Not only should healthy living encompass our bodies, but the environment as well. What we do (or don’t do) to the environment impacts our lives. I recently read that Americans average 4.6 pounds of trash a day per person. Some of that is recycled or burned, but the majority ends up in landfills. While landfills may be necessary (where else would we put garbage?) they do cause some major environmental effects. If the landfills are not properly maintained they can cause pollution by contaminating groundwater, aquifers, and soil, as well as producing methane, a greenhouse gas. This particular gas is 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gases are said to be the leading cause of global warming. Even after a landfill closes, it still has to be maintained for 30 years . The trash doesn’t decompose, but just gets buried. Buildings, parks, and other structures/sites are built upon landfills after, but at what cost? There is always the potential of hazardous material being leaked into the groundwater and soil, and destroying the building materials. Biodegradable materials may release flammable and explosive gases as they decay.
Using green or natural cleaning products is beneficial to the environment for a variety of reasons. They don’t release noxious fumes into the air or into our water supply. If we are making our own cleaning products we are generally reusing bottles, therefore, limiting the amount of garbage or recycling. Carpooling, walking, or biking to work or school cuts down on the gaseous fumes cars give off. Using rags from old t-shirts or kitchen towels to wipe up messes, cuts down on the amount of trees being cut down for paper towels. Hand me down clothing, toys, sporting equipment is another key way to consume less, therefore making less trash. At the end of the school year I tear out all the used paper from my children’s notebooks, and reuse the notebook for the following year. Instead of buying paper for coloring, I keep a bin filled with computer paper that has only been printed on one side.
Plastic or glass containers to keep leftover food or even to pack lunches in, is also environmentally friendly, since we are cutting down on the waste of plastic bags, wrap, or tin foil. I pack my kids lunches in these bento boxes and cooler bags. Small tupperware or reusable food grade cloth pouches can be used to pack small snacks in. Rather than packing a cheap plastic fork or spoon everyday for yogurt, soup, etc. a reusable, higher grade spork can be used. I sew small, lunch size cloth napkins to pack in my kids’ lunches, but they can be easily bought as well. Take out the juice boxes, milk cartons, and cheap plastic water bottles and replace them with reusable water bottles. Juice and milk can be put in reusable, insulated bottles that keep the liquid colder. There are even these cool silicone ice pop holders to put yogurt or applesauce in rather than sending in disposable containers. Why go to such great lengths? Well, first off I find it much easier to pack lunches using a bento box, but more importantly I think about how much waste I am keeping out of landfills by packing lunches this way. In fact I think I have had the same roll of plastic wrap for at least 3 years now!
Besides reducing, reusing and recycling, we can reduce the harmful environmental effects caused by landfills by composting our food scraps. There are certain foods and matter you CAN compost and certain food and matter you must NEVER compost, so be sure to become more educated. One day I hope to own a compost tumbler or maybe try building one. I believe those are the best in terms of stirring the compost material up and getting it to mix well. I tried composting for 6 months with a cheap, plastic bin and did not have much luck. I still compost, but add it to my neighbors compost who is much more educated on the process.
Another of my pet peeves when it comes to waste and landfills, is goodie bags. Goodie bags given out at birthday parties. Goodie bags distributed at school on a student’s birthday or holiday. Goodie bag when you go to a conference or lecture. While sometimes the swag is worthwhile, most of the time it is not, especially when it comes to children’s goodie bags. Now that most schools have moved away from food at birthday and holiday celebrations, now they are coming home with goodie bags filled with dollar store trinkets that end up in the garbage, thus landfill, at some point. I choose not to participate in buying these goodie bag items when teachers or class parents ask for donations due to the reasons above. Plus I feel that by NOT participating I am teaching my child that they need to be mindful in what they purchase less it end up in a landfill. I want to fill their hearts and heads up with love, education, honesty, kindness. Not fill their bags with worthless junk that will end up in a landfill causing more environmental harm. I want to protect the future of the environment for my children so that they have a healthy place to live.