Humans produce almost 20,000 plastic bottles every second. Despite personal views, we all can agree that plastic packaging is being used like never before, and is being purchased by consumers in high amounts. And really, we get it, with its durable nature and moisture-resistant features, plastic has been a staple for packaging for quite some time, and it doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. With the high availability of plastic materials, many people are finding themselves buying products made and/or packaged with plastics whether they realize it or not.
Where does all the plastic go? As stated in a recent article from The Guardian, “fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles.” Further, in another report by the World Economics Forum, our global plastic consumption worldwide is estimated at 260 million tons. Since only a small percentage of the plastic we use is recycled, the rest of it must go somewhere.
Along coastlines and roadways, you might already be seeing an increase in plastic litter. Arguably, the place where plastic debris is most destructive, the ocean, currently contains two large masses of plastic debris, known as the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches, collectively called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This gyre of marine litter stretches for hundreds of miles across the ocean. Marine life can consume plastic pieces, or, get entangled in debris and die. Further, plastic bags get caught on coral reefs and either suffocate them, or block the sunlight from getting to them which slowly kills the reef.
What can you do? No matter how dire the situation is, there are still many things we can do to reduce our plastic usage.
Stop using straws: Whether at restaurants, bars or at home, just say no to the straw. Get used to sipping your drink straight from the glass since this can make a big impact.
Use reusable bags for shopping: Have you ever noticed how most homes have a closet filled to the brim with plastic bags? Maybe you are also one of these individuals. What can we say? It’s incredibly easy to accumulate these when we go shopping regularly. There are millions of plastic bags made every day, and with no proper way to dispose of them, they prove to be incredibly bad for the environment. On your next trip to the grocery store, bring your cloth bags along instead.
Stop buying bottled water/soda: Instead, drink your water from reusable bottles and look for beverages that are held in glass or aluminum containers. As a side note, both glass and aluminum have their pros and cons, we suggest reading more here.
Pack your lunch with glass containers and wax cloth: To easily package leftovers, place items in glass containers versus plastic and use wax cloths to cover fruit, containers, or other food as needed.
If you have children, consider using cloth diapers: According to the EPA, 7.6 billion pounds of disposable diapers are discarded in the U.S. each year. Cloth diapers are a great way to save money while reducing your carbon footprint.
Don’t use plasticware: Instead of using the disposable forks and spoons at work, bring your own from home and decline additional utensils when you get food to-go from a restaurant.
We all are responsible for doing what we can to reduce our plastic usage. Use the tips above to get started today.
Kermit the Frog may have been misleading us the whole time. A study released in December of 2015 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Healthsuggests that people who live in nature-rich environments experience up to 50% less mental health issues than people who live in urban environments, leading some researchers to believe that the benefits stem from the color green itself, instead of or in addition to access to natural space.
According to the study, the color green adds more positive feelings and stress reduction to an outdoor workout compared to an indoor workout. The researchers have found that the color can boost reading ability in children, ease anxiety in the workplace, relieve stress, and boost the immune system.
These findings may not be surprising to many wellness practitioners who have been espousing a need for environmental wellness for years. To read more about the green study, click here.
How happy would you be to get a $10,000 raise? How about a $10,000 raise for every household on your block? Sound good? Then plant some trees!
The city of Toronto, Canada found that by planting ten trees on a city block, the happiness of the residents on that block was raised by an amount similar to what they would get if their household income were raised by $10,000.
This benefit comes in the form of increased overall health. The increase in health was doubled for those with cardio-metabolic problems. This pattern of increased health for those who live in greener areas has been seen as a way to potentially disrupt the pattern of healthy wealthy people, and less healthy poverty-stricken people.
Researchers are still somewhat stumped as to why these health benefits can be attributed to trees. Hypotheses include the fact that trees reduce air pollution, provide shade, and ambiguously “reduce stress.” Researchers are also contending that natural environments can improve attention and memory.
To read more about the city of Toronto’s findings on trees and health, click here.
Posted By NWI,
Friday, August 1, 2014
Updated: Monday, July 21, 2014
This month’s wellness inspiration is inspired by Spiritual Wellness, being connected to something greater than ourselves. During the summer months (adjust appropriately for your hemisphere), we get to enjoy warmer weather, may stay outside more, and get to connect to our surroundings and environment. Our connection to the great outdoors is so important to our overall wellness there is even a term for doctors prescribing time in the great outdoors, "Park Rx."
Below are a few sentiments to inspire you to fulfill your Park Rx while the weather is nice, stars are shooting in the skies, and the nearest body of water beckons.
