Five things you can do to live healthy and help the environment - with Public Health Specialist Elin Kambuga

Elin Kumbaga, Public Health Specialist, is studying at Walden University.

Elin Kumbaga, Public Health Specialist, is studying at Walden University.

Health and the environment are intertwined.  Our everyday choices and actions affect what happens around us locally and beyond.  I talked with Public Health Specialist Elin Kambuga to get some insight on what an individual can do in their immediate surroundings to lessen their footprint.  

How did you become interested in public health? My interest in public health began as a youth when I was living in Guyana, South America, where I witnessed many health problems that could be addressed through knowledge, accessibility, and increased infrastructure.  Sometimes children would die from dehydration or diseases would be spread because of inadequate sanitation and those experiences shaped the way I saw how people lived. Since I lived with a local family, I also saw how the education of children was affected because of their lack of access to health care solutions that were directly related to public health. So my thoughts focused on the question: How can a person do well in school if they are always sick or taking care of their sick relatives? Part of the answer is public health which involves more than just addressing sickness or disease but changing how societies and countries deal with disease, public policy, development of infrastructure, and relationships amongst community members. Public health is multifaceted and needs contributions from many fields to address health issues. My interest in public health extends to environmental health and how we can take care of our environment through thoughtful actions.

Why should we be concerned about how our health related to the environment?  Environmental health and public health are intertwined and cannot be separated very easily. As humans create new ways to survive we create more pollution. In the past, the pollution did not seem to affect the human population because there was not a way to assess or test to find out how pollution affected human health. Now we have science and we live close enough to one another to see how our environment affects us and our neighbors directly.

How do we know we are reducing our footprint?  Trying to reduce waste can seem daunting especially if you are comparing yourself to others who seem to have it together. However, marketing strategies make it sound like we might be taking care of the environment when actually we are contributing to environmental waste. For instance, you might be buying organic food but are you buying highly processed packaged food which still contributes to environmental degradation.  

What do we do: reduce or recycle?  The key is to decide how as an individual or family you can contribute to taking care of our environment while reducing waste and set obtainable goals. Reducing waste is more important than recycling since recycling can give the impression we can have everything but throw it away when we do not want it or the object is no longer useful. Deliberately think about how to stop consuming and throwing away. The following are five ways you can start:

  1. Make conscientious choices about buying packaged food or products. Do you need to buy the product? Do you need to use plastic bags for every fruit or vegetable? Just because a food is organic, does not mean it is the best option. Know your food, the company, and where and who makes your food.

  2. Buy food that has the least amount of packaging and the least amount of ingredients. Stop using plastic and chemicals as much as you can.

  3. Use reusable bags when shopping. Keep these in your car so you will be prepared when you are distracted.

  4. Take advantage of recycling programs in your community. Set up an area in your home that makes it easy to recycle for your family.

  5. Be compassionate with yourself and others when changing your habits.

Michelle Walch