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The World’s Blue Zones: A Blueprint for a Sustainable Future?

Want to live a long, healthy life? Maybe there’s a blueprint to make it happen after all.

Today, the global average life expectancy is approximately 73 years, but in certain parts of the world, people are living consistently to over 100 years old! Known as the Blue Zones, these areas were discovered as longevity hotspots where people lived the longest and healthiest as a result of lifestyle choices. But is this just a case of mere good luck?

Family in a cave

The Blue Zones

Found in the warm, coastal regions of Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California, Blue Zones continue to raise intrigue as a result of their high concentration of centenarians and some of the lowest recorded age-related diseases ever.

Blue Zone  areas around the  world -- Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya, Costa Rica

Researched by National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner, the concept of Blue Zones is unique in terms of their outlook towards life. Although spread vastly across the globe, these areas were found to invariably emphasise diet, physical activity, social connections and purposefulness as a form of bettering their overall well-being. Buettner identified the Power 9 — nine principles at the core of Blue Zone living (and possibly the secret to healthy ageing):

  1. Knowing your sense of purpose

  2. Prioritising stress relief

  3. Eating until you’re only 80% full

  4. Making movement a routine part of your day

  5. A primarily plant-based diet (check out some recipes here)

  6. Alcohol in moderation

  7. Family (chosen or biological) first

  8. Connecting with a community

  9. Social circles that support healthy behaviours

A Holistic Approach to Sustainable Living

In 2015 the United Nations first developed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), designed to work towards creating an equitable, sustainable world. While these goals strive to address global challenges on all fronts, they also focus on pivotal aspects of human well-being such as health, education, gender equality, sustainable cities, and climate action.

Blue Zone communities go beyond longevity by prioritising overall quality of life through environmentally and socially sustainable lifestyle choices. They have effectively integrated principles aligned with SDG 3, good health and well-being by emphasising healthy living, investing in quality healthcare and implementing preventative health measures. At infrastructural levels, Blue Zones embody the essence of SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) through their emphasis on walkability, social cohesion, and intentional urban planning, which foster engaged and active communities.

The Future of Sustainability?

The world's Blue Zones provide a fascinating glimpse into the possibilities of healthy, long-lived lives. By recognising the potential connection between Blue Zones and the SDGs, we can unlock valuable insights and practices that contribute to sustainable living on a global scale. Embracing the wisdom of these communities into our collective efforts to attain the SDGs offers a potential blueprint for fostering healthier, happier, and more sustainable communities worldwide.

Just small tweaks in our daily life can set us on a path of longevity and a healthier, balanced planet. Why not try adopting a Mediterranean diet? Or going on daily walks?


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