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8 Eco-Friendly Lifestyle Resolutions for the New Year

Join the eco-revolution in 2022.


Now more than ever, it's important to include the planet in our resolution plans. Erik McGregor / LightRocket / Getty Images

As we welcome in the new year, many are thinking about resolutions – for ourselves, our families, our health, our lifestyle. Now more than ever, it's important to include the planet in our plans. Over the past 50 years, humans have more than doubled our consumption of natural resources, particularly in the United States.

Losing our resources is directly linked to our own health as well, as the World Health Organization reports that 13 million deaths annually and nearly 25 percent of disease worldwide are due to environmental causes. Climate challenges impact health issues like asthma, cardiovascular disease and stroke.

So, how can you do your part and live your best life while ensuring future generations will be able to live theirs?

1. Food Choices

Buying food locally will decrease costs and environmental impacts like production, processing, packaging and transportation. If you buy local food, not only will it be more fresh and packed full of nutrients, but you’ll also be saving the world from unnecessary fossil fuel use and excess packaging that will end up in a landfill.

Food that has to travel thousands of miles to reach your community has a large carbon footprint, due to plane travel, boat travel and truck trips. Buying locally ensures you reduce that impact while also supporting your area and its workers.

Meat production, specifically, destroys our environment by using massive amounts of water, polluting the air, emitting greenhouse gases and pulverizing natural wild habitats. This is why reducing your meat consumption is one big way to help the planet.

But it’s not just farm animals we need to be wary about. Seafood should be caught wild and not overfished. Avoid fish that comes from overpacked, farmed fisheries.

And no matter what you are eating, make sure you eat all of it. Nearly 40 percent of food in the U.S. goes to waste. Plan your shopping so that you consume all you purchase for more sustainability.

This year, when you think about filling your plate, choose foods that support rural communities, give animals a good life, provide farmers with fair pay, don’t include additives, and don’t harm the environment.

2. Conserve Water

With populations soaring, water use and demand is at an all-time high. And it’s not only dry, arid areas experiencing water shortages. In recent years, there have been shortages in suburbia as well, and even metro areas. Lawn maintenance, golf course production, and even use within the home, can cause shortages in your own neighborhood.

One weird way to combat this, resolution style, is to upgrade your yard and driveway with permeable pavements. These have porous surfaces, which catch rainwater and runoff, store it in their reservoir and slowly allow it to travel back to the soil. This establishes a hydrological balance, and reduces runoff volume, which increases ground water amounts and retention.

Other than that, shut water off between uses, hand water your lawn sparingly without an irrigation system, minimize your laundry by wearing clothes and using towels more than once.

3. Shop Less

Fast fashion results in cheap, throw-away clothes which litter our landscape and don’t break down. Making these garments creates a carbon footprint, through pollution produced during manufacturing. The fast fashion industry also fuels a human rights crisis —the cheap garments come at a heavy cost.

Before you buy something new, ask yourself if you actually need it, and if you do, does it need to be new, or can you buy a gently used version?

4. Alternative Transportation

In 2022, we’re looking at more electric cars on the road than ever. If you’re still driving gas, consider an upgrade because, as we know, car emissions are not only polluting the air at advanced rate, they are also warming the planet and atmosphere. They are also incredibly bad for our health, causing diminished lung function, asthma symptoms and cardiac problems.

While the federal government works to put laws into place to curb this pollution, you can change your own transportation choices. Cycle to work, or walk, and if you are too far, try using public transportation, carpools or working from home if it’s available.

If you do have the means to go hybrid or electric, you’ll save money on gas, in addition to minimizing your carbon footprint.

5. Green Home Updates

Green isn’t just for cars. Sustainable homes will cost you less money in the long run and help save our planet. Now more than ever, people are switching to solar panels for homes to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. To save energy around your house, make sure it is well insulated. While it will cost a little upfront, you’ll save on heat and air-conditioning too. Set your heat and cooling on only when you are home. Waterproof your home with caulk, seals or weather strips. Aerate your shower heads and faucets.

