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Archive for Healthy Lifestyle

February 25th, 2011

20 Quick Ways to Reduce What’s in Your Trash

Photo used under Creative Commons from Ace Solid Waste

Every year people get rid of billions of tons of trash. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces about 4.4 pounds (2 kg) of garbage a day, or a total of 29 pounds (13 kg) per week and 1,600 pounds (726 kg) a year.  All of this garbage has to go somewhere and that somewhere is usually a landfill. We are running out of space!

Where does all this garbage come from? Most of the stuff that we send off to landfills comes from single-use products and product packaging.  Our society is all about disposability- “use-and-toss” products are filling our garbage cans.  Let’s face it, we are a trash culture. The only way to reduce the amount of garbage we contribute to landfills is to learn how to reduce our consumption of use-and-toss products. 

Check out these 20 things you can do to reduce your trash:

Let me know which are keepers……..

  1. Paper towels-try out a cloth that can be washed.
  2. Paper plates and cups-use the real deal whenever possible or opt for reusable.
  3. Silverware-metal is the way to go.
  4. Plastic grocery bags-reusable bags are a great alternative.
  5. Bottled water-reusable bottles will hold all sorts of drinks.
  6. Individually packaged snacks-buy snacks in a regular sized bag and put single servings in reusable bags.
  7. Disposable Napkins-try reusable.
  8. Plastic baggies-replace with reusable bags that can be washed.
  9. Garbage bags- try to reuse bags that are not messy inside by emptying the garbage out and reusing the bag.
  10. Cotton balls-try using a cloth instead.
  11. Printer cartridges-get the old ones refilled rather than buying new cartridges.
  12. Batteries-invest in rechargeable batteries instead of disposable batteries.
  13. Mail-opt to receive statements and bills electronically when possible.
  14. Bubble wrap-Beth at Fake Plastic Fish suggests trying to reuse something you already have for packaging-try newspaper or old rags.
  15. Plastic wrap and foil-use a container with a cover instead for food storage.
  16. Aluminum foil-use a pot with a cover or for storage, use a glass container.
  17. Razors-get reusable instead of single-use razors.
  18. Liquid hand soaps in plastic containers-get a few reusable, decorative containers and refill them.
  19. Disposable diapers-consider changing to cloth.
  20. Juice boxes- although easy and convenient these boxes could take 300-400 years to decompose in landfills and they are not recyclable. Reusable bottles are the way to go.

Don’t forget to recycle. Such simple ways to make every day earth day!

February 3rd, 2011

Nutrition Keys: Will They Really Help Us Make Better Food Choices?

Nutrition Keys will soon appear on the front of Food Packaging

Say hello to ‘Nutrition Keys’.  The Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute unveiled the industry’s voluntary Nutrition Keys that will display calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar content per serving on the front of food packaging.  Some packages will also contain additional information known as “nutrients to encourage” such as potassium, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, iron and protein.

The rational behind the new labels stems from a push from First Lady, Michele Obama, as part of her initiative to solve childhood obesity.  The new labels are meant to give consumers a quick and easy reference to nutritional information and encourage healthier food choices.

Although voluntary, most companies have jumped on-board and will begin to add the Nutrition Keys within the next few months, but will also keep in place the required black and white nutritional information box usually found on the back of the packaging.

Will the Nutrition Key initiative really help with food choices?

Cons:

  • Nutrition Keys don’t really provide us with new information.  The mandated nutrition box on the back of the product already has this information plus much more.
  • The new labeling is a bit condescending towards the consumer.  Are we as consumers too lazy to flip the product over and look at all the nutritional information.
  • When I decide whether or not to purchase a product I need to have all the information in one spot: ingredients and all the nutritional information.  The Nutrition Keys don’t give us the full picture.  Dr. David Katz gave a great example: “Diet soda has no calories, no sodium, no sugar, and no saturated fat, so by the Nutrition Keys criteria, it would look like a perfect food. Does anybody believe it is?”
  • I am undecided as to whether or not consumers will pay attention to this new form of labeling-or just ignore it. I guess only time will tell…..

PROS:

  • If you’ve had a chance to check out The  Nutrition Keys, the print is much larger than the nutrition box.  Since I am constantly squinting to read the fine print in the nutrition box, the large print is a small plus.
  • This is the first time we have seen negative information about a product front and center on a product-usually it is hidden away on the back.

