There is a relationship between a healthy ecosystem and healthy people. Wellness is a multidimensional process that creates awareness and helps people make choices to put them on the path to optimal living. Environmental wellness is one of the dimensions of well-being that can be an integral part of your worksite wellness program. Environmental wellness is understanding and respecting the reciprocal relationship between our environment and our health. It includes trying to live in harmony with nature to protect the environment and other living beings on the earth.

The Healthy People 2020 Environmental Health objectives focus on 6 themes, each of which highlights an element of environmental health with interventions and resources. These themes include air quality, surface and groundwater, toxic substances and hazardous waste, homes and communities, infrastructure & surveillance and global health environment.

How to Incorporate Environmental Health Themes into Your Program

Workplace wellness programs should contribute to the improvements of their population’s environmental well-being. Below are themes and tips to incorporate into your program for an eco-friendlier lifestyle:

1. Outdoor air quality. We know the health effects of smoking, but what do we do to keep the air we breathe clean? Poor air quality is linked to cancer, respiratory and heart problems.

Actions to keep the air cleaner include:

  • Choose a cleaner commute. Take the bus, carpool or bike to work.
  • Compost it. Avoid burning leaves and make yard waste into mulch.
  • Properly seal cleaners, paints and other chemicals to prevent evaporation.

Workplace program ideas:

  • Create carpooling groups on company intranet site.
  • Have a smoke-free policy or make clean air areas free from second-hand smoke.

2. Surface and groundwater quality. Water is essential to the human body and without it, we would die within a few days.

To reduce water pollution and runoff:

  • Minimize use of and properly dispose of paints, chemical cleaners, and other questionable household products. NEVER pour them down the drain. Try cleaning green by using natural ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, and lemons.
  • Pick up pet waste. Scooping after your pooch prevents the waste from running into storm drains and water supply.
  • Recycle used items and conserve water by using less or collecting in rain barrels.

Workplace program ideas:

  • Create signage in restrooms to conserve water, don’t let the faucet run.
  • Host a presentation about water conservation and home lawn and garden irrigation.

3. Toxic substances and hazardous waste. Reducing exposure to toxic substances and hazardous waste in the air, water, soil, and food is critical to the health of the earth and life.  

Companies can take significant steps by:

  • Preventing spills, leaks and unnecessary mixing of hazardous waste with nonhazardous components.
  • Establish a waste reduction program
  • Conduct worker training and education and monitor progress.

Workplace program ideas:

  • Have a clean green workshop/ seminar with how to make your DIY cleaning products.

4. Homes and communities. People spend most of their time at home, work or school.

To make any home and community a healthier place:  

  • Keep homes clean of allergy triggers like more, pollen and dust mites.
  • Volunteer for environmental conservation projects or spread the word by discussing the importance of a lifestyle that ensures purity of water, air, and living conditions.
  • Conserve paper at home and work and make sure recycling bins are readily available and utilized

Workplace program ideas:

  • Have a “Turning Green Challenge” to transform mindsets, practices, and habits.

5. Infrastructure and surveillance. Acknowledge personal and societal responsibilities to respect our environment and minimize the harm done. Encourage living sustainably with an awareness of the earth’s natural resources and its limits.

  • Reduce your demand on natural resources. Every product we purchase leaves a footprint on the earth. From the material used to create it to the pollution emitted during manufacturing to the packaging in landfills. Consider buying used or gently new.
  • Adopt a friendlier diet. Eat less meat. Cutting just one-third of meat from your diet can significantly reduce your environmental footprint. Aim to eat more locally sourced fruits and vegetables.

Workplace program ideas:

  • Ask employees to submit recipes for their favorite meatless dishes.
  • Plant a community garden.

6. Global health environment. Population growth and over consumption is pushing species to extinction and leading to climate change and other natural disasters.

Promote engagement in the process of improving the environmental wellness by:

  • Opt for reusable water bottles. Workplaces may offer re-fillable water stations to encourage ditching bottled water.
  • Go green at work. Create policies to set computers to energy-saving settings and shut them down at the end of the day. Promote bringing lunch in reusable containers; it is the healthiest way to eat at work. Consider casual dress codes for eco-friendly fashion choices and to cut down on dry cleaning.

Workplace program ideas:

  • Have a hydration challenge. Give out reusable water bottles.
  • Have an eco-friendly dress day with fashion show and contest.

These ideas are just scratching the surface of what a corporate workplace wellness company can do to improve the health of our planet while improving the well-being of their employees. A wellness coach can help open employees awareness of the interconnectedness of more sustainable choices with long-term benefits that impact a healthy life.