Plastic In Our Food and Air

Do we have too much plastic in our world?

Do we really want to ingest plastic microbeads every time we eat and drink?

Currently I am participating in a community plastic challenge working to reduce the plastic we send to landfills. I’m challenging myself to think of new ways I can reduce plastic in my home and for my family. It is impossible to eliminate all plastic, but we can be healthier by reducing plastic’s impact in our homes and lives.

These are the things I am working on to reduce plastic in my home:

1. Purchase fresh unpackaged produce. Always travel with reusable bags and reusable bottles and containers.

2. Store leftovers in glass containers and jars.

3. Never purchase take-out unless their containers are reusable or compostable.

4. Only cook in glass or metal pans

5. Purchase glass containers over plastic containers. Good examples are mustard, honey, and vinegar.

6. Make a conscious effort to purchase clothes, towels and sheets made of organic cotton and wool, and keeping our surroundings dusted and vacuumed will eliminate some of the microplastics we breathe.

What are the facts we know about plastic?

-Plastic production pollutes our water and air

-Plastic microfibers have been found in the food we eat.

-Micro fibers of plastic are in the clothes we wear and therefore in the air we breathe.

­-Plastic is the most common litter found in the oceans.

-Studies are just beginning on how harmful plastic is to our health.

Using glass containers gives me confidence we are reducing our plastic contamination

Reading list:

Plastics in our Food? – FOOD, FACTS and FADS (foodfactsandfads.com)

8 Everyday Foods That Contain Plastic and Safe Alternatives (nestandglow.com)

Toxic Nanoplastics Found at North and South Poles – EcoWatch 

Industrial plastics found in some fast food, researchers say | TheHill

UN to Create Global Treaty on Plastic Pollution – EcoWatch  

We Have Breached the Planetary Boundary for Plastics and Other Chemical Pollutants, Scientists Say – EcoWatch

U.S. Is World’s Biggest Producer of Plastic Waste, Report Finds – EcoWatch

California Just Passed 5 Mega Laws to Fight the Plastic Crisis – EcoWatch 

What is Zero-Waste?

Refuse, Reuse, Recycle

I use the term zero waste often. It is a daily goal in my household, a goal we work for every day.  Everything we purchase has an impact on our environment from our use of materials and natural resources to the emissions created for manufacturing. Then there is the end of life of a product. Will it sit in a landfill for 500 years polluting the ground and air surrounding it, can it be reused many times, or can it be turned into a new product?

Manufacturing, landfills, garbage burning, and hazardous waste contribute enormously to our warming planet. We need to take all our trash and waste seriously. Remember food waste is waste too!

Unfortunately, we have a long way to go to reach a zero-waste future.  Walking through a grocery or drugstore highlights how far we still have to go. Almost everything is packaged in plastic. Plastic that can’t be recycled!  As consumers we can try to purchase products with a minimum of packaging or refuse to purchase them completely. I often call manufacturers like Field Roast, Morningstar and Bob’s Redmill to request they start to use recyclable packaging.  Currently, in the United States only 9 to 10% of our plastic is recycled. We have a long way to go and need to begin to hold producers of plastic responsible so they produce packaging that can be recycled or reused.

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is how we need to live. Every product we purchase affects our environment; So, before you buy, ask yourself if you really need it? If you do, consider buying gently used instead of new, and look for minimal packaging and shipping.

My county, Hennepin, is creating plans for a zero-waste future:

Hennepin County’s zero-waste vision is a waste management system where all materials are designed to become resources for others to use to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. The key performance measure is diverting 90% or more of all discarded materials from landfills and incinerators.” Hennepin County

Zero waste is a set of principles focused on waste prevention that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused. The goal is for no trash to be sent to landfills, incinerators or the ocean. Currently, only 9% of plastic is actually recycled. In a zero waste system, material will be reused until the optimum level of consumption.” The definition adopted by the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA)

Watch The Story of Stuff and learn more about the zero waste movement.

