5 Personal Reasons to go Green
Going green isn't completely altruistic, there are very real pragmatic and selfish reasons to do so
Being environmentally friendly is no longer just for hippies and environmentalists. It is increasingly becoming a necessity in our modern world if we want to live healthy lives while preserving our environment. Thankfully, it is now a growing movement being supported by incredibly passionate and gifted individuals who have shared tips, created products and inspired us with their life stories, so that we can now embark on this lifestyle switch ourselves.
For myself, the journey towards being green was born out of curiousity (you guessed it), but initially it revolved around the subject of health. As a clinicial, I'm always concerned about the health and well-being of patients and was taught how to treat people with medicines and treatments. But as much as I respect the roles they play in modern medicine, I felt that people were beginning to have an over-dependence on medicines and treatments to correct common health problems. They were relying on doctors and health professionals to deal with their health for them, rather than take a more proactive stance in managing their health. So I watched a few shows, read a few books, did some research and realised that the old proverb “you are what you eat” is indeed true. If everyday we are putting in food full of toxins and preservatives, we end up being poisoned by what we eat. The converse, that if we consume natural, organic and nutritious food, we will be energized.
But here’s the catch, it’s more than just food. The waters we swim in, the air we breathe and the environment around us affects us too. But all these things are being rapidly destroyed by human’s careless need for materialistic gains and unbridled greed. In the very near future, we are going to have more plastics in the ocean than fishes, more land and water scarcity, and even trouble finding safe and unpolluted air to breathe. Upon realising this, my focus shifted, and I saw that there is so much that needs to be done to correct this course of ecological degradation and climate change. This was when I found my reason to go green.
Many different people find different reasons to go green, some people may have been influenced by their close friends and family, while others may want to make big changes in the world. Whatever it is, you will eventually find your own reason. But to help you along, I’ve summed up 5 personal reason why you should consider going green:
1. Eating green is healthier for you, and for the planet.
Eating green can mean many things, but it's more than just eating your broccoli, it means eating in-season foods, local and organically grown foods, food without plastic packaging and ideally little or no meat. We all know that eating greens are good for you, but not many people know that one serving of kale contains more calcium than one serving of milk. Eating more greens isn't just great for your skin, it also improves your energy, reduces your risk of cancer and allows you to build your body more efficiently. There are so many vegan bodybuilders and sportsmen/women out there showing you living proof that it works. In Singapore, we only have one hot sweaty summer season, so growing food from other seasonal climates will be a challenge for us, but instead of relying on externally imported food, we can also support our local growers and buy from them, this also makes it easier to avoid plastic packaging and reduce your carbon footprint because less transport is required to bring the food to the table.
By eating organic, it also supports organic practices of growing without dangerous pesticides that damage our health and the soil, allowing long term usage and natural turnover of the soil without dangerous chemical runoffs than upset eco-systems. Lastly, avoiding meat and having a vegan diet can drastically reduce your environmental impact, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use (Joseph Poore 2018).
One more thing about eating food with less plastic packaging, is that it reduces the risks of plastic leeching into your food. Think about it, you were told not to pour hot water into a plastic bottle, right? So why are you eating your favourite yong tau foo noodle soup out of a thin plastic take-away container? Such forms of plastic leech bioactive chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, and these chemicals (which are petrochemical derivatives) have serious long-term endocrine disruptive effects on the body and researches are barely keeping up with the multitude of health problems arising from just low exposures of such plastic substances. Here's just one summary of how bad plastics are to the human health.
It'll probably already be enough for you change your mind about plastic packaging when you're ordering your take-away lunch!
2. Green cosmetics are safer for you, and the planet.
Your skin, being the largest organ in your body absorbs up to 60% of chemicals you apply on it daily. The average woman applies up to 12 products a day and 168 unique chemicals daily. Some of these chemicals, although already tested for safety are still known to have endocrine disruptive effects on the human body because they are also (like many plastic compounds) synthetically derived from petrochemicals. Some common examples include parabens, phenoxyethanol, benzophinone, polyethelene glycol (PEG). Most of them are hormone disruptors, some known irritants and some are even carcinogenic. Another problem with cosmetics are plastic microbeads, as if applying them on your face isn't bad enough, they are washed into our drains, bypass the filtration systems, break down into micro/nanoparticles and end up in our oceans and fishes, then eventually coming back to our stomachs. Only a few countries have taken action to ban the sale of such products, we need to take action and actively avoid them in our own daily lives.
3. Living green is more cost effective.
Switching to energy saving bulbs and water saving faucets will directly reduce your electricity and water bills. But beyond that, switching to renewable energy sources is also cheaper and will consistently be that way. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reported that the cost of generating power from onshore wind has fallen by around 23% since 2010 while the cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity has fallen by 73% in that time. With further price falls expected for these and other green energy options, all renewable energy technologies should be competitive on price with fossil fuels by 2020.
Living green also means living with less waste, this eventually results in more optimization of resources and less money spent on unnecessary things, win-win for you and the environment don't you say?
4. Having a greener environment improves the air quality, which keeps you healthier
Nowadays, it's not just carbon dioxide we have to worry about, there are dangerous amounts of nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and sulpher dioxide polluting the air we breathe, resulting in 7 million deaths worldwide per year. Up to 90% of people now breathe polluted air, increasing our risk of asthma, lung cancer and heart disease.
But on the bright side, did you know one tree can remove 26 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually, equaling 17,000 km of car emissions? Trees have a big role to play in improving our air quality and helping to control the climate warming effect due to rising greenhouse gas levels. It is wise to incorporate more pollution fighting plants in your home and work space to improve your health and also your productivity levels. In addition to improving air quality, having well-designed green spaces and urban green buildings can significantly reduce the temperature of the immediate environment, reducing the need for our reliance on air-conditioning systems that only make our external environments even hotter.
5. Live a happier life
Studies have shown that greener cities where people have more access to nature also result in their residents being happier and less depressed. This is because green cities encourage people to have a closer connection to the natural world, allowing them to be more appreciative of the natural scheme of things while tapping on nature as a source of enrichment and inspiration. Developing a greener lifestyle is not only about making changes in your habits and actions, it also changes your mindset and outlook about life around you. Recognizing that everything you have has a carbon-footprint makes you be more selective about what you spend your time on, allowing you to prioritize what you truly need or what really brings you joy, which very often is related to experiences and relationships rather than material possessions. This process makes people much less materialistic, and they will no longer pin their happiness on money or material things, because we all know money can't buy you happiness, no matter how much of it you have.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it's a good place to start if you're new to this journey. I will be writing a part 2 to this post with more reasons for you to consider going green. In the mean time, I encourage you to be curious, ask questions, learn more and read all that you can! Let's all be the change and go green together!