By Melody Bell Wilkes
A Walk in the Woods
Everywhere you turn, people are touting a new diet to get the New Year started in the right direction. January is a good time to think about changes in our diet and lifestyle that can make us feel better and also help the environment at the same time. If you are thinking about a healthier lifestyle, here are a few green tips to get you started:
1. Buy produce from a local supplier. This cuts down on transportation costs from large distributors to your neighborhood grocer and reduces the emission of greenhouse gases. By supporting your local farmer you are helping the economy in your own community and at the same time getting the freshest produce possible straight from the farm. For a list of produce suppliers, please contact the Cabarrus County Cooperative Extension Office.
2. Walk more and drive less. It sounds so simple and yet it is something we take for granted in our day to day lives. Research has shown just walking an average of 30 minutes a day can dramatically improve your health. Take the time to strengthen your heart, your mind and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.
3. Tighten your belt and spend less on energy costs. If every American home replaced their five most frequently used lights with equivalent compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), each home would save more than $60 per year in energy costs. Other energy cost savings include installing an insulating wrap around your water heater to save on electricity. Caulk any gaps around windows and doors. Watch the temperature in your home. Ideally, the thermostat should be set at 68 degrees F in the winter and 78 degrees F in the summer. For 101 easy ways to save energy around your home, visit http://www.powerhousetv.com
4. Reap the green benefits of having your own garden. There is great satisfaction in growing your own food and it also serves as a backyard education for any growing child. Please don’t be intimidated if you have never grown your own vegetables. Start small and expand your garden as you gain more experience. Many vegetables can be grown in patio pots if you don’t have any land. Tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, beans, onions, collards, mustard greens and peppers are easily grown here. For proven vegetable varieties and knowing when to plant, check out the N.C. Cooperative Extension Office Web site at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu
5. Enjoy the sunshine! Studies have shown that we need at least 15 minutes a day of sun exposure to get adequate dosages of Vitamin D. This vitamin is essential for our bodies and serves as a catalyst for the uptake of calcium. Without vitamin D, calcium is not well absorbed. As we age, getting enough calcium is even more crucial for healthy, strong bones. Another good reason to get outside and enjoy the fresh air.
6. Take some time to help others and be rewarded with soul satisfaction. There are plenty of places to look for volunteer opportunities. For the environments sake, consider helping out at animal shelters, work with a wildlife rehabilitator or donate needed supplies, pick up trash from waterways and roadways, volunteer to help with school science projects or work with animal rescue groups. There are also a number of organizations that rely on public support with memberships to continue their work such as the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, the World Wildlife Fund, the Nature Conservancy and many others. There are a lot of benefits in becoming members. It’s educational, fun and strengthens the network of concerned individuals supporting environmental issues.
Whatever you decide to do this year, I hope you consider healthy choices for yourself and the environment. Happy New Year!
Melody Bell Wilkes is the owner of A Walk in the Woods, an environmental education company. For more information, call 704-436-9048 or visit http://www.awalkinthewoods.us