Thanksgiving Reflections – What are You For?

Thanksgiving Harvest - Pumpkin, Gourds, Berries and CornThis Thanksgiving let’s ignore all the pro and anti Black Friday hype to reflect on what we believe in, what we are for, and what we are willing to do about it.

Last week I was pondering what to write about for this post. I confess Black Friday has a certain allure for me, it embodies everything I believe is wrong about consumerism, but I already wrote about it last year. Besides, I was seeking to deliver a positive message this year, so Black Friday was off limits.

Hmm, what could I write about for Thanksgiving?

An idea came to me a few days ago while I was walking back from the grocery store carrying a loaded reusable shopping bag.

I recalled a recent conversation with my brother from several weeks ago. After I had excitedly shared the news with him that California had just passed the first statewide single-use plastic bag ban, he made an interesting comment. His actual words elude me but the gist was “Environmentalists always seem to be trying to get something stopped, banned, or prohibited.”

His observation stayed with me.

I am delighted with the bag ban, but just banning stuff is only part of the solution to living in harmony with the balance of the natural world. There needs to be a lot of beginning, enabling, and implementing too.

After mulling all this over, I knew I wanted my Thanksgiving post to be about things that I am for. Since I am an avowed treehugger, I selected a dozen green things I strongly believe in, advocate for, and use or do myself.

I am For:

  1. Composting – putting supposed waste to good use by nurturing the soil.
  2. Fingerless Mittens – staying warm and being able to type on a computer keyboard.
  3. Local Food – supporting local farmers and buying food grown closer to home.
  4. Low Flow Showerheads – getting clean and saving water.
  5. Organic Food – buying and eating food that is good for farmers, the land, and us.
  6. Personal Action – living gently on the earth and standing up for what you believe.
  7. Refillable Water Bottles – drinking water from the tap and refilling the same bottle.
  8. Reusable Shopping Bags – transporting stuff and reusing the same bags.
  9. Solar Panels – using the sun’s clean renewable power and supporting local jobs.
  10. Walking – keeping in shape, running errands, and enjoying being outside.
  11. Water Saving Toilets – flushing and saving water.
  12. Wood Chips – preventing erosion and helping soil retain water.

Pinecone with words Happy ThanksgivingOn this Thanksgiving, I am for family, friends, turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, relaxing, conversation, and playing games. I am for being thankful for the wonderful people who touch our lives and the amazing, beautiful Earth we all call home.

What are you for?

A Healthy Diet is Good for You and the Planet

Fast Food Cheeseburger and Deep Fried Onion RingsIn the U.S., over 34% of adults and 17% of children are obese.1, 2

Clearly, as a society, we are struggling with eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise, aided and abetted by fast food joints, clever advertising, and overly busy schedules.

Besides being good for our personal wellbeing, I believe eating a healthy diet often leads to food and drink choices that are more environmentally friendly. I doubt anyone would disagree that preventing illness, disability, and environmental damage are worthy goals.

I know from first-hand experience how challenging it can be to make the shift to eating a healthier diet and how rewarding it is to actually do it. In hopes of helping others in a similar situation, I’ll share my story in this post and the next.

The Pounds Creep On

I was always one of those lucky people who could eat whatever I wanted and still stay slender, that is, until about ten years ago. Call it middle age, stress, or whatever, but three years ago, I realized my waist had expanded several inches and I was carrying around at least 40 excess pounds; it just crept up on me. My eating habits were okay they just included too many calories from snacks and sweets.

Pile of Candy, Cookies, Crackers, and NutsMy right foot first alerted me I might have a weight problem. I began having sharp pains in my heel, then the bottom of my foot and then next my knees started hurting sometimes when I sat down or stood up. Instead of facing the issue, I adopted a strategy of doing nothing and hoping the problem would solve itself.

Several months later, with the knee pain on the rise, I remembered something I had read somewhere that said losing one pound reduces four pounds of stress on your knees. I thought, “Maybe I should try to lose weight.” Right on the heels of that thought was “I’ve never been on diet in my life.” and “There is no way I’m going to join a gym.”

