Every April 22 — Earth Day — people across the globe join together to show support for the planet and reaffirm our collective responsibility to be good stewards of the environment. Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to rethink daily habits, assess our environmental footprint and make changes.
The health of our planet and the health of humans are inextricably linked. Luckily, there are plenty of small steps you, your family and your community can take to celebrate Earth Day every day.
When we contribute to keeping our planet healthy, we take care of our own health as well. To help you navigate the path to more sustainable living, Dr. Angie Neison, a board-certified family medicine, lifestyle medicine and culinary medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group offers five simple ways to support planetary health and your own health:
Eat a plant-forward diet.
According to Dr. Neison, a plant-rich diet is a win for your health and Mother Earth.
“Less water, land, energy and resources are used when eating plant-forward,” she explains. “Including more plant-based foods and less meat in your diet is one easy way to help reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and improve your health too.”
You can start slowly by embracing the Meatless Monday trend. Eat less meat or swap out meat for more sustainable proteins, such as beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, or soy one day of the week.
“Reducing meat consumption — even if you use half ground beef and half mushrooms for a burger — will not only help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer but also help heal the environment,” Dr. Neison says.
Electrify your home.
Switching to electric appliances is an essential step toward a more sustainable future. Most homes in California burn methane gas or propane for space heating, water heating and cooking. These gases are fossil fuels, which significantly contribute to climate change and local air pollution.
Gas appliances can also create indoor air pollution from burning fossil fuels in a closed environment. A 2013 analysis of more than three dozen independent studies found that exposure to gas stoves increases a child’s asthma risk by about 42%.
“By switching to electric appliances, you’ll reduce pollutants like carbon monoxide that can contribute to respiratory and other health issues,” Dr. Neison says.
Choose produce wisely.
Look for local, in-season produce, which will likely have higher nutrient density profiles, taste better and have a lower carbon footprint. If the produce is out of season, consider swapping for another seasonal item, or frozen or canned options instead.
Out-of-season foods have a larger carbon footprint due to the additional heating, lighting, water and pesticides required to grow them.
“Keep an eye out for signs at the grocery store that say ‘in season’ or ‘local,’” Dr. Neison says. "Consider visiting farmers markets to support local farmers, or you can even grow your own produce.”
Reduce plastic use and waste.
You’ve seen the plastic litter on the side of the road, plastic bags blowing in the wind and disposable cups floating in waterways. These single-use plastics clog up our rivers and streams and break down into microplastics that are harmful to the environment and to human health. The aquatic ecosystem swallows these microplastics, and they end up in our food supply.
There are many ways you can reduce your plastic waste. Bring a reusable bag when you shop, opt for packaging-free fruit and vegetables, and bring your own take-out container or reusable water bottle.
Walk or bike when possible.
One of the biggest sources of harmful emissions in California is the transportation industry, which accounts for approximately 40% of the state's atmospheric pollution. Spare the air and, if you can, walk or bike to your destination. It’s a great way to save money and reduce emissions of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Ditching the car and going on foot or riding a bike can also help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Committed to your health and the health of the environment
As an industry leader, Sharp continues to invest in innovative, socially responsible sustainability projects and to transform work practices to reduce our impact on the environment. Through our systemwide initiative called All Ways Green™, Sharp is committed to sustainability efforts, such as energy efficiency, water conservation, waste minimization, sustainable food practices and commuting solutions for our workers.
Additionally, Sharp was the region’s first health care provider to choose 100% renewable energy for eligible accounts. Sharp was also the first health care system in San Diego County to offer electric vehicle charging stations for employees and visitors.