My advice

Continue to flip your products over and real the FULL version of nutritional information. This is the only way to make an educated decision about your food choices. It can be confusing-but have no fear there is an app to help you sort through it all- Fooducate.

Looking for more information? Healthy Child Healthy World has some great tips on how to avoid the food label lies.

What are your thoughts on this new labeling? Do you think Nutrition Keys will help in the fight against childhood obesity?  Will they help you make better food choices?

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January 17th, 2011

No Ouch in Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been a part of my life for many years. I have used it for everything from plantar fasciitis to the flu. I recently went in for help with a nagging, lingering cough. I was really looking forward to this acupuncture treatment since it meant an hour of my day with no interruptions from kids, email, Facebook or Twitter and hopefully some relief from my cough.  I was ready.

WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?

Acupuncture originated in China more than 2,500 years ago and has been used to prevent, diagnose and treat disease, as well as to improve general health.  Through the insertion of needles into pressure points around the body, acupuncture helps the flow of energy (known as qi or chi) throughout the body.

DOES IT HURT?

Most people associate needles with getting an injection or having blood drawn, which can be painful. Acupuncture needles are incredibly thin- not much thicker than hair. They are not like the needles used for shots, which are hollow for the medicine or the withdrawal of blood. Acupuncture needles don’t hurt-honest! Sometimes I feel a slight burst of energy when the needle is inserted, but I wouldn’t call it painful.

THE TREATMENT

During the initial treatment a health form is usually filled out and there is a short consultation to discuss any issues.  I was lead into my treatment room and left to make myself comfortable lying on a massage table.  Before the needle treatment began, my practitioner checked my pulse in three places. Then needles went in without much awareness on my end.  I was left to relax in the room with the needles strategically placed all over my body and soft music playing.  After a bit the needles were removed and I was asked to flip over onto my belly.  Again, the needles were placed and I was left to relax.   Needles removed and all done.

WHY USE ACUPUNCTURE?

Acupuncture can be  used for a wide variety of conditions.  Some of the main reasons for using it are:

HOW TO FIND A PRACTITIONER

Most states require a license to practice acupuncture. If you live in the U.S. , you can find a practitioner by visiting the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and typing in your address.  Note: only a few practitioners came up when I typed in my address and I know there are many more.  Also, check with your health insurance provider for practitioners and to see if acupuncture is covered.

WHAT IS CUPPING?

My back after cupping

After my acupuncture treatment it was time for some cupping.   Cupping is a method of relieving local congestion by applying a partial vacuum that is created in a cup(s), either by heat or by suction.  The end result is a reddish purple bruising where the cups were placed.   Cupping became quite fashionable in 2004 when actress Gweneth Paltrow stepped out onto the red carpet bearing what appeared to be bruising on her back.

The cupping left  big bruises on my back as well-hopefully an indication that the cough was on its way out.

OUTCOME

Still coughing….but with the help of some western meds (I finally broke!) the acupuncture and cupping seem to be helping me bid adieu to the cough.

Have you tried acupuncture?  Are you willing to give it a try?

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*Top photo used under Creative Commons from NYCTCM

January 7th, 2011

Natural Flu Busters

DAY 2 OF FEELING AWFUL

I can’t remember the last time I actually stopped working, crawled into bed and slept during the day-today was that day. Can you hear me hacking, shivering or whimpering?  It’s not really that bad, I just thought I would try to evoke a bit of sympathy. But I do feel pretty horrible.

MY SYMPTOMS-IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING

  1. Fever
  2. Loss of appetite
  3. Coughing with phlegm (I hate that word)
  4. Strong desire to curl up in bed and sleep for weeks

NO OVER- THE- COUNTER MEDS (YET) FOR THIS GROOVY GREEN GIRL

Don’t get me wrong, I take medicine in certain situations. If I have strep or an ear infection-bring on the meds! But I feel like I can get through this one without conventional over-the-counter pharmaceutical help.

NATURAL REMEDIES I HAVE TRIED SO FAR

  1. Tea-lots of it.  Hot or warm liquid can help break up congestion, but tea has extra benefits. Green and black tea contain compounds called theophyllines, which act as an anti-inflammatory and open up airways and ease breathing.
  2. Took one dose of  Boiron Homeopathic Medicine Oscillococcinum for Flu, a homeopathic concoction that  I picked up at Whole Foods.
  3. Chugging water-My body has been losing a lot of water, working overtime to combat this illness.  I need to replenish the water and make sure I don’t get dehydrated.
  4. Sleep, sleep and more sleep-According to experts at The University of Chicago Medical Center, while I’m sleeping my cells are working hard to strengthen my immune system. Much needed at the moment!
  5. Garlic-Garlic has anti-bacterial properties that help the immune system  fight infection. Garlic contains several helpful compounds, including allicin, one of the plant kingdom’s most potent antibiotics.
  6. Eating well-Although I have little to no appetite, I have been trying to eat healthy foods; limiting processed foods and refined sugars. I am also avoiding dairy products which can lead to increased mucus production-don’t need that.

