Why Go Green? For Better Health

So you are thinking about going green, but you are wondering what’s in it for you.  Last week you read about how going green can help save you money, when small changes lead to larger impacts. It is the same idea when striving for better health; every change you make affects your body positively.

There are many other areas to choose from, but I will focus on how living sustainably can lead to better heart, lung, brain and nervous system health.  Why not take a look and decide for yourself what you are ready to change.

 

Area 1: The Heart

The heart is an easy place to begin.  For better heart health, you can simply opt to walk or bike where you are going instead of relying on fossil fuels to get you there.  If you are stuck with using a vehicle for now, you can focus on the foods you eat instead.   If you make the conscious choice to grow your own foods, and stay away from pre-packaged processed and fast foods, then you are doing your heart a huge favour.  Likewise, by eating foods you grow yourself, you are reducing the amount of chemical residue that is commonly found on supermarket produce.  It’s almost enough to make you feel all warm and squishy inside.

Speaking of feeling squishy inside, I’ve definitely gotten a whole lot squishier since I stopped biking and walking everywhere.  In university, I lived close by my school and used to walk to all of my classes.  If I was going somewhere further than I wanted to walk, I would ride my bike instead.  I perfected the art of food shopping the exact amount I could carry on my back and biking home under the weight of it all.  But, of course, this stopped when the Dreamboat and I purchased our fist car.  So for better heart health I am looking forward to using the bike attachment for Little Man’s stroller this spring, so that we can get out, enjoy nature and I can get my heart pumping.  In the meantime, I am trying to renew the art of walking to the local stores instead of driving in to town.

 

Area 2: The Lungs

All that biking or walking you may be doing which is benefiting your heart, will also help you breathe a little easier too.  But it’s no good getting all that exercise if the air outside is polluted.  So to make the air a little clearer, try reducing your dependency on motorized vehicles, creating your own garden, or donating to organizations that focus on planting trees.  Less pollution means an easier time using your lungs and a reduction in environmental illnesses, such as asthma.

When we were choosing where to live, we focused a lot of our energy on houses that either had lots of greenery or were close by to parks and other nature preserves.  Although our house still has very young trees and shrubs, we are a stone’s throw from a great kid-friendly park.  As for our property, we have a relatively clean slate to add a little more nature of our choosing.  I have my heart set on a garden, and we are considering what type of trees will work best.  My one requirement of the trees is that they also be hammock friendly.  You know, for all that rest I will need after gardening.

 

Area 3: The Brain

When talking about going green, you don’t usually think about the benefits your brain will receive.  Still, there are a lot of reasons that going green means better mental health.  The fewer chemicals used in your day-to-day life, means that there is less damage to your brain, which easily absorbs fat-soluble environmental pollutants.  In terms of mental health, the simple act of increasing access to sunlight can have a tremendous positive effect on your spirits.  You can achieve this by opening the blinds more often instead of relying on inside lights during the day.

Who am I?  I am that annoying person who switches off the light you just turned on and opens the blinds instead.  I am  a huge believer in reducing consumption by adjusting to natural light instead of automatically using overhead fixtures.  I have always been like that, but since my teaching gig in a remote town above the Arctic Circle three years ago, I am even more appreciative of sunlight.  When I was in Nunavut, there was a long period of the winter where we had less than an hour of daylight around noon, and I really felt the negative effects of that.  From increased stress to body aches that took months to disappear once I returned home to Ontario, I will never take for granted being able to access to sunlight throughout the day.  So save a little energy and switch off that light.

 

Area 4: Nervous System

The Green Revolution (green as in money, not the environment) took hold of farming in the 1960’s, emphasizing the use of pesticides, irrigation methods and hybrid seeds instead of time-honoured, traditional organic/biodynamic farming.  This revolution has had enormous repercussions on the health of both humans and the environment worldwide.  Loss of produce diversity, increased chemical residues left behind, and genetically modified foods are just some of the nasty effects of so-called modern farming.  To steer clear of this hot mess, you could start your own garden.  By planting your own seeds, and using your own compost (versus pesticides), you can ensure that you are eating the healthiest possible foods available to you.  This reduction in food chemicals is good news for your nervous system which, like your brain, absorbs fat-soluble environmental toxins easily.  Ditto if you make your own natural cleaners instead of relying on the nasty stuff you find in the cleaning aisle of the grocery store.

I have to admit that I hadn’t even heard about the Green Revolution until I became pregnant.  All of a sudden I wanted to be as healthy as possible for Little Man, and began doing research on the chemicals around us.  Netflix has a great documentary on this topic called “Think Global, Act Rural.”  If you get a chance, watch it.  It is informative, but not all doom and gloom.  Once I was aware of how much the chemicals used in farming could affect the health of myself and Little Man, I knew I had to make a change.  While it is not always possible to eat organic, I am making an effort to do so whenever I can.

 

It is interesting just how much your body is affected by the choices you make.  You hear all the time that eating choices are a huge part of overall health, but it is only recently that this talk seems to really push for reducing food and environment chemicals as well.  There’s no escaping the fact that it is in your best interest to go green if you want to live a ling a healthy life.  Whether that means walking for better hearth health, planting a hammock-friendly tree for better lung health, opening up the shades for better mental health or eating organic for a healthier nervous system, what actions you take is dependent on what works best for you.  What will you try?

Are you starting to think about coming to the green side now?  Well hang on, because there are many more great reasons to try it.  In my next Sunday post I will write about how going green can help connect you to others.  In the meantime, what did you think about today’s post?  Why not leave a comment telling me what action you have taken that you think has kept you healthy?

 

 

References

Eden Tull, Deborah, The Natural Kitchen. (Port Townsend,WA: Process Media, 2010).

Vasil, Andrea, Ecoholic. (Toronto, Canada: Random House, 2007).

Vasil, Andrea, Ecoholic Home. (Toronto, Canada: Random House, 2009).

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