Earth Day Tips: Packing a Healthier, Zero Waste Lunch

This is a guest blog by

Tuesday, April 22 this year is “Earth Day,” a day when people around the globe get together to bring awareness to environmental issues and promote greater appreciation of the planet. There are thousands of steps, big or small, one can take to help protect our planet, and today we wanted to focus on a topic we know everyone can relate to—food! As busy health professionals, we know it’s probably hard to find time to pack lunch, yet, ordering takeout, eating in the cafeteria, or constantly going out for lunch aren’t necessarily the most cost-effective or healthiest options. That’s why we’re here to help you change up your lunch routine while going green! At Wild Mint, we are dedicated to helping families live healthier, safer, and more earth-friendly lifestyles, so we’ve put together some of our favorite tips to help you pack a healthier, zero waste lunch for work.

There are two main areas you can focus on to help pack a healthier lunch: the food you pack and the containers you use to pack your food.  First, trying to pack whole, fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables, lean meats, nuts, legumes, and grains are of course better for your health than eating processed foods and those high in saturated fats.  But another thing to remember is that research shows organic foods are higher in nutrients (vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals) and free from many of the toxic pesticides used in regular foods.  To help you shop for organic foods on a budget, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Shoppers Guide to see the best foods to try to buy organic.

Now that you’re packing healthier foods, it’s time to consider your food containers. Did you know that chemicals in some items including lunch bags, plastic containers, utensils, plastic baggies, and water bottles can actually leach into your food and drink? These toxic chemicals (including Bisphenol-A or BPA, phthalates and PVC’s, and lead) can have a short or long term effect on people’s health including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, worsening allergy and asthma symptoms, impaired intellect, and some cancers. To help you avoid any potential health consequences from using products made with toxic chemicals, switch to non toxic, reusable lunch-packing gear made from glass, stainless steel, organic cotton, and bamboo.

Packing your lunch in reusable products is also a great way to reduce waste in the environment. According to, a person who uses a disposable lunch creates between 4-8 ounces of garbage everyday, which can add up to as much as 100 pounds per year! That’s a lot of garbage by just one person that is polluting the air and oceans. Additionally, plastics, which are used to make so many disposable lunch gear items, take centuries to decompose and if incinerated in the process, release toxic byproducts into the atmosphere.

PCSOW028                  Below are 4 ways to help you pack the perfect zero-waste lunch:MSWB8056

1)      Pack a Reusable Lunch Bag: Look for a reusable lunch bag free from toxic chemicals like lead, PVCs, phth alates, and BPA. If you’re looking for the most eco friendly option, opt for a bag made completely from 100% organic cotton, which is grown without the use of pesticides and has lower environmental impacts than conventional cotton.

2)      Store Healthy Food in Reusable Containers: As discussed, glass, stainless steel, and organic cotton are all toxin-free alternatives to plastic that also promote healthier eating by conscious food preparation. Pack healthy sandwiches, meals, veggie sticks, yogurt, fruit, and more nutritious options in safer glass food storage containers and stainless steel food containers. Replace plastic baggies with reusable sandwich bags and reusable snack bags which will save money in the long run and help reduce waste!

3)      Sustainable Utensils & Napkins: Reusable bamboo utensils are an Eco-friendly alternative to plastics, much lighter then packing silverware, and super cute! With napkins, opt for reusable 100% organic cotton instead of paper napkins that add unnecessary waste to landfills.

4)      Reusable Beverage Bottles: Plastic water bottles, juice boxes, soda cans, and other disposable drinks can contain unhealthy ingredients, toxic chemicals, and of course contribute to waste. Instead, use reusable glass water bottles or stainless steel water bottles filled with water and other healthy beverages. We love Lifefactory water bottles for glass and Klean Kanteen bottles for stainless steel.

We hope these tips have been helpful and informative in learning about toxin-free, earth friendly lunch packing. For some ideas on healthy lunch and snack options visit our Recipe Section and to learn more about healthy, safer living visit our Learn Section.




How to Rise Above it All: Nursing from Within…

Elizabeth ScalaWritten by Guest Blogger and Spiritual Practical Nurse, Elizabeth Scala

Healthcare has gone, and will continue to go through, major shifts.