In the United States 30% of our food is wasted. A huge waste of energy, labor and resources. https://www.usda.gov/foodlossandwaste

This is excellent! https://www.ecowatch.com/how-to-store-produce.html

Happy Thanksgiving!

Plan For Leftovers

In my meetings some are wondering what big thing they can do to stop climate change. I think many people doing lots of little things to help our planet amount to a lot! We can all make a difference by buying less and wasting less. Thank you!

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste increases by more than 25%. Added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons all adds up to an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills. (Source: EPA)

end food waste

Enjoy your leftovers!

Make a plan for your holiday left over food. What do you generally do  with left over food? 40% of the food  in the United States is not eaten, and ends up in our landfills causing an enormous waste of our precious resources. Wasting food is an enormous waste of water, money, time, labor, energy and transportation.  The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has an incredible education campaign to inform the public how much we are wasting.  For example the production of one egg takes 55 gallons of water! Their website is savethefood.com

Not only does wasting food, waste valuable resources and lots of water, but also food in our landfills decomposes creating and giving off methane gas which is a harmful air pollutant contributing to global warming

So let’s get creative and “Save the Food.” One of my favorite cooking activities is to reinvent leftovers into a new lunch or dinner stir fry, soup, tacos, enchiladas, salads, fried rice, quinoa bowls and many other things lend themselves to create special meals of leftover food.

Have a fun holiday, and make a creative difference by reusing, planning, seriously cutting waste, and saving food from the garbage!

The story of a strawberry here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WREXBUZBrS8

I am thankful for all the medical workers and teachers who have worked so hard during this pandemic! Thank you

Action Needed! Blah, Blah!

Much Much more is needed!

Love the Earth and Protect it!

The world climate summit is taking place in Glascow, Scotland. The world has known for a long time it needs to do something about our warming earth. There has been such a lack of leadership to get something done, and now we have reached a point where it has become hard to ignore. During the first week some important promises to protect forests, reduce methane and reduce coal. Will it be enough? No, but the conversation has begun. Russia and China didn’t attend so continued efforts are needed to keep them moving forward and integrate them into the discussion

In the United States the powerful lobbyists and oil industry have been able to control and stop action, and it is still happening with Joe Manchin as he hauls in the cash to resist a move away from fossil fuels.

Strong leadership and a desire to work together needs to come out of this important conference. Together everyone is the solution to our climate, We must all set this as a priority over greed, lies and waste.

Everyday we make an impact, make it positive!

Speak out for change! Work for a healthy future!

During the pandemic 2020 carbon emissions were reduced and we can do it again. Everyday with just a little effort, we can make an impact, and move to a new future of sustainability  Let’s start now by buying less junk, reduce our plastic use**, stop idling our engines, and a couple days a week eat meatless. Try walking and riding public transportation, you might like it!

There are some hopeful things happening in the world:

From Future Crunch:    Future Crunch Good – Bing News

 Amazing: Cars powered by combustion engines now make up less than 10% of sales in Norway, and forecasts suggest the country’s last sale of a new petrol or diesel car will come in April 2022, three years ahead of what was already the world’s most ambitious target.  Drive

 Russia has committed to carbon neutrality by 2060, Turkey has finally ratified the Paris Agreement, and the UAE has become the first petro-state to commit to net zero by 2050. Critics say these pledges aren’t enough, but they’re missing the point. They’re not promises. They’re ratchets – once announced, they only increase in ambition.

China has begun construction on the largest and most ambitious clean energy project of all time, 100GW of wind and solar in its western desert. That’s more than the entire existing wind and solar capacity of India, and will be able to generate four times as much power as the Three Gorges Dam. Bloomberg

The important question is what happens after the summit? Countries should be meeting yearly to report their progress and set new goals. Also, continued work needs to be done getting all countries involved.

