Global Handwashing Day

It’s October 15th, Global Handwashing Day! This past week, we visited the rural villages in which my NGO, the Cambodian Community Dream Organization, works with. The CCDO started out by building water wells and latrines for rural villages in need, and has expanded to help make a difference in the rural schools in which they work 🙂 (more on this impressive organization at another time!)

The CCDO helps to provide soap for the handwashing stations at school
Tippy taps
Tippy taps were an example of a handwashing station we learned in my public health program

Educating children about the importance of handwashing at an early age will ensure that this behavior is practiced as they grow up. “Our hands, our future” is the 2017 theme for this day, as a reminder that “handwashing protects our own health, but also allows us to build our own futures, as well as those of our communities, and the world.”

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Can Cities Become Zero Waste?

The zero waste movement has been gaining momentum in recent years. On YouTube, there are so many prominent individuals who blog about their journey towards a Zero Waste lifestyle (some examples below):

There is also the growing trend of tiny homes that help you reduce your carbon footprint and waste less! Many of these homes are made from reclaimed items, such as reclaimed wood, shipping containers, and other scraps that can be used to build a sustainable, sturdy home that relieves people the stress of paying years and years of mortgages, and allowing people the liberty to not worry about making huge amounts of money just to keep the lights on in the home.

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Realistically, I think it’s difficult to officially become zero waste, regardless of conscious purchases and buying in bulk with reusable cloth bags and glass containers, especially if you still buy items at stores that get their products from industrial farms and factory food farming (think: greenhouse gas emissions, monocropping, overfishing, society’s desire for aesthetically pleasing food items, just to name a few!) However, I do admire their commitment to staying away from plastic items and dedication to composting and if they buy from their local farmers’ markets and vendors.

They make it look so easy, especially if they’ve adopted these lifestyles for months or years; however, how feasible is this lifestyle of zero waste, or at least reducing waste, within cities? It seems difficult to implement a “reduce waste lifestyle” without the help of policy. Many people (not all), in general are more likely to follow the rules that are put in place for them, rather than adopt a new behavior of purchasing non-plastic items and bringing their own cloth bags and containers to their stores to buy in bulk.

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There are some cities around the world that have started taking steps towards zero waste, which I wanted to share for those who are interested! 🙂

  • San Francisco, CA: SF has a very ambitious goal to become a zero waste city by 2020. By focusing on three main principles (preventing waste, reducing and reusing items, and recycling and composting what can be recycled and composted), it is feasible to dramatically decrease the number of items and bags of garbage that end up in the landfills. (BTW, this website also provides a cool video about what they’re doing to become a zero waste city!)
  • Kamikatsu, Japan: Kamikatsu has an insanely efficient waste collection center that helps eliminate waste in their little town. With less than 2,000 people in their town, they aim to become the first zero waste community in Japan by 2020! It’s pretty amazing to see the steps they are taking and that all of the community members have adopted; check out their video here!
  • France: France is the first country to ban supermarket food waste. I’m not sure where you live, but there’s a good chance that your local supermarket staff spend time tossing the unattractive fruits and vegetables before they open the doors to consumers, and some produce items that we may find unappealing and choose not to buy eventually end up being thrown away, too! Currently, a whopping 1.3 BILLION TONS of food meant for consumption is thrown away around the world (more stats here), while there are millions around the world who suffer from food insecurity.

So, now that you’ve seen some examples of successful zero waste individuals and cities who are in this movement, are you interested in making small changes to your everyday lives and make a difference? It can be as small as using a stainless steel water bottle or BYOB (bring your own bag!) when you purchase items 🙂

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We have ONE planet (for now). If we continue to produce more than 220 MILLION TONS of trash that end up in landfills each year (in the US), eventually we will run out of space to put the trash! Let’s not let it get that far… 🙂

Save the Ocean and Marine Life!

