Friday, April 29, 2016

Things Worth Knowing: 4.30.16 is a National Drug Take-Back Day!

Unwanted medications are something most of us have — whether it is aspirin past its “use by” date or prescribed painkillers we did not take. We have all heard about the alarming epidemic of prescription drug abuse; none of us wants our unwanted drugs to get into the wrong hands. What is the best way to dispose of them?

Let’s start with what NOT to do. The CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) warnsDo not flush prescription medicines or over the counter products down the sink or toilet! While this method of disposal does prevent someone from taking the medications (either accidentally or intentionally), it also causes water pollution and has adverse effects on fish and other aquatic wildlife. Trace amounts of all kinds of drugs pass through septic systems and sewage plants untreated and have been found in some drinking water supplies.

Consumers have several safe disposal options.

Take Your Unwanted Prescription Drugs to a One-Day Collection
April 30, 2016 is a National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). You can find a collection site in your neighborhood here. Americans turned in 350 tons of prescription drugs at more than 5,000 sites on the September 2015 Drug Take-Back Day. In its ten Take Back events to date, the DEA and its partners have collected over 5.5 million pounds—more than 2,750 tons—of pills. Why is this initiative so important? According to the DEA’s Drug Take-Back Day press release, studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, many from the home medicine cabinet.

Deposit Unwanted Medications in a Locked Drug Box
  • If you live in Connecticut, you can find out from this interactive map whether your local police department has a locked drug drop box. These boxes are secured in the lobby of the police department and are accessible anytime the department is open. No questions asked, just drop the unwanted medications in and they will be safely and securely destroyed.
  • You CAN discard: Over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, medication samples, medicated lotions or ointments, and medications for household pets. 
  • The following items are NOT accepted: needles or other “sharps,” hazardous waste, or thermometers. For disposal of “Sharps,” follow the recommendations  of the FDA listed  hereHazardous waste and thermometers should be brought to HazWaste Central  when it opens in mid-May. 

Dispose of Them in Your Trash (after following these simple steps):
  • Keep medication in its original container. Cross out patient’s name or remove label.
  • Modify the medications to discourage consumption and to prevent unused prescriptions from being retrieved and abused. For pills or capsules: add a small amount of water to partially dissolve them. For liquid medications: add salt, flour, charcoal, kitty litter or a powdered spice to make a pungent, unsightly mixture that discourages anyone from eating it. For blister packs: wrap pack containing pills in multiple layers of duct tape.
  • Seal and conceal. Tape medicine container lid shut with packing / duct tape. Place inside a non-transparent bag or container (such as an empty yogurt tub) so it cannot be seen. Do not conceal medicines in food products because animals could inadvertently eat them.
  • Discard the container in your trash can. Do not put container in your recycling bin!
  • Be sure to follow these steps for pet medications, too.
  • For more general information see this downloadable guide prepared by the CT Department of Consumer Protection Prescription Monitoring Program. 

Finally, an Important Warning: 
Remember to keep all your medications secure and out of sight of any young ones, in your home and when you travel. According to WebMD, medications are the leading cause of child poisoning in the U.S. Each year more than 60,000 kids ages five and under are treated in emergency rooms in the U.S. after getting into medications. Those handy daily pill reminder boxes are particularly enticing to young explorers, as are colorful pills dropped and left on the floor.

NOTE: One of the many hats I wear is graphic designer of HomeHaven News, the monthly newsletter for HomeHaven, a member of the Village to Village Network. This article is an expanded version of my “Responsible Downsizing” column in the April, 2016 edition. HomeHaven and the growing network of villages around the country are an extraordinary resource for people who want to “live life to the fullest in the comfort of their own home.”

I hope you find all of this info “Things Worth Knowing.” Check for more stories like these as time goes by. [And search this blog for more posts in this vein.]

Friday, April 22, 2016

It’s Earth Day Today!

Americans have been observing Earth Day since 1970,  when some 20,000,000 Americans participated in a national “teach-in” proposed by Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisconsin). Gaylord’s hope for Earth Day was to send a message to Washington that public opinion was solidly behind a bold political agenda on environmental problems.

In the decade following the first Earth Day, 28 pieces of environmental legislation were passed, including: the Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Water Pollution and Control Act Amendments, the Resource Recovery Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Federal Environmental Pesticide Control Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act!

At this moment in history, that is simply astounding!

Earth Day is a good day to pause and reflect on the state of our Big Blue Marble in Space; it is also a good day to celebrate with others or to make a lifestyle change, large or small.

In New Haven, Connecticut, where I live, Earth Day is the kick-off to a series of environmentally focused events. Here are just a few:

The New Haven Land Trust’s Long Wharf Nature Preserve Clean Up (tomorrow from 10 am - 1 pm).

The 8th Annual Rock to Rock Earth Day Ride (April 30); there is still time to join a team or support a rider (like me)

And, the entire month of May is Bike Month

Whether or not we make it to an event, there are always changes we can implement in our daily lives to lessen our own carbon footprint.

Need some inspiration?

Check out IKEA's Sustainability Guide. Yes, the guide, with the tagline “A Healthier Planet Begins at Home,” does highlight IKEA’s line of sustainable products. But it also includes a number of useful tips for conserving energy in the home that do not require a purchase.

I shared some ideas of my own after the Paris Climate talks ended.

One of the easiest things you can do is eat your leftovers! Another is to leave your car at home and take a walk or a bike ride instead.

Mother’s Day is coming soon; the emails for sales and special offers are already hitting the inbox. While we make plans to honor the mothers in our lives, let’s not forget to honor the most important mother of all — Mother Earth. 

Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Meatless Monday: International Year of Pulses

In March the United Nations declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (edible seeds  of plants in the legume family), calling pulses “nutritious seeds for a sustainable future.” The UN limits the term “pulses” to crops harvested solely for their dried seeds; lentils, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), kidney beans, and pinto beans are some familiar examples of pulses. By this definition, soybeans and peanuts (although legumes) are NOT pulses, since they are often turned into oils. Neither are green peas, because they are normally eaten fresh.

Pulses have been part of the human diet for centuries; agricultural production of beans, chickpeas, and lentils dates back to 7000-8000 B.C. Pulses can be stored for months without losing any of their high nutritional value. They are a highly water efficient crop; it takes 50 liters of water to grow 1 kg. of lentils vs. 13,000 liters of water to produce 1 kg of beef.

Pulses are touted as a “powerful superfood.” With zero cholesterol and a low glycemic index, they are high in iron and zinc, rich in other minerals and B vitamins, and an excellent source of dietary fiber. Check out this infographic for more on these and other surprising pulse facts.

And after you have studied up, you can test your knowledge of pulses with a fun quiz

I invite you to take some time to explore the UN site. It is full of valuable information including: recipes, tips on how to get kids to eat pulses, and the many health benefits of incorporating more pulses into your diet. Pulses are great for your budget, too — one more pulse plus!

With most of the Year of Pulses still ahead of us, you can be sure that we will be trying lots of new pulse recipes in our house. Check back often for ideas, and feel free to share some of your favorites!  

Happy Monday. Have a great week!

On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”