Consider vertical gardening for the outside of your home. Plants purify the air and reduce the ambient temperature. They also act as sound barriers. Homes surrounded by plants use on average 1/3 less air conditioning, too.

6. Avoid Single-Use Plastics

Do you really need to carry your groceries in a plastic bag, or sip that smoothie through a plastic straw? Nearly 50 percent of the solid waste worldwide is from single-use plastics.

Right now, plastics are swirling in our oceans, making up 40 percent of the sea surface. Thousands of marine creatures die by ingesting it or getting tangled in it. Seventeen billion pounds of plastic continue to leak into our waterway every year. And it never goes away.

But there are easy alternatives that can change your life in the new year. Beeswax wraps and bamboo cutlery are more easily degraded and reusable bags and water bottles could cut our waste down by a lot. Every year, 500 billion plastic bottles are sold. Imagine if they weren’t.

7. Recycle Electronics

In the 2020s, it’s impossible to imagine life without electronics and the information highway they allow us to access every day. But electronics have a negative impact on our health and our environment. Making them and shipping them creates industrial waste and uses massive amounts of water and energy. When we are done with them, if we throw them out, they end up in a landfill where their batteries and other hardware can leak toxins into the soil. To ensure safe disposal, hand your old electronics back to specialized centers that will recycle them, or return them to the original manufacturers.

8. Help Change Legislation

One of the biggest ways a single person can make a difference is by making their voice heard in their government, where decisions are made on a large scale for entire populations. Vote for representatives and leaders who will enact strong environmental legislation that will be sustainable for decades to come. Invest in future education, and policies that limit greenhouse gas emissions, protect wildlife, and solidify family planning services.

And don’t let it end with your vote. Follow up with your politicians in office. Remember, they were elected to serve you, and they base their decisions off what they think their constituents want.

This year do your best to join the eco-revolution. Remember that corporations and governments hold the greatest responsibility and the greatest ability to shift the planet away from climate destruction. However, with enough individuals making climate-forward lifestyle changes, we can reach the point of critical mass and potentially sway global leaders in business and government to change for the better as well.

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Coconut oil has solidified its place in our society’s health and beauty regimens in recent years, but what is all the fuss about? It’s a nutritious addition to your meal plans, but, remember to treat it the same way you would any other oil or fat source.

Keep in mind that coconut oil is a saturated fat, which means you’ll hit your typical daily limit with about two teaspoons a day. After that, switch to unsaturated fats, like virgin olive oil.

Health benefits associated with coconut oil stem from research using a formulation of the oil made from 100 percent medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which is not the formulation you will typically find on grocery store shelves, but grocery coconut oil has nutritional and immune value, as well.

1. May Boost Energy

The MCTs we talked about provide a readily available energy supply because instead of going through your blood to the tissues that need them, like muscle or fat, they go right to the liver, much like carbohydrates do. This energy boost is why MCTs have been used in sports products marketed to athletes. It’s important to note that not all triglycerides in store-bought coconut oil are MCTs, however. The oils also contain lauric acid, which is absorbed and metabolized like other long-chain fatty acids — more slowly.

2. May Help Burn Fat

Most saturated fats are divided into three groups: long-chain, medium-chain and short-chain. Coconut oil is special in that it includes those medium-chain triglycerides. There is evidence that MCTs can increase the number of calories your body burns, in addition to giving you that boost of energy.

Coconut oil fats are 65% MCTs, which may allow the body to burn fat faster. Excessive fat in the body can lead to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and even cancer. However, more studies are needed to show coconut oil’s weight loss potential.

3. May Keep You Feeling Fuller Longer

Another aspect of coconut oil that could lead to weight loss is that it fills you up. MCTs have been shown to help people eat less, possibly due to how the body breaks them down, producing ketones which can decrease appetite by altering hunger-inducing hormone levels. Again, more studies are needed to show that coconut oil, itself, can function in this capacity.