Political policy, economic environments, and the rise of technology could paint us this picture of healthcare as a big, money making business. The motivation to increase profits can potentially take out the love and genuine nature of what nursing represents.


On one hand, this landscape appears bleak. On another, we might see it as an opportunity.

In my line of work, I see so much stress coming at us nurses from every angle; I was thinking I’d opt for option two. We are at a crossroads and the path I choose to take is one in which we as nurses can rise above the stress when you may have lost hope, even worse, when you want to give up. Who’s with me?

What I’d like to offer in this article is a fresh, new perspective. This requires some out-of-the box thinking, but in the words of my teachers, Lissa Rankin and Rachel Naomi Remen- “Life is what happens outside of the box”.

The challenges touched on above are often beyond the individual nurse’s control. And this feeling of ‘lack of control’ is one of the reasons beneath the reasons for stress.

I was actually in a meeting a couple of weeks ago with some of the major leadership players on well-being at my workplace. A question was posed, as we tried to wrap up the conversation and nail down the key take-away points, “What is the one thing we could focus on to help our nurses? The one thing they struggle with?

Stress. At first, that was the unanimous response.

I, with dozens of years less experience than any and the youngest in the room, timidly spoke up. And am glad that I did. My viewpoint: yes, stress is a major challenge. And there are things that are happening even beneath the stress. The underlying issues, so to speak.

So as I said above, the lack of control is one. Feeling as though we don’t have a voice can be another. Being unable to work up to our degrees and actually provide quality nursing care might still be an example.

In fact, I could go on and on.

This awareness that there are issues beneath the issues is what has sparked me to embark on my journey of bringing out the nurse within.

In today’s post, I’d like to share with you two techniques you might try to reconnect with your nurse within:

  • Focus the Energy: It may be hard to do at first, especially with all of the challenges we’ve discussed above, but the best thing you can do in any and all situations is to focus on the positive. Sure you may have a lot of computerized work to do, but it’s so much more legible than those old handwritten notes we used to receive. OK so maybe the staffing isn’t great for the day, but you’re helping people heal. As Carl Jung put it: “What we resist, persists.” Where you place your energy, effort and attention will only grow in strength. Focus on all of the good you do at work, the joy you bring to others and the love you have of your role- this will bring you more good to be grateful for.
  • Mindfulness Matters: Take up a mindfulness practice outside of work or class. A daily routine of going inward while you’re not engrossed with study or job will help you when the chaos of a nursing day lands on your shoulders. It’s hard to focus on being present in the moment when you’re just that busy. So a way to be better at concentrated attention is to take up a daily mindfulness practice like meditation, body scanning, Tai Chi, Reiki or Yoga.

There are many more ways to invite the nurse within. I encourage you to simply open up to the possibility and practice. The negativity, the stress, everything we encounter- it can become overwhelmingly exhausting. If we let it.

Focus on what you can control. Connect with the relationships that lift you up. Notice where you feel pride, gratitude and joy. Nursing truly is a beautiful blend of art and science; now allow the practice to flow from inside of you.

About the Author: Spiritual Practice Nurse Elizabeth Scala is on a mission to transform the profession of nursing from the inside out. Individuals typically enter nursing with a desire to provide compassionate, heart-based care. Challenged by regulations, financial pressures and technological advancements, today’s nurse struggles to balance the art with the science of nursing. As a speaker, trainer, facilitator and author, Elizabeth inspires nursing teams to reconnect with the passionate and fulfilling joy that once called them to their career. To find out more about Elizabeth Scala, please go to You can follow Elizabeth on Twitter @ElizabethScala, Google +, Pinterest, LinkedIn and You Tube and check out her latest book,  Back to the Basics: A Nurse’s Pocket Guide to Self-Care.

Art-of-Nursing Event


Guest Blogger ~ Heather Von St. James

Happy Friday, UA Blog Readers!

Today we have a very special post. Guest Blogger Heather Von St. James has contributed an article about her battle with Mesothelioma, how she overcame the cancer, and how it has impacted her life. Her story is truly inspirational and depicts an amazing recovery. We hope you enjoy her post and are as touched by it as we are here at UA. Thank you, Heather!

