Environmental Wellness

Environmental Wellness 

Environmental wellness is all about living in harmony with the earth to support good health. This means being aware of how our actions and choices impact the environment and taking steps to minimize any negative impacts

Environmental wellness is a key component of overall well-being. We are going to explore what environmental wellness means, why it matters, and simple ways to incorporate eco-friendly habits into your lifestyle. 

What is Environmental Wellness? 

Environmental wellness is about living in tune with the natural environment to support health and well-being. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), environmental wellness involves[1]

  • Being aware of how your actions and choices affect the environment
  • Making sustainable, eco-friendly choices to minimize your environmental impact 
  • Appreciating and spending time in nature 
  • Contributing to the health of your community and environment 

Essentially, environmental wellness is about forming a respectful and nurturing relationship with the natural world. It’s understanding that human health is intertwined with the health of the planet. When we make choices to protect and preserve the environment, we also promote our own physical and mental well-being. 

Why is Environmental Wellness Important?

There are many reasons why environmental wellness should be a priority[2][3]

Protects ecosystems and biodiversity 

The choices we make each day—from the products we buy to how we dispose of waste—have a cumulative impact on the natural environment. Practicing environmental wellness helps protect ecosystems and biodiversity. 

For example, making sustainable food choices helps maintain soil health and protects the habitats of plant and animal species. Minimizing waste reduces pollution. Overall, greener living shields the intricate balance of nature. 

Prevents climate change

Environmental wellness directly helps mitigate climate change. The burning of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions drive climate change. But we can curb these environmental stressors by driving less, eating local and plant-based foods, and being energy efficient. 

Even basic changes like recycling and green transportation make a measurable difference in reducing your carbon footprint. 

Promotes public health 

The health of the planet directly influences human health and well-being. Air pollution triggers respiratory illnesses. Chemical pesticides and toxins in foods are linked to diseases. 

On the flip side, spending time outdoors in natural environments lowers stress hormones, blood pressure, and heart rate. Environmental wellness promotes public health by reducing pollution and providing access to green spaces. 

Saves resources for future generations 

Practicing environmental wellness conserves resources like water, fossil fuels, trees, and minerals for future generations. Green living minimizes the depletion and destruction of natural resources. It helps create a more sustainable world for our children and grandchildren. 

Creates healthy communities 

Green spaces and environmental wellness support healthy communities. Urban parks, gardens, and nature trails provide free, accessible places to relax, exercise, and connect. 

Green neighborhoods with less pollution and waste foster better physical and mental health. Overall, environmental wellness lays the foundation for vibrant, resilient communities. 

Clearly, environmental wellness is multifaceted. It offers benefits for humans and nature alike. 

As Aldo Leopold stated, “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” With environmental wellness, we can heal our relationship with the land. 

10 Simple Ways to Practice Environmental Wellness 

Making even small changes to minimize your environmental footprint can positively impact the planet. Here are 10 easy ways to go green and practice environmental wellness[4]

Reduce food waste

About 40% of food in the U.S. goes uneaten, ending up in landfills to produce methane[5]. Be mindful of what you buy and compost leftovers. Eat leftovers, store food properly, and repurpose ingredients. Meal planning helps reduce waste. 

Choose sustainable foods 

Support organic farming methods and eat locally grown, seasonal produce. This preserves biodiversity and reduces your carbon footprint. Limit red meat, which has a large environmental impact. Buy sustainably caught seafood. Grow some veggies or herbs at home. 

Save energy 

Turn off lights and unplug devices when not in use. Use Energy STAR certified appliances. Wrap your water heater and insulate your home. Adjust the thermostat (lower in winter, higher in summer). Open windows instead of blasting AC. Limit driving by walking, carpooling, or taking public transit. 

Save water 

Be aware of your water usage. Take shorter showers, turn off the water when brushing your teeth, and only run full loads of laundry and dishes. Install low-flow faucets and showerheads. Fix any leaks. Collect rainwater for gardening. 

Reduce, reuse, recycle 

The three R’s are key! Avoid single-use plastics and disposable items. Bring reusable bags when shopping. Repurpose or donate unwanted items instead of trashing them. Recycle everything you can. Compost food scraps and yard waste. 

Choose green cleaners 

Many conventional cleaning products contain toxic chemicals that get released into the air and water supply. Opt for non-toxic, eco-friendly cleaners instead. Check out brands like Mrs. Meyer’s, Seventh Generation, and Ecos. You can also make your own using ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and lemon. 

