By Michilea Patterson, firstname.lastname@example.org
The food we eat, the way we exercise and even the products we use to clean with can have an impact on the environment and our health.
Earth Day is an annual observance that’s celebrated on April 22 worldwide with outdoor activities, service projects and conferences. During this time of year, people are encouraged to minimize harm to the environment with the goal of contributing toward a sustainable Earth. The term “going green” is most likely a familiar one and refers to lifestyle choices that are environmentally friendly.
People can make choices with their cleaning products, meals and fitness that will help to protect the Earth’s resources and improve health.
GOING GREEN WITH THE WAY YOU CLEAN
The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit organization with a mission to protect the health of humans and the environment. The group examined 2,000 cleaning supplies sold in the U.S. and found that many contain harmful substances that can lead to problems such as asthma or birth defects, according to their website www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/content/cleaners_and_health.
Amanda Bohn, of Boyertown, is a wellness advocate for doTERRA essential oils. Essential oils come from parts of a plant such as the leaves or roots. The oils are often used for natural healing or cleaning. Bohn and her family have been using the oils for a while and said her family’s health has definitely benefited.
Before the oils, Bohn remembers having to wait until her daughter was in another room before she could clean the bathroom since she knew the substance could be harmful. Then she read an article that said even when children are in another room, cleaning products such as bleach can still have an adverse effect on them. Bohn now uses essential oils to make a variety of cleaning and purifying products. She said the products are so safe that now her children can help her clean and even benefit from breathing in the essential oils while doing so. Bohn said several types of essential oils are uses in recipes for natural cleaning aides.
Lemon oil: Bohn said lemon is an oil that can be used in everything when it comes to cleaning and purifying surfaces. She said it’s great for grease, can be used on tarnished silver and even as furniture polish when added to an olive oil base.
Melaleuca (tea tree) oil: “It’s great at protecting against environmental threats,” Bohn said.
She said the oil can be added to water and used on surfaces to help fight against easily spreadable germs.
On Guard oil: doTERRA sells a protective blend of essential oils that help support a healthy immune system. Bohn said the manufacturer even sells a concentrated cleaner made from the On Guard oil. She said the blend is great for natural hand sanitizers and for creating wet wipes used for cleaning. Bohn said she finds it ironic that people use a hand sanitizer on their hands that has chemicals in it.
GOING GREEN WITH THE WAY YOU EAT
In 2013, JAMA Internal Medicine published a study about the link between vegetarian diets and mortality. Loma Linda University in California had a research team that explored the connection with 73,000 people of the Seventh-day Adventist faith, according to the National Institutes of Health website at bit.ly/2pHmSGM. They found that those with vegan and vegetarian diets were 12 percent less likely to die than the other participants.
“Going green can mean eating as close to nature as possible,” said registered dietitian Margaret Moses, director of nutrition services at acac Fitness & Wellness Center of West Chester and Exton.
Buy fresh, local food that’s in season: Moses said eating local and in season is a terrific way to support the environment.
“If you’re eating strawberries in January, they’re probably not local. You really have to start thinking about how far is your food travelling and how much is that costing in dollars and to the environment,” she said.
Moses said when people purchase produce from local providers such as farmers markets and community supported agricultures then they are also eating close to nature because those places don’t sell a lot of processed food.
Eat organic: Moses said eating organic can also be environmentally friendly but organic products should still be locally made. She said there’s a list call the “dirty dozen” of foods that should always be bought organic while a list called the “clean 15” includes produce that’s not necessary to buy organic. The list can be found on the Environmental Working Group website at www.ewg.org.
Going meatless: Moses said going meatless for a day or more can really help protect the Earth’s resources.
“Animals typically have a large carbon footprint meaning the amount of money that takes to raise them with water and food,” she said adding that plants don’t require nearly as much resources and have the added benefit of being very nutritious.
“That’s what the whole idea of eating green can be about especially with Earth Day. It’s eating well but it’s also eating to help protect the environment,” Moses said.
Grow your food: “Growing your own food is probably the best thing we can possibly do even if you just start small with herbs in your windowsill,” Moses said.
She said a lot of resources are involved when people buy their produce. Growing some of your own food can help cut those resources used and make a cleaner planet, she said.
“The more you can bring climate-friendly food to your life, it’s a way to retain your own power to cook, grow and create your own food. A diet that’s best for our body is best for our planet,” Moses said.
GOING GREEN WITH THE WAY YOU EXERCISE
A study published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Science” in 2015 found that people who walked in a natural environment focused less on negative thoughts and had reduced activity in the section of the brain linked to mental illness, according to the website www.pnas.org/content/112/28/8567.abstract.
The region is full of trails, waterways and green spaces that can be used for outdoor fitness. Laura Catalano is the communications director for the Schuylkill River Heritage Area. The heritage area is a network of trails that connect parks, gardens and neighborhoods. The heritage area covers the Schuylkill River watershed in Schuylkill, Berks, Chester, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties.
Catalano said the Schuylkill River Trail is available for people that want a short walk as well as those that maybe want a longer-distance bicycle ride. She said the trail in Pottstown goes all the way to Reading.
“You can do whatever distance you want so it really does allow a lot of opportunity,” Catalano said.
Get fit outdoors: Catalano said she really enjoys exercising outside and it makes her feel good. She’s much more motivated to exercise out in nature compared to when she’s inside because the scenery gives her so much to look at.
Nature is great for the family: Catalano said families can take a walk on the trail and go bird watching at the same time. She said paved portions of the trail allow families to use a stroller or kids to easily bike there. The trail is really a great experience for the family especially when it’s along the river, Catalano said.
“The water is a good source of fascination for kids. There’s ducks there. They can look for fish. They can skip stones,” she said.
Bike for health and the environment: Catalano often bikes to work. She does it for the fitness benefits in addition to the environmental benefits. Many weeks, she will go several days without using her car at all because she’s able to bike everywhere.
“It’s always a good feeling when I haven’t been in my car for like three days,” Catalano said.
Get outside to connect to the earth: Catalano said Earth Day is a good time for people to become more connected to the environment. She said getting in touch with nature has been beneficial for her.
“Feeling connected to the environment is sometimes really like a first step toward wanting to protect the environment,” she said.