The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
January 16, 2014

Reducing Plastic by Staying Healthy

New Year’s Resolution #2: Generate less plastic waste from medicine and supplement packaging.

Okay, before I continue, I have to give the usual caveat:  I am not a doctor and nothing I write in this post or anywhere on this blog should be construed as medical advice.  I’m writing about my experience only.  Your mileage may vary.

Now that that’s out of the way, check out my stash of health-related plastic waste from 2013:

Beth-drugs-2013

 

Let’s examine it row by row.

Boosting My Immune System

Top 2 rows:  With the exception of the ibuprofen (which I used over several years), all are cold/flu related products.  Like I mentioned last week, I got sick a lot in 2013.  Granted, I was travelling a lot to give talks and promote my book, so I was exposed to many different kinds of germs.  During one bout, I had a fever of 103F!  I think the best remedy for a virus is just to crawl into bed, drink lots and lots of fluids, and let my body’s immune system go to work, which is what I did when I could.  I don’t believe in treating the symptoms if I don’t have to because the fever, the mucus, the coughing are all ways of getting rid of the microscopic invader.

However, when you have to speak in front of a room full of people and could at any moment break into an uncontrollable coughing fit, you bring out the big guns.  A swig of preemptive codeine works every time.  But you know what’s even better than codeine for a cough?  Not getting sick in the first place!  So, this year… well, actually beginning a few months ago… I started really working on strengthening my immune system.  How?

1) Getting enough sleep

2) Getting more exercise

3) Eating more whole foods that contain lots of nutrients

(Notice:  All of these steps are also helping with Resolution #1: Lose Weight.)

Getting Nutrients From Food Instead of Pills

Bottom Row, left side: Plastic caps from New Chapter brand supplements.  I like New Chapter products because most of them come in glass bottles (which is why you only see the caps in the picture) and are made from whole foods.  But wouldn’t it be better if I could get the same benefit from eating the actual foods and skipping the pills (and their plastic caps) altogether?

So, I’m eating stuff like this: whole fresh fruits and vegetables that come without plastic packaging; a variety of nuts, seeds, beans, herbs, spices, and a few grains that are sold in bulk bins so I can fill my own container.

wpid-20140116_073733.jpg

By the way, the green stuff in the big, rectangular Life Without Plastic container is steamed kale and steamed cabbage that I store in the freezer.  I add some of this green stuff to my smoothie every morning.  It’s just easier for me to cook a whole bunch at a time and freeze it, and since I read about cruciferous vegetables being linked to thyroid problems, I don’t eat them raw anymore.  To keep the greens from sticking together in the freezer, I freeze individual clumps on a tray before throwing them together in the big container.

Despite these efforts, there are still a few supplements I haven’t quite given up, although I take far fewer of them.  Maybe you can help me come up with ideas…

wpid-20140114_211353-1.jpg

1) New Chapter Bone Strength:  I think I have the calcium thing pretty well figured out.  I eat a variety of greens containing calcium, a bit of cheese everyday, and something unusual that I will blog about in a future post.  I plan to start weight-bearing exercises this year as well.  So I probably won’t be replacing this bottle any time soon.

2) Solgar Magnesium Citrate:  Solgar products come in glass bottles with metal caps; however, the whole bottle is wrapped in a plastic protective seal.  I take one of these every night before bed.  And at the risk of giving you TMI, let’s just say there is not enough fiber in the world to do what one of these pills does.  And believe me, I have tried.  Psyllium Schmyllium.  That is all.

3) New Chapter Iron Food Complex:  This one is challenging.  As a vegetarian (not vegan), I’m not sure how to get enough iron.  Now that I am recording all of my foods on My Fitness Pal, I can see how much iron I get each day through food, and I’m coming up short.  So many days, I end up taking a half a tablet to make up for the lack.  I think I’ll start using my cast iron pan more often.  (It’s just such a pain to maintain.)   Any ideas?