Since I am a rather goal-oriented person, I like New Year’s Resolutions, often make and sometimes keep them. My 2012 New Year’s Resolution was to lose 40 pounds over a 2-year period.

I Have Never Been on a Diet and I Am Not Starting Now

Fortunately, I realized from the outset that to succeed I would need to make changes in my diet that I could live with for the rest of my life so I was expecting a lot of trial and error.

Tape Measure Wrapped Around PedometerAfter announcing my intention to my spouse, I dusted off my bathroom scale, unearthed an old fabric tape measure from the back of a drawer, bought a pedometer, downloaded a free food and exercise app on my smartphone, and headed to the library.

Over the course of two years, I probably read at least two dozen books about diet and nutrition, and the environmental and ethical aspects of growing, processing, and selling food (see below for a list of my favorites). The books provided a good foundation about how food interacts with our bodies and minds and a few good how-to tips on healthy eating.

Armed with information and equipment, I began my quest to eat a healthier diet and become pain-free.

Personal Benefits of Eating a Healthy Diet

As it turned out, after two years, I had lost 25 pounds not 40. All of my foot and a knee pain had disappeared and I felt healthy and well, and looked a better too. My spouse also lost weight and discovered a taste for kale, which I do not share.

I could have stopped at that point, but as I said earlier, I am a goal-oriented kind of gal so last January I set a new goal to lose the other 15 pounds over two more years.

Environmental Benefits of Eating a Healthy Diet

As far as the environmental benefits of our healthier eating habits:

  • We eat a lot more locally grown and produced food, which cuts down on the miles our food travels and reduces carbon emissions, besides we like supporting local businesses.
  • Community Supported Agriculture Organic FarmWe use more whole foods and less packaged foods, which reduces energy and water use and generates less waste, and it limits the amount of weird synthetic substances in our food.
  • We eat more fruits and vegetables and a lot less meat especially beef, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions and pollution from livestock facilities.
  • We buy some organic food, which means no pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers, better for everyone, farmers, the land, and us.
  • We compost our food scraps, which results in less garbage going down the drain or in the trash and nurtures the soil in our yard.

The Bottom Line

The thing is, that when it comes to eating healthy you have actually do it, and many of the ideas and strategies suggested by books, websites, and apps just did not work for an ordinary person like me.

In the next post, I will share the things that worked for me and the secret I discovered along the way to eating for health and wellbeing.

Related Posts

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Adult Obesity Facts
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Childhood Obesity Facts

Resources

Top 10 Diet, Nutrition, and Food Industry Book List

Below are ten books on a variety of food-related topics that I found useful during the research phase of my journey to eat a healthier diet.

  1. Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back, by Michele Simon
  2. Fast food nation : the dark side of the all-American meal, by Eric Schlosser
  3. Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, by Marion Nestle
  4. Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, by Michael Pollan
  5. Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, by Brian Wansink
  6. Nutrition for Life : The No-Fad, No-Nonsense Approach to Eating Well and Reaching Your Healthy Weight, by Lisa Hark, PhD, RD and Darwin Deen, MD
  7. The Best Life Diet, by Bob Greene
  8. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan
  9. The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer, by Joel Salatin
  10. You On a Diet: The Owner’s Manual for Waist Management, by Michael F. Roizen, MD and Mehmet C. Oz, MD

I found the videos Food, Inc. and Forks over Knives to be enlightening.

America Recycles Day – Start at the Store

America Recycles DayAmerica Recycles Day 10 in the Bin Flyer on November 15, 2014 offers people an opportunity to drop off recyclable materials at collection points across the country.

In addition to dropping off cans, newspapers, and bottles, take advantage of events that allow you to safely dispose of recyclable stuff that requires special handling and should not be put in public or curbside recycling bins like batteries, Styrofoam™ packaging, fluorescent light bulbs, household hazardous waste, and electronics (e-waste).

