On April 22, more than 190 countries around the world will participate in Earth Day — a global event where millions of people show their support for the environment through political action, civic involvement, or by committing to a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle.
One of the advantages to adopting a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle is that many changes that you make to help the environment also happen to boost your own health as well. It’s a win-win situation. I like to think of it as Mother Nature’s own little version of karma: You help the environment, you help yourself in the process. Fortunately, it requires minimal effort to adopt some eco-friendly tips and improve your own health along the way.
5 Eco-friendly Tips that Benefit You and the Planet
- Ditch the disposables. It’s time to re-think how you consume your daily cup of joe or the recommended two to three liters of water a day. Whether it’s paper coffee cups or plastic water bottles, using disposable materials are bad for the planet and for you. Disposable cups have a large carbon footprint. Not only do they account for the demise of 20 million trees per year, but most paper cups have a thin plastic coating on them that prevents them from being recycled.And paper isn’t the only problem. Water that is sold in plastic bottles is inefficient, expensive, and creates plastic waste that ends up in landfills. Plastic has a slew of negative effects on the environment, and many plastics contain bisphenol A (BPA), which has a variety of adverse health effects. Switch to a re-useable water bottle or coffee mug and you’ll be doing yourself and the planet a favor.
- Get your hands dirty. Plant a tree or a garden or put a potted plant in your house. Plants improve overall air quality because they reduce carbon dioxide levels and other toxins and add oxygen back into the air. Studies have shown that plants also increase productivity and concentration, improve your mood, and decrease stress. Gardening is win-win because not only do you spend time outside growing your own fresh, unprocessed foods, but you also benefit from numerous mental health perks, such as reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Re-think your daily commute. You’ve probably heard that sitting is the new smoking. Well, if you drive to work, think of how much time you spend sitting! Leave your car at home and ride your bike or walk to work. Studies have shown that walking or biking your daily commute has so many health benefits, it can actually help you live longer. If your job is too far to walk, carpool or take public transit. Using public transit or carpooling with friends or neighbors makes your daily commute more enjoyable, reduces the number of cars on the road, and cuts down on air pollution and carbon emissions.
- Buy local. If you’ve been to a farmer’s market recently, you’ve probably seen the ubiquitous “Buy local” sticker that seems to pop up everywhere. And while buying local seems to be all the rage, what is it exactly that makes local food so good for the environment and for you? Well, for starters, when you buy local, you reduce your “food miles” — the number of miles your food has to travel to get to you. The further your food has to travel to get to you, the worse it is for the planet. This is due to the fact that the transportation of your food increases carbon emissions, uses more fossil fuels, and increase air pollution. Eating locally also has tremendous health benefits for you as well. As soon as a fruit or vegetable is harvested, it begins to lose nutrients, so the less your food has to travel, the better. In addition, local food has few to no preservatives and pesticides, is often organic and hormone-free, and is fresh and in-season.
- Start “plogging”! Ok, ok, so the name might be a little goofy, but the benefits of this “new” European fitness trend are legitimate. Plogging, or picking up litter while jogging, is gaining momentum in the U.S. The truth is, it might not be so new — many people have been doing this for years already, they just didn’t know it had a name! The catchy name aside, this activity combines all the benefits of cardio exercise with community clean-up. If you’re going out for a jog anyway, why not clean up your surroundings while you’re at it?
No Act is Too Small
One of the best things about implementing these eco-friendly tips is that you don’t have to go big. If composting and giving up your car aren’t for you, you can still have an impact. Each act, no matter how big or small, helps. And, if you get a health boost while you’re at it, just think of it as Mother Nature’s way of saying “thank you.”