Solving a Chronic Cornea Condition

eye-drops[1]Bottom row, right side:  Single-use eye drop vials.  Ever since February 2005, when I woke up with screaming pain in my right eye, convinced someone had poured metal shavings into it while I slept, I have had an ongoing cornea problem.  I’ve been to eye doctor after eye doctor and had all kinds of crazy procedures (scraping with a knife, poking with a needle, and burning with a laser), none of which worked.  Unwilling to use so many single-use plastic products, I have been avoiding the eye drops and only using them when the problem is too painful to stand.  But I don’t think I’ve been doing my eyes any favors by avoiding the plastic because my vision has been getting worse and worse too.

Fortunately, a few weeks ago, I discovered what I think will be the solution.  It’s just one natural ingredient that I can get in a glass bottle.  I’ll blog about this one in a separate post too… after I make sure it works long term.

Reducing the Number of Prescription Bottles by Ordering in Bulk

The middle row in the picture contains bottles of an ongoing personal prescription that I will probably be taking for my whole life.  But I did find a way to at least reduce the number of bottles.  I asked my doctor if he would prescribe several month’s worth at a time.  He said he could give me up to 3 months.  So, instead of twelve bottles a year, I get 4 bottles with 3-months worth of pills in them.   Every bit of plastic reduction helps.

Do you have ongoing medical plastic that you are trying to reduce?  What is it?  What options have you tried?  Or what suggestions do you have for me?

56 comments
Sophie12
Sophie12

While certain level of vitamin and nutrient supplementation might be smart and economical, one should never overlook the option that you can get all that you need from whole foods.

zerowastechef
zerowastechef

Hi Beth, since I cut out the plastic in the kitchen, I stopped eating processed food and I'm much healthier. I also started fermenting food and I'm now a huge believer (not quite fanatic but getting there) in the power of microbes to keep your gut (and you) healthy. I have beet kvass brewing right now. It's so easy to make, as are sauerkraut, preserved lemons (you only eat a bit of those though), yogurt, buttermilk...all sorts of foods. And for most ferments, you don't need fancy equipment either. Just some Mason jars or old Bubbie's pickle jars.

Cherieboo
Cherieboo

I was a volunteer at a local elementary school for 5 years.  I almost quit the first year because I had 3 colds.  You know how little kids are darling and so smart, but they are truly little germ villages.  Then I read about Epicor.  You can read their story if you google "The Epicor Story".  You are probably aware, people who raise animals do not readily get prescriptions for them.  They just change or add to their feed.  What a concept!  So they developed an additive from natural sources formulated for horses.  Then they noticed something remarkable.  the people in the factory had WAY less sick days then the people that worked in the office!  So this product was encapsulated for people.  I can happily report my last 4 years in the school were cold and flu free.  I have no financial interest in the company that makes this stuff, I just want people to stop suffering!  I order it in the biggest bottle available.  You can be cold and flu-free for about $10 a month.  I have spent that much in relief OTCs in the past.   

I am looking for several string bags to take to the market for produce to use instead of plastic.  They shouldn't weigh much because  some will be weighed at checkout.  They should be washable and made of a natural material.  Anybody out there know of a source?

Kaylen
Kaylen

The pharmacists I've spoken to recommend not taking iron supplements unless you've been diagnosed by a doctor as needing them. Do you have your iron tested regularly? Mine is tested every 2 months when I donate blood so I don't bother getting my doctor to test it any more, but I think it's a good practice.

Madhumita
Madhumita

My massage therapist here in Halifax, NS, Canada, gave me a simple yet effective idea and I love all things simple when it comes of food and health. :)


He asked me to try the following recipe to increase my immunity - 

1 part of organic apple cider vinegar

6-9 parts of water


Note: He specifically instructed me to buy the Bragg brand organic apple cider vinegar because it is organic and it comes in a glass bottle. Yes, it can cost more than 5 buck but that bottle will last you over a month. I use only 2 tablespoons a day. Sometimes I forget and drink it only once.

This is what the bottle looks like: 


Give a good mix and drink it on empty stomach or before a heavy meal. Since it fires up the digestive system it gives you a boost of energy so it is recommended to avoid drinking this closer to supper or bed time. Bed time = lots of sleep to wind down.


