Tag Archives: health

How Going Zero Waste Made Me a Better Person

One year ago, my husband and I sat down at the dinner table with coffee in hand?to chat about the possibility of pursuing zero waste in our home. I had recently read an article on?’living your values’?by?the lovely Lauren Singer, and felt extremely convicted to better manage my own environmental impact?and carbon footprint.

My life has never been the same since.

If there is one thing that going zero waste over this past year has taught me, it is that most issues of sustainable living?can be solved by pursuing a daily posture of mindfulness.?What do I mean by that? To me, mindfulness, or living consciously, means recognizing that every action I?take?large or small?has a direct impact on the health of the planet and our global community as a whole.

In?The Art of Power, Thich Nhat Hanh explains:

Everything is related to everything else. Your well-being and the well-being of your family are essential elements in bringing about the well-being of your business or of any organization where you work. Finding ways to protect yourself and promote your own well-being is the most basic investment you can make. This will have an impact on your family and work environment, but first of all it will result in an improvement in the quality of your own life.

In other words,?intentionally stepping out of my?natural, autopilot-like way?brings about goodness?in both my own life?and that of my?community. This is the very root of mindful?living.

What Daily Mindfulness Looks Like for a Zero Waster

As every zero waster will tell you, going zero waste is not easy.?Every day, I make the conscious choice to go against the grain, defy cultural norms and accept inconveniences for the sake of the greater good.

For example, today I:

Brought a (spotless) mason jar to our local juice bar and asked them to fill it in place of a much more convenient styrofoam cup.
Turned down the opportunity to enjoy?free lunch at work because?doing so would have meant tossing a pile of trash, when I had a perfectly suitable lunch already waiting for me at home.
Asked?for dairy-free milk in my coffee because going vegan makes me feel good in more ways than one.

These small, daily?decisions may seem inconsequential, but over a lifetime their impact adds up. Had I chosen to go through my day on autopilot, I likely would have tossed the styrofoam cup, taken every freebie thrown at me, at the expense of the planet and left Starbucks with a stomachache and?a side of guilt. That’s no way to live!

So, I ask you this: What conveniences are you willing to sacrifice for the sake of the greater good? What changes can you make in your own life that will put you on the path toward contentment and happiness? What can you do to live a more mindful, conscious life?

Putting it into Practice

Moving yourself toward a fuller state of mindfulness is not something that happens overnight.?It will require a conscious effort that involves education, meditation and reflection. Ready to pursue more conscious living? These tips will help you get started!

1. Question everything.

The easiest way to step out of autopilot mode is to confront everything in your life with a critical eye. Do you really need that plastic straw to enjoy your drink? Would you be better off walking a few blocks to the grocery story, rather than driving your car? Question your choices and start making more intentional ones.

2. Educate yourself.

It’s hard to make a good decision when you aren’t yet equipped with the facts. These documentaries and books are a great place to start. Curious about transitioning to a plant-based diet? Do your research, then make the choice based on what you’ve learned. Want to experience?a stronger reaction to issues of waste? Look into?the detriments of using and throwing away plastics. You’ll never be the same!

3.?Start meditating.

When you wake in the morning, meditate on powerful ideas?like love, respect, empathy and interconnectedness. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes (or light a candle if you need a focal point to maintain focus) and consider how you fit into the big picture.?To get the most out of your?meditation, set clear, specific intentions?or try one of these exercises.

4. Equip yourself.

It’s so much easier to make good, conscious decisions when you have a sustainable alternative in front of you. Carry a?travel mug with you in your bag so that when the opportunity arises you can use it in place of a disposable cup. Equip yourself with the tools you need to be successful and you will be.

5. Practice empathy.

Cultivating your ability to understand (and subsequently feel) the feelings of another is an important step toward living your life more consciously. What do you think the people who live in the shadow of our landfills are experiencing? What about those who drink water contaminated by industrial?runoff driven by human consumption? Asking questions?like these will help you to greater identify with those outside your personal experience and help you form an emotional attachment to issues of sustainability.

How do you practice mindfulness and conscious living in your daily life? Do you have any tips for this community? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Related:
10 Tips for Creating a Zero Waste Home
How to Host a Zero Waste Dinner Party
10 Ways to Start Living Zero Waste

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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How Going Zero Waste Made Me a Better Person

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The Hacking of the American Mind – Robert H. Lustig

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The Hacking of the American Mind