Use renewable energy 

Make the switch to clean energy sources. Install solar panels to harvest the sun’s energy. Select a wind or hydroelectric power provider. Ask your utility company about renewable energy options. Offsetting fossil fuel use shrinks your carbon footprint. 

Grow plants

Add more green to your space with houseplants and garden beds. Plants naturally filter air pollution. Outdoors, grow native flowers, shrubs, and trees that benefit pollinators and birds. Gardening also connects you with nature and is therapeutic. 

Choose sustainable transportation 

Walk, bike, carpool, or take public transportation as much as possible. When driving, choose a fuel-efficient vehicle. Try an electric or hybrid car. Maintain vehicles well to maximize fuel economy. Limit flights, which have a huge carbon impact. 

Support environmental causes 

Get involved with local conservation groups working to protect green spaces. Volunteer for park or beach cleanups. Urge lawmakers to pass climate policies through petitions, calls, or protests. Donate to nonprofits advancing sustainability. Spread awareness about environmental issues. 

No matter how busy you are, there are easy, painless ways to green your routine. Adopt habits that reduce your carbon footprint, conserve resources, and promote ecological wellness. Tiny changes make a measurable difference! 

Enhancing Urban Well-being: Exploring the Role of Green Spaces in Mental Health

Appreciating Nature and The Great Outdoors 

A core part of environmental wellness is spending quality time in nature. Research shows that immersing yourself in natural settings provides remarkable benefits for both physical and mental health. Here are just a few of the perks: 

  • Boosts immunity: One study found that people who took walks in the woods had a 50% increase in cancer-fighting white blood cells compared to people who walked city streets[6]. Forest air is filled with phytoncides released by trees that support immune function. 
  • Reduces stress: Walking in nature decreases the stress hormone cortisol, as well as lowers heart rate and blood pressure, according to multiple supporting studies.[7][8] 
  • Elevates mood: Research shows that getting outdoors boosts energy and happiness levels. Sunlight exposure increases serotonin, your “feel good” neurotransmitter.[9] 
  • Improves focus: Natural environments can improve focus and memory by 20%, studies suggest. Being in nature replenishes mental resources.[10] 

Clearly, spending time among trees, sunshine, and animals does our bodies and minds good. But with busy schedules, many people don’t get enough nature time. Make outdoor activities a priority for the whole family several times per week. Here are some ways to soak up the benefits: 

  • Take morning or evening strolls through your neighborhood, beach, or local park
  • Go hiking on nature trails on weekends 
  • Have a picnic lunch at a garden, lake, or waterfall 
  • Sit outside to read, meditate, or do breathwork 
  • Try forest bathing, a Japanese practice of mindfully immersing in nature using all five senses 
  • Do yoga or tai chi outdoors 
  • Plant a vegetable or flower garden and spend time tending it 
  • Observe wildlife like birds, butterflies, and squirrels 
  • Walk a dog outside rather than just going out to potty 

Aim for at least 20-30 minutes per day in a natural setting. But even 5-10 minutes on a walk or sitting outside makes a difference. Tuning into the sights, smells, and sounds of nature is instantly grounding. Daily nature time nourishes our mind, body, and spirit. 

Promoting Environmental Wellness in Your Community 

Practicing green habits at home is an important start, but creating real change requires a community-wide effort. This may involve volunteering, educating others, or advocating for local policies that support ecological wellness. 

Here are some ideas for promoting environmental wellness at the community level:

Start community gardens 

Work with neighbors, schools, or nonprofit groups to start community gardens in vacant lots, abandoned buildings, or other available green spaces. Gardens provide access to organic produce while reducing food transportation miles. They support self-reliance and give people a connection with nature. 

Organize park or beach cleanups 

Rally friends, family, co-workers or students to regularly pick up litter in local parks, beaches, hiking trails, rivers, and other recreation areas. Cleanups beautify the space while preventing trash from polluting waterways and harming wildlife. They boost a sense of environmental stewardship. 

Support farmer’s markets 

Advocate at town meetings or through petitions to establish weekly farmer’s markets where local farms can directly sell produce, baked goods, honey, and other items. Purchasing locally grown food reduces reliance on big agriculture and long-distance transport of goods. 

Install public green spaces

Work with town councils to re-purpose abandoned lots and buildings into community green spaces. These could include urban gardens, nature parks or trails, outdoor classrooms, and picnic areas. Green spaces provide free access to the mental and physical benefits of nature. 

Advocate for greener policies 

Attending town meetings and writing letters encourages officials to adopt policies that promote ecological wellness. This may include increasing public transit options, installing bike lanes, implementing compost and recycling programs, using renewable energy in public buildings, or reducing the use of toxic pesticides in public areas. 