Apple cider kills good bacteria in the gut and most of the time our body fights germs in the gut. so when the gut is fit and sound, body has time and energy left to fight germs in other organs/parts including blood. This way immunity gets a boost.  I have sore throat at least once every winter and it does not matter if I'm living in a clean or polluted environment. I tried this and I have been cold or cough free this winter.

I wanted to save the best part of the last: Organic Apple cider helps melt body fat. It is beneficial to human body in many ways!

Sarah
Sarah

I have a few suggestions for you Beth (regarding reducing your supplement usage)!

1. Calcium - do you drink milk? I would recommend drinking raw milk, which is extremely nutrient dense. If you drink enough milk, eat cheese and have greens, you should get enough calcium. More importantly, raw milk is an excellent source of Vitamins A, D and K2, which are extremely important for bone health. Another benefit of sourcing raw milk, is you can get it plastic free if the farmer is using glass jars! My farmer at home has a voluntary glass jar program. He lets you borrow the jars if you desire to use glass and you return them when you are finished. I also noticed your newest post on using egg shells for calcium. All of these things will help to give you enough calcium in your diet.

2. Magnesium - I actually make my own magnesium oil spray. You have to buy the magnesium chloride flakes and I am not sure if there is a way to source these without plastic. Here is a tutorial on how to make this: http://wellnessmama.com/5804/how-to-make-your-own-magnesium-oil/

3. Iron - I don't know how many eggs you eat as a vegetarian, but try to eat them every day. Also, try cooking them and other foods in a cast iron pan for the extra iron boost. If you are eating greens, this will help too.

I hope these suggestions are helpful to you. Good luck!

debrudnick
debrudnick

Beth, as to your iron question, cooking in a cast iron pan is a great way to get iron, as Cyndi mentions below. But you should also check the levels of iron in your drinking water. Up here in Puget Sound we've got a ton of iron in our soils and quite a bit of it ends up in our drinking water, especially for those of us who get our water from groundwater. Its usually not a huge source, and its usually less absorbable than food-based iron, but it still can supplement your other sources. Before you go thinking you are coming up short, don't discount the drinking water pathway. 

CyndiNorwitz
CyndiNorwitz

I struggled with iron levels for years and had mild anemia during my first pregnancy.  I got married immediately after and we switched almost all our cookware to cast iron.  A couple years later, during my second pregnancy, my midwife called me a magnet.  No trouble with iron or anemia at all.  I don't even take supplemental iron anymore.  I also never eat any meat (I eat fish but it doesn't have much iron).  There is a learning curve with cast iron but it's really easy once you get the hang of it and when the pans are no longer new.  I suggest a book like Cast Iron for Dummies, which states stuff you probably already know but in a way that makes you remember it for practical application.


Eve Stavros
Eve Stavros

Ditto to everything!  2013 was a bad year for health for me as well, and I've been doing more research into Ayurvedic healing and preventive medicine.  So far, the herbal combinations for winter have helped me avoid whatever nasty thing's been going around here.  A very simple, non-commercial website which I found helpful is Joanna Webber's:  http://www.ayurvedicyogi.com/

For colds, she says:  Mix 1 tsp each of ginger powder, turmeric and black pepper and take ½ tsp of this mixture with warm water or honey twice a day.  Turmeric is a potent natural antibiotic and can be used all respiratory tract infections. Boil half a cup of water with 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, add a little milk then use as a gargle. Its also great for helping to prevent hay fever and other allergies by reducing the body’s inflammatory response.

Cast iron skillet & dutch oven are my main cooking pans - the only thing I'd add to Frances' comment is that, instead of leaving out to dry, I turn the heat on for a few moments, then wipe with a greased cloth I store in my freezer (yeah, it looks pretty gross, but an easy way to keep the seasoning going). 


