Small Changes to Make a Big Difference

earth-day-2015

Several times throughout my week I find myself regretfully humming along to Katy Perry’s “Firework”. The infamous line “do you ever feel like a plastic bag” frequently pops into my head at a moment’s notice. Now don’t get it twisted, the lyric isn’t consistently in my mind because I am some huge fan of Katy Perry (sorry girl, I’m not). The real reason that lyric is always in my head is because of the shockingly large amount of pollution and garbage, specifically plastic bags, that are littered throughout all of New York City.

Although the amount of litter in the city is alarming, the presence of plastic in the environment is the bigger issue. Plastic is used so prevalently in our society that remnants of wrappers, bottles, bags, etc. are seen in nearly every square foot (to some degree) of the city. Plastic isn’t biodegradable, but photo-degradable, which means that it doesn’t actually break down but fractures into smaller pieces that are further scattered throughout land and ocean. Plastic further impacts the environment by killing disturbingly high amounts of aquatic animals and birds through ingestion or choking.  The pollutant and destructive reach plastic has on our environment is far greater than what I have listed here and we need to start doing something about it.

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So in honor of Earth Day being this past Wednesday, I have compiled a list of sustainable efforts that can be taken to better the environment and our own lives.  These tips, used in conjunction with recycling, will greatly help the effort for a cleaner planet. First and foremost, try to limit the amount of plastic waste you contribute.

1. Bring your own bag – When you go out shopping whether for groceries, clothing, or whatever, make sure to bring your own bag. You can use reusable paper bags or your own tote or backpack. Refusing plastic bags for your purchases each time you go shopping will greatly help reduce the plastic pollution our planet faces.

2. No more water bottles – Plastic water bottles and plastic cups for iced coffees and sodas are really bad.  In order to reduce your plastic footprint you should invest in a Brita or some other water filtration system for when you are at home. One Brita filter is the equivalent to roughly three hundred 16.9 oz water bottles.  In addition to a water filter, you should also invest in a reusable canister (stainless steel) to hold liquids instead of the disposable plastic cups most establishments provide.

In addition to reducing your use of plastic, there are a couple of ways to reduce the amount of toxins in your home life, as well. One way I like to spruce up my apartment is by buying a lot of plants. Plants are good because they actually draw toxins out of the air while simultaneously releasing oxygen. If you don’t have a green thumb or are pretty forgetful when it comes to watering your plants, there are several plants and cacti that actually fare better when they are left alone and watered less than most plants. You can even reduce the water used when raising plants by reusing liquids that have already served their initial purposes.

1. Sports Drinks – If you have some leftover sports beverages (Gatorade and Powerade, for instance) can be used in small amounts to water your plants. The electrolytes and sugar in the beverages are happily absorbed by the plants and help expedite their growth.

2. Boiled Water – If you’re like myself and do not drink those sugary sports beverages, there is an alternative way to give your plants a healthy and recycled snack. When you finish boiling eggs or pasta, let the water cool before adding it to your plants. The starch from the pasta and calcium from the eggs will help your plants flourish. However, make sure there is NO salt in the water at all, or else your plants will surely die.  

Keeping with the toxin-free, all-natural vibe we have going on, I have a recipe for a simple homemade face mask that will do wonders for your skin. All you need is three ingredients: coconut oil (one tsp), banana (1/2 ripe banana), and turmeric (just a pinch).

Coconut oil is the star of this mask, naturally rich in antioxidants and healthy acids, it can be used to soften and lubricate healthy skin cells while breaking down dead cells, healing acne and penetrating deep into skin to fully hydrate. Be sure to test a small amount of coconut oil on your skin beforehand to make sure you do not have an allergic reaction to it.

Banana can be used to hydrate, moisturize and lighten your skin, reducing the visibility of acne scars and blemishes, as well as fighting wrinkles and fine lines.

Lastly, turmeric acts as an anti-inflammatory and also has antiseptic, antibacterial, and anti-aging benefits to help fight acne and wrinkles. The use of turmeric will also lighten dull skill and help even out skin discolorations.

Simply melt the coconut oil using a hair dryer or placing the container of oil in a bowl of hot water. The riper the bananas the easier it will be to mash them into a lump-free paste (I find a fork works best). Since we are only using a pinch of turmeric it won’t turn your face yellow, but it may stain your nails. If your fingernails become yellow, simply use a nailbrush and a teaspoon of lemon juice to remove the discoloration. Be sure to rub a generous amount of the paste onto your face in a circular motion and let sit for fifteen minutes. Rinse with warm water and pat dry to enjoy your naturally brightened and clean face.

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Of course there are many other ways to start living a toxin-free, less polluted lifestyle, but I find these to be the easiest ways to start. By making these simple changes you’ll be doing your part to help fight for a greener future. After a long, nasty winter in New York City, I welcome the arrival of warm and sunny days and vow to spend more time outdoors this summer and less time on the couch (sorry Netflix). Join me in this pledge and let’s all take steps to live a cleaner life and treat our planet better.