Lung Leaving Day

By: Heather Von St. James

My name is Heather Von St James, and I am a 5 1/2 year mesothelioma survivor.

I was diagnosed with the rare cancer on November 21st, 2005, just 3 1/2 months after the birth of my one and only baby girl.

This was not just any cancer; this was mesothelioma. Mesothelioma affects about 3,000 people a year and is almost always associated by asbestos exposure. It is believed that I was exposed to asbestos as a child. The disease manifested within my lungs and appeared almost 30 years later.

My choice of treatment was radical because the mesothelioma life expectancy rate is a matter of months.  I had undergone an extrapleural pneumonectomy with adjuvant intrapleural heated chemotherapy. In particular this surgical procedure involved the removal of my left lung and all of its surrounding tissue.  As well as my 6 TH rib was removed. During the surgery, a heated chemotherapy wash was done inside my chest cavity. A solution of Cisplatin was heated up to 140 degrees, pumped into my chest, left for an hour, and then pumped back out. My diaphragm and the lining of my heart where replaced with surgical gore-Tex and then I was closed back up. It takes radical measures to get rid of a radical cancer.

After 18 days in the hospital and two more weeks of recovery in the Boston area I was sent home to my baby. However, my treatment was not yet complete. The final 2 parts of my treatment consisted of 4 sessions of chemotherapy and 30 sessions of radiation. Keep in mind; I experienced all of this with a new baby at home to love and care for.

Thank God for my family and support systems. They proved to be key factors in getting through such a difficult time. My faith in God and my sense of humor also helped to push me through one of life’s greatest challenges.  Two special people in my life, my sister and my husband nicknamed the day of my surgery “LungleavingDay ” and every year on the first Saturday of February we celebrate “LungleavingDay.” We have a huge party with a giant bonfire and we take dinner plates, write our fears on them, and then smash them into the fire! This is an important way to conquer our fears. It has become a celebration of epic proportions with over 70 people celebrating with us.

We are given but one life, and it does not always go according to plan. Mine certainly didn’t.  In hindsight, I would not change a thing. Cancer gives you clarity in life; it lets you really concentrate on what matters and what doesn’t.  Family, Faith, and humor are all that matters to me.

Guest Blogger ~ Nursing Student, Jodi!

We recently had an entry from Jodi, a nursing student at Nova Southeastern University. She wanted to share her thoughts on nursing and going through nursing school!  We hope you enjoy her post!  If you have any comments or advice for Jodi or other nursing students like her, please feel free to leave a comment :).

Guest Blog Post from Jodi

Critical thinking-aka second nature for health care professionals.  Critical thinking goes hand in hand with all experiences throughout the workday, making its way into every decision and conversation.  But I challenge any healthcare worker to think back to the days when they were novice students, like myself.  Yes, those days filled with noisy lecture halls, expensive textbooks, stern professors, and difficult exams!  Myself, just beginning to slowly learn the “ropes of the trade,” never expected the concept of critical thinking to be so challenging for us new students.

Quickly my peers and I realized that this would be the key to developing into the successful nurses we all are striving to become. So we put away our theories of memorization and cram sessions we had used up until this point, now gearing to truly understand concepts and yes, how to critically think in situations. The importance of this has only been reinstituted time after time once we arrived to our first semester of clinicals. Here we observed that nothing in life is straight from a textbook (but wouldn’t that be so much easier!) Our poor clinical professor had to hear too frequently a variation of the following: “But professor, I don’t know what to do, that patient didn’t respond like the textbook said!” This is where the nurses come in- the very people we as nursing students look up to, admire, and are anxious to follow in the steps of. My biggest lessons and greatest knowledge has thus far come from observing the nurses in the hospital settings. I appreciate every moment the nurses have given to us students, after all, it must take A LOT of patience to deal with us sometimes! Seeing these nurses’ creativity, patience, ability to multi-task, and compassion has only reignited a fire within my soul to continue pursuing my career with this very passion. Amidst their busy days they have demonstrated to us students what can never be explained in a classroom or book.

~ Jodi

**If you’d like to submit a blog post for consideration on our blog, please leave a comment below and we will be in contact with you!