Earth Day and Environmental Wellness
Thursday, April 22nd is Earth Day, the perfect time to both celebrate the planet we share and reflect on our relationship with the environment. While you likely don’t need me to tell you about the benefits of going outside and taking a walk or roll to break up your work day, soak up some sunshine, and get your body moving, I did want to share some tips and tricks for working towards environmental wellness.
What is environmental wellness? It can best be described as respecting the environment and understanding how your connection to the space around you effects your behaviour, mood, physical health, and overall wellbeing.
Examples of environmental wellness include1:
- Living an environmentally conscious lifestyle by reducing, reusing, and recycling whenever possible
- Taking responsibility for actions that affect your health and the health of others (example: restraining from smoking in public)
- Understanding that your physical environment impacts your wellbeing in both positive and negative ways
- Actively protecting your local environment by working with environmentally friendly organizations or volunteering with community clean up groups
- Restricting the use or production of toxic waste, pollution, or materials harmful to the environment, such as pesticides or plastic litter
- Advocating for the conservation of natural resources and leaving a legacy of environmental wellbeing for future generations
For me, the COVID-19 pandemic has been an awesome opportunity to learn more about how the environment impacts my motivation, especially as it relates to work. The weather, seasons, how much time I’m able to spend time outside – all of these things impact my mental health and consequently, my productivity. I’ve found that in a time when I’ve felt I don’t have control over anything, making decisions that help the environment has given me a sense of satisfaction, like I’ve done something small that benefits the world. This is especially true during the pandemic when the world and its inhabitants (all of us!) are in need of love and care. Sometimes I don’t have the energy to do a workout video or join a Zoom social hour, but taking a plastic bag with me on a 15-minute walk and picking up three pieces of garbage leaves me feeling like I’ve done my part that day.
Embracing environmental wellness and doing small things to help the environment (like using a reusable water bottle, or planting a tree or garden) will always be worth it for your own wellbeing and others’. With many pre-pandemic activities not possible during this time, the one thing that we’ll always have is the ability to go outside. You can follow all health and safety protocols and at the same time go explore a hike or trail, set up a sprinkler in your backyard (not just for kids!), or share stories with your household around a bonfire at nighttime.
When you’re spending time outdoors, leave your phone inside and be mindful. Use the time to disconnect from social media and the most recent COVID-19 news. Consciously use your senses: listen to birds and the rustling of leaves. When it’s warm enough, take off your shoes and feel the dirt, sand, or grass on your bare feet. While it may be painfully cliché, stop and smell the roses! This will make you feel more grounded – literally, and figuratively.
For more information on environmental sustainability initiatives at the U of G, please visit: https://www.uoguelph.ca/campussustainability/