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Do you need to improve your overall health? Why not become a tree hugger? Many Eco-friendly habits that benefit the planet also do wonders for your well-being.
Folk wisdom long realized what modern science is only beginning to understand — acts of kindness elevate the giver as well as the recipient. What can you do to give back to Mother Earth while getting physically and mentally healthy?
Here are seven activities that pull double duty.
1. Start a Garden
During the pandemic, seemingly everyone transformed into amateur survivalists, but knowing how to grow food at home is one of the most earth-friendly and pragmatic skills to adopt. It also ranks up there health-wise.
Growing food independently cuts down on your trips to the market and reduces produce shipping needs — both of which save on carbon emissions. Transporting lettuce and other needed items to the store produces 3% of global gas emissions. If you and your neighbors all plant a plot, you can exchange seeds and collaborate on an area compost bin to eliminate the need for fertilizer. Plus, you can walk two doors down to trade some romaine for a few carrots.
As a bonus, puttering in the garden burns calories. Heavy-duty hoeing and weeding qualify as a full-body workout. At day’s end, you get to refuel with organic vegetables and fruit for nourishment. I’ve lost track of how many wins that is!
2. Eat a Plant-Based Diet
Part of preventative care entails eating a healthy diet, much of which can come primarily from plants for both ecological and health reasons. Meat production puts considerable strain on environmental resources — cows create a ton of methane, which depletes the ozone layer more quickly than carbon. Plus, it leads to clearing rainforests for pastureland, further endangering the planet’s protective layer.
Choosing to cut down on meat consumption can reduce your heart disease and cancer risk while protecting the earth and its creatures.
If you choose to eat meat, try to source it locally, as locally sourced foods tend to be freer of chemicals and additives, and local farms typically treat their livestock better as well.
The World Health Organization classifies processed meats like lunch meats are a Class 1 carcinogen — even more deadly — so swap the ham sandwich in your brown bag for a salad or locally sourced turkey sandwich!
3. Go Hiking
If you want to inspire green behavior, take a hike. Research shows that people who spend time outdoors in parks, woodlands and beaches adopt more eco-friendly habits and practices than those who do not.
For the most effective results, bring your children if you have them. Those who grow up in families who cherish the natural world are likely to carry forward their sustainable habits into adulthood. The fresh air and exercise improve your mental and physical health by busting blue moods and helping your body produce endorphins.
4. Pick Up Litter
Why not go a step further on your next walk and make it an eco-trek by carrying an inexpensive grabber and a container for trash? Your heart will adore the cardiovascular activity, and your neighbors will thank you for improving property values by keeping the neighborhood tidy.
Make sure to sort and recycle any items that you can save from the landfill.
5. Reduce and Reuse
Did you lose your job or find your hours reduced during the pandemic? Guess what? You can save a ton of money on paper towels by cutting up old, stained clothing into rags for cleaning. You also save a considerable number of trees, and your cardiovascular and nervous system will rejoice when fewer stress hormones flood them as you try to make your weekly shopping list.
You can find multiple ways to cut financial stress — which damages physical health — by reducing your consumption and reusing the resources you have on hand.
There is no need to buy lunch sacks for pet waste disposal if you save what you usually toss from deliveries and empty food containers. Why not learn how to dry and save the seeds from your fruits and veggies, too, instead of running to the nursery?
6. Hang a Bird Feeder
Your pet kitty was right — watching birds flock around a feeder is soothing. If you haven’t tried this $2 to $3 mental health booster yet, the investment is worth it.
Plus, our feathered friends need our help. The Trump administration recently moved to dismantle wild bird protections, and larks and nightingales need citizens on their sides.
When you volunteer, your body produces more oxytocin. This so-called “cuddle” hormone increases your feelings of well-being and decreases anxiety and depression. Environmental organizations need helpers — if you don’t feel safe venturing in public yet, some have things you can do from your couch, like phone and text campaigns.
Adopt Eco-Friendly Habits and Reap the Health Benefits
The beauty of sustainable habits is that they also benefit human health. Do good for the planet today and reap the rewards.