So what exactly is sustainability? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, sustainability is:
Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.EPA, United States Environmental Protection Agency
Sustainability and Nutrition – What’s the Connection?
In my previous corporate job, I ran our Sustainability Committee along with other employees from various teams. We were tasked with reviewing the company from a sustainability standpoint to identify areas of improvement and opportunities to engage and educate employees. I learned so much more about sustainability and how it is interconnected with virtually every aspect of our lives in some way. I became very passionate about all things sustainability and began making connections between it and nutrition. When you think of nutrition in its plain and simple term, you probably think of food. Which is totally normal. But when you begin to dive deeper and think about where that food comes from and where it goes after you’ve used it – then things start to connect.
For example, when you switch to a primarily plant-based diet, you eat a lot more fresh produce. When you go to the store, you use the small plastic produce bags to get your produce. Let’s say you are like most people and use one bag per each type of produce – one for apples, one for zucchini, and another for bell peppers. While it is great for your health that you are eating more fresh produce, you are also at the same time, contributing to more plastic waste by using more produce bags.
This brings me to my first tip – reusable produce bags!
#1 DITCH THE PLASTIC PRODUCE BAGS:
Plastic has a lasting and detrimental impact on our environment, especially on wildlife and sea creatures. Many plastics end up in landfills and can last hundreds to thousands of years and can leach chemicals into soils and water. Plastic that ends up in the oceans negatively affects various marine animals habitats and they often ingest plastic mistakenly which can poison them. Learn more about plastic and its environmental impact here. Switch to reusable produce bags instead of using the plastic ones provided at the grocery store. There are so many great inexpensive options online! I currently use Earthwise Mesh Produce Bags I got from Amazon for less than $15. I love these bags because you can throw them in the washer to keep them clean and reuse them for years to come.
#2 SWAP FOR STAINLESS STEEL STRAWS:
Ditch the plastic straws. They contribute to a significant amount of ocean/beach pollution and pose harm to wildlife. Just do a Google search for “turtles and plastic straws” and what you’ll see will make you never want to use a plastic straw again. You can now buy very handy and more eco-friendly reusable stainless steel straws just about anywhere. I love the ones that come with travel packaging so you can throw it in your purse and use on the go.
#3 JUMP ON THE REUSABLE GROCERY BAG TRAIN:
Some cities don’t have the option anymore for plastic bags including our own city Hillsboro as well as Portland and I LOVE it. When you think about how often you go to the grocery store (for me it’s once per week which adds up to 52 times per year) plus all of the bags associated with each of those trips…it’s a whole heck of a lot!! Reusable bags can last you for YEARS to come and are a great low cost, sustainable option. Plus, many grocery stores now offer discounts when you bring your own bag! With all the options for bags out there now you can easily find one that matches your personality like this one.
#4 OPT FOR REUSABLE COTTON PADS
All you ladies out there like me will get this one. I go through these babies like crazy, from things like removing makeup to applying toner. Up until recently, I had no idea that there was even an option for a reusable version. They are pretty amazing actually because you just place them in a little provided bag and throw them in the wash and voila! Fresh and new again. A one time investment in these will likely save you money compared to buying the traditional. I discovered SO many options on the internet. Here’s my favorites: Option 1, Option 2, Option 3
#5 REDUCE YOUR FOOD WASTE
This is a biggie. Food waste is becoming an increasingly concerning issue in the United States. The USDA estimated that in 2010, Americans contributed to 133 BILLION pounds of food waste. How crazy is that?! There are many different ways you can help reduce food waste; some of my favorites include:
- Freeze leftover food including produce that is getting close to going bad. You can buy handy reusable silicone freezer bags now that make this a double environmentally friendly win. Bananas are a great one to freeze because you can easily use them for smoothies. Same goes for spinach or kale which freeze great and can be thrown into a smoothie or even soup!
- Donate excess food! If you live in Portland, OR there is a wonderful company Urban Gleaners that travels to pick up excess, still edible food and distribute it to those in need.
- Compost food scraps at home. Composting food scraps keeps them out of landfills, lowers your carbon footprint and allows food to be purposefully reused in a garden to allow new life to grow! There are lots of options on the market for compost bins that can fit any size home from small counter friendly bins to large outdoor bins. They even make small and stylish ones now!
Does your business have a Sustainability committee or initiatives? I’d love to help you integrate one in your business in combination with a wellness program. Contact me to chat more about how implementing these in your business can improve your employee morale and job satisfaction.
What are your favorite ways to practice sustainability in your life? Share in the comments below!