The Science Behind the Corporate Takeover of Our Bodies and Brains

Robert H. Lustig

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $13.99

Expected Publish Date: September 12, 2017

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


"Explores how industry has manipulated our most deep-seated survival instincts." —David Perlmutter, MD, Author, #1 New York Times bestseller,  Grain Brain  and  Brain Maker The New York Times –bestselling author of Fat Chance reveals the corporate scheme to sell pleasure, driving the international epidemic of addiction, depression, and chronic disease.   While researching the toxic and addictive properties of sugar for his New York Times bestseller Fat Chance , Robert Lustig made an alarming discovery—our pursuit of happiness is being subverted by a culture of addiction and depression from which we may never recover.             Dopamine is the “reward” neurotransmitter that tells our brains we want more; yet every substance or behavior that releases dopamine in the extreme leads to addiction. Serotonin is the “contentment” neurotransmitter that tells our brains we don’t need any more; yet its deficiency leads to depression. Ideally, both are in optimal supply. Yet dopamine evolved to overwhelm serotonin—because our ancestors were more likely to survive if they were constantly motivated—with the result that constant desire can chemically destroy our ability to feel happiness, while sending us down the slippery slope to addiction. In the last forty years, government legislation and subsidies have promoted ever-available temptation (sugar, drugs, social media, porn) combined with constant stress (work, home, money, Internet), with the end result of an unprecedented epidemic of addiction, anxiety, depression, and chronic disease. And with the advent of neuromarketing, corporate America has successfully imprisoned us in an endless loop of desire and consumption from which there is no obvious escape.             With his customary wit and incisiveness, Lustig not only reveals the science that drives these states of mind, he points his finger directly at the corporations that helped create this mess, and the government actors who facilitated it, and he offers solutions we can all use in the pursuit of happiness, even in the face of overwhelming opposition. Always fearless and provocative, Lustig marshals a call to action, with seminal implications for our health, our well-being, and our culture.

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The Hacking of the American Mind – Robert H. Lustig

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Science for Sale – David L. Lewis, PhD

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Science for Sale

How the US Government Uses Powerful Corporations and Leading Universities to Support Government Policies, Silence Top Scientists, Jeopardize Our Health, and Protect Corporate Profits

David L. Lewis, PhD

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: June 3, 2014

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Seller: The Perseus Books Group, LLC


When Speaker Newt Gingrich greeted Dr. David Lewis in his office overlooking the National Mall, he looked at Dr. Lewis and said: “You know you’re going to be fired for this, don’t you?” “I know,” Dr. Lewis replied, “I just hope to stay out of prison.” Gingrich had just read Dr. Lewis’s commentary in Nature , titled “EPA Science: Casualty of Election Politics.” Three years later, and thirty years after Dr. Lewis began working at EPA, he was back in Washington to receive a Science Achievement Award from Administrator Carol Browner for his second article in Nature . By then, EPA had transferred Dr. Lewis to the University of Georgia to await termination—the Agency’s only scientist to ever be lead author on papers published in Nature and Lancet . The government hires scientists to support its policies; industry hires them to support its business; and universities hire them to bring in grants that are handed out to support government policies and industry practices. Organizations dealing with scientific integrity are designed only to weed out those who commit fraud behind the backs of the institutions where they work. The greatest threat of all is the purposeful corruption of the scientific enterprise by the institutions themselves. The science they create is often only an illusion, designed to deceive; and the scientists they destroy to protect that illusion are often our best. This book is about both, beginning with Dr. Lewis’s experience, and ending with the story of Dr. Andrew Wakefield.

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Science for Sale – David L. Lewis, PhD

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Harvey stirs up the way we feed people during disasters

This story was originally published by CityLab and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Each hurricane season, Brian Greene calls in reinforcements in the form of tractor-trailers. Long before a particular system is swirling on the horizon, Greene, the president and CEO of the Houston Food Bank, dispatches 40-plus hauls of disaster-relief supplies to local shelters so each outfit will have a stockpile of water, granola bars, and cleaning supplies. The idea is to get out ahead of any storm, and then hunker down. “That’s our normal plan,” Greene says. “And it looked pretty good.” But Tropical Storm Harvey wasn’t normal.

Under normal circumstances, hurricanes don’t hold steady overhead. “They’re not supposed to do that. They go 15 or 20 miles an hour. They hit you and move on and then you assess and then begin the follow-up work,” Greene says. But Harvey continued to assail the city for days, throwing a wrench in the food bank’s plans.

In a normal catastrophe — to the extent that any crisis is normal — “you’ve got maybe a 24-hour period where you’re shut down,” Greene says. In this case, the food bank was snarled for days — not because it had flooded, but because nearby roads had turned to rivers with white-capped waves. With the paved arteries clogged by churning water, supplies had to stay where they were.

On Tuesday, for instance, Celia Cole’s hands were tied. As the CEO of Feeding Texas, Cole was fielding calls from places that had run down their supplies. An assisted-living facility reached out: They were swamped by floodwaters and the patients and staff were out of food. Not even the largest vehicles on hand could make it through the water, Cole says. “It’s awful to say, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t help you.’”

Seven of the 21 food banks in the Feeding Texas network were affected by the storm. By Wednesday, water had begun to recede in some areas, and people began streaming to local food banks and pantries. But the work was just beginning.

The immediate aftermath of a storm is often much-publicized and scored with desperation: Picture cameras panning across grocery stores with bare shelves and glass doors fastened shut against the rain; shivering crowds and interminable lines snaking across a parking lot pitted with puddles. In these tellings, a storm’s consequences are like broken bones — clean, complete, emergent. The Washington Post reported that some stores were looking to turn a quick buck on the trauma, gouging prices on basic necessities like water, which was selling for as much as $8.50 a bottle. But across the food system, the impacts may be more like hairline fractures, partial and enduring.

