Win-Win: 5 Tips that Benefit You and the Planet

This time of year, it makes sense to tune into greener living, what with Earth Day making an appearance in April and spring greens popping up all around us. Take the time to appreciate and preserve the beauty of earth while simultaneously improving your own health with these simple and sustainable tips—remember, a healthier earth means a healthier you!

It can be tough to change your daily routine, but you’ll see an enormous payoff when you make the choice to live more naturally. Not only will you feel healthier, you will be more connected to your local community and environment. If you’re looking to live a long and healthy life, you’ll need Mother Earth on your side! Start with these 5 tips.

1. Filtered Water: Less Waste, More Health

Do you know what’s in your water? According to an investigation by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), there are at least 315 pollutants in the tap water Americans drink. More than half of these pollutants are unregulated chemicals for which no safety standards have been created. Where are these pollutants coming from? Industry, agriculture, pollution, and runoff from urban and suburban sprawl are the biggest contributors. In traditional Chinese medicine, water is viewed as a strong symbol of the life that exists on our planet because it nourishes land, plants, and people throughout its journey. Likewise, this is the same life force that flows within the channels of our bodies, so protecting our water supply is crucial.

Start by protecting your water at home with a filtration system that uses carbon-based filters. The EPA has designated carbon as the best current technology for filtering out volatile organic compound (VOCs) like formaldehyde and other harmful chemicals. Consider trying the Aquasana Water Filter that I recommend for your home. Use your own reusable glass or stainless steel water bottle to carry your filtered water around with you, instead of using the plastic bottled water. As it turns out, bottled water has been found no healthier than tap water—plus all those bottles add up to a real waste problem. Reduce stress on the earth while you nourish yourself!

2. Eat more Organic, Local Food

Most people can’t afford to eat organic produce all the time, and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) understands that. If you want the health benefits of eating organic without sacrificing your entire budget, focus on the foods that matter most to purchase organic. The EWG created a list called the “Dirty Dozen” that acts as a guide to the twelve fruits and vegetables that have the highest pesticide levels in them: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines (imported), grapes (imported), sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries (domestic), lettuce, and kale or collard greens. By buying organic versions of these foods, or avoiding them altogether, you can reduce your pesticide exposure by almost 80 percent! And when you reduce your exposure to pesticides, you’re taking action to help support a healthier earth.

3. Diversify Your Diet to Eat Safe

In addition to organic and local fare, make sure that you are eating a variety of unprocessed whole foods and grains. This will help offset your risk of unknowingly ingesting large quantities of toxins from an unsafe food product. While most foods on the market shelves are safe to eat, there are plenty of cases where harmful substances get into the food. Take for instance the chemical arsenic, which has been showing up more frequently in food. A recent study by Dartmouth University found that 2 out of 17 baby formulas contained unhealthy levels of arsenic; it turned out that the arsenic was actually in the formula’s primary ingredient, brown rice syrup. (Arsenic is more likely to be found in grains like rice because it requires high levels of water and pulls chemicals from the soil.) Don’t let this news frighten you—you can help protect yourself by making sure that you’re sourcing your daily nutrients from a variety of fruits, vegetable, and grains. Diversify your diet and you won’t have to worry about the ill effects of one bad food product.

4. Go for Green Cleaning

Another way to reduce your impact on the earth is to use more natural cleaning products at home. Conventional cleaners may look and smell bright and shiny, but they leave toxic residue around our home, produce poisonous runoff that affects the water supply, and waste plastic along the way. Because the manufacturers of these products don’t have to label all of the ingredients on these products, they generally don’t—so you may not even know what you are getting into. Switch to cleaning products that have a list of recognizable ingredients and don’t contain words like “danger” or “poison” on the label. Or, better yet, make your own low-impact cleaning products. They clean your home just as well, without the health concerns. To make your own all-purpose cleaner, mix ½ cup vinegar, ¼ cup baking soda, and 2 liters of water in a spray bottle. Many more natural cleaning tips will be featured in an upcoming article!

5. Choose Organic Cotton

Spring clean your wardrobe and green your bedroom by buying organic cotton. According to the Sustainable Cotton Project, conventional cotton is so heavily sprayed that is uses about 25 percent of the world’s insecticides and over 10 percent of the pesticides. These chemicals are still present when you purchase your cotton products. Buying organic cotton is really an investment in the health of you, your family, cotton farmers, and the earth.

I hope you follow some of these tips to benefit you and the earth!

You can find more ways to live a long and healthy life in Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways to Live to Be 100, which is now available on Kindle. In addition, The Natural Health Dictionary makes a great companion to your quest for longevity. It is a comprehensive guide that answers all your questions about natural remedies, healing herbs, longevity foods, vitamins, and supplements.

Follow me on Twitter to get insider tips and to ask your health questions.

May you live long, live strong, and live happy all year long!

—Dr. Mao

This blog is meant to educate, but it should not be used as a substitute for personal medical advice. The reader should consult his or her physician or clinician for specific information concerning specific medical conditions. While all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that all information presented is accurate, as research and development in the medical field is ongoing, it is possible that new findings may supersede some data presented.

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