Seven ideas for staying healthy and sustainable in the heat

Published 14 Feb 2022

So many of us look forward to the warmer weather with a joyous anticipation; it can be a time filled with lazy days at the beach, snacking on perfectly ripe peaches and juicy mangoes, and enjoying relaxed holidays with those we love. As the beginning of a new year fills us with hope and resolve, many of us are also looking to achieve a lifestyle that supports better health and wellbeing, such as improving our nutrition, finding opportunities to be more active, and reducing our alcohol consumption.

However, as climate change becomes a more pressing reality and the impact of devastating bushfires linger in our memories, it’s important we keep in mind that our own health and that of our families is intrinsically linked to the health of the planet. This includes having access to the clean air and water which help us to thrive, a bright and less worrisome future for our children, and the protection of the beautiful natural landscapes which bring many of us so much peace.

Here are seven ideas so you can enjoy a summer that is both healthy and sustainable.

Staying Healthy and Well

  1. Choose water everyday

When it’s hot outside, staying hydrated is key to good brain function, physical energy and controlling our body temperature.

Tap water is always the best choice for your health and the environment, so don’t forget to take that reusable water bottle with you wherever you go: you can fill up in lots of different public locations. Why not try adding different combinations of fruit, vegetables and herbs to make your water even more delicious?

  1. Know how to mitigate the impact of heat on your health

Did you know that extreme heat kills more Australians than any natural disaster? Knowing how to care for yourself, and vulnerable loved ones and community members, can help to avoid the serious health impacts that extreme heat can have.

Avoiding intense physical activity, making use of available community spaces which are airconditioned (such as libraries), and planning ahead for hot days will all make a big difference. Check out more resources on this topic from Better Health.

  1. Take care of your mental health by taking practical action

Are you an eco-worrier? When thinking about climate change, Victorians most commonly feel frustration, sadness and outrage, particularly young people.

If you find yourself experiencing anxiety or strong emotions about climate change, try doing one small, practical thing to make a difference. That could be planting some vegetable seedlings, joining a local sustainability group, or taking the first steps towards researching renewable energy sources for your home.

 Reducing Your Impact

  1. Use your resources wisely

If you’re lucky enough to have it, it can be very tempting to reach for the air conditioning remote when the temperature starts to rise. However, there are other things you can do to keep the house cool that don’t have such a big impact on your electricity bill or the environment.

Make sure you put blinds down the night before a hot day and use wet towels to keep everyone cool. If it does get too hot and you need to put the air conditioning on, you might consider inviting other family members or any vulnerable neighbours over to also benefit from the cool air.

Plants are like humans and need lots of water to survive, so on warm to hot days, it’s always best to give your plants a big drink in the early hours of the morning, before the sun reaches its hottest point.  Avoid watering in the middle of the day as you’ll lose water due to evaporation and water on the leaves as the sun shines brightly can even burn your leaves. A long soak encourages plants to draw water up from deeper in the ground, which means you also need to water less frequently.

  1. Switch to a green energy provider

About 80% of Australia’s energy comes from fossil fuels- the rest comes from renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydro. All this energy is combined in the grid, meaning ‘green energy’ providers will generally offset your usage with carbon-neutral initiatives. By switching to this kind of provider, you’re also demonstrating the demand for renewable energy in Australia.

  1. Increase your vegan and vegetarian meals

The EAT-Lancet Planetary Health Diet is a scientifically researched diet which is healthy for both people and planet. With a strong focus on whole grains and plant-based meals, there’s no better time to make some changes than during summer, when our appetites tend towards light meals and there’s so much delicious seasonal produce to enjoy.

  1. Active travel when possible

Active travel is a great way to increase your incidental exercise. Whether you prefer to walk, run or cycle, there’s lots of ways to get where you need to go while increasing your cardiovascular fitness, and without negatively impacting the planet.

It’s best to avoid active travel on days of extreme heat, but don’t forget, most public transport is also air conditioned.

When considering your options for your healthy and sustainable actions, small steps over time make a big difference. Don’t feel let down if you need to compromise sometimes but celebrate the positive actions you take.

All advice is general. Please keep your own health requirements and a COVID safe approach in mind when following these ideas.

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