That’s because the busiest time for disaster relief isn’t while winds are howling and rain is pelting down in sheets, Greene says. It’s after. And that’s also when donations might slow from a stream to a trickle, and when the landscape of need is murkiest.

The problem is, in the past, cities’ resilience plans haven’t considered the food system. That’s starting to change, Erin Biehl, the senior program coordinator in the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future’s Food System Sustainability & Public Health program, told me earlier this month. Biehl is the lead author of a new report that surveys the blueprints various cities have laid out to respond to disasters that could shock all aspects of the food system, from warehouses to packaging facilities and bodegas. Now and for the foreseeable future, Houston will be reckoning with the very conditions Biehl and her collaborators outlined.

One of the primary takeaways from the CLF report is the paramount importance of connected networks. In the wake of disasters, the first major food hurdle is “figuring out who’s got what and who needs what,” says Roni Neff, the director of the CLF’s Food System Sustainability & Public Health research program. Greene experienced that challenge while working at food banks in New Orleans when Katrina swept through. “One of the most frustrating parts was how communication utterly, utterly broke down,” he says. Drenched landlines were unreliable, and cell towers were finicky. “It took weeks before we even found our staff,” Greene adds.

Now, in Houston, the team has outsourced and centralized contact information and plans at the state level, and stored it on the cloud. They leverage extensive communication networks to stay in touch with 600 partner organizations, including churches and community centers. “Everything we do is a collaboration,” Greene says. “Everything.” Feeding Texas also has a disaster coordinator on staff, who works out of the state’s department of emergency management.

In Houston, trucks are arriving from all over the state, and from others, too. “North Texas is already sending aid to shelters and at the conference center in Houston. Those were all part of a very coordinated network and everybody is standing by to respond,” Cole says. Corporations are pitching in to boost supply. Greene says Kellogg’s is dedicating 125 truckloads of cereal to the relief squad.

The Houston Press and Chronicle maintained running lists of restaurants and stores that were creaking open their doors amid the risk of flooding, or mobilizing as hubs of relief efforts. Some served free meals to first responders; others solicited donations of blankets, diapers, baby formula, and single-serving, packaged snacks and ferried them to the George R. Brown Convention Center, which is sheltering residents displaced from their homes.

Many families will have long-term needs, too. The melee delayed the start of the school year — and, by extension, the meals that students would have received in the cafeteria. Submerged businesses may be closed for weeks or months, slashing the paychecks of workers who earn hourly wages. In turn, their food budgets may be precariously slim. “If you’re on the margin and you just lost a quarter of the month’s income, you’re in trouble,” Greene notes. Staring down crumbling walls and blooming mold, it’s hard to decide how to allocate thin resources. People will struggle for a toehold as they repair their lives. “We’re anticipating what’s going to be sort of like a refugee crisis once people are actually able to get out of Houston,” Cole says.

On the policy side, one intervention is a temporary stretching of SNAP benefits. In anticipation of the deluge, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission put in a statewide waiver request on Aug. 26. Through Sept. 30, SNAP benefits can be used toward hot, ready-to-eat food items that are usually exempted from the program. The change may be a lifeline in Galveston. The island city was lashed with more than 22 inches of rain, and 37,371 of its residents received SNAP benefits in 2011. In the event that the food system is still shaken a month from now, a USDA official says the department will consider extending the waiver upon request from the state.

Neff wonders whether some repercussions might be even more wide-ranging. Reports of drowned fields and escaped livestock raised questions about the effects on farmers and the meat industry. With some refineries flooded or otherwise damaged, Neff says, fuel prices might rise, cutting into grocery stores’ margins and perhaps leading to mark-ups for consumers.

That all remains to be seen. The next challenge is scaling up, and doing so accurately. Outside of storm season, the Houston Food Bank moves about 350,000 pounds of food a day, six days a week. That number balloons when the bank springs into crisis mode. After Hurricane Ike struck, the food bank shuttled 500,000 pounds a day. This time around, “we just say, ‘OK, this is a lot bigger. Call it a million,’” Greene says. From there, the food bank has to tinker with its regular operations. How many additional forklifts do they need? How many more trucks?

It’s difficult to anticipate the magnitude of a storm — and what will be required to respond to it — before it’s baring its teeth. From a distance, Greene says, it’s tricky to imagine what damage might follow. Afterward, even from the ground, it’s hard to deduce a precise need from a quick survey of wreckage. “We won’t really know how this will pan out until it’s over,” Greene says.

So the best estimate is just that — but, ideally, a generous one. “There’s a big Katrina lesson. Whatever you do, do not fail people now when they need you most,” he adds. “So if you overshoot, you deal with the consequences of that — but the consequences of undershooting are far worse.”

