Climate change has been a hot topic in our circles lately. We are feeling it very strongly in the Philippines, where hot summers in April and May have quickly turned into a season of strong typhoons and dangerous flooding. A severe typhoon recently hit Leyte Province, causing a tragic landslide.
There is only so much that individuals can do to “save” our planet (and humanity) from the drastic effects of climate change. But we can make a difference by doing small things. We can boycott single-use plastics if we are able to do so, reduce our energy use, and manage waste appropriately through proper sorting and recycling.
Of course, disability plays a part in the equation of how much you can do to help the earth. Many people with disabilities must resort to less environmentally friendly practices in order to address health problems and thrive, although this does not mean that disabled people cannot take steps to be environmentally friendly.
For example, my husband Jared infuses factor products to treat his hemophilia. This procedure involves disposable plastic tubes, metal needles, and glass bottles.
According to a 2019 National Geographic article, one expert estimated that 25% of the waste generated by US healthcare facilities is plastic. This is because the equipment used to treat patients must be sterile, and plastic meets this requirement well.
When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, her limitations forced her to drink from plastic straws. And when she was bedridden, she had to use disposable adult diapers.
In Japan, a country with a rapidly aging population, adult diaper shedding is a growing problem The New York Times reported last year. Used diapers likely end up in incinerators, as does most of the country’s waste. Compared to other types of waste, diapers require more fuel to burn, resulting in costly waste disposal bills and high carbon emissions.
To alleviate this problem, the Japanese city of Houki converted one of the city’s incinerators into a diaper recycling plant, which in turn produces fuel for a public bathhouse Times reported. This in turn helps reduce natural gas costs. Japan is fortunate to have the resources to come up with this creative solution.
Because action to protect the environment is limited in the access to or provision of health care by people with disabilities or those working in treatment centers, I make the following suggestions.
If you can afford it, avoid single-use plastics.
If the use of single-use plastics cannot be avoided, be mindful of how often you use them and how you dispose of them. Look for alternatives to the plastic bags you use to shop or carry things. Stock up on quality, reusable storage containers at home.
Leave single-use plastic products to those who really need them to live. These include, for example, people with disabilities, the elderly and babies.
Avoid fast fashion.
I’m guilty of patronizing fast fashion – which refers to the mass production of high fashion clothing trends – because I like to dress smartly. My clothing budget is pretty tight, hence the temptation for cheap clothing from chain stores.
According to a 2019 Insider article by Morgan McFall-Johnsen, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, is the second largest consumer of the world’s water supply and pollutes the oceans with microplastics.
What percentage of the clothes in your closet do you actually wear? Think about it and try not to buy more than you would actually use. Instead of buying new clothes, why not shop at thrift stores or learn to repurpose old clothes into more modern styles?
Jared’s entire clothing collection fits in just one drawer. This makes organizing his wardrobe easier. He wears a “uniform” of simple, minimalist T-shirts with classic jeans or shorts. When I first met him in college he was still wearing sixth grade clothes! He only updated his wardrobe when he gained muscle as an adult and had to switch to clothes that were a few sizes larger.
Jared doesn’t go out as much as I do, and sometimes bouts of bleeding force him to stay home. He also sees himself more as an indoor guy. So he doesn’t think he needs a lot of clothes.
But even if the lifestyle is active or outgoing, we can find perspective in the likes of Jared. Because how many clothes do we really need? Since my drawers are now full to the brim with clothes, I actively try not to buy new ones. Also, I now support a local seamstress instead of shopping at retail chains. Sewing takes time, but the result is often high quality and looks great. It’s also more environmentally friendly and I can support someone’s livelihood.
ride a bike instead of driving.
I’ve been doing this more often lately because of the high gas prices. But regardless of the fuel costs, pedaling instead of driving is always the more environmentally friendly option. For people with hemophilia, bicycling is among the activities recommended by some hemophilia organizations because it is generally considered safe.
Other people with disabilities can often benefit from the mobility support and enjoyment that cycling offers. Different types of bikes are available for different accessibility needs. Handbikes rely on upper body strength and are useful for people with lower limb disabilities. Recumbent bikes put the body in a more comfortable position and are great for those with general mobility issues. Modern bikes can be fitted with modifications in the form of posts, motors, extra seats, and various wheel configurations that help make cycling easier and more accessible.
These are just three things you can do to help our planet. There are certainly more, so please don’t feel limited to these options. Do you have additional suggestions? Please share in the comments below.
Note: Hemophilia News Today is solely a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with questions about any medical condition. Never disregard or delay in seeking professional medical advice because you have read something on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and is intended to stimulate discussion on topics related to hemophilia.