Are you looking to build some new healthy habits? With Earth Day this month, now is the time to make a few lifestyle changes that will improve your health and benefit the planet too. Use these suggestions for simple modifications to your routine that could have big pay offs for you and Mother Nature.
Waste less food
Americans eat and throw away a lot of food, which negatively impacts the environment. Much of what we buy is transported over long distances, and the process of getting food to our table can pollute the air, release harmful greenhouse gases, and contribute to climate change. Agriculture is responsible for a fourth of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions, and disposing of food in landfills release methane—a particularly harmful greenhouse gas. Carefully plan your meals so you can avoid throwing out food unnecessarily.
Make plant-based meals
When you eat less meat and dairy, you can benefit the planet and reduce your risk of certain diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Sixty percent of greenhouse gases from agriculture are from dairy and meat production, and half of the water used in the US goes toward raising animals for food. You don’t have to completely give up animal products to make a difference. You could start by eliminating it from just one weekly meal. Vegan or plant-based diets contain more fiber, vitamins, and lower levels of unhealthy saturated fats, but you’ll need adequate amounts of protein from sources like nuts, seeds, and beans to fuel your body.
Whether you grow your own produce or shop at a grocery store or nearby farm, it’s wise to eat locally. Shipping meats, fruits, and vegetables over long distances creates pollution and burns energy, and transported food can lose its freshness and end up in landfills. Food grown closer to home is typically fresher and requires less packaging. You can even carry your groceries home in a reusable shopping bag and use less of earth’s resources.
Avoid convenience food
Try to use whole or minimally processed foods when cooking, and skip frozen meals sold in plastic. Snack on apples and fresh vegetables instead of potato chips. Avoid dining at fast-food restaurants where food can be laden with calories, saturated fats, and salt, and might be served with plastic utensils or in wasteful packaging.
Skip plastic straws and bags
Did you know that only a small number of plastic bags are recycled? The rest ends up in landfills or in the ocean. Plastic has been found in our air, food, and even in our bodies. An easy way to cut down on plastics is to shop with your own reusable shopping bags made of natural fabrics. Try drinking tap water out of a refillable water bottle with its own filter instead of bottled water. Use a bamboo or paper straw when eating out.
Home-cleaning products are often loaded with unhealthy chemicals like bleach, formaldehyde, and ammonia, so buy ones free of these ingredients. Use eco-friendly cleansers, such as Blueland’s Multi-Surface Cleaner, Clorox Compostable Cleaning Wipes, and Tide Free and Gentle Liquid Laundry Detergent, that are deemed safe for you and the planet by the EPA. Or you could make your own cleaning solutions. Vinegar and baking soda are products found in most households and can be used to clean most surfaces in your home.
Take cooler, shorter showers
Your steamy morning shower can lead to skin inflammation and dryness. The average eight-minute shower uses sixteen gallons of water. Quick showers will allow your water heater to use less energy, and you will waste less water. Install a showerhead with a WaterSense label so you’ll use at least a half-gallon less of water per minute during your shower.
Gas-powered vehicles are the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, and if you walk or bicycle more, you’ll get more exercise and benefit the planet. Take fewer car trips, and walk or ride your bike to the grocery store or carpool with a neighbor or friend. Walk into town for dining out instead of driving. Take public transportation to work, or, if possible, work from home one or two days a week.