10 Tips for Hosting a Wonderful and Waste-Free Holiday
By Clara Chaisson
For many, the holiday season is a time of plenty. But with all the feasting, the decorations and the gift swapping, it can be easy to go overboard. And for hosts, especially, there's a lot of pressure to make sure guests feel adequately stuffed and the house looks sufficiently bedecked.
While there's nothing wrong with splurging a little on special occasions, there are consequences to our habits of holiday excess. This Thanksgiving, for example, about 204 million pounds of turkey meat will go to waste. That's a staggering statistic, especially given the fact that one in every eight Americans struggles with hunger. Another alarming stat? Americans throw away 25 percent more garbage between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day than they do during other times of the year. That's four million additional tons.
Whether you're hosting Friendsgiving, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year's Eve or all of the above, follow these simple tips for a successful—and sustainable—holiday with your friends and loved ones.
1. Save the food! Trim your shopping list.
Up to 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S. never gets eaten, which means the resources—like land, water and energy—used to produce it get squandered, too. Commit to wasting less during the holidays. When grocery shopping, take into account all those heavy communal meals that will leave less room for snacking, the weekday brunches, the plethora of cookies. Be mindful (and realistic) about how your diet may change as you spend more time out celebrating and socializing, and let your grocery shopping reflect that. And if you're hosting multiple meals, think about how you can make your purchases do double duty—potato latkes one night and a hash for breakfast later in the week, for example.
2. Save water by vegging out.
If you want to save water, you can have a big impact by serving your guests a vegetarian main course. It takes 1,850 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef and 519 gallons for a pound of chicken, but only 39 gallons to produce the same amount of veggies.
Cutting back on red meat specifically can have a significant impact on our climate. NRDC's Less Beef, Less Carbon report found that Americans shrank their diet-related carbon footprint by 10 percent over a decade, mostly by eating less beef.
3. Ace the leftovers.
Strive to become the Goldilocks of hosting by making just the right amount of food for your company. Using the interactive Guest-imator tool, part of NRDC's Save the Food initiative, you can plug in the number of guests you're expecting, what kind of eaters they are—"small," "average" or "big"—and whether you want leftovers. In response, you'll get a calculation telling you how much to prepare in order to fill everyone up and avoid trashing the excess.
4. Freeze your bounty.
The refrigerator's cooler cousin is a sustainable host's best friend. Whether you've got a plethora of ingredients that didn't make it into the soup pot or many cooked portions remaining, you can freeze it all for another time (but not indefinitely; quality does deteriorate over time). Pretty much anything can be frozen—fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables that have been pureed or blanched beforehand, and leftover ingredients like tomato paste, chicken broth, or coconut milk. (Use an ice cube tray to apportion those ingredients into just the right quantity for your next dish.) One way to stay on top of your freezer stash is to label leftovers with the date and keep that icebox organized, lest you lose things way in the back.
5. Have a Tupperware party.
Some leftovers are inevitable, and even desirable (pumpkin pie is part of a balanced breakfast, right?). But share the wealth so you don't have to stuff yourself with stuffing before it goes bad. Send guests home with a container or two filled with food for tomorrow's lunch or a midnight snack. There's no better party favor than food.
6. Forgo disposable dinnerware—and use the dishwasher.
Sure, paper plates and plastic cups make cleanup after a large party a breeze in the short term, but once all that waste heads to the landfill, it'll be dirtying the planet for centuries. Opt for real plates and cutlery. If you don't have enough sets to go around, see if you can borrow a few from a friend, or visit a secondhand store to stock up on spare flatware for guests. And throw it all in the dishwasher after the meal. As long as you run it only when it's full, the dishwasher also saves you water. It uses as little as three gallons per load, while hand-washing that same load can take up to 27 gallons.
7. Light the nights with LEDs.
We decorate for the holidays so lavishly that it's literally visible from space. Satellite measurements show that U.S. cities shine 20 percent to 50 percent brighter between Thanksgiving and New Year's. (Merry and bright, indeed.) So if strings of lights made from inefficient incandescent bulbs aren't already a distant holiday memory in your household, it may be time to start a new tradition. LEDs cost more up front, but as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes, you could be using the same string of lights 40 holiday seasons from now. Not only do they use significantly less energy, but LEDs are safer, too—the bulbs won't get hot against a flammable Christmas tree.
