Five Reasons Why Green Spaces are Awesome

Recently at our annual Celebration, the Healthy Campus Initiative officially launched the Jane B. Semel Community Garden and Living Amphitheater located at Sunset Recreation Center, adding a new green space to UCLA’s campus. Opening the living amphitheater was a dream come true for the Healthy Campus Initiative, but it is also a valuable addition to UCLA’s campus that holds amazing potential. Read on to find out 5 reasons why green spaces like the Living Amphitheater are awesome for our well-being.

1. Green Space Boosts Attention

In this study, college students were assigned to three different conditions: nature walk, urban walk, or relaxing with a magazine in a comfortable room with light music. Afterwards, students were tested on their capacity for direct attention. The study found that those who went on a nature walk performed significantly better on the attention tests than those who went on an urban walk or relaxed indoors.

2. Green Space Encourages Physical Activity

Whether it is something as casual as taking a walk or something more intense like hiking, green spaces provide an environment that is conducive for physical exercise. As obvious as it may sound, having easier access to green space has a positive association with an individual’s level of physical activity. For instance, this study found that people who live closer to parks are “more likely to achieve physical activity recommendation and less likely to be overweight or obese.”

3. Green Space Improves Mental Health

One of my favorite things to do on campus is smelling different trees and flowers. The fresh smell of newly cut grass and sweet fragrance emitted by different flowers make me smile as I walk to my classes.

Research also demonstrates that green space provides benefits to mental health. This study found that among monozygotic or identical twins, those who had greater access to green space had fewer depressive symptoms than their twin counterpart with less access to green space. This is significant because by studying identical twins, the researchers were able to control for genetic and childhood environment factors. The reasons for why green space may benefit mental health are not yet clear, but it is promising that exposure to green space has a positive influence on our mental health.

4. Green Space Cleans the Air

This may not be surprising that trees can improve the air quality. Here are the details:

According to the report from the Forest Service Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in areas with complete tree cover, trees can remove as much of air pollutants as 15% of the ozone, 14% of the sulfur dioxide (SO2), 8% of the nitrous dioxide (NO2), and 0.05% of the carbon monoxide (CO) from the air. This is because vegetation, especially trees, can act as natural filters for the air pollutants. Thus, increasing green space will help us breathe well.

5. Green Space Helps Us Eat Well

Green space, especially community gardening has shown to improve food security. According to this study, people were 3.5 times more likely to consume at least five servings of fruit or vegetable on a daily basis if they or their family members were involved in a community garden in the last 12 months. Another study also suggested that gardening increases the likelihood of people meeting the national recommendation for fruit and vegetable consumption. More specifically, 56% of those who participate in a community garden met the recommendation, compared to 37% of those who have a home garden and 25% of those who have no gardening involvement.

There are numerous places on campus where we can reap these benefits of green spaces. There is, of course, the newly opened Living Amphitheater Garden at Sunset Rec. But if you are on campus and just want a quick stroll to enjoy the nature, consider visiting Botanical Gardens in South campus or the Sunken Gardens and Sculpture Garden in North campus. If you have any other suggestions for green space on and around campus, please share it with us by commenting below!

Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.

The Era of Vaping

Written by Joyce Lan

The Transition from Smoking to Vaping

Imagine this, you are sitting outside on your balcony, enjoying the gentle night breeze, as you unwind from your long, stressful day at work. However, as you close your eyes to relax, your neighbor lights up a cigarette on his balcony. Immediately, the gentle breeze blows the smoke your way, surrounding you in a murky cloud of second-hand smoke. To avoid the fumes, you quickly leave the premises and head inside for a drink of water. What a fantastic way to end the day!

Studies show that the current public perception of smoking has come a long way, evolving due to people’s increased awareness of smoking hazards. Unfortunately, many still choose to put the cigarette between their lips again and again despite knowing the health risks involved with smoking, which include coronary heart disease and the development of lung cancer.

Although some may have initially developed the interest as a way to alleviate stress, or to socialize more with their co-workers, their inability to quit demonstrates the toxic chemical power packed into that small roll of paper.

So, what is the alternative to quitting cold turkey or using nicotine patches? The latest, most popular solution is e-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes), also known as vaping.

Vaping, in A Few Words

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines e-cigarettes as a product advertised by manufacturers as the safer alternative to smoking. It lacks tobacco, along with its toxic carcinogens, therefore making it ‘safer’. It is a device designed to help smokers gradually quit. But who is truly benefiting from the marketing of e-cigarettes?

The WHO report calculates that the global industry earns approximately 3 billion dollars from the marketing and distribution of the product. Also, there are about 466 brands selling the product and related versions alike. Furthermore, with the availability of approximately 8,000 unique flavours on the market, it’s no wonder more people are vaping instead of smoking!

The Cause for Concern

E-cigarettes and vaping are often thought of as the safer form of smoking. You get the “coolness” of smoking without the dire health consequences… Right?

Contrary to popular opinion, current professionals’ findings suggest otherwise. Currently, Dr. Avrum Spira, a pulmonary care physician and professor of medicine and pathology at Boston University, urges people to be wary of what they are breathing into our bodies.

E-cigarettes vaporize liquid that contains nicotine and flavouring, but is that all? According to Spira, the conversion of liquid to vapor changes the chemical composition of the liquid, causing you to potentially breathe in other chemicals besides the vaporized nicotine.

Moreover, the results of Spira’s preliminary research is not positive. It demonstrated that when e-cigarette chemicals come into contact with the mutated human lung cells of smokers who are about to develop lung cancer (their cultured cells), the lung cells became “more cancer-like”.

The Other Side’s Argument

On the other hand, there are also others who believe that the vaping ‘issue’ is not really an issue at all. Boston University Public Health Professor Michael Siegel strongly believes that the use of e-cigarettes will aid cigarette addicts and continue to do so. In fact, he believes that research regarding vaping should be redirected towards a more positive note. It should not restrict the utilization of vaping and condemn users, but help current smokers gradually quit smoking. In other words, e-cigarettes should should fulfill its original purpose, and help the addicted eventually quit.

To Vape or Not Vape, That Is the Question.

At present, it appears that there are conflicting views within the medical community regarding the benefits and regulation of e-cigarettes. While the WHO, the FDA, and Pulmonologist Avrum Spira assert that there may be negative health consequences related to vaping, Public Health Professor Michael Siegel and his supporters advocate for the continued marketing and use of e-cigarettes, along with more (positive) research regarding the effects of vaping. And so, the debate, and the research, continues. Which side will you take?

Joyce Lan is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Linguistics & Asian Languages and Cultures. She is the Website & Media Chair of BreatheLA at UCLA, a club that seeks to raise awareness of UCLA’s tobacco and vape-free policy.