The 40 Biggest Strides
1 It's trendy being green Gone are the days when driving a gas-guzzling SUV boosted your social status. Now, it’s hip to drive a hybrid. Perfectly manicured lawns no longer turn us green with envy— many of us are switching to landand water-friendly “greenscaping.” And really, at this point, who would be caught dead in the grocery store without reusable tote bags? If “going green” is a happening movement, sign us up. Here’s hoping it sticks.
2 Eating local becomes a culinary craze Importing exotic ingredients is so passé. Today’s hot chefs are sourcing their meat, fish, poultry and produce close to their own backyards. Farm-totable restaurants across the United States have not only popularized the idea of eating local, but also highlighted the people who make it possible: the farmers who put so much effort into producing what ends up on your plate.
3 Farmers markets are booming In 1994, there were only 1,775 farmers markets in the United States. Today, there are more than 6,000 of them, making it easier than ever to be a locavore whether you’re eating out or cooking at home. Buying local means you know exactly where your produce is coming from, how it’s grown (and by whom); it also helps support your local economy and puts less strain on the environment by keeping “food miles” to a minimum. Bonus: Knowing the farmer by name means you’ll get the pick of the crop.
4 We learn that calm is crucial Experts now realize that stress isn’t all in our heads. The flood of hormones it prompts can weaken our immunity and put us at risk for some serious chronic diseases, including stroke, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, says Gabor Maté, M.D., author of When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection (Wiley). Thankfully, we’re getting this message and finding ways to slow down and stress less.
5 Everybody’s doing it … themselves The DIY movement is back! Growing food (then cooking and eating it at home) is economically and personally rewarding. Dehydrating, canning and pickling are some of today’s hottest hobbies, followed closely by small-batch home brewing. Even city folk with minimal space are finding ways to house chickens and bees. The closer we get to the source of our food, the deeper our relationship with the Earth and the stronger our sense of responsibility to it. So grab a shovel and hop on the DIY wagon—you’re sure to be rewarded.
6 Spices are proven to have healing benefits Spices have been tapped for their healing properties for thousands of years, and science is now confirming why we should stock our spice racks well. Three to start using in your kitchen creations: Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin, which has been shown to stop the growth of cancer cells in lab animals; cinnamon has anti-microbial properties and can be used to fight Candida albicans, the fungus responsible for yeast infections; and cayenne, a hot red powder made from chili peppers, contains capsaicin, which relieves pain and improves digestion.
7 We discover that exercise does more than make us skinny Sure, a good workout torches calories—but the newest research also proves that regular physical activity is a habit that can help prevent premature death, says Barbara Harris, M.A., an adjunct faculty member at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco: “Humans were born to move—we literally can’t live without physical activity.” From decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes to increased energy, bone and muscle strength, the verdict is clear: “Exercise is a gateway to vitality, longevity, happiness, transformation and well-being,” says Harris.
8 School lunches get a makeover From Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard program and Ann Cooper’s School Food Challenges to Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and first lady Michelle Obama’s childhood obesity initiative, it’s (finally!) happening: We are starting to do something about the sorry state of our country’s school lunches. And while there’s still a lot of progress to be made, these organizations and movements are inspiring parents to demand that fresh vegetables, whole grains and lean, high-quality proteins (no more mystery meat!) be on the menu in their child’s cafeteria.
9 We make a smaller footprint when we travel Once upon a time traveling was about indulgence, ozone layer and water table levels be damned! But eventually we, and the tourism industry, wised up about how our travels mess with the planet—and now we’re doing things better. We haven’t found a way to fly pollution-free yet, but we can buy carbon offsets for our air miles; eco-resorts are some of the most luxurious places you can stay these days; and “voluntourism” has taken off, allowing travelers to give back while they have fun.
10 Alternative medicine isn't so alternative anymore Homeopathy. Naturopathy. Chiropractic. Acupuncture. Not only are these holistic healing therapies more widely available than ever before, they’re also more widely respected. Even better, more insurance companies are covering these integrative treatments, making them easier for all of us to afford.