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Want to protect the planet, its resources and boost your health at the same time? Adopt these super-healthy lifestyle tweaks.
Climate change is a contentious issue. A recent (and widely criticised) report from the Climate Commission claims the gradual heating of the planet, through greenhouse gases, will lead to heatwaves and droughts, food scarcity and greater incidence of disease. Whatever your stance on the issue, acting now to help the health of the planet will also bring tremendous benefits to your body.
Here are five ways you can take action for a healthier future.
1 Ride a bike
The average family car produces 2.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, according to the Australian Conservation Foundation. The benefits of riding a bike are two-fold: you'll boost your fitness and reduce greenhouse gases. You may not be able to cycle everywhere, but even short, local rides will help reduce fossil fuel use and pollution – linked to increased allergies and lung diseases – and get you fitter.
2 Grow your own food
Climate change scientists claim rising temperatures and increasing drought may put pressure on food supply. At the same time, chemical use for mass production destroys our environment. It's estimated that there are more than 100,000 kinds of synthetic chemicals in use, and around 200 to 1000 new ones are added each year. Whether you live in a house, or an apartment, grow a few of your own veggies and herbs, without using pesticides, in a small plot or in pots. Easy ones to start with are mixed lettuce, basil, Chinese greens and tomatoes.
3 Make your home energy efficient
Very hot days and heat waves can lead to lethargy, heat stroke, renal failure, heart attacks and even death, says Anthony McMichael, Professor of Population Health at ANU College of Medicine, Biology and Environment. If your home isn't built to take advantage of natural cooling breezes, try planting trees that will shade you from the heat, or use curtains or blinds to block out the hot sun. Ceiling fans are also an energy efficient way to cool your home.
4 Learn about food safety
Climate change scientists say infectious diseases including gastroenteritis may multiply if our planet heats up. In the supermarket, The Food Safety Information Council suggests you shy away from food that is past its use-by date, even if it's a bargain. After shopping, make sure to separate raw meats, chicken and fish from salad vegetables, fruit and other non-cooked foods before serving to avoid cross-contamination. When cooking chicken, always ensure that it is cooked right through to kill bugs and bacteria. Refrigerate or freeze food as soon as it stops steaming – never leave it on the bench top overnight. And check that your fridge is set to 5 degrees Celsius or below.
5 Know how to cope in an emergency
Leading ecologist Professor Lesley Hughes, of Macquarie University, says state governments need to put in place measures warning people about how to cope with extreme weather events such as heat waves, bushfires of floods. "In floods, for example, water supply is affected and people need to boil water to avoid disease," she says. The Rural Fire Service, the Red Cross and your local council can all offer advice on what to do in an emergency right to protect yourself and your family.