On World Health Day, Protect your Planet AND your Health

Apr/07/2022 / by Pratika Yashaswi

Featured Image credit: World Health Organization

On this year’s World Health Day, we look back at more than two years of fighting COVID and its resultant ills while another variant is emerging in the UK. Yet, another problem has grown to be more urgent and proximal. Global warming—and the repercussions promise to be as lethal and fatal across the world.

Two billion people worldwide don’t have access to clean water, and 829,000 people die of diarrheal diseases caused by polluted water and poor sanitation. As global temperatures rise across the world, the global south and smaller island nations have already begun to experience natural disasters and human death at a massive scale from localized epidemics, floods, famines, and forest fires.

Air pollution, plastic waste, and factory farming are just a few things that affect both our and the earth’s health. But it doesn’t just stop there. The very industrial practices that fuel our lifestyles and our food chain poison our bodies and the earth’s ecological balance at the same time. Thus, the theme for World Health Day is Our Planet, Our Health.

Everything we do for our earth, we do for ourselves also. Here are some of the things you can do to get started on a lifestyle healthy for you AND the planet.

Place plants around your home

Plants add vitality to your home, making them so much more than mere decor objects. They improve the relative humidity of indoor air, and some even purify it. You can even grow your own vegetables and herbs in your yard or microgreens in your kitchen sill. You can then use the organic waste leftover from cooking as fertilizer. There are easy fruits and vegetables for beginners, such as tomatoes and basil, and your family will benefit from consuming the pesticide and GMO-free crops you can use in your cooking.

“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

Follow Michael Pollan’s sage advice. By saying “Eat Food,” he was not being redundant. A lot of what we get from products packaged by fast-moving consumer brands would not qualify as food as they are chock full of preservatives, sugars, and dangerous chemicals that harm the body. [According to the WHO][https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/2022], “…Systems that produce highly processed, unhealthy foods and beverages are driving a wave of obesity, increasing cancer and heart disease while generating a third of global greenhouse gas emissions.” “Eat food” means to eat real food–vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and, yes, fish and meat–and to avoid what Pollan calls “edible food-like substances.”

Buy your groceries fresh from farmer’s markets or local producers to help both the local economy and your gut—and don’t eat anything that comes out of a packet if you can afford to.

Adopt a plant-based diet at least a couple of days of the week.

In 2012, livestock and poultry grown in the largest animal feeding, slaughtering, and transporting operations in the United States produced 369 million tons of manure or almost 13 times the waste of the entire U.S. population. Instead of being treated in sewage plants like human waste, animal waste is left to be absorbed in the ground at a rate slower than it can be absorbed, leading to the poisoning of water sources. Further, up to 162,000 people die per year in the United States due to antibiotic-resistant infections, most likely caused by eating meat that has been treated by antibiotics. So, try to eat a plant-based diet as much as you can—it’s good for both the environment and for you.

Eliminate plastic from your house—and your diet

Plastic takes over 500 years to decompose, and the question of incinerating or recycling it is a complex and costly one. They lie around in landfills for years, and sun exposure causes them to fragment into microplastics, making their way into our food systems and the oceans. Thus, microplastics make their way into our stomachs by leaving their residue in water bottles, food storage containers, and more, putting our health seriously at risk. Eliminate plastic—it isn’t easy, but it’s possible.

Quit smoking

It goes without saying that smoking is terrible for you. Most of us are trapped by our habits, and admittedly, smoking is a hard one to kick. But cigarette butts are far worse for the environment. Cigarette butts are the most significant form of plastic waste globally, with 5000 billion cigarette butts containing more than 4000 toxic chemicals being littered every year. According to tobaccopreventioncessation.com, ”Studies show that even rats avoid the areas where cigarette butts are found. Nicotine poisoning or occlusive syndrome was described in young children and domestic animals. Other studies also showed river, ocean or coastal pollution by metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or nanoparticles with toxicities on animals and plants, impacting the entire food chain down to humans.”