While diet and exercise are important wellness factors, creating a healthier environment can improve your lifestyle too.
Every April 22nd, more than 1 billion people in 192 countries participate in Earth Day. Earth Day is the largest civic observance in the world. According to Earth Day.org, “the mission is to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide.”
Earth Day started in 1970 by Wisconsin Senator, Gaylord Nelson. Nelson’s mission was to spread awareness about how contaminants like oil spills, pesticides, and smog affect the environment. As a result of the movement, President Richard Nixon approved The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970 which provides legislation on clean air, clean water, toxic substances, and endangered species. In 2009, The United Nations named April 22nd, “International Mother Earth Day.”
The theme for Earth Day 2021 is “Restore Our Earth”, which is intended to be a reminder that we need a healthy Earth to support our lives, health, and survival.
How the Environment Affects Health
Our environment directly affects the quality of our health and well-being. Clean air, land, and water are fundamental to a healthy community. Polluted air, contaminated water, and extreme heat are 3 environmental conditions that can negatively impact health. The World Health Organization attributed 11% of U.S. mortality in 2012 (nearly 300,000 deaths) to environmental causes. Globally, 23% of all deaths and 26% of child deaths are due to preventable environmental factors.
Poor air quality is one of the top factors that affect health. According to HealthyPeople.gov, in 2016, 1 in 12 adults in the U.S. had asthma, which is caused, triggered, and exacerbated by environmental factors such as air pollution and secondhand smoke. Poor air quality is linked to cancer and long-term damage to respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
Earth has natural systems to improve air quality. Plants naturally improve air quality through the process of photosynthesis. As humans breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, plants do the opposite. They absorb light and carbon dioxide to produce clean oxygen. Oxygen is the vital element of clean and healthy air.
By keeping our air and water supply clean, we can create a more sustainable environment for overall well-being. By keeping the earth healthy, we can keep our bodies healthy. Check out these four simple steps to create a healthier environment in recognition of Earth Day.
4 Ways to Create a Healthier Environment on Earth Day
1. Increase Climate Literacy
According to Climate.gov, Climate Science Literacy is “an understanding of your influence on climate and climate’s influence on you and society.
A climate-literate person
- understands the essential principles of Earth’s climate system
- knows how to assess scientifically credible information about climate
- communicates about climate and climate change in a meaningful way
- is able to make informed and responsible decisions with regard to actions that may affect climate.”
While no single person is expected to understand every detail about all fundamental climate concepts, we can still make an effort to be more aware of our environment. By simply paying more attention to weather patterns, temperatures and seasonal conditions in your local town, you can increase your climate literacy.
2. Avoid Single-Use Plastics
Plastics have a significant affect on health and well-being. As plastics break down, they release chemicals that can cause health problems. Plastics can also absorb pollutants and these chemicals can then enter the food chain when they are consumed by marine life. According to Global Citizen.org, the average person eats 70,000 microplastics each year. That means on average, we eat 100 bits of microplastic over the course of just one meal.
To reduce plastic consumption, avoid using single-use plastics. Take canvas bags to the grocery store instead of using plastic bags. Use metal straws instead of plastic ones, use a stainless steel water bottle, and put left-overs in glass containers instead of ziploc bags.
If you wind up using plastic, make sure to recycle it instead of throwing it in the trash.
3. Pick Up Trash
Trash is polluting the ocean. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. The patch includes two sub-patches: one near Japan, and one between Hawaii and California. The two sub-patches form a large system of swirling ocean currents rotating around 7.7 million square miles of microplastics.
In order to prevent more waste from being added to this oceanic trash mass, avoid littering. If you see trash in your neighborhood, in a park, or along a trail, pick it up and throw it away.
4. Grow a Plant
When we understand how nature works, we can increase our understanding of how our bodies work. Cleaner air quality can increase overall health quality. NASA research revealed that houseplants can remove up to 87 percent of air toxins in 24 hours. Indoor plants improve concentration and productivity, reduce stress levels and boost mood.
Try growing an indoor plant to increase oxygen in your space. If you’ve never grown a plant, no worries! Taking care of plants can be easy. Try starting out with a low maintenance plant that can withstand inconsistent watering, uneven light, and fluctuating temperatures. Low maintenance plants include aloe and peace lily.
When it comes to creating a healthier environment, keep in mind that every small gesture counts. Change happens one person at a time.
Happy Earth Day!
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