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6 Ways to Get Lean by Going Green

Eco-Friendly Choices Can Slim Your Waist and Fatten Your Wallet
  -- By Liza Barnes, Health Educator
Most people who “go green” bring reusable bags to the store, unplug electronics when they’re not in use, and recycle more. Others move to more involved changes, like trading in for a hybrid, buying carbon offsets, or installing solar panels. But even if you're not willing to overhaul your lifestyle to benefit the planet, there are some changes you should consider to improve your health, help you lose (or maintain) weight, and plump your bank account all while helping Mother Earth at the same time. Get rich and thin by going green? If you think that sounds too good to be true, read on.

1. Walk or bike instead of driving. Many of us live only a stone’s throw away from the places we frequent, like the post office, grocery store, or library, yet we head for the car when we’ve got errands to run. Instead of driving, walk or bike and you'll burn 200-300 calories per hour and breathe in air that’s a little bit fresher. According to recent calculations, if all Americans between the ages of 10 and 74 walked just 30 minutes per day instead of driving, we'd reduce our carbon emissions by 64 million tons; save 6.5 billion gallons; and collectively shed more than 3 billion pounds. While these specific numbers may be arguable, there’s no denying that less driving and more walking would benefit us all. And with gas prices averaging over $4 per gallon across America, every mile you don't drive is money in the bank.

2. Ditch the drive-thru. According to TheDailyGreen.com, every time you use a drive-thru, you burn about 18 cents worth of gas by letting your car idle. That might not seem like much, but consider the amount of times you drive-thru for morning coffee, a quick lunch, to visit an ATM or to pick up a prescription. Besides wasting money, you’re also contributing to greenhouse gases and global warming. Instead of idling your car and wasting fuel in the drive thru line, park and walk in. You’ll burn a few more calories by walking and standing in line, but you’ll also save money on gas.

3. Buy local and organic food. Did you know that the food on the average American’s plate traveled 1,500 miles to get there? One of the greenest changes we can make has everything to do with the fruits and vegetables on our plates. Buy them from a local grower at a farmers market to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Another bonus about locally-grown food is that it’s fresh, so it contains higher levels of nutrients. (The longer food has been "off the vine," the more its natural levels of vitamins and minerals diminish.) If your food is organic, the soil it comes from is usually healthier and the food itself will have lower levels of pesticide residues. Buying directly from the farmer benefits both of you financially, too— you’re eliminating the cost of the middleman.

4. Grow your own garden. Growing your own vegetables—especially without using synthetic pesticides or fertilizers— is another way to go green. From a tiny paper packet of seeds you can grow a month’s worth of tomatoes, peppers, or cucumbers. By growing them yourself, you’re eliminating the need for fuel and all the other waste that goes into transporting and selling them. Plus gardening burns up to 230 calories an hour. The amount of money you’ll save on your grocery bill will be tremendous, and nothing beats the taste and nutrition of food from your own garden.

5. Clean house. Chemicals in most household cleaning supplies might smell like a fresh breeze, but usually they're anything but natural. Using non-toxic cleaning supplies may protect your health by reducing the chemicals you inhale while cleaning and by preventing chemicals from polluting our waterways. You’ll also save money if you make them yourself since most cleaners use a combination of a few cheap ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and soap. Spending three hours deep cleaning your abode burns an average of 390 to 675 calories. And the same goes for your lawn.

6. Go flexitarian. Flexitarians don’t give up meat completely but do cut back a little or a lot. It’s a green thing to do because it takes a lot less energy and land to produce fruits, vegetables and grains than it does to produce meat. Eating less meat also results in less pollution. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the meat sector of the global economy is responsible for 18 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Cutting back on your meat consumption reduces this environmental burden. Most people who reduce their meat consumption lose weight and get healthier since plant-based diets are often lower in calories and unhealthy fats. As the price of food (particularly corn, which feeds animals used for meat) and gas (which transports meat across the country and to your plate) continues to rise, so do the costs of meat. Plant-based proteins like beans and legumes are more affordable, and arguably, healthier. Even if you give up just one meat-based meal per week, you'd be making a difference for your health, your wallet and the planet. Learn more about the benefits of meatless meals.