Ditch the Disposables (And What to Use Instead)
By Meredith Rosenberg
Disposable items have become so ingrained in our daily habits that we may not realize all of the small, everyday actions that are adding to the amount of disposable waste that ends up in oceans and landfills. Here are five lifestyle changes you can make today to ditch the disposables and reduce your environmental impact.
Instead of: Shampoo bottles
It's estimated that more than eight million tons of plastic end up in the ocean—every year. But water bottles aren't the only culprit; plastic packaging contributes 40 percent to the amount of plastic used by the average consumer. Shampoo bottles are included in that figure, and plastic is still the most common packaging for them.
Use: Shampoo bars
But shampoo bars, which are simply concentrated shampoo in bar form, are steadily becoming more popular. Not only are they packaged in recyclable materials (or none at all), but they also tend to last longer than two bottles of shampoo. Plus, shampoo bars are more likely to be made with all-natural (and eco-friendly) ingredients.
Micheal Foley / Flickr
New Zealand-based Ethique claims to be the world's first zero-waste beauty brand. Not only that, but Ethique's shampoo (and conditioner) bars are made with sustainable materials that are free of palm oil, a commonly used product that's partly to blame for deforestation.
Instead of: Disposable razors
Based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's last estimates from 1990, Americans toss more than two billion disposable razors a year. The majority of plastic handles and blades can't be recycled, and disposables aren't designed to last more than a week or so.
Use: Safety razors
Safety razors debuted in the 19th century as an at-home alternative to the straight blades used in barbershops. Though the single-blade razors fell out favor with the introduction of disposable razors, they never disappeared. While the earliest versions were rust prone, today's models are made from stainless steel, and only the blades need to be replaced.
Your Best Digs / Flickr
Try: Edwin Jagger
Instead of: Floss picks
Disposable floss picks have become more popular in recent years, but unless specified, they're not recyclable. The majority of traditional dental floss brands can't be recycled either, and even if they can, they're typically coated with chemicals that aren't biodegradable.
Use: Water flossers
The American Dental Association approves flossing alternatives, such as Waterpiks. Water flossers replace disposable plastic by using water to clean gums. Besides being just as, if not more effective, than flossing, reusable water flossers eliminate the daily waste created by flossing. A good one should last for years, and the water and electric use is negligible.
Your Best Digs / Flickr
Try: Philips Sonicare Airfloss Ultra
The compact Philips Sonicare Airfloss Ultra doesn't hog as much counter space as other waterpiks, and is even small enough to take on the road. It can even pull double duty by using mouthwash instead of water to help remove plaque and clean gums.
Instead of: Dryer sheets
We've been conditioned to use dryer sheets for softer, static-free clothes, but not only are single-use dryer sheets not recyclable, they're also not necessary.
Use: Wool dryer balls
However, if it's hard to break the fabric softener habit, wool dryer balls are a more eco-friendly option. Effective wool balls should last for about 1,000 loads, or up to five years. Plus, they're a natural alternative to chemical-laden dryer sheets.
miromiro / Getty Images
Eco-friendly Woolzies makes its dryer balls from New Zealand wool; they also help with energy efficiency by reducing drying time by 25 percent. Plus, the product is hypoallergenic, which is good news for those who are sensitive to wool.
Instead of: Plastic water filter
Yes, plastic water filters are one way to combat the global bottled water trend; a recent report showed that one million plastic bottles are bought every minute. So while this option is better than bottled water, many water filters aren't recyclable.
Use: Charcoal sticks
Thank to charcoal's natural ability to remove toxins, you may have noticed the activated charcoal trend appearing in everything from beauty products to ice cream. But charcoal sticks can be used on their own in a glass pitcher of water, replacing the need for plastic filters. Though they can't remove fluoride, charcoal does appear to reduce everything from lead to mercury. Sticks typically last about four months, after which they can be composted or repurposed to deodorize an area in your home.
Japanese Binchōtan (Japanese high-grade charcoal produced from ubame oak)STRONGlk7 / CC BY-SA 3.0
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By Beth Ann Mayer
Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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