8. Choose a real tree.
Speaking of Christmas trees, a real tree, rather than an artificial one, is usually the greener way to go. But first, consider its source, just as you would for meat, dairy, and seafood. (If you absolutely must have a fake fir, choose one made without PVCs. And make sure you really like it—by some estimates, you'll need to hang on to it for more than 20 years for its environmental impact to dip below that of a real tree.) At the end of the season, see if your community schedules curbside recycling for Christmas trees or if there's a local mulching program.
Alternatively, you don't need to dispose of your holiday greenery at all if you skip the cut pine altogether and instead buy a plant or succulent you can decorate, which won't expire come January (and fits nicely inside apartments and smaller homes). If you live in a house with a suitable yard and the right climate conditions, you can also consider getting a potted tree that can be replanted and will last for years to come.
9. Deck the halls with homemade crafts.
As for other decorations, avoid buying more stuff if you can help it. Paper snowflakes, cranberry garlands, pinecones, handmade mkeka mats, and creative card displays all make for a festive atmosphere. And follow this sage advice from NRDC's senior resource specialist, Darby Hoover: "Instead of putting up a bunch of decorations that you're going to tear down or put in the garbage, save them."
10. Choose gifts that come in small (or recyclable) packages.
We all know the feeling of frantically searching for last-minute gifts for guests soon to be on your doorstep. If you're buying something just for the sake of buying something, consider going a different route. Can you make a donation to an organization your loved one cares about, gift them an online news subscription, or cosponsor a low-income family's holiday wish list? You'll be funding an important cause (or investing in a free press) and producing less waste at the same time.
When giving more traditional presents, opt for recyclable wrapping paper and cards. Most greeting cards are made of paper, but embellishments like glitter can put them on the naughty list. (For those who can't join you in person, e-cards are the greenest route to go.) When on the receiving end, hang on to gift bags and cookie tins and reuse them. And whether you're shopping online or around town, make a list of all your needs, then shop at as few stores or sites as possible. It'll help you reduce emissions and waste, since stocking up in one trip or bundling your e-buys cuts down on transportation costs and packaging material.
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By Tim Radford
German scientists now know why so many fish are so vulnerable to ever-warming oceans. Global heating imposes a harsh cost at the most critical time of all: the moment of spawning.
Nearing the Brink<p>Since <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/abundant-fish-need-cool-seas-and-protection/" target="_blank">fish in the temperate zones already experience a wide variation</a> in seasonal water temperatures, it hasn't been obvious why species such as <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/sardines-swim-into-northern-waters-to-keep-cool/" target="_blank">cod have shifted nearer the Arctic, and sardines have migrated to the North Sea</a>.</p><p>But <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/ocean-warming-spurs-marine-life-to-rapid-migration/" target="_blank">marine creatures are on the move</a>, and although there are other factors at work, including overfishing and <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/fish-cant-smell-well-in-more-acidic-seas/" target="_blank">the increasingly alarming changes in ocean chemistry</a>, thanks to ever-higher levels of dissolved carbon dioxide, temperature change is part of the problem.</p><p>The latest answer, Dr Dahlke and his colleagues report in the journal <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi/10.1126/science.aaz3658" target="_blank">Science</a>, is that many fish may already be living near the limits of their thermal tolerance.</p><p>The temperature safety margins during the moments of spawning and embryo might be very precise, and over hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, marine and freshwater species have worked out just what is best for the next generation. Rapid global warming upsets this equilibrium.</p>
By Sherry H-Y. Chou, Aarti Sarwal and Neha S. Dangayach
The patient in the case report (let's call him Tom) was 54 and in good health. For two days in May, he felt unwell and was too weak to get out of bed. When his family finally brought him to the hospital, doctors found that he had a fever and signs of a severe infection, or sepsis. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. In addition to symptoms of COVID-19, he was also too weak to move his legs.
When a neurologist examined him, Tom was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes abnormal sensation and weakness due to delays in sending signals through the nerves. Usually reversible, in severe cases it can cause prolonged paralysis involving breathing muscles, require ventilator support and sometimes leave permanent neurological deficits. Early recognition by expert neurologists is key to proper treatment.
