine particles and micro beads, which hover just below the surface, making it hard to see, but causing immense harm to marine life.

We live in a “throw-away” culture. One that enjoys a use-once-then-discard mentality about too many things. As a group, we often try to make ourselves feel better about our impact by committing to recycling. While worthy, recycling simply isn’t sufficient. Worse, it’s often not applicable. For example: did you know that many disposable paper cups cannot easily be recycled due to the plastic or wax coating on the inside that makes it waterproof? This paper biodegrades much slower in landfills for the same reason. The 5 major global garbage islands are just one example of the impact of our fixation on single-use items for convenience as opposed to necessity.

The reduce, reuse, recycle mantra is as important as it ever was. At Optimal Health Center, we took a look at which behaviors we could adopt to make positive change. We’ve elected to replace “convenience vessels” with reusable options at our homes and at our office. In other words, we’re choosing bottles, cups, and mugs made from sustainable, responsible, non-toxic materials that can easily be washed and reused indefinitely.

Why vessels? Everything needs to start somewhere. Our providers frequently recommend patients drink more water. Chronic dehydration is a common cause of health conditions, and in our Desert community, it’s even more prevalent. Life can be busy and hectic, and it’s so easy to just grab a bottle of water from the cooler at the convenience store and then toss it when it’s empty. That’s great for your hydration, but that bottle is terrible for the planet, and the toxicity in the plastic bottle isn’t healthy. The right vessels represent a one-two punch for healthy bodies and healthy environments.

We’ll publish a few posts in a series on medically and environmentally healthy hydration designed to help our patients and readers score points for themselves and for the planet.

Detoxify Your Liver

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We are all exposed to toxins on a daily basis in the form of pollutants in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the foods we eat. Therefore, everyone should engage in detoxification on an ongoing basis. There are many methods to help the body get rid of toxins, ranging from the use of dilute herbal extracts in the form of homeopathic remedies to sweating in the sauna for several hours per day. The suggestions below focus on naturopathic support for the liver, one of the main organs of detoxification.Read More »

Why Detox?

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Toxins are substances that cause disease when present at low concentration in the body. We are all exposed to toxins on a daily basis in the form of pollutants in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the foods we eat. We come into contact with toxins when we fill up our cars at gas stations, enter closed buildings, inhale cigarette smoke and even handle flea collars for our pets.

Here are some facts about the prevalence of toxins in our environment.

Read More »