Nan
Nan

You always inspire me! My job exposes me to a lot of illness, and it can feel like a losing battle. Green and herbal tea, a spoonful of good honey (by itself, if you are not opposed to honey), zinc lozenges at the first sign of illness(quantum is I think the brand, minimal packaging, no plastic that I could find- comes in lifesaver-style roll with foil and uncoated paper, at least last time I bought one). Proper sleep seems key, but this is certainly a challenge, especially if you are traveling.

livetolist
livetolist

Oh thank you Beth!  For your honesty - I find zerowastehome never really touches on topics like this, and as I try to minimise my waste (ie landfill) ny weekly weigh ins, I still have endless blister packs of ibuprofen, codine/parcetamol, the pill, and the other tablet I take.  I don't regularly take supplements, but I have some on hand too.


At least pill bottle can be refilled and reused, but they seem incredibly uncommon in Australia :(  My latest script filled yesterday went back to 7 days on a sheet, rather than 14 days like last time I filled it.  I have no idea how I get one or the other type - grr!

jonnie
jonnie

One of the things that drives me nuts about commercial supplements is the insane packaging. A family member takes several, and recently I helped open a new bottle: not only was there a crazy difficult multi-plastic lid, there was a shrink band around the cap and bottle neck, an inner seal, AND fake cotton stuffed inside. The bottle also could have been half the size for the amount of actual supplements provided. Sheesh.

If one wishes to use supplements, or use an alternative to OTC meds, it sure would be nice to do something similar to what they [used to, now -don't know] have in Germany: the old fashioned apothecary, where the druggist would compile your treatment and present it to you in a glass bottle. This may have been a homeopathic dispensary (DH went there), but conceptually the idea of being able to walk in, talk to an informed provider, and walk out with a non-prescription treatment, filled on the spot -for YOU- in a reusable glass bottle, is certainly attractive. Guess the pharma industry won't let that happen here... Closest to that might be an herbalist in Chinatown :-)

BTW, don't mess with your eyes! Maybe those dropper vials (if, indeed, you find they are your best alternative) can be your one thing to go into a bottle brick!

Also, any thoughts on what to do with those shrink bands that do absolutely nothing except make life annoying? They're on the short list of disposables in our household that I can't figure out what to do with. Even our beer growler now comes with one! argh.

Concrete Gardener
Concrete Gardener

While we don't have much medical plastic (mainly tylenol for our kids, used when we're desperate) , I still have quite a lot of other sources of plastic waste in our household here in Cape Town. But I wanted to comment that I really appreciate the frankness and problem-solving approach you've had. (I am also quite intrigued by the eggshell suggestion) It shows the practical ways that even a fantastic thing like a new book involves loss. Anyway, Go Beth! I'm cheering you on, and continuing to be inspired.

Reenie
Reenie

 Hi Beth, Glad you are "honoring your body" -- as one of my yoga teacher's says.  Recently a friend gave me some turmeric root that she grows in her garden.  I looked online for what to do with it and found a utube showing how to make turmeric root-ginger root tea.  Grate a little bit of each root, place in a wire mesh strainer (the size that fits on top of a ceramic coffee cup) and pour boiling (or near to boiling water) over the grated herbs.  I use a small glass lid to help steep this healing tea for 3-5 min.  Both ginger and turmeric are found to fight cancer,  and both are anti-inflammatory, as well as helpful for some digestive issues. Both herbs probably have other benefits as well.  Someone told me there's a limit to how much turmeric one should take per day. I haven't looked that up yet. I usually drink 1 cup of this tea each day, usually when there's not too much food in my stomach. I tried it with the turmeric powder instead of the root, and ginger root and it was good as well.  Freshly grated herb roots, yum!  I add about 1/2 tsp of local tupelo honey to my cup of tea. Wishing you much success in losing weight and getting wonderfully fit!~ 

yuki1
yuki1

I also thought that lack of fibres was my problem, but it was not. It was as simple as stopping eating dairy. Now, all people are different, so I can't guarantee anything. ^.^ 

As for prescription pills, what works for me is reusing the same bottle each month I buy it. Maybe it's not everywhere they agree to do that?

