If Al Gore Can Be an Optimist, So Can You!

Let's take a moment to reflect on some of the awesome environmental news that has come out in the last month. Hey, even Al Gore is feeling optimistic!

Decrease in Antibiotics in Chicken Manufacturing
In a big win for those of us seriously concerned about super bugs and antibiotic resistanceMcDonald'sCostco, and Tyson have all pledged to phase out chickens treated with antibiotics medically important to humans.

As Smog Thins in L.A., Dramatic Evidence of Kids' Healthier Lungs
Kids in the L.A. region "have substantially healthier lungs than they did just 20 years ago," mostly due to efforts to clean up So Cal's smog and soot. National Geographic says "it may be the biggest success story in environmental health in modern America." USC scientist Frank Gilliland stated "It's a very important message, especially for the developing world: These problems are fixable, and you can see big benefits."

3M to go green on pulp, paper purchases
3M, maker of post-it notes and one of the world’s largest manufacturers, will take new steps to ensure that its suppliers of paper, pulp and packaging provide materials that come from sustainably logged timber. What makes this huge reform of supply chain practices by a manufacturing giant particularly awesome is that it came about after relentless pressure from a little-known environmental group called ForestEthics.

For additional green good news about renewable energy, cutting food waste while feeding the homeless, transportation, wildlife, and carbon emissions, click here.

Cheap Plastic Toys Don't Inspire Ocean Conservation

Dear Monterey Bay Aquarium Manager of Merchandising,

We love the Monterey Bay Aquarium! Although the membership cost was a little steep for our family, my husband and I agreed that in addition to wanting our family to visit regularly, we also felt great about our money supporting the Aquarium's awesome mission: to inspire conservation of the oceans.

Through our regular visits, my husband and children and I are all learning a ton about ocean life, and most certainly developing a deeper appreciation of the ocean: its beauty, its enormity, its mystery, its diversity, its fragility. After visiting the Aquarium, our next trip to the library often results in us leaving with a tall stack of books about aquatic critters.

Eat Less Plastic: 33 Ways to Keep Plastic Chemicals Out of Your Family's Diet

Plastics, so convenient, so ubiquitous, so problematic. While it's probably impossible to eliminate plastics from your life entirely, you can and should try to keep them out of your food. Harmful plastic chemicals such as BPA and phthalates are in our bodies, and researchers believe they most commonly enter our bodies through ingestion via our mouths. But it's not enough to avoid BPA or other specific plastic chemicals. The absence of an effective toxic chemical policy framework means that toxic plastic chemicals (such as BPA) are often replaced with another untested chemical (BPS), which all too often is later found to be just as problematic (the so-called "toxic treadmill"). The issue is the undisclosed additives. As plastic-free living guru Beth Terry explained in an interview:
The issue is, it is impossible to know if any plastic is safe. In addition to the problems we know about, plastics can contain thousands of possible additives to affect the hardness, or softness, or slippery-ness, and manufacturers don’t disclose what their recipes are. The number on the container tells you what type of plastic it is, but it doesn’t tell you what else has been added to the plastic. If you don’t know what’s in it, you can’t tell what will leach out of it. The additives are not bound to the polymer, and when the plastic is subject to stress (light, heat) it can leach. (source)
As a 2011 study famously demonstrated, almost all commercially available plastics leach endocrine disruptors when subjected to common-use stresses, such as microwaving or the humid heat of the dishwasher. Recent studies have connected plastic chemicals to autistic behaviors, reduced sperm count, irregular heartbeats, and higher blood pressure. In fact, researchers recently concluded that "there is a greater than 99 percent chance that endocrine-disrupting chemicals [including BPA and phthalates, found in plastics] are contributing" to neurological effects (such as attention problems), obesity and diabetes, as well as infertility and other male reproductive disorders.

When trying to keep plastic out of your diet, keep in mind the following:
  • Children are more susceptible to health problems caused by plastic chemicals due to the fact that they consume a greater amount of food relative to their body weight and because of their rapid pace of development. The safety of children's dishware and foods should be top priorities. Because fetuses are also particularly vulnerable, pregnant women too should take particular care to avoid eating plastic. 
  • Fat, salt, acid, heat, UV light all promote the leaching of plastic chemicals into food. This is why if you leave your plastic water bottle in your car on a hot day, your water tastes "plasticky." It is also why canned foods that are acidic (pasta sauce), fatty (coconut milk) or salty (soup) contain higher levels of BPA. Naturally, plastic chemicals more readily migrate into liquid foods as well. This is why I pay special attention to how high fat, salty, acidic, and liquid food products are packaged. 
  • Styrofoam, PVC/ vinyl, PFCs (such as Teflon), and hard clear plastics (originally made with BPA and now the no-better BPS) are especially to be avoided. While all plastics are suspect due to undisclosed ingredients, these plastics are widely accepted to be harmful to human health. 

With those general guidelines in mind, here are 33 specific tips to help you and your family ingest less plastic.


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