The potentially irreversible effects of climate change are a key part of public discussion as of late. It has become clear that collectively we need to take sustainable action to prevent damage to our planet for generations to come. However, it’s just as important to recognize that the threats don’t just impact the future. In many ways, our relationship with the environment is negatively affecting us today.
This is particularly evident of how our health can be damaged by pollutants. When we think of the subject, we tend to focus on air quality. While studies have suggested that emissions can impact mortality rates, particularly those of people living in predominantly Black communities, this isn’t the entirety of the problem. Pollution by definition is something that is introduced to an environment and harms it. As such, we also have to be cognizant of issues such as water toxicity, poor waste management, and actions that cause environmental disasters.
Many of us are already doing our part to make our own homes greener and healthier places. However, if the communities, governments, and industries where we live aren’t also making significant efforts, it can feel as though we’re fighting a losing battle for our families’ health. This means that it can be wise to consider moving to a place that is more conducive to an environmentally friendly, healthy lifestyle. Let’s examine how to go about finding these areas, and what important factors you should bear in mind.
Most of us tend to look at what sectors thrive in a potential new city from an employment perspective. We want to know what opportunities are available to help us pay the bills. However, when your ongoing health is a priority, it’s also vital that you consider what local industry contributes to the environment.
Review what the primary industries are and what companies are present. Electricity plants that burn coal generally release air pollution containing particulate matter that can damage the lungs. The construction industry often utilizes abrasive chemicals, produces asphalt wastes, and even creates potentially toxic debris during destruction. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a good resource for discovering what types of waste are typically produced in each industry. This, when referenced with the activities of local companies, can help you make a good assessment as to the types of pollutants that may be prevalent in the local environment.
While some businesses are proactive in improving their waste and emissions standards, others are not quite so forthcoming. In fact, this can be a good indicator of more desirable areas. Most industries pollute in some fashion, and those that use their websites and marketing materials to report their efforts to combat this can be an indicator that they are taking responsibility. If you struggle to find anything consistent about a company’s environmental impact, it can be wise to err on the side of caution.
Finding a healthier place to live is not just about waste and emissions. It’s also about whether there are elements in place that can sustain wellness and green efforts and encourage them to develop. You should examine the local government, utilities, and residential infrastructure.
Quality of water is a key consideration here, particularly as it is increasingly being considered a valuable resource that can be traded like gold or oil. While areas of the country like Flint, Michigan that have little access to clean water are few and far between, there may be other issues. Hard water may not be considered toxic by the EPA, but the buildup it causes can lead to heating inefficiency, not to mention potential dermatological issues. Look into whether the local water providers include a softening process, and how they dispose of harmful elements in the water.
How local government and infrastructure supports individual green efforts is a good indicator of a healthy approach to pollution. Review whether there are city and state grants in place to encourage residents to invest in green homes. Explore what balance of renewable energy production methods are being utilized. Is there potential for an electricity buy-back program for residents who install solar panels? As transportation is one of the key contributors to harmful pollution, review what the local government policy toward electrical vehicle usage is. Do they offer tax breaks to lower the price of purchasing, and are they installing charging stations to support the practicalities of ownership?
Communities have just as much a role to play in ensuring sustainability as industries and governments. When reviewing potential new homes, it’s important to look into what community initiatives are in place and how proactive they are in their operations.
This can include:
Lobbyists: The presence of lobbying groups on public health and environmental matters can be a good sign that there is a culture of vigilance in the community. There may be parties that put pressure on government organizations to improve waste treatment or to alter harmful industrial practices.
Natural Area Management: Communities often take the initiative for the care of woodland and lakes with clean-up groups. This can make a difference in the reduction of pollutants. Private streams and ponds flow into larger waterways; this means any pollutants in the former can transfer to the larger bodies, causing bigger issues. Groups that take responsibility for removing harmful elements can help prevent public health in the long-term.
Environmental Education: Giving communities the knowledge to act in greener, more health-conscious ways is an essential component in ensuring long term sustainability. Look for groups that guide residents on how to make an individual impact on their home activities. Their methods may be as simple as highlighting how using green cleaning products in the home has direct benefits on health, as well as larger environmental issues. Others may be more in-depth, such as ecosystem-conscious gardening.
The more pollution that is prevalent in our communities, the greater the potential for health issues can be. For some of us, the best solution is to find a new place to live. Apply focus to finding locations that include responsible industry, conscious infrastructure, and proactive communities.
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