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In honor of Earth Day, I want to remind you how the health of our planet and our own, personal health are related. Our bodies depend on the light/dark cycle of the sun, the air in our atmosphere to breathe, the water provided by our oceans and rivers, the food grown in healthy soil, the pollinating insects, and more natural phenomenon. It is so easy to forget all of this when we use electricity to give us light, get water from the tap, and simply go to the store to buy our food. I ask that you try to remember that we are, indeed, dependent on the workings of our Earth to simply survive.

Taking care of our planet is, simply, central to our survival. Unfortunately, there are so many things that affect our planet, and therefore, our health.

Air pollution, as an example, is linked to an increase in both morbidity and mortality. In the US alone, simply breathing our air is responsible for upwards of 30,000 deaths a year. Fine-air particulate matter enters the lower lungs and causes damage, leading to chronic disease of the lungs and the cardiovascular system. Air pollution contributes to cardiovascular disease, the number one cause of death in the US.

  1. BUY ORGANIC
    Yes, it is more expensive, but there is literally no better way to protect your health and your planet. When you buy organic, you are not ingesting toxic chemicals directly into your body and you are also directly affecting our planet.Conventionally grown produce is sprayed with herbicides and pesticides that are meant to protect crops from destruction by weeds and, well, pests. The downside of these chemicals is that they kill all bugs: those that might endanger the plants and those that are beneficial to our environment. These pesticides kill pollinators which are essential to the survival of our food. Scientists are increasingly concerned about the rapid loss of the honey bee population, which they have attributed to the wide use of pesticides. Additionally, pesticides kill microbes in the soil. These tiny bugs are essential to the health of the soil, including the nutrient content in the soil, which translates to the nutrient content of the food that is grown in that soil. There is quite a bit of evidence that organic produce has higher nutrient content than conventionally grown produce, simply because the soil in pesticide crops is just not as healthy.Organic produce also saves you from exposure to pesticides. We now know that
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  3. CURB YOUR CHEMICAL EXPOSURE
     
    This is a huge topic that I could write a book about. There are SO many toxins (80,000+) in use in our world and many are frankly impossible to avoid. We have an unprecedented exposure to a huge array of carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals. Some of these are ubiquitous and are even found in cord blood and infants at birth. It is without doubt that chemical exposure contributes to the sky-rocketing rates of cancer. In addition, exposure to chemicals, namely pesticides, phthalates, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been implicated in a national trend of declining semen quality and increased rates of testicular cancer and urogenital tract anomalies. In other words, our exposure to chemicals is affecting fertility.Buy Organic
     
    You can impact your own personal exposure by using only non-toxic products in and around your home. One large exposure is cleaning products- your dishwashing soap, laundry detergent, cosmetics, and cleaning products are highly toxic (even if they are “free and clear”). I rely heavily on home-made cleaning products like baking soda, vinegar, and water, I use Dr. Bronner’s castile soap for our dish soap, hand soap, and body soap, and diligently use Environmental Working Group’s Healthy Living app, which rates household and cosmetics products depending on toxicity level. This app is a genius way of purchasing safer products!
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  5. DITCH PLASTIC
     
    Say no to plasticPlastics contain many chemicals, including phthalates, as discussed above, BPA, and many others linked to health dangers.It is fairly easy to at least get rid of some of the plastic we use. You can buy reusable shopping bags, use a beeswax wrap in exchange for plastic wrap, buy a few glass tupperware containers and sealable silicone bags to replace plastic sandwich and storage bags. An extremely effective way to eliminate a lot of plastic waste is to stop using single use plastic bottles. Invest in a high quality water filter and stop buying water bottles. The up front investment might seem high, but in the long run, you not only save money, you will also get to drink purified water, which is not the case with the water you get out of a plastic bottle. Single use plastic bottles are the main way that we use are cleaning supplies, personal care products like shampoo, liquid soap, and lotions. Fortunately, you can find many of these products in bar form, sheet form (laundry detergent), and in refillable or glass bottles.For me, I have had to make a lot of changes to limit the amount of plastic that is used to wrap my food at the grocery store. Plastic is EVERYWHERE at the grocery store. It is important to bring your own reusable bags or choose paper. Opt out of using the plastic produce bags to keep your produce together or purchase some reusable cloth or mesh options and bring those to the store with you, too. The real challenge at the store is that nearly all packaged food comes in plastic: chip bags, the bags inside of cereal boxes, yogurt containers, meat and cheese are wrapped in plastic, bulk items, and even peanut butter and jelly come in plastic jars. If you have been paying attention to my articles, you know that the solution to a majority of this problem is to not buy those items and shop only the outer aisle of the store. That gives you produce (without the plastic bags), meats (if you get it from the butcher they wrap it in paper), and the dairy aisle (look for paper wrapped products and things in glass rather than plastic).

    Just these three changes can make a huge difference for the earth AND for your own, personal health. Yes, it will take time and energy for you to find new products and you might spend more money on some things (like organic produce) but you will spend less on others (baking soda and vinegar are cheap!). Save the earth and save yourself- all at the same time!

3 Ways You Can Save the Planet AND Your Health