Reading/listening list:

Report warns of climate change’s ‘code red’ impact on health – CNNReport warns of climate change’s ‘code red’ impact on health – CNN  

Jane Goodall: Every day you live, you impact the planet | TED Talk  

Could climate change lead to war? It’s a growing geopolitical threat | Star Tribune     

Plastics Could Release More Emissions Than Coal by 2030, Study Finds – EcoWatch 

‘Last, best hope:’ Leaders launch crucial UN climate summit – ABC News (go.com) 

Climate summit sees new pledges on cutting methane, saving forests (yahoo.com)

Financial Industry, With $130 Trillion, to Pursue Climate Goals – The New York Times (nytimes.com)   http://www.tucsonsentinel.com/nationworld/report/110521_cop_26_action/cop-26-doesnt-look-so-hopeful-countries-living-climate-emergency/

**Why we need to reduce our use of plastic:  Plastics are on track to contribute more climate-change-causing emissions (to the tune of at least 232 million tons of greenhouse gases annually) than coal plants by 2030, according to a new report out of Bennington College. The reason? As fossil fuel companies seek to recoup falling profits, they’re increasing plastics production.    REPORT: The New Coal: Plastics & Climate Change — Beyond Plastics – Working To End Single-Use Plastic Pollution  

August Challenge

 

“Being kind and warm-hearted is the secret to a happier life and a better world for everyone.” Dalai Lama

Last night as I was purchasing groceries, the young clerk said to me, “I have had such a good day, all the customers have been so nice!”

August is here, and this month subscribes to a kindness challenge.

The Actions for Happiness group has a calendar for Altruistic August with lots of ideas. See their ideas below.

If you still haven’t Your first action a kindness is to get vaccinated from Covid The collective health of all our communities is important. Get vaccinated!

Then…Our Earth needs kindness too. During August I challenge you to drive less, recycle more, buy less, and reuse more.

Make your August into double challenge days! If everyone does a little, it adds up to a lot. Thank you.

Here’s my list of things to do:

Meatless Monday, Plastic-free Tuesday, Walking Wednesday, Transit Thursday, Zero food-waste Friday, litter pick-up Saturday, and finally, Smiling Sunday.

Have a Fun and thoughtful August, Actions for Happiness calendar follows:

3 things to do this week!

 

If everyone does a little, it adds up to a lot!

I have three things I think everyone should do this week. Happy holidays!

1.Wrapping gifts (Ideas from MPR)

My husband’s wrapping

Despite its name, you actually can’t recycle most wrapping paper.  It contains too much foil and glitter.

The only types of wrapping paper that are recyclable are the ones that are one hundred percent made out of paper. This will most likely be the plain brown paper you’ve seen packages wrapped in. You can get creative and decorate the paper with drawings to spruce up the present.

Gifts in reusable cloth bags

You can get even more creative by using materials that you already have to wrap your presents. You could use old newspapers and compost them or cloth bags and ribbon and reuse them next year. 

Gifts

You can give gifts to your friends, family and the environment all at once. You could give to a cause the person is passionate about, or plan a clothing swap all while creating zero waste.  

You also may want to consider supporting small businesses this year by shopping locally rather than getting things delivered. 

2. Don’t Waste food. 

Food waste picture
Wasting food wastes water, energy and labor!

Wasted food is a huge contributor to global warming and climate change. It is a waste of energy, labor, and water, often contributing to air and water pollution. Rotting food in landfills contributes more air and water pollution.  In the United States we waste 40% of our food, and we can all do better. Read about it at Save The Food 

Cook only what you need and have a plan for using leftovers.

3. Take an AWE walk

Find beauty in your neighborhood!

Take a healthy mindful walk and pay attention! Leave your phone and headphones at home. Look at the beauty of the trees, the sunshine and landscape. Listen for the wind and birds.  Find something you love and something that surprises you. Unwind and enjoy!

