Secondary Environmental Net Positives: January 2020
January 31, 2020
This journey has been thus far an incredible one for me personally and professionally. I feel mentally and physically so much healthier, and I hope this will have a good ending for our world. This monthly blog post (this is the fifth blog post in this series), is again the least popular but the most important. Being mindful and going to the beach to do cleanings has had a cascading effect on my life and the environment. And the first cascade is that being out in nature and with nature has naturally led me to make changes that are both good for my health and good for the earth. Both are intertwined.
So this is my summary for January 2020 and changes I made for our family and the Secondary Net Environmental Positives. As certain habits become hardwired, I don’t notice them as much (like eating more fruit instead of snack bars) and I stop noting them. But since I have to be accountable for 15 things every month, it motivates me to find other ways to make positive environmental changes in my life. I try to list from greatest environmental impact to least, but it is kind of subjective.
List of 15 Secondary Environmental Net Positives (January 2020)
- Changing Plastic Glove Habits in the Office: Previously I had generally used the hospital hand sanitizer and/or wash my hands, and then also put on gloves with most of the infants and most of the febrile kids. I am pretty healthy in general and hardly ever call in sick. This year has been a tough cold and flu season, and a lot of doctors have been calling in sick. There is really no need to do both, and those gloves are not truly sterile as they are sitting out in the exam rooms open to the air. About 2 months ago during the beginning of this season, I just really started washing my hands well before and after patients and no plastic gloves. I’m healthy and most of my patients are healthy. Not sure if there is a difference but at least that is hundreds of gloves that were not used, and I did not call in sick at all. I still wear them obviously for GU exams, procedures, and if there is clear vomit/mucus. But for most patients, just washing my hands well before and after patients has been sufficient.
- Changing Printing Habits in the Office: As a physician, the assessment and plan part of our notes are like the resounding conclusion of the visit. It’s the summary of my thought process and my brilliant advice of what to do next. I used to proudly always put it in the paper After Visit Summary that is printed and given to patients. I included enough “medical speak” like pertinent physical signs to remind my patients that indeed I am a doctor. As you know, I have ruminated much about how narcissistic my profession is https://drplasticpicker.com/becoming-drplasticpicker-has-made-life-more-simple-and-peaceful/. I am, I think, a normal example of my profession. But truly as I was telling a friend, I checked my narcissism on the beach 6 months ago. Anyway, now rather than giving patients a print out of my resounding assessment and plan on the AVS – I take a moment and review my recommendations verbally and make sure my patients understand. I check to see if they are signed up for the patient portal to get their summaries online, and I remind them to check their email. I only print things out things if they ask. Guess what? No one has bounced back not knowing the instructions. And I think I’ve saved already thousands of sheets of paper. How is that for impact?
- Endocrine Medical Journals: I am a rouge endocrine fellow, by choice. Life happened and my journey took me in a different direction. Sometimes I wonder if I should not have chosen pulmonology. But back then I had wanted to work on obesity and decided on endocrine. And if I had done pulmonology, I don’t think I would have ended up as drplasticpicker? Back to the endocrine, so even though I did not finish pediatric endocrine fellowship – I still receive 2 adult endocrine medical journals that are mostly pharmaceutical company advertisements once a month. I HAVE BEEN RECEIVING THEM FOR 10 YEARS! They come encased in plastic sleaves. I finally found their contact information , which was very hard to locate, and emailed them a very long story about how I didn’t finish fellowship and I was a general pediatrician. I even told them I was drplasticpicker, and to please stop sending me these unwanted journals. I recieved one this month, but not the other. Will send that email again if it comes next month.
- CANCELLED SINGLE-USE PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES AT 2 MEETINGS: I did it. I don’t think anyone reads this, but yes I cancelled the water-bottles at one of our small middle management meetings and at the large CME meeting. There is a water fountain right outside the door people! And our department was paying $2 a water bottle. Talk about poor management decisions made decades ago. I will risk my reputation. I don’t think people are going to die of dehydration in 1 hour, and will ask the CME lead to send a reminder for folks to bring a reusable water bottle. I’ll willing to risk my career. If people complain, I’ll just order aluminum water cans for those complainers. Hopefully societal peer pressure will have everyone start bringing their own reusable water bottles. Tap water is healthier anyway. I estimated that is 600 water bottles I averted for the year and saved our organization $1200. If I get fired for living my values, so be it. I actually don’t think anyone is going to notice.
- Two Long Patient Commutes Averted: I realize I have an outsized effect on patients’ carbon emmissions because I generate forms, prescriptions and office visits. I try to be mindful of patients’ carbon emmissions. But I give myself extra credit for 2 specific instances that I put in a referral for another child (the sibling had a visit) and did the quick verbal assessment, and averted the family having to come for an office visit to get the referral. This was offered by me and not demanded by the family. And I helped one family who lived 50 miles away from our nearest pharmacy, when I did a telephone visit and they needed medicine. I offered to call the prescription into the closest neighborhood pharmacy to save them 100 miles of driving. Both families were so appreciative. So organization wins by retaining happy families, patients win, and the earth wins. I win because I can gave myself virtual credit for it on this blog.
