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Healthy Choices Are Good For Our Health And The Planet

Written by: Zoe Crimmel


Choices that better our health have a large chance of also helping the planet. Driving a car versus riding a bike or walking, eating a burger versus a salad, and so many other daily choices lead to longer-term effects. Our choices hurt or help our carbon footprint, which is the impact our individual choices and activities have on the planet. Individuals believe that the actions that precede the moment they purchase their food do not affect their personal carbon footprint. Can a simple life change really make that big of a difference? 


From the farm to your table, the steps it takes for food to be grown, processed, shipped, and stored all impact the planet and your health. The meat industry is among the highest polluters in the world. Carbon-capturing trees are cut down to make space for farm animals, harmful pesticides are used on crops for animal feed, and manure management which releases high levels of methane into the atmosphere and pollutes water systems (USDA.gov).


People who eat predominantly red meat diets also have higher risks of suffering from diabetes, stroke, or heart disease throughout their lives (mayoclinic.org). High-quality red meat is costly and not easily accessible to many. This isn’t to say that a vegan or plant-based diet is “risk-free” or has complete zero-emission production. However, plant-based foods require less land, energy, and water compared to the meat industry. They are also more cost-effective because you get more food for your buck. Simple food additives like nuts, fruits, seeds, and vegetables provide your body with vitamins and minerals that red meat does not. This leads to malnutrition which plagues the world in all corners and leads to many diseases. All of this can be avoided with a simple diet change that, along with positively affecting your body, saves the planet from the millions of tons of greenhouse gasses being pumped into the atmosphere by the meat industry. To read more about the health impacts of both meat and plant-based diets from the Mayo Clinic, click here.


If chicken nuggets are your favorite meal, don’t panic. This doesn’t mean going strictly vegan for the rest of your life. Humans are omnivores, meaning a mixed diet of meat and plants could be a great compromise. Not eating meat-heavy meals three times a day and sometimes opting for a more plant-based meal and even entirely plant-based meals every few days can make the difference. Starting small and taking a slow approach to diet changes is also important. Don’t just jump into the deep end. Starting with a meal or two a week that can be predominantly plant-based or even fully plant-based if you are adventurous is a great way to find your perfect mixed diet.


Walking or biking versus taking a car, taking the stairs versus the elevator, and choices that involve just a bit more movement not only better our waistline and health but lower our carbon footprint. According to the CDC, being physically active is good for weight management and many other health aspects. Physical movement improves brain health, reduces your risk of disease, strengthens bones and muscles, and improves your ability to do everyday activities with a lower risk of injury. Choose to take a walk, get outside, and enjoy the fresh air and the sunshine. When the human body receives fresh air, sunlight, and the feel of nature, serotonin is released (mcleanhospital.org). Connecting with the earth benefits us in ways no medicine can replace. 


Reconnecting with the true roots of where we all came from is the true way to heal the distance electronics and being indoors have brought to the human race. It will heal you, and it will heal the planet little by little every time you choose to be outside rather than inside a car or a vehicle. Again, decide to take it slow. Small walks here or there to start off and get your body moving again. Not everyone’s changes to lower their carbon footprint will look the same and it doesn't have to. Make the steps that you can and slowly but surely finding movement routines that work for each of us is something that over time can be accomplished to fit our schedules, situations and lifestyles.To read more from the CDC, click here.

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