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Your Health, Our Climate

The National Institute of Health recommends that lifestyle intervention should be the first line of treatment for many chronic health problems. In thinking about climate change as a chronic condition, there are practical, inexpensive lifestyle changes we can make that will benefit our health and our climate.

For each video in our "Living in a Warmer World" series, we offer one suggestion for a practical lifestyle change that is good for our health and for our climate wellness. Consider adopting some of these practices as a family, with friends, or with members of your religious community. These small, affordable changes can make a big difference when we do them together!

Week one. "Climate Change as a Chronic Condition"

Meatless Mondays. In association with the Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative of The Monday Campaigns. Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel. Pledge to go meatless this Monday and join the growing number of individuals, families and institutions pledging to improve their health and the health of our planet.

For great recipes and more information, go to

Week two. "Small Changes, Big Impacts"

Food Choices. One of the most powerful tools we have to reduce the size of our ecological “footprint” and achieve climate wellness is by addressing the way we eat.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, "Food production has a pervasive impact on the environment. About 60 percent of our country's land area is devoted either to crops or to livestock grazing... Then there are the effects of fertilizers, pesticides, animal wastes, and erosion on water quality, not to mention... air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from energy use."

So what can you do? (source: Small Planet Institute)

Choose Real Food. Walk into any supermarket and you'll see shelves lined with products bursting with trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, and additives whose multi-syllabic names can make you go cross-eyed. Each of these ingredients takes tremendous amounts of energy to create. Choosing real food-fresh, whole food-is a way to choose nourishment that's not only good for your body but good for the planet, too.

Don't Panic, Go Organic. Research has shown that kids fed a diet of non-chemical foods have-big surprise-fewer traces of chemical residues in their bodies. Also, new research is documenting that organic farms can emit as much as half the carbon dioxide as chemical farms. Organic farms also use much less fossil fuel energy than their conventional counterparts, in many cases as much as one-third less. And organic agriculture can provide a critical carbon sink, sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. In fact, 10,000 medium-sized organic farms can store as much carbon in the soil as we would save if we took one million cars off the road.

Action Point: Support your local organic farmers, and consider joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program--or starting one in your congregation!

Week three. "Working Together, Locally and Globally"

Bike, Bus or Train. St. Francis of Assisi said, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” In this short phrase, St. Francis speaks to the importance of aligning our actions with our values. With that in mind, challenge yourself to ride your bike or take public transportation to work or school at least once a week. In addition to being good for the environment, the extra exercise from biking and walking will be good for your health!

Week four. "Climate Change Tipping Points"

Rethinking stuff. Most of us have more stuff than we reasonably need in order to live happy, healthy, and meaningful lives. Rethinking our relationship to stuff can help us simplify and have a lighter carbon footprint. Do you have things that you don’t really need? Give them away to a local charity. Are you planning to buy something new? Consider buying something that has been gently used, instead. Going one step further, challenge yourself: is that new purchase something you really need, or can you go without?

Week five. "Know Your Sources"

Choose green power. In some parts of Texas, the electricity market is deregulated, which means that you have the power to choose your provider.

In deregulated areas, the state’s “Power to Choose” website can help you compare providers—and by selecting renewable options on the left-hand side of the site, you can find providers who offer electricity generated by clean, renewable energy sources.

In other areas of the state, many providers have green options; call your provider to explore renewable energy options, and tell them you support green energy for a cleaner, healthier planet and people.

Week six. "Preserving Diversity"

Local Plants. If you have a yard, transition to plants, trees, and grasses that are native to the area and require less water. Consider, too, adding native plants that are sources of food; native fruit and nut trees can help supplement your family’s food intake, and you can donate extras to local food pantries to help those in need.

Some plants, too, can help provide food for wildlife in your area—consider adding flowering plants, for example, to support struggling bees and butterflies. Work with your congregation’s grounds volunteers to make some of these changes at your house of worship.