If you love marine animals, the ocean and the beaches, you should watch Chasing Coral and Plastic Paradise on Netflix 

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Chasing Coral: Humans are single-handedly destroying the place we call home with our dependence on fossil fuels, our greed for red meats (and most food animal meats honestly), our reliance on transportation methods that require gas, and our ability to turn a blind eye because we aren’t THERE watching the coral reefs bleaching and then dying before our eyes, right beneath the water’s surface. We are literally so ignorant to what’s at stake. If you love seafood, you should care about our coral reefs dying. Marine ecosystems are desperately crying out for help because they can’t fix what humans have done in the last century alone. Think about it this way: if our bodies rose 2 degrees C, we’d be running a 102 degree F fever…this is essentially what’s happening to the coral reefs as they’re subject to rising sea level temperatures because our ozone is trapping all the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere that’s released by the fossil fuel industry, large-scale farming and animal production etc. 

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Plastic Paradise: Our society is addicted to convenience and the ability to use something in the moment and then dispose of it once it’s “unusable”. Instead of investing in or carrying a reusable water bottle, we buy plastic water bottles and refreshments that we either litter, throw in the trash, or (hopefully) recycle. Litter and plastic items that get blown into the oceans ends up floating away somewhere–it doesn’t disappear. Marine animals and birds get trapped in them, they may accidentally eat them (anyone see that photo of the whale with a stomach full of plastic? it starved to death because it didn’t have space to eat what it actually needed. see that video where a sea turtle had to get a plastic straw plied out of its nostril? or birds with those soda can plastic rings stuck around their neck?)

I wish we were more aware of what we’re doing to the environment and where we call home.

Get involved or change your habits:
– eat less red meat, or jump on the bandwagon for Meatless Mondays! earthday_badge3
– carpool or take public transportation, or BIKE or WALK if you can!
– buy sustainable, reusable items, and try to avoid buying things in plastic containers
– donate to an organization that focuses on ocean clean-up or advocates for the climate (examples here: http://careclimatechange.org/our-work/advocacy/, https://climateprotection.org/be-a-climate-advocate/, http://www.who.int/…/health_policy/who_workplan/advocate/en/)
– VOLUNTEER (examples here: https://oceanconservancy.org/…/international-coastal-clean…/, http://saveourshores.org/volunteer/, https://www.theoceancleanup.com/, http://www.cleanoceanaction.org/index.php?id=128) iccd_hero_image_beach_cleanup_1440x550

The worst thing you can do is read this, say “oh…this is sad” and not do anything about it. Don’t sit around and wait for someone else to take action. YOU have a duty to yourself, your family, your children, grandchildren, etc. to take care of the planet we live on and make efforts to live a better life and to improve our lifestyles so we make a lesser impact on the earth.

March for Science

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the March for Science in Washington, D.C. with my fellow Johns Hopkins classmates. This demonstration sends a clear message to the Republican Administration that science plays a role in everyone’s lives and has given us so much as a society and in the world. Without science, we wouldn’t have life-saving medicines or vaccines. Without science, we would not be able to discover new cures and treatments for diseases.

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world gathered on April 22, 2017, Earth Day, to celebrate science! There were scientists, researchers, doctors of different disciplines, supporters of science (young and old) that came together for the purpose of advocating for science. The March for Science page states:

Science protects the health of our communities, the safety of our families, the education of our children, the foundation of our economy and jobs, and the future we all want to live in and preserve for coming generations. 

We speak up now because all of these values are currently at risk. When science is threatened, so is the society that scientists uphold and protect.

When I was growing up, I watched Bill Nye the Science Guy and ZOOM, and had the chance to create that ever cliche paper mache volcanos that erupts with baking soda and vinegar. I knew I wanted to be involved in helping other people, and ended up in Public Health. It was evident that science and research is paramount to making advances towards innovations that would lead to better health outcomes, even when I was a little girl and to this day.

I hope we continue this open dialogue about science and that my fellow colleagues will continue to fight the fight to promote science and support organizations such as the NIH and EPA to protect our planet and our populations’ health. I hope that PBS continues to get funded so the programs can continue to inspire the younger generation to be inquisitive, eager to learn, and get involved in STEM.

Here are some of great posters that I was able to take photos of this past weekend!