Our bodies act as targets for the toxins we are exposed to via the air we breathe and the foods we eat. Individual efforts to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle can help deflect some of those nasties. You can even help your community while you’re at it.
Air pollution worldwide is a major contributor to both short- and long-term heart and lung disease. Efforts to reduce carbon pollution will help the Earth’s ecology directly, as well as improve air quality. Try switching from driving or catching cabs to cycling instead. The lifetime health benefits from this form of exercise are much greater than the risks from city pollution – this is supported by a very encouraging new study published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
There are some easy, Earth-friendly ways to improve your indoor air, including a trio of cheap and easy-to-find plants that will help scrub the air clean. The areca palm (风尾竹 fèngwěizhú) is good for creating oxygen; the snake plant (虎皮兰 hǔpílán) is good for bedrooms; and the money plant (绿萝 lǜluó) helps remove gaseous chemicals such as formaldehyde from the air.
Let’s move on to organic foods. I’m a strong advocate of eating organic as often as possible. China’s food supply has had numerous issues with food safety, many involving toxic levels of harmful chemicals. Organic food production specifically avoids using the pesticides and growth chemicals that have despoiled countless acres of farmland and water supplies worldwide.
Fruits and vegetables often contain or are coated in high levels of chemicals, so consumers should opt for organic versions as often as possible. Peaches and apples top the pesticide list for fruits, and peppers and celery lead the vegetable rankings. You can access the full list from the Environmental Working Group; they have a Shoppers Guide to Pesticides which you can download from their website, www.foodnews.org. They also offer a free and very useful iPhone and iPod Touch application called "Dirty Produce," which ranks all produce by pesticide levels. This app is very useful when shopping for groceries, as it can help you decide whether a certain vegetable should always be bought organic or if you can get away with the regular version.
Organic farms are scattered around Beijing. You can order their produce and have it delivered straight to your door. Larger supermarket chains are also rapidly improving their selection of organic produce and meat. I now buy my organics almost exclusively from Carrefour and Wal-Mart, and have been happy with both the quality and price.
However, readers should take note that studies have yet to show organics as having a clear nutritional advantage over standard produce. This may surprise and disappoint some readers, but there are still many good reasons to go organic – the most important being to protect your health and save the environment.