I am a fan of recycling and an avid recycler so when I ran across America Recycles Day last year I decided to dig into its history and purpose and then wrote Every Day Should Be America Recycles Day.

Container and Packaging Recycling

For this year’s post, I decided to focus on containers and packaging, something everyone deals with on a daily basis. It seems like most things we buy come in some kind of container or packaging, sometimes multiple layers. As soon as we open or use the product, the container and packaging becomes waste unless we recycle it.

According to the EPA, at 75 million tons, containers and packaging accounted for a staggering 30% of all solid waste generated in the United States in 2012. 1

Beverage manufacturers, consumer product companies, and recycling industry representatives tout the container and packaging recycling figure of 51.5% as a recycling success story. That still leaves 48.5%, or over 36 million tons of steel, aluminum, glass, paper, plastic, and wood containers and packaging in landfills across the country. 1

Egrets Standing on Garbage in a Landfill

Making boxes, cans, bottles, pouches, canisters, bags, tubs, wrappings, sacks, and cartons consumes energy, water, resources and generates waste. So does collecting, transporting, sorting, and processing recyclable materials. Not all containers or packaging is recyclable.

Clearly, our first priority should be to reduce containers and packaging in general. Next, make sure recyclable items do not end up in landfills.

Recycling Starts at the Store

If you think about it recycling starts at the store. While shopping, we have an opportunity to look at a product’s container and packaging and consider its recyclability before we bring into our home.

Grocery shopping is a universal activity that has a significant impact on what goes into our recycle bins, from cereal boxes to shampoo bottles. Let’s look at some ideas for shopping with reducing and recycling in mind.

Pile of Single-use Plastic Bottles - Photo: WikipediaSkip It – some products are wasteful regardless of whether they come in a recyclable container or not. Leave these items on the shelf, like bottled water.

Less is Less – buy in bulk, it usually results in less packaging overall, is more cost effective, and does not necessarily involve buying a huge amount of something.

BYOB – putting three apples in a plastic produce bag and toting groceries home in single-use plastic bags has become a habit for many America shoppers, but it can easily be broken by bringing your own bags or in some cases not using a bag. It’s easier to convert than you may think.

Just Add Water – cut down on plastic bottles by purchasing concentrated cleaners and adding water at home. Spray bottles conveniently marked with fill lines help unhandy people like me pour in the correct amount of solution and water, no measuring needed. By eliminating unnecessary water, which adds bulk and weight, these products have the added benefit of reducing transportation carbon emissions.

Confusing Recycling Label Collage - Image: Recycle Across AmericaCheck the Code – materials like cardboard and glass are relatively easy to recognize and are highly recyclable. Many plastics are recyclable too, but not all. Look for the recycling symbol and become familiar with recycling codes and which plastics your recycling company accepts.

Lose the Laminates – some foods and drinks come in pouches and bags made with recyclable materials like aluminum and plastic, but once the materials are fused together, they cannot be separated for recycling. I cringe when I remember the drink pouches we used to buy for our kid’s lunches.

Watch Out for Wrappings – what is the difference between eating a handful of cookies directly out of a box or grabbing three 100-calorie individually wrapped bags of cookies out of a box? One option involves three times as much packaging. By the way, the first box of cookies probably costs less.

Cases of Soda Cans Stacked to Resemble American Flag - Photo: Daniel OinesMaterial Matters – it doesn’t make sense to use certain materials for disposable containers. For example, aluminum is valuable, recyclable, and has a huge environmental footprint. It is an important material for making cars, electronics, and building components. Think twice before putting a six-pack of single-use aluminum beverage cans in your cart.

If you are you already a savvy shopper, then celebrate America Recycles Day by safely disposing of your household hazardous waste or e-waste at a local event, reducing junk mail by getting off catalog mailing lists, or swinging by a local retailer and dropping off your used batteries or fluorescent light bulbs.

Related Posts:

References:

  1. U.S. EPA – Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2012

Resources: