Earth Day, April 22nd, is a day dedicated to raising awareness about the health of the planet, dating all the way back to 1970. Not surprisingly, many of the things we do to keep our bodies healthy can also keep our planet healthy.
Here are a few ways to make self-improvement a healthy, earth-conscious alternative to an Earth Day parade.
Make friends with your food
Food is probably our most primal connection to the earth and the natural world. Thinking about the food we eat is an important first step to making healthier choices.
- Grow your own.There is something about planting a seed and seeing it grow—gardening teaches about food through time and experience. It also has been shown to help promote healthy eating habits. A “Pizza Garden” is a fun way to start and to get experience with easy-to-grow tomatoes as well as peppers and herbs.
- Visit a family farm. This may be an eye-opening experience. Visiting a farm is like looking behind the curtain on food production. It’s not all about the veggies, either. Many small farms are home to goatherds, pigs, lambs, cows, chickens, turkeys, and even rabbits. The manure from the animals is often composted and used to naturally fertilize the crops.
- Go fishing (or fish-watching). Fish is healthy protein alternative to red meat or pork. It has significantly less saturated fat than meat and is rich in omega-3 fatty acid. In addition to the health benefits of eating fish—like reducing the risk of heart disease associated with red meat diets—going fishing is a way to relax and connect with nature. It’s not just for the piscivores.
- Take a (food) hike. While foraging for food is not necessarily recommended unless you have expert plant identification skills, becoming aware of the edible plants underfoot can be rewarding in its own right. It is also a good excuse to go for a leisurely hike in the woods.
Extra tips and benefits
- Test your soil (you can get a kit at Home Depot, Lowe’s or contact your local extension office).
- For city dwellers, container gardening is a viable option.
- Join a CSA to get regular farm-fresh produce and meat.
- SeafoodWatch.org is a good resource for choosing seafood that’s fished or farmed in ways that have less impact on the environment.
- For inspiration, check out urban forager Pascal Baudar’s Instagram.
Reclaim your (lived) environment
Environmental stress can directly impact your general sense of well-being. Environment, as in your home. It’s the clutter in the living room, the disorganized closet. And not so directly, it’s the shock of a gas bill in January that. A little awareness and TLC can help make your living space a happy place while reducing your environmental impact.
- Reduce, reuse, recycle! Remember the ‘Three Rs’? Clearing out junk—and limiting the stuff you buy—is good for your mental health, the environment, and your wallet. Before putting it in the trash, consider donating items (like clothes or furniture) or find out if it can be recycled in your area.
- Clear the air (and test the water). Did you know that some common houseplants can detoxify the air in your home? Plants also help to create a more relaxing environment. While we’re talking about the air, don’t forget to test your water.
- Do an energy efficiency audit. You may literally be throwing money out the window. Check for leaks around windows, doors, and plumbing. Go to your local hardware store and ask about caulk and weatherstripping products.
Extra tips and benefits
- Recycle e-waste (it’s toxic if it gets in the groundwater!). Call to see if a pick-up service is available in your community.
- Give a second life to thingamajigs. Check out these 30 ways to repurpose old stuff for ideas (love what you can do with a ladder).
- Get the Krazy glue out or duct tape or nails, whatever it takes. Feel better about not wasting money on replacing the darn thing if you can fix it yourself.
- Track your steps while you clean. You may be surprised at the exercise you get from hauling junk.
- Consider replacing old bulbs with LED lights to save more on your energy bill.
Reconnect with Community
Earth Day wouldn’t exist without the coming together of people in the name of a cause. Connecting with the community is both good for your health and the environment.
- Organize a neighborhood cleanup day. Have you heard of the broken window theory? It’s the same with one banana skin carelessly discarded on the street or sidewalk. If your neighborhood doesn’t already have a regular clean-up day, be the hero and organize one.
- Throw a Green Party. It doesn’t have to always be serious. Simply hosting an event to get the word out is a good way to starting conversations and making connections with like-minded people.
- Join a local gardening club. Maybe you don’t have space for a garden or the time to maintain one. A community garden is a great place to socialize with neighbors while doing a healthy outdoor activity.
- Plant a tree. Lay down some roots where you live. Years later your legacy will (hopefully) provide shade and beauty for you and your neighbors.
Extra tips and benefits
- Check out the Arbor Day Foundation for information on planting trees (and getting free trees if you sign-up for the membership).
- Use biodegradable or compostable flatware and plates for your next neighboorhood BBQ.
- Start a neighborhood walking club or running group. Social support helps people stick with exercise programs.
Finally, green your mind & body
More ways going green can do good for your mind and body:
- Turn of devices (not just the TV!) to decompress
- Find a quiet place outside to stretch and practice breathing
- Ditch the car and grab the bike
- Take time to prioritize what really matters to you
Not everyone can do all the things to be the Greenest Citizen Ever! Hopefully, this is some food for thought on how some small lifestyle changes can improve your overall health and wellbeing by reconnecting with the environment.
Share your favorite green wellness activities in the comments below!