Happy (& healthy) holidays
Excuse me, but how can it possibly be December already? Surely it hasn’t been a whole year (okay, fine, 11 months) since I was writing the January blog. If you’ve followed along with us throughout the year, you’ll know that we’ve been discussing One Health within various contexts ranging from grocery shopping to global warming. As the year draws to a close, why not reflect on how the lessons we’ve learned can apply to the holiday season?
As much as I love the festive feeling in the air this time of year, I can’t help but sometimes feel more stressed than blessed, as the prospect of a new year never fails to inspire some good ole existential questions. What do I want to accomplish this year? How can I contribute more to improving the world around me? How can I live a healthier life? The answers are rarely simple or straightforward, but the questions are still important to consider.
Fortunately, I’ve learned a thing or two throughout my years at Zoo Atlanta that help to address these existential concerns. While improving the world is a monumental undertaking, and everyone has varying access to opportunities for widescale impact, we can all contribute to a healthier planet by starting in our own homes. Take, for example, a household task that perpetually needs repeating, especially around gatherings with friends and family: cleaning.
How many bottles, cans, or cannisters of cleaning products do you own? There are so many specialized cleaning products for our kitchens, bathrooms, and living areas that you could easily fill an entire pantry with different options. Unfortunately, many of these products contain chemicals known or suspected to have adverse effects on our health, not to mention the environmental impact of their plastic packaging. It makes you wonder if that shiny stovetop is worth the potential water and air pollution.
The good news is that there are alternative options made from ingredients that are healthier for us and in packaging with a lower environmental impact. This list includes several suggestions for cleaning products with certified ingredients and zero or low-waste packaging (and personal care items for when you’re getting ready to attend those holiday gatherings). Since certified products often come with a higher price tag, you may also be interested in exploring how vinegar can be used to clean most of the surfaces in your home. Of course, sometimes you need strong chemicals to get rid of stubborn dirt, grease, or grime. When that’s the case, just make sure to carefully follow the instructions to protect yourself from chemical exposure and check if the empty packaging can be recycled near you.
This is just one example of daily tasks that we can do more intentionally to improve the health of our families and our environment. There are so many other modifications we could make to our routines, so don’t stress it if this isn’t the right option for you. Maybe implementing more plant-based foods into your diet is more feasible for you, or perhaps you’d like to take up a new hobby like composting in the new year. Whatever action you take, just know that your impact only starts in your home, and it grows with every person you share it with and with every additional action you add over time.