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It’s National Secondhand Wardrobe Day: How You Can Participate

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Chances are, you have a clothing item (or 10) in your closet that you don’t wear, haven’t worn since the previous solar eclipse and have no plans to wear here or in a parallel universe. But, before you purge your closet and launch your lightly worn items to a landfill to join the 13 million tons of textiles disposed of each year, consider this: National Secondhand Wardrobe Day is today, and you’re invited!

Swap, Don’t Shop

Disposing of clothing that you don’t wear isn’t just wasteful, it’s extremely unsustainable and oh so unfashionable. Even today, with all the convenient ways to sell your clothes for cash, a staggering 85 percent of discarded textiles are sent to landfills annually, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Yet, the majority of people are not extending the life cycle of their gently worn clothes while cashing in or greening them forward.

Today, global waste in the fashion industry is a real issue. In fact, it takes 2,700 liters of water just to create one cotton T-shirt. National Secondhand Wardrobe Day is breathing new life into old clothes, allowing consumers to offset their carbon footprint by exchanging or recycling their used garments.

What if I told you that you could recycle, donate or upcycle those tatty threads just by visiting a clothing swap pop-up location near you? Element Hotels, an eco-conscious, extended-stay brand, is hosting Element Exchange today across the country for hotel guests and community members. Some events will even offer sustainable sips of organic wine and tasty treats while you “shop.”

With the coveted LEED certification, Element Hotels doesn’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk. All of their hotels are built sustainably using eco-friendly practices from the ground up and supporting local communities. The hotel chain features bright interiors with natural light, eco-friendly fixtures and recycling bins in every guest room, recycled materials in the carpeting, low-VOC interior paints, saltwater swimming pools, bikes to borrow, workout bikes in the fitness center that charge your cell phone while you pedal, and electric vehicle charging stations outdoors.

6 Ways to Participate in National Secondhand Wardrobe Day

While orange may be the new black, vintage is the new rack. Let’s face it, we’re all guilty of buying items that just don’t live up to their impulse-purchase hype. Here’s how else you can swap and save.

  1. Host Your Own Clothing Swap
  2. Sell Your Clothes Online with thredUP or Poshmark.
  3. Donate Your Clothes to Goodwill, Dress for Success, the Salvation Army or the Vietnam Veterans of America. The latter two will even pick up the items from your front door.
  4. Rent the Runway for your next soiree or event.
  5. Sell Your Wedding Garments Online with Preowned Wedding Dresses.
  6. Donate Your Wedding Dress to Brides Against Breast Cancer.

One man’s or woman’s trash truly is another’s treasure. Making sustainable choices in your clothing selections just makes sense. This year, get involved to help those less privileged by giving your time or, literally, the clothes off your back. Remember, on National Secondhand Wardrobe Day, don’t shop — swap till you drop!

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock

Read More:
Rags to Riches: 5 Ways to Earn Cash from Your Closet
Swapping Is Sexy: How to Host a Clothing Swap Party
How to Shop for Clothes with the Earth in Mind

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Lisa Beres

Lisa Beres is a healthy home expert, Baubiologist, published author, professional speaker and Telly award-winning media personality who teaches busy people how to eliminate toxins from their home with simple, step-by-step solutions to improve their health. With her husband, Ron, she is the co-founder of

The Healthy Home Dream Team

and the 30-day online program

Change Your Home. Change Your Health

. She is the author of the children’s book

My Body My House

and co-author of

Just Green It!: Simple Swaps to Save Your Health and the Planet

,

Learn to Create a Healthy Home! Green Nest Creating Healthy Homes

and

The 9 to 5 Greened: 10 Steps to a Healthy Office

. Lisa’s TV appearances include “The Rachael Ray Show,” “Nightly News with Brian Williams,” “TODAY,” “The Doctors,” “Fox & Friends,” “Chelsea Lately” and “The Suzanne Somers Show.”

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Latest posts by Lisa Beres (see all)

It’s National Secondhand Wardrobe Day: How You Can Participate – August 25, 2017
Perk Up Your Workout with a Recycled Coffee Grounds Sports Bra – July 24, 2017
The 4 Things You MUST Test for in Your Home Right Now – July 14, 2017

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It’s National Secondhand Wardrobe Day: How You Can Participate

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Blue Mind – Wallace J. Nichols & Céline Cousteau

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Blue Mind

The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do

Wallace J. Nichols & Céline Cousteau

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $3.99

Publish Date: July 22, 2014

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Seller: Hachette Digital, Inc.


A landmark book by marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols on the remarkable effects of water on our health and well-being. Why are we drawn to the ocean each summer? Why does being near water set our minds and bodies at ease? In BLUE MIND, Wallace J. Nichols revolutionizes how we think about these questions, revealing the remarkable truth about the benefits of being in, on, under, or simply near water. Combining cutting-edge neuroscience with compelling personal stories from top athletes, leading scientists, military veterans, and gifted artists, he shows how proximity to water can improve performance, increase calm, diminish anxiety, and increase professional success. BLUE MIND not only illustrates the crucial importance of our connection to water-it provides a paradigm shifting "blueprint" for a better life on this Blue Marble we call home.