There is pleasure in the pathless woods; There is rapture on the lonely shore; There is society, where none intrudes, by the deep sea and music in its roar: I love not man the less, but Nature more. -Lord Byron
In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia. -Charles A. Lindbergh
I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order. -John Burroughs
I still get wildly enthusiastic about little things… I play with leaves, I skip down the street and run against the wind. -Leo Buscaglia
In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous. -Aristotle
Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow. -Helen Keller
Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence. -Hal Borland
Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby. -Langston Hughes
Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was. -Dag Hammarskjold
We do not see nature with our eyes, but with our understandings and our hearts. -William Hazlitt
Nature always tends to act in the simplest way. -Bernoulli
Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in. -Greek Proverb
When preparing to climb a mountain – pack a light heart. -Dan May
Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit. -Edward Abbey
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. -Edward Abbey
An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day. -Henry David Thoreau
Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth. -Walt Whitman
Nature has a funny way of breaking what does not bend. –Alice Walker
If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk. -Raymond Inmon
Posted By NWI,
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Research released in June from the American Diabetes Association showed that individuals who live in neighborhoods that are conducive to walking (think walking trails or city neighborhoods with resources like grocery stores within walking distance) experience a lower rate of obesity and diabetes.
The more we rely on (or have to rely on) our cars, the more unhealthy we are.
The study done over a 10-year period by a team of Canadian scientists pointed out that an individual’s environment could be secretly working against their overall health. Specifically, the studies found that people living in neighborhoods with greater walkability saw on average a 13 percent lower development of diabetes incidence over 10 years than those that were less walkable. Overweight and obesity, as well, was lowest in the most walkable neighborhoods and fell by 9 percent over 10 years, whereas it rose 13 percent in neighborhoods with the least walkability during that time, according to the research.
What can you do about it? Short of moving, look for every opportunity to get up and walk (park farther away, walk your dog, find a nearby nature trail, etc.). If you are moving, you might consider the neighborhood as well as its walkable resources. Instead of letting your environment determine your physical activity, be determined to move as much as you can.
Posted By NWI,
Thursday, May 1, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, April 16, 2014
May 12-16, 2014, is National Ride your Bike to Work week. Riding your bike instead of driving has a number of environmental and personal benefits. It is good for your wallet, and is a great workout. Below is a list of why jumping on the “Ride Your Bike to Work” bandwagon can benefit you!
Burn calories. Riding your bike 12 to 14 mph for a half an hour can burn approximately 267 calories for a 135-pound woman. To calculate the number of calories you would burn check out this link: http://www.healthstatus.com/perl/calculator.cgi
Tone your body. Cyclists are able to build killer legs, quads, glutes, and calves by propelling their bike. The upper body gets its workout through handlebar maneuvering, giving your body a balanced tone.
Save your joints! Bicycling has a low-impact on your joints compared to running. For maximum low-impact, make sure your knees are bent just slightly (approximately 25 degrees) on the down pedal stroke.
Protect your heart. Riding your bike three times a week can help to lower your blood pressure and LDLs, the top two risk factors of heart disease.
Statistics show that over half of the U.S. population lives within five miles of their workplace, making the ride to work a doable 20-minute ride. With the increasingly beneficial environmental, health, and economic perks to cycling, joining the National Ride Your Bike to Work Week is a wellness positive!
What if we could reduce
deaths by 35%? It seems we already have.
In a study published in
September 2013 in the Journal of the
American Medical Association (JAMA), one Brigham Young University
professor, Arden Pope, through economic analysis,
concludes that improvements in U.S. air quality have reduced deaths by 35%.
Pope, a member of a larger research team, asserts that evidence exists
that by reducing our air pollution, we have seen measurable improvements in
life expectancy and public health.
As part of this research, Pope and other scholars found in successive
studies that dirty air impacted hospital admissions, mortality rates, and
cardiovascular disease— including the risk of heart attacks. Whereas past
research had made the tie between bad air and respiratory issues, newer
research shows links between dirty air and cardiovascular disease, lung health,
and brain health.
What does this mean for you? Pay attention to Red Alert Air Quality Days
if you live in a populated area. Even if you aren’t concerned about global
warming, emissions play a critical role in our health and the health of future
generations…so it wouldn’t hurt to think greener.
Christopher J. L. Murray et
al.The State of US Health, 1990-2010: Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and
Risk Factors.JAMA, 2013; 310 (6): 591 DOI:10.1001/jama.2013.13805
Brigham Young University (2013, September
17). Death and disability from air pollution down 35 percent in the US.ScienceDaily.