Also the brand of supplement I buy comes in a glass bottle and metal cap but sadly the paper label is lined with plastic.

Sheri Puckette
Sheri Puckette

Great goal! Hope you have a healthier year- and so many teas available in bulk, along with lemons and honey, make good self care. The cold medicines from the stores aren't really that good for our bodies anyway. In my own nurse-ly opinion:)

Michelle
Michelle

Before I start I am not a doctor etc etc.

When my boyfriend broke his back a couple of years ago, a trusted friend told us about the power of egg shells... I know, he to was dubious!  Till we did a bit of google searching & thought yeah, common sense really.  So I boiled them, I dried them, I spent quite a bit of time grinding them... We researched (you need other vitamins to distribute them. Vit D & magnesium for him)  & as well as being able to walk again after 6 weeks, the whole in his tooth started healing up...  (as soon as he could walk he didn´t bother with eggs shells, he could also make it to the shop, so his tooth never healed completely) 

Might be worth a look into to save that bone strength bottle you have.

Mark Gailmor
Mark Gailmor

if you're vegan you won't need most of that crap in the medicine cabinet.

veganmama
veganmama

Great that you addressed this topic Beth.  The one area where I falter big time is contact stuff. I buy the largest containers I can and even took to using peroxide (because I can use it for other things such as cleaning) but my husband is concerned I'll blind myself and bought a case of ridiculously expensive contact solution. I wear my contacts longer than advised (and have not had a problem in the 10+ years I've been doing this). I wear glasses too to cut down on contact wear. 

Did you hear that they passed the plastic bag ban in Sonoma County Tuesday?!! We are SO ELATED it finally passed! Next on the agenda, foam . . .

Eddy
Eddy

Every day a glas of kombucha will boost your immunesystem. You can brew it yourself.

BeckyL
BeckyL

Beth,

Thanks for bringing up this topic, as I'm sure a lot of people are struggling with medical plastic waste in their lives. I solved the problem by whittling down the prescriptions I was on (much to the doctor's chagrin!), which I don't recommend to anyone, unless like me, you find you no longer need them with lifestyle changes, like the ones you mentioned. I get moderate exercise, a good night's sleep (most nights), and the change that's made the biggest difference: eating whole foods and avoiding the over-processed stuff. But if you are on a prescription you need, the 3-month supply route is a good one. Check around for places that accept these empty bottles for reuse. I know a local non-profit in our area accepts them for their missions overseas. I also have switched over to wearing my glasses more often, saving on throwaway contact lenses and saline bottles. Frames have come a long way over the years in style (which originally led me to contacts when I was young) and at least I know when I need a new prescription, I can pass on my old glasses to someone who might need them. (Our Lenscrafters accepts them, as well as sunglasses, which can be non-prescription.) I only took supplements (vitamins) when I was pregnant, so unfortunately I can't help much here. In general, when the health of my family or myself depends on a little plastic, I try to accept it without a lot of guilt and work towards getting better and weaning away that plastic.

Sarah
Sarah

I forgot to mention this about colds: try Elderberry syrup. You can either take it when you get a cold or the flu, or it can be used for prevention. I make my own and it tastes really good!

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

Thanks. I hadn't even considered drinking water. I'll look up the latest water report.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

@CyndiNorwitz That's so funny.  There's a Dummies book for everything.  I'll check it out.  I just used my cast iron pan this afternoon to braise some mushrooms.  Hopefully, I picked up a bit of iron from it.  :-)

Madhumita
Madhumita

@Eve Stavros  

Hello Eve!

I am from India and we use this age old recipe to ward off colds / coughs during winter time. Its slightly different than the one you posted. I suggest the following recipe, passed down from my great grand mom:


note: My grand mom says that crazy precision is not required, eye balling ingredients is just fine.