4. May Have Antimicrobial Effects

MCTs don’t just burn fat, they also have antimicrobial and antifungal properties. This is because they are made up of 50% lauric acid which helps defend against several types of harmful micro-organisms by preventing them from multiplying. Studies have found it can even destroy some harmful bacteria, in addition to slowing their growth.

In fact, oil pulling — a practice where people use coconut oil as a mouthwash — increases oral hygiene, according to studies. It reduces harmful bacteria in your mouth when compared to regular mouthwash. The lauric acid interacts with your natural saliva to form a soap-like substance that reduces plaque and gum inflammation, in addition to helping prevent cavities.

5. May Reduce Risk of Seizures

Studies have shown that a keto diet — high in fats and low in carbohydrates — can help treat epilepsy, and decrease the frequency of seizures by reducing the amount of glucose to fuel brain cells. While more research is needed, reducing carbs in your diet does reduce the glucose levels in your blood. The increased ketones can be used as an alternate energy source for the brain. Recent studies have found that the MCTs in coconut oil get transferred to the liver and turned into these ketones.

6. May Keep Skin Healthy

But coconut oil is not just for eating. Studies have found the oil boosts the moisture content of dry skin, and can even improve the skin’s function by helping to prevent water loss and protecting the skin from outside chemicals and allergens. It can also reduce symptoms of atopic dermatitis — a chronic skin disease in which the skin is inflamed due to defects in skin barrier function.

Pertinent to today’s world, one study found that just six drops of virgin coconut oil applied to the hands overnight can prevent damage caused by using alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

7. May Protect Your Hair

And it’s not only skin; coconut oil penetrates hair strands to make them stronger and more flexible which can prevent them from breaking. One study found that the oil actually nourishes hair. Say goodbye to that ponytail frizz and hello to luscious locks.

8. Could Reduce Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

In the same way that coconut oil’s MCTs provide ketones that defend against epileptic seizures, these ketones may also help ward off Alzheimer’s disease. They provide an energy source for brain cells that is not glucose, bypassing any damage the glucose could do.

9. Full of Antioxidants

And even when not fighting off specific conditions, coconut oil is simply full of antioxidants. These neutralize free radicals, and help stave off many diseases caused by cell degeneration. In particular, antioxidants in coconut oil may help protect the brain and provide anti-inflammatory properties.

The varied benefits of coconut oil are still emerging, so long as people enjoy it in moderation. You can incorporate it into your diet by using a couple tablespoons to stir-fry your nightly veggies. It can also be used to coat poultry or meat before adding seasonings and popping it in the oven. And if you’re just looking for a snack, consider drizzling the oil on your popcorn, instead of butter. In fact, in any recipe, coconut oil can be used instead of butter or other oil. And if you prefer to drink it, the oil can be added in small amounts to any coffee or tea.

So, eat up and enjoy the healthy effects of this burgeoning oil.

Darlena Cunha is a freelance writer and a professor at the University of Florida, with degrees in communications and ecology.

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DBenitostock / Moment / Getty Images

Who doesn't like chocolate? The good news is that some of it is good for you. While most of society has heard that dark chocolate has health benefits, most don't know what they are or how they work on your body.

Truth is, dark chocolate is one of the best sources of antioxidants out there. Made from cacao tree seeds, this sweet treat lowers risk of heart disease and is chock full of nutrients, specifically flavanols.

1. Source of Antioxidants

Dark chocolate has organic compounds that are active when in the body and act as antioxidants — specifically flavanols, polyphenols, and catechins. Cocoa has one of the highest levels of oxygen radical absorbance capacity, which measures antioxidant activity.

