Earth Day: the interplay of sustainability and wellness

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In nearly 195 countries around the globe, Earth Day provides companies with an opportunity to merge corporate strategy, brand and reputation, environmental stewardship, community affairs and employee engagement, all in one activity, on one day – April 22.  Earth Day grew from the idea that if enough people were aware of environmental issues and vocal about their concerns, it would force environmental protection into the political agenda. It’s also a day for people to reflect on the ways the environment impacts us and why sustainability is such a priority.

shutterstock_513233866Sustainability goes well beyond saving trees and recycling. The United Nations Development Programme has identified 17 Sustainable Development Goals that are focused on protecting the planet and its resources in ways that are crucial to our survival as well. We need air to breathe, water to drink and food to eat – and a planet that can provide those things for us in the long term.

Beyond simple survival, humans benefit from being in a natural environment – sure, we need trees and plants for photosynthesis to clean the air and provide oxygen, but it goes even further. Consider Shinrin-Yoku, or Forest Bathing. This involves visiting a forest for relaxation and breathing in the essential oils produced by trees. These oils, called phytoncides, are antimicrobial volatile organic compounds which may provide health benefits to humans as well as trees. In a 2010 study conducted across 24 forests in Japan, the subjects who participated in forest bathing had lower blood pressure, heart rate and concentrations of salivary cortisol — a stress hormone — when compared with those who walked through a city setting.

The human body is between 50-70 percent water. All living organisms need water to survive, yet nearly one billion people in the world don’t have access to it. There are numerous websites touting the health benefits of drinking enough water and just as many sites with alarming details of what happens when we don’t drink enough water. Whether you love water, or have to force yourself to drink it, you should conserve it. Even in developed countries water scarcity is becoming an issue and conserving water is something everyone can do.

Food – how it is grown, made, packaged, transported, cooked and served – can impact our individual health, our communities and our world. Approximately 13.5 percent of the world’s population is undernourished, and yet, roughly one third of the food produced every year — roughly 1.3 billion tons — gets lost or wasted. Governments, industries and even our employers are concerned about the food we eat. Food is one of the most basic human needs and choosing local, healthy, environmentally responsible food can promote personal health, reduce environmental impacts, improve our quality of life and even improve our productivity at work. Which explains why many companies are implementing garden markets and composting programs while removing most of the candy from the vending machines.

So this Earth Day, take some time to think about your impact on the environment and what steps you are willing to take sustain the planet and yourself.

About the author

Jenna Rowe is the Senior Vice President and Director of Operations for JLL’s Energy and Sustainability Services.

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