You might not think about it much in your day-to-day life, but the fact is: you’re an animal. You’re a living organism, eating, sleeping, and breathing on planet earth. You’re not just an individual; you’re a vital and influential part of a complex ecosystem you rely on for survival. What that means is all your actions have consequences on the plants, animals, air, earth, and water that surround you. And if you make a mess of your environment, those consequences could come back to haunt you.
Maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but the point is your environment can have a major impact on your health and happiness. The actions you take to protect the Earth can have positive outcomes on an individual and a public health level. Even tiny micro shifts in behavior can make a difference. Introducing just one houseplant to your home, for instance, can make measurable changes to the air you breathe every day. Here are some ways switching to more eco-friendly lifestyle practices can have even bigger benefits on your health and well-being.
1. Clean Transportation
Most eco-friendly transportation options are great for your physical well-being, especially if you rely on them regularly. Getting around by biking, walking, or using a scooter is great for your physical health. Regular exercise boosts your cardiovascular function and lowers the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. If you rely on public transit, you still live a less sedentary lifestyle than you would if you commuted by car. Walking to bus stops, climbing station stairs, and all the other maneuvering actually adds up to a lot of exercise.
Eco-friendly transportation can also have massive benefits for your mental health. Increased physical activity can boost mood, stave off mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, and improve concentration. The more time you spend moving, the happier you’ll be. As frustrating as delays and crowds can be, even public transport has significant associations with positive mental health outcomes. This is because public transportation decreases levels of social isolation, which is associated with early mortality, depression, and dementia.
2. Dietary Changes
A plant-based diet is typically the best choice for protecting the environment. Consumption of animal products contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, poor biodiversity, and poor animal welfare. Reducing livestock production would significantly reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane. These emissions are major contributors to global climate change, because they trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere. They also damage the ozone layer and expose the planet to more radiation from the sun.
Reducing your meat consumption isn’t just good for the planet; it also has tremendous benefits for your health. A plant-based diet may reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and other health conditions. Fruit and vegetable intake is associated with a lower risk of depression and better overall mental health. That said, you don’t have to go completely vegan to live a healthy and eco-friendly lifestyle. Eating plenty of fruits and veggies and skipping meat as little as one day a week can make a difference.
3. Time in Nature
Many eco-friendly practices require spending time in nature, which can have a positive impact on your well-being. According to the American Psychological Association, spending time in nature improves attention and mood and reduces the risk of psychiatric disorders. Research has even shown that being around plants can reduce symptoms of ADHD, relieve stress, and boost mood and self-esteem.
People who spend time in green spaces are more likely to be active, improving many aspects of physical health. Spending time outdoors also increases vitamin D absorption, which is linked to immune health, bone health, and better mental health.
There are many ways you can reap the health benefits of time in nature while making a positive environmental impact. Participating in a community garden can mean a more sustainable diet, better air quality, more exercise, and less social isolation. You could also join a community cleanup to control pollution while spending active time outdoors. If these options aren’t accessible, gardening or growing herbs or vegetables at home can still make a small difference.
4. Less Exposure to Toxins and Microplastics
Most of the things that are bad for the environment are also bad for your body. This is especially true for toxic chemicals and microplastics. Microplastics are tiny plastic particles generated as byproducts of plastic production. Microplastics and other chemicals can accumulate in the environment and harm animals, particularly marine life, causing injuries and even death. They can also absorb and transmit toxins to animals and humans.
Thousands of potentially toxic chemicals are used in modern industrial practices and even in the production of food. These chemicals make their way into the environment through agriculture, waste disposal, and other practices. They can impact the health and safety of wildlife, and damage soil, air, and water quality.
You can prevent some of this harm by using non-toxic products, disposing of waste appropriately, and supporting sustainable food systems. By reducing your use and controlling the spread of these toxins, you protect your body from their negative health effects as well scooptimes.
Building a Lifestyle That Works for You
Every small action you take to improve the environment can have a major impact on the planet and your health. But that doesn’t mean you’re single-handedly responsible for saving the earth or humankind from destruction. Improving your well-being and the environment starts with dropping perfectionism and making well-considered choices.
In other words, you don’t have to give up every single cheeseburger or Uber ride to be healthier or heal the planet. Instead, enjoy your life, while making small, individual changes — and lobbying governments and corporations to make the bigger ones.