If only my dear friend/acupuncturist was back from her vacation I would add acupuncture to my list.  I know that time and rest will be the ultimate healer.  But as I lay here suffering (insert cheesy violin music), I am looking for some  suggestions from all you groovy green people out there.

Hit me up with all your home remedies. If they don’t help me, maybe they will help others.  I will pick and choose a few and let you know what helped.

p.s. If sympathy was evoked, chocolate and trashy magazines are welcome.

*Disclosure: If you buy the Bioron through the Amazon link  it will put a few pennies in my pocket-thanks!

**Top Photo used under Creative Commons from Anders Rueda

January 3rd, 2011

8 Tips to Green Your Gym Routine

Is a gym membership in your future for 2011? Or maybe you’re already a dedicated gym rat?  Whether your membership is an obligatory New Year’s resolution or already a daily obsession, try these simple green practices you can incorporate into your gym workout to reduce your carbon footprint and help the planet.

  1. Use a reusable water bottle. Break your disposable bottle water habit and switch to a reusable water bottle.   Breaking the plastic disposable bottled water habit reduces the use of fossil fuels and toxic greenhouse gases that come from manufacturing plastic bottles.  By using a reusable water bottle you are also helping reduce the number of plastic bottles that end up in landfills, sitting for years while they try unsuccessfully to decompose.  I am hooked on Klean Kanteen.
  2. Carry your gym gear in an eco-friendly gym bag.
  3. Don’t use plastic bags for your sweaty gym gear. My gym offers plastic bags to carry my sweaty work out gear home.  In 2011 I am going to try to BYORB (bring your own reusable bag) for that sweaty work out gear.  You’ve heard me say it over and over. plastic bags are bad, bad, bad.
  4. Gear up in green ware. Replacing your entire workout wardrobe with eco-friendly duds isn’t realistic.  As you need to replace old, worn out tops, bottoms  and shoes think organic, hemp or non-synthetic.  Buying organic clothing reduces pollution, saves energy and water, and helps reduce the amount of  junk added to landfills.  When buying new, look for companies with sustainable business practices like REI and Patagonia.
  5. Join a human powered gym. More gyms are using specially designed equipment to capture the energy you create while sweating and pedaling, turning it into useful electricity. Last year The Green Microgym opened in Portland, Oregon and has been able to reduce its carbon emissions by 60%.
  6. Mix it up and use the great outdoors. On a beautiful day don’t waste the energy required to run a treadmill or stationery bike when the whole world is at your finger tips.  Go for a run, bike ride or walk and breath in the fresh air.

    Photo used under Creative Commons from Colin Davis

  7. Bring your own towel. I have to admit, I love the towel service at my gym.  There is nothing like walking in, taking as many towels as you need and then conveniently dumping them in a bin on the way out.  However, many times the towels are washed in  harsh detergents, bleaches, and disinfectants. Bring your own towel and you will be saving water and protecting yourself from potential toxins. This one will be a tough one for me to give up.
  8. Advocate for the use of green products at your gym. My gym has an entire page on their website dedicated to environmental sensitivity, outlining all the green initiatives they have implemented. Check in with your gym-what are their green plans?
  • Do they recycle?
  • Do they use CFL or LED bulbs?
  • Do their televisions automatically turn off when not in use?
  • Do they use natural cleaning products?
  • Are toxin-free soaps available for use in the showers?
  • Do they use chemical free detergents to wash the towels?
  • Have they installed water-conserving shower heads or filters on their shower heads?

Here’s to healthy beginnings in 2011.  Happy New Year.

Disclosure: If you buy any of the items in this post through one of the Amazon links  it will put a few pennies in my pocket-no pressure!

*Top photo used under Creative Commons from Neeta Lind

December 21st, 2010

Microwave Safe: Are Toxins Leaking Into Your Food?

I love Trader Joe’s for many of the same reasons this  guy is singing about in this quirky, unauthorized commercial for TJ’s.

