Springtime is often seen as a time for renewal and change; the weather is warming up and activities are gravitating towards the outdoors. Here are 5 great spring changes you can make for better health and also help to benefit the globe.

Eat Fresh Foods from Local Farmers

I am sure you’ve heard it before, but buying foods from local farmers is an effective and beneficial way to stay healthy, keep the world green, and support your local economy. Farmers markets usually sell food within a day or two of being harvested so it will be fresh and still nutrient-rich.

Foods that are shipped to supermarkets are often on trucks for at least a week, losing freshness and nutrients that are vital in vegetables and fruits. Without the long distances traveling to deliver foods, local farmers are also selling better food for you without wasting gas and polluting the air.

Visiting farmers markets is fun, and they also provide local farmers with jobs, support, and a source of income. “When farmers sell directly to the consumer, the middleman is cut out thus producing a higher profit for the farmer. The farmer then circulates his profits throughout the community with local merchants creating a cycle that helps to build a strong local economy.”

Communities Grow by Donating Outgrown Clothes

Donating clothing is an easy way to give back to the community and make use of clothing that either you or your kids have outgrown. The springtime is one of the best times to donate clothes and to check out stores such as Savers and the Salvation Army in the US, and Goodwill worldwide; the weather is getting nicer, people are breaking out shorts, and more people are trying to get into shape.

Thrift stores sell gently-worn clothing at affordable prices, and many stores accept not just clothing, but other household items like glassware, shoes, books, and jewelry. Some thrift stores, such as Savers, give nonprofit partners money to help pay for their programs and allow communities the chance to buy cared-for clothing at minimum price.

Go Green to Help Your Greens Grow

When the weather becomes prime gardening weather, pesticides are an easy crutch to lean on to help plants grow. It is not a secret that the use of pesticides is directly correlated with health problems globally. Specifically in under-developed countries, pesticides are often used because farmers are unable to afford health-conscious pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides.

Chemicals in these products are more likely to harm children than adults. Since children are often playing outside, they are more prone to exposure for long periods of time, and they are more likely to bring home chemicals to other members of their families.

In the U.S., pesticides are commonly used in amounts too low to cause severe reactions, but this isn’t to say they do not have negative health effects. Depending on the chemicals being used, the toxins may irritate the nervous and endocrine system, eyesight and skin.

Toss Away the Chemicals in Cleaning Products

Like pesticides, chemicals in house cleaning products are not always as clean for the environment or your body. We are often looking for convenient, easy to use, and inexpensive products, but convenience does not necessarily mean it will be healthy in the long run.

By eliminating exposure to harmful toxins in cleaning products, your body will thank you and benefit over time. Cleaning products often contain chemicals that are bioaccumulative, so after frequent exposure they can add up to deadly levels, even if they are not orally ingested.

Since springtime is a common time for household cleaning and starting fresh, what better time is there to also flush out those common toxins from under your sink?

Take Advantage of Warm Weather

The body is able to synthesize vitamin D from the sun, and springtime has perfect weather to spend outdoors in order to meet your daily vitamin D intake. Scientists recommend spending 10-15 minutes in direct sunlight, which is usually enough for a fair skinned individual to received the recommended dosage of vitamin D from ultraviolet rays.

For a darker skinned individual, it is more difficult to generate vitamin D from the sun and it may require a longer period of time in direct sunlight. This is caused by a higher level of melanin in the skin, which blocks the skin from ultraviolet rays, meaning that darker skinned individuals have a higher rate of vitamin D deficiency than lighter skinned individuals.

Often, even the lowest amount of SPF blocks 95% of ultraviolet rays from penetrating the skin, and this is usually the cause of people not receiving the recommended amount of vitamin D during the spring and summer time.

So doctors recommend taking at least 10 minutes before applying sunscreen in order to meet your vitamin D needs, and if this is not possible, consider asking your doctor about a supplement or look towards healthy fatty fish like salmon, or fortified milks and orange juices.

Vitamin D deficiencies contribute to osteoporosis, rickets, and osteomalacia, but some light outside activities can help fight these deficiencies.

These simple steps can make an incredibly big difference on your body and the world. By doing something as easy as eating locally and giving locally, we are able to help maintain and create a cyclical community based on healthy habits.

– Rebecca Felcon

Sources: Farmers Market Authority, Savers, Global Medicine, Green Clean Certified, Vitamin D Council, Grosvenor, Mary B. Visualizing Nutrition. Toronto: John Wiley & Sons, 2014.
Photo: Food Day

Planet Aid: Saving the World One Shirt at a TimePlanet Aid refuses to accept having a single, ambitious goal as its limit. Rather, this organization takes a dual-pronged approach to save the world by addressing environmental issues and global poverty under one mission statement.

The nonprofit organization collects and recycles used clothing and shoes in the U.S. as a way to reduce environmental impact while supporting sustainable development in impoverished communities worldwide.

Planet Aid started out as a small idea in 1997 near Boston, Massachusetts. The original setup included a mere few drop-off boxes alongside a small, rented storage unit where community members could donate clothing and shoes. Soon, however, the group’s scope began to outgrow the tiny rented space, and the organization’s creators set their sights on bigger, global aspirations.

Though its influence expanded quickly, its clear-cut aim to expand global environmental sustainability and mobilize resources to alleviate poverty remained the same. Planet Aid now owns over 18,000 clothes collection boxes throughout the United States, all featuring the same signature yellow exterior.

How does Planet Aid accomplish these goals? Firstly, by collecting and recycling used goods, Planet Aid saves valuable resources that help reduce CO2 emissions and thus alleviate global warming. Recycling clothing also saves precious landfill space.

Furthermore, Planet Aid supports development projects that help to strengthen and organize communities by promoting small enterprise development and increasing access to quality training and education. In addition, Planet Aid’s support programs meet health and nutrition needs as well, extending from HIV/AIDS care and prevention to Farmers’ Clubs to teach sustainable agriculture and work towards a more stable food source.

Today, Planet Aid recycles millions of pounds of used clothing nationwide each year. Since 1997, the group has given more than $90 million in support of more than 60 projects in 15 projects throughout the developing world.

In its “afterlife”, recycled clothing can be and important tool for solving global poverty and meeting environmental needs. If there was ever a need for proof that fashion could save the world, Planet Aid provides the evidence.

– Alexandra Bruschi

Sources: Planet Aid, Aid For Africa
Photo: Flickr