July 1 - July 31, 2020

Lauren Steele

American College of Healthcare Sciences

"My goal for this Plastic Free Ecochallenge is to learn more about different ways to reduce my plastic use, and to start to develop new "routines" which are healthier and better for the planet."

Points Total

  • 0 Today
  • 0 This Week
  • 1,323 Total

Participant Impact

  • up to
    11
    disposable cups
    not sent to the landfill
  • up to
    1
    documentaries
    watched
  • up to
    125
    minutes
    spent learning
  • up to
    52
    plastic containers
    not sent to the landfill
  • up to
    1
    waste audits
    conducted

Lauren's Actions

Lifestyle

Complete a Waste Audit

I will conduct a waste audit - including recyclables and compost - to understand how much waste I create and where I can reduce the most.

Completed
One-Time Action

Pets

Try a Pet Shampoo Bar

I will replace my pet's shampoo with an eco-friendly shampoo bar.

Completed
One-Time Action

Community

Estimate My Plastic Consumption and Go #PlasticNeutral

I will visit rePurpose website, complete the 3-minute plastic consumption calculator, and explore how I can reBalance my annual plastic footprint.

Completed
One-Time Action

Family

Learn about Environmental Injustice

Using the action resource links below, my family will spend 30 minutes learning about environmental justice, causes of environmental injustice, and how plastic waste disproportionately impacts already vulnerable communities.

Completed
One-Time Action

Lifestyle

Homemade Cleaners

I will make 3 of my own cleaning products at home.

Completed
One-Time Action

Food

Say No to Plastic Bags

If at all possible, I will not accept any disposable bags when making purchases, including produce bags.

COMPLETED 11
DAILY ACTIONS

Family

Swap the Snacks

I will swap out 1 prepackaged snacks a day for fresh fruits or veggies.

COMPLETED 29
DAILY ACTIONS

Personal Care

Pretty oh so Pretty

I will purchase beauty products that are packaged in sustainable packaging.

Completed
One-Time Action

Food

Use a Reusable Mug / Collapsible Cup

If possible, I will avoid sending 1 disposable cup(s) to the landfill per day by using a reusable mug or bringing my own collapsible cup.

COMPLETED 11
DAILY ACTIONS

Personal Care

Fresh as a Daisy

I will use deodorant either from a bar or a jar or I will make my own.

Completed
One-Time Action

Lifestyle

Reusable Face Coverings

Disposable masks are made of mixed materials and not recyclable. When possible, I will reduce my waste while protecting myself and others by wearing a reusable face covering when in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

COMPLETED 28
DAILY ACTIONS

Community

Watch a Plastic Free July Webinar!

Educate yourself on the benefits of going plastic free by viewing one of our Plastic Free July webinars.

COMPLETED 5
DAILY ACTIONS

Lifestyle

Natural Fibers

When available, I will purchase clothing made with natural fibers, such as cotton, linen, or wool, rather than synthetic fibers.

Completed
One-Time Action

Lifestyle

Watch a Documentary

I will watch a documentary film about waste with family and friends and talk about what we learned.

Completed
One-Time Action

Personal Care

Brusha Brusha Brusha

I will replace my plastic toothbrush with a bamboo toothbrush.

Completed
One-Time Action

Feed

  • Reflection Question
    Personal Care Pretty oh so Pretty
    How can you advocate for the importance of reducing packaging to the rest of your friends, family and larger community?

    Lauren Steele 7/31/2020 5:52 PM
    This is last day of the Challenge, and until today I wasn't sure how to answer this question. But I watched The Story of Plastic this morning and I was very moved by it. I can see now that the reduction of plastic packaging, and moving away from plastic manufacturing in a big way, has become a matter of life or death for us all. I will watch the film again before August 4th and take notes so I can arm myself with facts to drive those important conversations that I need to start having. I have wanted to start a blog for a long time. I've tried a couple of times but it always drifts off into oblivion because I can't think of anything to post, or I forget to post for weeks at a time. After completing 3 semesters at ACHS, and this Challenge, I am full of ideas for things that I want to talk about! That's a start. But I need to do more to make people in my family and my circle of friends and my community aware of what's at stake. They need to know about the scope and scale of the plastic problem, because we can't see it where I live. It's not REAL in anyone's life here. And if ever there was a clear example of what environmental injustice is all about, this is it. Disposable "convenience" items that we toss in the trash without a second thought are actually KILLING people in other countries because underprivileged and marginalized people are the ones who have no choice but to take responsibility for cleaning up the tons of plastic waste surrounding their homes. People in the United States are actually being KILLED because the proximity of their homes to chemical plants that process petrochemicals to create plastic continually exposes them to toxins. Children who live there are getting cancer 56% more often than children who live elsewhere. Plastics are killing wildlife and getting into our water and even the food that we eat, no matter where we live. So yeah, this is a big deal. 

