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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 11, 2010

This year, resolve to work for a better environment

By Dr. Ira Zunin

Q. In your most recent column, you wrote about how to make New Year's resolutions for health fun and doable. I have finally reduced my alcohol intake, started stand-up paddling and I'm losing weight. The better I feel, the more I wonder if I should also make New Year's resolutions for the environment.

A. Actually, it is becoming impossible to optimize our health while ignoring the environment. Individual wellness depends on clean air, water and food. Our collective attention to shared challenges such as energy sustainability and global warming is essential. Consider these New Year resolutions for the environment:

Drive less. Biking instead of driving is a great start. We see more people using their bikes to get to work. The physical conditioning is great for both our heart health and our mental outlook. It saves on the cost of gasoline and helps ensure that the air we breathe is safe and clean. By the way, electric bikes are an option. Car pools and public transportation help also.

Recycle more. Separate rubbish into organic waste, paper, plastic and glass so we can lower the ongoing demand on our fragile environment for new raw materials. It also helps the environment immensely when we work to minimize the use of disposable plates, cups and eating utensils. Many households have regular pick-up of recyclables, but success still depends on sorting the rubbish. This practice will also reduce the space demand for rubbish. We all want to avoid living near or on a heap of trash.

Install solar. We have begun to see an explosion in the installation of solar panels. This will help reduce dependence on the electric grid, which we have learned is not always dependable. It's an excellent way to reduce your electric bill, and generous tax incentives help with installation costs. This will reduce your carbon footprint, stave off global warming and help ensure we continue to breathe clean air.

Buy local. Eat food that is locally produced. It supports the environment by minimizing the energy cost of transportation from the Mainland, and it supports the local economy. Farmers markets are an enjoyable way to buy local. Go for organic when you can.

Plant an edible garden. Many people are converting ornamental gardens into edible gardens, and it doesn't have to take that much land. Edible gardens make it easier to prepare our own food and reduce consumption of fast food.

As we discussed last time, it is important to set goals that are achievable and enjoyable for the long run. This year , support the environment and make a difference to the health of our children for generations to come.

Dr. Ira Zunin is medical director for the Manakai O Malama Integrative Healthcare Group and Rehabilitation Center and is board-certified in preventive medicine. Visit www.manakaiomalama.com to learn more. Submit your questions to info@manakaiomalama.com.