As I waded around my house knee deep in used tissues, it made me think: what kind of carbon footprint does having a cold leave? Do medicines have a carbon footprint? What's a better alternative than going through reams of toilet paper to blow my nose on? What household products can I use to ease my suffering?
Steam and eucalyptus
I have some lovely organic eucalyptus oil which I bought from this company and which
was embarrassingly expensive. However, it will last me for years (or at least, that's how I keep justifying it to myself). I put a few drops in a big bowl of hot water and sat with it on my lap and a towel over my head as the camphor-y, menthol-y smells shot through my blocked-up sinuses.
A pharmacist told me that most cough medicines are placebos and that steam does just about the same job, so if you have a sore throat or blocked nose, some steam will be one of the best things you can do for it.
Raw organic apple cider vinegar
I went to New York earlier this year, and no sooner did I touch down but I found myself with the worst available cold. Luckily, I was staying with a friend who is a vocal coach and she has all the remedies sore throats. One of her more unusual ones is coming later, but gargling with raw apple cider vinegar is one way to soothe a sore throat (germs apparently can't hack the acidic environment). Beware though, the smell is strong.
Hear me out on this. It has all kinds of ingredients that kills germs and reduce inflammation, so as soon as you're feeling a bit scratchy, gargle every couple of hours with some Listerine and it'll help.
Lemon and honey
It's not just a soothing and pleasant flavour, apparently these bad boys have the ability to inhibit the microbes that cause infection. Combined with hot water, this is a good way to soothe and hydrate.
Saline has lots of applications - gargling with salt water is a folk remedy for a sore throat (and mouth ulcers) and it's useful for clearing your sinuses (you snort a bit up each nostril and it equalises the pressure).
There is some evidence that chicken soup does actually help. It's hydrating, and there's evidence that it breaks down congestion. Above all, it tastes good and it helps you feel better. A friend gave me a fantastic
This was the more unusual remedy I referred to earlier. My friend had recently bought a small vibrator for the express purpose of using on the face to loosen the muscles and improve vocal resonance. It also has the effect of breaking up your snot. Place gently on the cheeks and forehead, temples etc to encourage that mucus into the sunlight. I imagine it would also help if you have phlegm on your lungs.
But what about the environment?
There are two main environmental impacts I can see with being ill; the first is using loads of tissue (which, especially if it is recycled paper and you put them in the recycling are really not the worst things in the world). However if you're worried, handkerchiefs are great - they're gentler on your nose and you can keep them for ages. Obvious downside is they get snotty and gross after a few uses.
The other impact is - what carbon footprint do medicines leave? I tried to find out but there doesn't seem to be much writing on the topic. I did however find an incredibly complex spreadsheet which might only be for pharmacists, but it's a carbon footprint calculator for blister pack medicines.
However, you can apply common sense here: a heavy glass bottle full of medicine that's probably just a placebo anyway will have been shipped at substantial cost. Things like tiny plastic nasal sprays go to landfill - so by using a remedy like those above, you can avoid the expense and the environmental waste.
Remember that cold and flu remedies are big business, so obviously people are there to fleece you when you're feeling less than your best. Nothing can really beat lots of water, sleep and a bit of paracetamol and ibuprofen.