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Healthy Planet Monday

Published

In honor of Earth Day, April 22, here are some green activities you and your family can try throughout the year. A healthy planet is vital to sustaining healthy and happy lives.

  • Eat less meat. On average, it takes 20 times the amount of fossil-fuel energy to produce conventional beef protein than plant-based protein, according to a 2003 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. A 10-year study of over 500,000 people found high intake of red and processed meat was associated with significantly higher risks of overall mortality, cancer mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality. For some meatless meal ideas, go to www.meatlessmonday.org.

  • Walk or bike to work. According to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, biking five miles to work on four days a week prevents 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. If everyone in the country did this, America's carbon footprint would decrease by 5 percent. Moreover, walking or biking to work improves individual health. A 2009 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that active commuting to work was positively associated with fitness for both men and women. For men, active commuting was also inversely associated with BMI, obesity, triglyceride levels, blood pressure, and insulin levels.

  • Take the stairs. The Arizona Commerce Authority estimates that going up and down three flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator for a month saves the same amount of energy that is used to power a 40-inch digital TV for 2 hours. While skipping the elevator is associated with only this modest decrease in energy use, taking the stairs for only 8-12 minutes per day can translate into significant benefits for your personal health. A study of 69 originally sedentary adults in Geneva who exclusively used the stairs over a 12 week period found significantly increased aerobic capacity and decreased waist circumference, weight, fat mass, diastolic blood pressure, and LDL cholesterol.

  • Green your routine. Many ingredients in common personal care products (soaps, lotions, hair care products, antiperspirants/deodorants, make-up, sunscreens) have been associated with environmental damage such as the infiltration of toxins into water, soil, and air or bioaccumulation. To find more environmentally-friendly products, check out the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database (www.cosmeticsdatabase.com). This extensive list of cosmetic ingredients, brands, and products was compiled using published scientific literature in order to rate their relative safeties as well as health and environmental concerns they may raise.

Every Monday, the Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Project, part of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, offers tips for preventing disease and injury, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Check back each week for new tips or visit our archive.