April 22, 1970 marked the inaugural Earth Day, a day dedicated to fostering awareness of the issues that threaten the environment, and, in many ways, human health. Since its inception, Earth Day has grown into the largest civic observance in the world, with more than one billion people participating in Earth Day activities worldwide every year.
At One Medical, we believe that what’s good for the planet will be good for those of us who live on it, which is why we’ll be celebrating Earth Day all week. To start things off, our providers present a few environmentally conscious tips for living healthfully.
Tip 1: Eat Real Food
“Eat whole foods—mostly plants,” says Carrie Bowler, an osteopathic physician at One Medical’s Wall Street office in New York.
Why it’s good for you: Eating food that resembles how it came from the earth—that is, unprocessed—means a healthier product for your body. By eating whole foods and mostly plants, you’ll be eating low-fat, nutrient-dense foods that can help prevent many common diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Why it’s good for the earth: Cutting back on processed foods reduces your carbon footprint, as the factories that process those foods produce less pollution. And reducing consumption of animal products cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions. Did you know that cattle rearing is responsible for more greenhouse gasses than all types of transportation combined?
Tip 2: Ditch the Car
Another one of Bowler’s favorite eco-friendly health tips: Walk or ride your bicycle rather than driving.
Why it’s good for you: Walking or cycling as a means of commuting is an efficient mode of transportation and an excellent form of exercise. As Bowler points out, “At least 30 minutes of exercise per day has been associated with improved mood, normal body weight, and lower blood pressure.” Moreover, exercise helps treat and prevent diabetes, heart disease, and many other diseases.
Why it’s good for the earth: In addition to decreasing pollution and improving air quality, cycling or walking decreases noise pollution, too.
Tip 3: Make Responsible Seafood Choices
“Avoid eating large fish like tuna or swordfish more than once a month,” suggests April Blake, a naturopathic physician in One Medical’s Larkspur office. Instead, eat smaller fish that are caught or farmed responsibly. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch and the Environmental Defense Fund both recommend healthy, eco-conscious choices and list fish to avoid.
Why it’s good for you: Small fish like sardines are high in heart-healthy omega-3 fats and extremely low in environmental contaminants. Large, predatory fish carry higher amounts of trace metals such as mercury and lead, industrial chemicals (PCBs and dioxins), and pesticides, than smaller fish. Explains Blake, “The more you eat big fish, the higher your risk of developing toxic levels of these substances in your body. At high levels, these toxins can contribute to a number of health concerns, including hypertension, dementia, and inflammation.”
Why it’s good for the earth: Many of our oceans are being overfished and there are many unsafe practices around fishing that pollute the oceans, harm marine life, and disrupt the natural environment. Choosing sustainable seafood choices helps support a viable marine ecosystem.
Tip 4: Avoid Antiperspirant
Blake’s second Earth Day health tip: “Use deodorant without antiperspirant.”
Why it’s good for you: “Antiperspirants contain aluminum, which has been linked to heavy metal toxicity, neurological diseases, hypertension, and many other diseases,” says Blake.
Why it’s good for the earth: The process of extracting aluminum is toxic to the environment and to the workers who extract it.
Tip 5: Don’t Wear Perfume or Cologne
Finally, says Blake, “Use essential oils instead of commercially produced perfume or cologne.”
Why it’s good for you: Perfume and cologne contain harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, aluminum and many substances that can contribute to allergies, rashes, asthma, headache, fibromyalgia, and many other health conditions.
Why it’s good for the earth: These chemicals are toxic to humans and to the environment.
Tip 6: Kick Chemical Cleaners to the Curb
“Use a greener cleaner,” urges Kohar Der Simonian, MD, who practices at One Medical’s Financial District — Clay office in San Francisco. She explains: “After squeezing the juice from half of grapefruit, dip the rind in coarse salt, and then rub the salt-covered grapefruit over bathroom and sink fixtures. After scrubbing, rinse everything away. Your bathroom will smell citrusy clean!”
Why it’s good for you: You’ll avoid harsh cleaning products that are bad for your skin and bad for the environment.
Why it’s good for the earth: The citric acid in the grapefruit dissolves dirt, grime and water stains, and the salt disinfects and scrubs the surfaces–sans toxic chemicals.
Editor’s Note: What are some of your favorite eco-friendly health tips? We’d love to hear from you!