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Top Ten Tips: Simple Ways to Save Your Health, Your Money, and Your Planet

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by Claudia Sisomphou

Today it is easy to get overwhelmed by all the talk about climate change and the California drought, but for many of us the challenge isn't caring about these issues, the challenge is "how do I become apart of the solution?" There are many paths that lead to a more sustainable lifestyle, but to help you get started here are 10 of the simple ways you can tweak your daily routine to not only benefit your health, but also the planet. The individual decisions you make may feel insignificant, but imagine if everyone made the effort to make these small changes! Together we have the power to become a sustainable species once again.

1. Be a Smart Consumer:

Consuming is Politics.

  • Every time you buy something it's like voting. The decision of a company to use better ingredients, improve the treatment their workers, or regulate their environmental impacts are all based on what the public wants.

If you don't buy it they won't sell it.

  • If Coca-Cola wasn't getting away with using high fructose corn syrup in their sodas they would have switched back to using real cane sugar.

  • If McDonalds had seen a decrease in sales after the damaging health effects of consuming their products was revealed to the public, they would have changed their policies.

Buy products in bulk and use Tupperware.

  • So much plastic is wasted in the packaging and individual wrapping of food products. When shopping for snacks, instead of buying a big box filled with individually wrapped portion sizes, try choosing products with one layer of wrapping and using Tupperware to make the serving size you want.

Avoid take-out boxes.

Though having leftovers is great, a lot of unnecessary plastic, paper, and styrofoam is wasted when transporting your food from the restaurant to your home. Try bringing a container from home; the restaurant saves money while you avoid the waste.

2. Turn off the water during your shower

when you are:

  • shampooing and conditioning your hair
  • washing with soap or body wash
  • shaving (fill a small cup with water then dip your razor in to clean it)

Everyone likes a long hot shower, but by turning the water off when its not being used you can still enjoy taking your time and not waste unnecessary water. (This tip also applies to brushing your teeth, washing your hands, and washing dishes!)

3. Look at your food labels:

If you can't pronounce an ingredient, chances are you probably shouldn't be eating it. Everyone wants to sustain their health but it's really difficult when the majority of the food being sold in supermarkets contains harmful and cheap ingredients. The sooner you start standing up to companies who care more about a profit than you, the sooner you take control of what goes into your body.


Why do we accept this?

Say NO to:

Artificial Dyes

  • Commonly used food dyes, such as Yellow 5 and Red 40, are made from petroleum which has been linked to health problems such as hyperactivity in children, cancer, and allergic reactions.
  • Food dyes also serve to deceive consumers: they are often used to simulate the presence of healthful, colorful fruits and vegetables, instead of simply just using real fruits and vegetables. [1]

High Fructose Corn Syrup(HFCS)

  • The corn industry has gone to great lengths trying to convince Americans that high fructose corn syrup is not harmful. The sugars are extracted from corn stalks through a chemical enzymatic process, which is far from "natural" and NOT the same as cane sugar. HFCS also contains contaminants, such as Mercury, that are not regulated by the FDA. [2]

Canned Foods

  • I wish it wasn't true but the resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A (BPA), a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to health problems ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Acidity is what causes the BPA to leach into your food, so if you do buy canned goods stay away from things like tomatoes and fruits. [3][4]

Say YES to:


  • In the U.S., GMOs are in as much as 80% of conventional processed foods and there is no law in place requiring companies to tell us which products contain them! Almost all commercial GMOs are engineered for herbicide tolerance to withstand the intense pesticides of chemical agriculture. [5]
  • The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization with a mission of protecting and giving consumers an informed choice, and their labels are found on every product they approve. [6]

USDA Organic

  • Organic agriculture uses production methods that preserve the environment and avoid most synthetic materials, such as pesticides and antibiotics.
  • The USDA has standards that regulate the product from the farm all the way to your table, and their labels can also be found on every product they approve. [7]

4. Get a Reusable Bottle:

Replace single-use plastic water bottles once and for all! Did you know it takes 3 liters of water to bottle just 1 liter of water? [8] Plus 71 million barrels of oil are wasted each year just to produce and transport the amount of plastic water bottles Americans consume.[9]

  • With a reusable bottle you can save hundreds of dollars a year! Why pay for water when we have refilling stations and water fountains on campus that you can always use for free? [10][11]
  • Examples of stylish and affordable brands are: CamelBak, Nalgene, and Takeya.
  • Also think about converting to reusable coffee mugs and soup thermoses: you'll never have to waste disposable containers again!
  • Campus Perks: Charlie Browns Cafe, Toast, and the Student Center Cafe give discounts for bringing your own reusable coffee mug.


What our roads could look like...

5. Carpool as much as possible:

Not only is gas expensive, but car emissions alone produce over a fifth of the carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides in our atmosphere and account for almost 30% of all U.S. global warming pollution. [12]Link text[13]


  • Install the Carma app on your smartphone and get rewarded every time you decide to share a ride with a friend. After your first 25 trips you get a $25 Amazon gift card and every time you ride with someone new you get an additional $10 to Amazon!

Fill it up.

