Sneezing green may be a duality – one interpretation comes with ease, the other, very much not so. When your head is pounding and you’ve been hacking up a lung all night, the last thought on your mind is, how can I make this experience more eco-friendly?
Times of illness do not a conservationist make: It is pretty much just scrapping for whatever will provide relief, whether that is three-times-a-day deliveries of tom yum gai or a medicine cabinet stuffed with decongestants.
I’m actually just recovering from a two-week bought with bronchitis. I feel quite guilty about this; yesterday, I stood in the tissue aisle of the drugstore for a full 10 minutes, debating whether my nose was worth the destruction of so many old-growth forests.
In this case, sadly, I must admit: I decided that it was. Had I felt like my normal and healthy, eco-crusader self, I would have made the schlep to the supermarket that I know stocks sustainable boxes of 100% recycled, chlorine-free Seventh Generation tissue.
With a bit of knowledge, even the most pathetic of cold-sufferers can lessen the damage of their feverish footprint. Here are some ideas:
Washable tissues are an elegant, eco-friendly option. In the privacy of your home, who cares if you look like a granny when you’re blowing your nose in an old-timey tissue? You’ll find that they’re also a nice alternative to recycled facial tissues, which feel like sandpaper.
It’s not fun or easy to cook when you’re sick, but a week’s worth of wonton soup delivery can add up to a pile of trash, definitely due to all of that unnecessary packaging (who needs 10 packets of soy sauce anyway?). Just cook up a giant pot of soup that’s full of organic veggies.
With the threat of H1N1 this flu season, it seems like everyone’s going crazy with the hand sanitizer. Though many conventional sanitizers contain harmful chemicals like phthalates, and can actually promote the growth of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria if they contain the antimicrobial triclosan, a suspected endocrine disruptor. Bottom line? To prevent your illness from infecting others, nothing is as safe and effective as washing your hands with soap and water.
Don’t pressure your doc into prescribing an antibiotic for your runny nose. The common cold and flu are viral illnesses, and while it’s not fun to wait it out for a week while your cough dies off, a dose of amoxicillin will not make you healthier. In fact, it could harm you, since every time you take an antibiotic when you don’t actually have a bacterial infection, you actually increase your risk of later developing a life-threatening superbug.
It’s very tempting to arm yourself with an arsenal of decongestants and sleeping aids, but most of these medications come with a whole slew of side effects — and actually do nothing to lessen the duration of your illness. They also will pollute our soil and groundwater with chemicals once they’re thrown in the trash. Interestingly, some of the best remedies are also the most eco-friendly: a salt water gargle to soothe a sore throat and hot lemon water with honey to calm a cough.