There are a lot of eco-friendly lists out there, especially fluffy, feel-good suggestions for greening your life by changing light bulbs. In this issue, we provide 10 ways you can really, actually, truly make a difference. None of them are easy, but all of them have an added bonus: they’re good for you. Healthier personal choices lead to a healthier planet.
If you want to step up your green game, here’s how you can help save the planet:
Support renewable energy. Even with the recent boom in natural gas, fossil fuels won’t last much longer, and they’re doing irreparable damage to the planet’s health and our own. Without renewables, our species doesn’t stand a chance. Vote with your dollars, too. Switch to socially and environmentally responsible mutual funds and investments, especially ones that support solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal energy. Demand that your schools and employers—and your government—do the same. Divestment campaigns are taking place at university campuses across the country, and representatives on both sides of the aisle support ending fossil fuel subsidies.
Buy less stuff. Spend your money on what matters most: nutritious food, clean water, and a healthy lifestyle enjoyed with family and community. What else do you really need?
Protect public lands. Wild places aren’t just for the animals, nor are they simply playgrounds for wealthy recreationists. They are essential to all of our health. Public lands protect drinking water for most of the Eastern U.S., and they are essential to sustaining healthy soil, air, and food for everyone.
Eliminate plastics. It’s not just BPA to worry about. The replacements for BPA are just as toxic. Virtually all plastics are potentially poisonous. Plastics are made from petrochemicals—your plastic spoon and water bottle are basically congealed oil. Most of the synthetics used in plastics production have never been tested for human safety, and the few that have are endocrine-disrupting, estrogenic, and potentially carcinogenic.
Eat a local, organically grown, mostly plant-based diet. Sound too radical? It’s what human beings have been eating for at least two million years. Our caveman ancestors mostly gathered fresh fruits, vegetables, roots, and nuts for their calories; meat provided less than 15% of most Paleolithic diets. And our agrarian ancestors were all organic farmers who ate what was in season. Only in the past 50 years have we shifted to an industrial diet of processed foods and factory-farmed meats, and as a result, one-third of the world is obese and even more are suffering from dietary diseases.
It comes down to this: prioritize health over cheap crap (whether plastics or fast food or fossil fuels), and you’ll save the planet, money, and lives—including your own.