One key factor to sustainability is keeping YOU healthy

Alison Higgins, Key West Sustainability Coordinator, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about how to sustain a healthy life.

Staying hydrated in this heat is critical, but there are specifics to doing that.

Higgins said, “So under the umbrella of sustainability, healthy living, how you treat your body and what those products that you purchase, your consumer actions are probably the most that you can affect what’s going on around you and your footprint down here in the Keys. Water is a huge one. It’s always amazing to me when I go to the grocery store, and I see folks with pallets of single use water bottles stacked up. That is the most expensive water in the world. That makes no sense. I get it that it’s portable. The funny thing is people tend to think that because it’s prepackaged, it’s actually better water. But there’s lesser standards for bottled water than there is for tap water.”

The Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority routinely wins awards for the quality of the water in the Keys.

Higgins said, “If you’re so weirded out for it, if your fridge has the little filter, you can do that. You can always even install one on your kitchen sink. But it’s still even doing that spending the money on that is still way better than buying the individual bottles at the store. One it’s a lot of plastic and two, it’s not better water.”

Buying local produce is also a great way to stay healthy.

Higgins said, “The more local you can buy on the food chain, the lesser amount that that food had to travel, which both is good for the footprint of that food, but also just for how fresh it needed, what state it was at when they picked it. Things that have to travel very far, they have to pick them a little bit early, or they’ll be overripe and bruised by the time they get to you, which means that they also won’t be as sweet because they pick them too early. So picking stuff that is local, either looking for that Fresh from Florida in your grocery store, going to the little farmers market, those are usually South Florida. Anything that’s got the high fructose corn syrup, over sugars, pass that by. I remember hearing from some friend of mine was, all the real food is on the outside edges of the grocery store and all the crap that you don’t need is in the middle.”

Brown rice and whole grains really are the best.

Higgins said, “One of the biggest things that you can do as a consumer is what you eat. It’s not about everybody going vegan, but to make conscious choices, that make a difference once a week. There is a list on the actual footprints of various meats and other animal proteins and unfortunately, beef is at the highest by twice the amount of the footprint it has, from the lifecycle that it needs to get to the size that it then becomes meat. The amount of grain that goes into that one beef that could feed you for a year. Then it goes down to lamb and mutton, and then B for dairy. Cheese has a high footprint and then go down to shrimp farms, fish, pigs, and then poultry. So your chickens and your turkeys are both usually the healthiest for you, as well as a lower on the food chain as far as greenhouse gas footprint. Rice and then your eggs and milk come after that.”

The key to going organic is really to try to avoid pesticides.

Higgins said, “That’s the main reason why people do that people, some people don’t like the GMO side of things. It’s really about the fruits and vegetables that are the highest pesticide intensive. Some of these things get washed, and you can wash your own. Or you could also just try to avoid it as much as possible. There’s a group that does the 12 top pesticide laden things that if you’re going to buy you should really consider going to organic. They’re not saying organic everything but if you’re going to buy these things, and strawberries at the top of the list. Then that’s followed by spinach. Kale, collard and mustard greens were third. Then we go a lot of fruit. So your peaches, your pairs, your nectarines, your apples and your grapes. Then after that, bell peppers and hot peppers, cherries, blueberries, and then green beans are number 12. So any of those 12 If you have the option, especially every once in a while, the organic stuff goes on sale, that’s when you grab that stuff and just eat healthier for yourself. You’re then also rewarding the farmers who are growing in a different fashion.”

How you cook and clean can have an effect, as well.

Higgins said, “Everybody has seen their own nonstick pan, when everything starts flaking off of it, get rid of it. Teflon, what goes into Teflon is bad stuff. But as long as you actually keep it safe, don’t cook on super high heat, make sure there’s always something in the pan when you’re cooking with it and don’t let it get to the point where you have chopped it all up and stuff’s growing off of it. That’s when it’s more likely to be in your foods. On the cleaning side, some things don’t go together. So the most toxic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to get it the cleanest. Sometimes you’ve just got to use the elbow grease and if you do use those stronger products, put a glove on. None of that stuff’s good for you. There’s amazing things you can do with baking soda and vinegar or regular soap. Between those three you can do quite a lot.”

Even antibacterial cleaners and soap can sometimes do more harm than good.

Higgins said, “That is a really big one. While it sounds good to have antibacterial this and antibacterial that, those things in small doses are exactly what helps make bacteria thrive. Even when you have some sort of infection, and your doctor gives you a prescription, you’re supposed to take all those pills to the end. Because just because you feel better two thirds of the way through, doesn’t mean you haven’t finished off the last of the bacteria that are there and the ones that are hooked are the ones that are most resistant to whatever you’re prescribed this time. So the idea of making more superbugs that are resistant to everything, that’s one of the reasons why they’ve shown that families with pets are the healthiest because you actually are bringing that bacteria from the outside in and letting your body handle it naturally instead of being over the top with antibacterials.”