  • Next time you and your friends are going out for lunch or a night on the town, meet up and take one car instead of meeting there. You save gas and the hassle of finding multiple parking spots.

6. Go Local:

Go Local is a network of locally-owned businesses, residents, non-profit organizations, and government agencies here in Sonoma County who support our local economy and promote sustainable practices. Around here we are spoiled with options of places to eat out and stores to shop at so why not take advantage of it!

Choose Local Options.

  • Go to local restaurants instead of chain restaurants, and shop at local businesses instead of big-box stores.
  • Go to the Sonoma County Go Local Website to get a list of all the restaurants and businesses in the county directly contributing to the local economy.

Fast-Food Restaurant Wages are Unacceptable.

  • With average annual wages of $18,880, fast-food workers who provide all the income in their households would only be able to support one other person without falling into poverty. [14]

The Environmental Impact of Chains.

  • When big-box retail stores locate in farmland, wetlands, or green space, they eliminate natural resources and open space. According to the American Farmland Trust, the United States loses 3,000 acres of productive farmland to sprawl every day. This is the equivalent of all the acreage of Delaware every year. [15]

Economic Impacts of Local Businesses vs. Chains:

Chains may have more of an impact than you thought..

Civic Economics did a study in San Francisco which found that the city remains a stronghold for locally owned businesses. Here are some of the facts they found:

  • Every $1 million spent at local bookstores creates $321,000 in additional economic activity in the area, including $119,000 in wages paid to local employees. That same $1 million spent at chain bookstores generates only $188,000 in local economic activity, including $71,000 in local wages.
  • For every $1 million in sales independent toy stores create 2.22 local jobs, while chains create just 1.31.
  • If residents were to redirect just 10 percent of their spending from chains to local businesses, it would generate $192 million in additional economic activity in San Francisco and almost 1,300 new jobs.
  • Full Report

Big-Box Store Wages and Connections to Poverty:

Another study by Civic Economics, found that national retail and restaurant chains generate fewer ripple effects in local economies by procuring less, banking less, contributing less, and participating less in the local community. UC Berkeley's Center for Labor Research and Education did a report on the effects that big-box stores, focusing mainly on Walmart, have on the communities they occupy...

  • Many big-box stores pay lower wages and offer less health coverage to their employees compared to other retail businesses.
  • As a result of lower compensation, these workers make greater use of public health and welfare programs compared to retail workers as a whole, transferring costs to taxpayers.
  • Studies of Walmart prices find them to be 8 to 27 percent lower for food compared to major supermarkets, but this corporate advantage forces local competitors to reduce its worker's wages, as well as its prices.
  • Full Report

7. Eat Less Meat:

Not only does eating too much meat affect your health, but it affects your environment too. Plus the meat industry has some disturbing secrets it's counting on you to ignore. You don't need to throw away the hamburger you're eating, immediately become a hardcore vegan, or even vow to never eat meat again. However what you should do is know where the meat you eat comes from because every time you buy meat, you support everything that goes along with getting that meat to your table. [16]

Goodbye Farms, Hello Factories

  • Today, barely any of the meat being sold on the market comes from farms. The chance of a farm actually looking like the "Old McDonald story-book" pictures we all imagine is quite slim. Unfortunately for many animals the factory walls are all they will ever live to see.
  • Currently, three-quarters of the world's poultry supply, half of the pork, and two-thirds of the eggs come from industrial meat factories according to the United Nation's Food and Agricultural Organization.


  • American animals raised for meat consume more than 30 million pounds of antibiotics a year...that's more than the entire American public. [16]


  • John Hopkins University studied the feathers of slaughter house chickens and found traces of antidepressants, painkillers, and allergy medication. According to scientists, Prozac is sometimes used to offset anxiety common in factory farm conditions because stress can slow birds' growth, consequently hurting profits. [16]

Corn-fed Beef

  • Cows are supposed to eat grass, but many farmers feed their animals corn and soybeans which fatten up the animals faster for slaughter. This decision to cut costs by feeding cows an unnatural and cheap diet ends up eliminating almost all of the nutritional value of the meat [16]

Environmental Impact

  • Livestock production accounts for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, including 9 percent of carbon dioxide and 37 percent of methane gas emissions worldwide, according to the Livestock, Environment, and Development (LEAD) Initiative.
  • More than two-thirds of all agricultural land is devoted to growing feed for livestock, while only 8 percent is used to grow food for direct human consumption.
  • The global livestock industry uses dwindling supplies of freshwater, destroys forests and grasslands, and causes soil erosion, while pollution and the runoff of fertilizer and animal waste create dead zones in coastal areas and smother coral reefs. [17]

What can you do?

1. Look for:

2. Buy from local farmers or meat shops that allow you to visit the farm where the animals are raised.

3. Cut down your consumption.

  • Since meat is high in saturated fat and cholesterol and low in fiber, it shouldn't come as too big of a surprise that excess meat is bad for you. However there are also many other less-obvious health benefits that come along with cutting meat out of your diet including improved mood, better hormonal health, less body odor, improved sexual health, and a longer life! [19]

4. Try vegetarian options.

  • There are plenty of meatless meal choices you probably don't think about; for example: bean and cheese burritos, mushroom and olive pizza, pasta dishes, veggie and cheese sandwiches, soups, salads, and more.