    The other thing that I became more aware of after watching that movie is that there is no way that recycling or reducing packaging or choosing to use less plastic is ever going to fix the problem. There is just too much plastic being produced, and the amount continues to grow. Consumers can help with their actions, but we cannot and should not be held responsible for the clean-up. The big corporations all along the production chain, who are making billions of dollars selling items made out of or packaged within plastic, need to take responsibility and be accountable for the pollution that they create, not only in our air and water but on the ground, all over the world. They should not be allowed to make huge profits at the expense of consumers. 

    So that is my rant for the day. It's a long one, about a topic that I get very emotional about. So I guess it's fitting that this is my last post for this Challenge. I've had fun, learned a lot, and stoked the fire of motivation to help me transform knowledge into action. Thanks, all. I wish you well. Stay safe, but not too safe!  ;-)

  • Reflection Question
    Community Watch a Plastic Free July Webinar!
    What did you learn from this webinar? Did it inspire you to reduce plastic use in your daily life?

    Lauren Steele 7/30/2020 8:09 AM
    I watched all of the ACHS webinars. I learned a lot about the scale of the plastic problems in the world. I learned how to make a lotion bar. And Jess' talk about everything she did to create a holistic and healthy salon was inspirational. I hope to open an herb and tea shop someday, and also offer wellness counseling, so her ideas and how she went about creating her space were very interesting. Even in an industry where the use of toxic chemicals is standard procedure, she showed that it doesn't have to be that way. She prioritized health and sustainability, and I really admire that.

    • Lauren Steele 7/31/2020 5:04 PM
      Thanks, Jacqui. In the Challenge, I just did everything that I signed up to do. It wasn't hard, and I learned a lot. I would love to be your student! :-) Hopefully this fall in HERB 504? 

    • Jacqui McGrath 7/31/2020 1:20 PM
      So true - Jess is a shining example of the way entrepreneurs can and will thrive in the years to come. I wish you much success with your shop, too, Lauren, and expect that you'll become a beloved leader in your community just as Jess has. The way you've shown up this month has won my heart, for sure, I would love to be one of your customers!
  • Reflection Question
    Lifestyle Complete a Waste Audit
    What did you learn about the waste you create? Where can you reduce the most?

    Lauren Steele 7/27/2020 5:21 PM
    I compost all of my compostable kitchen scraps--veggie cuttings, banana peels, tea bags, coffee grounds, etc. Where I fall short is in buying too much produce and letting it go bad in the fridge before it gets eaten. I compost that, too, but it is still wasteful and it is completely preventable. My excuses have been things like "I don't always feel like eating a peach every day" or "I forgot those were in there". Actually, I don't really buy too much produce. I just eat too little. I have the best of intentions when I'm at the store or the farm stand. Everything looks so yummy. But there is a disconnect once the produce enters the abyss of my refrigerator and keeps getting shoved to the back. 

    I am hereby owning this misbehavior and making a commitment to eat what I buy before going out and buying anything else. I will eat more than one fruit or vegetable per day. I will eat them all. I promise! :-)

    • Jacqui McGrath 7/28/2020 12:51 PM
      Glad to help :) I also freeze veggies for using in smoothies, especially leafy ones and avocados (cubed). I often have "too many" plantains, too (thanks to them falling off the trees around here) and I freeze those for using in pancakes. 

    • Lauren Steele 7/28/2020 7:07 AM
      Jacqui, what a great idea! I never thought of doing that. When I make smoothies I use some fresh fruit and some frozen (which I buy!). It might even be cheaper to freeze my own fruit instead of buying it already frozen. Guess I'll add that to my "list"! 