Zero Waste Wednesday

end food waste
Help the environment by reducing food waste

Food waste is a waste of water, a waste of energy and transportation, and a waste of time and labor. Making an effort to reduce food waste is an important thing we can all do for the economy and the Earth. In America 40 percent of the food produced is wasted!

We waste too much food, and there is a food crisis with this pandemic. Many are unemployed, and lines are long at food shelves, which are experiencing a massive demand. A  big disconnect, many are starving, and at the same time we waste lots of food! Today, no recipe required, instead of throwing food away use your creativity to create a meal with left overs and produce you have in your house. Can you make an omelet, soup, wrap, or stir fry with what you have? Have fun, be creative!

“Even before COVID-19, Americans, on average, were tossing away more than a pound of uneaten food per person each day, amounting to some 400 pounds of food thrown out annually. That’s far more than any other wealthy country — about 50% more food waste per capita than France and nearly double that of the U.K. According to U.S. government estimates, the cost of U.S. food waste comes out to $161 billion annually. The environmental costs are abysmal.” Read the article by Amanda Little  here.

These are important facts we should be aware of, from the IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Food production causes 30 % of greenhouse emissions, 80% of global deforestation, and uses 70% of the world’s fresh water!

Too much food is waste!
How can you use those leftovers?

 

Great suggestions for reducing your food waste.

Make your Wednesday zero waste!

Plastic-free/Zerowaste Tuesday

Sadly all the shopping restrictions have made plastic-free shopping more difficult. Even my food coop won’t allow me to fill my own containers, but as we shop we can still work to purchase items with a minimum of packaging and strive for less waste.  Hopefully, in a few months things can safely start to get back to normal.

real plates
Always use real dishes, utensils, and glasses.

Spending the day at home makes it easy to be plastic-free. Always use real dishes, utensils and glasses/cups. Read about my plastic-free day here.

Too much food is waste!
How can you use those leftovers?

Make Tuesday the day to use up food left-overs from the week. Create wraps, soups or a stew from your left overs. Before the Coronavirus  40% of food was wasted in the United States. With so many hanging out at home I suspect that number is now lower. Let’s save water, labor and energy, and continue to reduce our food waste.

Food waste picture
Wasting food wastes water, energy and labor!

“Learn strategies to reduce food waste at Save the Food, (www.savethefood.com) and commit to taking action. Some ideas: improve your meal planning and stick to your grocery list, store food to make it last, reorganize and inventory your refrigerator or pantry, and keep track of perishable items and use them up before they spoil.” Hennepin County

Earth Day Kindness

earth dayNature is not cancelled, pollinators are not cancelled, blooming trees and plants are not cancelled. There is a whole world of beauty outside our homes and from our windows. On this fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day, April 22, celebrations are going virtual, but as individuals I hope we can each think about what our wonderful world means to us. We are all connected and our collective action against Coronavirus is working.  Let the healing of our Earth and our people begin, and lets put our collective action together to make a better world. Because we are all connected let’s come out of this crisis stronger as a people and stronger as a society.  Our resilience will get us through this.
I have a daily activity for everyday as we celebrate and count down to Earth Day. I hope you will join me. Please have fun, connect to nature, experience the hope of spring, be kind, and be part of a healing world!


Meatless Monday

vegan food
Quinoa Vegetable Stew

Collective action to reduce our meat consumption*** can make a big difference. Monday is a good day to try a new vegetarian dish. Find a recipe for Lentil Cacciatore here.  It has been amazing how popular beans have been in this crisis. The grocery store shelves for beans are still empty, and I hope we are cooking and making healthy food choices. Enjoy a meatless day!

 

Plastic-free/Zero waste Tuesday

end food waste
Help the environment by reducing food waste

Spending the day at home makes it easy to be plastic-free. Always use real dishes, utensils and glasses/cups. Make Tuesday the day to use up food left-overs from the week. Create wraps, soups or a stew from your left overs. Before the Coronavirus  40% of food was wasted in the United States. With so many hanging out at home I suspect that number is now lower. Let’s save water, labor and energy and continue to reduce food waste.

