We know it sounds too good to be true—doing something good for yourself and for the environment—but with these eight easy ways to live healthy and green, you can get double the results for your efforts and feel great about your choices, too.
1. Walk or Bike to Work
The average commute time in the U.S. is 25 minutes—ick. That’s a whole lot of sitting in a car, bus or train. Combining low-impact exercise with your commute builds movement and stress relief into your daily routine while reducing energy usage and vehicle emissions. If you live close enough to work to commute by bike, the value of all the stress, pollution, sitting and expense that are avoided by not using a car and dealing with traffic is priceless. There’s no smarter good-for-you, good-for-the-planet two-fer.
2. Go to Bed Earlier
Studies have shown a solid correlation between getting too-little sleep (less than seven hours per night) and being overweight. The less sleep you get the more overweight you get. Not sleeping means more time doing stuff and less health and happiness. What do we do to fill that time and emotional need? We eat more, watch TV longer and click away endlessly on our computers, which wastes calories, electricity and sanity.
3. Drink from Reusable Bottles
Whether it’s plastic water bottles or paper coffee cups, we each contribute way too much to landfills just to get a drink. By keeping a reusable water bottle with you, you will be reminded to drink more water throughout the day (the ol’ eight-glasses-a-day advice still holds), and you’ll help reduce the 66 million plastic water bottles that end up in landfills every day (!!). If you needed another reason to ditch the bottled water, they cost you up to $1,400 per year. Converting from paper cups to reusable coffee mugs (you better not be using styrofoam) saves precious trees.
4. Eat Local, Organic Food
It is amazing all the exotic fruits, vegetables and other products we can get at almost any grocery store, any time of the year. We are so used to all these choices that we don’t even know what’s “in season” anymore. We also don’t realize the crazy logistics and energy consumption used to provide this unnecessary luxury. The big-business food industry trucks food across the country and flys it across continents, which is very energy intensive. What’s more, many of these products aren’t certified organic, which isn’t great for your health, either. So give preference to locally grown, organic food.
5. Turn Down the Heat and the AC
Humans control their body temperature by adjusting their metabolisms. When it’s cold, we burn more calories to stay warm; when its, warm we use calories to perspire and say cool. When we work, drive and live in air temperatures held in the thermoneutral zone–around 70—we burn fewer calories. So, by adjusting your thermostat to stay a bit more in line with the seasons, you can keep your metabolism cooking and reduce your energy consumption.
6. Eat the Right Kind of Fish
Eating fish is a healthy choice in so many ways, as it is one of the best sources of omega fatty acids and lean protein. It also can be a green choice, as fish do not require all the grassing land for which rainforests are destroyed and they don’t create methane gas, either. Some species, however, are contaminated with pollutants while others are being overfished, so making the right choice involves a little more homework. Find useful fish-buying guides here and here.
7. Don’t Take More Meds Than You Need
Our bodies usually only use a fraction of the drugs we take; the rest gets excreted. Same goes for processed vitamins and nutriceuticals (hence why your pee gets so yellow with vitamin C pills). These excess pharmaceuticals end up in our waste water, adversely affecting the ecosystems they run off into. Plus, every drug has side effects on our minds and bodies, so the less synthetic agents the better. Trust me: When you do your first triathlon, you will start to really think about what’s running off into the water supply, so for everyone’s sake, don’t take more pills than necessary.
8. Grow Your Own Produce
The spring and summer are the perfect time to experiment with growing your own fruits and veggies. Plant a fruit tree, grow some kale—heck, you can even grow fresh herbs and tomatoes in your window sill. Not only will your super-fresh foods be more nutrient dense and delicious, but gardening will provide a proven mental stress release. Connect with nature, avoid harsh pesticides and save fuel costs.
Gavin McKay is the creator of Unite Fitness, which has online programs and local studios offering its trademark group cross-training and personal- and nutrition-coaching. Studios are located in Center City, Philadelphia, Mt. Laurel and Medford, New Jersey. Now franchising.