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How Going Green Can Impact Your Health

Most of us know how important it is to do what we can to create a sustainable world. In fact, around 61 percent of Americans rate sustainability as an important factor when considering a purchase. Clearly, more and more people are prioritizing green living — and not just when they’re spending money. 

By taking actions to go green big and small, you’re helping to create a fairer, more sustainable world. What’s more, these actions can improve your quality of life and long-term health. Here are a few ways going green can impact your health for the better.

Improved oxygen intake

Obviously, a healthy diet is good for your overall health, but it can also be good for the air we breathe. A diet characterized by a variety of high-quality plant-based foods and low amounts of animal-based foods, refined grains, added sugars and unhealthy fats, is considered better for the planet. This type of diet prioritizes food from sustainable systems. Given that current food production practices contribute approximately 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the livestock sector alone represents almost half of these emissions, moving towards a more sustainable diet can help reduce airborne pollutants and give us all some breathing room.

Reduced exposure to harsh household chemicals

Eco-friendly cleaning supplies aren’t just better for the environment than traditional products — they’re better for you, too. Many cleaning products contain detergents, grease-cutting agents, solvents, and disinfectants with chemicals that can irritate your skin, eyes, nose and throat. Substituting toxic cleaners with fragrance-and color-free products sold in concentrates — or even better, using baking soda and vinegar — will expose you to fewer irritants.  

Healthier food

Another way to prioritize the health of the planet and your body with your diet is by eating more organic foods. An organic diet of foods which are produced without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers reduce pesticide levels in children and adults — lowering the risk of asthma, bronchitis and other health issues associated with agricultural pesticide exposure. Eating locally produced foods is healthier and will help reduce emissions and energy consumption due to transportation, as bringing food from a distance can have a negative impact on nutrients. According to a report from UC Davis, fruits and vegetables begin to suffer from nutrient degradation after they’re harvested. And being conscious of what and how you’re eating can also help with mental health

Positive effects on mental health

Speaking of mental health, going green can contribute to better mood and emotional well-being in multiple ways. Being mindful of your impact on the earth and the use of its resources — whether by shopping, eating, re-using and recycling, e.g. — can help you make choices you feel good about, and lessen feelings of anxiety. Appreciating nature and getting outdoors (versus isolating yourself inside a temperature-controlled space with all the electronics on) is also an effective stress buster. Even caring for houseplants can reduce psychological and physiological stress.

Easy ways to go green at home

There are lots of ways to go green — many of which have short- and long-term health benefits. There are times when the sustainable option is not the right choice — taking public transportation to deal with an urgent care issue, for instance. But when you can, try to make sustainable choices. Here are a few actions you can take to get started. 

Grow a garden

Who better to trust with growing the food you eat than yourself? Starting a simple backyard garden — or even tending to a few easy-care herb plants indoors — doesn’t require much more than a bit of soil, water, and sunlight. You can start with seeds or starters from your local nursery. 

Compost your food waste

Your uneaten foodstuffs don’t have to end up in a landfill. In some parts of the country, organic waste collection services are available to residents. But you reap the benefits of composting by and for yourself. It’s easy to do and as inexpensive as a suitable container: Start with a layer of your scraps, add a bit of soil and water and wait. Over time, this mixture will decompose and create nutrient-rich fertilizer you can feed to your garden or lawn. 

Reduce, reuse and recycle 

Besides the obvious money savings you reap from buying gently used instead of new, or making a one-time purchase of reusable products instead of single-use items, opting to re-use, recycle and limit throwaways helps the Earth. You’ll be saving energy, curbing waste (which reduces the amount of trash going to landfills), and preserving limited natural resources. 

Commute on your bike

For many of us, driving to school or the office is what we do. But does it have to be? Consider environmentally friendly alternatives to your car: Even if you can’t ride a bike the entire distance, you may be able to bike part of the way and park your bike and take public transportation; or you may be able to take your bike with you on the bus or train. The exercise from biking confers multiple health benefits, but even walking to public transportation or a participating in a carpool is better than driving solo for you and the environment.  

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The Paper Gown, a Zocdoc-powered blog, strives to tell stories that help patients feel informed, empowered and understood. Views and opinions expressed on The Paper Gown do not necessarily reflect those of Zocdoc, Inc. Learn more.