ECO-HABITS WE LOVE

Planet-friendly sug­ges­tions.

Reader's Digest Asia Pacific - - Contents - JILL BUCHNER

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.

Ditch Dis­in­fec­tants

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.

Ditch Plas­tics

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.

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