Practicing Sustainability with SMA

Brianna Albers avatar

by Brianna Albers |

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I try to be environmentally conscious. I’ve been using my Google Home for years now, and have been switching as much of my home as possible to smart technology. My Google Chromecast lets me turn my TV on and off with my voice, and thanks to my  Wemo plugs, I control not only my bedroom lights but also my space heater. It may not seem like much, but that little bit of independence allows me to dictate what gets turned on, when, and for how long.

My dad is a chicken farmer and my mom loves to garden, so we’re famous in our neighborhood for our organic produce. The food we don’t eat gets fed to the chickens; the space beneath our stairs is dedicated to cardboard packaging, which we use in our fireplace to heat our home during the winter. But I still feel like I could be doing more. It’s ridiculous how much waste SMA produces, from plastic medicine bottles to single-use syringes to the BiPAP I use at night.

If everyone lived like me (even with the eggs, the produce, and the cardboard), we would need 2.7 Earths. But according to the Ecological Footprint Calculator, if everyone lived like the average American citizen, we would need five Earths, so when you look at it that way, I’m not doing half bad. And, of course, some things I can’t compromise on, like the single-use syringes and the medical equipment that keeps me alive. Like with all things, balance is paramount.

I might not be able to use public transportation, but over the past few days, I’ve been brainstorming small, everyday actions that contribute to my ecological footprint without my noticing. If you, like me, are interested in reducing the number of average Earths, maybe consider one of the following.

Consider your use of energy. Between school, work, and my writing, I’m on my computer for most of the day (though I’m really trying to cut down on that), so some things, like my Google Home and laptop charger, are nonnegotiable. But I’ve started experimenting in the margins. I have a significant amount of natural light in my room, so I’m currently writing this with the lights off. It took me a while to get used to, and I do miss the golden glow of my chandelier, but the muted gray tones are actually helping me with my anxiety. I recently ordered WiFi-enabled, energy-efficient light bulbs that will allow me to slowly adjust the amount of light as the sun sets. I’m also trying to turn my TV off when I’m not using it!

If you can afford it, buy organic as much as you can. Stash a tote bag in your car or hang one on your chair, so you can leave the plastic bags behind when you need to pick something up at Target. (I’m bad at this. So bad!) And if you’re looking to get out of the house, try hitting up a local farmers market.

I don’t consider myself a fashion guru, but I do have a bad habit of buying clothes I never wear. Same with books! I love books so much that I’ve dedicated an entire wall to bookshelves, but my SMA makes it difficult for me to read on my own, so I’m trying to utilize my local library and their eBook apps.

As for clothes, I’m slowly going through every single thing I own. I don’t just wear it — I actually look at myself in the mirror and consider if it’s worth keeping. I don’t pretend that everything flatters me, especially because I’m sitting all the time. So, if it makes me feel weird about my body, it goes in the “to sell” pile. (I used to donate my clothes, but I recently discovered that most donations actually end up in landfills, so I’m making it a point to sell things as much as possible. That way, I know they’ll be used.) Instead of immediately replacing those items, I’m trying to make do with what I have. Over time, my goal is to curate a capsule wardrobe full of ethically-sourced pieces that I love and will actually wear.

These aren’t the end-all, be-all, but the most important thing is to start where you are. SMA complicates things, but there are all sorts of creative ways to reduce waste and practice sustainability. If you have some ideas of your own, let me know in the comments below!


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


Kala Godin avatar

Kala Godin

I actually just recently bought a reusable starbucks cup! I know, I know, not a big deal. But I find that it's the right height for me to use without the help of others. So bonus for me. I now take it everywhere.

Brianna Albers avatar

Brianna Albers

That's great! Everything helps :*) Bonus that it works so well!


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