5. Check out Eat this, Not that!

  • This website has tons of awesome recipes, facts, and tips on how to cook and eat healthier. It shows you how to make smarter choices when ordering at restaurants and great alternatives to eating processed food.

8. Change your self-care products:

Many of the products we use everyday to take care of ourselves may be doing the exact opposite to our bodies. The average American uses around 8 different care products a day, in other words we apply over 100 chemicals per day to our hair, eyes, face, neck, and underarms every day. Not only do these products seep into our bodies but they also wash down the drain and are harming our environment. [20] Try using organic or bio-degradable products whenever possible.


  • Almost all brand-name deodorants and antiperspirants have pore-plugging ingredients that can lead to breast cancer or Alzheimer's disease. Try Tom's of Maine or Kiss my Face deodorants.


  • Sodium and ammonium laureth sulfates are known cancer-causing ingredients but they are still used in almost every shampoo! Next time you look at the label, google the name of the ingredients you don't know.

Body Wash

  • Get educated on the ingredients and toxins you routinely wash into your body, and stay away from soaps containing microbeads. Those tiny pieces of plastic end up in waterways and the ocean.


  • Most cosmetic ingredients are more harmful to put on our skin than they would be to eat them. Many lotions included thickening agents, additives made from animal fat, and colored dyes.


  • A cosmetic manufacturer is allowed use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from the FDA. Also animal testing is still an ongoing practice in the cosmetic industry.

Razor Blades

  • One time razor blades ensure a clean shave but they also create a huge amount of waste. Try buying a razor that only requires you to change the head every couple months or extending the use of the razor heads you buy.


You wouldn't brush your teeth with engine degreaser or rat poison right? Disturbingly enough, many brand-name toothpastes and mouthwashes contain some of the same chemicals and other potentially harmful ingredients. Their very small molecules can penetrate through the tissue of your mouth, enter the bloodstream, and build up in the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, and tissues. Try using herbal toothpastes.

  • Check out the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetic Database where you can research any product from make-up, lotions, shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste, and more to determine its toxicity level and what exactly makes it toxic.

9. Shop at Thrift and Antique Stores:

"I'm gonna pop some tags, only got $20 in my pocket.." Not just a catchy Macklemore song, shopping at second-hand stores give clothing and items a completely new opportunity for use.

Cheaper than most stores.

  • You can find great clothes, appliances, toys, and furniture often at prices dramatically lower than department stores.


  • Instead of throwing away things you don't use anymore, bring them to the Goodwill or offer family and neighbors to take a look. Also check out Freecycle and the free section on Craigslist.

Unique Finds.

  • Shop savvy knowing you are supporting the local economy and buying products that no one else will have!
  • Also try clothing swaps with friends to find new potential in old items.

10. Turn off the Lights:

This may seem like a fairly obvious thing to do, but I definitely catch myself leaving unnecessary lights on even when I am home. Though it is a simple habit to fix your extra effort could save you money on your next energy bill.

  • If you are sitting in the living room make sure that your other rooms all have their lights turned off.
  • When you leave your house make sure the tv, computer, and lights are all off.
  • If you want to be a super conservative unplug cords, such as your phone charger and microwave, when you aren't using them.
  • The ultimate solution to wasting energy would be to replace your lighting with sensor or motion activated lights.


Works Cited:

1. Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks (Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks)

2. 5 Reasons High Fructose Corn Syrup Will Kill You - Dr. Mark Hyman (Dr Mark Hyman)

3. 8 Foods Even The Experts Won't Eat (EatLocalGrown)

4. Detailed Listing of Acid / Alkaline Forming Foods (Detailed Listing of Acid / Alkaline Forming Foods)

5 Foods As Nature Made Them (Prevention)

6. GMO Facts (The NonGMO Project RSS)

7. Labeling Organic Products

8. Bottle Water is Wasteful (The Water Project)

9. Pacific Institute: Research for People and the Planet (Pacific Institute)

10. Bottled Water Costs Consumers and the Environment (Food Water Watch General)

11. Save Money, Ditch Bottled Water for Reusable Water Bottles (Hearts Save Money Ditch Bottled Water for Reusable Water Bottles Comments)

12 .Car Emissions and Global Warming | UCSUSA (Union of Concerned Scientists)

13. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Transportation Sector Emissions (EPA)

14. What Do McDonald's Workers Really Make Per Hour?

15. 11 Harms of Big Box Retail

16. 9 Appalling Facts About Meat (Rodale News)

17. Consequences of Increased Global Meat Consumption on the Global Environment -- Trade in Virtual Water, Energy & Nutrients

18. Don't fall for food label gotchas! (WREGcom)

19. 5 Surprising Health Benefits of Eating Less Meat

20. The Real Deal: Killer Beauty...Products! What You Don't Know About Your Cosmetics (Seawanhaka Press LIU Brooklyn RSS)

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