When it comes to improving our health, sustainability and a green lifestyle play an important role. aware_ looked at what we need to do to have a positive impact on our health and the environment.
When it comes to improving our health, sustainability and an environmentally conscious lifestyle play an important role. After all, when we reduce our carbon footprint, we are not only doing something good for our environment, but also for ourselves. But what is a green lifestyle? And what does it take for it to have a positive impact on me, those around me and our environment (The Australian & New Zealand Mental Health Association)?
By definition, a green lifestyle means finding a way to live your life in an environmentally friendly way, changing your behavior and consumption habits in a way that protects and preserves the planet, its natural resources, habitats and biodiversity. Specifically, this means reducing pollution and resource consumption, avoiding waste, conserving natural resources and forests, and taking personal responsibility by learning to live with less, reusing and recycling more, and promoting a caring attitude toward the planet we all share (GreenCoast).
What we can do – an excerpt
The list of actions we can take to lead an environmentally friendly lifestyle is long. If we look at the energy sector, the use of fossil fuels causes a significant amount of pollution that can be harmful to people and their health. Reducing energy consumption not only lowers costs, saves water and carbon emissions, but using alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, hydroelectric and geothermal can also prevent respiratory diseases and heart and other cardiac problems. Furthermore, natural sunlight itself can have a positive effect on overall health (Masters In Nursing Online; GreenCoast; The Harvard Gazette).
But back to the harmful factor of pollution: air pollution from particulate matter, dangerous particles such as soot, smoke and exhaust fumes produced by burning fuels, especially fossil fuels, has become a “major environmental health risk” that has led to the premature deaths of three million people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Reducing air pollutants would also reduce water pollution, which can lead to threats to water bodies and wildlife in particular. The most important contribution we can make to this is a change in transportation habits: Bicycling and related physical activity, for example, can lead to better heart health and a range of other benefits, including weight loss. In addition, connecting with nature can increase happiness, reduce mental fatigue, and increase concentration and productivity. Home-based jobs, which have become more common since the pandemic, can also reduce pollution by avoiding commuting altogether (Conserve Energy Future; Masters In Nursing Online; The Harvard Gazette; GreenCoast).
At the city level, widespread changes through vehicle electrification, improved public transit, and the creation of more green space are critical advances for public health. Planting trees can have a particularly positive impact: not only do they cool cities and reduce heat-related mortality, but they also sequester carbon and reduce air pollution from particulate matter. Rooftop gardens are also beneficial: they absorb excess rainwater, provide insulation and food – all in an otherwise unused location (The Harvard Gazette).
“In the context of doing things that will reduce our greenhouse gas footprint, there may be no better argument than an appeal to our own individual health. We can be no healthier than the environments we live in and the food we eat.”
– Aaron Bernstein, Co-Director for the Center for Climate Health and the Global Environment (C-CHANGE) at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (The Harvard Gazette)
Eating the right foods can also make a significant difference when it comes to our health. Pesticides and chemicals found on conventional, non-organic foods not only harm the environment, but can cause illness and other health problems. The pesticides are harmful to the soil and can cause soil infertility. Pre-packaged foods should also be avoided, if possible, as they consume materials and energy and are often full of excess sodium and sugar and empty calories that can cause obesity, heart disease and cancer. Reduced meat consumption can reduce energy use, pollution, and environmental degradation, and prevent health problems such as heart disease and obesity caused by excessive meat consumption (Masters In Nursing Online; GoGreen).
If we take a look at the household, people who follow a green lifestyle should avoid harmful household products such as fertilizers that affect their own health and that of the environment and use organic means instead. Cleaning products can also contain harmful chemicals that can cause headaches, respiratory problems and exacerbate other health problems (Masters In Nursing Online).
What are the benefits?
In addition to the health benefits already mentioned, such as increased exercise, healthier eating and better breathing, a green lifestyle has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health.
A green lifestyle can foster people’s need for a closer connection to nature, thereby stimulating positive emotions, leading to a lighter and happier mood. This closer connection to nature, such as through increased outdoor activities, can actually help people suffering from mental health issues find comfort: A report conducted by Natural England concluded that people who participate in nature-based activities suffer less stress, anxiety and depression. When a more active lifestyle leads to losing excess weight or simply getting in better shape, it can also lead to stronger self-esteem in addition to physical health (Southard; The Australian & New Zealand Mental Health Association).
Consuming less, reusing and recycling more, while raising awareness of important climate changes can help prioritize. Gaining this awareness, taking responsibility for our environment and ensuring that our planet remains habitable for future generations can be very fulfilling and helpful in recovering from mental exhaustion and stress (The Australian & New Zealand Mental Health Association).
– by Marie Klimczak