1 inch of ginger root

1 tsp of turmeric

1 tsp of black pepper (can even roughly mash up black peppercorns to make 1 tsp)

1 mug full of water (any size mug)


Boil down all ingredients on a slow flame to 3 quarters of original quantity of water. Drink it first think in the morning and before retiring to bed. Ginger, honey and peppercorns generate a lot of heat and that is how they heal our conditions. Therefore, it is highly recommended to eat simple food. Avoid meat, chicken or food with high protein content. Any less time spent on digesting food allows body to recover faster.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

Eve, for the post two months or so, I've been adding 1tsp. ground ginger and 1tsp. ground turmeric to my morning smoothie, along with either fresh chili pepper or ground cayenne. So far, I haven't been sick this winter. Ilk try the frozen greased cloth method and see how that goes.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

Thanks for the nice words. Unfortunately, here it's illegal for pharmacies to refill pill bottles. That would be a great way to reduce waste.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

Lol. Or I could just use my actual cast iron pan.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

Oh I know! About the shrink bands. I get kombucha every week in a refillable, returnable glass jug. But it has a little plastic seal around the neck. That plastic goe into my collection. But most normal people don't obsessively collect all their plastic waste. I don't know what you could do with it.

BTW, I did a ton of research on the eye thing, and all I can say is, when you're desperate, and doctor after doctor can't help you, you'll try just about anything for some relief.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

It's so validating to me that many of the suggestions on this post are things I'm already doing! So, I haven't encountered fresh turmeric root, but I am putting a teaspoon of ground turmeric, as well as a teaspoon of ginger and a half teaspoon of cayenne in my smoothie every morning. In fact, I just ran out of turmeric and have to get some more this weekend.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

@yuki1 HI Yuki.  Where do you live that they allow you to reuse the bottle?  Here in California it is illegal for pharmacies to refill prescription bottles.  That would be an excellent option.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

I totally agree with you!  I hate taking that stuff, and if I hadn't had to give so many talks this year, I wouldn't have!

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

@Michelle Ha ha ha!  THAT is my secret calcium source that I'm going to write about!  I've been doing exactly that.  I put the powder in my smoothie each morning, so it's mixed with all the other vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

I eat some cheese and 1 egg per day. All the rest is plant-based. But even a vegan diet will make you sick if it consists of processed flour, sugar, and synthetic chemicals.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

@BeckyL Yep.  I agree.  No need to feel guilty... but just continue to look for alternatives.

livetolist
livetolist

@BethTerry Oh I agree, but the pill bottle could store quarters, or seeds or something similar, around the home.  Blister packs, not so much :s

Frances
Frances

Use your pan! They're not so hard to maintain if you use them lots. Just don't scrub the bejesus out of them (I put an inch of water in mine the minute the food is out of it -- easy to wash later & the hour's soak while we eat doesn't destroy the conditioning). Don't use steel wool. Make sure that they're dry before you out them away so they don't rust (mine sit on the stove overnight to be sure). I haven't had to re-condition mine in years...and it was my grandmother's.

jonnie
jonnie

Wonder if some creative soul out there could use like a shrinky dink??


So sorry about the eye issue; you'll figure out what's best for you! The only other thing I can think of you've probably already explored, given that you've a diagnosis: Cal's School of Optometry. They really helped with one of our "kids" who has low vision + other eye issues.

Anyhow, as RoseannaDanna used to say, "There's always something..."

yuki1
yuki1

@BethTerry @yuki1 Ahh that's what I thought was the case, I don't understand why there is such a law! What reasons do they give, do you know? I live in Quebec by the way.

jonnie
jonnie

Just did a Google search and there are a FEW options to "donate empty pill bottles", but I suspect supply far outstrips demand and that many still end up in the landfill. Still, there's a chance for reuse!

Blister packs = argh!

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

Thanks for the tips. I'm going to use it today to cook some mushrooms.

jonnie
jonnie

@BethTerryGotcha.

Appreciate your being so actively involved with these posts, and am learning a lot!

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

@jonnie  I have Kaiser insurance, so I've been to a whole bunch of Kaiser opthalmologists.  My problem is not low vision (although I am nearsighted and have worn glasses since I was in 4th grade) but that my corneas are a mess, which leads to a completely different kind of vision impairment on top of the nearsightedness.