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Blue Mind – Wallace J. Nichols & Céline Cousteau

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Brandi Is Terrified That She’ll Fall Back Into Addiction if Obamacare Is Repealed

Mother Jones

Brandi, 30, depends on Medicaid expansion for opioid addiction medication. Courtesty of Brandi

For much of her twenties, Brandi was in a bad place: staying up all night to sniff OxyContin and dealing marijuana from her apartment in a dingy Rochester, New York, housing project to feed her insatiable painkiller addiction. Drug users were always coming in and out of her place, a nearly empty one-bedroom that smelled of cat pee. Dinners consisted of instant noodles or McDonald’s, where a friend would trade chicken nuggets for a gram of marijuana. “Any money would go directly into buying pills,” said Brandi, who requested to go by her first name.

A 30-year-old with piercing green eyes, Brandi hasn’t used drugs since January of 2015, when she started taking buprenorphine, a medication that treats opioid addiction. She lives in a townhouse with her fiancé, also a former drug user, and their cats. Thanks to the medications, she says, “both of our lives are a total 180 from what they used to be.” She works the night shift at the supermarket during the week, visits family on Sundays, occasionally splurges at Bonefish Grill or TGI Friday’s. Each day, the couple takes their medications: buprenorphine for her, methadone for him. She’s been reading the news about the potential repeal of Obamacare and Trump’s budget proposals, and she finds it “all terrifying”—because if Obamacare is repealed and Medicaid expansion is cut, she, like hundreds of thousands of Americans, could lose her ability to pay for buprenorphine. Without the medication, she worries, she’ll fall back into the cycle of drug abuse.

She’s been there before. Brandi first got her life back on track when she went on buprenorphine as a 22-year-old straight out of rehab. She did well for a few years: She got a job as a cashier, moved into a nicer place, started buying groceries and brushing her hair. But when she was 26, just before New York expanded Medicaid, she was kicked off her mom’s health insurance. Knowing she didn’t make nearly enough to be able to pay for her own coverage, she stretched out her buprenorphine supply as long as she could, stockpiling what she had in the months before her 26th birthday and weaning her dose down. But eventually there was none left, and within two weeks, she says, “I found pills and it was just done and over with.” She used for nearly two years before going back to rehab and realizing that, with Medicaid expansion, she could pay for the medication once again.

On the campaign trail, President Donald Trump promised to “spend the money” to tackle the nation’s opioid epidemic. Yet drug policy experts fear that passage of the American Health Care Act, also known as Trumpcare, would cut off former drug users from their addiction medications, making an already devastating epidemic even worse. That’s largely because the AHCA would dramatically cut funding for Medicaid—the federal program that provides health insurance to poor Americans and the largest federal funder of addiction services. It would also phase out Medicaid expansion, which expanded the eligibility requirements of the publicly-funded insurance program to include those who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level in the 31 states that opted to expand it. Cuts to Medicaid would hurt most in many of the states that helped vote Trump in: in places like Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky, Medicaid pays for at least forty percent of buprenorphine prescriptions.

“People talk about being committed to doing something about drugs,” says Keith Humphreys, a Stanford University psychiatry professor who advised the Obama administration on drug policy. But “their Medicaid cuts would swamp anything else they could do.”

Nearly three million Americans with a substance use disorder, including more than 200,000 who were addicted to opioids, would lose some or all of their insurance coverage if Obamacare is repealed, according to an analysis by researchers Richard Frank of Harvard Medical School and Sherry Glied of New York University. In a report released last week, the Congressional Budget Office found that if the AHCA passes, addiction treatment services “could increase by thousands of dollars in a given year” for those who aren’t covered by insurance through their employers.

Both Humphreys and Frank worry that many politicians don’t understand just how critical addiction medications can be. Indeed, last month, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said addiction medications were “substituting one opioid for another,” contradicting years of research by the agency he now runs. Buprenorphine and methadone, the two most common such medications, work by binding to the brain’s opioid receptors and decreasing craving for more harmful opioids like painkillers or heroin—without inducing the high. They come with some side effects: It’s still possible to abuse the medications, and coming off of them too quickly can result in a painful process similar to withdrawing from other opioids.

But a wealth of research has found that addiction medications like buprenorphine help curb opioid addiction and prevent relapse and overdose. Organizations from the Centers for Disease Control to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration to the World Health Organization support access to the medications for opioid users. “I don’t think that there are any areas where the data is shaky,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, the head of the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, to STAT news. “It clearly shows better outcomes with medication-assisted therapy than without it.”

Brandi may be lucky: If the AHCA does pass, there’s still a chance that her home state of New York would find a way to fund treatment for people in her position. But many Americans may not be so fortunate. As Humphreys told me this spring, without Obamacare, “We’re back where we were before: bad access, low quality of care, and a lot of patients being turned away.”

