Michigan Association of Health Plans

3 Earth-friendly Habits with Health Benefits

This story appeared in Priority Health’s ThinkHealth Blog. Read more here.

Earth Day comes around once a year, but you can help the planet year-round while keeping yourself healthy, too.


Last year, we celebrated Earth Day with a list of habits that are good for you and the earth. This year, we’re back with a few more ideas. Here are three more ways you can improve your health while taking care of this lovely planet we call home.

Give gardening a go. Did you know gardening counts as aerobic exercise? It’s actually a great way to burn calories and get your heartrate up. Gardening is also linked to lower stress levels, better heart health, increased strength and flexibility and even a decreased risk of dementia—just a few reasons to put on those gardening gloves and dig in. But there are so many ways gardening is good for the planet, too. Pollinator gardens are trending in recent years as a way to help local bee, butterfly and other pollinator populations. Ask around at your local greenhouse for native plant suggestions your pollinators will appreciate. Growing your own produce is a fantastic way to reduce your farm-to-fork impact and incorporate more veggies and greens into your diet, plus opting not to use pesticides or weed killer in your own garden keeps toxic runoff out of the environment. That’s like a win-win-win-win situation.

Go meatless. Factory farming is one of the biggest contributors to pollution, with some studies finding that the production of one kilogram of beef produces 30 kilograms of greenhouse gases. Luckily, meatless Mondays have become a lasting trend for many families, while countless others have opted to give up meat in meals altogether. And with so many delicious meat-free recipes available, you might not even miss it. Going easy on the beef is also good for your health; heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., fueled by the saturated fat found in animal products. If you want to take things a step further, swap cow’s milk for oat or soy milk (almond milk, while tasty, uses a lot of water to produce, making it less earth-friendly) and sub nutritional yeast or vegan cheese for regular cheese in recipes.

Quit smoking. It’s no secret smoking is bad for your health. According to the CDC, smoking causes 480,000 deaths per year—that’s one in five. And 90% of all lung cancer deaths and 80% of all COPD deaths are caused by smoking cigarettes, not to mention your risk for heart disease skyrockets if you smoke. Unfortunate news flash: Did you know smoking is also pretty bad for the earth, too? All of those cigarette butts you see littering beaches and sidewalks account for 38% of all collected litter. That’s over one third of the earth’s collected trash! And, because cigarette filters are made of plastic, they don’t biodegrade. Not to mention, the chemicals in cigarettes like arsenic and lead eventually leech into the environment, contaminating the soil and waterways. When you quit smoking, you’re doing both your body and the earth a huge favor. Seriously. So, if you’re ready to quit, see if your health plan has any smoking cessation programs as part of your benefits. Whether you have employer-sponsored health benefits or an individual plan, odds are your health plan can help.

We can all do our part to make the world greener, our water safer and our air cleaner. This Earth Day, consider making your health and the health of the planet your priority 365 days a year.

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