    • Jacqui McGrath 7/28/2020 6:58 AM
      Yes! I love this commitment :) I can relate, Lauren, and have found one work around for the produce in the fridge that is "at risk" - I throw it in the freezer and then slowly add it to my morning blender drinks. I usually call them "smoothies" but it's really a euphemism, they are my 'scraps' drinks. jajaja 

  • Lauren Steele 7/25/2020 8:27 PM
    I went to the farm stand today to get a dozen ears of corn for supper. I would have liked to bring my own tote bag, but since I couldn't, I took the corn to my car cradled in my arms with no bag at all--just like in the Bag It video! Then I went back to get some blueberries. No bags needed.  :-)

  • Lauren Steele 7/24/2020 12:20 PM
    Environmental Justice is something that I learned about as an undergrad student working toward my B.A. in Environmental Studies. Growing up in a small, all-white town in central Massachusetts, I had a sheltered life. I had no idea what Environmental Justice was all about. But I quickly learned about what an important issue it is and has been for a long time. My kids are grown (19 and 22), so I didn't need to teach them about this concept. We have been discussing topics like the environment, climate change, current events, and politics since they were in elementary school. So I posted the video of Dr. Robert Bullard to my Facebook page along with the link to his website for anyone who would like to learn more about this topic. He has also written many books. I plan to pick one up in the near future.

    • Lauren Steele 7/24/2020 5:04 PM
      I know, right? His accomplishments are amazing. And the fact that he was born in Alabama in 1946 makes them even more amazing. He has been a tireless advocate for Environmental Justice for decades, and an interesting speaker. I did find him inspirational!

    • Jacqui McGrath 7/24/2020 3:49 PM
      I found his site - what an inspiring and fearless leader! https://drrobertbullard.com/ 

  • Lauren Steele 7/23/2020 9:09 AM
    I watched the documentary "Bag It", and I really want to design some sort of positive action plan going forward. The video is ten years old, but the problems created by single-use disposable plastics are still getting worse. I thought about organizing a local screening of the film, or doing a presentation at local schools, but neither of those things are currently possible due to Covid-19. I'll have to put those things on the back burner for now. What else can I do? My next thought was to find out if I can do a screening on local cable TV. That will depend on the expense. I can also post the trailer on my social media and blog. That would give people the opportunity to pursue watching the whole video on their own. But other than those things--which are educational and important--I want to figure out something I can do that's "boots on the ground". Organize some sort of beneficial activity so people can feel good about accomplishing something as a team. I will continue to percolate on this. Something is bubbling right under the surface of my consciousness.....what about a "plastic drive"? Or making it a contest to see who can bring the largest amount of plastics by weight? I would need to come up with a good prize for the winner.....

    • Lauren Steele 7/23/2020 4:09 PM
      Yeah, hosting (or joining) a virtual screening was one thing I was thinking about. I have no idea how to organize that, but I'm a fast learner. Right now my younger son has been making calls as part of a phone bank to get people to watch a documentary on climate change facts. I don't know the name of it, but I told him to put me on the list so they will send me a link. I love documentaries!  :-) Could you give me some pointers (action steps) on how to organize the contest? Did you get sponsors? How did you communicate with potential participants? Was it through the schools? Thanks!

    • Jacqui McGrath 7/23/2020 11:36 AM
      What a good idea! Maybe you could contact the filmmakers and see about joining or hosting a virtual screening of "Bag It"?! I reached out to the Story of Plastic folks and learned that they're going to give us a chance to host a screening of that one (Andy and Gillian will share the link next week). I like your idea of "boots on the ground" :) I organized a plastic contest for school kids once and it was wildly popular, partly b/c I found good prizes (the winning team got a day out of school at XelHa (https://www.xelha.com/) but mostly I think it was the friendly competition. They collected over 18 tons of recyclable plastic. It was a logistical nightmare for the organizers (me!), but so worth it as the kids seemed to 'get' the value of plastic. One team decided to keep their and sell it to the recycler guy instead of turning it in for the contest in the end so that they could keep the monies (they were vying for a prize, but knew they had gotten beat by another team). I loved it! With COVID I don't know when this type of friendly competition will be safe again. Sigh.
  • Reflection Question
    Lifestyle Watch a Documentary
    Which documentary did you choose to watch? What did you learn?

