Being green isn’t just good for the environment. It can also be good for the waistline.
Here’s ten small changes you can make in your life this year to help you tread a little lighter on the planet over the next year — literally.
- Start walking or biking instead of taking the car. Commit to walking the kids to school at least half the week or biking to run errands close by, and burn calories while you save fuel.
- Pack a lunch. It’s far too easy to consume extra calories and chemicals when you have to buy your meals on the go. Instead, use a reuseable container to bring a healthy lunch each day. You’ll know exactly what you’re eating, can control portions, and will eliminate unnecessary packaging (not to mention that drive to go get drive-thru). For extra benefit, try to use local and organic ingredients.
- Switch out meatless Mondays for meatless weekdays. One day a week is a fine goal to switch to vegetarian options, but a whole work-week of veggie meals will have much bigger payoffs — environmentally and health-wise (not to mention economically). For easy vegetarian ideas, check out Vegetarian Times magazine. Also think international, since most other countries are not as meat-centric as America. Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Indian and African cuisines are all full of vegetarian favorites, for instance. For a bigger impact all around, aim for at least some vegan meals.
- Have technology free days with your family. Commit to one day a week when you’ll keep the electronics off for the day and focus on old fashioned ways to have fun together. Ditch the TV, computer, Wii and cell phone in favor of heading to the park, going biking, building snowmen and playing together. If you can’t commit to a whole day, at least aim for an afternoon or daylight hours.
- Take part in the SurvivalEating Program. This consciousness-raising program is designed to help us realize how differently much of the world eats. Participants pledge to eat as most of the world’s poor do (the same number of calories and similar foods), one day per month, along with preparing them at home and eating them together as a family. If you’re serious about losing weight (and lessening your environmental toll), change that to one day a week.
- Take part in the EatingGreen Program. From the same non-profit that created the SurvivalEating Program, this program asks participants to pledge to eat raw, “green” foods one day a month – foods that have been minimally processed after harvesting — only ‘raw’ vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, honey, and water from the tap. This saves energy, packaging and other environmental costs, along with providing great health benefits. Again, for a larger personal impact, change your own pledge to weekly.
- Volunteer. Find an organization that fits your interests, and sign up to volunteer in some active capacity. Volunteer to walk dogs at the Humane Society, clean up local wetlands or serve as a guide for a local historic site, for instance.
- Plant an organic garden. Growing your own food is immensely rewarding, quite frugal, and a great way to get healthy. It’s also about as green as it gets and offers double the physical benefits. Not only will you have access to fresh, healthy, organic foods, but you’ll get a workout as you prepare and maintain your garden.
- Purchase a share in a CSA. Community Supported Agriculture is a great way to support local, sustainable farmers and make sure that you have a steady source of healthy foods. Buying a CSA share is basically buying a share of a local farm’s output, which is delivered (or picked up) once a week. You get a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and sometimes items like flowers and eggs, generally far below what you’d pay at the local supermarket or farmers’ market. It’s also a great way to get introduced to new produce. Check out Local Harvest to find a CSA near you.
- Buy a Minnesota state park permit — and use it. You’ll be financially supporting our parks, and can use our state’s fantastic resources for hiking, boating, biking and more.
There are many ways to switch out bad habits with healthy new ones, and many of them can also make the world a little healthier while we’re at it.
Here’s to a happier, healthier, greener year!