6 ways to quit plastic

Last year Coles and Woolworths decided to remove free plastic bags from the checkouts. In the 12 months following this announcement it reduced the number of single use plastic bags by 1.5 billion. However we are still using 3.5 billion plastic bags annually and there is quite a long way to go in reducing our reliance on plastic. After reading the book Quitting Plastic recently I have developed a quick list to start on helping you reduce your plastic use further.

  1. Ditch single use bags – reducing plastic bag use means that you need to take reusable bags every time you go shopping. Ideally return them to the car as soon as you have emptied them so they are ready for the next trip. Also have a think about whether you need bags as you buy items in the fruit shop. Can you just put them loose in a couple of your recyclable bags for weighing at the checkout?  If we do end up with a few bags from the shopping we reuse them as dog bags.
  2. Reduce plastic wrap – find containers that can be reused for storage rather than placing plastic wrap over the contents. For smaller items that do need coverage invest in some beeswax wraps. One medium wrap I bought I cut into three pieces and used it for wrapping cheese and another section for rewrapping around cold cuts. Beeswax wraps can be washed in lukewarm (not hot) water with a little dish soap to reuse them for up to 6-12 months.
  3. Find a drink bottle – single use water bottles are another significant contributor to our overuse of plastic. Stainless steel bottles can be used for both hot and cold drinks however there are also good quality plastic bottles that can be reused multiple times. Just try and avoid other nasties such as BPA or phthalates.
  4. Dine in or Keep Cups – two or three takeaway coffees a days can add up to a lot of cups cluttering landfill. Better alternatives are a keep cup that is reused or dining in.  Many cafes are now offering a discount if you use a keep cup which is another plus. Actually an even better option is to sit at the cafe and have your coffee or tea in a real ceramic or porcelain cup which then gets washed and reused. It’s also a good way to give yourself a little break during the day and its environmentally sound. It’s good to know I can justify a cuppa at my favourite locals when I am at work so look out for me at Pattisons or Stanley St Cafe !
  5. Freezer options – The first four items to me felt reasonably straight forward however I know that with keeping meat in the freezer I do not feel comfortable with it being unwrapped so what are the alternatives? The best options I can find so far are cornstarch bags (which are biodegradable) or using reusable plastic or glass containers. I have been freezing stock in glass bottles however I probably do lose an occasional one to breakages so you do need to be careful about how you store it in the freezer. Also do not put hot food into glass and then straight into the freezer, let it cool first.
  6. Clothing – To be really honest when I read the book Quitting Plastic I really hadn’t thought through the amount of plastics used in clothing and more concerningly the tendency for those plastics to generate micro-plastics in the washing process. These microplastics accumulate in our water supplies. A quick and panicked look at labels revealed a few good purchases and a few more concerning ones, in particular my favourite workout gear which is very flattering was also largely derived from plastics. BUT throwing it out will mean more plastics in landfill. So I am going to wear them out and find a bag that I can wash them in which will trap the microplastics (guppyfriend.com) and I can then throw them out. In the meantime I am carefully checking clothing and looking for a high percentage of cotton, wool, silk or bamboo or pulped wood fibres or cellulose such as viscose and rayon. One label that does offer alternatives in bamboo in colourful prints and designs is Maiochi. Country Road also offers some and quite a large range of cotton and linen.

For more ideas on quitting plastic have a look at my Instagram (@allaboutnaturalmedicine) this month or my Facebook page. You can also get your own copy of Quitting Plastic for a large range of other ideas from Booktopia, Target, Angus and Robertson or Dymocks.

Innovation in Healthcare

Last weekend I was at a conference where the topic was Innovation. It was an interesting area to consider as a Director and even more challenging was its application. How do you encourage and develop innovative thinking in your organisation?  It’s an even bigger challenge for most of the attendees as the organisations were largely associations and Not for Profit’s  who usually aren’t well funded and often run by volunteers. So what were some of the suggestions and how could this be applied in the healthcare space ?

Spend time brainstorming issues

Often with packed agenda’s in a meeting its hard to find time to solve problems creatively. Allowing time on every agenda to brainstorm a problem allows for discussion of other options and possibly new insights. It also creates an environment where people don’t feel they have to stick to the status quo – the dreaded “that’s the way we have always done it”!!

Encourage feedback from the quiet participants

Not everyone is happy to provide input quickly and succinctly in a meeting. Asking everyone around a table to express a viewpoint on a subject provides a forum to open up the discussion. Ideally don’t just start with the same person but mix it up.

img_0363Meet differently

Be open to having meetings in different locations or even bringing in external parties to present different views. The energy of meeting in a coffee bar can be a lot livelier than a set meeting room. Even changing rooms on a regular basis can be a good protocol just make sure everyone has enough space to be comfortable and can move around.

So how can we apply this in healthcare? Specifically how could I apply this in my practice?

Staying current with new developments is really critical and one of the reasons I am constantly looking at seminars or workshops. How can I get people better faster? For example I had always found treating Candida with a diet and specific homeopathics quite difficult and slow. Anti-candida diets are basically no wheat, no dairy, no yeast and no fun! On the basis of a recommendation at a workshop I tried using a berberiene based herbal product and found my results were significantly quicker and much easier for clients to maintain. My strategy is to look for the innovators and pick the eyes out of their treatment protocols.

In terms of meeting differently I would occasionally run workshops and I really enjoy the energy of working with a group and the networking that often results. This is now on my agenda with a permanent focus on education around existing programs but also continuing some of my successful workshops. Using this format is also a good way to keep costs down. A 2 hour workshop at $49 is a great addition to a treatment program and also keeps costs down and makes healthcare more affordable. Maybe another alternative is to start recording the sessions and make them available to clients as an easier way to work with me.

The reality of innovation is much more difficult to grasp than the concept. Often in practice I see clients who are stuck in a situation and think they have no options. As soon as you start to see stress levels come down its amazing how possibilities open up. For practitioners I think its a question of staying current and adopting strategies that work well for them and how they practice.

Christine Pope is based at Elemental Health at St Ives and is available for consultations on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Appointments can be made online (very innovative!!) at http://www.elementalhealth.net.au or by calling 02 8084 0081.