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Dr Leah Romay DDS

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Protecting the environment is something that is really, really important to me. In honor of Earth Day, I want to share some of my top tips for being more eco-friendly. 

I think I can speak for many of us in saying that we often take this planet for granted, as it has afforded us so many great opportunities and never stops revolving around the sun. However, now more than ever, our planet is suffering the grave consequences of our industrialized and materialistic ways.

Just a few of the biggest problems are:  

– The accelerating rate of glacial melting, resulting in the rise in sea level. It’s destroying coastal towns and altering the habitats and food supplies of many animals. 

– Rainforests, which regulate our planetary temperatures and CO2 levels, are being destroyed every day, primarily to clear land for pastures to raise cattle. These rainforests are also home to more than half of our planet’s species and are therefore the hugest source of diversity. 

– Our waterways and oceans are being polluted by plastic particles and industrial by-products, which are being consumed by all types of wildlife,  damaging coral reefs, and altering ecosystems. It’s also the water we need to drink and rely on.  If you eat fish from the ocean, then you are also consuming these plastics and toxins.

These are just some of the terrible things that are happening every single day to our planet. I hope that you are inspired to make a difference, because as you will see, every bit matters!

1. Use a reusable water bottle and vow to never buy a case of water bottles again

This is probably the easiest one you can do and it will greatly decrease the amount of plastic you are going through each day. 

Example: I would probably drink about 4 bottles every day. Multiply by 1 year = 1460 bottles

That’s a LOT of bottles! Or you have have 1 bottle that you refill from your water filter at home. The water quality will be so much better as well. I personally love my Berkey Water filter as it is the best countertop gravity fed water filter you can get. Otherwise I would install an in-home water filtration system. There are so many other health benefits that you will gain from this as well. 

Ideally, buy a bottle that is glass or high grade stainless. I would not recomend buying a cheap metal water bottle from Amazon because cheap metals can have constituents that you don’t want to be in contact with your water all day. Cheap plastic water bottles also leach chemicals into your water that are neurotoxic and hormone disruptors. It pays to buy a good brand, plus it’s going to last you a long time!

2. Always use reusable tote bags and produce bags

Just like you never leave home without your cell phone, you should never leave home without a reusable tote bag, whether you’re going to the grocery store or the mall! Keep some in your trunk, keep a tiny compact one in your purse  – then you are always prepared! Here on the East Coast, this still is not happening every day. People on the West Coast are much more diligent about these. I think it’s time us East-coasters show up to the game! I love my Tom Bihn totes because they are made in America, and also have pockets, padded handles, and stand up easily. I also like these Chico bags because they’re compact and I can throw it in my purse for “just in case” scenarios.

I also use produce baggies, not the plastic ones on the roll. Even though some stores have biodegradable bags now, a factory still had to produce the bags and use resources, materials, transportation, etc, to get to you so that you can use it for many 1 hour of time until you get home and unload your haul. I love these bags from Eco bags – they are machine washable and they have lots of sizes. I have a bunch of the mesh ones as well as solid fabric ones. I use the solid bags for bulk items like nuts, seeds, oats and such. 

3. Buy as much in bulk (avoid items packaged in plastic)

This is a game changer for how much waste you will create. Once I became persistent on buying as much food and items in bulk as possible and avoiding items that come in plastic bags or containers, the amount of trash and recycling waste in my house dropped dramatically. There are many stores where you can buy items in bulk. I bring my fabric baggies or containers and fill them up. You can get food items like baking flours, sugars, nuts, seeds, legumes, herbs and spices. You can also get oils, soaps and other household cleaning items. I also avoid the print-out labels or tags by using my Iphone Notes app, where I have a running list of items with the code. When at the checkout register, just tell the cashier the code. Then at home, I put my items into mason jars or other storage containers and wash the bags if necessary.  

I also avoid produce that comes in bags or boxes. If carrots are pre-bagged or loose, but the loose ones. Use your produce baggies (link above) or just throw them in your cart. There is no rule that you have to put them in any bag.  I used to buy lettuce in the boxes, but I’ve since switched to buying bunches of spinach or heads of romaine that I chop and wash in my salad spinner. If I really want arugula or mixed greens and they only come in the plastic box, then it will only buy them here or there, but not every week. Maybe it seems like a tradeoff or sacrifice, but I think it is the right thing to do. Plus the loose heads of lettuce usually seem to last longer than the pre-boxed stuff. It always rots so quickly don’t you think?

This concept also applies to things that come in “snack packs” or individually wrapped bars or items. These should be avoided as much as possible. Buy the biggest box or bag available and then divide up among your own reusable containers or reusable bags at home for snacks. 

4. Buy products from companies that have a commitment to ethical and sustainable practices

Buy local – buy from that local soap maker rather than Walmart. Support your neighbors!

