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A syndicated eco-advice column
Written by Patricia Dines

"Encouraging the eco-hero in everyone!"

"Making it easy to be green!"

This Month's Column:
Greening Medicine

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Greening Medicine

By Patricia Dines
Published in the Sonoma County Gazette
April 2010
(c) Patricia Dines, 2010. All rights reserved.

Dear EcoGirl: Thank you for your recent column, "Eco-Remedies for Our Health Care Crisis." Could you say more about the specific ways that we can use environmental knowledge to help care for people and the planet? Signed, A Motivated Healer

Dear Motivated Healer: Thanks for your great question!

Three Key Eco-Objectives

Amidst all the fiery debates about who should pay for health care costs, a more essential question can get lost: How to trim costs (and heartache) by reducing the rates of disease. A vital but often overlooked way to accomplish that goal is for all of us to embrace and prioritize these three key eco-objectives:

1) Drastically reduce our individual and shared exposure to toxics and pollutants. Compelling evidence demonstrates that millions of people annually are being made seriously ill from these materials. We need to "just say no" to involuntary poisoning.

2) Emphasize an eco-healthy diet, both in our lives and our hospitals (please!). We receive the highest nutrition and lowest toxicity by eating food that's fresh, whole, organic, and low on the food chain. Organic agriculture also proves that we can grow our food without poisoning our air and water.

3) Integrate earth-friendly traditional healing as an equal partner with modern medicine. Traditional modalities treat the body and earth gently, reducing the negative impacts on both. These approaches are often better at identifying and adjusting health imbalances early, when they're easier, cheaper, and less traumatic to treat.

Assess Your Priorities

To identify your next desired actions in each of the above areas, ask yourself:

1) "How much do I know about the problems and solutions in each arena?"

2) "How much have I implemented the related solutions in my personal and professional life?", and

3) "How much am I supporting community-level action in these arenas?"

As you consider your answers, notice the issues to which you feel especially drawn. This will help you choose actions most connected to your passions and priorities. Many resources exist to help you find out more, including my past columns at www.askecogirl.info.

Pharms in the Water

Both patients and health professionals can reduce medicine's eco-impacts by disposing of pharmaceuticals properly and using them only when necessary.

While pharmaceuticals can help treat disease, they can also bring negative side effects to patients, and harm wildlife and water supplies through disposal and excretion. Most sewage and water treatment facilities aren't designed to remove these materials.

Actions you can take:

• Dispose of leftover pharmaceuticals responsibly, not in the trash or drain. Local dropoff information is at www.scwa safemeds.org or call 547-1900. Or bring them to the Household Toxics Facility (www.recyclenow.org, 565-3375).

• Minimize your pharmaceutical intake. If you're prescribed a new drug, consider getting a second opinion. Buy drugs in small quantities to limit leftovers. Don't pressure your doctor for medications they're not recommending.

• Doctors can help by prescribing only the amount needed and learning which drugs have the highest eco-toxicity.

• Explore non-pharmaceutical approaches to nurturing your health and addressing problems. Discuss options (such as herbs, acupuncture, and lifestyle changes) with a health care professional experienced with these options. Traditional remedies are often cheaper, more effective, and lower in risk than more drastic measures later on.

For more information about reducing pharmaceutical waste, see www.epa.gov/ppcp and the Teleosis Institute's Green Pharmacy Program (www.teleosis.org, (510) 558-7285).

Greening Operations

Health professionals can also help protect both the earth and our health by avoiding mercury medical devices and not burning waste. This prevents dispersal of toxic mercury, lead, and dioxin into our shared air, water, and food.

Operations staff can make medical facilities healthier for both patients and workers by avoiding toxic cleaners and pesticides, building and remodeling with non-toxic and eco-materials, and serving fresh nutritious organic food instead of depleted mainstream food.

For more about greening medicine, check out Health Care Without Harm (www.noharm.org).

Ask EcoGirl is written by Patricia Dines, Author of The Organic Guides, and Editor and Lead Writer for The Next STEP newsletter. Email your questions about going green to <EcoGirl [at] AskEcoGirl.info> for possible inclusion in future columns. View past columns at <www.AskEcoGirl.info>.

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"EcoGirl: Encouraging the eco-hero in everyone."

© Copyright Patricia Dines, 2010. All rights reserved.


"Americans are already spending more per capita on health care than any other people in the world, yet we have the worst health outcomes among the developed nations. The World Health Organization ranks us on a par with Serbia."
Dr. Andrew Weil, Why Health Matters

"It's a dangerous myth to believe that you can make yourself into a healthy person on a sick planet. You can eat wild salmon instead of tuna to reduce your exposure to PCBs and mercury. You can exercise and reduce your risk of heart disease and hypertension. But we can't shop our way or lifestyle our way out of being connected to everything else on our planet."
Charlotte Brody, Health Care Without Harm; Executive Director, Commonweal

"The less we spend on food, the more we spend on health care."
Author Michael Pollan, on Oprah


March 2010 Ask EcoGirl: Eco-Remedies for Our Health Care Crisis

"Memo to Capitol Hill: Want to Save the Country $5 Billion? Thought So.", The Huffington Post, By Christopher Gavigan, Author and CEO, Healthy Child Healthy World, January 20, 2010

"Reducing chemical exposure could save California $700 million," Jan 20, 2010. "State and Federal reform of toxics law would make Californians healthier, wealthier"

"The Coming Age of Ecological Medicine," By Kenny Ausubel, Utne magazine, May 25, 2001
"Our health depends on a healthy planet. That's the message from a new movement of doctors, scientists and activists, including the founder of the Bioneers movement, Kenny Ausubel."

"Detoxing Your Holidays," Ask EcoGirl, Nov. 2009. Includes information about our vital and rare chance right now to support much-needed strengthening of our toxic regulations, thus better protecting ourselves for many years to come.

For more information on this and related eco-topics, see my other Ask EcoGirl columns.

This entire website is (c) Patricia Dines, 1998-2010. All rights reserved.
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