5 habits that are good for you and the planet

If you’re keen to do your bit for the environment, make a genuine difference with these lifestyle tweaks that will deliver a health kick for you, too.

It’s official: living an eco-friendly lifestyle is good for you.

When researchers in the US put the theory to the test by examining how 39 eco-friendly behaviours affected people’s life satisfaction and wellbeing, they found that all but two had a positive impact.

But that’s not the only thing that will get a boost – some good-for-the-planet habits can also lower your risk of heart disease, help you eat healthier and zap your stress levels.

And given it is World Environment Day on June 5, there’s no better time to make some changes:

Make the effort to recycle

Nearly 70 per cent of Australians already recycle on rubbish day, but if you’re not one of them, it pays to join the movement.

A habit that’s scientifically proven to increase happiness levels when you do it regularly, data shows that despite what one in three Australians thinks, at least 84 per cent of kerbside recycling actually gets recycled rather than going to landfill.

For best results – for you and the environment – don’t forget to “close the recycling loop” by buying products or packaging with recycled content, too.

tap water

Quit buying bottled water

The equivalent of one garbage truck full of plastic is dumped into the sea every minute, which means there’ll be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 if nothing changes.

So, eliminating as much of it as possible from your purchasing habits makes good sense.

And even though most plastic water bottles can be recycled, the production and distribution of bottled water requires much (much!) more energy than good old tap water.

What’s in it for you? Not only is bottled water often deficient in essential minerals, research shows that one in five bottles may also contain levels of harmful compounds that exceed World Health Organisation guidelines.

Grow your own vegetables

People with their own vegie patch eat better and exercise more as a result, according to a study by Western Sydney University researchers.

“Gardening not only improved people’s activity levels, they got a real kick out of eating the fresh produce they’d grown – and were more inclined to keep eating it as a result,” says study co-author Professor Tonia Gray.

As far as the environment goes, on top of eliminating food miles, home-grown produce also uses less water than commercially grown varieties, relative to the amount of food you get to harvest.

And because you’ve grown it yourself, research proves you’re less likely to waste it too – good news when you consider food waste is one of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters.

vegetarian eating

Eat less meat

And enjoy more plant-based foods, instead. It’s a switch that can lower your heart disease risk by as much as 25 per cent and your risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 34 per cent.

Research also shows that eating a plant-based diet offers some protection against several different types of cancer, too.

Plus, by going vegetarian at least five days a week, you’ll reduce your diet’s greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the water and land required to produce it, by around 45 per cent.

“Simply eating plant-based for a week saves as much water as not showering for six months,” says Lisa Chalk, of Animals Australia.

“And if people are concerned about animal welfare, choosing plant-based meals is the simplest way to save animals from being born into cruel systems.”

Spend time in nature

A new study shows that people who make the effort to do this at least once a week are more likely to do things – and keep doing them – that help protect the environment, like committing to recycling and taking part in conservation projects and activities.

The good-for-you health perk? Another new study found spending as little as 10 minutes in nature is enough to lessen the effects of both physical and mental stress.

Written by Karen Fittall.