- Hospital Plug-In: We cancelled a lot of the middle management meetings in January, because it is typically a high volume appointment month. But I did remember to plug in at the hospital one extra time. The plug in infrastructure is OK but it is sometimes cumbersome. Both at the clinic (where I plug in daily and don’t give myself virtual credit because it is a habit already), and at the hospital – there have been connection issues. I mostly use electricity but have a gas backup.
- Four Carpooling Episodes: I tend to try to carpool but four instances where I extended invitations to drive others because I knew it would be good for the earth. Three Girl Scout Outings and my nephew to a family dinner, although I think we would have driven my nephew anyway! LOL. This was the dinner where Chirp Chirp, my trash art dragon/bird/dinosaur/chicken, was mericilessly teased by my brothers https://drplasticpicker.com/chirp-chirp-vs-instagram-trash-art-delights-and-brings-awareness-and-does-real-work/. I don’t think my brothers pay attention to me enough to read this, but hah! I got you guys back again twice for making fun of my trash art. You hurt my feelings but I still love you all.
- Dirty Energy everted with OHM Hour: We are still participating in the OHM Hour program through a local utility. We have solar panels with double the capacity of what we actually use, so I’m not sure how it all works. But I guess in bulk as a community we draw energy from “dirty” sources during those times. Anyway, got credit for 3.3 kWH reductions during this month’s Ohm Hour. I run around the house shocking my children and unplugging things telling them, “it’s the Ohm Hour!” My kids are super patient with me.
- Emailed Six Friends About My Blog: These are six friends that I intermittently stay in contact, but are dear to my heart. I emailed them to say hi, and emailed the link to the KevinMD blog post and this blog https://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2019/12/how-ocean-plastic-picking-made-me-a-better-pediatrician.html. I just let them know how this endeavor has brought wellness and nature awareness to me. I figure it’s a cascade effect, right? Maybe they will start refusing single-use-plastics more.
- Four Reused Plastic Containers: This one was super fun. I resued 3 plastic food containers at the local Chinese restaurant across from the clinic. I thought our normal wait-staff got a kick out of the crazy doctor that pulled out my own take-out containers. Also reused one at our local Sprouts grocery store.
- Apples for Clinic: Many years ago the old clinic lead would always buy chocolate, so that the nurses would hand it out every Friday. He has retired. Chocolate (the kind that we buy) is detrimental to the rainforest. Also, everyone is clinic is trying to eat more plant-based. So one Friday, I bought organic apples. The nurses handed out the apples , but still included a piece of chocolate! I will try this again next month one Friday and ask them no chocolate that day. Isn’t that a better way to end the Friday, with a whole apple and then you can go into the weekend eating the bad stuff? This keeps it fun.
- Four Refused Straws: One of our old clinic doctors returned for lunch, and we all went to a local Thai restaurant. Now that I know how to cook some yummy Thai food, thanks to my friend Usa https://drplasticpicker.com/pad-si-ew-cook-it-at-home-and-get-6-2-grams-of-fiber-and-save-12/, we are eating more vegetables and saving money. But once in a while, I still go out to eat with the office. Anyway, it was so fun to catch up with everyone. And when they brought out the plastic straws, all my friends looked at me and four (including me) asked them to take the straws back. See! Dr. Plastic Picker making a difference in my community. The turtles thank you friends for skipping the straw!
- One Plastic Laynard Sent Back!: I said I would do it in a previous post, and I did it! I interofficed back the 10th anniversary lanyard back to the regional office with an annomymous note saying thank you for the wonderful celebration and to please reuse the laynard. I also asked them to not have balloons next time https://drplasticpicker.com/dr-plastic-picker-agitates-for-the-ocean-at-a-regional-meeting/.
- Tax Bill Paid Online: That’s it. Saved some paper and saved a stamp and saved some carbon emmissions.
- Reusable Produce Bags: I am still hard-wiring the produce bag thing. Reused the durable produce bags three times this month.
Thank you for following along with me during this journey. I have realized that the little wins add up. We are eating more fruit, so I don’t really notice that much anymore. We are avoiding packaged foods. There is marked decrease in food waste at our house. So fifteen little changes I have made this month to help the environment, and it all adds up. Since I have started this blog series, I have had 90 changes that I have listed – all secondary environmental net positives since starting this plastic picking journey.
Let’s keep on going! The earth needs us, and I need the earth. I especially need the ocean since it produces much of our oxygen. It’s 642AM on Saturday morning, and the kids are going to sleep in. I’m off to the beach to pick up my bag and visit the birds who live on the stretch of beach I call home.