Walking the Green Talk
If ‘green walking’ conjures images of strolling with a heavy sinus infection, think again. We’re talking about saving the planet here, one step at a time.
But we’ll skip the lengthy, guilt-inducing environmental lectures and get straight to the point. Vehicles are bad. Walking shoes are good.
* No noise pollution (gossiping with your walking buddies doesn’t count).
* No nasty emissions (baked beans or not, you’re smaller and cleaner than a dairy cow and way more energy efficient than a car).
* No burning of fossil fuels and gobbling of dwindling resources (fortunately, chocolate bars are not on the endangered resources list).
So ditch the vehicle and walk to the dairy or the school bus stop. Walk to your girlfriend’s house. Walk to your lover’s place at lunchtime and no-one will see your car in the driveway.
Forget about re-using your single ply newsprint toilet paper.
If you want to save the world, start striding.
EcoMan gives walking the green light
City designers need to make it easier for people to do green exercise – such as walking – on a daily basis, says New Zealand Eco Man Malcolm Rands.
A re-think on how cities are designed is needed, he says, because studies show the environment and walking “work together” on both a physical and psychological level.
Malcolm, who is the founder and CEO of Ecostore Company Ltd, says a recent study shows that walking in a green or rural place (green exercise) leads to substantial mood enhancement and a reduction in stress levels.
The study by Jules Pretty the Professor of Environment and Society at the University of Essex, revealed that – regardless of the level or time spent – green exercise enhances mood and self esteem and reduces anger, confusion, depression and tension.
Furthermore, if you exercise with others it improves your social networking and connectedness.
Malcolm believes the establishment of an emotional connection with the environment inspires people to thing about conservation and climate change and that in turn encourages them to adopt environmentally friendly behaviour. (See below for some environmentally friendly tips from Malcolm.)
As part of the study a group of people with mental health problems were taken for a walk in the woods and then in a shopping mall.
After they had been outside walking, 90 per cent showed improved self-esteem. Five per cent got worse.
After the shopping mall experience, 17 per cent improved and 44 per cent reportedly felt worse.
It’s obvious, Malcolm says, that green exercise is important for various aspects of health care. It’s effects on mental health deserve some serious consideration, especially as a total of about $200 billion (NZ) is spent on mental illness in the United Kingdom, for example, each year.
Malcolm says it also pays to be aware of how levels of daily exercise have varied between generations.
Fifty years ago, for example, people expended much more energy getting to work, and at work.
“The difference between what people used to do to get to work and what they did at work is the equivalent of one marathon a week. That is what we have lost and that’s a lot of exercise to catch up on.”
Malcolm has been active in the sustainable scene for more than 25 years. He co-founded NZ’s first permaculture eco-village in 1986 and was a foundation member of the sustainable business network.
In 1992 Malcolm founded ecostore. Over the years ecostore has won several environmental awards for products, service and contribution – including being first in the world to gain Green Tick certification – an international verification of eco status.
Ecostore’s leading range of eco friendlier household cleaners, body care, pet care and organic gardening products are popular not only in New Zealand but also Australia, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.
Malcolm has been awarded the Green Ribbon Award from the Ministry of the Environment plus two environmental awards from the ARC. He is chair of the Fairground Foundation – a not-for-profit sister organisation funded by ecostore. Fairground commenced projects in schools as well as other community initiatives.
Malcolm shares five top suggestions for eco products that save money in the long term and explains how do they do so?
1. Switch to healthier, environmentally friendly household products. For example, ecostore’s laundry powder is made using natural plant and mineral based ingredients and is highly concentrated so a little goes a long way, saving you money with every wash. Because it’s made using safer, natural components, ecostore laundry powder can be used in grey water and it’s less damaging to your clothes so they last longer while also being safer on your skin.
2. Reduce your electricity bills and greenhouse gas emissions by insulating your home. Although professional insulation can be quite expensive, it will save you money in the long term as it can cut your heating and cooling bills in half and also adds to the resale value of your property. Many insulation materials are recycled from paper, plastic drink bottles and glass.
Simple things like curtains and ‘door-snakes’ help to limit drafts and are practical, economical and environmentally friendly ways to keep you warm without turning on the heater.
3. Install everyday water-saving devices such as an AAA-rated shower rose and dual flush toilet to help reduce your water consumption and save money on your bills.
Water tanks are a great way to capture rainwater and there are a number of government financial incentives to make this an affordable option for your home.
An easy way to encourage the whole family to monitor and reduce their personal water consumption is by installing a timer in the shower. Shorter showers are not only a good water saving tip, it saves electricity as well.
4. Install compact fluorescent light bulbs, which use 75 per cent less energy than an equivalent incandescent bulb. Although fluros cost more up-front, you will save money through energy consumption and the extended life of the bulb while reducing emissions at the same time.
5. Driving a hybrid car is a great way to cut down petrol emissions and nasty pollutants. Because these cars are better for the environment, they are the vehicle of choice for celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, Kirsten Dunst, Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Lopez.