Series Intro: This series, simply titled Sustainability for the Everyday, came from the author’s experience of becoming a parent for the first time. While the author imagines that tips and insights may be found in this series, his bigger goal is to explore the choices he makes and why he makes them when it comes to trying to live a “sustainable life.” This is all in the effort to show that yes, a person can always do more, but let’s also recognize the good that we all try to do everyday.
When I started this series, I knew that I wanted to explore healthcare. There really is no greater concern for a new parent than being able to do everything in your power to keep this little being alive and healthy, so I figured that my views on sustainability would be tested or reinforced in some way.
I was having a hard time making the connection, until the topics of parenting and healthcare started to dominate the news media.
It started with reports of Disneyland being deemed ground zero for a measles outbreak that has affected 70 people over seven states in the past month. Although there are a variety of factors that are being researched as to the cause, many media outlets have singled out, as a commentary in The Week put it, “[the] anti-vaxxers: the self-centered, Whole Foods liberals who oppose giving their kids the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) shot because of ‘the imaginary risk they associate with giving the vaccine.'”
I feel that those “Whole Foods liberals” are being targeted for irresponsibly continuing to promote the debunked study that vaccines can sometimes lead to autism, thus putting at risk the “herd immunity” needed to eradicate diseases like measles.
I’d first like to admit that I do shop at Whole Foods, and I do consider myself a liberal, but my wife and I have and continue to vaccinate our child. We did research and asked questions about the schedule of the vaccines, which ones we should give, and what ingredients actually make up vaccines. Thankfully, we have a very patient and progressive pediatrician who sat us down and had what was probably one of the many conversations she has had with concerned parents. She explained that the schedule is highly vetted and that the vaccines are one of the most important tools of preventative care known to modern medicine.
The term “preventative” is what I would consider to be one of the most important words in sustainability. Sustainability activists advocate for clean energy because it will “prevent” pollution or human-caused climate change. Also, when it comes to personal health, many sustainability activists advocate for non-toxic environments, healthy diets, and boosting your immune systems to “prevent” sickness or disease.
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The first point of a non-toxic environment is probably the easiest to attain. Although it could be a little cost prohibitive, there are many natural based, non-toxic household cleaners you can buy or make with a few simple ingredients. You can also choose low or no-VOC paints and have your home cheaply tested for mold or other toxins like radon.
The healthy diets part seems easy, but it is not always the case for a baby. Of course, breast milk has been touted as the ideal source of food for an infant up to one year of age. But for a mom working in a world where breast pump rooms are deemed a luxury and not always a right, it is almost impossible to maintain a constant supply of milk. Although my wife and I tried our best to solely breastfeed, we did transition to supplementing with formula.
Our baby is just as healthy and happy a baby as when all he had was breast milk. Now that he is eating more solid foods and we able to cook for him, it’s a little bit easier to stay on the natural path, and thus more in line with our values of sustainability.
The last point of the increased immune system is a little bit trickier. Of course, a balanced diet is a major component, but another major component of preventative care is nipping a problem in the bud before it starts.
Some tactics we have taken with our child are introducing probiotics, such as acidophilus, to his food for immune boosting, or using a humidifier to stave off dry throat.
The problem is trying to apply preventative care for an infant who can’t tell you what’s wrong.
And so, inevitably, the child ends up getting sick. Our goal is to continue using homeopathic remedies and not antibiotics. In my view, antibiotics are a sometimes imperative, but an ultimately unnatural way of healing that is too profit driven by the pharmaceutical companies.
Just as was the point in the first article I wrote trying to align my parenting and my sustainability, many factors, especially illness, are all a matter of perspective and informed compromise. Like all parents, we want what’s best for our children, which is usually the most natural. But just like in the greater scheme of sustainability, we need to find that balance with what is best for our lives and the lives of the people around us.
Image via Flickr user James Wilcox
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