BLUE ZONES - The Solution to our Environmental Crisis?

There's one thing I believe each individual can do to prevent environmental disasters and the spin-offs of increased political tension, poverty and the domino effect of conditions that lead to war.

And that is to truly care for bodies (including our minds... and booty as my son Huckey likes to say).

This was made super clear to me after watching 'Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones' on Netflix last week.

The documentary takes you on a trip around the world to Italy, Greece, Japan, Costa Rica and even a small enclave in California that shows how more people in these communities live past 100 and avoid dementia then anywhere else in the world.

So what's the secret to living independently past 100?  These 4 things:

1- Move Naturally

It's less about 'gym memberships' and more about incorporating movement - especially walking - into your everyday to get groceries, pick up kids and grandkids from school and to get to and from work.

It's about doing more with your hands, making bread, chopping wood and creating things with your own brain (my personal favourite is sitting down and playing my drums).

It's about the gentle movement and connection of daily gardening practices - weeding, planting and harvesting.

2- Find Meaning and Purpose

The most extreme example of the power of purpose was documented in Viktor Frankl's book - Man's Search for Meaning - where he observed that those who were most likely to survive the horrors of Nazi Concentration Camps, were the people who connected with a purpose and took action to realize that purpose - even if that action was as simple as an imagined conversation with a loved one.

In Blue zones, purpose is about unwinding - even though most folks in blue zones work well past retirement - they socialize face to face, dance and even socially drink with friends and family.

They often have a deep sense of faith & spirituality regardless of denomination, and they have a strong sense of purpose that drives them every day to get up and take action.

Below is a clip from a canoe trip I take with my friends each May.  The natural rhythm of a canoe trip provides a framework of meaning and purpose for the rest of my life (including insights from magical mushroom trips and ridiculous stunts that dudes our age should probably not be doing).

3- Eat 'well'

This seems to be less about 'eliminating' - everything from gluten to meat, dairy, alcohol and carbs - and more about filling yourself with the nutrients you need.

All the blue zone diets seem to be mostly - but not all - plant based, with up to 95% of their diets coming from a diverse array of vitamin and protein-rich vegetables, beans, and nuts.

All but one of the communities highlighted drink 1 to 2 glasses of wine a day, which appears to be as much about the social connection of the 'one drink buzz' as it is the dietary benefit. 

NOTE: I found this especially interesting because the W.H.O. recently declared "No level of Alcohol Consumption is Safe for Our Health'.  What's of note in the blue zones is that most of the wine they consume is made locally in the same way they've been doing it for the last 2,000+ years.

And they try to eat mindfully, meaning they stop eating when they're about 80% full - remembering that it takes our bodies 20 minutes or more to fully digest and 'feel full'.

4- Connecting Blue Zones to Environmental Sustainability

The last piece is about connection, connecting to others, connecting to family and finding your tribe, and I think this piece is a great point to talk about also connecting to the environment.

While the idea of environmental protection and sustainability was never mentioned in this documentary, it was obvious that healthy bodies lead to a healthier and more stable planet because:

1- People in blue zones move more and drive less, and - in turn - their communities are set up for easier foot and bike travel, which means a lower carbon footprint.

2- They eat locally grown, whole food and 90% plant-based diets, thereby clearing less land for cattle and meat products, shipping less and depending on less plastic packaging to preserve their food, which reduces their carbon footprint and plastic consumption.

3- They derive meaning and purpose from activities like dance, hands-on work and other social outlets that are more focused on connection as opposed to consumption.

Dan Buettner - author and driving force behind the Blue Zone movement and documentary - has begun implementing this blueprint in a variety of Cities across the US - with great results. 

"For Albert Lea [Minnesota] that meant the town of roughly 18,000 people was pushed to do more daily movement, with citywide changes that turned healthful actions into the simplest choices.

The city added 10 miles of sidewalks and bike lanes for its residents, and local businesses made it easier to pick and eat healthy food. People started walking more and creating their own strolling groups that hit the streets together, collectively shedding 4 tons of weight (an average of 2.6 pounds per person). Smoking went down by 4% during the first five years of the program." (Business Insider)

Too often health, wellness and environmental sustainability are put into separate camps, but they're not.  Eat a plastic packaged 'diet food or supplement' and you're not only polluting our planet, but also your body.

It's all connected.

Thanks always for reading, sharing and learning with me.  If you live in a community that could benefit from blue zone practices, check out these programs, and if you want to take immediate action to live more sustainably & purposefully, come visit our shop.

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