Buy made in America – Workers will be paid fair wages and there are more rules and regulations in America regarding pollution

Buy from companies that are transparent in their business practices – find excellent brands at Good On You

There are endless products out there that are dirt cheap and we love to buy them. It means our money goes further and we can have MORE. Well there’s a dark side. By purchasing cheap stuff, you get what you paid for – for you and the planet. As in, you get a cheap, low quality items that are made in unethical ways that damage or pollute the environment in doing so. 

One prime example is clothing. Did you know that the fashion industry is one of the worst polluters and sources of unethical business practices in the world?? You can go online to Amazon or Walmart or shop at stores like Forever 21, H&M, or wherever, and buy all types of clothing items for really cheap prices. Unfortunately, these companies aren’t paying their workers fair wages, their factories are unsafe and not up to basic safety regulations, and they could even be using child labor. 

Then there’s the pollution. For example, to dye blue jeans, hundred of gallons of water are used to wash the fabrics and the dyes. The toxic dyes then end up in the waterways in these nations, like China, where it pollutes the waters that the people need to drink. All because we want cheap blue jeans. 

Then, these cheap clothes are shipped all around the world en masse, feeding our fast fashion obsessions, where we over consume them. After the season ends, we have piles and piles of rejected clothes that are no longer “in style”. 

The moral of the story is this – we all could use a little less in our lives and what we do buy, should be of higher quality. Brands that are much more transparent in their practices regarding environmental impact and ethics can be found via Good On You ratings. Yes they are often a bit more expensive, but do you really need that many tops?

5. Reduce your waste generation by avoiding single-use disposable items at home and on the go

If you really analyze what you use in a day, you will quickly realize that it is so easy to constantly use single use items all day, every day. I mean, they were made for convenience and they are convenient. But once you have a system, it will be so easy

Here’s an example day that generates a lot of waste: Breakfast bar wrappers, followed by morning coffee at the drive-thru. Microwave “Noodle in a Bowl” lunch with a plastic spoon, followed by snacks in single use ziptop baggies. At dinner, you cook chicken that came packaged in a plastic vacuum container and veggies that came in a plastic bag. Don’t forget about gum wrappers, pill packages, and drinks with straws.

I challenge you to this – take note of what you are doing and find out if you are unknowingly using a lot of plastic or single use items. Picture the amount you use in one day and multiply by the number of people in your family times 365 days. It’s probably a mountain of trash. What would you do with all of that trash if you didn’t have municipal waste to whisk it away out of sight, out of mind? You probably would run out of space on your property at home, so you’d have to figure out how to generate less waste. 

Well that is exactly what I am proposing you do, because the reality is even if you put everything into the recycling bin, the vast majority of stuff destined for recycling actually ends up in landfills. And most of our trash is taking thousands of years to degrade and also ends up in waterways, in oceans, and in the bellies of animals. 

Here are some actionable steps:

– Use glass dishes with lids to store leftovers instead of a bowl with cling film

– Use a to-go cup to get coffee instead of a single use cup. Keep a spare cup at your desk at work for a mid-day coffee run as well as another one at home. 

– Pack your homemade lunch in a reusable container instead of ordering food in a takeout container with plastic utensils

– Use biodegradable garbage bags

– Use reusable straws or ask your bartender for no straw

– Use small dishrags  instead of paper towels. So what if you wipe up a spill on the floor? Just throw it into your wash bin and keep a big pile handy for the next mess. You’ll quickly realize you were blowing through paper towels at an alarming rate.

 

6. Reduce your consumption of animal products and follow a more plant-based diet

It is well known that raising the vast number of animals for consumption, for dairy, and for eggs is a serious environmental burden. From growing the grain, to transporting the animals, to having the space to raise the animals, and then shipping the products to stores, there are many more steps involved than just growing vegetables. Big-agri business is also responsible for using tons of highly toxic pesticides, herbicides and fungicides to grow the crops in order to feed the animals that humans in turn eat. These chemicals pollute our waters and the soils are devoid of all natural minerals due to the over use for growing the same basic crops to feed the animals – corn and soybeans. 

As I discussed at the beginning of this post, acres of rainforests are being plowed down every day to make pasture land for grazing cattle. The trees are often burned to clear the land, releasing extreme amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. It has also been reported that the greenhouse emissions from raising animals is nearly as much as all of the emissions from the transportation industry. 

By reducing your consumption of animal products and eating more plants, even if just one day a week, you will greatly reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted and, as an added benefit, you will be healthier!

How about trying meatless (and dairy and egg) free Mondays?! 

Check out this scientific paper from Nature journal and this article from UCLA for more info about the environmental burdens of the animal product industry

 

I hope all of this information is beneficial and helps you find ways to be more eco friendly. By reducing your usage of throw-away plastics and single use items, you will dramatically decrease the amount of waste you are generating. By purchasing items from companies with ethical and sustainable business practices, you are supporting the good guys and sending a message that this is what you expect from a company that you wish to do business with. 

Everything thing you do matters. We only have one planet and as humans, it is our responsibility to do everything we can to keep it in good health for all future generations to come!

 

xx

 

Dr. Romay

References

6 easy ways to be more ec friendly with actionable steps you can start today!

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