Educate the next generation 

Volunteer at local schools to teach kids about recycling, gardening, renewable energy, and other environmental topics. Starting eco-friendly habits young helps cement them for life. Education cultivates the next generation of environmental stewards. 

Organize neighborhood swaps 

To reduce waste, organize events where neighbors can swap lightly used items like books, clothes, toys, and household goods rather than throwing them out. Swaps foster community and reuse. They help minimize pollution and resource use by giving items a second life. 

The actions of individuals matter, but transforming communities requires collective effort. Get energized by environmental wellness initiatives that unite people to create system-level change. 

Implementing Green Solutions in Cities

Maintaining Hope and Resilience 

With climate change and pollution threatening ecosystems, it’s easy to feel anxious or hopeless about the fate of the planet. Facing the reality of environmental destruction is painful. But the key is to transform that pain into positive action. 

When channeled properly, painful feelings ignite our innate passion to protect what we love – the wondrous natural world that sustains all life. The goal is to harness that energy to courageously take responsibility for healing our environment. Pain overcomes apathy, while hope inspires change. 

Here are tips for maintaining hope and resilience while caring for the planet: 

  • Process eco-anxiety through journaling, talking with others, and spending time in nature. Don’t let it overwhelm you. 
  • Focus on local environmental progress more than global problems. Celebrate small wins. 
  • Take nature breaks to renew your energy and remember what you’re fighting to protect.
  • Surround yourself with a community of like-minded people working towards sustainability. 
  • Be grateful for environmental victories, no matter how small. Find beauty in natural places thriving through regeneration. 
  • Visualize the world you wish to create, and take steps each day to manifest it. Believe deep transformation is possible. 
  • Allow yourself to feel sad over damage to the planet while not losing faith in nature’s powers of healing. 
  • Forgive yourself and others for past mistakes. Blame wastes energy. Progress stems from learning and collaborating. 
  • Balance pragmatism with idealism. Have a grand vision but take incremental, practical steps. 
  • Take care of your health. You can’t help the planet running on empty. Make self-care a priority. 

When dark feelings arise, remember your love for nature. Let pain give birth to hope and action. With concerted effort, we can restore ecological balance and leave a thriving planet for future generations. What matters most is taking the next step. 

References 

[1] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Creating a Healthier Life: A Step-By-Step Guide to Wellness. SAMHSA Publications, n.d. 
https://store.samhsa.gov/product/Creating-a-Healthier-Life/SMA16-4958

[2] Ronen, Tammie, and Dorit Kerret. “Promoting Sustainable Wellbeing: Integrating Positive Psychology and Environmental Sustainability in Education.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 17,19 6968. 23 Sep. 2020, doi:10.3390/ijerph17196968 

[3] Hou, Menghan et al. “Greening tourism with environmental wellness: importance of environmental engagement, green tourist intentions, and tourist' environmental stimulus.” Environmental science and pollution research international vol. 30,33 (2023): 79846-79860. doi:10.1007/s11356-023-28052-4 

[4] Linder, Noah et al. “Pro-environmental habits: An underexplored research agenda in sustainability science.” Ambio vol. 51,3 (2022): 546-556. doi:10.1007/s13280-021-01619-6 

[5] Neff, Roni A et al. “Wasted Food: U.S. Consumers' Reported Awareness, Attitudes, and Behaviors.” PloS one vol. 10,6 e0127881. 10 Jun. 2015, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0127881 

[6] Sifferlin, Alexandra. "The Healing Power of Nature." Time, 
https://time.com/4405827/the-healing-power-of-nature/, Published Date: July 14, 2016, 6:14 AM EDT.

[7] Ewert, Alan, and Yun Chang. “Levels of Nature and Stress Response.” Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 8,5 49. 17 May. 2018, doi:10.3390/bs8050049 

[8] Kobayashi, Hiromitsu et al. “Combined Effect of Walking and Forest Environment on Salivary Cortisol Concentration.” Frontiers in public health vol. 7 376. 12 Dec. 2019, doi:10.3389/fpubh.2019.00376 

[9] Watson, Stephanie. "Serotonin: The Natural Mood Booster." Harvard Women's Health Watch, https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/serotonin-the-natural-mood-booster, Published Date: July 20, 2021. 

[10] Berman, Marc G et al. “Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression.” Journal of affective disorders vol. 140,3 (2012): 300-5. 

doi:10.1016/j.jad.2012.03.012