Three Simple Actions With A Big Environmental Impact
I love this young generation. They astonish me, teach me, and all the while keep me laughing.
My daughter shared with me that one of her best friends never picks up her dog’s poop on their walks. Now, I know and LOVE this woman – and I pause in shock as I’m carefully scooping up my golden retriever’s recent deposit. “What?! She just leaves it there?”
To which she adds “Well, think about it. The poop on the lawn is probably way better than scooping it up with that plastic bag and shoving that back into the earth. It’s just fertilizer.”
Not sure the neighbors would agree, but it got me thinking. She’s right.
I thought of how many pounds of dog poop – in plastic bags – make their way into landfill daily. It’s no harder to pick up poop in a compostable bag than a plastic bag.
While I wasn’t in love with her solution to the problem, it certainly inspired a new solution for me.
SIMPLE ACTION #1 – Switch to compostable bags for pet waste and place in the compost / lawn waste bin.
Having done a fair bit of research on our soils, the impact on our food supply and compostable fibers, I highly recommend purchasing bags made from non-GMO plant material. Here’s why:
The goal is to limit landfill and at the same time keep our soil and water healthy. GMO plants are used more often than not to make “plant based bio-plastics.” The problem is that at its simplest level – these grains are saturated at a much heavier level than even conventionally grown plants with chemicals such as pesticides that are not only toxic, but are carcinogenic (cancer causing). Many are harmful to our nervous system and hormonal systems as well. Pesticides are also bio-accumulative, meaning they do not break down easily and they accumulate in soil, water, and bodies of animals as well as humans.
Rather than simply accepting an eco-friendly label, it’s important to think a bit further out of the box. While the European Union has regulations around what bioplastics can be called eco-friendly, the US does not.
Consider replacing plastic bags or even conventional compost bags with these bags:
They are made of 100% non-GMO cereal grain and do not add petroleum by-product or phthalate (plasticizer), as many compostable bags do. Not all compostable bags are toxin free or plastic free. Petroleum by-product and estrogenic plastics, just like pesticide, do not belong in our soil.
SIMPLE ACTION #2 – Compost table and food waste.
I am embarrassed to say that until not too long ago, I wasn’t doing this. Granted most of my table scraps went down the disposal and not into the trash, I learned the hard way that one is not actually supposed to do that.
In his heavy accent and soft voice, our lovely plumber explained to me, a rookie in the plumbing world, that no food should really go into the disposal. Hmm? Maybe it’s just me, but this fact still confuses me. Isn’t this what a disposal is for? – But trusting his expertise in the field, I atomatically began throwing what seemed like pounds of peels, cores, food scraps into the trash.
Luckily that was short lived, and around the same time that I switched to the compostable doggy bags, I invested in a small compost bin and compostable bags for the same purpose.
What surprised me was that the following trash pick-up day, I had less than half – yes, half – of the trash that I normally have. Imagining the impact if we all made this very simple change was inspiring to me.
Having worked in natural medicine for more than twenty three years and having been intimately involved with the recovery of people’s health, in large part due to the contact that we have on a daily basis to things that are more toxic than nourishing for us, I have often felt overwhelmed. Much of what we are exposed to is a result of the choices we make as a community, not just the choices we make individually.
It’s the action taken by us as a community that will impact whether we have the choice to grow organic food or breath clean air in the future. The combination of our choices, both for ourselves and for the greater good is the key to a healthier future.
SIMPLE ACTION #3 – Avoid purchasing or consuming GMO food.
The GMO issue has been a polarized one and one that can get convoluted, but doesn’t need to be. For our purposes, we’ll stay with a discussion around the implications to our health and environment.
Even if we were to accept the idea that GMO food production is more efficient and may be able to feed more people, the question is – What are we feeding them? Food is intended to nourish our bodies. The nutrient found in plants comes directly from the soil, with the help of water and sun.
Healthy soil is richly concentrated in a vast array of minerals. Each of which, our bodies must have in order to maintain life and well-being. These are our macro and micro nutrients and they are the co-factors for almost every cellular process in our bodies. (1) Pesticides such as glyphosate (sold under the trade name Round-up), widely used on GMO crops, are chemical chelators. (2, 3) The function of a chelator is to bind and strip, which renders useless the minerals in the plant and soil. If the minerals – macro and micronutrients are the reason we eat the plant, and they are no longer available, why are we eating the plant? Is this still food?Just for fun, here is the dictionary definition of food:
any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth.
We are stripping both the plant and the soil of life-giving nutrient wherever glyphosate is applied. Consider also: When aerial spraying is in effect, this chemical can travel far beyond its intended application site.
Let’s talk about safety. In 2015, glyphosate was classified by the World Health Organization as a probable human carcinogen. (4, 5, 6, 7, 8) And the same year, it was classified as genotoxic (damages DNA) by the European Food Safety Authority. Yet its use continues to increase, with more GMO foods hitting the market along with different ways in which the chemical is used.
For example, glyphosate is also used as a desiccant in agricultural processes. This means the grain many of us consume and consider “health food,” such as wheat and oats, can be and often are doused with glyphosate as a drying agent prior to harvest. (9) Why? Because the grain dries faster and becomes lighter for transport, making it more cost effective. But what is the inevitable long term cost in human, animal, and environmental health?
Glyphosate also functions like an antibiotic and, in fact, was even patented as an antibiotic (United States Patent 7,771,736). (10) A 2018 study found that when exposed to glyphosate, bacteria can develop antibiotic resistance up to one hundred thousand times faster than without. (11) Consider this: If someone took a prescription antibiotic and soaked the food you eat daily – would you still eat it?
We are a long ways from knowing that these practices are safe. In fact, the evidence points to the contrary. In taking empowered action – whenever possible, invest in certified organic products and in those who follow organic practices. If that is not possible, begin by consciously choosing non-GMO products.