We are neurologists specializing in intensive care and leading studies related to neurological complications from COVID-19. Given the occurrence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in prior pandemics with other corona viruses like SARS and MERS, we are investigating a possible link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19 and tracking published reports to see if there is any link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19.
Some patients may not seek timely medical care for neurological symptoms like prolonged headache, vision loss and new muscle weakness due to fear of getting exposed to virus in the emergency setting. People need to know that medical facilities have taken full precautions to protect patients. Seeking timely medical evaluation for neurological symptoms can help treat many of these diseases.
What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function.
Without the myelin sheath, signals that go through a nerve are slowed or lost, which causes the nerve to malfunction.
To diagnose Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurologists perform a detailed neurological exam. Due to the nerve injury, patients often may have loss of reflexes on examination. Doctors often need to perform a lumbar puncture, otherwise known as spinal tap, to sample spinal fluid and look for signs of inflammation and abnormal antibodies.
Studies have shown that giving patients an infusion of antibodies derived from donated blood or plasma exchange – a process that cleans patients' blood of harmful antibodies - can speed up recovery. A very small subset of patients may need these therapies long-term.
The majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients improve within a few weeks and eventually can make a full recovery. However, some patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome have lingering symptoms including weakness and abnormal sensations in arms and/or legs; rarely patients may be bedridden or disabled long-term.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Pandemics
As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, many neurologic specialists have been on the lookout for potentially serious nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
Though Guillain-Barre Syndrome is rare, it is well known to emerge following bacterial infections, such as Campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning, and a multitude of viral infections including the flu virus, Zika virus and other coronaviruses.
Studies showed an increase in Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases following the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, suggesting a possible connection. The presumed cause for this link is that the body's own immune response to fight the infection turns on itself and attacks the peripheral nerves. This is called an "autoimmune" condition. When a pandemic affects as many people as our current COVID-19 crisis, even a rare complication can become a significant public health problem. That is especially true for one that causes neurological dysfunction where the recovery takes a long time and may be incomplete.
Though there is clear clinical suspicion that COVID-19 can lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, many important questions remain. What are the chances that someone gets Guillain-Barre Syndrome during or following a COVID-19 infection? Does Guillain-Barre Syndrome happen more often in those who have been infected with COVID-19 compared to other types of infections, such as the flu?
The only way to get answers is through a prospective study where doctors perform systematic surveillance and collect data on a large group of patients. There are ongoing large research consortia hard at work to figure out answers to these questions.
Understanding the Association Between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barre Syndrome
While large research studies are underway, overall it appears that Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare but serious phenomenon possibly linked to COVID-19. Given that more than 10.7 million cases have been reported for COVID-19, there have been 10 reported cases of COVID-19 patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far – only two reported cases in the U.S., five in Italy, two cases in Iran and one from Wuhan, China.
It is certainly possible that there are other cases that have not been reported. The Global Consortium Study of Neurological Dysfunctions in COVID-19 is actively underway to find out how often neurological problems like Guillain-Barre Syndrome is seen in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Also, just because Guillain-Barre Syndrome occurs in a patient diagnosed with COVID-19, that does not imply that it was caused by the virus; this still may be a coincident occurrence. More research is needed to understand how the two events are related.
Due to the pandemic and infection-containment considerations, diagnostic tests, such as a nerve conduction study that used to be routine for patients with suspected Guillain-Barre Syndrome, are more difficult to do. In both U.S. cases, the initial diagnosis and treatment were all based on clinical examination by a neurological experts rather than any tests. Both patients survived but with significant residual weakness at the time these case reports came out, but that is not uncommon for Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients. The road to recovery may sometimes be long, but many patients can make a full recovery with time.
Though the reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far all have severe symptoms, this is not uncommon in a pandemic situation where the less sick patients may stay home and not present for medical care for fear of being exposed to the virus. This, plus the limited COVID-19 testing capability across the U.S., may skew our current detection of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases toward the sicker patients who have to go to a hospital. In general, the majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients do recover, given enough time. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19-related cases at this stage of the pandemic. We and colleagues around the world are working around the clock to find answers to these critical questions.
Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.
Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.
Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
One of the initial reasons social distancing guidelines were put in place was to allow the healthcare system to adapt to a surge in patients since there was a critical shortage of beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment. In fact, masks that were designed for single-use were reused for an entire week in some hospitals.
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By Jake Johnson
Unity Task Forces formed by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled sweeping party platform recommendations Wednesday that—while falling short of progressive ambitions in a number of areas, from climate to healthcare—were applauded as important steps toward a bold and just policy agenda that matches the severity of the moment.
"We've moved the needle a lot, especially on environmental justice and upping Biden's ambition," said Sunrise Movement co-founder and executive director Varshini Prakash, a member of the Biden-Sanders Climate Task Force. "But there's still more work to do to push Democrats to act at the scale of the climate crisis."
The climate panel—co-chaired by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and former Secretary of State John Kerry—recommended that the Democratic Party commit to "eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035," massively expanding investments in clean energy sources, and "achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings by 2030."
In a series of tweets Wednesday night, Ocasio-Cortez—the lead sponsor of the House Green New Deal resolution—noted that the Climate Task Force "shaved 15 years off Biden's previous target for 100% clean energy."
"Of course, like in any collaborative effort, there are areas of negotiation and compromise," said the New York Democrat. "But I do believe that the Climate Task Force effort meaningfully and substantively improved Biden's positions."
Today the 6 Biden-Sanders Unity Task Forces are unveiling final language. The Climate Task Force accomplished a gr… https://t.co/gz3broq2qe— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)1594240617.0
The 110 pages of policy recommendations from the six eight-person Unity Task Forces on education, the economy, criminal justice, immigration, climate change, and healthcare are aimed at shaping negotiations over the 2020 Democratic platform at the party's convention next month.
Sanders said that while the "end result isn't what I or my supporters would've written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country."
"I look forward to working with Vice President Biden to help him win this campaign," the Vermont senator added, "and to move this country forward toward economic, racial, social, and environmental justice."
Biden, for his part, applauded the task forces "for helping build a bold, transformative platform for our party and for our country."
"I am deeply grateful to Bernie Sanders for working with us to unite our party and deliver real, lasting change for generations to come," said the former vice president.
On the life-or-death matter of reforming America's dysfunctional private health insurance system—a subject on which Sanders and Biden clashed repeatedly throughout the Democratic primary process—the Unity Task Force affirmed healthcare as "a right" but did not embrace Medicare for All, the signature policy plank of the Vermont senator's presidential bid.
Instead, the panel recommended building on the Affordable Care Act by establishing a public option, investing in community health centers, and lowering prescription drug costs by allowing the federal government to negotiate prices. The task force also endorsed making all Covid-19 testing, treatments, and potential vaccines free and expanding Medicaid for the duration of the pandemic.
"It has always been a crisis that tens of millions of Americans have no or inadequate health insurance—but in a pandemic, it's potentially catastrophic for public health," the task force wrote.
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a former Michigan gubernatorial candidate and Sanders-appointed member of the Healthcare Task Force, said that despite major disagreements, the panel "came to recommendations that will yield one of the most progressive Democratic campaign platforms in history—though we have further yet to go."
We rein in #pharma's greed by: 1) Allowing Medicare to FINALLY negotiate Rx drugs FOR ALL AMERICANS 2) Using Rx d… https://t.co/6k9iUCLMp7— Abdul El-Sayed (@Abdul El-Sayed)1594238411.0
Observers and advocacy groups also applauded the Unity Task Forces for recommending the creation of a postal banking system, endorsing a ban on for-profit charter schools, ending the use of private prisons, and imposing a 100-day moratorium on deportations "while conducting a full-scale study on current practices to develop recommendations for transforming enforcement policies and practices at ICE and CBP."
Marisa Franco, director of immigrant rights group Mijente, said in a statement that "going into these task force negotiations, we knew we were going to have to push Biden past his comfort zone, both to reconcile with past offenses and to carve a new path forward."
"That is exactly what we did, unapologetically," said Franco, a member of the Immigration Task Force. "For years, Mijente, along with the broader immigrant rights movement, has fought to reshape the narrative around immigration towards racial justice and to focus these very demands. We expect Biden and the Democratic Party to implement them in their entirety."
"There is no going back," Franco added. "Not an inch, not a step. We must only move forward from here."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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