Posted By National Wellness Institute,
Monday, April 1, 2013
Clean water is important for healthy living and overall
wellness. Without access to clean water, the risk of disease and illness
increases. No access to clean drinking water causes a decrease in productivity
and forces many students in developing countries to miss school. Environmental
wellness is important for individuals to recognize the limits of the
environment and how personal habits affect the Earth’s resources.
Approximately 780 million people worldwide do not have access to clean drinking
water. Access to clean water and sanitized living conditions is important for
each person throughout the world. Using as little water as possible is
important for daily activities to ensure no water is wasted. The following
provides worldwide water facts and how to decrease water consumption. For more
information on water and sanitation, please visit RC International Water and Sanitation Centre.
There are 320 million people without clean
drinking water in China while 20% of water that is used for drinking water is
contaminated with carcinogens.
Women and children spend 40 billion hours
annually collecting drinking water in Africa.
Every 20 seconds, a child dies from a water-related
When an American takes a five-minute shower,
more water is used than the amount used per person in a developing country for
a day. Shortening showers can save about 700 gallons of water per month.
70 percent of industrial
wastes are dumped directly into local water without any treatment in
How to Save Water
Minimize toilet flushing especially for face
wipes and other contents that should be thrown away.
Monitor water usage with a water meter.
Use the drain plug when washing hands or shaving
to decrease water usage by 50 percent.
Fix leaky faucets as up to 24 gallons of water
can be wasted each week for each tap.
Spend a maximum of five minutes in the shower.
Turn the tap off when brushing teeth as .5
gallons of water can be wasted every minute.
Upgrade to a modern toilet as 2,113 gallons can
be wasted every year for older toilets.
Run a shallow bath for no more than nine minutes.
Be conscious of water used. Minimize water
consumption when possible to make a difference.
Water use in the United States relates to developing
countries because water shortages continue to increase throughout the world. As
populations grow, using water for agricultural demands will also increase.
Developing countries lack access to clean water and as more water is wasted in
developed countries, water shortages will continue to spread. Saving water when
possible is important to minimize water consumption and sustain healthy living.
Posted By National Wellness Institute,
Friday, June 1, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Practicing wellness isn't just about good health and exercise. True wellness is about our intellectual, emotional, spiritual, occupational, physical, and social wellness. Practicing true wellness is about acknowledging that we are a small part of a bigger world. As you work on your own wellness, remember there are those with far more barriers to achieving health, such as individuals in developing companies with unsafe drinking water. Moreover, helping others goes a long way to promoting our own emotional and spiritual wellness. June 5 is World Environment Day, sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme. For more information visit: UNEP.
Joshua Pearce, an Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MichiganTechnological University, has recently discovered a solar water disinfection (SODIS) method (SODIS) allowing a person to leave a transparent bottle of clear water in the sun for six hours and have the fluid then be safe to drink.
Disease among developing countries caused by unsanitary water is at an extreme high of 80% (The Water Project). Pearce noticed when using SODIS that heat and the suns ultraviolet radiation killed many of the pathogens that caused illnesses such as diarrhea when left in the sun for six hours. This illness itself kills approximately 4,000 children each day in Africa because of unsafe water.
One difficulty Pearce came upon when using SODIS was how some developing countries do not have the clear water necessary for this method and if the fluid is muddy, it can be difficult to clear out the clay particles. If the clay is not destroyed, SODIS will not be successful because clay will mask the disease-causing microorganisms and ultra violet radiation will not sanitize the water. To have successful purification of water that contains mud, the clay must settle out by a process called flocculation. Using Sodium Chloride (table salt), sediments will clump together and will be easier to filter out with screens so the water can be clear again. However, salt works most efficiently as a settling out method when it is in muddy water that contains the clay particles betonite. If the clay is of a different source, a little amount of betonite can be paired with salt when filtering the water to settle out the mud and prepare it for SODIS treatment.
Illnesses among developing countries are highly influenced by their unsanitary water. This solar water disinfection method is a simple and cheap way for those who risk their health and lives with dirty water to drink water without the worry of whether or not it is safe.
The average American office worker uses about 500 disposable cups every year.
The average office worker in the United States uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year. That's 4 million tons of copy paper used annually. Office workers in the United States generate approximately two pounds of paper and paperboard products every day.
Every year, Americans throw away enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times.
During 2009's International Coastal Cleanup, the Ocean Conservancy found that plastic bags were the second-most common kind of waste found, at 1 out of 10 items picked up and tallied.