For now, Brandi plans to keep taking the medication for as long as she can. “People I work with right now would never in a bajillion years picture me as a drug addict—ever.” The impact of the medication is “like night and day,” she said—and going back to the days without coverage would amount to “a nightmare.”

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Brandi Is Terrified That She’ll Fall Back Into Addiction if Obamacare Is Repealed

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Why a Walk in the Woods is Vital for Your Health: The Science Behind Forest Bathing

Forest bathing is a concept originally developed in Japan in the 1980s. Its called shinrin-yoku in Japanese, which means taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing.

Its as simple as it sounds. Forest bathing involves relaxing in a forest or other natural area, often taking a slow walk while observing the environment around you. It has become such a respected practice in Japan and Korea that forest therapy is now covered under their medical insurance systems.

The healing power of nature has been known for millennia, but modern science is just discovering the importance of this ancient knowledge.

The Health Benefits of Forest Bathing

1. Lowers Stress

A Japanese study looked at the physiological effects of forest bathing. They found it promotes lower levels of stress hormones, lower pulse rate and blood pressure, as well as improved nervous system function.

In addition, these benefits were found after participants went forest bathing only once. They walked in a forest for about 15 minutes, then simply viewed it for another 15 minutes.

2. Improves Memory

One Stanford University study had participants do a memory test before and after either a nature walk or a walk in an urban area. Those who walked in nature improved their performance on the second memory test. Whereas, the urban walkers had no improvement.

3. Increases Vitality

Vitality means having physical and mental energy. When you feel vital, you experience a sense of enthusiasm, aliveness and energy.

Through a series of studies, a research group looked at the effect of nature on vitality. They found that walking outdoors increases your vitality, and it was not from the exercise or social interactions. It appeared to be the presence of nature that strengthened peoples sense of aliveness. Interestingly, viewing pictures of nature also had a positive effect.

Researchers concluded its important to spend at least 20 minutes each day interacting with nature to feel more energized.

4. Enhances Mental Wellness

A 2015 study found that forest bathing reduces repetitive, negative thoughts, which are a known risk factor for mental illness such as depression. Participants also had reduced activity in an area of the brain linked to mental illness.

Researchers pointed out that currently 50 percent of people live in urban areas. This is estimated to rise to 70 percent by 2050. Urbanization is also linked to higher levels of mental illness. They felt that access to natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world.

5. Boosts Immune Function

Forest bathing is shown to increase the activity of natural killer cells and anti-cancer proteins. Both of these compounds are important parts of your immune system. They actively target and destroy dangerous cells in your body, such as virus-infected cells or tumor cells.

Tips on Getting the Most Out of Forest Bathing

Forest bathing is about experiencing a natural space, not getting somewhere or achieving a goal. Low-impact ways of observing your surroundings work best, such as walking or simply sitting and touching the ground or plants around you.

More vigorous activities, like running or cycling, can also be beneficial when done in nature. Although, it is difficult to fully immerse yourself in a natural setting when youre moving through it quickly.

Exposure to any form of nature is shown to have health benefits. If you cant easily get to a forested area, going to a local park, your back yard, a river, or even a secluded beach are all great options.

Try one of these exercises next time youre out in nature:

Whether youre walking, sitting or standing, pay attention to the bottom of your feet. If your mind starts to drift towards a project you need to finish or other stressful thoughts, bring it back to the bottom of your feet.
Take in your surroundings with all your senses. Listen for birds and insects, smell the soil, touch the bark of a tree.
Pick up a rock and see whats underneath it.
Bring a field guide book with you to learn more about the plants and animals you see.
Choose a short nature trail or a garden path you know well. Challenge yourself to walk through it as slowly as possible.
At the beginning of your forest bathing session, take a moment to notice how you feel. Then, check in with yourself again at the end of the session. Is there a difference?

The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy offers a certification program on becoming a forest guide. Their video is a great overview of forest bathing fundamentals.

Related
Harness the Power of Daydreams and Your Brain Will Reap the Rewards
How to Benefit From Meditation in 3 Minutes or Less
11 Ways to Reduce Stress in 5 Minutes or Less

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Why a Walk in the Woods is Vital for Your Health: The Science Behind Forest Bathing

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How to Monitor and Control Indoor Air Quality in Your Home

The air that we breathe is, quite literally, our life source. But it could also, quite possibly, be killing us. Air quality is becoming a modern crisis, with the World Health Organization (WHO) classifying air pollution as the worlds largest health risk, linking one in eight total global deaths to air pollution exposure, both indoor and out.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the air inside our homes is commonly five times more polluted than that of the outdoors, and in some cases, up to 10 times. So, what can you do to protect your health, and that of your family, from this silent killer lurking in your home? Detect and correct. Find out what is causing air pollution in your home and then take whatever steps you can to help correct or mitigate those causes. Here well look at how you can achieve this.

What Is Indoor Air Pollution?