2. Helps Healthy Blood Flow and Pressure

The flavanols we talked about before can help healthy blood flow by stimulating the lining of the arteries and producing nitric oxide which sends signals to make the arteries relax. Those relaxed arteries lower blood flow resistance which decreases blood pressure naturally. These effects, however, are mild at best, so if you suffer from high blood pressure, dark chocolate alone won't fix it. More research in this area is needed.

3. May Reduce Risk of Heart Disease

When cholesterol oxidizes, it can lodge in the arteries and eventually cause heart disease. The compounds in dark chocolate protect the body from this oxidation. One study found cocoa reduced risk of death from heart disease by 50 percent over 15 years.

A separate study showed eating dark chocolate twice per week lowered calcified plaque in the arteries by 32 percent. Eating it more than five times a week lowered heart disease risk by 57 percent. Mixing it with almonds can help even more in terms of improving those bad cholesterol levels.

4. Could Help Prevent Cardiovascular Disease, Stroke and Diabetes

And it's not just heart disease. A study has shown dark chocolate could drastically reduce risk of stroke. Following more than 20,000 people for more than 10 years, the study found a strong correlation between the two.

Chocolate has been found to increase insulin resistance, which can determine the development of diabetes. It also hypes up endothelial function which helps maintain artery health, improving cardiovascular health.

In fact, chocolate has such a positive effect on human bodies that some experts waver on whether to call it a food or a drug.

5. Decreases Bad Cholesterol Levels

Mentioned in relation to other health benefits, lowering that bad cholesterol level is a health improvement all on its own. Bad cholesterol reacts to free radicals and becomes capable of damaging natural tissues like artery linings. When cocoa's antioxidants get into the bloodstream, they protect the body's lipoproteins against oxidation.

6. Could Help Brain Function

It's not just your body that benefits from dark chocolate, it's also your brain. A study showed that eating dark chocolate for five days improved blood flow to the brain. Over time, cocoa can improve cognitive function and even improve verbal fluency in older adults with minor impairments. The short-term effects of cocoa on brain function can be attributed to its stimulants, like caffeine and theobromine.

7. May Help Prevent Depression

And it's not just the physical brain chocolate can help. The theobromine in dark chocolate can cause that energy spike and subsequent crash, but the anandamide in chocolate acts as a mood and energy boost in the long-term for a slow burning calming enhancer.

Another chemical that helps mood is phenethylamine, which is also found in dark chocolate. The body metabolizes this into serotonin and that regulates mood. If you are not making enough, supplementing through phenethylamine in chocolate can bring you back to your base needs. A survey of more than 13,000 adults compared their self-reported chocolate eating with depressive symptoms and found that those who consumed dark chocolate in the past 24 hours were 70 percent less likely to feel depression.

8. Full of Nutrients

On top of all these benefits, chocolate isn't filled with the empty calories you find in most sweets. It has a good level of soluble fiber to help digestion, two-thirds your daily needs of iron, more than half of your magnesium intake, and will fulfill nearly all your needs for manganese and copper. It's also full of zinc, phosphorus, selenium, and potassium. And while chocolate contains a fair amount of fat, its fats are mostly healthy, consisting of oleic acid.

9. May Be a Natural Sunscreen

Dark chocolate can even help your skin via its bioactive compounds. Its flavanols protect against sun damage and it improves blood flow, increasing skin density and hydration. A study showed people consuming dark chocolate over a period of three months had a higher level of protection against UVB rays. Still, don't shirk on the sunscreen when going out. Chocolate is no substitute for a normal skin care routine.

Of course, like all good things, moderation is key. Having a square or two of dark chocolate a day has a lot of benefits, but going overboard will cost you in sugar and calories. Keep in mind that not all chocolate is nutritious. You need to look for dark chocolate with 70 percent or higher cocoa content. These types will have some sugar but not a lot and they contain a lot more nutrients than your typical processed milk chocolately goodie. Enjoy your dessert!

Darlena Cunha is a freelance writer and a professor at the University of Florida, with degrees in communications and ecology.

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