Wellness: The Consequence of Convenience, by Angie Bucu
Many of us live in societies where we are sold on the culture of convenience, anything we want at any time. Much of this is driven by our hardwired human desire to have things we think we need for survival, but convenience is not about survival, it is all about consumerism, and the consequence is waste. It has become evident that the choices we make for convenience and consumerism are having profound consequences on our environments and on our own health and wellness. Everything produced has an ecological impact, from the beginnings of its life – the energy and resources used to produce and sell it – to the end of its life where it is likely to end up as waste. These processes are increasingly putting pressure on our natural environments.
Single use plastics are a fundamental problem for the health and wellness of many ecosystems and an example of the consequence of our culture of convenience and consumerism. Cheap to produce, these plastics breakdown easily into tiny particles when exposed to the elements, and absorb toxic chemicals along the way. One way or another, plastics in solid form and as broken down particles, end up in marine environments. About 80% of all waste in the oceans is plastic. Researchers have found that although some plastics sink, most break down into these tiny particles and are consumed by fish and other forms of marine life from plankton to turtles to whales. So now plastic is in the food chain, coming back full circle and potentially causing harm to human health through the consumption of seafood.
Harmful chemicals present in plastics such as bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates are toxic to wildlife and the environment and now researchers have linked high exposure of these chemicals to cardiovascular disease and associated conditions such as obesity and hypertension. These chemical are already known endocrine disrupters playing havoc with the endocrine system particularly in young children and are believed to damage the male reproductive system. Although BPA is banned in some products like plastic refillable drink bottles, it is still prevalent in many plastic products, and continues to harm wildlife, the environment and us.
However, there are simple solutions we can all practice that do make a difference to keep harmful plastics out of the environment and these chemicals out of our bodies.
Use a refillable water bottle and carry reusable cutlery
Say no to all plastic bags, plastic straws and plastic coffee cup lids
Use skin and personal care products made of natural ingredients, without harmful chemicals or microbeads (plastic scrubs)
Always recycle and reuse where possible and never burn plastics
Encourage others to do the same
These simple yet mindful changes in consumption can be a catalyst to motivate us to do even more. Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment. Mindfulness stimulates motivation and can be a truly effective practice when applied to consumption. For instance, when you are shopping next, take a moment to be fully present to ask, “Do I really need this?”
As we begin to understand the consequences of our consumption and consumerism we can use mindfulness to make conscious consumption choices. We can be the change that will have positive consequences for the environment, for society and ultimately for our own wellness. We conclude with the words of the Buddha: “My actions are my only true belongings.”
Angie Bucu is a wellness researcher and freelance writer, and tutors university students in the art of mind-body wellness therapies. She is currently working on a study that looks at teachers’ views of teaching mindfulness in schools for the first time; she writes regularly for various publications; and she has a blog dedicated to sharing knowledge and research on wellness, with a focus toward mind-body, environmental and nutritional wellness. Visit Angie at Ingredients of Wellness.