Hopefully the tune is now swimming around in your head, as it is in mine (misery loves company). But today my love for TJ’s was tossed aside and all I felt was anger. While opening my newly acquired bag of  brussel sprouts, I noticed that the plastic bag was labeled “Microwavable Bag –Ready in 3 Minutes”. In fairness to TJ’s, similar bags of sprouts and other veggies are sold at other stores, but the TJ’s label happened to be on this particular bag.

I’m angry because those simple words on their bag are misleading-they are telling people that it is OK to cook their food in a plastic bag. IT IS NOT OK. The truth is IT ISN’T KNOWN how much risk there is in low-level exposure to plasticizers or chemicals in plastic containers and bags.

We need to stop heating anything in plastic-microwavable plastic-all plastic. Heat from a microwave (oven and dishwasher too) causes substances used in manufacturing the plastic (plasticizers) to possibly leak into our food.  Beth Terry over at Fake Plastic Fish has taken a remarkable vow to to live with as little unnecessary plastic as possible.

Beth says : Stop heating plastic. Period. Do not put it in the microwave. Do not put it in the oven. Do not put it in the dishwasher, even on the top rack. Heat causes plastics to leach more readily. If you must eat food from plastic containers, please hand wash them with warm (not hot) water. Do not serve hot food in them ever. And, if you’re still buying bottled beverages (you’re not, right?), never store them in the hot trunk of a car.”

A few years back the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tested 10 plastics labeled “microwave safe”.  All 10 products were found to release “toxic doses” of Bisphenol A (BPA) when heated in a microwave. The study found that the amounts detected were at levels that scientists have found cause neurological and developmental damage in laboratory animals.

Just because your food packaging says “microwave safe” it may not be. The term  is not regulated by the government and has no certifiable meaning.

Take the safe route and avoid putting any plastic in the microwave. Stick to glass or ceramics.

BTW-I still love Trader Joe’s…….once I vent I don’t usually hold a grudge.

What do you think about microwaving in plastic?

For more information on plastic in the microwave:

11 Surprising Facts and Myths About Microwave Ovens

Plastic in the Microwave: Is BPA in Your Dinner?

December 20th, 2010

Stay Green by Not Wasting Food

Photo used under Creative Commons from susansimon

Americans waste a lot of food.

Our society is a tossing society; we love single-use items and we don’t think twice about tossing food that appears to be too old to eat or leftovers that have been forgotten.  According to Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland,  “we waste food because we take it for granted….  The average family of four throws out $1,350 of food every year.” Most of the food waste makes its way into our overflowing landfills, causing a serious environmental hazard.

Many food products in our homes are tossed although they are still safe to eat.  Thanks to those “Sell by” and “Best if Used By” dates stamped onto our food we are given permission to prematurely toss.  A new website seeks to help curb our hasty decision to chuck food-Shelf Life Advice. The site shows us that in many instances food product dates encourage food waste. Shelf Life Advice  is chock-full of  information on: how to store food properly, understanding those stamped dates, correctly freezing food, recall information and handling food safely.

Wondering if you buy a gallon of milk by its sell date how long you have to drink it?  Once you open a jar of sauce does the expiration date apply?  What does “Best if Used By” really mean? All these answers and more can be found on Shelf Life Advice. So before you pitch those fruits and veggies that have been hanging around for a while, or the salad dressing and dips that are hiding in the back of your fridge-turn to Shelf Life Advice for guidance.

A few interesting facts I learned from Shelf Life Advice:

Photo used under Creative Commons from Alisha Vargas

EGGS

Eggs should be used within 3 – 5 weeks of the “sell-by” date. After that, they’re still edible, but they start to lose their freshness, and their quality.

YOGURT

Yogurt will remain good 7-10 days after its “sell-by” date.  If kept longer, it will develop a stronger taste and the bacterial cultures (which act as preservatives) will start to die off.

MILK

Stored at or below 40° F, an open milk carton will be fine in the refrigerator for 5-7 days, usually longer.

BEEF

Don’t leave your meat on the counter to defrost overnight-this could cause bacterial growth.

Want more information?  Head to Shelf Life Advice-type in the food you have questions about and up pops information about its shelf life, storage suggestions and more.

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. I like to make noise and stir the pot especially when an issue hits home and effects the health of our families. Join me as I make some noise and share along the way tips for living a green and healthy life. Read more.

Click HERE to contact Lori

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