Poor indoor air quality is caused by particle matter in the air, most commonly from dust and smoke (commonly released into the air from burning oil, gas, wood and coal in the home); carbon dioxide from those same sources; volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by both natural and manmade materials (primary culprits are paints, stains, cleaning solutions and glues in furniture and carpets) and humidity, which can cause mold to grow in our homes and offices.

According to the WHO, pollutants found in indoor air that are known to be health hazards include:

benzene
carbon monoxide
formaldehyde
naphthalene
nitrogen dioxide
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
radon
trichloroethylene
tetrachloroethylene

How to Get Cleaner Air

Cleaning up the air we breathe prevents non-communicable diseases as well as reduces disease risks among women and vulnerable groups, including children and the elderly, says Dr. Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director-General.

One of the simplest ways to do this in your own home is to regularly change the filters in your heating and air conditioning system. Check them at least once a month for build-up, and replace them at least every three months. Invest in high-efficiency air filters with a MERV rating of 8 or higher. (This is the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value that assesses the overall effectiveness of air filters. A higher rating equals finer filtration.)

The second simplest step to take is ventilate your home. Open doors, windows, turn on fans and get the air circulating, especially if you have recently introduced something into your home that may be off-gassing chemicalssuch as new carpet or flooring.

What to Get Rid Of

You can help keep your air cleaner by banishing or reducing some of the following from your home:

Dont allow anyone to smoke in or near your home.
Never idle a car in or near the garage.
Remove all chemicals and toxic materials from your garage, especially if its attached to the house.
Reduce carpeting, which traps unhealthy particles that are released again when vacuuming.
Replace chemical based cleaners and detergents with those with natural ingredients, and avoid using products with fragrance (such as air fresheners and carpet deodorizers), as these can contribute to the formation of formaldehyde and other nasty VOCs.

What to Invest In

Use alternatives to traditional items that give off VOCs and invest in some tools and tests to keep your homes air healthier:

Install a carbon monoxide detector to alert you when levels of this deadly gas, produced by the incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels, rise rapidly.
Buy no- or low-VOC paints/stains when redecorating or doing projects in the home.
Have a radon test done on your home. A colorless, odorless gas, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.
Fix leaks in your roof and/or basement, to avoid creating conditions that can grow mold.
Combat humidity to further reduce the risk of mold with a dehumidifier. Keeping levels below 50 percent also helps keep dust mites, another indoor air pollutant, at bay.

Go High Tech

One of the challenges in combating indoor air quality is knowing exactly what the problem is. As weve seen, indoor air quality is affected by myriad different elements. If you or your family are suffering from specific ailments or are at higher risk from contaminated air, consider purchasing an indoor air quality (IAQ) monitor. The good news is these devices, which used to cost thousands of dollars, are now a lot more affordable thanks to advances in wireless and sensor technology.

An IAQ monitor can measure VOCs, humidity, particulate matter and carbon dioxide, and alert you when levels rise so you can take action. They will also help you understand what pollutants are present in your home and at what levels, so you can work on eradicating them over the long term. Many new IAQ monitors are Wi-Fi connected and use data from the internet combined with learning software to monitor your air quality and help you understand what is specifically causing your air pollution.

A few examples of consumer IAQs on the market today include Foobot and AWAIR (both around $200). They can track VOCs, particulate matter and CO2, as well as temperature and humidity. They also work with some smart thermostats, such as Nest and Ecobee, triggering them to activate the fan if levels rise too high and give you actionable insights into your air quality.

If you are specifically concerned about humidity and temperature, less-expensive devices such as the Leeo Smart Alert ($50) and First Alert Onelink Environment Monitor ($70) can track both. The Leeo can also listen for the sound of smoke and CO alarms and alert you on your smart phone. The Onelink is also a CO monitor, making it a good option for a baby or childs room.

The important thing to remember about indoor air quality is that everything you bring into your home is contributing to it in some waygood or bad. Its crucial to be proactive: Check products for VOCs before you purchase, add houseplants to help filter the air naturally, and be sure to ventilate properly when cooking or burning any fossil fuels.

As an earth-conscious mom and tech guru, Jennifer Tuohywrites for The Home Depot about how you can use technology to become more sustainable. She provide tips on how to save money and energy, from switching to LED bulbs to using an Wi-Fi-enabled monitor to alert you when you need to change your air filters.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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How to Monitor and Control Indoor Air Quality in Your Home

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The GOP Health Bill Would Make Zika the Newest Preexisting Condition

Mother Jones

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The controversial GOP health care bill that narrowly passed the House of Representatives this month could have devastating consequences for mothers and children infected with Zika, experts say. The mosquito-borne virus is just one on a nearly endless list of preexisting medical conditions—cancer, asthma, pregnancy—for which insurers could potentially charge higher premiums if Republicans get their way.

One of the most popular features of Obamacare is a provision known as “community rating,” which bars insurance from charging more for people with preexisting conditions. This was a common practice before Obamacare was enacted in 2010; stories of sick people being unable to find affordable coverage were one of the main arguments used by the legislation’s supporters. Of course, the public health crisis surrounding Zika—and the birth defects it can cause—wasn’t an issue at the time; no one in the United States had yet contracted the virus. But if the House’s Obamacare repeal bill becomes law, people with Zika could end up paying far more for their health care—and could even end up priced out of insurance entirely.

