With Earth Day fastly approaching, I have been pondering what should I write about. A list of 10 items on how to be kinder to the Earth? Earth Day announcements from various not for profits helping to make our world a better place? A gift guide to help you to change the world via your wallet or purse? None of these concepts seemed to resonate with me for this day.
Over the last couple of weeks, three people that I know had heart attacks. Some are close to me and others I know through others. The last in a series of three, died. Although, I did not know him personally, he was a vital and giving member of my community. He was young (46) and in good health (so I thought), and left behind a family of four children. One day here, the next day gone. It has rocked my little community.
This weekend after hearing the news, I took pause with my own life and thought how could people turn inward to enjoy the beauty and simplicity of the Earth on such a special day? Most importantly, how can we take this time to honor our own lives by taking care of ourselves. I knew that taking care of the Earth absolutely crossed path with taking care of ourselves.
Take the Time and Walk
Consider walking to do your errands rather than drive. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the #1 killer in the United States. Not only does walking help to make your heart healthy and helps to clear your mind, it reduces your carbon footprint.
Errands too far? Consider walking with a friend during lunch or after dinner. Enjoy the smells of nature all around you. Want to start, but don’t have a walking pal, consider the American Heart Association’s Start! walking site. Create your own walking path and find sole-mates to walk with.
Eat Organic Food
We live in a fast paced world. Grabbing food on the run and failing to eat a healthy diet. Not only has our diets lead to an increased level of obesity and diabetes, we are poisoning our bodies with food laden with pesticides. The Environmental Working Group states
“As acknowledged by the U.S. and international government agencies, different pesticides have been linked with a variety of toxic effects, including:
* Nervous system effects
* Carcinogenic effects
* Hormone system effects
* Skin, eye and lung irritation
Pesticides are unique among the chemicals we release into the environment; they have inherent toxicity because they are designed to kill living organisms – insects, plants, and fungi that are considered “pests.” Because they are toxic by design, many pesticides pose health risks to people, risks that have been acknowledged by independent research scientists and physicians across the world.”
Children are at utmost risk due to the impact of pesticides on their tiny immune systems. Buying organic food may not be an option for some of us. It can be more expensive. Knowing this, the EWG prepared a list of 47 fruits and vegetables ranking them based on the load of pesticides. See the list here. Out of this list, the EWG recommended buying only organic when purchasing the Dirty Dozen Plus, which contain the highest load of pesticides. (For more information about the EWG’s shopping list, see here.)
Make your Home a Safe Haven
According to the EPA,
“In the last several years, a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities. Other research indicates that people spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. Thus, for many people, the risks to health may be greater due to exposure to air pollution indoors than outdoors.”
(For further information about Indoor Air Quality, see here.)
There are several factors which create poor indoor air quality such as increase levels of radon, formaldehyde in building products and furnishings, lead, mold, pesticides, carbon monoxide, tobacco smoke, and asbestos in our homes. Exposure to these chemicals can increase our likelihood of asthma, cancer and developmental disorders in our children, just to name a few. (See the EPA’s listed health effects for the above chemicals.) Buy building products that are SMaRT , Green Seal, or GreenSpec certified or thoroughly research their chemical content.
There are additional chemicals that we continue to expose ourselves to in our personal care products such as 1, 4 Dioxane, formaldehyde and others. The FDA does not regulate the cosmetic industry. Before buying any personal care product, be sure to check out its level of toxicity on the EWG’s Skin Deep database, which contains over 42,000 products in its database. (Suggested reading: Stacy Malkan’s “Not a Pretty Face.” Quite an eye opening book. Believe me, it is not a pretty picture.)
To make matters worse, we are making our houses tighter to reduce our energy consumption,and thus, increasing our levels of exposure. Consider increasing your ventilation through an energy recovery system.
Get Adequate Sleep
Everyone needs a good night sleep to feel refresh in the morning. According to Rubin Naiman, PhD, who stated the following in his interview:
“Recent research has discovered critical links between inadequate sleep and a broad range of health problems including infections such as colds and flu, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer. Compromised sleep is known to be a critical factor in accidents ranging from ordinary motor vehicle mishaps to major disasters. Insomnia and sleep apnea also predispose us to clinical depression. In fact, a year of insomnia is the strongest known predictor of future depression.” (via Andrew Weil, M.D.’s website)
To make matter worse, we spend 1/3rd o f our day sleeping on toxic mattresses full of formaldehyde, flame retardants,and polyurethane foam, a petroleum-based material. The Mother Jones’ article, “Should You Ditch Your Chemical Mattress?” revealed the following:
“In 2005, Walter Bader, owner of the “green mattress” company Lifekind and author of the book Toxic Bedrooms, sent several mattresses to an Atlanta-based lab. A memory-foam model was found to emit 61 chemicals, including the carcinogens benzene and naphthalene.”
To top it off (literally), we add permanent press, pesticide laden cotton sheets to the mix. Do I need to tell you which chemical is added to create those crisp permanent press sheets? Formaldehyde. Opt for a natural latex mattress or organic cotton one along with organic sheets. I have an organic cotton mattress which we purchased eight years ago and my son has a natural Vivetex latex mattress. (He did not like the cotton mattress and opted for a firmer mattress.) We both could not be happier.
I have always heard laughter is the best medicine. A University of Maryland study in 2000 revealed that laughter was good for the heart.
“The ability to laugh — either naturally or as learned behavior may have important implications in societies such as the U.S. where heart disease remains the number one killer,” says Dr. Miller. “We know that exercising, not smoking and eating foods low in saturated fat will reduce the risk of heart disease. Perhaps regular, hearty laughter should be added to the list.” Dr. Miller says it may be possible to incorporate laugher into our daily activities, just as we do with other heart-healthy activities, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator.”
Dr. Miller concluded that we should watch something funny or read something humorous so we will not take ourselves too seriously. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy laughing. Sometimes I laugh so much I wet my pants. (This is one of the downfalls of giving birth to four children. Urinary incontinence, to be polite.)
Count Your Blessings
Lastly, count your blessings everyday. We only have one life and one Earth. Cherish each and every moment of both. From both will spring bounty. And while you are at it, make an appointment for a physical, mammogram, or whatever test you should be taking for your age. Prevention is key.
Although I have barely touched upon how to take care of yourself in a Earthly manner, the above tips should get you going. This post is part of the Green Mom Carnival about our thoughts about Earth Day being hosted by Alline at A Passion For Green Business. Check out what all the other green moms and mothers of the Earth have to say.
How do you take care of the Earth and yourself at the same time?