    Lauren Steele 7/23/2020 8:54 AM
    I watched Minimalism and then Bag It. I have been a borderline hoarder for many years, partly because I hate throwing things away that are still useful and partly because I become very attached to my stuff and things become nostalgic even if I haven't used them in years. I have trouble letting go. I have felt stifled by the overflowing closets and growing piles of clutter in my home for a long time. It makes me unhappy. But I have also felt powerless to fix the problem. This is why I decided to watch Minimalism first. 

    I will never become a minimalist or live in a tiny house, but I did learn something important from this video. I thought that my problem was related to my inability to let things go, and that is true, but what I learned was that my indiscriminate buying habits are also part of the problem. I am consuming too much in the first place. I need to become mindful of what I am buying and ask myself if an item will add value to my life. I need to step back from impulsively buying things because I like them, and ask myself if I really need them. I still need to purge (quite a bit), but reducing the amount of material coming in to my home will eventually help me to achieve the balance that I've been looking for. 
  • Reflection Question
    Personal Care Brusha Brusha Brusha
    What are the benefits of switching to bamboo toothbrushes? How would you implore others in your community to make this switch as well?

    Lauren Steele 7/22/2020 5:11 PM
    I never thought about the fact that my toothbrushes were adding to the disposable plastic problem until now. I purchased some bamboo toothbrushes for my family. Using bamboo makes sense since it is biodegradable. But the bristles are nylon, which is still not good. I plan on looking for toothbrushes with all-natural bristles. I did see some online, but they said that the toothbrushes would need to replaced every 1-2 weeks. This could get expensive for me. So more research is needed. I'm just happy to be eliminating one more plastic item from my trash.
  • Reflection Question
    Lifestyle Homemade Cleaners
    What did you learn by making your own cleaning products? What is the biggest difference in making vs buying?

    Lauren Steele 7/21/2020 11:21 AM
    I made a foaming hand soap using liquid castille soap, sunflower oil, and rosemary hydrosol (instead of water). I chose the rosemary hydrosol instead of a more floral scent like geranium or lavender because I live with two sons and my boyfriend, and I wanted them to like it! I like rosemary, but once using the soap has become a habit I can start to indulge my own senses and experiment more. Acceptance before compromise!  :-)  I saw the recipe online and couldn't wait to try it. When I looked online to find foaming soap dispensers, I saw that you could buy the foaming pump lids to fit mason jars, of which I have an abundance. I also made sure to get lids that were made mostly of metal instead of plastic. I now have dispensers in my 3 bathrooms and the kitchen.

    Doing this has inspired me to see what other cleaners I can make at home. I made a list of all the products I use for cleaning--for windows, bathrooms, floors, etc. Everything comes in plastic bottles. One by one I will be trying to replace them with something homemade. I can't remember ever being this excited about cleaning my house!

    • Lauren Steele 7/21/2020 5:20 PM
      Ha Ha Ha! I AM on fire. That's because it's summer and I have plenty of time to do things around the house. I'm really enjoying all the new things I'm trying and learning. Unfortunately, the amount of work to be done is overwhelming. But instead of letting that discourage me, I have to focus on what I am capable of doing, not what I can't do, and just do that. A little at a time, every day. 

    • Jacqui McGrath 7/21/2020 12:19 PM
      Lauren, you are on fire!! Thanks for sharing your wins :) In case you missed ACHS professor Amanda Lattin's recent webinar on DIY cleaning products, check it out! https://publications.achs.edu/aromatherapy-to-cleanse-your-homes-and-hands/recipes/
  • Reflection Question
    Lifestyle Reusable Face Coverings
    In what other ways can you use creativity or innovation to reduce your waste while adapting to our current times?

    Lauren Steele 7/20/2020 8:32 AM
    Summer is a great time to take advantage of local farm stands and markets. In addition to what I grow in my small garden, I can get lots of fresh food--fruits and vegetables--without having to create any waste at all. I just bring a basket and/or tote bag with me. Local farmers work hard and really need our support. Plus the food tastes so much better and is more nutritious. What's good for the environment is good for us, too!