Multiple health care experts told Mother Jones that the GOP bill would almost certainly mean a host of insurance problems for both pregnant women who have had Zika and infants born with microcephaly, a condition where a child has a smaller brain and other health defects. Zika can cause a host of other birth defects and in rare cases has been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can cause temporary paralysis in adults. What’s more, the GOP bill cuts funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency on the front lines of the battle against the disease.

The Republican bill includes an amendment that allows states to opt out of the Obamacare community rating protection. Under the GOP plan, if a person’s health coverage were to lapse longer than 63 days in a state that opts out, that person could be charged a prohibitive cost on the private market. Short lapses in coverage are incredibly common. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 27.4 million nonelderly adults had a several-month gap in coverage in 2015. For the 6.3 million of these adults who have preexisting conditions, the costs could be significant. The liberal Center for American Progress estimated that under the GOP bill, people with even mild preexisting conditions would pay thousands more per year—a 40-year-old, for example, would likely be charged an extra $4,340 in premiums if she had asthma, or $17,320 extra if she were pregnant.

Zika was first identified in 1947 in Uganda. It didn’t emerge in Brazil until 2015, when researchers began to notice the link to a spike in birth defects. Since then, mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus have been found in almost every country in the Western Hemisphere. Zika is particularly prevalent in Latin American, but it has also appeared in the United States. There have been more than 30,000 cases confirmed in Puerto Rico, including 3,300 pregnant woman, and more than 1,000 cases in Florida. The spread of Zika has varied wildly from year to year, with cases this year down sharply from 2016.

Yet our understanding of the Zika virus and its related health problems is still evolving. In most people, the virus shows no visible symptoms or just mild problems such as aches and a fever. But it does raise the risk of microcephaly, a rare brain defect in which a child develops with an abnormally small head and brain. Microcephaly is incredibly rare in a normal pregnancy, but a Zika infection in the first trimester raises the risk to 1 to 13 percent.

Zika is linked to various health problems in infants, but microcephaly itself is an expensive medical condition. The CDC estimates it would cost an additional $1 million to $10 million in medical care over the child’s lifetime. Zika-associated microcephaly would probably cost somewhere in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in premium surcharges, according to the Center for American Progress health policy team.

Experts say that, under the Republican plan, insurers would almost certainly treat Zika as a reason to charge higher premiums.

“If it’s documented in your medical records that you had this infection and you have it now, they might well act on it,” Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told Mother Jones. And if an infant was born with microcephaly, Pollitz added, “you’d have to be very careful as the parent of a child to never have a break in coverage.” Pollitz also added that the total number of Zika cases is small, but the issue could come up in medical records and be cause for insurers to “jump on that and possibly charge you a higher premium.”

In other words, insurers would be tempted to charge more based on the expensive medical costs sometimes associated with Zika, and there would be nothing preventing them from doing it. “There’s no rule about what can or cannot qualify” as a preexisting condition, New York University health care expert Sherry Glied said in an email, “and Zika will certainly raise later costs, so would count.”

David Anderson, a Duke University health policy researcher who has worked in the health insurance industry, added that another part of the GOP’s health bill—massive cuts to Medicaid spending—would add more strain to state budgets in the case of a Zika outbreak. The bill reduces Medicaid expenditures by $834 billion over the next decade, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Trump’s 2018 budget released Tuesday proposes even deeper cuts than the GOP bill. If passed, the budget would reduce Medicaid spending by $1.4 trillion over 10 years.

Anything affecting babies is a big deal for Medicaid, which covers nearly half of all births in the United States. That would cause a significant problem if Zika leads to an unexpected spike in microcephaly. “If it’s not that common, states can handle one or two isolated events,” Anderson says. “If it’s very common and there are hundreds of babies born with microcephaly under high-cost conditions, then states can’t handle it.”

The House bill would have other impacts on Zika prevention efforts. It cuts nearly $1 billion from the CDC’s budget. The CDC funds testing and research and deploys emergency teams to provide extra medical assistance and to control the spread of Zika-infected mosquitoes. The CDC fights Zika by monitoring mosquitoes that transmit the virus, and it collects data about how Zika affects pregnancies. Trump’s budget doesn’t help the situation either. Although it sets up a CDC emergency response fund to deal with outbreaks like Zika, the budget weakens prevention efforts by seeking a 17 percent cut to the CDC and an 18 percent cut to the National Institutes of Health.

The confluence of Zika and the GOP health care bill could have political consequences in places like Florida, where the virus has already proved to be a potent electoral issue. Two South Florida congressmen—GOP Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart—championed a bill last year that sent $1.1 billion to the CDC and the NIH to combat Zika. Both also voted for the Obamacare repeal bill. Neither of their offices responded to requests for comment.

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The GOP Health Bill Would Make Zika the Newest Preexisting Condition

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