Reston Hospital Center - April 22, 2019

More than 1 billion people in 192 countries will take part in Earth Day 2019, making it one of the biggest public service days of the year. It’s also a great day to make personal lifestyle changes that can benefit your health as well as the environment.

You can make a difference by selecting one or all of these five lifestyle changes. You can take any of these actions as a one-time Earth Day activity or build them into your daily life moving forward.

Eat less meat

Raising meat and poultry accounts for more than 60 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from food production. Eating meat also takes a toll on our health, leading to increased levels of cholesterol and saturated fat.

The good news is that if you do eat meat, you don’t have to give it up entirely to make a difference. You can have a significant impact just by cutting back on the amount of meat you eat. Try making Meatless Mondays a habit or finding other times throughout each week when you can substitute healthy grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits for meat.

Walk, bike, or take the bus

Every time you leave your car at home, you’re actively reducing pollution in your community. And, whether you substitute walking, biking, or riding public transportation, you’re almost guaranteed to get more exercise and improve your physical and emotional health.

You can start with one day a week, or by choosing one of your usual destinations — work, a store you frequent, or your place of worship — and opt for alternative transportation.

Ditch the packaged foods and head to a farmers’ market

Processed and packaged foods take more resources to produce, and transport, than locally grown food does. They also tend to contain added chemicals, trans fats, sodium, sugar and other unhealthy ingredients.

Replacing a prepackaged meal or snack with a fresh fruit- or vegetable-based alternative can have a huge impact on how you feel and on your long-term health. And buying fruits or vegetables at a local farmers market means you’ll have an even greater impact on the environment.

Visit the Farmers Market Directory from the U. S. Department of Agriculture to find your closest market.

Curb your chemical use

Did you know most commercially produced household cleaners and personal soaps and lotions contain chemicals that are bad for you as well as the environment?

You can take a couple of simple steps to reduce the amount of these toxins in your home. For instance, you can replace household cleaners with a simple, non-toxic mixture of vinegar and baking soda. For personal products, you can switch to brands without synthetic additives such as fragrances and colors.

Unplug!

Literally unplugging your devices saves energy and benefits the planet. And figuratively unplugging yourself from your electronics also has huge benefits: it frees you to take part in activities that are socially, emotionally and physically healthier.