 
Water Wednesday

poster for clean water
What can we do to keep our water clean?

Clean water and water use have become crucial  topics. Flooding and droughts are happening everyday, and we all have a right to clean drinking water. Become aware of your water usage and how lucky you are to have inexpensive clean drinking water. Water Wednesday is to concentrate on our water usage. It is a day to pick up litter, sweep our sidewalks, and clean debris from our storm drains. Redirect your drainspouts onto your lawn, and figure where you could plant a raingarden?Is there a place in your yard or porch/balcony you could add some native plants the bees and butterflies love?  Collective positive energy works!


Thoughtful Thursday
Everyday should be kind and thoughtful, but make a special effort today. Our collective actions for kindness can make a difference. Put water in your bird baths, fill your bird feeders, check-in with someone you haven’t seen or heard from in awhile. Be kind and smile.


Friday Fun

Common Wood-nymph

Become totally engaged in your surroundings. Create a scavenger hunt: look for sidewalk art, a butterfly, a beautiful tree. Look for blooming flowers, a bird building a nest, something that surprises you or a special cloud. Everyone that finds something new wins!


Singing Saturday
What sounds of nature catch your attention? I have birds singing outside my window. Ducks are flying overhead, frogs and crickets will sing soon. Maybe the wind or a rushing creek give you peace.  Listen for an enjoyable sound, or maybe listen for complete quiet. Find peace in nature.

Spiritual Sunday

find beauty
Collective action can create a healthier and happier world.

What ever your spiritual practice, nature can heal us. Today find beauty and love whether through the gospel, through a poem or picture, time outside or a meditation. Dare to dream. Spend the day focusing on what you love and finding beauty in your day. If the weather permits go for a long walk. What do you love, how can you have more of what you love in your life? Find quiet beauty from your walk or from your window. Wishing you peace.

***”Now is the time to try out any plant-based recipes you’ve saved. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants that keep your immune system strong, and they have a lower carbon footprint, too. For example, beef is about 34 times more climate pollution–intensive than beans and lentils, pound for pound. If you’re finding it hard to keep your produce fresh given your newly limited shopping habits, get creative. Whir brown bananas into smoothies, or simmer soft tomatoes into sauce. There are plenty of ways to salvage fruits and veggies slightly past their prime. So boost your repertoire. Share recipes with friends. And come out on the other side of this crisis a climate-friendly chef.” NRDC

Waste Not!

Too much food is waste!
How can you use those leftovers? Foods waste is responsible for 8% of yearly global emissions

We have a serious problem. 40% of the food in the United States is wasted, and 30% of food worldwide is wasted. What a ridiculous waste of energy, money and water. Read more here.

At the same time over 800 million people don’t have enough to eat, and more land is being cleared everyday for more agriculture. Rotting food waste in landfills creates methane gas that causes pollution. Each one of us needs to reduce our food waste. I have said many times this is one of the hardest things for me to deal with in trying to help our climate crisis.  Reducing food waste takes constant vigilance. This week I came home from the farmers market with rotten apples and cucumbers. Being a more thoughtful shopper and buying just what I needed could have helped.

These are important facts we should be aware of, from the IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Food production causes 30 % of greenhouse emissions, 80% of global deforestation, and uses 70% of the world’s fresh water!

My advice for managing food waste and working for zero waste in my home:

Shop in bulk
Buying in bulk is a good way to manage food waste  and packaging waste. Bring your own container!

1. First, be mindful of your perishables, use your freezer, buy in bulk to get just what you need, and become aware that gluttony is a form of food waste

2. I save celery tops, onions and raw produce waste to put in a stir fry or soup. One of my favorite things about cooking is how I can use leftovers creatively. I love making wraps, rice or quinoa bowls with food leftovers.

3. Expiration dates are not something I obsess over. Most of the time food is good long past the date.

Help the environment by reducing food waste

What things do you do to reduce food waste?