While we're best known for our love of one particular type of ecosystem––the gut microbiome––we're huge proponents of ecosystems of all kinds, including the biggest, most diverse one we as humans are in contact with: the environment.
Just like our bodies, the environment functions best when it's in balance. Unfortunately, we're not quite there. Issues like pollution, depletion of resources, the rise of consumerism, and the "throw away" culture have led to serious issues. That being said, the fight's not over yet, and more people than ever are both aware of and active in the protection of the environment.
Your Actions Really Can Make a Difference
As the wonderful Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." So try one of these 10 simple steps to protect the environment today.
1. Bring your own bags.
It's such a simple thing to do, and so beneficial for the environment––bringing your own bags to stores not only helps cut down on the number of bags needed, and by extension the resources needed to create them, it also means that fewer bags get thrown away into our already-overfull landfills.
And yet, it's really, really easy to walk out the door without them. Our solution? Put your reusable bags right near something that you always grab when you go out the door, like your keys or your shoes. Better yet, keep some in your car. You never know when you might need one, and going reusable really does make a difference.1
2. Grow your own food.
It's not only a great way to avoid many of the common nasties that make their way into so much store bought food, plants help release much-needed oxygen into the air, and can also help replenish the soil, depending on which types of plants you're working with. Think you don't have room to plant a garden? Think again. There are many ways to grow food in containers in even the tiniest of spaces, so have fun experimenting (not to mention enjoying your guilt-free veggies and herbs!).
3. Spend time in your garden.
If you do have enough outdoor space to have a garden, try spending a little extra time in it. Doing so is good for your health in so many ways, from helping you maintain healthy stress levels to giving your immune system a little extra zing.
What's more, it means that you'll be cultivating plants (which do so much for our planet, when given half a chance), you’re surrounded by your own flowers instead of having to ship them in from halfway around the world, and you'll be able to cut down on your use of electronics. Who needs TV when you have a whole miniature world laid out for you in the garden?
If you have kids, spending time with them in the garden is a fantastic way to teach them about the environment and our role in caring for it, plus it’s the perfect way to diversify their microbiome!
4. Cut down on your energy use.
It's really easy to carelessly waste energy––leaving a light bulb on here and there, keeping the air conditioning on at home when you're out at work all day––but it all adds up. Try to cut down on your energy use by being conscious of how you use electronics. (Doing this will help you save on your electricity bill too, so win-win.)2
Looking for suggestions? Try switching out your light bulbs for energy efficient bulbs, only run the dishwasher and washing machine when they're full, and look out for "vampire" devices—electronics that keep using energy even when they're not in use, like microwaves, TVs, and printers.
5. Turn off your devices.
While you've got energy on your mind, consider turning off your devices for at least a little bit every day. Constantly having your phone or pad on the go means that you're consistently having to recharge it, which is energy use that we could do without. Plus, all that use means that your devices will wear out faster (and consequently will be discarded faster). Since many devices are not fully recyclable, that translates to heavy metals leaching into our soil and water. And, it's not good for your health to spend a lot of time looking at screens, so do yourself (and the planet) a favor and switch them off.3
6. Snag a reusable water bottle.
Staying hydrated is critical for your health, but don't do it at the expense of the environment. Besides being iffy for your health, plastic water bottles are really not great for the environment––parts of them can't be recycled yet, and they often end up being eaten by marine animals.4 What's more, it takes a lot of fossil fuels to make plastic bottles, so they're tough on the planet all around. Do your part to help out by using a reusable water bottle, ideally one that's made of glass or a non-BPA plastic so you don't have to worry about unwanted substances leaching into your water.
7. Try Meatless Mondays.
Our modern Western diet is actually an anomaly in the history of humanity. With its emphasis on processed, sugary foods and lots of meat, it's not very healthy for us, and it's definitely not very healthy for the planet. Try branching out into vegetarian and vegan recipes, which have come a long way in the past couple of decades. There are lots of delicious options, and you can enjoy knowing that your food isn't coming at a high cost to the planet or your health.
8. Choose local produce.
What's even better than a vegetarian meal? A vegetarian meal that's made with local produce. Eating local has become kind of a trend in the past couple of years, and for good reason: it's not only a good way to get some truly delicious food, it also lets you help out the people in your community who work hard to grow it, plus it cuts down on transport, which means fewer emissions and less packaging. If you're not sure where to start, try searching for a local CSA or see if there's a farmer's market near you.
9. Clean like your grandparents did.
While we've become accustomed to a certain level of cleanliness in our modern society, it's actually really overzealous. The harsh cleaning products we use without a second thought are not only terrible for the environment, they really do a number on your gut bacteria!5 So try to choose natural cleaning products instead, trade in your paper towels for cloth, and keep your cleaning products out of the water as much as possible so that they don't affect our already beleaguered marine life.
10. Use a natural sunscreen.
Finally, go eco-friendly even when you're soaking up the sun by using a natural sunscreen instead of the more common chemical-filled ones, since the chemicals found in many conventional sunscreens have been shown to have a devastating effect on ocean life, especially coral reefs.6
If you're wondering how something that's so harmful to coral reefs (which are, after all, made of hard materials) could be safe to put on your children, the answer is...it's not. The skin is a porous barrier, meaning that whatever you put on it can potentially pass through into your body. This is particularly concerning in the case of children, since their bodies in general are more delicate.
All simple, easy changes to make––and all with potentially world-changing cumulative impacts. As bleak as the environmental situation may sound sometimes, when even one of us makes a better choice for the environment, we all win. So join us in taking steps to protect the environment that does so much for us.
Together, we really can change the world.
1. Convery, F., McDonnell, S., Ferreira, S. 2007. The Most Popular Tax in Europe? Lessons from the Irish Plastic Bags Levy. Environmental Resource Economics 38(1). doi:10.1007/s10640-006-9059-2
2. López-de-Armentia, J., Casado-Mansilla, D., López-de-Ipiña, D. 2012. Fighting against Vampire Appliances through Eco-Aware Things. Innovative Mobile and Internet Services in Ubiquitous Computing. doi: 10.1109/IMIS.2012.112
3. Wilmer H.H., Sherman L.E., and Chein J.M. (2017). Smartphones and Cognition: A Review of Research Exploring the Links between Mobile Technology Habits and Cognitive Functioning. Frontiers Psychology 8(605). doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00605
4. Pruter, A.T. 1987. Sources, Quantities and Distribution of Persistent Plastics in the Marine Environment. Marine Pollution Bulletin 18(6). doi: 10.1016/S0025-326X(87)80016-4
5. Virant, F. S. (2015). Allergy in Children in Hand Versus Machine Dishwashing. Pediatrics, 136(Supplement).
6. Kim, S., Choi, K. 2014. Occurrences, Toxicities, and Ecological Risks of Benzophenone-3, a Common Component of Organic Sunscreen Products: A Mini-Review. Environment International 70. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2014.05.015
Rachel Allen is a writer at Hyperbiotics who's absolutely obsessed with learning about how our bodies work. She's fascinated by the latest research on bacteria and the role they play in health, and loves to help others learn about how probiotics can help the body get back in balance. For more ideas on how you can benefit from the power of probiotics and live healthier days, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter. To learn more about how a healthy microbiome can enrich your life, subscribe to our newsletter.