The state of California spends about 25 million dollars sending plastic bags to landfills each year, and another 8.5 million dollars to remove littered bags from streets.
Less than 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled each year. Recycling one ton of plastic bags costs $4,000. The recycled product can be sold for $32.
The oil from just one oil change is enough to contaminate one million gallons of fresh water. Americans who change their own oil throw away 120 million gallons of reusable oil every year.
The average American uses about the equivalent of one 100-foot-tall Douglas fir tree in paper and wood products each year.
Airports and airlines recycle less than 20 percent of the 425,000 tons of passenger-related waste they produce each year.
Between Thanksgiving and New Year's, an extra million tons of waste is generated each week.
38,000 miles of ribbon are thrown away each year, enough to tie a bow around the Earth.
In 2008, the average amount of waste generated by each person in America per day was 4.5 pounds. 1.1 pounds of that was recycled, and .4 pounds, including yard waste, was sent to composting. In total, 24.3 percent of waste was recycled, 8.9 percent was composted, and 66.8 percent was sent to a landfill or incinerated.
The beverage industry used 46 percent less packaging in 2006 than in 1990, even with a 24 percent increase in beverage sales in that time.
The barriers of all landfills will eventually break down and leak leachate into ground and surface water. Plastics are not inert, and many landfill liners and plastic pipes allow chemicals and gases to pass through while still intact. In 2008, a survey of landfills found that 82 percent of surveyed landfill cells had leaks, while 41 percent had a leak larger than 1 square foot.
In 2007, the EPA acknowledged that despite recent tightening of emission standards for waste incineration power plants, the waste-to-energy process still "creates significant emissions, including trace amounts of hazardous air pollutants."
Only 30 percent of people in the Southern region of the United States had curbside recycling collection in 2008. Eighty-four percent of people in the Northeast had curbside recycling. The South also has the most landfill facilities—726, in contrast with 134 in the Northeast.
Food scraps were 12.7 percent of waste generated in 2008, while yard trimmings were 13.2 percent.
Only 2.5 percent of all waste food was composted in 2008; the rest went to landfills or incinerators.
30,990 tons of food scraps were discarded in 2008, composing 18.6 percent of all materials going to landfills or incinerators.
American per capita food waste increased to more than 1,400 calories per person per day in 2009, an increase of approximately 50 percent since 1974.
Because microbes in compost can degrade some toxic organic compounds, including petroleum, compost is often used to restore oil-contaminated soils.
The United States has more communities working toward Zero Waste goals than all of Europe.
In 2008, Americans recycled 7 million tons of metals, eliminating the equivalent of nearly 25 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, or taking 4.5 million cars off the road for one year.
Recycling 1 ton of mixed paper saves the energy equivalent of 185 gallons of gasoline.
Recycling 1 ton of aluminum cans conserves more than 207 million BTUs, which is equal to 36 barrels of oil, or 1,665 gallons of gasoline.
Aluminum can be recycled forever with no loss of quality.
Recycling aluminum creates 97 percent less water pollution than making new metal from ore.
Every three seconds a baby is born. In that time, 140 cans are born.
Every ton of glass containers recycled saves over a ton of natural resources.
63.4 percent of paper was recycled in 2009, an all-time high, according to the American Forest & Paper Association. 2009 was the first year the rate was more than 60 percent.
If we recycled all our aluminum cans for one year, we could save enough energy to light Washington, D.C., for 3.7 years.
A recycled aluminum can can be back on the shelf in 60 days.
Producing one pound of recycled rubber requires only 29 percent as much energy as producing one pound of new rubber.
Bottled Water Facts
At least 90 percent of the price of a bottle of water is for things other than the water itself, like bottling, packaging, shipping, and marketing.
44 percent of "purified" bottled water sold in the United States started out as municipal water.
827,000 to 1.3 million tons of plastic PET water bottles were produced in the United States in 2006, requiring the energy equivalent of 50 million barrels of oil. 76.5 percent of these bottles ended up in landfills.
Because plastic water bottles are shielded from sunlight in landfills, they will not decompose for thousands of years.
Only 10 percent of the 140.3 million cell phones retired in 2007 were recycled.
Of the 2.25 million tons of electronics (TVs, cell phones, computers, etc.) retired in 2007, 82 percent were discarded, mostly to landfills.
About 40 million computers became obsolete in 2007, about twice as many as in 1998.
About 304 million electronics were disposed of from U.S. households in 2005. Two-thirds of them still worked.
Recycling one million cell phones allows 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium to be recovered.
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