5 simple things you can do for the environment and your health

Feb 23, 2018
  • By Jason Lemon
  • For the AJC

With climate change predictions coming from scientists on a regular basis, many people are increasingly concerned about their personal impact on the environment.

At the same time, who isn't concerned about their health and well-being? While it's a no-brainer that severe pollution and ominous natural disasters can be detrimental to humanity, there are small things we do daily that negatively impact our health as well as the environment.

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If you want to take small eco-friendly steps to jump start your health, keep reading. It's easier than you think.

1. Ditch the car and walk more often

Are you close enough to the office to start walking to work each day? If so, you'll get the benefits of extra exercise, while also reducing your carbon footprint and fighting pollution.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, "transportation contributed more than half of the carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, and almost a quarter of the hydrocarbons emitted into our air," in 2013. This isn't just bad for the environment, it's a public health problem as well.

If everyone made an effort to ditch their vehicles and walk more often, it would go a long way to address the issue.

Even if your commute is too far to go by foot, what about bike? Public transportation? Is car pooling an option?

And whether or not you start walking to work, you can definitely find ways to avoid driving and walk more. Perhaps those evening car trips to the grocery store down the street could be done on foot.

2. Get a reusable water bottle

Drinking an adequate amount of water is important for our health. It keeps us hydrated and may even fight aging.

Water makes skin smoother, helps reduce fatigue, makes the immune system function more efficiently and helps with weight management. But if you increase your water intake by regularly purchasing plastic bottles of it, you're not doing the environment or yourself any favors.

Some types of plastic water bottles contain chemicals that may leach into the drinking water, causing potential health hazards. On top of that, it's well-known that plastic is detrimental to the environment. Reducing your use of plastics is a great eco-friendly step.

So, drink more water but ditch the plastic. Find a good reusable option, such as a stainless-steel canteen-like bottle.

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3. Eat more locally grown, organic produce

Adding more vegetables and fruits to your diet is always a healthy choice. If you can ensure that extra produce is locally grown and organic, you're taking a step to help the environment as well.

When produce is shipped across the country, or even across oceans, the transportation involved leaves a significant carbon footprint behind. At the same time, the pesticides used on non-organically grown produce are bad for the environment, while also being a potential health hazard.

Do yourself a favor, eat more produce but ensure it's the healthiest option for the environment and for you.

4. Reduce your meat consumption

The factory farming of animals is one of the biggest causes of greenhouse gas emissions in the world. According to research led by scientists at Oxford Martin School, widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet would bring down emissions by 63 percent. If everyone would cut animal products all together, emissions would decrease by about 70 percent.

At the same time, the researchers behind the study pointed out that excessive meat consumption is behind many health problems.

"Imbalanced diets, such as diets low in fruits and vegetables and high in red and processed meat, are responsible for the greatest health burden globally and in most regions," Dr. Marco Springmann, lead author of the study, told The Guardian. "At the same time, the food system is responsible [currently] for more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore a major driver of climate change."

Even if you don't want to go completely vegetarian, consider reducing your consumption of meat to once or twice a week.

5. Make your home a little greener

Plants literally create the air we breathe. They transform CO2 in the atmosphere into oxygen that we need each moment of our lives. Plants also remove toxins from the air at a rapid rate.

Research by NASA has shown that indoor plants can remove up to 87 per cent of air toxin within just 24 hours

So, to improve the air quality of your home, buy some houseplants! If you have a yard, plant a tree or a full garden. 

Adding more plants to your life also does more than make the air around you fresher. They actually make humans happier, increase productivity and lower stress levels, according to a report by NBC News.

Those benefits, on top of the promise of cleaner air, are reason enough to invest in a few new plants.