ECO-HABITS WE LOVE
Get in The Bike Lane
IT’S BODY-BOOSTING BECAUSE … Over the past few years, much of the Western world has been colloquially diagnosed with ‘sitting disease’, which is linked to heart disease and obesity. Technology is making our lifestyles increasingly inactive, but taking a few simple steps (or pedals) to get moving can help. “It’s so automatic … that if we want to go anywhere, even if it’s just a few minutes away, we hop in cars,” says Adria Vasil, an environmental journalist and author of the bestselling Ecoholic series. “We’d all be healthier if we hopped on bikes instead.” A 2016 study found that those who commute to work by walking or cycling have less body fat and a lower body mass index. IT’S PLANET-PLEASING BECAUSE … “If we try to bike to work or to the store instead of hop in a car all the time, we’re not just going to be helping our waistlines; we’re going to be slashing our carbon footprint in a massive way,” says Vasil. About a third of all greenhouse gas emissions in Australia are from transportation, cars making up 46 per cent of these emissions. Reducing even a fraction of our carbon footprint can go a long way.
IT’S BODY-BOOSTING BECAUSE … You’ve likely heard the call to rid yourself of antibacterial hand soaps that are waiting to wreak havoc on your microbiome, but don’t stop there. Vasal says that she has found antibacterials on the ingredient lists of toothpastes, deodorants, acne products and dry shampoos.
In the US, 19 antibacterial ingredients, including triclosan, have been banned by the FDA for lack of evidence that they are safe or effective. There are calls for triclosan to be banned in Australia, New Zealand and other countries, too. And it isn’t just personal care products: cleaning products also contribute to the problem. Microbiologist B. Brett Finlay, who co-authored the book Let Them Eat Dirt, says our oversanitised world is a contributing factor for conditions such as asthma, allergies, diabetes and obesity. “We have to respect these microbes and understand that they’re part of us,” he says.
IT’S PLANET-PLEASING BECAUSE … Just as our bodies thrive on healthy bacteria, so does the environment, says Vasi l. Research shows that when all those antibacterial ingredients go down the drain, they affect the fish, plants and other aquatic life downstream. “You don’t want to throw that ecosystem off,” she says. Triclosan has received a lot of attention in recent years for its toxicity to aquatic life, where it winds up in fish and stays there. It is also suspected to be a hormone disrupter in humans. If you’re still feeling a little germophobic, Vasil recommends wiping surfaces with vinegar, which has natural antibacterial properties.
Don’t Sugar-Coat It
IT’S BODY-BOOSTING BECAUSE … Lately, sugar has been getting a bad rap – and for good reason. Not only does the white stuff contribute to obesity but, according to a review of research published in 2010, the consumption of sugary drinks may also be linked to an estimated 184,000 adult deaths each year worldwide. Try eating more fruits to satisfy your sweet tooth. IT’S PLANET-PLEASING BECAUSE … When Vasil sees people lined up around the block for the latest sugary fad, she has one thing on her mind: the planet. “Sugar cane plantations have led to some of the biggest losses of biodiversity in terms of any single agricultural product,” explains Vasil. Translation: our environment, plants and animals all take a hit. When you have a hankering for sweets, Vasil encourages looking for organic and fair-trade versions of sugar and considering honey as an alternative.
Be An Earth-Itarian
IT’S BODY-BOOSTING BECAUSE … And here’s some sad news for our bacon-obsessed world: meat might make your mouth water, but it’s not so great for the rest of your body. In 2015, the World Health Organization made headlines by classifying processed meat as a carcinogen and labelling red meat as a probable carcinogen because of its associations with colorectal, stomach, pancreatic and prostate cancers.
More recently, researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia found that meat is as bad as sugar when it comes to contributing to global rates of obesity. Healthy vegetarian diets, on the other hand, have
been associated with a reduction in weight and blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. IT’S PLANET-PLEASING BECAUSE … Our carnivorous ways contribute to carbon emissions – big time. A 2006 United Nations report found that cattle rearing was responsible for more greenhouse gases than transportation. The massive carbon footprint stems from deforestation used to create pasture, as well as the bodily emissions of the livestock. Swapping your usual serving of meat for plant-based protein options such as nuts, seeds and legumes can have a big impact. US biological research found that, while eating a 230-gram steak produces the same amount of pollution as driving a small car about 47 kilometres, a vegetarian substitute equals driving only about five kilometres.
IT’S BODY-BOOSTING BECAUSE … So you got rid of all your bisphenol A (BPA)-containing water bottles and canned foods – plast ic problem solved, right? Not so fast. According to Lindsay Coulter, the David Suzuki Foundation’s green-living expert, many of those plastic containers that boast a ‘BPA-free’ status are actually filled with another chemical, bisphenol S (BPS), which may be equally problematic. “Researchers are finding that those are still hormone disrupters,” says Coulter. And since these oestrogen-mimicking compounds are connected to weight gain, it’s no surprise that a 2016 study published in Endocrinology linked BPA-free plastics (containing BPS) to fat cell formation. When it comes to water bottles and food storage containers, Coulter recommends switching to stainless steel or glass. IT’S PLANET-PLEASING BECAUSE … In a 2014 study, many BPA-replacement plastics were found to still leach chemicals with oestrogen activity, especially when they were exposed to ultraviolet rays. The potential effects of all these endocrine disrupters have been scientifically documented. In the aquatic environment, the effects have been observed in seals, birds, alligators, fish and molluscs, where there have been changes in everything from reproduction to immune function. It’s a risk so big that it incited hormone experts to write an editorial in a 2013 edition of Endocrinology arguing that these chemicals pose a threat to human health and the Earth’s ecosystems.